Vikings stadium looms over vote for board
Posted on Sun, Sep. 10, 2006
[size=13pt]Vikings stadium looms over vote for board[/size]
Four vying for vacancy support referendum
BY DAVE ORRICK
It's all about a referendum that doesn't exist concerning a building that might never be built.
The efforts of Anoka County leaders to woo the Minnesota Vikings to Blaine for a new stadium has become the key issue in Tuesday's primary election. It is often the first thing voters question County Board candidates on as they hit the campaign trail.
The outcome could have major ramifications for the envisioned 68,500-seat stadium and accompanying commercial development â€” a $1.6-billion assortment of projects including stores, a hotel and a convention site. The election could tilt the County Board toward those seeking a referendum on a tax hike to pay for the football field. Such a vote could throw a wrench into the stadium plans after the current board opened the door to such an increase without letting voters decide.
The battle is evident in the race to represent the community that would host the proposed stadium. All four candidates vying to fill the Blaine-based 3rd District vacancy, created by the retirement of Chairwoman Margaret Langfeld, say they strongly support allowing voters to decide whether the county should raise sales taxes to pay for part of the stadium. Yet that's impossible unless state lawmakers change course.
Candidates for the seat â€” Jim Anderson, Damian B. Burkhalter, Dick Swanson and Robyn West â€” say they support change. Yet none criticizes Langfeld, who's arguably one of those most responsible for telling state lawmakers it's OK to levy a 0.75 percent sales tax hike â€” 15 cents on a $20 purchase â€” without asking Anoka County voters directly.
The specter of higher taxes for a stadium is dominating campaigns in the two other commissioner primaries being held Tuesday: the Ramsey-based 1st District and the Ham Lake-based 2nd District. The primaries serve to whittle the field for the Nov. 7 general election; in all three primaries, the top two vote-getters will advance.
In the 1st District, 15-year Commissioner Dennis Berg faces eight challengers; in the 2nd, Commissioner Dick Lang, who has served 16 years, faces six. Like Langfeld, a 24-year veteran, Berg and Lang supported the tax-without-voter-approval plan. All three primaries have multiple candidates who say reversing that plan â€” by placing the tax question on a ballot â€” would be a top priority.
However, the stadium plan, and thus the tax increase, are far from certainties, even with the support of a majority of the current board. Vikings owner Zygi Wilf has let lapse a number of options to buy key chunks of land in Anoka County, and Minneapolis officials hardly appear eager to let the Vikings leave the Metrodome or its surrounding neighborhood without a fight.
Still, the stadium is the first thing that comes out of mouths of voters in the 3rd District after they open the door and a candidate presses the flesh, all candidates say.
And here's how the candidates say they respond:
Anderson: "I'm for positive commercial retail development. I don't have a problem with the stadium. I don't have a problem with the referendum. I think if voters are presented with the facts, they would support a referendum. But I support the voters' right to choose." The 56-year-old Blaine resident touts his experience as chairman of Blaine's Planning and Zoning Commission.
Burkhalter: "The public should have the right to vote on any tax increase. I think it's (the stadium proposal on the whole has) been pretty well thought out. If the County Board, Legislature and the team really believe that this is going to be in the best interests of everybody, you need to put that out there." Burkhalter, 42, of Blaine, cites his experience as a former detention sergeant at the Hennepin County Jail.
Swanson: "I support the voters' right to decide. A stadium alone? No. A stadium plan with all the benefits? Yes. I wouldn't bring anything to the voters if it wasn't the right plan." The 61-year-old Blaine resident pushes his experience as an elected member of Blaine's City Council.
West: "I think we should have a vote if our sales tax will be increased for the stadium. If the people say go for it, then go for it. I do not think that we should be blackmailed into doing it because the owner won't pay for it." The 54-year-old Blaine resident positions herself as a first-time candidate who has never had a government job.
While West acknowledges the proposed stadium tax inspired her to run, all of the contestants insist they're not one-issue candidates. And that's good, Langfeld said.
"The county is about many, many issues," said Langfeld, who's unapologetic about her support for the stadium tax. "To focus on one seems absurd, especially on something that may never happen."
Dave Orrick can be reached at [email protected] or 651-228-2171.
Plenty of choices
The top two vote-getters in each Anoka County commissioner primary will advance to the Nov. 7 general election.
Dennis D. Berg (i), of Anoka
Pat Gruber, of Ramsey
Jean Bouley, of Ramsey
Terri Cleveland, of Ramsey
Kim Hamilton, of Burns Township
Bryan Kost, of Oak Grove
Gary Lenzmeier, of Andover
David H. Soltis, of St. Francis
Rosella B. Sonsteby, of Andover
Ed Fiore, of East Bethel
Sandy Grams, of Cedar
Janelle Kirkeide, of Ham Lake
Dan Seman, of Ham Lake
Larry Peterson, of Cedar
Dick Lang (i), of Ham Lake
Andy Westerberg, of Blaine
Damian B. Burkhalter, of Blaine
Dick Swanson, of Blaine
Robyn West, of Blaine
Jim Anderson, of Blaine
Re: Vikings stadium looms over vote for board
i hope it gets approved. i dont live in minnesota, so the taxes do not affect me :)
Re: Vikings stadium looms over vote for board
I hope it gets approved I live just a couple miles away from the proposed stadium