My Vikings Headache
- Created on Wednesday, 09 May 2012 15:36
I grew up in Chicago. I don't like the Vikings. And though it's heresy, and Minnesota is my home, I root for the Bears to the extent that I follow the National Concussion League at all. So please know that I am not a Vikings fan, and yet, I still support a stadium deal.
For five months the Vikings have given me legislative migraines. Since the beginning of this session the franchise owners and their suits have played the public and nervous lawmakers like bumpkins, rounding up votes and giant subsidies, exploiting Minnesota's pride, quality-of-life obsession, and our desire for major leagueness. It's sickening to see how easily Capitol leaders cater to a home town team that promises all of this, but also threatens to pack up their cleats and leave, thus ending all family togetherness on wintry Sunday afternoons.
I resent the time and energy invested in the Vikings deal, especially when compared with, say, bolstering wages or ending poverty. As this session draws to a close, I'm pretty much ready to accept Isaiah's angry conclusion: Your rulers are rebels, friends with thieves. They all love bribes and run after gifts. They never defend orphans. They don't notice the widows' pleas. (Isaiah 1:23)
Think I'm far off? I'm remembering one legislator, deep into his second year of service on the Health and Human Services Committee, who paused during a hearing and asked "what's FPG stand for again?" (answer: Federal Poverty Guidelines) How could any member of a human services committee not know this with even the most casual interest in the committee's business? Compare this embarrassing mental vacuum with Monday's House floor debate wherein several legislators offered high-def recollections of Darrin Nelson's dropped pass and Garry Anderson's missed field goal. Apparently, these are important details to remember for policymaking.
And then there's the gambling. Whatever pride we all may take in building a great public project is dimmed by paying off the bonds with lost bets, dashed dreams, and the misery of a thousand new addicts. At least Rep. Mike Benson (Rochester) and a few others finally brought out the truth regarding the social costs of more gambling. But it was too little too late, and funding alternatives couldn't gather enough votes.
Out of all the blather the last two nights, Rep. Ryan Winkler's (St. Louis Park) speech came closest to channeling my personal feelings on this issue. Rep. Winkler listed all the reasons why it's a bad idea, why it was a bad bill, and why he landed on voting yes. We share the feeling that, after all the dysfunction in our lawmaking the last couple of years, at last we can get our heads around something, anything, in a non-partisan fashion and get something done. We need the hardhat jobs and it's good to move forward, do something big, and prove that head-knocking partisanship doesn't always ruin the day.
Here's where I pin my hope. With the Vikings well housed, perhaps our expanded sense of being capable and united (forget that Bears thing) will make it more possible to move out on smart reforms, raise needed revenue, invest in our people, and keep pace with other above-average states. If I didn't believe this, I'd hate the Vikings even more — but that really isn't possible.
Brian Rusche, executive director
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