Sticking up for Bloomington

Protecting our largest suburb’s civic pride will also protect American Indian populations.

by Adri Mehra

If I were deported to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba tomorrow for being half Afghani, I still think I wouldn’t have it half as bad as a dissenting voter on Bloomington’s City Council.

For the past 40-odd years, Bloomington, Minn., has borne the brunt of metropolitan expansion on behalf of the entire Twin Cities. Frankly, it’s been saddled as the designated repository for the big ‘n’ ugly utilitarian urban outposts for the entire state. First, it was the international airport, then it was the old Met Center sports stadium, then it was the Mall of America. Now, it’s light rail, an amphitheater and much more at the mall – 4 million square feet, to be exact – including an unprecedented nonreservation casino, if the governor gets his way.

Basically, at any given point in the past half-century there has been at least one billion-dollar, red-meat proposal being railroaded through the good graces of the city of Bloomington.

The latest dupe du jour – a state-licensed casino at the Mall from developers Nader and Eskandar Ghermezian – has received somewhat muted criticism from state legislators, but outright disdain from the City Council.

“This next proposal just scares me to death,” said Rep. Neil Peterson, R-Bloomington, and the city’s former mayor.

Why? Maybe because the Ghermezians actually had the gumption to schedule their own press parade for dozens of reporters last week without consulting Bloomington’s City Council, which, by the way, is on the record vehemently opposing gambling in the city.

The City Council had to scramble to paste together a public hearing in the community for the night after the story broke.

“It’s too bad Bloomington wasn’t brought into this until a town meeting was called,” said Rep. Ann Lenczewski, DFL-Bloomington.

Don’t get me wrong, this is about more than our largest suburb’s civic pride. This is Willy Wonka’s Golden Ticket for our closeted lawmakers who have secretly (or lack thereof) been waiting in the wings for a chance to rob the reservation to reap their own windfall from the disease known as gambling.

Gambling might create jobs, but so do prostitution and drug dealing. Should we lend moral support and subsidy to those industries as well?

It’s fine with me if the brothers go ahead with their grandiose vision of a Little Italy with leaning towers and canals, but with a casino in the mix, we might end up with just Sicily instead, and the Corleones running a racket with the gondoliers.

As Rep. Dan Larson, DFL-Bloomington, said, “We don’t want Camp Snoopy to become Camp Sleazy.”

But what can you do when you’re up against the Brothers Ghermezian? In 1992, they opened the mall as the second course of a meal that began in 1981 with the world’s largest shopping complex in West Edmonton, Alberta. And now comes a belated dessert.

“This will make Bloomington and the Twin Cities the biggest tourist destination, bar none, (and) make the Twin Cities an international convention center,” Nader Ghermezian told reporters last week. “You won’t have to fly to Rodeo Drive or New York or Italy.”

To do what? Experience crass consumerism and the artifice of today’s minivan traveler? Hell, we got that right here at home, boys and girls, just ask your favorite Bloomington City Council representative.

Adri Mehra welcomes comments at [email protected]