'Mock' Groundbreaking Puts Campaign Spotlight on Senate Building

Updated: 08/08/2014 5:15 AM
Created: 08/07/2014 6:14 PM
By: Tom Hauser

You might find some minor and even significant differences between the GOP candidates in the Minnesota governor's race. However, there's one issue where there's complete unity: opposition to spending $77 million on a new Senate office building.

On Thursday, Jeff Johnson took the issue up a notch by conducting a "mock" groundbreaking for the building, noting the absence of an official event to mark the beginning of construction. 

"Whenever government spends a bunch of money on a project we always have a ceremony of groundbreaking where the governor and legislative leaders who supported it come out with their golden shovels and break ground and say how proud they are of this project," Johnson said in a mocking tone. "For some reason they didn't schedule that for this one."

Johnson has also sent direct mail campaign ads criticizing the "luxury" office building and leaving the impression the building will include a "fitness room" and "reflecting pool." 

Wayne Waslaski of the state Department of Administration says there will be no fitness room or reflecting pool, although they were suggested in early planning meetings.

"They were open meetings and so people were throwing out ideas," Waslaski said. "Those ideas were never carried forward into the design."

A spokesman for the Department of Administration says no groundbreaking was scheduled, because there's such a tight construction timetable. 

A KSTP/SurveyUSA poll from June indicated 68 percent of Minnesotans oppose spending $77 million on the building.  The total cost of the building is about $90 million, but $13 million will come from parking fees in a ramp beneath the new building.

Minneapolis/St. Paul

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