OPINION: MN Legislature Plays 2nd Verse of Sad Stadium Song
Vikings’ quest raises questions about government's role.
I was a cub reporter back in 1998 when I first met Rep. Morrie Lanning, who was then the mayor of Moorhead, MN. Fast forward a few years, and Lanning was elected to the Minnesota House of Representatives. When I first saw him, he was excited to head to the state Capitol.
Now, as I watch the Republican from Moorhead try to march forward as chief author of a bill that would, in almost every sense, save the Minnesota Vikings franchise from relocation without raising general tax dollars, I can see the wear and tear the political games in St. Paul have taken on him.
His brown hair has grayed. His brow is almost permanently furrowed. And instead of getting red in the face with a possible rant of how we need government to work, he took Monday’s defeat with a smile, and shook the hand of his DFL Party co-author as he stepped away from the House Government Operations and Elections Committee.
That the Vikings Stadium bill died shouldn’t be our biggest surprise or disappointment after a night of lengthy testimony.
What should be called into question is: “How did we get here?”
We’re on the brink of losing a piece of fabric so essential to Minnesota culture, it’s been captured in television shows like “How I Met Your Mother” and movies.
When I’ve talked with Lanning’s colleagues about financing a billionaire owner’s dream for a facility, they’re not oblivious to the irony. Yet, every one of them knows that, to build a stadium, that’s the game you play.
If you don’t want to play that game, fine. Walk away. Leave it there. But don’t patronize Vikings fans by putting a bill together, getting it to committee and then asking the question we’ve all known for more than a decade.
You can certainly question the funding. Sen. Pam Wolf (R-51) did that last month, asking in regard to the bill's reliance on electronic-pulltab revenue: "If not enough people gamble, what is the backup plan?"
Others from Fridley's delegation at the Capitol have had their own concerns about both the Arden Hills and Minneapolis stadium proposals.
Rep. Kate Knuth (DFL-50B) said in a letter to the Vikings last year that she wanted to see the organization bring its jobs to the northern suburbs along with a stadium. Sen. Barb Goodwin (DFL-50) in December asked the Vikings' Steve Poppen: "Have you put together any other models for a stadium than the one that we're looking at that looks like a pretty extravagant stadium?"
Anoka County, which came so close to becoming the new home to the Vikings in 2006, got in on the squabbles, asking Ramsey County for money back for cribbing aspects of the Blaine stadium plans.
The Vikings came to Fridley in December to make their pitch for the Arden Hills site to the Twin Cities North Chamber of Commerce. When the team shifted its sights to Minneapolis, the Chamber shot back, questioning "the unorthodox, unfair and convoluted process that has apparently led to the selection of a site next to and overlapping the Metrodome for a new 'Peoples Stadium.'”
If the Vikings stadium debate shows us anything, it’s that the political system is as broken at the state level as it is federally.
And until someone sticks his or her neck out for things like education, infrastructure or even a stadium, we’re stuck with the status quo.
Note: The author of this opinion post is Mike Schoemer, local editor at St. Michael Patch. Where he introduced officials' questions about the stadium bill, I inserted the section on local concerns that have been raised over the past year. To read Schoemer's op-ed in its original form, visit St. Michael Patch. — Chris Steller, local editor of Fridley Patch
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