Backers of the Asian Pacific Cultural Center try to regroupby Marianne Combs, Minnesota Public Radio
A ten year long dream for Asian Americans in Minnesota has received a major setback. One of the projects vetoed by Gov. Tim Pawlenty this week in the bonding bill was the Asian Pacific Cultural Center.
St. Paul, Minn. — The Center would bring many different Asian American organizations together under one roof to create a cultural destination and resource for the state.
But it was counting on $5 million from the state to make it happen.
Throughout this year's legislative session, Adeel Lari was told that there was bipartisan support for funding the conversion of the old Hamm's Brewery in east St. Paul into a center for pan-Asian culture and activities.
So he was shocked and dismayed when he heard the news that Gov. Tim Pawlenty had line-item vetoed the center from the bonding bill.
Lari, a research fellow at the Humphrey Institute and Chair of the Asian Pacific Cultural Center said, to him it means Pawlenty is not concerned about the more than 200,000 Asian Americans in Minnesota.
"And when the governor talks about he spends the energy going to China, going to India, he feels that its very very important to do business, and then he vetoes a very, very important project which will help the Minnesota businesses achieve that goal - it's very, very surprising and very very disheartening," Lari said.
The Asian Pacific Cultural Center's goal is to create a home for the more than 40 different Pacific Asian communities living in Minnesota. It would also be a resource for parents of Asian adoptees and for small and mid-size companies interested in learning how to do business with Asian countries.
It has been in the works for 10 years now. The association went to the Legislature in 2001, and was line-item vetoed by Gov. Jesse Ventura. In 2006 it did get funding - $400,000 for research and drawings.
Naomi Chu, Executive Director of the Asian Pacific Cultural Center, said now is the time to fund the project.
"Costs continue to grow, when you're looking at a jobs bill and the economy of Minnesota this was a project that of course has jobs now in terms of the construction, but I think the long term economic benefits to the state are significant," Chu said.
The governor's spokesman, Brian McClung, said Pawlenty had to remove many projects that have merit from the bonding bill.
"Unfortunately, Democrats sent the governor a bill that was more than $100 million over the state's credit card limit," said McClung. "When they did that, they put all of those projects on the potential chopping block and forced the governor to trim projects from the bill. Many of these projects are worthwhile and we would expect that supporters will continue to work to have them included at a time when the state can afford them."
Chu and Lari are talking with both the governor's office and the Legislature, and they are hoping to be included in a supplemental bonding bill.
If they are not included in a supplemental bonding bill, they say they will have to take a hard look at the future, and see what other options are out there to raise the $5 million necessary to meet their budget.
- All Things Considered, 04/09/2008, 5:56 p.m.