Monday, November 17, 1997

Cold Omaha

News this week of the imminent expansion of Cheapo to parts south, east, and close to home is certainly exciting. It speaks well of the company and its employees that such ventures are being launched. This week was also the week where we as a state took one step closer to losing major league baseball. Hey Al, could I talk you into subsidizing a new newsletter office/house in some town that has a baseball team?

For those of you who watched the House debate a bill that proposed paying for a new stadium solely through "user fees" saw a lesson in just why our legislative process has become as ineffective as it has. The bill would have been funded by the taxes collected on the ballplayers, and additional ticket, concession and souvenir taxes. The legislature has had over a year to examine the stadium issue and this bill was the best they could come up with. The bill's supporters argued that such fees would mean the people using the stadium would in essence pay for it. Never mind that some of these same people were the ones complaining about how much it now costs to attend a baseball game. If it cost too much for a family of four who last year could get in to selected games for $25 (which included four tickets, four hot dogs and drinks, and free parking) how much would such user fees add on?

Opponents of the stadium instead of coming out and saying they were against the state trying to play a role in saving major league baseball in Minnesota, had to cloud their stands with emotional rhetoric that was as hollow as their hypocrisy. Never mind that the state does subsidize many private industries including ethanol, tobacco and private companies like Northwest and Fingerhut. Representative Tuma from Northfield gave a speech that had to be heard to be believed saying a vote for the stadium meant extracting general money funds that would end up kicking his Grandma Looney out of her nursing home and on to the streets.

One study showed that to build a $400 million stadium would cost each current taxpayer around $5 a year for the next five years. Still there were opponents of the stadium willing to spend hundreds of dollars to manufacture anti-stadium hankies and other demonstration devices. And since people seem so unwilling to lose their five bucks a year in order to pay for a stadium that would enhance either downtown area, once the Twins leave we can expect there will be no more hungry children in the state, or senior citizens who have to worry about how they are going to make it until their next social security check arrives.

The anti-stadium faction was able to frame the debate from the beginning as some sort of take from the poor to give to the rich scheme. The pro- baseball faction was never able to communicate the rich history and legacy the game has brought to our community and the benefit that a baseball park could add (see Baltimore and Cleveland for examples of how well such a project works). Oh well, life without baseball is just another adjustment to be made. It ultimately means we all will have more time to spend with the Grandma Looneys of the world.

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