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 SLC and a City Referendum:

SLC Informs Students of the

DECC Arena Vote Feb. 28

The UMD Student Legislative Coalition (SLC) has kicked into high gear. They have taken on a big task, to raise awareness and support for a DECC expansion and Bulldog Hockey arena by encouraging students to vote in the special referendum election on Tuesday, February 28. Photo left: SLC member Jeni Kiewatt speaks at the Feb. 8 rally. Right: Students email legislators in support of the referendum. Below: Champ takes a stand.

The purpose of the SLC is to act as the student's official voice to all local, state, and federal legislative issue by lobbying for student interest.

UMD students take their politics seriously. During the past several years, dozens of UMD students have flooded the capitol on Lobby Day, meeting with legislators about funding for UMD programs and projects. In 2005, students arrived at the state capitol in chartered busses with the goal of explaining the need for an expanded Sports and Health Center. Their efforts paid off and the project was funded.

The possibility of a new hockey arena has elicited a similar effort. At a rally for the DECC expansion, held at UMD on Feb 8, the SLC recruited students to vote on February 28 and nearly a hundred students attended.

Built in 1966, the DECC is the oldest arena and the smallest rink of the WCHA teams. It also has the third smallest capacity (5,300). Only MSU-Mankato and Michigan Tech have smaller sized crowds. The capacity at the new DECC is significantly greater. Hockey and concert capacity will increase to 6,800 and 8,200 for concerts / events. The increased size for concerts is also a major benefit to a lot of students at UMD, because many would like to see more popular bands. With funding approval, construction can start as early as 2007 and will be completed by October 2008.

The SLC has work to do. Explaining referendum issues don’t always interest students who are concerned about social life, classes, tests and graduation. Minnesota Governor Pawlenty refused to place the DECC expansion on his bonding recommendation list because he was concerned about Duluth's imperiled financial health, due to the city's outstanding retiree health care obligations. He did agree to add the DECC expansion if the city’s residents voted for it and after he saw evidence of progress on the retiree health benefits situation.

This new arena comes with a cost. The city would provide almost half of the $67 million through a 17-year-long 0.75 percent increase in a tax on served food and beverages. UMD will pick up a small part of the cost, about $450,000 through lease payments and other fees. The rest of the DECC expansion funding, $33.5 million, would come from the State of Minnesota, in this year's bonding bill.

The referendum will measure interest in the .75 percent increase to the city’s existing nine percent food and beverage tax. “If you spend $50 at a restaurant, it will cost you 38 cents more with the tax,” said Jeni Kiewatt, SLC Director of Finance. “Students can handle a few cents here and there.”

If SLC is as effective as they hope, it will be the student vote that will put the referendum over the top.

For more information about SLC see
http://www.d.umn.edu/~slc/

Written by Cheryl Reitan.

UMD home page editor, Cheryl Reitan, creitan@d.umn.edu
NEW RELEASES, UMD media contact, Susan Latto, slatto@d.umn.edu, 218-726-8830

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