No sooner was I reading this column by Minneapolis Star Tribune online sports editor Michael Rand arguing that “even if you don’t like soccer, rich people or stadiums, it’s hard for a reasonable person to find much wrong with” the plan to give Minnesota United almost $50 million in tax breaks for a new soccer stadium, when this came across the digital transom:
Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges doubled down Wednesday on her rejection of a plan to provide tax breaks for a new professional soccer stadium, calling the request from the team’s owner unprecedented and “extraordinary.”…
Hodges dismissed McGuire’s suggestion that the plan includes “no public subsidy whatsoever,” and said she and other city leaders have not been provided with enough information to assess the full cost of the project to taxpayers.
“If people want to debate the merits of this public subsidy, let’s do that,” she said. “But we’ve got to start with the accurate information that what they’re asking for is a public subsidy.”
That seems … pretty reasonable, actually! Hodges was elected mayor in 2013 partly on her opposition to the $1.1 billion in taxpayer costs for the spendy Vikings stadium plan, and clearly is intent on joining her colleagues in Anaheim and Calgary on the short list of mayors who actually approach stadium subsidy requests by asking whether they’re a good deal for taxpayers, and not just whether they can find enough money to shovel at team owners without making the wrong taxpayers too mad. The Minneapolis city council is split on whether to go along with her — Hodges could veto council approval, and the council could in turn override her veto with the vote of nine of its 13 members — so it’s not like the mayor is in total control of the situation, but it’s a nice starting point for negotiations, anyway.
Meanwhile, city councilmember Andrew Johnson raises the interesting question of whether tax breaks worth more than $10 million (which this would certainly be) would trigger the requirement for a city referendum on the project, as approved by voters back in 1997 during the Twins stadium battles. The state legislature could overturn that — as it did for both the Twins and the Vikings — but that would add another contentious step to the approval process. I bet I know what Minnesota United owner Bill McGuire is thinking about now: Man, this would all be so much easier if our system of tax expenditures were controlled by online sports editors.