Letter to the Met Council re Violation of Minnesota Statutes‏

The following letter from former Minneapolis City Council President Paul Ostrow was sent on April 17, 2015 to the Met Council urging the Met Council to reject the proposal to expend public funds for the $6M pedestrian bridge because the expenditure would be in violation of Minnesota statutes.  At its last meeting on May 27, the Met Council decided to send the foot bridge issue back to the Vikings and the Stadium Facilities Authority to continue negotiations over the funding.

April 17, 2015

To: Chair Duininck and Board Members:

I am writing you to express my concerns regarding the Transportation Committee recommendation that the Metropolitan Council expend six million dollars in public funds for a walkway to serve the Vikings stadium development on game days. This proposed expenditure is in direct violation of Minnesota statutes.

The Vikings stadium legislation approved in 2012 included clear and unambiguous language limiting the use of public funds for the stadium and surrounding infrastructure. This “cap” on the public’s contribution was critically important to legislative support for the bill. Minnesota Statutes Section 473J.11 limits the state’s share of “stadium costs” to $348,000,000 and further limits the portion of “stadium costs” to be paid by the City of Minneapolis to $150,000,000. Further Minnesota Statutes Section 16A.965 and Minnesota Statutes Section 16A.726 make clear that the legislature intended to limit the public contribution for “stadium costs” to the $498,000,000 in bonds issued to finance the stadium development.

State and local leaders were acutely aware at the time the stadium bill was proposed that the Downtown East location lacked the necessary skyways, parking spaces, green spaces and other ancillary needs critical to the stadium development. As a result the Legislature insisted on language in the stadium bill that precluded public expenditures for stadium infrastructure beyond the statutory spending limit of $498,000,000.

Minnesota Statute Section 473J.03 Subd. 9 defines stadium costs as “the costs of acquiring land, the costs of stadium infrastructure, and of designing, constructing, equipping, and financing a stadium suitable for professional football.”

Minnesota Statutes Section 473J.01 Subd. 10 defines “stadium infrastructure” very broadly to include “plazas, parking structure,
rights-of-way, connectors, skyways and tunnels, and other such property facilities, and improvements, owned by the authority or determined by the authority to facilitate the use and development of the stadium.” It is very clear that the sole purpose for the proposed pedestrian bridge is “to facilitate the use and development of the stadium.” The only time the pedestrian bridge will be utilized will be on game day or for other major events at the stadium.

It is unclear on what grounds the Metropolitan Council believes it has the authority to expend these public funds in violation of the stadium legislation. An interpretation of the bill that the legislation did not intend to apply to the Metropolitan Council is illogical.Sadly the Metropolitan Council is not the first public body to disregard the clear meaning of the stadium legislation. The Minneapolis City Council approved the issuance of $62 million dollars in property tax-backed general obligation bonds to finance parking spaces and green space that will primarily serve “to facilitate the uses and development of the stadium.” Only recently city officials acknowledged that taxpayers could be on the hook for up to an additional $31 million for these stadium infrastructure improvements.

Since the legislation was passed the Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority has purchased the Downtown East parking ramp with public funds and added several skyways to the stadium development. It is unclear whether the source of funding for this additional stadium infrastructure is the appropriation bonds issued by the state or additional funding that exceeds the authority granted in statute.

The stadium bill clearly intended to address any and all public funding needed for the life of the Vikings’ lease of the facility. Absent decisive action by the State of Minnesota, the City of Minneapolis, the Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority and the Metropolitan Council rejecting any further public expenditures for stadium improvements or infrastructure, public costs for this development will continue to increase to the detriment of more critical needs of our citizens.

In light of the complete failure of state and local officials to ensure legal and financial requirements are met in the development of the Vikings stadium Former Governor Carlson has publicly called on the State Auditor Rebecca Otto to conduct an audit of stadium finances.

I am asking that you reject the proposal to expend public funds for the pedestrian bridge. In the alternative I am requesting that you table this item in order that your legal counsel may consider whether or not these proposed expenditures are contrary to law.


Paul T. Ostrow