An effort to hold a public referendum on Minneapolis’ share of the Vikings stadium costs appears to face some stiff legal hurdles, following a hearing Tuesday in Hennepin County District Court.
Doug Mann, who is running for mayor, filed suit in Hennepin County alleging that the stadium law passed by the Legislature violated a Minneapolis city charter provision requiring city expenditures of more than $10 million on sports facilities be put to the voters. That charter amendment was passed through ballot initiative in 1997.
However, the stadium bill contained an explicit override of the city’s charter. It said the city could fund its portion of the stadium — about $309 million — “without regard to any charter limitation, requirement, or provision, including any referendum requirement.”
The city attorney’s office has further argued that the override was not necessary because the local sales taxes being used for the stadium would not have triggered the referendum. Stadium opponents have questioned that logic.
A group of progressive activists joined Mann as he presented arguments Tuesday morning.
“The Legislature has authority to repeal laws, including the city charter provision,” Mann, who represented himself, told the court. “It’s another question if they have the right to disenfranchise the voters of Minneapolis.”
Judge Philip Bush questioned whether the lawsuit was appropriately filed and inquired why it was filed so long after the May 2012 passage of the stadium bill. Putting the question on the city’s 2013 ballot would be nearly impossible this late in the summer.
Peter Ginder, with the Minneapolis city attorney’s office, said the stadium bill’s requirement that there be local approval has already been met. “Once the City Council approved that, it removed any requirement to hold a referendum on the sales taxes,” Ginder said after the hearing.
Bush asked Mann to file responses to some additional questions before he makes a formal ruling.