Minnesota Legislature Plays Second Verse of Sad Stadium Song
The Minnesota Vikings’ quest for a stadium may have shed light on a larger issue: Who and what controls our state government?
I was a cub reporter back in 1998 when I first met Rep. Morrie Lanning, who was then the mayor of Moorhead and the head of Concorida College, a private school in that same community.
Lanning and I were first introduced as my publication did a special magazine on Moorhead, highlighting its progress and development following the horrors of the 1997 Flood of the Century.
Fast forward a few years, and Lanning was elected to the Minnesota House of Representatives. He stepped away from the campus, and headed down to St. Paul to tackle the issues.
When I first saw him, he was excited to head to the capitol.
Now, as I watch on camera as the Republican from Moorhead try to march forward as chief author of a bill that would, in almost every sense, save the Minnesota Vikings franchise from relocation without raising general tax dollars, I can see the wear and tear the “political games” in St. Paul have taken on him.
His brown hair has grayed. His brow is almost permanently furrowed. And instead of getting red in the face with a possible rant (ask former Moorhead city council members about those) of how we need government to work, he took Monday’s defeat with a smile, and shook the hand of his bi-partisan co-author as he stepped away from the House Government Operations and Elections Committee.
That the Vikings Stadium bill died shouldn’t be our biggest surprise or disappointment after a night of lengthy testimony.
What should be called into question is: “How did we get here?”
We’re on the brink of losing a piece of fabric so essential to Minnesota culture, it’s been captured in television shows like “How I Met Your Mother” and movies.
When I’ve talked with Lanning’s colleagues about financing a billionaire owner’s dream for a facility, they’re not oblivious to the irony. Yet, every one of them knows that, to build a stadium, that’s the game you play.
If you don’t want to play that game, fine. Walk away. Leave it there. But don’t patronize Vikings fans by putting a bill together, getting it to committee and then asking the question we’ve all known for more than a decade.
You can certainly question the funding. Rep. Mary Kiffmeyer (R, Big Lake), a Secretary of State when the Vikings came to St. Paul with a plan back in 2006 courtesy of Blaine and Anoka County, said the state’s being held hostage by those in control of gaming.
“Maybe you go ahead and build the casino at Block E, and see what happens. If the [Native Americans] choose to take us to court, let them. I’m kind of tired of being pushed around by another sovereign nation when anyone who knows can see that’s the easiest way to fund this thing,” Kiffmeyer told me two weeks ago.
She’s right, when it comes to funding. Pulltabs and licenses might leave the state on the hook if revenues aren’t there. Racino–the process of putting slots and other gaming machines at Canterbury Park–is supported by the majority of Minnesotans, and would raise more than enough money to support any stadium in any part of the Twin Cities.
Yet, Lanning knows, and so does Kiffmeyer–that’s not where we are now.
If the Vikings stadium debate shows us anything, it’s that the political system is as broken at the state level as it is federally. And until someone sticks his or her neck out for things like education, infrastructure or even a stadium, we’re stuck with the status quo.