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Minneapolis Not Giving Up on Stadium
By Eric Jansen
July 12, 1999
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The Minnesota Twins' pledge to deal with St. Paul only hasn't stopped Minneapolis leaders from working on plans to build the baseball team a new stadium in their city. They claim their plan is much more likely to win state approval, if they can get local constituents - and their council colleagues - to buy it.

TWINS OFFICIALS SAY they're not talking to Minneapolis for the foreseeable future. They say they expect to come to terms with St. Paul by August 2nd on a deal that will preclude team owners from talking to Minneapolis or any other city at least until a St. Paul referendum in November that asks residents to tax themselves for a new baseball stadium. The plan would also seek about $100 million dollars - a third of construction costs - from the state.

Minneapolis leaders say St.Paul's plan won't work, and that's why they continue to work on their own. Steve Cramer, executive director of the Minneapolis Community Development Agency, says there's still strong resolve among city leaders to keep the Twins in Minneapolis.

Cramer: Everybody acknowledges, including Mayor Coleman, that they have a steep hill to climb, both in terms of whether the people of St. Paul will support the referendum, and then if the answer to that is yes, whether the Legislature will both grant authority to impose a sales tax and appropriate money for the project, something that both the governor and Legislature have said they won't do.
Cramer says the Legislature is much more likely to approve a proposed Hennepin County tax that would fund a variety of other needs, not just a stadium.

City council president Jackie Cherryhomes agrees. She says Minneapolis needs to make civic investments.
Cherryhomes: We need to improve some of our park opportunities, we need to allocate money for affordable housing. We need to improve our bike trails in suburban communities and some of what I hear from our suburban neighbors is that they need some community centers and other sorts of civic things.
Cherryhomes says a Hennepin County-wide sales tax could provide all those things, as well as new homes for baseball and football teams. She says the driving force is not sports, but meeting residents' needs without relying on property taxes.

But as of now, Hennepin County stadium backers have no concrete plan to offer the Legislature and at least as big a public relations challenge as their counterparts across the river. A June Minnesota Public Radio-St. Paul Pioneer Press-KARE-TV poll shows taxpayer ballpark financing is less popular in Minneapolis than in St. Paul. Sixty-eight percent opposed the Hennepin County plan with a margin of error of plus or minus 5-percent.

Even if adding other projects to the mix could soften opposition to stadium financing, city council member Jim Niland, an opponent of taxpayer financing for stadiums, says it doesn't change the essential nature of the proposal.
Niland: The only reason the sales-tax proposal is on the table is the stadium. If it made sense to raise taxes to lower property taxes and to build affordable housing, we could have done that years ago. What they're doing is putting lip-stick on a hog by tying to put these other things into a sales-tax proposal, when we all know the real reason they're proposing this is to help bail out the billionaire Carl Pohlad.
Niland says he sees little support for the stadium plan. A weak resolution supporting continued talks with Hennepin County but with few details passed by a slim margin last month. Supporters on the county board seem unable to muster enough votes to pass even that.

Niland predicts some stadium supporters will lose their council seats over the issue. He notes residents in every ward of the city voted by 70 percent or more two years ago not to spend more than $10 million of public money on a stadium without putting the issue to a public vote.

A public opinion researcher at the University of Minnesota says he's surprised at local politicians' disregard of public sentiment in both cities. But political science associate professor Larry Jacobs says it's similar to a trend he's seeing nationally: politicians aren't following public wishes as indicated by polls, but the agenda of their core supporters.
Jacobs: Politicians are then going out and doing public-opinion research to figure out what words, symbols and arguments can be used to try to change public opinion to support what they already desire. So it takes the notion of pandering and flips in on its head.
Jacobs says the public relations campaigns many politicians use can be seen as education, or manipulation.

Minneapolis ballpark proponents say with the Twins focused on St. Paul for now, they have time to polish their proposal; that's what they plan to do over the next few months.