City hall update: Seven Council members signal stadium support

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April 9, 2012
By: Nick Halter
Nick Halter
After collecting all kinds of input over the past several months, Meg Tuthill in late March made a list of pros and cons and decided there were enough benefits to outweigh the negatives of a publicly subsidized Vikings stadium for her to lend her support.

“This is a truly damned if you do and damned if you don’t vote,” said the first-term City Council member who represents Uptown. “I don’t want another one while I’m in office.”

Tuthill was one of seven City Council members who, on March 26, submitted letters to legislative leaders indicating they would support a Vikings stadium plan that would redirect $339 million from existing city sales and hospitality taxes toward the construction and operation of a new facility. Seven votes on the 13-member City Council would give the stadium plan a majority.

Kevin Reich, who represents Northeast, was one of seven to sign letters. Reich had been seen as a swing vote. He wrote in his letter that his vote of support would not be cast if it violated the City Charter. He also said city sales tax money should stay in Minneapolis and that the facility should be built at the site of the Metrodome.

“I will support the Senate and House legislation that contains and advances these principles and objectives,” he wrote.

Mayor R.T. Rybak and Gov. Mark Dayton had been pushing to get City Council support over the past few weeks so that they could assure the Minnesota Legislature that a Vikings stadium bill wouldn’t be hung up at the city level.

“We sent a strong signal that they can pass this if they do their work, and now it’s up to them to step up,” Rybak said.

Betsy Hodges (Ward 13) was one of six council members who did not write letters of support. She says the City Council has been unfairly pressured by the Legislature, even though the Legislature does not have the votes necessary to pass a stadium bill.

The most common theme among the letters of support was a desire for city control of hospitality taxes so that the city can divert that money to paying off debt at the Target Center.

“Right now, paying off the Target Center is coming out of the general fund,” Tuthill said. “That had to be rolled in or I would not vote for it. I want that off the taxpayers’ backs.”

Hodges applauded Tuthill and stadium supporters for wanting a Target Center solution, but said the current stadium plan is risky for property taxpayers.

“If history teaches us anything, it’s that the state is more than willing to make the city responsible for large facilities, even after they’ve said they would take responsibility,” Hodges said. “That’s exactly what happened with the Target Center.”

Rybak said he plans to hold community meetings this spring to discuss the plan with residents and to show them how the stadium plan would lower property taxes. Those meetings had not been scheduled as of press time.

On April 2, a committee in the Minnesota House held a hearing on a stadium bill.