By Rep. Dean Urdahl, R-Grove City
Jim Souhan's attention-grabbing April 18 column has generated much discussion, even more since readers have learned elsewhere I voted "YES" in a House committee to advance a Vikings stadium bill. Also, citizens have been interested to learn that, while quoting me, Souhan omitted key sentences which would have made my legislative intent clear.
It appears Souhan neither attended the meeting about which he wrote, nor listened to or reviewed the transcript before penning his column. He also did not contact me before taking great leaps in asserting what my thought process was. The sad truth is Souhan ended up with a column based on a false premise and filled with ignorance and distortion.
Early in the meeting to which Souhan referred, Vikings Vice-President Lester Bagley took his place before our committee to testify. I considered what my constituents would want to ask if they were in my place and decided to pose a question I receive time and again in my district. I said, "Mr. Bagley, just a question that is frequently out there, you might as well answer it for the record: Why should the state of Minnesota contribute a stadium for a billionaire who could pay for it all himself?"
This was presented respectfully, not in a hostile manner. My purpose was to frame the debate and not have the question linger in the background. It provided the Vikings with an opportunity to answer a common question.
Souhan used a partial quote to draw the conclusion I am shallow and my question is of a third-grade level. Apparently, many thousands of adult Minnesotans are likewise low in his esteem. I believe it is elitist and degrading to suggest people who raise questions about who should pay for a nearly $1 billion project are "dumb."
The columnist then asserted I had ignored all the legitimate concerns of a stadium. If Souhan knew the contents of the discussion, his column contained outright lies. If he did not know the contents of our discussion, he failed at his job. I prefer to credit him with laziness rather than dishonesty.
Had Souhan examined the meeting, he would have found that I asked how much money the Minnesota Twins brought into Minneapolis, that I stressed the importance of a covered stadium to expand its use for other events, that I urged private investors to step forward and that I urged that the stadium bill be passed on to the Tax Committee and eventually to the House floor where all 134 members could have a say on the bill. More importantly, had he reviewed the record, Souhan would have discovered that I voted "YES" on advancing the bill to the next legislative step.
Souhan did not say in the original version of his column how I voted, but any reader is given the clear impression I am a staunch stadium opponent. This is simply false. Souhan accuses me of being a job killer who opposes an economic stimulus project. You could make that assertion only if I had voted "no." I didn't; I voted "YES." I believe Souhan formed his opinion by taking a quote used without full context by another writer from the same newspaper April 17. That is lazy journalism.
I'm troubled that a columnist for a major metropolitan newspaper like the StarTribune would be so vicious in an attack without verifying the facts. I understand the writer of a column is entitled to his opinion and receives great latitude in doing so. But an opinion is not a license to tell half a story.
Dean Urdahl represents District 18B in the Minnesota House of Representatives. The district includes most of Meeker County and a portion of Wright County. This is Urdahl’s fifth term in the Legislature after being elected in 2002, 2004, 2006, 2008 and 2010.