Currently, two Minnesotans are being criticized by the public for unnecessary public spending. One is demanding an enormous amount of money, while the other is criticizing this request and asking for a smaller amount of money.
The first wants a 70,000-seat, roofed football-only stadium and is willing to pay a quarter of the costs. The public, he says, should assume the other $300 million because that’s how valuable the Minnesota Vikings are to them.
He rejected a proposal for a 64,000-seat, roofed, football-only Metrodome because, although it was a compromise between his vision and that of the Metropolitan Sports Facilities Commission, it would have been insufficient. He wants 150 suites, not 122. And 6,400 club seats would not be the 8,400 he has demanded.
Though he paid $206 million for the team a year ago, its worth would increase by roughly $300 million with a new stadium. He is asking Minnesotans to increase the worth of his team by 150 percent, because this would be in their best interest. The difference between philanthropy and greed is often just a matter of semantics.
Red McCombs could easily afford to build a stadium with his own money, or even with support from other investors. Most people assume 30-year mortgages for houses without investments or property to immediately repay them. However, McCombs’ estimated worth is almost $2 billion, and his stadium could easily pay for itself and then turn a generous profit within a few years.
Especially if he continues to raise ticket prices. The cheapest tickets increased from $23 to $28 after McCombs’ purchase a year ago. Suite rental has increased from $87,000 per year in 1998 to $113,000 in 2000, and they haven’t even been renovated since the Dome was built in 1982.
His reason for needing a new stadium is ostensibly that the Vikings don’t earn enough revenue playing at the Dome. However, he won’t acknowledge that the flaw is not with the structure of the Dome, but with its organization. The Vikings pay a high rent and earn relatively little income from stadium concessions or advertising revenue.
His real reason, however, is that a new, publicly financed stadium would produce enormous profits whereas a 17-year-old multi-purpose stadium cannot.
The other icon is adamantly opposed to public funding of a stadium for a privately owned team.
He proclaims that the state — the taxpayers — have other priorities that supersedes publicly subsidizing an individual’s personal agenda to make money.
But he adamantly defends his use of publicly funded state troopers on his promotional book tour.
He even threatened to end state-funded security for himself and his family to quell criticism. He refused to pay $15,000 for travel and lodging expenses for three state troopers who accompanied him on his book tour, which is helping him earn several hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Though other governors have written books about their tenures in office, not one has used the office for personal publicity to the degree Gov. Ventura does. He capitalizes on the office, because without the governorship, Ventura’s life would have not merited this exposure. He would have been remembered by only a few, not as a has-been athlete, but a has-been professional wrestler.
A legislative audit, however, disagrees with his assertion that his security detail should be provided with meals and lodging at taxpayers’ expense for every circumstance. The legislative auditor, James Nobles, has concluded that the state should not incur expenses for Ventura’s private business activities. Nobles distinguishes between circumstances where security should be funded by taxpayers and where it should be funded by Ventura. “Private weekend and vacation activities are an expected and normal, even necessary, part of a governor’s life; private business activities are not,” he says.
Nobles provides two precedents. The governor’s family is required to pay for meals at non-state functions at the governor’s mansion and for use of the mansion for non-state purposes.
Ventura could also be guilty of misrepresentation. Although the title of his book, “I Ain’t Got Time To Bleed” might be true because he spends so much time on vacation, the subtitle — “Reworking the Body Politic from the Bottom Up” — is objectionable. He has certainly come from “the Bottom” of the pool of qualified applicants for political office, but he has made no contributions to political thought. In the pantheon of the great political thinkers — Socrates, Mill, Washington — Ventura will never reside.
Ventura protests that he deserves state-funded protection at all times and events, regardless of their nature, because he is never off duty as governor. In addition to misunderstanding his critics, he provides them with more material.
If he is indeed always governor, he should behave accordingly. Telling critics to “shut up” and referring to one on his radio show as “fat load” and “big load” “who ain’t never run around the block before in his whole life” and “doesn’t have a real job” is behavior that would be unacceptable for a five-year-old. And behavior that should not be tolerated in a governor, especially when he suffers from the same criticism he levied.
The Body may be more similar to Red than he wishes to acknowledge.
Dan Maruska welcomes commments at [email protected]