Residents at forum split on Vikings stadium plan

Mayor R.T. Rybak Tuesday night took his proposal for a new Vikings stadium to the city’s residents, holding a forum that attracted about 100 people to the Lake Nokomis Community Center.

The crowd was divided on the issue, with about half supporting Rybak’s plan to divert city sales taxes to subsidize new stadium, and the other half opposing the proposal.

The forum remained largely civil, although a few small arguments broke out. Rybak had to warn a few people to wait their turn to speak, and one attendee warned the mayor to wait his turn.

Rybak spoke for about 10 minutes, mainly selling the stadium proposal as a way to lower property taxes and invest in the city’s core. He began by taking written questions, but after answering a handful of them, decided to open it up to the crowd.

Dann Dobson stood up and read from the city’s charter, which ignited debate among attendees.

Dobson, 61, is an attorney and lobbyist who lives in St. Paul. He said the city charter clearly states that city resources should not go toward a sports facility.

“It’s quite clear,” Dobson said afterward. “It says the city of Minneapolis shall use no city resources (on sports facilities).”

Dobson and others — some holding red and white “Stop Stadium Taxes” signs, said the proposal was not a good use of city money.

“It’s not a good use of public dollars,” he said. “Here we are taking $900 million of public dollars and diverting it to a billionaire.”

Anita Martinez, 51, of Nokomis East, agreed the funding strategy has its flaws, but said it presents the best way to get union workers back on the job.  

“The state legislature is controlled by Republicans who don’t want to spend any money on jobs for any reason,” she said. “So I see it as the only thing we can get from a Republican state legislature right now.”

Paul McKitrick, 58, is salesman who lives in the Ericsson neighborhood. He said professional sports add to the vibrancy of the Twin Cities.

“If the Vikings leave … Have you been to Des Moines? Have you been to Omaha? I mean, it’s not fun there,” he said.

McKitrick said Rybak’s plan would lower property taxes by using sales taxes to fund the Target Center.

“My property taxes are too high,” he said. “I don’t like that. This is lowering my property tax. The mayor was clear on that. This is money that comes out of peoples’ pockets who come to Minneapolis to spend money in the bars and restaurants and hotels.”

Catherine Turner says she wants to see a new Vikings stadium in Minneapolis, but says the city is getting a bad deal.

Turner, a 32-year-old attorney from the Kingfield neighborhood, said she would prefer funding from tax revenues from slot machines at Canterbury racetrack — a proposal known as Racino.

“Unfortunately, in America, it’s a lot of keeping up with the Joneses,” Turner said. “You have to keep up with other cities in the country and the region, and to be on that same elite level, you have to have all the bells and whistles, and that includes a stadium.

“I think that there was a better way to fund it, and I think the deal they negotiated was a disappointment.”

Turner said she hoped the deal would have included funding for local schools, police or parks.

Dobson credited Rybak for holding the meeting and answering questions directly, even if he didn’t agree with the mayor.

“I thought he was just going to allow his screeners to do the written questions, so I give him credit for standing up and answering questions directly,” he said. “But I think he’s terribly mistaken and wrongheaded on it.”

Turner said she expects a stadium deal to pass. But she hopes she gets her way on at least one component.

“I just hope that in the new stadium — because we’re probably going to get it — I just hope that I can run in the winter, because I use the Metrodome to run in the winter,” she said.

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