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Citizens' Forum Addresses Stadium Financing
By Karen Louise Boothe
April 13, 1998
Click for audio RealAudio 2.0 14.4

Minnesota's gubernatorial candidates are finding that public financing of sports teams is one of the top political issues on the minds of voters. A cross-section of concerned citizens are participating in a series of public forums sponsored by Minnesota Public Radio, the Star Tribune, and KTCA-TV. They recently gathered in St. Paul, Duluth, and Rochester for a teleconference on the issue of public financing of sports. Judging from their comments, most Minnesotans oppose such government funding.

Those who gathered Thursday night complained about the legislature's funding for a new hockey arena in St. Paul. Chuck Simpkins of Cannon Falls opposes the lawmaker's decision, saying it was a proposal that piggy-backed onto other public works funding proposals - making the vote a fait accompli.

Simpkins: ...And it was probably some favoritism back and forth: you scratch my back and I'll scratch yours. It was put in there and passed so that everybody else around the state got their little bills passed. I know it's the process of government, but how can you break that down a bit and make it more issue-by-issue, rather than favoritism and good ol' boy network?

Barbara Gnan of Woodbury expressed contempt over what is the likely re-emergence of a bill next session to help finance a new Twins ballpark if the Twins don't move to North Carolina before then. She says it's an issue that won't die, despite the fact that public opinion leans against it. She wants a binding referendum on the issue.

Gnan: Because it feels like we have spoken many times on many issues, not just the sporting stadium, and I do not believe we have been heard. If they don't like what we say, they just bring it back again and I guess I'd like to see what they say to that question.

Sandra Colson of Minneapolis wondered, what part of "no" do elected officials misunderstand?

Colson: Why, when the public spoke so loudly last fall, does the issue have to be raised again? It seems to me the government, legislators, and the governor are not listening to the people. We are not being heard.

Lisa Tubbs of Rosemount and Peter Wahlstrom of St. Paul were among those seated around a conference table, discussing the issue too; their indifference to such funding, apparent:

Dowload entire audio file to hear dialogue (see link at top)

Another issue that participants raised is the need for a policy on how state money is used for investments. Others want to know what gubernatorial candidates will do to further debate over funding for the arts, parks, and other recreational projects, and they want more citizen input taken into account at the state capitol.

At the end of the evening, participants at the St. Paul location were asked if they plan to keep up their citizen lobbying on the issue. About half raised their hands.

Participants are invited by the sponsoring news organizations to attend five different forums dealing with issues of education, public financing for sports, taxes, welfare, and crime.

The next citizen's forum is scheduled for April 30th.