The Good Old Days (when Minneapolis ruled the Capitol)

Share this:
February 19, 2002 // UPDATED 1:13 pm - April 30, 2007
By: Sam Grabarski
Sam Grabarski

Beloit College issues an annual list of the cultural givens among incoming freshman. This year\'s list includes not having a clue how to use a typewriter and thinking that popcorn has always been cooked in the microwave.

Sometime soon, an incoming Downtown employee will also have a mindset. They\'ll think Fifth Street was always closed to traffic at City Hall, and always had train tracks on it. They won\'t remember Downtown without a Lund's store. They won\'t remember when suits were required in the Minneapolis Club. However, the skyway into that place still won\'t be open.

Some people don\'t remember today that Minneapolis was once a powerful force at the State Capitol. That\'s because Minneapolis became a punching bag about the time people like Jim Rice and Dee Long left the House, and disharmony set in to the Minneapolis delegation. North side DFL Representative Jim Rice was such a force that few people dared to cross him. Even today, were he alive and still serving in the Democratic minority, his strong will and ability to invoke pain on an enemy would return a twinkle to the cold eyes of the Father of Waters statue in City Hall.

When Minneapolis held many key leadership posts and favorable committee assignments, our delegation pushed through anything it wanted at the Capitol. Today\'s bitter treatment of Minneapolis is being justified in some circles as \"payback\" for those times. Mayor R.T. Rybak and the Minneapolis delegation are trying to regain a harmony and unity we\'ve not seen for years, but big league scouts cite our lack of speed, size and experience, and say we\'re not yet ready for the playoffs.

City priorities Minneapolis wants more than it will likely get during the 2002 bonding session. We have so many proposals, from so many units of government, that Minneapolis cannot voice its priorities.

Some worthy projects, such as bonding to improve the Children's Theater Company\'s facility, don\'t have a good chance because the City of Minneapolis isn\'t sponsoring them. Mayor Rybak is openly flying the flag for the planetarium request, which is good. The city doesn\'t place the Guthrie Theater\'s Downtown riverfront project at the top of its priority list, but there\'s unusually strong support among House Republicans for that project. Governor Ventura still might nix any Guthrie bonding funds that pass, and there will be little will to override a $35-million veto for an arts project among a super-majority of legislators whose own projects didn\'t make the A-List.

Minneapolis remains a DFL stronghold, which irks the House Republicans, who have no one to relate to within the Minneapolis delegation. Since we have no one to stand up for us in any Republican caucuses, the best strategy for Minneapolis may be to blend into a crowd on some issues. That seems to be working for the Northstar Commuter Rail Corridor supporters. Four counties between St. Cloud and Minneapolis have whipped up support from several Republican legislators along the route, who are praising the project openly during recent hearings.

There\'s a low din at the Capitol caused by every city government in the state grumbling in unison about cuts to their state aid. Minneapolis was already facing a deficit of $5 million in its 2002 budget, before this new hit of $14 million added to that problem. There are quirks to the state aid formula, so Minneapolis may see a percentage decrease that\'s only half the size of what some cities are facing. But, unless every city gets a break, Minneapolis may be stuck with slicing away at bone and muscle to get through 2002.

Valentine's flirts Open flirtation is going on at the State Capitol. Not the romantic kind, but the ballpark financing kind, instead. St. Paul is nurturing a front-runner\'s image with legislators, asking for taxes to be imposed that closely resemble taxes already rejected by their voters. Some nasty amendment games are still ahead. St. Paul will try to ban Hennepin County\'s participation in the Minneapolis model, hoping either to trigger a referendum in Minneapolis or a quick knockout. Minneapolis will counter with a cap on the total costs for a ballpark at $350 million or less, including parking infrastructure, leaving the ramp-less Capitol City hapless.

The latest group of college freshmen was born the year compact discs were introduced. We\'re told they don\'t know who Mork was or where he was from. I\'ll bet they\'ve never heard of the legendary Jim Rice, either. He\'d chair his committees so late into the night that members would often fall asleep, waking to find pro-Minneapolis amendments were passed by whispered voice votes while they were dozing. The good old days tolerated outdated practices, I suppose, but shouting doesn\'t seem to work as effectively for Minneapolis in 2002.

Sam Grabarski is president and CEO of the Minneapolis Downtown Council, a group of business leaders.