Discussions online and articles in the press have convinced me that there is a serious misunderstanding of the true nature of the conflict among political factions in Minneapolis. Because of the intrusion of regional forces in our city elections, it becomes important to present the true issues that are at stake.
I overheard a couple of city convention delegates discussing “the anti-stadium people”. I didn’t intervene and ask them to explain how they were using those terms. But assuming that is really how they saw the forces that are activity in council and mayoral races in Minneapolis, then it shows how naivete and poor political education has distorted the reality of issue conflicts in our city.
Mark Andrew had a lot of new people in his camp. And probably so did a lot of other candidates for city office. New arrivals from other cities and natives who are only now old enough to participate simply lack the perspective of many years of participation. If one refers to an old issue like the city takeover of Target Center, it is, at best, an abstraction for them. They don’t realize that it was due to a failed commercial loan from Midwest Federal (a company out of business in 1991). They don’t realize our city government took the burden of that facility and put it on city taxpayers. And that has become a model for every sports facility issue after. We who have paid taxes for decades have this as part of our context. New arrivals and kids assume somehow there is something novel about the Vikings stadium arrangement. Picking up messes for financiers and sports teams has a long history here in Minneapolis. And the downtown interests have been involved every step of the way.
And the real issues are much larger than being for or against sports facilities. In many cities, the rich take their responsibility seriously. They don’t corrupt city politics to get their way. In Minneapolis, certain parts of the DFL have willingly served the interests of business and rich suburbanites in such a repetitive fashion, we can’t help thinking “here they go again”.
In the United States, by various economic and political processes, the people who live by working, not by investing, have seen their share of the fruits of economic enterprise shrink since the 1980’s. Since then, the government, unwilling to tax rich people more as they got richer, ran deficits that went higher and higher except from 1993 to 2000. Locally, DFL officeholders who were weak in principle and easily intimidated, followed the futile Republican policy without a break in the 1990s. City debt rose continuously. Since 2001, the debt has been refinanced though not really reduced.
Anyway, it is this larger picture of wealthy people catered to on taxes and willing to let government costs flow into growing mountains of debt that is the central cause for those who want a housecleaning in city governmment. If the Viking stadium stood alone in this period of social and economic change, it would mean a lot less. But it is only the latest insult to the mass of taxpayers who never get to escape the cost of the dreams of the wealthy. The challengers are trying to stand in the door and yell “stop”. It just has to end somewhere. And why not here? And why not now?