Second Ward, Minneapolis

This is the public policy forum of Minneapolis Second Ward (Green) City Council Member Cam Gordon and his staff. We use this space to talk about some of what Cam’s working on, explain his positions, and share a little of what life in City Hall is like. Please feel free to comment on posts, within certain ground rules. See our disclaimer, including ground rules, here:

Monday, May 09, 2011

More on the Viking Stadium Deal

I've had a chance to see the specifics of the Mayor and Council President's proposed stadium deal.  There are some aspects designed to make the bitter pill easier to swallow, but there are also details to dislike, and some of the ways that the plans supporters are touting it strike me as more than a little dubious.

On the plus side:
  • The City of Minneapolis would no longer own the Target Center and we will no longer need to use property taxes to pay for it.  We never should have owned this facility in the first place, and it would be good to be done with it.
  • The Metrodome would not become a vacant problem property to manage.  It will be expensive, difficult, and likely take quite some time to realign the street grid and make east downtown - which the Metrodome itself has helped to turn into a wasteland of surface parking lots - a livable space.
On the minus side:
  • The team would pay less than half of the costs of the stadium, with taxpayers picking up the majority.
  • The existing downtown restaurant and liquor tax would potentially be extended to all bars and restaurants in Minneapolis.  I have a real problem with this.  Do small restaurants in Seward, Prospect Park, Southeast Como, or even the West Bank benefit from the Vikings' presence in downtown?  I don't think so.  This is a clear case of taking money from people who can't afford to pay - struggling small businesses on razor-thin margins - and giving it to some of the wealthiest people in our state.
  • The citywide sales tax imposed (in an undemocratic way, with little to no community engagement) for the Twins stadium would be doubled.  As bad as property taxes are, sales taxes are worse.  They are the most regressive form of taxation available to us, because poorer folks by necessity spend a greater percentage of their income on sales-taxable goods and services than wealthier folks.  Again, this is a way to take money from those who are struggling and give it to those who are doing extremely well.
  • A parking surcharge would be placed on downtown parking spaces on game days.  I actually support a parking surcharge, but not for this.  If we are going to fight for the ability to impose a parking surcharge, let's use it for the common good, for something with real public benefits for all, and something transportation-related.  Streetcars are a good example, or Bus Rapid Transit.  Not a stadium.
  • The Target Center, while no longer owned by the City of Minneapolis, would still benefit from almost $100 million in public subsidy (through the above taxes).

Now, on some of those dubious claims. 
  • Proponents argue that this deal "lowers property-tax burden on Minneapolis businesses and homeowners."  While that's technically true, it's extremely misleading, because it raises the total tax burden on Minneapolis businesses and homeowners.  So while your property taxes might not go up as much, because we won't have to continue throwing money at the Target Center, you will pay additional sales taxes.  And if you go to a restaurant anywhere in Minneapolis, you'll have to pay the restaurant and liquor tax.  This isn't a tax-reduction proposal.  It's a tax-increase proposal with a shift of some liabilities from one kind of regressive tax to a worse kind of regressive tax.  And it's all for two sports facilities that should stand on their own.
  • Proponents note that "significant site improvements enhance fan experience, spur development and tax-base growth."  Some of that might be true, but I have my doubts that a refurbished Metrodome (40% of the existing building will remain in place) will spur much development, especially given the experience we've had with the actual, existing Metrodome.  It also promised to spur development.  What it spurred was closer to blight.
  • Lastly, they promise that the deal will "end stadium debates."  I am not so sure.  The hockey arena and baseball stadiums are noticeably absent from what could have been a real "global" solution.   Worse, this solution ends debate by again setting the precedent that the public will be forced - whether they like it or not - to prop up privately owned, profit driven, professional sports teams.  All this does is set up the next round of stadium debates with that same presumption.
On balance, it's not a good deal for the people of the Second Ward, or of Minneapolis generally. The people of Minneapolis will be forced to carry the costs and burden of regional amenities. So far, as it stands, one thing is clear This is a proposal I cannot support.


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