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COLUMN: A Malat Musing: Moving Toward a Pandora’s Box

Updated: 05/06/2014 1:38 PM
Created: 01/17/2014 1:05 PM KSTP.com
By: Phil Malat

The controversies surrounding the building of the new billion dollar stadium in downtown Minneapolis are badly tarnishing the image of both the Minnesota Vikings and the Wilf family.   

One simple act would easily bolster that image.  It would be to provide a loan from the Wilf family to the state of Minnesota to cover whatever suspended funds may be needed to continue construction until the current bond dispute has been resolved. 

At this point, all the Wilf family efforts have been primarily focused on attempting to subvert the intended spirit of their legislative agreement with the state.  Should they continue in this vein, they will not only do further damage to their brand but will move us ever closer to changing how the government will be forced to deal with powerful financial interests in the future.                                      

In 1962, President Kennedy faced such a challenge. He was successful in arbitrating a labor agreement between the Steelworkers Union and American steel companies.  A key component in reaching a final solution was a gentlemen’s agreement in which the Steelworkers Union would forgo striking and wage increases, for one year, if the steel companies agreed to forgo prices increases.                                  

Shortly after this agreement was reached, Roger Blough, the chairman of the board at U.S. Steel, told the president that U.S. Steel would be raising their prices.  Kennedy reminded Mr. Blough that U.S. Steel had a gentlemen’s agreement guaranteeing price stability.  Blough then suggested that the price agreement was between the president and the union and was never agreed to by the steel companies.   This deceit infuriated Kennedy who applied enormous pressure upon the steel companies until they relented on their proposed price hikes.

In October of 2008 President George W. Bush signed the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) into law providing $700 billion to bail out Wall Street banks.  On February 17, 2009, President Obama signed into law the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act which provided even greater assistance to those banks.  These financial institutions demonstrated their heartfelt appreciation to the taxpayers by giving themselves nearly $20 billion in bonuses during the time the government was spending billions to bail them out of trouble.  Naturally Americans were angered when they learned there were no strings attached to this financial assistance.  

Governor Dayton now faces a similar challenge plagued with modern day wrinkles.

The Wilf family has made it abundantly clear that they now will do whatever they can to avoid spending one nickel of their billions on the building they demanded be erected.

To offset their $477 million commitment they have enacted seat licensing fees on all season ticket holders.  We have also learned that the price of a ticket at  “Glorious” TCF Bank Stadium on the campus  at the University of Minnesota, the Vikings’ temporary two-year home, will cost  fans 32 percent more next year.

The justification for next year’s price increase is that the newer stadium at the university has better sight lines for viewing football.  This is absolute balderdash.  The metro-dome was built for football and had the best sight lines imaginable for viewing a football game. 

Now a lawsuit has now been brought to halt the construction of the stadium.  The suit primarily focuses on the legality of the state to sell bonds to pay for the new complex.  No bonds can be sold until this suit has been has been adjudicated.  Michele Kelm-Helgen, Chairman of the Minnesota Stadium Authority, has stated that the halting of the bond sales will not allow them to pay for much of the work that has already been completed, and if a resolution to the bond question is not reached by Jan. 23, all construction will be halted which could add an additional year to the completion of the project.  Naturally, this also threatens the financial security of the 5,000 workers hired to build the new stadium.

This simple act of providing a loan in what amounts to chump change for the Wilf’s and/or the NFL would certainly help in dispelling the steel executive and Wall Street banker mentality of the Wilfs.  It would also demonstrate some appreciation to the citizens and taxpayers of Minnesota for their $498 million generosity. 

The demands of these powerful financial enterprises for unneeded, precious financial tax resources are the ugly socialistic reality of the day.  If these enterprises continue with a callous disregard for the general welfare and common good, they will eventually force the opening of a Pandora's Box.  A box that will contain not only strings attached to their demands but far greater government influence, direction and control over the money they seek – A box  they may never be able to close.

Phil Malat is a columnist for KSTP.com


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