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Make the Vikings owner pay for his stadium

By staff |
December 8, 2011
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Welfare Rights Committee protests at Legislative hearing on Viking's stadium
Welfare Rights Committee protests at Legislative hearing on Viking's stadium (Photo by Kim DeFranco)

St. Paul, MN - “There should be no public funds used, from any source, to pay for a rich man’s stadium,” said the Minnesota Coalition for a People’s Bailout’s Linden Gawboy, testifying at a Dec. 6 state Senate committee hearing. The off-session hearing looked at financial options for building a new stadium for the Minnesota Vikings football team.

The funding options up for discussion that day included taxing revenues from proposed expansions of gambling, raiding the Legacy Fund (money from a statewide sales tax that is supposed to go to arts, the environment and hunting habitat) and diverting current taxes paid by the Vikings franchise - from the state general fund to a stadium fund.

“We are here to talk about an option that we don’t see on this list. The private funding option,” Gawboy testified. She emphasized how the team owner, Zygi Wilf, is a wealthy New Jersey real-estate developer who has plenty of experience arranging private financing deals for his various projects. “The Minnesota Coalition for a People’s Bailout came together in 2008 under the slogan, ‘Bail out poor and working people, not banks and billionaires.’”

There were many groups and individuals at the five and half hour hearing. Testifiers included people against public financing and against using the legacy money for a stadium, fans who wanted a stadium, those who wanted an expansion of gambling and saw the stadium as an opportunity to push their plans, gambling opponents, building trades people and elected officials who advocated public financing. Spokespeople from Minnesota Native American tribes and bands pointed out that the current casinos were a critical component of the economy for their nations and the communities surrounding them, and that expanded gambling would hurt these rural economies.

The Welfare Rights Committee’s testimony read like a resolution: “With the rate of poverty rates going up in Minnesota because of the economic crisis... With many people and families being thrown out of their apartments because of the landlords’ foreclosures...With many people and families in need of shelter, the homeless shelters are at capacity...With many poor families of Minnesota who can’t share the pain anymore because of continuous unemployment and cuts in social programs...This is no time to use any public money, creating new taxing, adding onto existing taxes to build a new stadium.”

It was pointed out that the Vikings management wants hundreds of millions of dollars in public funding for their stadium but refuse to open their financial records for public inspection. Another issue is the refusal to allow the people in Ramsey County to have a chance to vote on a Ramsey County sales tax for one of the stadium proposals.

Mehmet Berker testified as an individual, “For 30-odd years a new norm has developed in this country, where sports teams have discovered that they can get the public to pay for investments that they, the owners, will benefit from.”

Tom D. Goldstein, a community activist, lawyer and former school board member from Saint Paul, states, “The Vikings could have built a private partnership with local corporations during the last decade to solve their stadium woes, but instead did little other than wait for the legislature to create a solution for them.”

“To tax people struggling just to keep a roof over their head is immoral,” said Janet Nye, of Minneapolis, who wore an OccupyMN patch reading “People before profits.” She noted that prior to the two hearings, all discussions were behind closed doors. “I just point out that those who are occupying in every state in the nation, even in other countries; we are very tired of a sham democracy.”

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