COMMUNITY VOICES | The mystery of the unsold Vikings stadium bonds


      According to news reports, contract negotiations between the State of Minnesota and the Viking Football team might be wrapped up as early as next Tuesday, September 24, 2013. Sale of construction bonds has been put off until November 2013. All of this was supposed to happen in August 2013. But suddenly the State started asking questions about the Vikings financial status, its abilty to pay its share of the construction costs, and then the Governor raises objections to the sweetheart deal with the Vikings that he approved over one year ago. Are the delays only related to the Governor getting cold feet?

     It is quite possible that the State of Minnesota is interested in, and not entirely certain about the outcome of a lawsuit that could be a deal killer. On July 16, 2013, Doug Mann (a mayoral candidate) filed a petition for a writ of mandamus commanding the Minneapolis City Council to refer approval of local Viking Stadium taxes to the voters. 

     The legislature attempted to help the Minneapolis City Council circumvent the Minneapolis Home Rule Charter provisions that require a referendum with language that deems local sales taxes to not be “city resources” within the meaning of the Charter. The Stadium legislation directs the city council to disregard any charter provisions that require a referendum. The Stadium legislation’s directive to disregard the City Charter is logically connected to an erroneous assertion that the Charter doesn’t apply because the Stadium legislation assigns sales tax revenues to the state, and obliges the city to make payments on state-issued bonds instead of city-issued bonds. However, there is one big flaw in this money laundering scheme: The City is not in a position to reassign revenues to another political entity that do not belong to it in the first place. 

     The City Attorney’s alternative argument is that the legislature gave the City Council permission to over-ride the City Charter. However, that interpretation of the stadium legislation assumes an exercise of legislative power that exceeds the legislature’s constitutional authority. The legislature simply lacks the authority to direct the Minneapolis City Council to violate its own charter. This is the critical issue in the case, and it gets extremely complicated. At the August 20 hearing, Judge Phillip Bush remarked that this is not Law 101, but graduate school stuff. 

     I expect that a ruling in favor of the City Council would be issued much quicker than a ruling that affirms the authority of the City Charter and upholds the right of the voters to approve, or not, the so-called “People’s Stadium.” The burden of proof lies with the petitioner, and an adverse decision could rest primarily on a single point of law. On the other hand, an affirmation of the authority of the City Charter would have to cover a lot of ground, and require far more time and effort on the part of the Judge. 

     Let the people decide! No new stadium without a referendum!