I wrote about this race in the primary but wanted to revisit it in the general election. Again, the candidates running are:
Peter McLaughlin has been the District 4 Hennepin County Commissioner for approximately forever. (Okay, found it: since 1991. I was starting college in 1991 and didn’t move to Minneapolis until 1995.)
I have a long-running sense of not liking him very much, although in part this is because he was a close ally of Sharon Sayles Belton, who I didn’t like (I really disliked the projects the city undertook during her administration), although she got replaced by RT Rybak seventeen years ago now, so this is a somewhat outdated grudge.
My main ongoing grudge against Peter McLaughlin is that he is a big fan of spending public money on sports facilities. He helped pass a county-wide tax to build the Twins ballpark, and to circumvent the law saying they were supposed to hold a referendum on it. He was less enthusiastic about the county funding the Vikings Stadium, but had this hilarious/infuriating line about why referendums were bad:
A referendum “doesn’t make a bad idea any better,” said Hennepin County Commissioner Peter McLaughlin, who voted for Target Field but dislikes the Vikings stadium proposal. “I don’t believe in government by referendum. It lets elected officials off the hook for making judgments about these things.”
The point of a referendum isn’t to make “bad ideas better,” it’s to make it possible for people to shoot down the plan of spending their money on sports facilities. It’s not like Minneapolis voters shoot down every referendum that comes their way; they faithfully pass school-levy referendums. People want referendums on sports facilities because it appears to be the only possible way to keep politicians from cramming them down our throats over and over and over.
More recently, he tried to swing a deal for the soccer stadium whereby the “excess capacity” of the Target Field sales tax would go to pay for the soccer stadium, instead. What that means: currently, there is a 0.15% sales tax collected in Hennepin County. Out of that money, $5 million/year goes to libraries, youth and sports programs, and long-term ballpark maintenance. The rest goes to pay off the $350 million in bonds that were sold to fund the construction of Target Field. At the moment, that tax is collecting quite a bit more than they’d expected, allowing the county to pay off the debt early. (They’d planned on a 30-year repayment plan, and they’re going to be done in 20 years. At which point the tax is supposed to just end.)
I mean, there are a couple of ways to look at this. I tend to think, “no, you assholes, pay off the motherfucking debt and dump the tax we never agreed to.” It’s not entirely unreasonable to say, “hey, we’ve planned for that thirty-year term, so let’s just take the extra money and spend it on civic improvements,” but I don’t then say, “…like yet another sports facility!!!!”
As it happens, that plan fell through and the stadium was built in St. Paul.
On the plus side, Peter is a big fan of bike paths and transit. I am also a fan of bike paths and transit, and I particularly love the Greenway, which he was one of the movers-and-shakers for.
But this is the first time in years that Peter has had any sorts of real opponent; last time, the only person running against him was Captain Jack Sparrow. So I’m excited at the possibility of someone who likes bike paths and transit, and is not and endless booster of circumventing laws about referendums to build sports stadiums. (If you’re a sports stadiums kind of voter, Peter’s your guy, but one of the bizarre things about the whole “yeah, let’s spent a gazillion dollars building yet another sportsball palace!” thing is that public sentiment runs so strongly against these projects!)
Here’s who’s on the ballot: