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May 16, 2011
Could Ramsey County residents force a Vikings stadium vote?
That get-out-of-vote-free card that some Minnesota state legislators want to hand to whatever county agrees to build a new Vikings stadium may not be worth as much as they'd hoped. The new group No Vikings Tax (self-described as "a project of several neighborhood activists and community organizers") say that they can use county and city charters in Ramsey County and Minneapolis to effectively overturn any no-vote legislation passed by the state:
Opponents say those charters allow them to collect enough voter signatures (about 10 percent of registered voters) to place a referendum on the next election ballot that would overturn any state measure that bans a referendum on the stadium. If successful, they then allow a public vote on any ordinances passed to fund the project.
"We could usurp their usurpation," said Chris David, head of the small group, which met to plot strategies to get the Vikings and their owners to pay the entire cost of a new stadium.
A referendum campaign would require about 25,000 signatures to get on the ballot in Ramsey County, or 8,500 in Minneapolis. If successful, even putting the referendum on the ballot would be enough to put a stadium bill on hold until a public vote is held.
In other Vikings stadium news, Gov. Mark Dayton became the latest elected official to say he isn't crazy about the Ramsey County financing plan, since it gives too much stadium revenue to the team, and puts the state on the hook for both $300 million in stadium costs and as much as $240 million in new roads — $300 million, declared Dayton, is "absolutely the limit" for the state's contribution.
Meanwhile, the St. Paul Pioneer Press reports that "nearby cities" are hoping that a Vikings stadium in Ramsey County could help spur other development ... though the only person saying this in the article, it turns out, is the VP of a local commercial real estate firm. Also, the "other development" is the rest of the Arden Hills ammo plant site, much of which is polluted, and "the remaining [cleanup] costs chased away a developer a few years ago," according to the Pioneer Press.
The Vikings would control development of the site, and have presented a plan for retail, restaurants, a movie theater, and parking — none of which really will benefit from a football stadium next door, because who's going to open a movie theater on the off chance that on ten Sundays a year, Vikings fans will decide they want to take in The Hangover Part VII after the game? It's always possible that the site is ripe for retail development, but if so, then there's no need to build a stadium there to jump-start it; and if not, then ... ballpark village, anyone?