May 25, 2012 at 7:24 am
MINNEAPOLIS, MN (KNSI) - It didn't come easy at the state Capitol and was no easier in the chamber of the Minneapolis City Council yesterday, but once the dust settled, the city's governing board had approved a nearly $1 billion plan to build a new home stadium for the Minnesota Vikings.
The voting came after three-and-a-half hours of debate. Everyone came ready to state their case for, and against, the proposal and argue over whether the city would redirect a hospitality tax to pay its $150 million share of construction costs. The council approved the measure by a 7-6 vote.
Opponents on the council appeared resigned to their loss. But they used the meeting as something of a last stand, blasting the project as corporate welfare disproportionately funded by Minneapolis taxpayers and arguing that residents should have had a voice in a citywide referendum.
Council member Cam Gordon, among the opponents, felt a yes vote went against all the people who had put him on the council.
"I can't support this because I feel like I'm violating my oath of office," Gordon said. "I also feel like I'm violating my commitment to the people of Minneapolis to try to be responsible and follow their will. That alone doomed it for me."
Mayor R.T. Rybak, who had all but assured he had the votes to approve the measure going into the meeting, continued to lay-out what supporters viewed as the positives to come from the stadium.
"It is critical for us to put people to work and this is not something that is all about billionaires this is about lots and lots of people," Rybak said.
But not even the prospect of jobs for residents could wholly sway councilmembers like Gary Schiff.
"The ratio of subsidy per job created is way beyond, way beyond, anything we have ever done, way beyond anything the State of Minnesota has ever done," Schiff said, "I just think this is a deal that generations to come will criticize us for."
If 7,500 jobs are created, as Rybak estimated, the city's total contribution would be about $90,000 per job.
At the end of the day, council president Barb Johnson said a vote for the stadium was about insuring a bright future for the city.
"I believe in investing in this community," Johnson said. "And I believe in investing in the people that work in this community and the people that come to our community for all the different things that we provide as a city because we've invested."
Those same 13 members will repeat the vote Friday to formally satisfy a state requirement that they sign off on the deal. Then, a five-member authority will be set up to oversee construction of the stadium -- that likely won' start until the spring of 2013.