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Nick Coleman


The State I'm In


Stadium Scandal: A $1Billion Job For Mr. Inside

MR INSIDE, Ted Mondale, Stands By His Billionaire

Despite how it may appear, I don’t enjoy being practically alone among alleged journalists in criticizing the way the $1B-plus Vikings Stadium deal went down or in dissecting what this unprecedented boondoggle says about our lapdog media, a compromised “progressive” movement and a DFL Party that has become the legislative arm of the Chamber of Commerce. Just once, I’d like to be able to give the project a passing grade for how it is being managed by Gov. Mark Dayton and his minions.

But I can’t. This cesspool gets deeper with each passing day.

Today (Friday), the stadium goombahs (they call themselves the Minnesota Sports Facilities Commission) who were picked last week by Dayton and Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak met for the first time and, with no advance notice or public posting of a position, named Theodore A. (Ted) Mondale as their executive director. And gave him a luxury-suite salary of $157K.

A pretty good payday for the guy who was picked early last year by Dayton to be the governor’s “point man” on the stadium issue, with “point man” meaning he had been tasked to make a deal with Zygi Wilf or the Devil — whatever it took — to get a new stadium package through the legislature. This assignment was often mistakenly described as “lobbying” but it was far more important — and far worse — than that. Mondale served as Dayton’s inside man in what became more than a year-long process of closed-door meetings, private arm-twisting and secretive deal-making. All of which culminated in this spring’s fraudulent “negotiations” that were little more than public relations flummery and which, presided over by the ever-smirking Mondale, led to a historic sell-out of the public’s interests at a time of economic distress, budget slashing and unemployment. There had been rumors earlier this week that Mondale would get picked by the goombahs to be their executive director, but, frankly, I didn’t believe them.

There were several reasons to discount the rumors:

1) Dayton thumbed his nose at the state’s open appointment process just last week to pick someone from his office pool to be chair of the new commission and, after that dubious action, I didn’t think the commission would have the balls, at their first meeting, held with little notice, to put Mondale in a plum job without at least making a show of an open “search.”

2) It is flamingly bad public policy to elevate a secret sausage maker to a public official. First, he put together the dirty deal; now he’s going to carry it out in, uh, the public interest? The guy who knows where the bodies are buried because he dug the holes?  Nah, they wouldn’t do that. It would be too obviously an effort by Dayton to keep every aspect of the $1B boondoggle in the control of his own, tight-knit circle, turning his “People’s Stadium” into Dayton’s Showroom. I was certain they’d be forced by whatever ideals remain in this state to seek a public servant untainted by political loyalty to Dayton and without telltale Wilf breath on him.

3) Sid Hartman, the ninety-something one-man pro sports Mimeo Machine, was the only one who reported that Dayton would give the job to Young Master Mondale. That cinched it: Surely, if there were anything to this disturbing rumor, real journalists would have reported it. Sid hasn’t been right about anything since 1978, and that was by accident.

So I skipped today’s initial meeting of the goombahs to mow my lawn, deciding that, just this once, I’d give them a break.

Never again.

I forgot some important lessons that must always be kept in mind in the “new” Minnesota:

1) Something may be outrageously stupid, a naked conflict of interest or a screaming piece of hypocrisy, but none of that means the people in charge won’t shove it through anyway.

2) Open meetings, open appointments, transparency, accountability and other once-honored notions of “good government” have been trashed by the DFL, the Republicans and a governor who was elected just 20 months ago promising to restore them. Minnesota’s reputation for openness has been shit-canned by the people responsible for upholding it.

3) Real journalists? Who?! Oh, yeah, they are those six feet tall bunny rabbits, but you can’t see them.

The bottom line, Minnesota is lavishing a $1B project on billionaires, counting on a dubious expansion of charitable gambling to pay the bills, and if the whole thing collapses under its own weight and goes belly up, Mark Dayton has made certain of something he must think is very important:

No one will ever know what really happened.

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