Howie's blog today has a comment from Minnesota Representative Mike Jaros (DFL - Duluth) on the proposed DECC expansion, which will try to regain life in conference committee this week after both the Senate and House snubbed the project in their separate bonding bills.
"I hope Mary Murphy will be on the House/Senate bonding conference committee like last time. As you know, this project has been around for around five or six years. First, the DECC was going to remodel and expand the present facility. Two years ago the request was around $40 million and this year it is $67 million. It would be nice to reduce the amount some way. Perhaps the parking ramp could be eliminated. Half would come from the state and the other half would be paid by DECC, UMD and the hospitality sales tax that Duluthians voted for. It looks like it will be a tough sell again this year, so I was thinking that it would be nice if we could get one third from Mr. (Jeno) Paulucci, who is a big supporter, one third from the state and the rest from local sources. We could name it the DECC Paulucci/UMD Arena. Joel Labovitz is contributing a few million for the SBE/UMD."I'll address the italicized text first.
Are you serious, Mr. Jaros? You want to eliminate the new parking ramp for an area that's already tapped out when the current DECC sells out an event? Do you realize what will happen when the new arena takes away even more parking spaces? Have you ever been to a sold-out event at the DECC?
I know this. If the arena goes through without a parking ramp being added, I'll be even more grateful for my current position, a position that requires me to arrive at the DECC in the area of two hours before faceoff.
Now, let me address his idea to have Jeno Paulucci contribute some cash to the project.
On its merits, Jaros' idea makes sense. Business owners in Canal Park certainly reap some benefits from having the DECC in the area, and they would reap benefits from having a new arena there as well. Jeno's not the only one who has made some money off of UMD hockey fans (along with convention and trade show attendees and concertgoers). It would be great to have all these folks contribute to this arena, an arena that will only help their bottom lines.
However, where the hell was this idea when the planning was underway? Why, Mr. Jaros, did you wait until the closing stages of bonding bill discussion to talk publicly about this idea?
(Furthermore, don't you think it's plausible that the idea has already been brought up by someone? After all, these business owners are under no obligation to pay for the new rink, even though it would probably be a pretty smart investment to make toward the future of the Canal Park area.)
I'm just wondering. Maybe these questions have easy answers. Maybe they don't.
But I know this: Mike Jaros is one of the representatives who has done virtually nothing to fight for this project, despite the hard work being done by Mayor Bergson (and I'm not really a Bergson fan), and despite the hard work of many city leaders, who have spent a lot of time in St. Paul lobbying for this project. Apparently, the fact that many civic leaders labeled the DECC as a 'top legislative priority' wasn't enough to get the attention of our elected representatives.
The converse of this argument is that the fight is not yet over, and there is still time to salvage this project. If that is to happen, it is not going to be without the help of said local representatives. So while I'm not giving up yet, it's looking more and more everday like Duluth's longtime marriage to the DFL may be on the rocks.