Tuesday, October 25, 2011

What cultural heritage means

One particularly nasty part of the stadium debate has been Republican intimations that Legacy Amendment arts and cultural heritage funding could be used to pay for the damn thing. For example,
"You certainly can't argue that the Minnesota Vikings and these sports teams in the state of Minnesota aren't a part of the state's heritage and certainly part of the state's legacy," [Rep. Kurt] Daudt said.
Apparently Rep. Daudt thinks that if you can throw "heritage," "legacy," and "Vikings" in the same sentence, people will forget what they actually voted for - funding for the outdoors, arts and historical preservation.

You remember that, right? A majority, no, an overwhelming majority (58% - 41%) of Minnesota voters voted for the Legacy Amendment. A Vikings stadium in Ramsey County is so unpopular that everyone admits it could never pass as a referendum. If voters thought the Legacy Amendment would be used to fund a Vikings stadium, it never would have passed in the first place.

The Legacy Amendment has a number of defined funds, and the Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund is the target of Kurt Daudt and, judging by his tweets, Michael Brodkorb. This fund is for “…arts, arts education and arts access and to preserve Minnesota’s history and cultural heritage.” Of course, nobody mentioned a Vikings stadium as a way to protect "Minnesota's heritage." But it's not just the omission that's damning, there's no shortage of evidence that it was not to be used for that purpose.

The Minnesota Legislature required the development of a report on the "25-Year Vision, Framework, Guiding Principles and Ten-Year Goals for the Minnesota Legacy Amendment Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund" which was delivered to the Legislature in 2010. This report was developed through six statewide listening sessions where citizens contributed their ideas about what the program should do, what it should prioritize, and what effects it should have. The finished report mentions nothing about a stadium, but does note that "ACHF funding is intended for non-profit organizations for work that is open to the public and conducted for the benefit of Minnesotans. It is not intended to fund for-profit enterprises."

The notes from the six statewide listening sessions make it clear that participants specifically opposed using Legacy funds to fund a stadium. For example, participants said they want to see that "Arts are valued and supported as highly as sports," and thought that "Sports/athletic facilities/activities" were activities that should not be funded.

The notion that Legacy Amendment voters somehow thought they were actually voting for a state donation to Zygi Wilf's retirement fund is truly ridiculous. It's not a real proposal anyway, just another chance for Republicans to endlessly re-litigate the 2008 election. Oh yeah, and to try to delay the recognition of their desire to build a stadium but not to pay for it.

But the bottom line is this. If building a $1.2 billion Vikings stadium counts as "preserving Minnesota's cultural heritage," we should be ashamed of ourselves.

ADDED: If you feel the same way, join 2600 other Minnesotans (as of Wednesday morning) and send a letter to your legislator. It's easy, just go here.

Follow me on Twitter @aaronklemz

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