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October 12, 2011

Ramsey County panel on Vikings vote: We are not the 99%

Last night, the Ramsey County Charter Commission held its long-awaited vote on a Minnesota Vikings stadium referendum, and voted 10-6 not to put a referendum on the November 2012 ballot. Their reason? Allowing a public vote would be undemocratic:

Chair Richard Sonterre said that for him, it wasn't a decision about taxes or a public-private partnership. It was a decision on the role of representative democracy. An appointed body like the charter commission, he said, shouldn't be challenging the authority of elected county leaders.

This, needless to say, clears a huge distraction for the Vikings stadium campaigners: Even if a referendum next fall might have been too late to block funding if it were approved in next spring's legislative session, the very term "public referendum" gives stadium planners hives, especially in a perennially taxpayer-funded-stadium-skeptical state like Minnesota. There's still the possibility of a petition drive to force a referendum, but for the charter commission to act would have been a much clearer path to a public vote.

Meanwhile, another potentially big distraction entered the picture last night, as the state-run Metropolitan Council regional planning agency issued a report on the Vikings' Arden Hills stadium proposal that warned toxic cleanup costs to the site could be more than expected, and using county sales taxes would "compromise the county's and the region's ability to finance other projects." The Minneapolis Star Tribune speculates that the negative report could "complicate" the possibility of a special legislative session this fall to vote on a Vikings stadium bill.

Still, a bad economic report is a speed bump, where a public vote could have been a roadblock. Ramsey County Commissioner and stadium backer Tony Bennett said after the commission vote and report release that overall "I think it's been a good night. I think it keeps us going." And while the Arden Hills stadium plan may not have had much momentum left to begin with, on balance, Bennett is probably right.


There are still a few options left. The voters of Ramsey county can still force a referendum by getting a petition with about 25,000 signatures from residents. The state legislature can still include the referendum vote, although it's doubtful. And the Ramsey county board can still outright vote no on it, since it only has backing from a couple of members right now. Annoying. It could have been put to bed last night, but now we get to drag this charade on a bit longer.

Posted by Geoff on October 12, 2011 12:01 PM

To use a well known phrase...

Damn the voters/taxpayers, full speed ahead!

Posted by Paul W. on October 12, 2011 01:43 PM

The Minnesota Voters Alliance is meeting today to start the petition drive to force the referendum. I think it'll take an afternoon to get the required 25,000 or so signatures.

Posted by Geoff on October 13, 2011 10:39 AM

Let the petition drive begin! Let's let the people of Ramsey County decide on whether this ridiculous stadium plan will proceed. I also believe it will be easy to come up with the required 27,500 signatures to force a referendum.

Posted by mike on October 19, 2011 06:30 PM

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