Wednesday, January 12, 2005

COLUMN -- Legislature will OK funding for Great Pyramid

Posted by Craig Westover | 9:11 AM |  

Posted Wednesday, Jan. 12, 2005

In a surprise announcement, the right-hand of the executive branch announced that the Minnesota Legislature is "very likely to pass a Great Pyramid funding bill."

"It's going to pass this session," House Speaker Steve Sviggum, R-Kenyon, told the House Economic Development Committee. "The time has come to make a firm, unequivocal decision on the issue other than 'No.' "

Sviggum cited the Great Pyramid plan as legislation that both parties can support. "It's a highly visible project that involves spending lots of money with no direct measure of accountability," Sviggum noted. "What's not to like?"

Democrats seem to be onboard with Sviggum's announcement.

"A stadium bill is too controversial," said Senate Majority Leader Dean Johnson, DFL-Wilmar. "But if we don't build something today, whatever we inevitably build will only be more expensive in the future. A Great Pyramid might not be everyone's first choice, but it's a good compromise."

Job creation is the key justification for the Great Pyramid bill.

Sviggum noted that not only will Great Pyramid construction create jobs for the building trades, but once complete, ongoing maintenance and administration will require additional tax dollars (which individuals otherwise might waste on themselves) and will pump those dollars into the "common collective good" — just like the Hiawatha light-rail line.

Reaching out to Democrats and their working family constituents, the Republican-sponsored draft of the Great Pyramid bill calls for no heavy equipment to be used in construction. "One front-end loader replaces 50 workers with shovels," noted Sviggum.

Some, however, question the sincerity of Sviggum's motives.

"A clearly transparent Republican tactic despicable for even those metaphorical descendents of slave-owning Pharaoh wannabes," decried an editorial in a Minneapolis newspaper. "One rich Republican with a shovel takes the jobs of 100 poor people with spoons."

When asked why a Great Pyramid, Sviggum immediately answered that it would enhance the quality of life in Minnesota. "Without a Great Pyramid, we are just a cold Omaha," he said, borrowing from the cliché lexicon of sports stadium proponents. "With a Great Pyramid, we instantly become a cold Cairo — which is a lot more exotic than Omaha."

Minnesota Vikings owner Red McCombs was not impressed. "Does Cairo have an NFL franchise? Well, neither does Los Angeles," he said.

Dave St. Peter, president of the Minnesota Twins, had no immediate comment on how the Great Pyramid might affect the Twins, but he did say that without a taxpayer-funded stadium, Twins owner Carl Pohlad would look to outsource the vacant shortstop position to Egypt to compensate for lack of public subsidies.

The proposed Great Pyramid bill omits any mention of function for the structure, which leads some to speculate that Republicans and Gov. Tim Pawlenty are not "showing all their cards" on the bill.

"There's more than one way to spell 'Pharaoh,' " noted John McCarthy, executive director of the Minnesota Indian Gaming Association, while waving a brochure for the 30-story Luxor hotel and casino in Las Vegas.

"The governor has indicated no intention, at this time, of putting a state-run casino in the Great Pyramid," responded a spokeswoman for the governor's office. "Minnesota is not a state that goes back on its word. But the economic situation may change, in which case all bets are off," she added, winking while putting air quotes around "all bets are off."

Sviggum defended the "no function" aspect of the Great Pyramid bill. "A function for the Great Pyramid would only stir controversy and create gridlock," he said. "Voters have spoken. They want the Legislature to get things done, not hassle over details. The Great Pyramid has absolutely no function."

"But," Sviggum added, "the Great Pyramid will be 'smoke-free.' "

Both St. Paul Mayor Randy Kelly and Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak immediately went on the record supporting their respective communities as the best spot for a state-funded Great Pyramid.

Kelly cited the NHL lockout and canceled games at the Xcel Center as a sympathy vote for St. Paul.

Rybak commented, "I'm going to replace the entire fleet of city vehicles with new Dodge Caravans. I think that speaks to Minneapolis's level of commitment."

"What legislator could possible be against a Great Pyramid?" asked Sviggum rhetorically. "It's definitely a no-brainer."