Vikings stadium foes pursue new tactic

  • Article by: HERÓN MÁRQUEZ ESTRADA , Star Tribune
  • Updated: May 16, 2011 - 7:28 AM

Opponents think charter designations might be the opening they need. "We could usurp their usurpation."

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The proposed Vikings stadium site at Arden Hills. Provided by Minnesota Vikings.

Opponents of a proposed Vikings stadium believe they have found a way to let voters decide whether to build it with public money, regardless of what the Legislature or Ramsey County decide to do.

Last week, Ramsey County and the Vikings announced broad outlines for public-private financing of a 65,000-seat stadium in Arden Hills at a cost of just more than $1 billion. Minneapolis has a competing stadium proposal.

One of the keys to both plans, and one of the most controversial aspects, is a provision that prevents the project from being put to a public vote, which is how Hennepin County eventually got the Twins stadium built in Minneapolis.

But a new group of stadium opponents (www.NoVikingsTax.com) said Sunday that the most likely sites for the stadium -- Ramsey County and Minneapolis -- are governed by charters, essentially constitutions that determine how those jurisdictions operate.

Opponents say those charters allow them to collect enough voter signatures (about 10 percent of registered voters) to place a referendum on the next election ballot that would overturn any state measure that bans a referendum on the stadium. If successful, they then allow a public vote on any ordinances passed to fund the project.

"We could usurp their usurpation," said Chris David, head of the small group, which met to plot strategies to get the Vikings and their owners to pay the entire cost of a new stadium.

Stadium opponent Bryan Olson, a member of the Ramsey County Charter Commission who was at the meeting, confirmed the group's interpretation, saying county opponents would have to come up with about 25,000 certified signatures within 45 days of any stadium ordinance that is passed this year. In Minneapolis, the required number of voter signatures needed for a referendum is about 8,500.

The Ramsey County website, which contains a copy of the charter, also notes that if enough signatures are certified, then the ordinance in question is put on hold until it is repealed or voted on via special election or at the next election cycle.

County Commissioner Tony Bennett, who is the co-author of the county proposal, said he did not have an immediate answer as to whether the charter status will allow the no-referendum provisions of the plans to be challenged.

A representative for the Vikings was unavailable Sunday night to respond.

The news that the strategy might block public financing of the stadium buoyed the members of the anti-stadium group, who seemed convinced that the proposal is being "steamrolled" through the Legislature and Ramsey County.

"I think it's great that they want to build a Vikings stadium," said Gayle Bonneville of Minneapolis. "I just don't want to have to pay for it. It seems like this is being rushed through."

Heron Marquez • 952-707-9994

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