Sunday, February 19, 2006


At Issue 2/19/06

As part of Minvolved's ongoing expansion, I've volunteered to cover KSTP's At Issue with Tom Hauser - so if you're being linked here from Minvolved, thanks for reading! If you're a regular reader, thanks for reading! You get the point. Anyway, it's a great excuse for me to have a regular Sunday post, and the show itself is a great reason for you to wake up early on Sundays :-)

This week's At Issue was a smorgasbord of statewide news and opinion. I'll eschew the quick hits in favor of the major political stories:

Anoka County/Vikings Stadium issues
Jay Esmay, GOP congressional candidate
Light Rail between Minneapolis and St. Paul

Vikings stadium issues: Say what you will about the team, their season, and the adventures they had on Lake Minnetonka - Zygi Wilf has been a pretty active owner when it comes to trying to build a new stadium for the team. The current proposal - a billion-plus in private investment along with several hundred millions of dollars in state and local tax revenue being spent - sounds like it has the support of local legislators in Blaine and Anoka County as a whole. The complex, which will include a great deal of retail development, hotel accomodations, etc, will provide a big boost to the local tax base, according to team and local officials.

Although there's been some opposition to raising Anoka County-only sales taxes to cover the local investment in the project, it seems like elected officials in Anoka are going to be much more willing than their counterparts in Hennepin County to push the plan through without a referendum. Perhaps losing one professional team and the local revenue it produces will put pressure on Hennepin County and Minneapolis officials to get something done with the Twins.

Two of this week's guests, former Governor Wendell Anderson and Sarah Janacek of Politics in Minnesota, had opinions on the issue. Anderson was pessimistic about any state legislation being passed regarding the stadium by a legislature that didn't get anything done on the isse in the past session and hasn't changed much in terms of makeup, and Janacek proposed simply throwing bills on the floor of each house and letting legislators vote on them. Simplistic, but it might be a good tool for gauging support.

Anderson and Janacek were also asked about the current controversy over Progress for America's misleading ads involving veterans claiming the media only reports the bad news from Iraq. Janacek supports the ads being aired, but also supports KSTP's decision not to air them considering the ad's digs against the media as a whole. A bit of a fence-sitter, I think. Anderson took issue with the fact that the war is so unpopular that President Bush's political allies have to create ads like this at all. Interesting look at the situation.

The other major political segment of the show was an interview with Jay Esmay, Republican candidate for Mark Kennedy's 6th CD seat. I'll be honest, this was the first I've heard from any of the four GOP candidates, so I can't say too much about comparisons among them. Mr Esmay is a veteran and not a career politician. He claims he knew Patty Wetterling would be back in the 6th CD race. He also claims to be a proponent of radical tax reform - he wants to change from an income tax to what he called a "consumption tax" where the entire tax base basically comes from (what I think are) sales and service taxes, where we each pay for what we use and nothing more. While this is an interesting proposal, I wonder how he thinks the IRS as we know it would disappear. He also claimed that the military is run like a business - provide the same services this year as last, but do it cheaper. Considering the size of the annual increases in our government's military expenditures, I find this position to be absolutely ridiculous, but I'll give Mr. Esmay a mulligan based on his military experience.

Quick Hits:

  • Home building in January was up 14.5% over the year-ago period. Warm weather helped. First-ring suburbs are out of space, driving purchase costs and property taxes through the roof. Not good for those of us looking to buy in the next couple of years. Sigh.

  • Child Care costs are ridiculous - $12,000/year for infants, up to $9,000/year for toddlers. Licensing and certifications are being blamed.

  • the Central Corridor LRT initiative (along University Ave from Minneapolis to St. Paul) is slated to open in 2012 - IF it gets the money it needs from the Legislature right now. Opponents of this service need to swallow their backward-looking pride and understand that every major city has one of two options - a strong public transit system, or tremendous urban sprawl a la Phoenix and Houston. A quick look at the pollution problems being faced by those cities and their phalanxes of commuters makes me foam at the mouth at these legislators who oppose a strong commuter-and-light-rail system in the Twin Cities.

  • David Strom, head of Minnesota's Taxpayer's League, was featured in not one, but two pieces in which he made a point of taking politically-motivated potshots at some mythical, monolithic "political left" for the ills of the world - is this guy for real?
That's all for this week. There were several smaller stories I've left out, but I won't bore you will all of them. Until next week.

Blogger lloydletta said:
I thought Esmay's claim about the military doing more with less as a bit over the top also. Hauser was an unabashed cheerleader for all the plans to stick it to the taxpayers for stadiums.
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