Patrick Reusse: Politicos play dumb and blind to a stadium's dazzling upside

  • Article by: PATRICK REUSSE , Star Tribune
  • Updated: February 20, 2012 - 6:55 AM

Some way, we have wound up with politicians who would put the cleaver to a great asset for the state's largest city, and then offer the silliest of explanations.

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Rendering of a new Vikings stadium on the Metrodome site.

Photo: Courtesy, City of Minneapolis

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This is now a metropolitan area of 2.85 million. Nothing is more important to this sprawling place than a downtown with a strong heartbeat. And what provides the heartbeat are people coming to the city on a daily basis to work, and suburbanites, outstaters and regional and national visitors enjoying that downtown.

We are fortunate that Minneapolis has maintained itself as a viable downtown, despite all the burdens that we as a metro area and as a state have placed on it.

We have received an enormous influx of poor and tired and tempest-tossed people from cities that have decayed, and from other lands. A large share of these folks has settled in Minneapolis and in the twin city, St. Paul, to be housed, to have medical and other services available and, hopefully, to be employed.

And as Minneapolis and St. Paul teachers and administrators have done their darndest to educate these often disadvantaged pupils, they have seen their efforts bad-mouthed by legislators from school districts with newer buildings and better equipment and with one-10th of the problems in a week that a Twin Cities teacher can face on a daily basis.

We so easily could be another decayed downtown, if not for the corporations, and the law firms and the accounting firms, and the retailers that remain committed to being in the city, when everything could be cheaper and more convenient by joining the sprawl in Maple Grove or Eden Prairie or Eagan.

Last month, Sandra Colvin Roy, another of the dedicated lefties on the Minneapolis City Council, announced opposition to the plan for a new Vikings stadium in downtown Minneapolis without a citywide referendum (that she knows would fail).

Roy was moved to do this, she said, after "looking across the street at Occupy Minnesota and thinking about what's going on in our country ...''

I dropped in on the Occupiers a few weeks earlier. By happenstance, I arrived as a couple of dozen whistle-blowing protesters made their way to the Hennepin County jail. Once there, they waved signs and shouted in support for the current flock of jailbirds.

No wonder councilperson Roy was so moved by the Occupy protest. One also wonders if she ever made the short walk to the Nicollet Mall, between Ninth and 10th streets, and watched employees by the hundreds enter and exit the Target Corp. headquarters.

I'm saying Minneapolis might be better off with politicians more impressed by the presence of an exceptional corporate citizen bringing a parade of employees downtown on a daily basis than a couple of hundred protesters sleeping overnight during an uncommonly warm fall and early winter.

Target and other corporations, firms and retailers no doubt would ask this of Minneapolis politicians: to assist in keeping this a dynamic downtown -- in the day, at night and on weekends.

A sensible plan -- pricey but doable -- is now in place for a new stadium for the Vikings and those hundreds of other entities that have used the Metrodome. Architects will take this acreage and perform magic. We will be dazzled by the result, as was the case with Target Field, and Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul.

To have this weapon in a downtown's fight to remain dynamic rather than decaying, Minneapolis can draw on the 3 percent tax that has funded a first-class convention center.

And yet it's not only Roy and her lefty colleagues who offer a roadblock to Minneapolis coming up with its stadium share. There are righties in the Legislature with equally mysterious thoughts on the city's entertainment tax.

"You know who pays for this?" Rep. Sarah Anderson of Plymouth said. "The citizens in my district, my constituents that decide to go to Minneapolis, maybe go out to a restaurant for the night."

Some way, we have wound up with politicians who would put the cleaver to a great asset for the state's largest city, and then offer the silliest of explanations, like 1) several score of people sleeping outside on government property, and 2) a few guys from Plymouth who would rather not pay an extra 3 percent for a Dewars and water at the Seville.

What stands in the way of a stronger heartbeat for downtown Minneapolis are the collections of the nearsighted that we have elected.

Patrick Reusse can be heard noon-4 weekdays on 1500-AM. preusse@startribune.com

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