Tevlin: Stadium deal was as transparent as the Berlin Wall

  • Article by: JON TEVLIN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: November 16, 2013 - 10:53 PM

The new Vikings stadium, shown in an artist's rendering.

So it looks like “the people” would have been able to vote on “The People’s Stadium” after all.

At least that was the takeaway from the opinion issued by Hennepin County Judge Philip Bush this week.

The television headlines highlighted Bush’s decision to dismiss mayoral candidate Doug Mann’s bid to force a referendum. But instead of leaving it at that, as judges often do, Bush went on to comment that the Vikings deal would have triggered a Minneapolis charter requirement to hold a public referendum on any sports facility deal worth more than $10 million.


That is a smackdown to Mayor R.T. Rybak’s frequent claims, and City Attorney Susan Segal’s opinion, that a referendum wasn’t needed because the local sales taxes used weren’t technically “city resources.” Segal argued the funds never entered the city treasury and were instead state-controlled.

Rubbish, Bush wrote.

Well, he used more appropriate but less precise language.

The Legislature voted to override the charter, just in case, making the point moot. But Segal’s opinion assumed the override didn’t happen, to make her argument stronger.

Charter? What charter?

Sandy Colvin Roy, the crucial swing vote on the stadium deal, cited the opinion as a reason for her vote. A more cynical person might suggest she voted for it because the unions wanted it, and just used Segal’s opinion as an excuse.

But for sport, but let’s take her at her word. As she said at the time: “I did not have the legal opinion about whether it would be triggered or not, whether it would be required. And now I do. And once I did have that, I disregarded my personal feelings and started looking at facts.”

As a president once said, facts are funny things.

Just look at another “fact” that was contested this week.

During the council vote to approve a $97 million renovation of Target Center, outgoing Council Member Diane Hofstede reminded everyone of the link between the stadium legislation and Target Center uplift.

“Without that decision this decision would not be possible,” she said.

The mayor has frequently repeated that the Vikings deal improved city finances by allowing restricted sales taxes to be spent on the renovation, lifting the burden on property taxpayers.

Turns out, not so much, according to former City Council Member Paul Ostrow, who submitted his opinion to the council.

Not long ago I got an e-mail from Ostrow about this ruse.

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