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Minneapolis Council votes 7-6 for Vikings stadium plan

Posted by: Eric Roper under Local business, Politics and government Updated: April 24, 2012 - 9:32 PM

Updated at 9:18 p.m.

Mayor R.T. Rybak delivered seven ‘yes’ votes for his Vikings stadium plan from the Minneapolis City Council Tuesday night in a test vote that followed two hours of public testimony.

The vote adds Rybak’s stadium plan to the city’s lobbying agenda, a largely symbolic measure which reaffirms to lawmakers at the State Capitol that Minneapolis has enough support to pass the final legislation.

Rybak has proposed using existing sales taxes — a citywide sales tax, downtown liquor and restaurant taxes and a hotel tax — to pay for the city’s share of a new Vikings stadium at the Metrodome site.

The city has pledged $150 million for construction and $189 million for operations. But at a public hearing Tuesday, the city’s chief finance officer said the city’s contribution would actually amount to $675 million when accounting for interest payments.

“I think that’s the first time publicly that dollar figure has ever been released,” said Council Member Gary Schiff, an opponent of the mayor’s plan.

Opponents frequently criticized the lack of a citywide vote on the plan, which they said clashes with a Minneapolis charter provision requiring a referendum when the city spends more than $10 million on a stadium. The mayor and the city attorney say that referendum isn’t legally triggered.

Some versions of the state legislation nullify that portion of the charter. On a 7-6 split vote, the Council rejected a proposal that would oppose such nullifications. Council President Barb Johnson, a supporter of the stadium plan, said the charter nullification was necessary to allow for Target Center upgrades.

Council Member Cam Gordon, who crafted the unsuccessful charter nullification proposal, followed with another motion asking the city's charter commission to determine whether the plan triggers the referendum. In a suprising turn, it passed because of support from Council Member Kevin Reich, who broke ranks with his fellow stadium supporters.

It remains unclear what effect the charter commission could have on the process -- the commission's chair, Barry Clegg, has 3MMdVyAP5FxpW4K3UJaiv0">publicly disagreed with the city attorney's interpretation. City Attorney Susan Segal has not issued a formal written opinion on her position.

The seven yes votes on the resolution to amend the lobbying agenda were Council Members Don Samuels, Kevin Reich, Diane Hofstede, Sandra Colvin Roy, Meg Tuthill, John Quincy and Johnson. The six no votes were Betsy Hodges, Cam Gordon, Gary Schiff, Lisa Goodman, Robert Lilligren and Elizabeth Glidden.

The Council chambers were packed to the brim with stadium supporters and opponents, who spent two hours testifying on both sides of the proposal.

Supporters included a range of local business and union leaders, as well as fans and other members of the public. Union representatives said the plan would create more than 7,500 construction jobs, add 500 new concession workers and retain 600 from the Metrodome.

Joanne Hager said because of hiring incentives she helped build TCF Bank Stadium several years ago.

"I hope others at my union and all the other construction unions get off the bench and get to work in building a stadium," Hager said.

Vikings Vice President Lester Bagley warned about the "significant events that will not return to Minneapolis until and unless this issue is resolved. We will never get another final four. We’ll never get a superbowl and some of those other major events.”

Update: This post has been changed to reflect that the city's contribution is higher because of interest, not inflation

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