Hooray for Mayor Hodges’ Courageous Soccer Stadium Stand!

Bill McGuire and his sports buddies the Pohlads, who own the Twins, and Glen Taylor, who owns the Timberwolves, want to build a stadium in downtown Minneapolis just for soccer.  And here’s the good news: They want to build it using private money.  And here’s the bad news: They want a rebate on sales taxes and they want a permanent exemption from paying local property taxes. Mayor Betsy Hodges went on record as saying “No,” and she said it in a public and detailed letter:
“There is no need for a subsidy for this facility, or this ownership group, whatsoever. The subsidy they are requesting will have a direct and negative impact on the taxpayers of Minneapolis. “First, the McGuire group is asking to avoid paying their fair share of property taxes—not just for a limited term of time, but forever. “The land where the MN United ownership group proposes to build the stadium is currently privately owned, so it currently pays property taxes [$334,000 a year] that would disappear if the soccer stadium were exempted from taxes. Continue Reading

Tax exemptions are bad for city

A proposal for a new soccer stadium in downtown Minneapolis is drawing controversy because of how it may be funded. The owners of the Minnesota United soccer club have stated that they will privately fund the stadium, which will cost an estimated $150 million, without any direct subsidies from the state. However, their proposal for the stadium included a request for a sales tax exemption of about $3 million, as well as a permanent property tax exemption.These requested exemptions have received mixed reactions. Some are potentially supportive of the deal. Several City Council members have asked for more details about the proposal, and Gov. Mark Dayton has said he may offer public dollars for certain stadium improvements.  Others oppose any permanent tax exemptions. Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges called the request a “public subsidy” that “will have a direct and negative impact on the taxpayers of Minneapolis.” On Monday, the state Senate voted almost unanimously to ban state funds from being spent on the new stadium. Continue Reading

Green Line Businesses bounce back

For some businesses along the Green Line light rail, the nearly two years of transit construction proved to be too much to keep operations steady. The light rail’s construction from 2012 to 2014 pushed some Stadium Village and Prospect Park businesses — like 56-year-old Campus Pizza and Pasta — too far below their bottom line, and many of the area’s storefronts cut costs and changed some of their business practices. But now, those businesses that survived the road work are bouncing back from the years of low sales and slow foot traffic that came with the construction.In order to stay open, many area businesses reduced their staff sizes and inventory to keep revenue flowing. Though Stub and Herbs has a loyal fan base and a 76-year-old legacy, owner Josh Zavadil said the business struggled through the two-year construction period.  Zavadil said he restructured the property’s mortgage and cut back on some spending during the construction to cope with the restaurant’s dwindling business as a result of the area’s lack of foot traffic. The business relied heavily on customers from University of Minnesota hockey and football games, he said. Other businesses along the light rail resorted to hosting events with the hopes of drawing positive attention to a depressed area.  While Art and Architecture Inc., an antique store in Prospect Park, didn’t struggle as much as other area businesses, manager Jodi Hohman said, morale in the area was low during the road work. “Everybody was down in the area,” she said. “People were closing up shop.” The antique store held a number of events, including “junk markets” — which are comparable to yard sales — to spur extra business, Hohman said. The removal of parking spots came with the light rail’s construction, and businesses that relied heavily on those spaces are still feeling the loss. During the construction, Paradigm Copies owner Gary Magee said his business on Washington Avenue Southeast removed some of its printing machines and shrank in size to reduce its rent cost.  He said the store lost a lot of walk-in business and didn’t attract any customers. But now that the light rail is up and running, Magee said his storefront is more robust, and he expects its customer base to continue to grow. “I’m seeing a lot of positive signs,” he said. “We’re on our way to doing much better.” Few business owners in the area know their exact property values, but many said most of the land prices along the Green Line have gone up in recent years.  And owners who own their own buildings instead of rent, like Textile Center in Prospect Park, say they are glad that they do. Nancy Gross,  director of the center’s administration, said since the train started running last summer, the nonprofit has seen more people visit its gallery space, and its consignment store has had higher sales. On the Green Line light rail’s route, trains slowly turn onto University Avenue Southeast after the line’s Prospect Park stop — half of their windows facing the Textile Center. “There are lots of eyes on us,” Gross said. “We love it.” Continue Reading

Target Center all over again

The Minneapolis City Council has agreed to pay an additional $24.5 million to renovate the Target Center so Glen Taylor can charge more for admission.   Taylor is the publisher of the Star Tribune and owner of the Minnesota Timberwolves—the worst team in the NBA.  They are so bad a running joke on “Saturday Night Live” is the threat to trade someone to the Timberwolves.  Taylor won’t put any money into the team to buy good players, but he wants the City of Minneapolis to fix up the arena so he can charge more for tickets.  Glen Taylor has a brilliant business plan for the Timberwolves:  Turn our elected officials upside down and see how much of the taxpayer’s money falls out.The Ways and Means Committee of the City Council voted four to two to approve the new beauty treatment for Taylor.  John Quincy, Elizabeth Glidden, Linea Palmisano and Blong Yang voted for the project and Lisa Bender and Andrew Johnson voted against it.   The full Council voted 11 to 2 in favor of the giveaway.  Only Lisa and Andrew voted against it.We asked Council Member Johnson if he wanted to comment on the vote.  He said, “I believe the referendum requirement should be followed, but most of my colleagues don’t believe it’s applicable because the Target Center is owned by the city.”Twice the citizens of Minneapolis have amended their charter to require a referendum on city funds being used for a sports stadium.  The first, Chapter 15, Section 9, says:  “any such obligations or indebtedness to be issued or incurred for any improvement, including but not limited to acquisition, development, construction or betterment, of any public building, stadium, or other capital improvement project, shall in all phases from inception to completion exceed Fifteen Million Dollars ($15,000,000.00), the Board of Estimate and Taxation shall not issue or sell any bonds or other obligations nor incur any indebtedness for such purpose without the approval of a majority of the electors voting on the question of issuing such obligations or incurring such indebtedness at a general or special election.”In other words, if the city wants to spend more than $15 million on a public building or stadium, they have to let the voters decide the question. Chapter 15, Section 13, says:“Putting Professional Sports Facility Financing Before the Voters.  The City of Minneapolis, Minneapolis Community Development Agency, or any city department, agency, commission, or board, shall use no city resources over $10 million dollars for the financing of professional sports facilities without the approval of a simple majority of the votes cast on the question, in a ballot question put to the public at the next regularly scheduled election.”The charter provision makes no reference to a public or private facility.  It is quite clear.  No money more than $10 million shall go to financing a professional sports facility without the approval of the voters.Andrew Johnson continued: “I’ll tell you why I think contributing another $24.5 million to the project was a bad idea. If the Council had voted no to this $24.5 million additional funding request, the renovation of the Target Center would still have moved forward under the nearly $100 million funding package passed by the Council before ours. But because of this vote, we’ll now need to redirect more than $1.2 million of sales tax revenue per year over the next 20 years into paying off the $24.5 million in additional funding, revenue which otherwise would have gone toward capital projects and economic development activities across our city. Instead of it going where it’s most needed, it will now go largely if not entirely towards the aesthetic appearance of the Target Center’s exterior, giving it a ‘cool new look’ for passersby. With a $15-20 million annual shortfall in basic road maintenance and some of the worst disparities in the nation, I believe this was the wrong choice.” Perhaps faithful readers might remember my original critique of funding for the Timberwolves beauty treatment.  I was analyzing the budget proposal of Betsy Hodges and R T Rybak that stripped funding from the Neighborhood Revitalization Program and killed the most successful citizen participation in the nation and transferred that money to renovate Target Center:“That money was originally earmarked for neighborhood organizations, but Mayor Rybak and then-chair of the Ways and Means Committee, Betsy Hodges, decided to let the money go straight into the city treasury. That process of bankrupting the neighborhood organizations ended with the total elimination of the Neighborhood Revitalization Program. Continue Reading

The real cost of just ‘one more stadium’

The question, “Should I have just one more drink?” can be the difference between actually showing up to the sloppily made brunch plans from the night before and quivering in a bed wet with balmy sweat while clutching a fistful of aspirin.This mistake gets made once or twice in your life before you learn to shy away from the tempting words of “just one more.”However, after Wednesday’s announcement of a new Major League Soccer expansion, the city of Minneapolis currently faces its own “should I have just one more” debate. But instead of Grain Belt beer, Minneapolis needs to ask itself whether it needs “just one more stadium.”The MLS awarded Bill McGuire, the former UnitedHealth Group CEO and current owner of the Minnesota United FC, the opportunity to start a new MLS franchise under the stipulation that he commit to building a new outdoor stadium — which would be the fifth large-scale professional stadium in the Twin Cities area.Of all the cities in the United States that have five major professional sports teams, Minneapolis is one of the smallest. I’m a small guy, and consuming five drinks is a lot for me. So what does that say for the Twin Cities’ fifth professional stadium?McGuire estimates that a proposed 18,500-seat stadium would cost about $150 million to build, but he kept mum when asked whether he would seek public money for its construction. That’s a bargain of a price when you glance at the new Vikings stadium ($1 billion), but let’s not forget that we’re still paying off the debt for Target Field. Continue Reading

Downtown East Commons is a Blank Slate, Except for the Vikings. And the Traffic.

[You can see the original post here: http://streets.mn/2015/02/27/downtown-east-commons-is-a-blank-slate-except-for-the-vikings-and-the-traffic/]On Tuesday night, a healthy crowd of local downtown residents and other interested parties gathered in the rustic lobby of the Mill City Museum for the first of several public meetings about the forthcoming Downtown East Commons park. It was a fun atmosphere, with the palpable enthusiasm that comes with the chance to shape big changes in the place where you live. There were also cookies.There were two purposes to the meeting. The first was to give locals the chance to hear from the landscape architecture firm chosen by the city, Hargreaves Associates. The presentation given by Hargreaves’ President Mary Margaret Jones was well received, and it’s clear that the city has made an able hire. Continue Reading

COMMUNITY VOICES | Minneapolis DFL Party should apologize

The Minneapolis DFL Party owes the citizens of Minneapolis an apology and ought to make a statement to that effect — whether by resolution or otherwise — at its upcoming city convention.At its convention last year, the Party refused even to consider a resolution expressing the will of the body on the proposed “People’s Stadium.” This was five days before the Minneapolis City Council’s Committee of the Whole — with 12 DFLers out of its 13 members — was going to take the key vote on the stadium bill the legislature had passed. But the Minneapolis DFL Convention remained silent.How is that defensible?The primary business to be conducted at that convention was endorsement of school board candidates. But it was clear that after the at-large endorsements had been voted on, a motion would be made and passed to adjourn so that the smaller political units could make their district school board endorsements. This would mean the resolutions portion of the agenda would fall by the wayside.So at the time the agenda was being considered for adoption, a motion was made to move to the top of the agenda a 10-minute discussion on a stadium resolution. Continue Reading

Artie and Barbara: A Short Story

Once upon a time, in a small Midwestern town, a young couple, new to the area, were expecting their first child. So they decided to visit the town hospital to make arrangements for the baby’s delivery. “Viking Hospital” seemed a strange name to them for a hospital, but it was the only one in town.

Their conversation with the hospital administrator, Mr. Continue Reading