While the state and Stadium Authority wrangle with the Wilf family over the latter’s personal and business financials before it approves a new Viking Stadium, a Hennepin County District Court case is asking a judge and jury to order enforcement of a City Charter provision for a public vote on any city expenditure of $10 million or more on private entities has been awaiting a ruling.
Minneapolis Mayoral candidate Doug Mann – one of the 35 candidates now running for that office – chose to make this one of his main issues in that race. In an uphill battle and representing himself, but supported by a resurrected Minneapolis Farmer-Labor Association and opposed by the City of Minneapolis and other defendants, Mann contends that the city’s share of the stadium – $309 million – cannot be paid out without a public referendum called for in the City Charter after a 1997 voter–passed initiative. This would contravene a specific legislative override of that charter provision by the law authorizing public involvement in building the Vikings Stadium – the override language saying, “…without regard to any charter limitation, requirement, or provision, including any referendum requirement.”
Reportage on this has pointed to some inconsistencies in Mann’s lawsuit, but the jury continues to deliberate, so the issue is no slam-dunk dismissal, in any event.
Mann is up against state law allowing for special legislation empowering city councils to act as they see fit on a given project if not already authorized under state or local law. With a home rule charter like that governing Minneapolis, voter-approved amendments normally carry great weight with courts, but the state override, once approved by the City Council, theoretically negates any local laws to the contrary. Mann insists this goes against the state constitution.
As quoted in the StarTribune, Mann’s argument is that, yes, “The legislature has authority to repeal laws, including the city charter provision,” said Mann...“It’s another question if they have the right to disenfranchise the voters of Minneapolis by overriding a right that the local governments have under the state constitution” to approve special laws through a governing body or public referendum. But the judge warned Mann that constitutional questions can only be resolved in Ramsey County court – the jurisdiction for resolution of state legal questions.
At this writing, the judge, Philip Bush, has not likely issued his ruling. But he acknowledged that Mann has raised some intriguing questions about the role of the state constitution in special legislation overriding certain local laws and ordinances.
These are some of the questions we want to explore with Mr. Mann and David Tilsen, a former Minneapolis School Board member and a leader in the Farmer-Labor Association, on the one hand, and at least one labor leader, Wade Luneburg.
TTT’s ANDY DRISCOLL will talk with these guys about the stadium issues and about the deeper issues surrounding the overriding of local charters and ordinances by state fiat.
DOUG MANN – Minneapolis Mayoral Candidate; Plaintiff in the case of Mann v. Minneapolis
ED FELIEN – Editor-Publisher, Southside Pride newpapers, Minneapolis; Member of Minneapolis Farmer-Labor Association
WADE LUNEBURG – Member, Stadium Implementation Committee; Secretary-Treasurer of UNITE HERE Local 17, of Hospitality workers union in the Twin Cities.
Unable to appear, David Tilsen. David's iconic father, Ken Tilsen, had died the night before.
DAVID TILSEN – Member, Minneapolis Farmer-Labor Association; former Mpls. School Board member