Let Us Vote
I submitted the following Op-Ed to the Star Tribune earlier this week and they have not printed it yet. I'm putting it out where people can see it before the issue is moot.
Let Us Vote
As a City Council Member it would be easy to just ride this one out. After all, this Twins stadium proposal is the County’s deal. Now it’s up to the Legislature. It isn’t “City” business. Right?
Wrong. I feel it is my duty as a Minneapolis elected official to stand up and add my voice to the chorus calling for a referendum.
As the stadium proposals work their way through the final days of the Legislative session I call on our legislators: please don’t thumb your noses at either state law or the will of the people of Minneapolis. Don’t impose a local sales tax without voter approval.
The Legislature decided, with statute 297A.99, that voters should approve the imposition of local sales taxes. Minneapolis voters decided in 1997 that no more than ten million dollars should be given in corporate welfare to a professional sports stadium without a referendum. But the Hennepin County/House proposal does just that, raising nearly $10,000,000 a year for thirty years from Minneapolitans.
We should abide by our statutes and clear direction from voters. This is the essence of good government. It is not good government to allow moneyed interests to find ways around our laws.
Let me be clear, I don’t believe that people are opposed to paying taxes. The people I talk to want to share the burden of providing for the common good. They know we need to pool our resources to provide parks, libraries, schools, public safety, fire protection, smooth streets, good water, better transit and effective government. Many are happy to share what they have to help those who have less or nothing.
What they are not happy about is handing over their money to benefit one wealthy individual or a single successful business with little or no public benefit in return – an inappropriate redistribution of wealth. And if their government is going to ask them to take from the poor and give to the rich, at least they deserve the opportunity – provided for by law – to answer in the polling place.
This is an era when the people of Minneapolis hear from the Legislature time and time again that there are not enough resources to meet our vital needs. Thanks to the Local Government Aid cuts, Minneapolis continues to subsidize the rest of the state as we struggle to provide adequate public safety and patch our roads. Now, representatives of parts of the state outside Hennepin County feel that there is political cover for using my constituents’ money without their consent.
The people of Minnesota can recognize the unwise funneling of public dollars into private hands. Legislators should not feel safe in allocating public dollars to boondoggles just because the dollars in question don’t come from their districts.
I call on all public policymakers to oppose any attempt to give huge amounts of taxpayer money to private interests without the necessary consent of those being taxed.
Put it on the ballot.