The Minneapolis City Council faces perhaps the most important and difficult decision it will make in a generation. We know, because we faced the same question years ago.
Minneapolis is the pulsating heart of our state for business, culture, arts, sports, entertainment and even new housing. Back in 2001, Minneapolis had 310,000 jobs and accounted for one out of nine jobs in the entire state.
That incredible vitality didn't just happen by accident. It happened because previous governors, legislators, mayors and city councils made important decisions to move the city and state forward.
But as Steve Berg recently noted in these pages ("Stadium puts mayor's legacy on the line," Feb. 11) and as Metropolitan Council reports confirm, Minneapolis has lost 27,000 jobs in the last decade while statewide jobs have remained constant. Minneapolis now has less than one in 10 jobs in the state. The state's economic engine has slowed down considerably.
Gov. Mark Dayton knows it is time for that engine to roar again. That's why Dayton has a laserlike focus on creating jobs now, calling for a $775 million bonding bill, a new "People's Stadium" and a $3,000 tax credit for each private-sector job created.
Like Govs. Rudy Perpich, Arne Carlson and Tim Pawlenty, who all advocated for publicly funded stadiums, Dayton is championing a new stadium to create jobs and maintain our state's position as a major metropolitan area. A new stadium will create thousands of construction jobs, retain the Vikings' franchise and brand for Minnesota, and signal to the private sector that it is time again to invest in this state.
Minneapolis Mayor R. T. Rybak and Council President Barb Johnson are also leading. They know that failure to invest in our future is a risk none of us can afford. In fact, Rybak has staked his political future on getting a new stadium built in Minneapolis.
In 1973 and again in 1978, the Minneapolis City Council, of which we were a part, voted for local public funding for a stadium. By a 10-3 vote in 1973, the City Council authorized $53.7 million in bonding for a Vikings stadium that would have been built on what now is the site of the Target Center.
In 1978, the council voted 8-4, with one abstention, for the taxes that backed up the $55 million Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome (some of these earlier council-approved taxes are still being collected). Both votes were controversial. We were all told a vote for public funding would end our political careers. Yet, both votes were central to whether Minneapolis moved forward or retreated.
A city that does not invest in its housing, downtown, transportation, entertainment and business infrastructure endangers its future. We understood that decades ago; the current City Council needs to understand it today.
The votes we took over 30 years ago lead to a massive investment by the private sector in downtown jobs and economic development.
The Minneapolis City Council's decision is now the sine qua non on the stadium issue. Without the City Council's action, the project will die; with the council's support, the Legislature will have to debate the question and act.
En Avant (always forward) are the words on the top of the seal of the city of Minneapolis. That was the prime directive when we were stewards of our city. It is the directive that the current City Council should heed today.
We believed then -- and now, looking back, we know with certainty -- that we acted in the best interests of our city and state. Our votes ensured that the future of Minneapolis was bright. Our generation of council members made the city better for the next generation. We kept that sacred trust.
We urge our successors, despite the immediate political challenges, to be true to the deeper and more enduring trust by following the leadership of Mayor Rybak and Council President Johnson by voting for local public financial support for a new stadium in downtown Minneapolis.
Lou DeMars and John Derus are former Minneapolis City Council members. This article was also signed by former council members Dick Miller, John Bergford and Richard Erdall.