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Kudos to Art Rolnick

2010 October 22
by Skip Sauer

Noted for the record:

1.  The former VP of the Minneapolis Fed tells it like it is in a hearing on a new stadium for the Vikings:

Thursday’s discussion did not give the team an unfettered platform for a stadium pitch. Joining Bagley [ed:  a Vikings executive] were Minnesota Twins vice president Kevin Smith and St. Paul Saints executive vice president Tom Whaley along with Art Rolnick, the former Minneapolis Federal Reserve Bank vice president who is a longtime critic of using tax dollars to fund pro sports facilities.

“I agree with them that it is about economic development,” Rolnick said. “But recognize that what drives economies is not building, it’s people. It’s human capital.”

…Smith said the Twins’ new outdoor home has been a boon, resulting in near-unanimous praise and, he estimated, $55

million in free advertising for the team. Smith said the key to a deal was choosing a location and a local sales-tax proposal that was easy to understand.

“It was a difficult pill … to swallow, but for those who did, it was sugar-coated,” Smith said.

Smith added that the downtown Minneapolis hospitality industry is going gangbusters since Target Field opened, even predicting Kieran’s Irish Pub would soon take over as the top seller of Guinness beer in the country.

“I can tell you that economic development is not about restaurants and beer,” Rolnick responded. “It’s not the way you attract sustainable economic growth.”

Public stadium financing, Rolnick said, is the equivalent of taking money away from one business and giving it to another. He said that markets are better left to figure out which new sports facilities should be built, and that once tax dollars become involved, it creates an “economic bidding war” between cities and states.

“It really is a national issue, but it’s really difficult for your mayors and your governors to say no to the team,” Rolnick said.

2.  Meanwhile, a few miles south in St. Louis, one piece of the stadiums as economic development boondoggle has caught the attention of the state auditor.  Although the audit finding seems rather inconsequential, the practice of handing out free luxury box tickets to public officials is, while common, unseemly at best:

The Edward Jones Dome failed to record as lobbying gifts football tickets, food and beverages it gave to elected officials, according to a report released Wednesday by Missouri Auditor Susan Montee.

The taxpayer-funded St. Louis Regional Convention and Sports Complex Authority gets 42 tickets to every St. Louis Rams home game and the use of a luxury suite.

The authority’s ticket-distribution policy calls for 22 tickets to go to the authority’s commissioners, and an additional four tickets go to the members of the authority’s staff. The remaining 16 tickets are given to government agencies: four tickets going to the Missouri Department of Economic Development, four going to other Missouri officials and eight tickets for city and county officials. Montee’s office did not identify public officials who attended games.

The authority failed to keep records indicating why most of its guests had to pay a $40 flat fee for food and drinks, while some ate and drank on the authority’s dime, according to the audit.

About 30 percent of the tickets used were not assessed with the food and beverage charge, according the state’s review of records dating from 2006 through 2009.

One Response
  1. Dan permalink
    October 26, 2010

    If politicians and their flunkies did not get free tickets to games at new stadiums, a lot of the incentive to take money from Granny Jones so the Steinbrenners and Alex Rodriguez’s can make more money would vanish.

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