Resistance to Illegal Minnesota Vikings Stadium Special Law: Writ of Mandamus in court August 20th
With a little luck the Vikings Stadium could be forced to a vote in Minneapolis this November. A petition for writ of mandamus with the District Court in Hennepin County initiated by Doug Mann and supported by several activists asks the court to consider if indeed the way the stadium was "legalized" by gleeful Democrats & Republicans at the Legislature in defiance of the Minneapolis City Charter as well as the Minnesota Constitution should trigger an immediate block on further stadium construction without a city-wide referendum. A writ of mandamus is a directive from a judge forcing a government unit to do a certain action in part because no other remedy in the law is available - in this case, forcing a vote onto the ballot.
Thus the voters would have a chance to reverse this deceitful scam sucking in taxes new and old from all directions.
The counter-argument from city attorneys is mumbo-jumbo about what counts as expenditures or taxes etc., basically they can slip out of having a vote by subverting the definition of the needed revenue from shifting taxes around to pay for it. The whole setup subsidizes structures that provide advertising surface for booze which only worsens chemical dependency and public safety problems in Minnesota.
On Tuesday August 20th join stadium opponents - INFO: Fill the courtroom to demand a stadium vote! - 8AM: Courtroom 1359, Hennepin County Government Center, 300 South 6th Street, Minneapolis, MN 55487 -- Doug Mann's petition for a writ of mandamus, demanding a referendum on the city's expenditures for the Viking stadium as per the charter, has a court date. We will gather outside 30 mins. before for a low-key press conference, then proceed to the public seating in courtroom 1359 to demonstrate the immense support for this action.
Also of course it shockingly turns out Zygi Wilf is a dodgy New Jersey businessman and now state authorities are sort of backpedaling on the whole deal.
Judge says Zygi Wilf cheated partners in N.J. apartment project | Star Tribune & Stadium authority to ask Vikings and Wilfs to pay for extra legal work | Vikings stadium: The build | StarTribune.com - ah yes paying attorneys to scrutinize oneself. Seems legit.
Vikings stadium: Dayton losing faith in Wilfs - TwinCities.com - August 14 2013
Brian Murphy & Bill Salisbury note the black hole of subsidies swirling around cigarettes and gambling:
Last year, Minnesota officials expected to pay the state's $348 million share of the project with tax collections from newly authorized electronic pull-tabs and bingo games. But those games rolled out more slowly than projected, and the state's original forecast that e-gambling would generate $35 million a year in tax revenue was shrunk to $1.7 million last spring.
To cover the gap, Dayton and the Legislature in May closed a corporate tax loophole and earmarked a one-time cigarette tax to back up stadium funding.
They raised the cigarette tax to $2.52 per pack beginning July 1 and assigned the estimated $24.5 million from a "stocking fee" on the existing cigarette inventory to a stadium reserve account.
Anyhow on top of this the Minneapolis voters long ago instructed local officials that they would have to be consulted through a referendum about any new vote. The writ of mandamus could in theory bring this whole project to a halt by ordering officials to put up a referendum.
THE WRIT! So here is the deal basically: "The petition is the main thing that the judges looks at first. But they don't want the petition to have any legal argument in it, so that's what the memorandum is for. All three have to be together, consistent with each other and dependent on each other." So I am
State of Minnesota District Court
County of Hennepin Fourth Judicial District
v. Memorandum of points and authorities in
Minneapolis City Council, support of petition for a writ of mandamus
respondent. Ct. File No. 27-CV-13-13029
ARGUMENTS BASED ON FACTS AND THE LAW
Chapter 299 of the 2012 Minnesota Session Laws, the Vikings Stadium Act is a special law authorizing the State of Minnesota to use revenues from City of Minneapolis sales taxes to pay the costs of building and maintaining a football stadium in Minneapolis, including the repayment of bonds in the amount of one hundred fifty million dollars and maintenance of the stadium at a minimal cost of seven million five hundred thousand dollars per year.
The Minnesota Constitution Article 12, sec. 1 states ". . . In all cases when a general law can be made applicable, a special law shall not be enacted except as provided in section 2. Whether a general law could have been made applicable in any case shall be judicially determined without regard to any legislative assertion on that subject. . ."
The Minnesota constitution invests local governments with the authority to approve special legislation. A local government unit affected by special legislation can refer the approval of the legislation to the voters in an election.
The Minnesota Constitution, Article 12, sec. 2, states: "Every law which upon its effective date applies to a single local government...is a special law... The legislature may enact special laws relating to local government units, but a special law, unless otherwise provided by general law, shall become effective only after its approval by the affected government unit expressed by the voters or the governing body. . ."
Minneapolis Charter, Chapter 15, sections 9 and 13 restrict the City's authority to incur indebtedness or use city resources for a professional sports facility . Under section 9, if the city shall incur a debt of more than fifteen million dollars for a stadium project, the city's board of estimate and taxation may not incur any indebtedness until the project has been approved by "a majority of the electors voting on the question in a regular or special election." Under section 13, the City may not use city resources in excess of ten million dollars to pay for a professional sports facility without the approval of a majority of the voters at the next general election.
If the people of Minneapolis, expressing their will in an election, reject the use of City of Minneapolis sales tax revenues for the stadium project, it may be the legislature's duty to provide the funds necessary for this project by other means, such as through an increase in the state-wide sales tax rate, in order to ensure that contracts already signed by the Stadium Authority, established by the Act, are not impaired. The legislature can appropriate revenues from sales taxes and other taxes affecting the entire state to pay for the stadium project, rather than heavily rely on "City of Minneapolis" sales tax revenues.
MINNEAPOLIS CHARTER LIMITATIONS, REQUIREMENTS DO APPLY
On May 25, 2012 the Minneapolis City Council, by a vote of 7 in favor, 6 against gave its approval of financial obligations on the City of Minneapolis imposed by the Vikings Stadium Act. This action effectively disenfranchised the voters of Minneapolis in violation of the City Charter and Minnesota Constitution, notwithstanding the following provision of the Viking Stadium Act:
Article 3 Sec. 4. CHARTER LIMITATIONS, REQUIREMENTS NOT TO APPLY.
Any amounts expended, indebtedness, or obligation incurred including, but not limited to, the issuance of bonds, or actions taken by the city under this act, are deemed not an expenditure or other use of city resources within the meaning of any law or charter provision. The city may exercise any of its powers under this act to spend, borrow, tax, or incur any form of indebtedness or other obligation for the improvement, including, but not limited to, acquisition, development, construction, or betterment of any public building, stadium, or other capital improvement project, without regard to any charter limitation, requirement, or provision, including any referendum requirement. Any tax exemption established under this act shall be deemed not an expenditure or other use of city resources within the meaning of any charter provision.
In an opinion dated May 21, 2012, the Minneapolis City Attorney supports the idea expressed in the above paragraph that "Any amounts expended...by the city under this act, are deemed not an expenditure or other use of city resources within the meaning of any law or charter provision...." The argument goes that the state collects and spends the money from special sales taxes that do not pass through the city treasury. However, an opposing view was expressed in a legal opinion provided to City Council member Cam Gordon, by attorney Karen Marty, dated May 23, 2012. Below, in the following 8 paragraphs is an extended quote from Karen Marty's opinion:
[The City Attorney's opinion dated May 21, 2012] "...argues that the stadium expenditures are beyond the reach of the City Charter. That opinion focuses on how local taxes are collected and administered, rather than on the bigger picture. By looking only at whose hands touch the tax revenue, rather than the source of the revenue and the language of the city charter, the City Attorney is able to conclude that this money is not a 'city resource.' That conclusion ignores the specific language in the new stadium law, which indicates that the sales tax is a "City of Minneapolis Sales Tax" (Article 3, section 1 title), and the sales taxes in question are "the sales taxes imposed by the city [of Minneapolis] under the special [1986 sales tax] law. (Article 3, section 1, subd 2(d).) The sales tax revenues must be remitted to the City, except that a portion is deducted to directly pay the City's share of the stadium costs.
"If the city did not impose these taxes, there would be no tax revenue for this funding. As specified in Section 4, subs.1, of the 1986 local sales tax law, "The tax authorized by this section must be imposed and may be adjusted periodically by the city council ..." The legislature mandated that the City impose the tax, and noted that it was a tax subject to adjustment by the City.
"The City Charter defines "city resources" very specifically in Chapter 15, section 13. It provides, "City resources are defined for these purposes as: . . . general fund expenditures, sales tax or other taxes. The use of city sales taxes is the use of a "city resource," triggering the referendum requirement.
"Although the legislature may preempt provisions of the Minneapolis Charter, both the legislature and the City remain bound by the bound by the Minnesota and U.S. Constitutions. The City Attorney's opinion correctly notes that a city charter can be preempted by the legislature. The legislature apparently intended the new stadium laws to preempt Charter Chapter 15, section 13. Whether it can succeed can only be answered by a Court. The attempted preemption occurs in the stadium law in Article 3, section 4, which is bolstered by the newspaper reports from the time this language was crafted, explains the legislative intent: that the Minneapolis City Charter requirements do not apply.
Under the Minnesota Constitution, "Any special law may be modified or superseded by a later home rule charter or amendment applicable to the same government unit, but this does not prevent the adoption of subsequent laws on the same subject." Such subsequent amendment has been attempted by citizens in the past. For example, Minneapolis voters tried to amend the Minneapolis Charter to prohibit taxation for a metropolitan sports facility, and to eliminate a hotel-motel liquor tax. In Davies v. City of Minneapolis, 316 N.W.2d 498 (Minn. 1982), the Minnesota Supreme Court agreed that the citizens had that power. The power to overturn a special law can be trumped by provisions of the U.S. constitution, and was in the Davies case. The issuance of bonds and signing of contracts triggered U.S. Constitution, Article 1, Section 10, which prohibits the impairment of contracts." The Court rejected the Charter amendment because the citizens failed to show that it was "reasonable and necessary to serve an important public purpose." If no bonds were sold, or a charter amendment served an important public purpose, a court might well reach a different result. One of the most important powers is the voters' right to vote, and the stadium attempts to remove this power from Minneapolis citizens. That, alone (or coupled with the confusing language of the new law) may cause a court to find that the Minneapolis Charter has not been preempted
[footnote] Although not a part of your question, another provision in the Minnesota Constitution places further restrictions on special legislation. Article 12, Section 1, prohibits the legislature from passing any special law "exempting property from taxation..." The new stadium law appears to do precisely that: Article 1, section 21, of the stadium law states "The stadium and stadium infrastructure are exempt from ad valorem taxation by the state or any political subdivision of the state. . . " That section further exempts from taxation "real and personal property which is subject to a lease or use agreement between the authority and another person for uses related to [sports facilities], including the operation of the stadium and related parking facilities.
Conclusion: The 2012 stadium bill is "special legislation" within the meaning of the Minnesota Constitution. As such, the City has the power to accept or reject the legislation. If accepted, any subsequent charter amendment to overturn it will face stiff challenges in court and will need to reflect a strong public purpose.
The stadium law also conflicts with the Minneapolis Charter. It appropriates City sales tax revenues and uses them to fund the stadium, which triggers the voter referendum provisions of Charter Chapter 15, Section 13. The legislature has the power to preempt the City Charter, but may not have authority to disenfranchise Minneapolis voters. [End of quote from Karen Marty's opinion]
Minnesota Statute 586.01 states that a writ of mandamus may be issued to any persons acting as a government body to compel the performance of an act that the law specially enjoins as a duty resulting from their office. Chapter 586.11 states that the District Court generally has jurisdiction in all cases of mandamus except where the writ is directed to a district court, or superior court.
The Minnesota Appeals Court has held in Demolition Landfill Servs., L. L. C. v. City of Duluth, 609 N. W. 2nd 278, 280 (Minn. App. 2000), review denied (Minn. July 25, 2000), “To be entitled to mandamus relief the petitioner must show three elements: (1) the failure of an official to perform a duty clearly imposed by law; (2) a public wrong specifically injurious to petitioners; and (3) no other adequate remedy.”
For the foregoing reasons, the Petition for Writ of Mandamus should be, in all respects, granted
By: Doug Mann
Petitioner acting pro se
3706 Logan Avenue North
Minneapolis, MN 55412
PETITION FOR WRIT OF MANDAMUS:
State of Minnesota
County of Hennepin
Fourth Judicial District
Doug Mann, Petitioner,
v. Petition for Writ of Mandamus
Minneapolis City Council, Respondent. Case No. 27-CV-13-1302
The above-named petitioner hereby petition this Court, pursuant to Minn. Stat. 586.01, et seq. , for a writ of mandamus, and in support thereof, states the following:
The petitioner is a registered voter who resides in the City of Minneapolis, MN and for a cause of action alleges the following:
1. The Minneapolis City Council, voted on May 25, 2012 to approve obligations imposed on the City of Minneapolis by the Vikings Stadium Act of 2012;
2. The Vikings Stadium Act, Chapter law 299 of the 2012 MN legislative session appropriates city sales tax revenues and uses them to fund the Vikings Stadium, including the contribution of $150 million (one hundred fifty million dollars) toward the construction of the new Vikings Stadium, and a minimal cost of $7.5 million (seven million five hundred thousand dollars) per year to pay for maintenance of the stadium;
3. The Minnesota legislature has the power to enact laws that appropriate revenues from taxes imposed on the entire state to pay for the stadium project rather than to rely heavily on City of Minneapolis sales taxes;
4. The Minnesota Constitution Article 12, sec. 1 states ". . . In all cases when a general law can be made applicable, a special law shall not be enacted except as provided in section 2. Whether a general law could have been made applicable in any case shall be judicially determined without regard to any legislative assertion on that subject;
5. The Vikings Stadium Act is 'special legislation' within the meaning of Article 12 of the Minnesota Constitution, sec. 2, which states: "Every law which upon its effective date applies to a single local government...is a special law... The legislature may enact special laws relating to local government units, but a special law, unless otherwise provided by general law, shall become effective only after its approval by the affected government unit expressed by the voters or the governing body….";
6. Chapter 15, Secs. 9 and 13 of the Minneapolis City charter invest the voters of Minneapolis with final authority to decide whether to incur a debt of more than fifteen million dollars and to use more than ten million dollars in city resources for a sports stadium. The City Council has an affirmative duty to provide for a referendum in such an event;
6. If it is the will of the citizens of Minneapolis, expressed by a majority vote in an election, to reject the use of Minneapolis sales tax revenues and other city resources to pay for the Vikings Stadium project, it may be the legislature's duty to ensure that contracts already signed by the Stadium Authority, which the act established, are not impaired;
7. A specific provision of the Vikings Stadium Act, Article 3, section 4, under the heading "Charter limitations, restrictions do not apply": is intended to preempt the Minneapolis City Charter and disenfranchise voters in Minneapolis, with language that is contradicted by another provision in the same law, and that conflicts with the powers vested in local government units by the Minnesota Constitution.
8. The legislature has authority to preempt home rule charters, within the constraints of the Minnesota and U.S. Constitution, general laws, and equitable principles. However, in this case, the legislature over-reached its authority with an attempt to disenfranchise the voters in Minneapolis;
9. Irrevocable harm will result in the form of disenfranchisement of the Petitioner and citizens of Minneapolis should a writ commanding the City to abide by its legal obligation to provide for a referendum on the use of City sales taxes and other city resources for a stadium project is not issued;
10. There is no other adequate remedy at law;
Wherefore, we petition the Court to issue an alternative writ of mandamus commanding the Minneapolis City Council to place on the ballot in the next general election on November 5, 2013 the question of whether the City of Minneapolis shall accept obligations imposed upon it by the Vikings Stadium Act of 2012, or to appear before this Court and show cause why it should not.
Acting pro se
3706 Logan Avenue North
Minneapolis, MN 55412
I am awaiting the City Attorney written response to the writ, which is an important part of the narrative.
Memorandum of petitioner in reply to opposition of respondent: Here is what they sent back to the City Attorney.
STATE OF MINNESOTA DISTRICT COURT
COUNTY OF HENNEPIN FOURTH JUDICIAL DISTRICT
Doug Mann, Case Type: Other Civil
Court File No.: 27-CV-13-13029
Petitioner, Judge: The Hon. Phillip D. Bush
Minneapolis City Council, Memorandum of petitioner
in reply to opposition of respondent
Respondent, to petition for a writ of mandamus
In memorandum of opposition to the petition for writ of mandamus, Respondent overlooks two constitutional issues raised by Petitioner which are germane to this case. Minn. Const. Art. 12, section 2 gives local government units the power to refer approval of special legislation to the voters, and Minn. Const. Art. 12, section 4 enables local government units to be governed by a home rule charter. The legislature made no attempt to repeal a provision of the Minneapolis City Charter that requires voter approval of use of City resources for a stadium in excess of ten million dollars. Therefore, the legislature exceeded its authority under the Minnesota Constitution by directing the Minneapolis City Council to approve the Vikings Stadium Act within a timeframe that did not allow for voter approval. Petitioner further alleges that the legislature incorrectly asserted that Minneapolis City Charter provisions requiring a referendum do not apply because local-option sales tax revenues are not local resources within the meaning of any law or charter provision. Petitioner's status as a voter and tax payer is sufficient to confer standing because the harm to his interests are reasonably connected to the failure of a public official to perform an action required by law and can be remedied by the performance of that action, and because Petitioner asserts that the cause of action is directly connected to an exercise of legislative power which exceeds Legislature's constitutional authority.
Respondent challenges the standing of Petitioner to obtain mandamus relief, citing a generally applicable standard. However, in Minnesota Courts, a different standard applies when the plaintiff asserts that an action of public officials represents an unlawful exercise of the power to tax and spend.
Petitioner alleges that his interests are harmed by an action of the Minneapolis City Council which denies him the right to vote on the imposition of taxes and appropriation of local tax revenues for a professional sports facility under circumstances where the Minneapolis City Council is required by law to put a referendum on the ballot, and that a writ of mandamus commanding the City to put a referendum on the ballot to approve the use of city resources for a professional sports facility in the general election of 2013 is the only adequate remedy.
In the scheduling order, Doug Mann v. Minneapolis City Council, case no. 27-CV-13-13029 dated July 16, 2013, District Court Judge Phillip D. Bush ordered that "Plaintiff shall serve the Minnesota Attorney General within 7 days of this order since Plaintiff is asserting that the Legislature exceeded its constitutional authority."
Assertions by Petitioner which are germane to the issue of standing in this case:
1) In the Vikings Stadium Act (Chapter 299 of the 2012 legislative session laws) the legislature exceeded its constitutional authority by forbidding the exercise of a power expressly granted to local governments under Article 12, section 2 of the Minnesota Constitution, which is the power to refer the approval of special legislation to the voters in a referendum.
2) The legislature erred in its assertion that City of Minneapolis, local option sales tax revenues are not "City resources" within the meaning of the charter or any other law. As a consequence, the legislature's directive to the city council to not refer approval of the Vikings Stadium Act to voters in a referendum exceeded its constitutional authority not only under Article 12, section 2 for the reason given in the preceding paragraph, but also Article 12, section 4 of the Minnesota Constitution, which invests local governments with the power to adopt home rule charters that may require a referendum under specific circumstances. The Minneapolis City charter has two provisions that restrict the City's ability to incur debt and to use city resources to pay for a stadium / professional sports facility without voter approval.
In Minnesota Courts, a plaintiff has standing to seek mandamus relief without showing greater harm to him than the public at large if the plaintiff alleges unlawful exercise of the power to tax and spend. The issue of taxpayer standing is addressed in the following four paragraphs from OLSON v. STATE, No.A06-2324., December 18, 2007 - MN Court of Appeals:
[W]hile the activities of governmental agencies engaged in public service ought not to be hindered merely because a citizen does not agree with the policy or discretion of those charged with the responsibility of executing the law, the right of a taxpayer to maintain an action in the courts to restrain the unlawful use of public funds cannot be denied.
In contrast with standing rules in federal courts, it is generally recognized that a Minnesota taxpayer has a broader basis for standing than a litigant in federal court. Id. at 570. As early as 1888, the Minnesota Supreme Court held that taxpayers may bring an action to compel county officers to perform their public duties. State ex rel. Currie v. Weld, 39 Minn. 426, 428, 40 N.W. 561, 562 (1888). In 1928, the Minnesota Supreme Court stated, “it is well settled that a taxpayer may, when the situation warrants, maintain an action to restrain unlawful disbursements of public moneys.” Oehler v. City of St. Paul, 174 Minn. 410, 417-18, 219 N.W. 760, 763 (1928).
The supreme court has also more recently reaffirmed the requirement that the party seeking to challenge legislative action on the basis of his status as a taxpayer must have more than just a disagreement with a discretionary decision. See In re Sandy Pappas Senate Comm., 488 N.W.2d 795, 798 (Minn.1992) (finding that a citizen did not have standing solely as a taxpayer to file a claim seeking judicial review of an election board's disposition of a campaign violation).
In Rukavina, we acknowledged that taxpayer status alone does not confer standing. 684 N.W.2d at 531. Simple “disagreement with policy or the exercise of discretion by those responsible for executing the law” does not supply the “unlawful disbursements” or “illegal action” of public funds required for standing to support a taxpayer challenge. Id. When the taxpayer's individual challenges to the state action “are based primarily on appellants' disagreement with policy or the exercise of discretion by those responsible for executing the law,” they are insufficient to confer standing. Id.
More restrictive criteria for determining taxpayer standing in the federal courts do not apply to actions that fall under the jurisdiction of the Minnesota Courts inasmuch as: "A state may grant greater rights to its citizens than are granted by the US Constitution; however, a State Constitution may not limit or take away rights granted or protected by the US Constitution." Kent Law School: Sources of law (lecture notes) top of page 2: http://www.kentlaw.edu/faculty/rbrill/classes/BrillTortsF2009Eve/CoursePages/courseinfo/orient2hndout.pdf
However, even using the more restrictive criteria used by federal courts for determining taxpayer standing, Petitioner has met the burden of showing he has standing to seek mandamus relief. In Flast v. Cohen, 392 U.S. 83 (1968), the U.S. Supreme Court held that a taxpayer has standing to sue the government to prevent an unconstitutional use of taxpayer funds, and set forth a two part test to determine whether a plaintiff has standing to sue. First, by virtue only of his liability to pay taxes, "a taxpayer will be a proper party to allege the unconstitutionality only of exercises of congressional power under the taxing and spending clause of Art. I, § 8, of the Constitution." *479 Id., at 102, 88 S.Ct., at 1954. Second, the Court required the taxpayer to "show that the challenged enactment exceeds specific constitutional limitations upon the exercise of the taxing and spending power and not simply that the enactment is generally beyond the powers delegated to Congress by Art. I, § 8." Id., at 102-103, 88 S.Ct., at 1954."
THE POWER OF THE LEGISLATURE TO REPEAL HOME RULE CHARTERS
The question of whether the legislature has authority to repeal any provision of a home rule charter is purely academic because the Vikings Stadium Act involved no attempt to repeal any provisions of the Minneapolis City Charter. However, this issue will be examined here because it is raised in arguments advanced by Respondent.
The Vikings Stadium Act and Chapter 15, sections 9 and 13 of the Minneapolis City Charter deal with the use of City of Minneapolis, local-option sales tax revenues, and the issue of whether voter approval is required when city tax revenues are used to fund a stadium project. The City Attorney's office advances two basic arguments:
1) Chapter 15, sections 9 and 13 of the Minneapolis Charter provisions don't apply / are not triggered by the Vikings Stadium Act, because under the Act, the City of Minneapolis shall not issue bonds, and therefore shall incur no debt; and because the Vikings Stadium Act assigns control of local-option sale tax revenues to the state as needed to repay the City's share of State-issued bonds and cover the City's share of other costs, City of Minneapolis, local-option sales tax revenues are deemed to not be city resources within the meaning of any law or charter provision.
2) Even if, for the sake of argument, one grants that a Minneapolis Charter provision which requires a referendum is triggered by the Vikings Stadium Act, the legislature's intent was to over-ride / circumvent it. After all, the legislature has the power to repeal local laws. Although the Viking Stadium Act does not expressly forbid a referendum on the use of these tax revenues to fund the stadium project, it does direct the City Council to approve the legislation. Moreover, as the lawyers representing the City Attorney point out in their brief, on page 9: "...The stadium legislation did not allow for approval by submitting the question to the voters for a referendum (nor was this even possible given the 30 day timeframe allowed by the legislation for local approval.)"
WHAT THE MINNESOTA CONSTITUTION SAYS
Minnesota Constitution Article 12, section 2
Every law which upon its effective date applies to a single local government unit or to a group of such units in a single county or a number of contiguous counties is a special law and shall name the unit or, in the latter case, the counties to which it applies. The legislature may enact special laws relating to local government units, but a special law, unless otherwise provided by general law, shall become effective only after its approval by the affected unit expressed through the voters or the governing body and by such majority as the legislature may direct. Any special law may be modified or superseded by a later home rule charter or amendment applicable to the same local government unit, but this does not prevent the adoption of subsequent laws on the same subject. The legislature may repeal any existing special or local law, but shall not amend, extend or modify any of the same except as provided in this section.
Please note that in the second sentence in the above paragraph, there is a coordinating conjunction - and - which separates two dependent clauses: A special law ". . . shall become effective only after its approval by the affected unit expressed through the voters or the governing body and by such a majority as the legislature may direct. . ." (emphasis added) If the "and" were deleted from that sentence, it would grant the legislature the right to determine both the method of approval and the majority required for approval. However, Article 12, section 2 as written does not invest the legislature with the right to determine whether approval of special legislation by the affected unit will be expressed through the voters or by the governing body. By directing the City Council to approve the Vikings Stadium Act and not giving it the option of referring approval to the voters in a referendum, the Legislature exceeded its authority under Minnesota Constitution Article 12, section 2.
The power of the Legislature to repeal provisions of local home rule charters is not without constitutional constraints, and one of those constraints is a grant of power by the Constitution to local government units to refer approval of special legislation to the voters in a referendum. Moreover, the legislature generally has the authority to preempt local laws without local approval by enactment of general legislation.
"Under Const. 1857 Art. 4 section 36 providing that any municipality may frame its own charter subject to and in harmony with the state constitution and laws and within general limits prescribed by legislature, but that the legislature has power to provide general laws which relate to city affairs and which are paramount to any provisions in such charters dealing with like subject matter, power given to citizens by virtue of home rule charters is subject to the paramount power of the legislature and may be superceded or abrogated whenever legislature sees fit to exercise power reserved to it. Western States Utilities Co. v. City of Waseca 1954, 252 Minn. 302, 65 N.W.2d 255"
"Minn. Const.  art 4, section 36 specifically preserves the right in the legislature to provide general laws paramount to home rule charters. See State ex del. Smith v. City of International Falls, 132 Minn. 298, 156 N.W. 249; State ex del. Erickson v. Gram, 169 Minn. 69, 210 N.W. 616." Cited in Monaghan v. Armatage, 15 N.W.2d 241
"Pursuant to Const. 1857, Art. 4 section 36, the legislature could, by enactment of general laws, modify or withdraw any powers entrusted to a city with a home rule charter. Minneapolis St. Ry. Co. v. City of Minneapolis 1950, 229 Minn. 502, 40 N.W. 2d 353 appeal dismissed 70 S.Ct. 574, 339 U.S. 907, 94 L.Ed 335"
"Legislature may repeal any special or local law, may amend any special or local law by general law, may repeal any part thereof by general law, but cannot repeal a special or local law in part by a special law. Op. Atty. Gen. [of MN], 375, Feb 24, 1933" Cited in Minnesota Statutes Annotated, Article 12, section 1, page 387, bottom of the first column.
CHARTER PROVISIONS REQUIRING A REFERENDUM DO APPLY
Notwithstanding legislature's assertion to the contrary, Local-option sales tax revenues are "city resources" within the meaning of Minneapolis City Charter, Article 15, section 13
"[Chapter 299 of the 2012 session laws] Article 3, section 4. CHARTER LIMITATIONS, REQUIREMENTS NOT TO APPLY
Any amounts expended, indebtedness, or obligations incurred including, but not limited to, the issuance of bonds, or actions taken by the City under this act, are deemed not an expenditure or other use of city resources within the meaning of any law or charter provision. The city may excursive any of its powers under this act to spend, borrow, tax, or incur any form of indebtedness or other obligation for the improvement, including, but not limited to, acquisition, development, construction, or betterment of any public building, stadium, or other capital improvement project, without and regard to any charter limitation, requirement, or provision, including any referendum requirement. Any tax exemption established under this act shall be deemed not an expenditure or other use of city resources within the meaning of any charter provision."
If the Minneapolis Charter doesn't apply, approval of Article 3, Vikings Stadium Act by the City Council without referring it to the voters for approval would not conflict with the City Charter, nor would the legislature's directive to the City Council to disregard any Charter provision. However, the primary source of funding for the City's obligations are local-option sales tax revenues, which are clearly "city resources" within the meaning of the Minneapolis City Charter, Chapter 15, section 13, which states:
Minneapolis City Charter, Chapter 15, section 13
The City of Minneapolis, Minneapolis Community Development Agency, or any city department, agency, commission, or board, shall use no city resources over ten million dollars for the financing of professional sports facilities without the approval of a simple majority of the votes cast on the question, in ballot question put to the public at the next regularly scheduled election. City resources are defined for this purpose as: Tax increment financing, bonds, loans, land purchase or procurement, land or site preparation, including necessary infrastructure such as roads, parking development, sewer and water, or other infrastructure development, general fund expenditures, sales tax or other taxes, deferred payments, interest-free or below market interest rate loans, the donation or below market value sale of any city resources or holdings or any other free or below cost city services. The ballot question shall not be put before the public in a special election, in order to prevent the costs associated with special elections [emphasis added].
The assignment of local-option sales tax revenues by the City to the State of Minnesota under the Vikings Stadium Act will indeed place local sales tax revenues required to fund the City's share of the costs outside of the control of the City government, however there can be no reassignment of sales tax revenues by the City to another entity unless the City is entitled to control said revenues in the first place. Although the State of Minnesota will issue bonds to cover the city's share of stadium construction costs, the city is responsible for the repayment of its share of those bonds. Local sales tax revenues necessary to cover the City's obligations to repay bonds issued by the State of Minnesota shall be credited to the City.
Below is an email message from Carol Becker, elected member of the Minneapolis Board of Estimate and Taxation, regarding the character of local sales taxes, posted on the Minneapolis Issues Forum, a public online forum:
From: Carol Becker
Subject: Re: [Mpls] Cancer growing around the Wilf Sports Palace
Date: July 24, 2013 7:27:23 AM CDT
Tony Scallon wrote:
"1. The Stadium Debt is state debt not Minneapolis debt. This is extremely important. Also, the sales tax is collected by the state and then dedicated as per law. This may sound technical but in terms of debt and bonding very important."
Not to quibble with Tony but the third sentence is incorrect. Local-option sales taxes are exactly that, sales taxes enacted at the option of local government, per 297A.99. The state gives local units the ability [to impose them] but they are authorized at the option of local governments. It is clear that the tax is a local, not state tax. As far as collection goes, the state collects the tax on behalf of the local unit of government. It doesn't have to be that way - in many states, the local unit of government collects its own tax just like it collects its own property taxes. In Minnesota, it was set up to have the state collect the tax simply for the ease of administration. There is a contract between the City and the State that lays out the provisions of this relationship - how the State will collect the tax on behalf of the City. I know because when I was the manager of the sales taxes for the City of Minneapolis, I made changes to that contract to have the State send the money faster, thereby increasing the amount of interest we as the City could earn. Made the City about $100K a year by that change. But that contract clearly specifies that the state is providing a service to the City by collecting the City's sales taxes. Not that these are state revenues that the state is providing to the City.
And it is correct, whoever issues debt owns the debt. Debt issuance and funds to repay debt are two different questions and repayment funds can come from anyplace and any level of government.
In an information brief, "Local Sales Taxes in Minnesota," the Research Department, Minnesota House of Representatives, the following is written:
Steps That a Local Government Must Follow to Impose a Local Sales Tax
In order to impose a local sales tax, a political subdivision must obtain legislative enactment of a special law authorizing it to do so by taking the following steps (in the order listed):
1. The governing body of political subdivision must pass a resolution proposing the tax stating (at least) the:
a. Proposed tax rate,
b. Amount of revenue to be raised and its intended uses, and
c. Anticipated date that the tax will expire
2. The proposed tax, then, must be submitted to and passed by of the voters at a general election held at least 90 days after the resolution was passed. The political subdivision may not expend money to advertise or promote the tax.
3. The political subdivision must request and the legislature must enact a special law authorizing imposition of the tax.
4. The political subdivision must pass an ordinance imposing the tax and notify the Commissioner of Revenue at least 90 days before the first day of the calendar quarter on which the tax is to be imposed.
Source: Page 2, House Research Department; Local Sales Taxes in Minnesota, updated January 2012
As of January 2012, voter approval was required in 17 of 23 currently imposed local sales taxes, with exceptions to the rule being the sales tax authorized by Duluth in 1973, by Minneapolis in 1986, by St. Paul in 1993, by Brainerd in 2006, and by Hennepin County in 2006. Voter approval was required for all 4 local sales taxes that were imposed but have expired, for 10 of 11 authorized sales taxes that were never imposed, and 3 of 4 local sales taxes authorized but not yet imposed. See: Tables 1 through 4, on pages 7 through 11, House Research Department, Local Sales Taxes in Minnesota.
For the foregoing reasons, the Petition for Writ of Mandamus should be, in all respected, granted.
Respectfully submitted by
Dated: August 13, 2013 __________________
Petitioner pro se
3706 Logan Avenue North
Minneapolis, MN 55412
Here are some other comments from Doug on the venerable Mpls e-democracy listserv about what the city attorney sent out:
This morning I received the City Attorney's memorandum in opposition to a writ
of mandamus commanding the city to put on the ballot a referendum on Vikings
stadium taxes. It offers nothing new on the main issues.
In my petition and memorandum I did not address the City Attorney's earlier
assertions about the power of the legislature to over-ride the city charter. A
review of the cited case law shows some serious defects in their argument,
which I hinted at, but they didn't take the hint. The City Attorney, in last
year's memorandums cherry picked paragraphs supporting their assertions, and
omitted all pronouncements by the Court on the issue that is decisive in most
of the cited cases: The power of the legislature to pre-empt local laws by
"general" laws without local consent. The legislature may repeal local laws
that not in harmony with general laws and the Minnesota constitution. But the
Vikings stadium act did not attempt to repeal the stadium provisions in the
charter. The Vikings Stadium Act asserted that the charter does not apply
because the local-option sales tax revenues are not "city resources" because
the sales tax revenues required for bond payments and upkeep on the stadium
will not be remitted to the city. The funds won't be under the city's control.
Nothing new there.
The new, yet unsurprising part of the City Attorney's brief is the contention
that "Petitioner cannot show sufficient injury to entitle him to mandamus
"Petitioner is only entitled to mandamus [relief] if he can show a public wrong
especially injurious to him and that he will benefit from an order compelling
performance of the statutorily imposed duty. Friends of Animals & their Env't
(FATE) v. Nichols, 350 N.W.2d 489, 491 (Minn. Ct. App. 1984); see also
Hollingsworth v. Perry, S.Ct. 2652, 2662 (2013) (reaffirming that under federal
law a litigant lacks standing when claiming only harm to his and every citizens
interest in the proper application of the Constitution and laws, and seeking
relief that no more tangibly benefits him than it does the public at large. To
have standing to maintain a suit, an individual must show an "injury to some
interest, economic or otherwise, which differs from the [injury] to the
interests of other citizens generally." Vern Reynolds Constr., Inc, v. city of
Champlin, 539 N.W. 2d 614, 617
Two points in rebuttal:
Mandamus relief allowed under federal law is one thing. Mandamus relief allowed
under Minnesota law is another. As a rule, States may not be more restrictive
in granting rights than the federal government, however a state may be more
expansive in granting rights than the federal government. (I think I can find
support for this in the US constitution). Mandamus relief is being sought under
Minnesota law, not federal law.
It is likely I will find language in the federal voting rights act, something
to the effect that "each voter is uniquely harmed" by the application of laws
that disenfranchise them. I expect to find that language because the intent of
that legislation was to give any wanna-be voter standing to file a lawsuit to
secure rights for themselves as well as others similarly effected by
legislation that disenfranchises otherwise qualified voters. Moreover, what is
at issue is not disenfranchisement in general, but disenfranchisement in a
special case that assures benefits to a small minority of Minneapolis residents
at the expense of the large majority.
Mann for Mayor (website)
Mann for Minneapolis Mayor
-Doug Mann, Folwell neighborhood, northside of Minneapolis
Anyway I will leave it there for now, but I think it's good to get the full text of these filings out of the obscurity of Facebook. Please pass this on to interested parties, as relatively few people know that this petition is in the mix. If it were truly "frivolous" it would have been nixed by the judge already.
Disclosure: Some years back I did technical organizing work for the current Minneapolis City Attorney, Susan Segal, in a preliminary political campaign for Hennepin County Board.