Ramsey County voters get no say on stadium taxby Tim Nelson, Minnesota Public Radio
St. Paul, Minn. — The Ramsey County Charter Commission voted Tuesday night 10-6 not to require a stadium tax be put to voters, bucking a majority of people at the hearing who asked them to put a new home for the Vikings on the ballot, possibly as soon as next year.
Solveig Quass, of Shoreview, voiced an objection common among the dozens that testified before the commission.
"I don't understand why you want to take money from me, to give to them, when they make so much money," she said. "They can build their own stadium, to support their own private business, for games that I can't even afford to attend."
But the crowd also included dozens of construction workers, many dressed in work vests and some in hard hats, supporting the project. Ironworker Chris Maloney, of Maplewood, was among them.
"I need the stadium to go through, because I have a family at home. I got three little kids that I gotta feed and that's, you know bread and butter right there on the table for me and a lot other people in this room," he said. "I'm having to drive right now over 100 miles to get to work myself, and with the hotel costs and everything else, I'm not doing very well. So I would like to see some stuff getting built around here."
The move was a key win for the team and for stadium backers, because a critical analysis of their plan is set to be released in St. Paul Wednesday.
MPR obtained an advance copy of the report, which calls the current stadium construction plans unrealistic and aggressive.
Read the Met Council report: Stadium Proposal Risk Analysis
Ultimately, debate Tuesday night was about the matter centered on whether the charter approved by voters in Ramsey County was meant to trump conventional elections.
Commission member A.L. Brown supported the charter change that would require a referendum.
"We have a right to second guess our elected officials," he said. "And this provides an opportunity to protect that core right."
Others worried about the precedent that would set, and whether it might eventually paralyze the county's political process. And Richard Sonterre, the commission's chairman, said he thinks the matter isn't even settled yet.
The measure's sponsor cast a surprise vote in opposition at the last minute, entitling him to bring the matter up for reconsideration -- and a winning vote -- later.
Sonterre said he expects the referendum to resurface.
"In one way or another, I don't think it's gone. It's just not here now," he said.
To see the vote threat go away for now pleased Ramsey County Commissioner and stadium supporter Tony Bennett.
"It's a win for all of us that are looking to keep the Vikings here," he said after the meeting. "But again, like I say, that's not my main objective here. My main objective was to get some infrastructure, $100 million worth of roads, get the site cleaned up, provide some jobs. And if all that winds up keeping the Vikings here, that's the frosting on the cake."
It's more than that for the Vikings. They've been denied even so much as a hearing on their plan for a stadium at the Capitol this year. But now they've won their first public test of their plan.
Team vice president Lester Bagley said he knows there will be more to come.
"Elected officials and the public will have had and continue to have plenty of opportunity to analyze and understand this complex issue, but with the referendum decision being determined tonight, we look forward to moving the project forward," Bagley said.
For now, though, the plan will be headed for its next hurdle this morning. The Met Council is scheduled to release a so-called risk analysis of the stadium plan. A copy obtained by MPR News says the stadium is likely to encounter unexpected environmental challenges, and could be delayed by years.
- Morning Edition, 10/12/2011, 7:15 a.m.