In the closing hours of the legislative session Rep. Mike Charron cast one of 10 deciding votes for the Twins stadium, knowing full well that two recent polls showed 65 percent of voters believe it's wrong to increase sales taxes without voter approval. Voters in greater Minnesota, who won't have to pay for the stadium, think it's wrong. So did Senators (Michele) Bachmann and (Brian) LeClair, and Representatives (Karen) Klinzing and (Ray) Vandeveer. They all voted against it.
What's infuriating about this vote is that politicians and civic leaders are always encouraging people to "get involved" in the political process. The stadium was an issue that many people had strong feelings about.
Many thousands on both sides made the effort to contact their legislators and express their opinions (shutting down the capital switchboard under the weight of the calls). They did this repeatedly, year after year, for 10 years, sending the same consistent message: No public money for a Twins stadium.
By voting to allow Hennepin County to bypass the state law requiring a referendum, Charron ignored the clear will of the people. By throwing his vote to the rich and powerful, he reinforced the perception that money talks, that the average person's voice doesn't count, that politicians don't listen, and that it doesn't pay to get involved.
The damage this does to voter's perceptions is a cancer on the democratic process. It's always difficult for voters to determine how well they're represented. In the end, we have to boil our perceptions down to an up or down vote.
This fall, I hope voters ask: "Do we want to be represented by someone willing to stick someone else with the bill for something we don't want to pay for?" and: "Are we well represented by someone who's willing to ignore the clear desire of voters?"