Here is a letter to the editor written by Dan Cohen, but never published. I am trying to convince Dan to start a blog along these lines -- unpublished letters to the editor. The opinions expressed are Dan's:
To the editor,
Two weeks ago, on these editorial pages, Andy Brehm (OpEx/ 01-13-05) tried to revive the sales tax scheme for financing a new Twins stadium.
Apparently, that's a dead duck, because this Sunday, a commentary piece on the editorial pages presented us with still another scheme, this time using Carl Pohlad's putative estate tax, while on the sports pages, the usually skeptical Pat Reusse gives us a paean to Pohlad's free handed spending habits. As for the latter, note that a recent letter to the editor of this paper pointed out that Pohlad's charitable foundation last year contributed $7.6 million. Sounds like a lot, except when you consider that for someone with a net worth of $2.8 billion, it represents .003 percent, or three one-thousandths of one percent of $2.8 billion.
Why do we keep seeing these curveballs?
Because it takes a long time for memories to fade. Memories of such Pohladian schemes as the "donation" which turned out, once the legislators saw the fine print, to be a loan. Memories of an owner whose civic loyalty was so thin he offered to "contract" the Twins into nothingness in return for a payoff from the league.
This version, as do all others, calls for Pohlad to put $125 million or 28 percent of the cost, while the taxpayers put up $319 million or 72 percent of the cost, while Pohlad collects 100 percent of the revenues. Yes, of the taxpayer portion, approximately $112 million would come from taxes levied on Pohlad's estate, and thus, Pohlad, living and dead, would contribute $237 million, or 56 percent and the non-Pohlad taxpayer portion would be $182 million or 44 percent-- while of course, Pohlad, this time the late Pohlad, would still receive 100 percent of the revenues from the stadium. All this assumes that such a deal is legal, and involves accepting the fiction that the $112 million comes from Pohlad and not from the state. Is it possible to predetermine a person's legal state of residence at the time of their death when they are still alive? The states that fought over Howard Hughes estate didn't think so. And speaking of heirs, what are their rights in this? The brouhaha surrounding Jim Binger's estate might give the author of Sunday's Commentary piece pause to reconsider if he thinks that Pohlad's heirs will let his proposal pass unchallenged. And what about the legislature? Under this plan, unlike the sales tax plan, instead of Hennepin County taxpayers ponying up the public portion of cost of the stadium, $235 million ($360 million minus $125 million ) would have to be deducted from general revenues that could be used statewide. Try that one out on Phil Krinkie, the chair of the House Tax Committee. And what about the voters? One can safely assume that one of the conditions of this proposition is that the people who are being asked to put up the taxpayer portion don't get to vote on it. And then there's Pohlad's pending lawsuit, in which he is attempting to break the Twins lease with the Metrodome? Hmm. Could there be another Pohlad lawsuit sometime in the future in which the legality of this deal is challenged?
There is no way of beating this guy at the negotiating table. So why try? Let him go on his way and at least preserve the high moral ground of not having paid him blackmail.
Besides, I think there is a deal that would work: if it would only cost Hennepin County taxpayers a sales tax of 3 cents on every 20 dollars to make a deal with Pohlad, count me among those would gladly pay 6 cents or 7 cents for a new publicly owned and financed ballpark, and a new team, if necessary, and not have to do business with Carl Pohlad, living or dead.
Occupation: Retired. Twins fan. I attended five games last year, and follow the team closely.