By Eric Jansen
June 25, 1999
The Minneapolis City Council has approved a resolution
supporting an effort to build a new stadium to try to keep the Twins in town. The debate over the resolution
led to a battle over whether a portion of new taxes
for a baseball stadium should help finance affordable housing.
The resolution passed by the Minneapolis City Council says simply "the city should enter into talks with
Hennepin County, the state, and regional business leaders to devise a plan to
keep the Twins in Minneapolis."
The council stripped from the resolution the specific riverfront
location, a pledge to contribute land and prepare the site, and urging the
county and parks board to also contribute land. It also didn't specify the
half-cent county-wide sales tax stadium proponents have floated.
But council member Jim Niland says it's clear stadium backers plan to
fund it with a half-percent county-wide sales tax.
Everyone out there in the community knows that what we're doing today is
voting to fund a stadium with taxpayer dollars and we're not voting to fund
The vote followed a heated debate about whether to devote $25 million per year
of the possible new tax to affordable housing.
Council member Brian Herron said he realizes professional sports teams are
important, but says the city has too many people in shelters and children in
poverty, and says their problems should be on the front burner. He pounded his
fist as he spoke, saying the city must be clear that it needs something
in return if it helps build the Twins a new open-air ballpark.
Herron: It's a social and economic justice issue. There are far too many
injustices going on right now, and we sit up here and take all this time to talk
about a stadium, while the rich keep getting richer and the poor keep getting
In a strange procedural twist, the council passed an amendment to devote $25
million per year of any new tax to affordable housing, then later
stripped it from the ballpark resolution.
Some council members said mandating that could derail ballpark
negotiations with Hennepin County. Council President Jackie Cherryhomes
countered arguments of stadium opponents, who cited
several studies saying stadiums don't give back what cities put into them. She
says the city's decision to bail out the Target Center to the tune of $85
million five years ago was a good one.
The fact is: there are 25 new businesses in downtown Minneapolis
around the Target Center. They wouldn't be there if that investment hadn't been
made by the city and we hadn't kept that investment. And everybody around here
wants to forget the fact that when we have a playoff or a game, on a Sunday
afternoon, when previously there was none in downtown Minneapolis. We got 20,000
people down there.
Mayor Sharon Sayles Belton spoke passionately several times during the meeting
reminding council members the city is losing Honeywell's corporate headquarters
because of its recent merger, and telling them when she talks to businesses
about locating here, they want to see pro-sports teams in the mix. She says
the split 7-6 vote won't hurt her discussions with the Twins or Hennepin
County. And she says the fact that specific dollars for affordable housing were
left out also won't keep her from advocating that some money raised from new
taxes be reinvested in the community.
Sayles Belton:When we were thinking about how a financial plan might be put
together, we paid special attention to the fact that any finance plan needs to
benefit the public to a greater degree than it benefits those engaged in
collegiate or professional sports.
Regarding the closeness of the 7-6 vote, one council member reminded her
colleagues that a transfer of city land for the stadium will require a
nine vote, two-thirds majority.