The Legislature deserves a public calling-out for the farcical Senate hearings put on over the last two weeks. It helped preserve the heritage of the arts fund with quite a show of its own during last Tuesday's precedings.
For anyone, like myself, that wasted hours of their life looking for anything new, it proved to be another testament for how the government can waste time and money while getting absolutely nothing done. In both hearings over a one-week period, they brought before them representative from Minneapolis, Ramsey County and the Vikings. The first hearing was to discuss proposed locations for a new Vikings stadium, at which point Minneapolis complained about a lack of cooperation from the Vikings in helping them narrow their focus from three possible sites to one site.
Never mind that Minneapolis had been ignoring the Vikings' requests to engage in serious stadium talks for the last decade, or the fact that Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak seems just as focused on bailing out the troubled finances of the Target Center as he is about solving the Vikings' issue. After taking a backseat to Target Field and TCF Bank Stadium, apparently the Vikings, still easily the most popular team in the region, are being kicked behind the Timberwolves by Minneapolis' leadership. However, after years of using the Metrodome lease as a reason to delay stadium negotiations, now that the Vikings had a deal in place with Ramsey County, Minneapolis started publicly promoting ideas without substance because they were so far behind in the discussion. Yet the Senate largely ignored Ramsey County at the hearing and seems set on helping Minneapolis play catch-up in a game that is headed into overtime.
From this view, it appears the Legislature is trying its best to delay the issue even more in hopes that Minneapolis' grandstanding will miraculously turn into an actual proposal with a real budget, timelines, location and deal with the Vikings.
It's sad comedy that on one hand the Vikings tout the thousands of jobs that will be created by building a stadium in a depressed economy, but politicians insist this isn't the time to build. Meanwhile, after the state announced a budget surplus of nearly $900 million instead of the expected shortfall of a few billion, politicians say that will have no effect on their decision regarding the stadium. So which is it? If they are against a stadium in principle, then stand up and say it and quit trying to hide behind both ends of contradictory economics.
The Vikings have shown that the public portion of funding can come from taxes generated from the team, but politicians appear uninterested in that option, too. Stadium opposition points out that their businesses don't get those same tax benefits, but, of course, their places of employment don't also host major local and national events like the Super Bowl, NCAA Final Four, Major League Soccer or high school and college tournaments.
Even more off-putting was Sen. John Marty's accusations that a contractor from Minneapolis with significant experience in developing stadium plans was on the take and misrepresenting numbers. If the Senate is going to invite input on the discussion, it's a classless move to wager accusations at their guests. Ask all the questions needed to arrive at a decision, but Marty was rightfully put in his place by Sen. Julianne Ortman, who was presiding over the hearing.
Almost as entertaining were the assertions from the arts-supporting crowd that any attempt to use money from the Heritage Fund would be met with lawsuits that would further delay a stadium solution. Stadium data around the NFL and that provided by consultants show that every year of delay would increase costs by $40 million or more. To be sure, it seems that handouts for the arts are fine, but not for sports. But I don't seen any artists contributing to the costs of building and operating galleries, and I sure don't know of many people that travel hundreds (some thousands) of miles every year and spend thousands of dollars in the Twin Cities to visit those galleries.
From this soapbox, it seems pretty clear. There are numerous funding sources that wouldn't tap into the general funds and there is already plenty of data to make a decision on the costs at each of the proposed sites. It's time for politicians to stop grandstanding and do some actual work. Find a solution or vote it down completely and deal with the consequences, one of which will be the eventual departure of the Vikings.
Helping a billionaire is besides the issue. His purchase of an expensive apartment was a bad public relations move, but in the big picture is irrelevant. How the Vikings pay for their contribution shouldn't be the primary focus of senators.
Either the Vikings are worth keeping in Minnesota or they aren't. No matter how diluted the Senate hearings try to make it – with no new consequential information – that is the issue.
"I don't like going to Detroit," Allen said. "I'll be honest. It's gloomy, it sucks. Everything is brown and then there is snow on the ground. There's like brownstones everywhere and I'm like, ‘Awesome.' I don't know, I couldn't do it. If I had to live in Detroit, I think I'd just drown myself in the river that was across the way.
"I'm not trying to be mean, but it's just depressing when I go there. There's two cities (where) I don't go out to eat or don't do anything. It's Detroit and New Orleans. New Orleans looks like I'm driving through a third-world country. Every time I get off the plane, I'm like, ‘Oh, flak jacket.' I'm trying to get down. I'm like, ‘Aw, crap, I can't carry my gun here. This sucks.'"
Fact is, Allen has long been a free speaker of his thoughts, no matter how controversial. Were these comments in poor taste considering Hurricane Katrina's effect on New Orleans and the economy's effect on both cities? Yep, they were. But this is hardly the first time Allen has given his unvarnished opinions and it probably won't be the last. As long as Gosder Cherilus stays away from the blindside cut blocks, Allen's comments will likely be forgotten within minutes of the game getting underway.
Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.