As Minneapolis faces a massive deficit for its public school system, a housing crisis and nation-leading racial disparity, Star Tribune sports columnist Sid Hartman’s and Minnesota Vikings official Lester Bagley’s stadium swooning is both tone-deaf and misleading (“Anti-stadium crowd has no argument left to make,” Hartman column, Dec. 16).
The fairness of the stadium deal does not depend on the glut of charitable gambling proceeds. Charity for billionaire owner Zygi Wilf, instead of for our state’s most vulnerable, is a perversion of the word.
Bagley sums up the deal as Vikings having contributed $477 million while the state contributed $348 million and the city of Minneapolis raised $150 million. He fails to mention the Vikings portion was largely made of free money from the NFL and from naming rights. The Vikings have contributed next to nothing of their own money.
The $150 million from Minneapolis, on the other hand, is a gross understatement. Paying off the bonds and the lion’s share of operation and capital improvements amounts to $675 million over the next 30 years. This does not include the near $60 million of taxpayer-backed bonds issued for the parking ramp and park required by stadium legislation or the lost property-tax revenue on the tax-free downtown real estate.
Those trumpeting “economic development” should take the word of an actual economist, not the wishful speculation from the people who brought you “concussions are harmless” studies. Art Rolnick, a senior fellow at University of Minnesota’s Humphrey School of Public Affairs, rightly exposes stadium deals as a zero-sum arrangement for municipalities.
Simply put: Blackmail is never fair, and real investments are short-changed when politicians succumb to corporate strong-arming.
Fawning over downtown glamour at the expense of those who rightly need — and deserve — our charity is a stain on our holiday season.
John E. Hayden, Minneapolis
The writer is a co-plaintiff in a lawsuit over the Commons park adjacent to U.S. Bank Stadium.
It’s reasonable, and necessary, to question school-vs.-sports priorities
I couldn’t agree more with Thomas A. Keller’s Dec. 16 commentary, “Will school vs. sports priorities ever change at the U?” For many years, I have advocated for the University of Minnesota to leave its current conference and either play an independent schedule in the “revenue” sports or join a lower-level conference where coaches and their battalion of assistants don’t make more than the school’s president. Also, the new U football stadium was totally needless and never should have been built, so the Gophers now have a white elephant on their hands. Good luck with that, Coach Fleck. (“Steep prices keeping fans away from U,” Patrick Reusse column, Dec. 16.)
I hope the new president realizes that preparing our young people for today’s highly competitive world means they must be physically as well as intellectually fit. A first-rate intramural athletics program and physical fitness classes for students and faculty should be a top priority for the new president. So should an independent financial audit of the entire U intercollegiate sports program.
Willard B. Shapira, Roseville
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The university shouldn’t try to field farm teams for professional sports. So few athletes go on to the majors. The U pays outsize salaries to coaches. How much of that makes college less affordable for people who are training for other careers? Now that we know that concussions acquired in football, hockey, basketball and soccer can cause permanent brain damage, are the university and taxpayers going to be on the hook for injuries acquired in sports activities at the school? Let the sports team owners mount their own farm clubs.
In 1994 when I was in college, women were starting to be the majority gender attending college. Minneapolis and Hennepin County residents are going to be paying taxes for the rest of their lives on facilities built for sports team owners who were the greatest contributors to both political parties between 1990 and 2000. Enough. I ask my legislators to quit pouring more money down the same hole. Quit University of Minnesota funding for farm teams for professional sports. And figure out why college is no longer affordable and fix it.
Sue Frenzel, Minneapolis
Oh, we ‘know’ enough, if we look
Columnist D.J. Tice argues that not all of the country’s wealth is going to elites at the top — only most of it! (“Scrutinizing what all ‘know’ on inequality,” Dec. 16.) To what end? Should we be comforted to know that at least some of the crumbs are still dropping our way? Next maybe Tice will want to argue that, given how there are different ways to measure poverty, the Trump administration’s numbers may be right — we’ve abolished it and won the war on poverty.
Quibbling over numbers may confuse some people, but it will not change the ominous reality of an enormous and growing wealth gap with expanding desperate poverty, and it won’t help address either problem. Denial gets us nowhere.
Jerry Freeman, Minneapolis
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Tice cites alternative studies that minimize the amount of increased income going to the top 10 percent of citizens. The richest 10 percent captured “only 55 percent” of the increase in more recent studies, and he seems to think this is a good result? Yes, it sounds better than 100 percent, but is still completely unacceptable, for it leaves only 45 percent for the entire bottom 90 percent of the income distribution. Furthermore, there is no mention of the poverty rate. While corporations fight tooth-and-nail against the $15 minimum wage, the top earners garner 55 percent of the increased income. How much is enough?
Mary McLeod, St. Paul
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Tice believes that the subject of income inequality is so complicated that inequality may not exist. I believe he would arrive at a less ambiguous position were he to consider wealth inequality rather than income inequality in his discussion.
The U.S. Census Bureau has published household net worth data for the years 2000 and 2011. During this time period, the average net worth for the top 20 percent of U.S. households increased by 10.8 percent, a gain that was realized despite the economic recession of 2008. For the middle 20 percent, household net worth from 2000 to 2011 decreased by 6.9 percent; while net worth for the bottom 20 percent of households fell during this period a whopping 566 percent, to an average household debt of $6,029.
The wealth distribution in the U.S. since 2011 has continued to skew toward the top. According to the Federal Reserve Board’s Survey of Consumer Finances, by 2016, the top 1 percent of U.S. households holds 40 percent of our wealth; the top 20 percent of U.S. households controls 90 percent of our wealth, and the bottom 20 percent of households is still in debt. Where else could this obvious wealth inequality come from, if not from income inequality?
The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development estimates that wealth inequality in the U.S. accounted for a 5 percent reduction in economic growth between 2000 and 2015. Continued disparity of wealth and income in this country will leave even more of our economic potential unrealized. Our primary vehicle for the transfer of wealth is our tax code, which now overwhelmingly favors the top 1 percent of our population, a move in the wrong direction. A healthy economy will not occur by stifling economic development for 99 percent of the country.
Joseph Ehrlich, Arden Hills