Give to the Max, In Context

retro_calculatorThe 120,000 Minnesota small donors who heroically pulled together to pool an $18 million donation during yesterday’s  Give MN’s “Give to the Max Day” should be very proud of themselves.

They set an all time record!  Wooo hooo. That’s the power of the grassroots.

But just to put that in context, consider that:

  • If KSTP-TV owner Stanley Hubbard donated 1% of his estimated $2.1 billion net worth, his donation would be $21 million, 28% more than the 120,000 Minnesotans gave.  Even after such a large donation, Stanley would still have $2.08 billion dollars left over to put fishsticks on his table.

The “giving to the max “ of these 120,000 big hearted Minnesotans is noble and notable.  But honestly, this kind of news story must be greeted with a “well isn’t that adorable” chuckle from the wealthiest Minnesotans.

– Loveland

The Vikings Must Release The Greatest Running  Back In Vikings History

Upon hearing the news that Vikings superstar running back Adrian Peterson was indicted for child abuse, Vikings zealots quickly flocked to sports talk radio to express themselves:

The Vikings have the worst luck.

I sure hope back-up running back Asiata is ready to step up.

Will Norv change his game plan, and will Bill have a counter move prepared?

Will the NFL be extra harsh on Adrian, because they are taking heat about their handling of Ray Rice?

How many games will we be missing him?

Now who should I start on my fantasy football team?

What makes me sick to my stomach is that I can’t keep the same trifling questions out of my head.

But the more I think about it, the more I’m in a very different place.  Now that Peterson has admitted that he inflicted those wounds on a four-year old child, this diehard Vikings fan hopes the Vikings immediately release or trade the best running back in Vikings history, so I never am tempted to cheer for him again.

Understand, I’m no sports hater.  I spend embarrassing amounts of time obsessing over sports, and save my most obsessive behavior for the Vikings.   I’ve had a particular man crush on Adrian Peterson.  His game changing talent, inspiring work ethic, and sheer entertainment value have been easy to love.

But here’s the thing:  My favorite player beat a four-year old child with a wooden stick. Until he bled. In multiple places.   A four-year old child.

“Yeah, but everyone makes mistakes, and everyone deserves a second chance,” say my fellow Vikings rubes.  “My dad spanked me to teach me right from wrong, and that made me the man I am.  I guess AP is so strong he just got a little carried away.”

No. No. No.  One of the more powerful men on the planet beat a tiny 4-year old child with a stick until he bled in dozens of places.  If reading that sentence isn’t motivating enough for you, close your eyes and imagine how that would look and sound if it had been captured on videotape, Ray Rice style.


I’ve never understood the logic of “my kid was physically aggressive so I’m going to be much more physically aggressive with him to teach him a lesson.”  That teaches a lesson alright.  Just ask Adrian, who reportedly was beaten by his father.

adrian_peterson_child_woundsBut for those who believe in corporal punishment, you still have to admit that there is a line that cannot be crossed, where corporal punishment becomes child abuse.

Where is the line?  If this child had one welt where one open-handed blow accidentally got out of control, maybe you could have a debate.  If this child was three times older, maybe you could have a debate.  But with multiple blood drawing wounds on a 4-year old, there can be no reasonable debate.  This is child abuse.

The law enforcement system and NFL will decide what Peterson’s legal and professional punishments should be.  I hope to God that the law enforcement system makes sure Peterson’s many children are safe from him, and that Peterson can get counseling to help him understand how messed up this inherited parenting approach is.

vikings_stadium_adrian_petersonBut whatever the authorities decide, and whatever corrective actions Peterson commits to, I don’t want a child abuser held up as the face of my favorite team.  I don’t want a child abuser representing my state.  I don’t want my tax dollars subsidizing a sports palace to showcase the child abuser.

Most importantly, I don’t want other rationalizing child abusers to see thousands of Vikings fans shrugging off that child’s bloody welts and cheering wildly the next time the admitted child abuser busts off a long run.  Because if Peterson remains a Viking, you can bet that will happen, and it will be truly nauseating.

As much as I love the Vikings and football, lots of things in this life are bigger than the game.  Standing up for abused children is much bigger than the game.   The nation’s child abusers need to see that the world will stick up for abused kids and hold abusers accountable, even the powerful and famous.

The Vikings need to immediately release or trade the best running back in Vikings history.  As much as that bites on a football level, it has to happen.

– Loveland

Duane Benson Interview: Reflections on Caucuses, Clowning, and Cancer

Duane_Benson_ballcapDuane Benson is leading an interesting life.  As a football player, he made the unlikely leap from the MIAC’s Hamline Pipers to the NFL’s Oakland Raiders, Atlanta Falcons and Houston Oilers.  As a member of what was then called the Independent Republican (IR) Party, he served as Minnesota Senate Minority Leader.

Since retiring from politics, he has served as the Executive Director of the Minnesota Business Partnership, Executive Director of the Minnesota Early Learning Foundation (MELF), Commissioner on the Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority (MSFA) and Trustee of the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities (MnSCU), among other duties. All the while, he has operated a ranch near Lanesboro, Minnesota.

But this has been a particularly poignant time of life for Benson. In the middle of overseeing a massive higher education system and a billion dollar stadium project, Benson’s brother died in a tragic house fire, his beloved dog died, and he was diagnosed with tonsil cancer.  He has a lot on his mind.

Benson is a fount of wisdom and humor, so I recently sat down with him over a Grain Belt at O’Gara’s in St. Paul to pick his wry, interesting and mischievous brain.

Q.  You recently had surgery for tonsil cancer. How are you feeling these days?   A.  I’m feeling good. I’m still having a little trouble with excess saliva that effects my speech, but I’m managing that better. I was real lucky early on, and I think my speech is getting better. I still have a little weight to gain back, but I have no complaints.

Q.  How did you discover it?   A.  A dentist said “you have a lump in your jaw.” I went to the family doctor, they took it off. The guy said it’s benign, salivary gland, but I’ll send your stuff over to Mayo. He sent it over there, and they wanted to run a PET scan. They found cancer on my right tonsil. So, they removed the tonsil and the lymph nodes on the right side. You know when you have something like this, you learn of all kinds of people who have had something like this go wrong. They kind of come out of the woodwork. And I can’t think of anyone who has come out of it better than I have. No chemo so far, no radiation, and very little restrictions of anything I do. Yeah, I’ve come out of it well.

Q.  The Legislature recently adjourned, and I know you still follow things at the Capitol. How has the tone of legislative discussions changed since you left office? A.  Well I think, it’s a little bit like religions for me, organized religions. We have 320 Christian denominations in this country, and that doesn’t count Judaism and Muslims and everyone else. We spend all of our time on how we’re different. Political parties have become that way. We’re spending all our time on how we’re different. To get back to the analogy of religion, a lot of people believe in God, but they spend all their time talking about how they’re different instead of the same. I think the party organization has had a lot to do with manipulating people in politics. I’m encouraged that in recent times Mike Hatch broke the mold and said to his party “I don’t want your endorsement.” Mark Dayton came along and said “I don’t want your endorsement.” In fact, the guy running for Senate (Mike McFadden) said he wouldn’t abide by the party endorsement, which would have been the death knell in the past.  And they endorsed him anyway!  So I’m encouraged that the whole religion stuff might be dying down. Maybe it’s going back to more about the greater good than “I don’t like you.”

Q.  What factors have caused the change in tone? A.  I think it’s the focus on how we’re different. I don’t want to harken back to some good old day or something. You should have differences, on four or five really big issues – taxes, could be education delivery, a few others. But now it’s everything. And so I think that partisanship got intensified.  But as I said I’m kinda encouraged that I think there’s a little bit of hope that you don’t have to go through the purification process in order to get (on the ballot), which means maybe the greater good will come to the front. When Roger Moe and I were in office, the political parties would come to us as caucus leaders and say “we need money.” We’d write ‘em a check, and say don’t ever darken my door again.   Now, political parties come and say “we’ve got the money, and you better be beholden.” That’s very different.

Benson_quote_officesQ.  What do you think could be done to improve inter-party legislative relationships? A.  It sounds simplistic, but I think it would help a lot if legislators had their offices together, so that every other office was a different political party. They’d come out and talk to each other. Right now for instance with the Senate and that new building, it’s a block from the other side. In the House it’s a floor separating them. And the whole place is run on communications, but I guarantee I can go over there and find people who haven’t met all their colleagues yet.   I think office-ing near each other is a kind of a simple fundamental thing that could happen to help people get to know each other. Then I think you start to respect each other, and do all these other things.

Q.  What else has changed? A.  A lot of these ethics laws that needed to be passed did change things.   Before, you had to go to these damn (interest group-sponsored) receptions. And you’d go out in front of the Capitol and you’d get in a car, and you didn’t know who in the hell was in it. You know, it would be Democrats and Republicans. You got to know each other. They don’t do that now. None. They’re physically apart.   Things got a little overboard ethically in those days, but to some extent there is a chilling effect of going so far in the other direction.

Q.  Well, they could grab a beer with each other on their own dime. Do you think that would help? A.  Well, sure it would. You know they used to say that Gallivan’s, down on Wabasha in downtown St. Paul, they say most of the laws were written there. (laughing)

Q.  How was it working with former Senate Majority Leader Roger Moe? A.  I did an interview about Roger Moe and the interviewer said “Roger told me you were the only friend he ever had in the Legislature.” And I said “He was the only friend I had.” They got along pretty good, the bodies, and they didn’t need us. So we had to interject ourselves from time to time. And then Roger was the master of co-opting me and everyone else. He was pretty damn good at it. I’d get our group of people in our caucus all fired up, ‘let’s go get ‘em, it’s an election year.’ They’d look at me and say “Roger appointed me the Chair of some council on seniors, or some damn thing.” (Laughing) Okay, check him off. Before you know it, I’ve got about two supporters left.

Q.  You and Senator Moe must have gotten angry at each other during the heat of battle. When that happened, how did you smooth it over so you could move forward?   A.  I think both of us, if we were wrong, we apologized to each other right away. Or he would be mad, and I’d say “we gotta get this behind us.” So we didn’t let it fester. You know it didn’t hang around and hang around.

Q.  Is that because the kind of people each of you are, or is it because that’s what you had to do that to get your jobs done?   A. Umm, I don’t know. You know, Roger is a Norwegian. (laughs)  The old adage about the Norwegian who loved his wife so much he almost told her, which is kinda true. You know, they don’t say shit. So, we would go to see (DFL) Governor Perpich together. First time. You know, I was so excited, I wanted to know about the squirrels and the windows. Roger doesn’t say a word the whole time. Second time I’m in there. We sat for a half hour. None of us said a word. Walkin’ out and I says to Roger, “That was sure fun.” He says “We actually made a lot of progress.” (laughing)  To him, that’s progress. That’s Roger. Wait. Wait. Wait. Wait. Wait.

Q.  So, he thought the progress was just that you were establishing a relationship with the Governor? A.  Yep. Yep. And the other thing Roger did, and I still use it today, is that he would never sweep the table. Don’t take the crumbs. Given them something. And that year when we had like 41% of the Senators, I set out as our goal to get 41% of everything that went through there. And in the crime bill, we probably got 85%, taxes probably got 40%, health care we got 60%. Roger didn’t sweep the table. (laughing) That’s not the game now.

Q.  So why do you suppose he didn’t ‘sweep the table?’ A.  He wanted to stay in the majority. He didn’t want to piss anyone off. Boy he was masterful. I couldn’t wake the sleeping giant with a shotgun. He put (the Republican caucus) to sleep.

Q.  When you served in the Legislature, which of your colleagues made you laugh the most? A.  Oh my God. Clarence Purfeerst. We all have misnomers. You know, I’d keep track of them on paper. And they were subtle. I think I had five pages of them written down. Clarence Purfeerst. He was the Senator from Fairbault. Very effective. He carried the para-mutual betting bill. Living will. Never read ‘em. Never read the bill. Had no idea what was in them. But he’d say “if we could dispense the debate and get to the crotch of the matter.” (Laughs) And he had a hundred of those, and he never knew he said them. And we all said ‘em. Gene Merriam, one of the brightest guys who I ever served with, read every bill, carried the Superfund legislation. Room 15 was just packed. So somebody said, “Senator Merriam, what is pollution.” He says, “well it starts with an orgasm.” (laughs) The place was up for grabs. He turned red. Christ, they couldn’t get control of the place for another 5, 10 minutes. Someone says “you want to try that again?” “Yeah, really what happens with pollution is that it starts with an orgasm.” They adjourned the meeting. (laughs) People would come over to me and ask in a down moment “can I see your list (of misnomers).” Clarence had most of ‘em. But the rest of us, we did alright too.

Benson_teams_quote_3Q.  Did it help to get things done, to be able to laugh together? A.  Oh I think so. With all that’s happened to me recently with my brother dying, my dog dying, my cancer, and everything else, it kind of gave me a chance to think about what is that I like to do. And I like teams. For whatever reason, I’ve been the captain of everything I’ve played on in sports — in high school, college, the Raiders.  It’s because I like teams. I like  when you become somewhat invincible as a group, but weak as shit alone.   And so, it’s pretty hard not to have an ally if you laugh together. It’s pretty hard to stay mad about something. And that’s what the Legislature is. To get a majority, you need a team.

Q.  So, it’s interesting that you think of both your caucus and the entire Legislature as your team, not just your caucus. Is that right?   A.  Yeah.

Q.  That’s different now? Uh yeah, they had their caucus and we had our caucus. But make no mistake about it, they had more votes than we did. And so to get some of the things that we think are important, with 41% or whatever, (DFL legislators) had to be part of the team. You didn’t have enough votes to cram it down their throats.

Q.  What do you think DFLers misunderstand about Republican philosophy? A.  I don’t think the electorate is too warmed up to “who did this and who did that.” It’s“how can you fix it?” “Can you make it work?” I would say that  what Democrats fail to understand about Republicans is that Republicans want government to work better. Now some of them want less of it, to the point of none of it, but overall they want to fix it.

Duane_Benson_laughing_quoteQ.  What’s the most important thing your time in football taught you about life? A.  (long pause) I think to have fun. Gene Upshaw, Hall of Famer, used to stand up on the table and say “All you f***ers who just want to go out there and think this is fun, you’re not going to get a check. Head out there. Not you Benson, the rest of ‘em.” The game was fun. Politics is fun. I think people who have fun are productive.

Q.  These days you divide your time between meetings with very powerful people and meetings with cattle and horses out on your ranch. Where do you get more answers? A.  More out there (on the ranch). Being alone. I’ve been running for about 55 years. I average about 20 miles per week. Or I’m on a horse. I find myself thinking about goddamnest stuff that I just love. And I don’t have anyone to tell it to. But I don’t give a shit.

Q.  Superbowl Sunday 2018. Would you rather be in a luxury suite in the new stadium you are working so hard to oversee as a member of the Stadium Authority, or spending time on the ranch?  A.  I won’t be at the Super Bowl. Remember the great Duane Thomas from the Dallas Cowboys? He was goofier than hell. He never talked to a reporter all year. Never. So, then they get to the Super Bowl, and none of the reporters are going to talk to him. So, some cub reporter from Davenport or something sticks a mike in front of him. “Oh Mr. Thomas, isn’t this the greatest game ever. Aren’t you so excited. Can you believe this? Isn’t this the greatest game ever?” And he finally talked, first time all year. “No, they’re going to play another one next year.”  And that’s kind of how I feel about the Super Bowl. I don’t enjoy watching that much, and that one is going to be so full of hoopla. The game has changed a lot, and I don’t like all of that commotion. Madden called it hoopla.

Q.  How has battling cancer changed your outlook on life?  A. With my brother’s passing and things that were happening at the same time, you come closer to the realization that nobody gets out of this deal alive. I was thinking “so what is it that you really enjoy.” I’m kind of an isolated, not lonely, but I’m kind of to myself. But I just love the hell out of this team concept stuff. That doesn’t make sense. Kind of an isolationist that liked the team culture, establishing the culture, being part of that. You look at teams and why are some better. It’s the culture. I’m still wrestling with the cancer thing. You know, I’m fully aware that I could go back to the doctor in August and they’d take off a leg or whatever. But either way at some point, the Grim Reaper comes to see you. When I was in a couple training camps, they keep 40 guys and cut 100 guys. Really brutal. (laughing) So in the mornings, you’d hear the kid walking down the hall of the dorm we’re all staying in. “Knock, knock, knock. Breakfast.” “Knock, knock, knock. Breakfast.”   “Knock, knock, knock. Breakfast, bring your playbook.” And then you’d hear all the rest of the players holler: “Grim Reaper!” (laughing) Well, that’s one I haven’t finished resolving.

– Loveland

Note:  This post was also featured as a “best of the best” in MinnPost’s Blog Cabin.

Super Bowl Bid Bust: Why Are We Destroying The Yard With The Pole Building?

Minneapolis_The_Yard_winterYou may have seen the artist renderings.  The drawings lay out a vision for The Yard, the planned four-acre urban park adjacent to the mammoth new Vikings Stadium.  In the winter versions, the park is shown populated by happy, hearty Minnesota families  skating, admiring ice sculptures, making snow angels and generally laughing in the face of Old Man Winter.

Minneapolis_skating_outdoorsWhen I look at that rendering, I can clearly hear the soundtrack.

“When it snows,
ain’t it thrilling?  
Though your nose
gets a chilling. 
We’ll frolic and play
the Eskimo way. 
Walking in a winter wonderland.”

That, my friends, is us.  Minneapolis has the best park system in the nation, because Minneapolitans loves them some outdoor activities in all seasons.  That’s why this little outdoor space has emerged as one of the more intriguing, unifying and endearing elements of the Minneapolis stadium area vision.   It is a quintessential Minnesota kind of space being built on Minnesota’s most visible stage.

But the corporate types dreaming up the Super Bowl bid don’t see it that way.  They  promised the NFL muckety-mucks that they would replace The Yard with, well, The Pole Barn.

Minneapolis_super_bowl_-_Google_SearchWell, technically, I guess it’s going to be a tent, but in the artist’s renderings, the ginormous grad party tent looks more like a poultry pole barn to me.  To be fair, it does have a very snazzy Super Bowl LII logo on the roof, making it one of the more swank pole barns I’ve ever seen.

I understand what the Vikings owner Zygi Wilf and his merry band of corporate boosters are shooting for with this idea.  They wanted to reassure delicate NFL billionaire owners who have heard nasty rumors about Minnesota weather that we are in possession of heat, and are prepared to pipe it in wherever the partying swells desire it.

But making The Yard into the The Pole Building is going too far.  We don’t want the Goodyear blimp’s panoramic shots of  Super Bowl LII to portray a generic Super Bowl scene.   We want those  shots to portray a uniquely Minnesota Super Bowl scene.  We want to show the world happy, hearty Minnesotans laughing in the face of Old Man Winter.

After all, we are who we are, and we should be proud of who we are.  We want to show the world that Minnesotans don’t just survive winter weather; we find ways to have fun in winter weather.  Showing everyone skulking into an ugly heated tent paints quite the opposite picture.

To be clear, I’m strongly in favor of heat in February.  By all means, heat the airport, taxis, buses, trains, transit stations, skyways, hotels, convention center, shopping centers, restaurants, bars, strip joints, water parks, indoor skating rinks, theaters, museum and, of course, stadium.  Heck, I’d even be okay cranking it up a few extra degrees for those couple of weeks.

But don’t, repeat don’t heat, sterilize and corporatize the outdoor space that we are building to frolick and play the Eskimo way on the national stage.  Super Bowl week or not, let’s let Minneapolis be Minneapolis.


Note:  This post also appeared on

Naming The Vikings Stadium

And what shall we name our new little crown jewel?  No, I’m not talking about His Royal Highness Prince George Alexander Louis of Cambridge.  I’m talking about the long-gestating  stadium of Minneapolis, formerly known as Mall of America Field, formerly known as the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome.

The stakes for this little name game are high.  The owners of the San Francisco 49ers recently negotiated a stadium naming rights deal worth $220 million over 20 years with Levi Strauss, an obscure little brand desperate to buy itself some name recognition.  Vikings owner Zygi Wilf hopes to secure a cool $10 to $15 million per year off of naming rights of the new stadium.

The Wilfs have hired a firm to handle this task in Minnesota, Van Wagner Sports and Entertainment.  The naming guru at Van Wagner, Jeff Wagner, gave us “Target Center” a few years back.

But I am willing to offer my services for free.  After much research, here is my detailed analysis:

U.S. Bank Stadium.  This is the front-runner, because U.S. Bancorp is local, and because financial institutions are big into the stadium naming game these days.

  • Pro:  They’re sitting on lots of money and not lending much, so why not buy yourself a vanity plate?
  • Con:  Brand confusion.  Another crappy football team already has “The Bank” on the east bank, so adding a second “The Bank” branch on the west bank just would make everyone’s heads hurt.

Land O Lakes Stadium.  It would make a lot of sense for our local dairy food processor to want to put its name on the asymmetrical building that looks like a half eaten block of butter.

  • Pro:  Sounds like a melodic description of the Vikings’ beautiful home state, not like just another corporate commercial.
  • Cons:    Our neighboring rivals may have the corner on all dairy-related branding.

Wheaties Stadium.  If General Mills wants in, I hope they lead with their top sports-related brand rather than the parent company brand.

  • Pro:  “Wheaties” connotes “champions,” our aspiration.
  • Con:  “Wheaties” connotes “champions,” which would bring immediate false advertising charges.

3M Stadium.  3M, formerly known as Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing, is an iconic Minnesota company that produces world famous products such as PostIt Notes.

  • Pro:  Ultra-compact two-letter name dramatically saves on signage costs.
  • Con:  Sets up endless hilarious post-game punchlines for our beloved Wisconsin friends:  “You know what the three “m’s” in 3M Stadium really stands for, don’t you?”

Matt’s Bar Stadium.  If we must have a stadium named after a business, why not one that Minnesotans actually like, such as the loveable home of the Juicy Lucy in south Minneapolis.

  • Con:  They may not have quite as much money as U.S. Bank to pony up.
  • Pro:   It would be a homage to small businesses, which quietly account for half of Minnesota’s private sector jobs, while remaining “small enough to fail” without need of taxpayer bailouts.

OmniSynCorp Stadium.  OmniSynCorp is a little known start-up company that spent all its seed capital on hiring a corporate naming firm that now badly wants to see its name in lights.

  • Con: Promoting a business that will be in Chapter 11 in a few months may ultimately reflect poorly on the home team’s brand.
  • Pro:   The corporate naming firm promises that the corporations’ bleeding edge brand represents “an iconic homage to the game-changing synergistic synergy imbedded in our value-added values.”

Target Stadium.  I mean, why not?  We already have Target Center, Target Field, the Target Public School system, and Target Politicians.

  • Con:  It’s unfair to poor Walmart.
  • Pro:  It’s the soothing symmetry that only monopolies can offer.

People’s Stadium.  Governor Dayton famously promised us this would be a “people’s stadium,” not just the Vikings’ stadium, which persuaded the people of Minnesota to put up a half-billion dollars to pay for the joint.

  • Con:  It’s vaguely Soviet.
  • Pro:  Justice.

– Loveland

Note:  This post was also featured as a “best of the best” by MinnPost Blog Cabin.

Symmetrical Couples and Asymmetrical Stadiums

Yesterday was a tough day for traditionalists.  If you like your weddings square and your stadiums oval, it was not your day.

The Minnesota Senate passed a law extending the freedom to marry to gay people.  A few hours later the Minnesota Vikings presented a stadium design that is more likely to be featured in the Hirshorn Museum than the Football Hall of Fame.

I feel for my conservative friends, who are hopelessly nostalgic for the glory days of their youth, when Ward and June were prototypical couples and football was played in Met Stadium’s glorious mud, wind and ice.  Yesterday, they were served a heapin’ helpin’ of contemporary change, and I know it was jarring for them.  As of this post, shrapnel from Joe Soucheray’s head reportedly has been found in three neighboring states. Continue reading

Is Legalizing Gay Marriage a Minnesota Jobs Program?

Governor Mark Dayton used his State of the State Address last night to endorse legalizing gay marriage in Minnesota.   And right on cue, Rep. Greg Davids (R-Preston) took the Republicans’ most predictable jab:

 “He’d rather talk about gays getting married instead of getting Minnesotans jobs that could provide for their families.”

We’re going to be hearing a lot more of that claim from Republicans in the weeks to come, so the argument merits dissection. Continue reading

How In the World Did Minnesota GOPers Screw Up Their Golden Opportunity?

I have a prediction, though not a particularly prescient one.  Minnesota Republicans will say they lost the election because of bad candidates.  Mitt Romney, Kurt Bills, and the Tea Party-supported freshmen legislators were all just bad candidates, they will say.

“Victory has a thousand fathers, and defeat is an orphan,” as John F. Kennedy observed, and in the coming days a lot of Republican candidates will be orphaned.

But for their own good, Republican leaders need to objectively ponder this question:  Bad candidates, or bad policies? Continue reading

Three Reasons For The Silence On The Campaign Trail About Vikings Stadium Subidies

In 2012, the dominant issue in the Minnesota Legislature was the debate about public subsidies for the Vikings Stadium.  No issue was more emotionally charged.  No issue was more polarizing.  No issue was more heavily covered in the news.

So just a few months later, why is this marquee legislative issue such an insignificant factor in the campaign for control of the Minnesota Legislature?  After all, based on last year’s debate, you might expect that  it would be The Issue out on the stump.

But I’m not seeing it.  The issue hasn’t been raised once in any of the many political direct mail pieces that have clogged my mailbox, or cable TV ads flooding my living room.  Moreover, I Googled “Vikings Stadium and election,” and found no stories where the mother of all legislative Issues was playing a prominent role out on the political hustings. Continue reading

Minnesota GOPers Select Their Halloween Costumes!

Americans spend something like $5 billion per year on Halloween.  Dressing up in costumers has become an increasingly popular form of escapism for stressed out adults.  In fact, some retail outlets now report that more costumes are sold to adults than children.

This led us to wonder what our favorite Minnesota Republican politicians are dressing up as this year?  Wry Wing Politics did a little investigative reporting:

Kurt Bills.  The rarely spotted U.S. Senate candidate challenging popular Senator Amy Kloubachar is reportedly going as Waldo, of the  Where’s Waldo puzzle books.   Mr. Bills is out there in one of Minnesota’s 87 counties.  Can YOU find him?

Mary Franson.  The state legislator who infamously attempted to draw a parallel between not giving families in need Food Stamps and not feeding wild animals, is dressing up as a wild game hunter.

Michelle Bachman. The Member of Congress who maintains that we need to “wean” Minnesotans off of popular programs such as Social Security and Medicare, is going as a, um, weaner.

Michael Brodkorb.  Brodkorb is the Minnesota Senate staffer who admitted to having an affair with a married Senate leader, and is threatening to commit mass politicide by naming others at the State Capitol who Brodkorb says also had extramarital affairs.  Mr. Brodkorb is dressing up as the personification of death, The Grim Reaper.  Will anyone answer the door when he comes knocking?

Allen QuistAllen Quist is a former state legislator, current congressional candidate and ever creative Creationist who edits a website that says that dinosaurs lived alongside human beings as recently as the 12th Century.  To educate more Minnesota children about this little known scientific fact, Mr. Quist is dressing up as Pope Innnocent III’s papal pet “Barney.”

Kurt Zellers.  The Minnesota House Speaker who created confusion at the Capitol last year when he announced that he was going to oppose the Vikings Stadium bill, but hoped that it would pass, is dressing up as  comic book figure Two-Face.

Tim Pawlenty.  Former Presidential candidate Tim Pawlenty is dressing up as, get this, a banking lobbyist.  Eeeek!  For a nation that has suffered mightily since the banksters’ wreckless practices caused a financial meltdown, it doesn’t get much scarier than this.

 Norm Coleman.  Former U.S. Senator Norm Coleman is going scary too.  He is dressing up as a slimey leader of a corporate Super PAC.  This costume is all the rage this year with little Republicans.  With millions of Americans hiding from the political pollution brought to us by Super PACs like Coleman’s, the Super PAC Man is the new Freddy Krueger.

What a fright!  Then, six days after Halloween, Minnesota voters will face the same question posed on October 31:  Trick or treat?


The Minnesota Vikings and The Butterfly Effect

Part of chaos theory is something called the butterfly effect, the notion that even a minor change in a nonlinear system, such as the flutter of a butterfly’s wings, can result in large differences in outcome later on, such as the change in the path of a tornado.

Politics is a decidedly non-linear system, where small changes can definitely cause large swings in outcomes. Here are a few the behind-the-scenes flutters that caused the Vikings to finally prevail in their decade-long effort to secure stadium subsidies at the State Capitol.

A Recount.  00.4% of the vote.  That was Mark Dayton’s margin in a general election recount in 2010.  As a result, “Landslide Dayton” became the Vikings most powerful and committed supporter.

But what if Dayton’s 2010 opponent Tom Emmer had not started his campaign so gaffe-prone?  What if pennies had not been dumped on Emmer, turning an obscure issue like tip credits into an enduring symbol of an ideologically extreme candidate?

In a Republican wave election year, it’s easy to imagine that a few small improvements in Emmer’s campaign could have given Emmer an additional 00.5% of the vote, and the helm of state government.

If Emmer had prevailed, he would not have been as aggressively pro-Vikings Stadium as Dayton.  MPR captured Emmer’s position in 2010:

 “I support a solution for a Vikings stadium, but I don’t think you give $700 million in taxpayer money and hand it over to a private business.”

Emmer suggested a voter referendum linking funds from a new casino to pay for the stadium. He also suggested community ownership (Green Bay Packers model) or giving Wilf the Metrodome.

The Vikings viewed all of Emmer’s demands to be bill killers.  So if Dayton hadn’t squeezed into the electoral end zone — after an instant replay review by the officials — the Vikings likely would not have squeezed into their stadium subsidy end zone.

A Leader.  Powerful House GOP Speaker Kurt Zellers opposed the Vikings bill.  So did powerful House GOP Majority Leader Matt Dean.  That could easily have spelled the end for the Vikings.  After all, there aren’t too many major bills that pass the House with the leadership of both parties opposing the bill.

So if the DFL’s highest ranking House member, the often powerless Minority Leader Paul Thissen, had joined Zellers and Dean in opposing the bill, the Vikings fragile coalition probably could not have scored.

It’s not often that a minority party leader swings the balance in our polarized Legislature, but Thissen did.

A City Attorney.  With the Metrodome site as the only viable option at the end of the session, the whole effort would have collapsed without an endorsement by the Minneapolis City Council, a very tall order at the time.  And if Minneapolis City Attorney Susan Segal had not ruled that a city referendum provision didn’t apply to the City’s stadium proposal, because the City didn’t control the funding in question, City Council Member Sandy Colvin Roy made it pretty clear that she would not have been the final swing vote in support of the proposal.

Vikings MVP?

Think about that a minute.  If a political pundit had predicted before the session that someone named Susan Segal would be the key to whether the Vikings would get their new stadium, even many political savants would have said “who?”

But Susan Segal, Paul Thissen and 00.4% of Minnesotans all fluttered their relatively small wings, and the Vikings decade-long stadium loss streak finally came to an end.

“A game of inches,” indeed.

– Loveland

Note:  This post was also featured as part of the “Best of the Blogs” feature in Politics in Minnesota’s Morning Report.

Pulling Back the Curtain on the Minnesota Legislature

The one thing that Vikings Stadium proponents and opponents in the Legislature should be able to agree on:  The debate was very bad for all of their reputations.

Why?  Because there was an audience.  While the masses usually are mostly blind to what happens in legislative floor debates, a sizeable audience of casually involved Minnesotans were engaged enough in the high profile stadium issue to seek out legislative coverage on TV or the Internet.   My sense is that they were appalled.

Legislators didn’t really act much worse during the Vikings Stadium debate than they typically do at the end of any session.  It’s just that they usually behave badly in relative anonymity.  Usually, the only witnesses are jaded Capitol insiders, who can no longer be shocked.  Capitol dwellers – legislators, lobbyists, reporters and staff – take it for granted that legislators are breathtakingly rude and disrespectful to each other.  Every day, they see legislators use shallow “if she is for it, then I MUST be against it” policy logic.  To Capitol dwellers, self-serving partisan pranks are de rigueur.

But this is news to ordinary Minnesotans.  They hear about it, but they don’t often see it.

“I hardly ever watch the Legislature, but I tuned in for some of the big stadium debate…,” friends have been telling me.  Then their eyes bug out, and their mouths gape, as if they had just caught a glimpse of Lobster Boy and the Elephant Man at the carnival’s side show.  “Oh my.  I had NO idea.”

This reaction came regardless of how the individual felt about the outcome of the Vikings Stadium debate.  In a way, winners still felt like losers.

Lobster Boy indeed.  Half-baked Plan Z’s were sprung in the closing hours of a decade long debate.  The House’s top “leader” declared he was voting against the bill, but hoped it would pass.  Reckless amendment after reckless amendment were added, making the bill read like the contents of an elementary school Suggestion Box, instead of the product of a decade’s worth of expert study and analysis.

In the midst of a blinding blizzard of amendments, freshman Rep. John Kriesel plaintively held up a sign from the House floor reading “Help!”  From Baudette to Blooming Prairie, ordinary Minnesotans’ on both sides of the issue were collectively nodding at the sentiment.

A recent SurveyUSA poll found that only one of five (21%) Minnesotans approves of the job the Legislature is doing.  That number might be even smaller among those who watched a chunk of the Vikings Stadium debate.  Incidentally, Governor Dayton’s approval rating (56%) is about three times higher than the Legislature’s, despite the fact that he was in the center of the bruising stadium debate.  Demeanor probably explains some of this difference.  Dayton wasn’t perfect, but he wasn’t Lobster Boy.

When Dorothy of Kansas was shocked by what she found behind the Wizard of Oz’s curtain, she declared “you’re a very bad man.”  After Minnesotans pulled back the curtain of public indifference that usually covers up St. Paul’s secrets, they may be feeling the same way.

But most of the legislators aren’t bad people.  It’s just that powerful special interests, partisan bullies and fatigue don’t bring out the best in them.  Sometimes good people can be bad leaders.  As the Wizard of Oz sheepishly responded in his defense, “Oh no, my dear.  I’m a very good man.  I’m just a very bad wizard.”



Note:  This post was also featured as part of the “Best of the Blogs” feature in Politics in Minnesota’s Morning Report.

Vikings Post Game Show

Is the Vikings Stadium bill a political boon or bust?  A new SurveyUSA poll brings political hand wringers mixed messages.

Post-game pondering.

One the one hand, Governor Mark Dayton, who unapologetically led a bone-crushing stadium drive, still has a very respectable 56% approval rating.  In other good news for supporters, 55% of Minnesotans are fine with expanding gambling, the primary state financing mechanism used in the bill.  Most (57%) believe that the Vikings will leave without a new stadium.  Bottom line:  An impressive 70% say that if a lawmaker backed the bill, it would either make no difference in their voting (47%) or make them more likely to support that politician (23%).

So, backlash?  What backlash?

But the news in the poll isn’t all skol-worthy.   A slim majority of Minnesotans (52%) either want the Vikings to stay in the Metrodome in its current plain Jane state (16%) or renovate the Metrodome (36%).  In addition, most citizens prefer racino (26% support) and a downtown casino (36% support) over the bill’s heavy reliance on electronic pulltabs (15% support).  Overall, 58% say the Vikings Stadium should be funded entirely with public funding.  Finally, a whopping two-thirds (67%) of Minnesotans say there should be “a public vote before any taxes are raised to pay for a Vikings Stadium,” something the Vikings bill does not allow.

So, political armageddon is nigh, correct?

The fact is, polling on the Vikings Stadium is a bit of a political Rorschach Test.  Politicians can see what they want to see in today’s polling, because Minnesotans’ collective druthers are divided.  As certain as state politicians and pundits’ claim to be about what they think voters want, voters themselves don’t seem to be at all certain.

Is a vote in favor of the Vikings Stadium a political “W” or “L?”  Well, the most difficult day to be a Vikings Stadium supporter was probably last Wednesday.  The most difficult day to be an opponent of the Stadium will be the Minneapolis-hosted Super Sunday in 2016 or 2017.   To every thing, there is a season.

– Loveland