TODAY'S ARITHMETIC PROBLEM: If 14 members of a legislative committee promise to vote against public funding for a Twins stadium, and the committee has 22 members, what's your outcome?
A 12-6 vote in favor of the ballpark subsidy, that's what. At least when you're dealing with Carl Pohlad, Gov. Arne Carlson, and the state House Local Government and Metropolitan Affairs Committee. Last week the committee voted in favor of a stadium package that had few specifics, a lot of gambles, and a public commitment on the order of $500 million over 30 years. The vote may well have revived what until recently seemed a DOA deal. To get to that point took some doing.
During the week leading up to the vote, lawmakers reported being taken out for private meetings with legislative leaders, the governor, even Pohlad's banker son Jim. What those meetings were about no one will say, but it's an open Capitol secret that the stadium vote has been tied to everything from a Minneapolis Convention Center appropriation to rural ethanol plants.
"There was major arm-twisting done on every single member," says Rep. Kevin Knight (R-Bloomington), who claims the governor's office "threatened" him with a primary election challenge. (Gubernatorial staffers say conversations between themselves and lawmakers are private.) DFL lawmakers report being similarly lobbied by their leadership; if they couldn't vote for the package, they say they were told, would they at least stay away during the critical roll call? Several, it appears, did just that.
So far, proponents of the new stadium package have pushed a somewhat roundabout explanation for its unlikely success: Lawmakers have discovered, the argument goes, that the public's opposition to a tax-funded ballpark only covers the state's general fund. Other revenue, especially if it's tied in some way to sports, doesn't count. How that rationale will go over isn't clear yet; for now, it does seem to have succeeded at reconfiguring the political equation at the Capitol. Knight says he, for one, is now convinced that tax dollars will build the stadium. "There will be judgeships handed out, commissionerships, what have you. The big boys want it, and they won't stop until they get what they want."
HOUSE OF CARDS
THE LONG-AWAITED investigation into allegations of financial abuse within the Phillips Housing Team (PHT) has concluded that PHT Director Robert Bailey acted improperly, if not criminally. But according to the audit, he's not the only one on the hook for alleged misuse of federal money. The State Auditor's Office is blaming the fiasco on the city, which failed to implement specific guidelines and conflict-of-interest policies that would have prevented such funds from being abused.
Bailey has been accused of using federal Empowerment Zone/Enterprise Community funds intended for Phillips housing rehab projects to build himself a garage and perform rehab work on other properties he either owned or had an interest in ("Under Fire," 3/26/97). Minneapolis Auditor Bob Bjorklund conducted the probe, which has been turned over to the city attorney for possible criminal prosecution, and has reported his findings to the state. Deno Sterzinger Howard, an attorney with the state auditor, has in turn written to Minneapolis officials listing steps the city and Minneapolis Community Development Agency need to take to overhaul the Neighborhood Revitalization Program. "There is no requirement that individuals working for, or affiliated with, neighborhood revitalization programs have conflict-of-interest policies that would prevent this situation from occurring again in the future," he concluded.
BANK OF ARNE
IT SEEMS FAIRVIEW Health System may finally have found a way to end-run the Minneapolis City Council in its ongoing quest to force the health care conglomerate to allow employees at Fairview-University Medical Center to keep their union. The city may support organized labor, but Gov. Arne Carlson's a different story. Last week the state made good on its threat to issue $175 million in bonds that the city had refused to issue until the hospital resolved its labor dispute with workers at the former University Hospital. The deal would have netted the city some $700,000 in bond administration fees. City officials had complained that Carlson wanted the bonds issued so badly he had threatened to withdraw his support for state funds to expand the Minneapolis Convention Center. Carlson can now reserve that threat for another fiat--perhaps city financial support for a new Twins stadium. CP
In the spring of 1934, the federal government
tightened guidelines for Depression relief, adopting what was essentially a "welfare-to-work" program for men and women who found themselves thrown out of work by the Great Depression. On April 3, and again on April 6, 5,000 unemployed marched on city hall in downtown Minneapolis to protest the changes. About 30 were arrested and, in a pair of mass trials, found guilty of disorderly conduct after prosecutors painted them as "communist agitators." The following newspaper account was taken from the Minneapolis Tribune:
JOBLESS STORM CITY HALL
26 LEADERS IN MELEE ARE JAILED
Thousands of unemployed stormed the city hall today, engaged in sporadic clashes with police, and shattered half a dozen windows of the building with rocks and tear-gas bombs originally thrown at them by police. Several were reported injured.
Previous to today's demonstration 17 men and one woman had been chosen by officers of the United Relief Workers' association and were allowed to enter the city hall to present their demands to the city council... While the 18 representatives were before the council, Michael J. Johannes, superintendent of the police, issued orders for their arrest. "It's come to a showdown with these people and it's time we get them in hand," he told the squad he detailed to make the arrests. "If there are any more affairs like this, I will call at once on the governor of the state to send over the militia to quell the demonstrators."
During the height of the disturbance, Judge Paul S. Carroll and Judge Clyde R. White of the municipal court bench went to Earl Traeger, chief engineer of the fire department, and asked him to instruct firemen to turn water on the crowd. Traeger refused, declaring that "if we do that, hell's liable to pop loose."
Shouts rang out as the crowd's leaders exhorted their followers to action: "We want a living wage"--"Make the bankers pay for CWA projects!"
MEANWHILE, in 1997, the Star Tribune published in last week's Sunday paper a special Star Tribune section--that's right, a section about the Star Tribune, touting their new slogan, "It's Where You Live." Our favorite lines:
Planning a wedding, looking for a great place to golf, buying gifts for the holidays, keeping up on gossip, thinking about a nose job, wondering whom to vote for... ?
Star Tribune gives you accurate information about almost anything you're interested in...
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