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Foxes, henhouses and baseball
Question of the Day
Tonight, Mayor Tony Williams will hit the airwaves to make another public pitch for a new baseball stadium. This, interestingly enough, on the eve of a scheduled first vote by the full D.C. Council. There are two stadium packages: The plan submitted by the mayor costs an estimated $550 million, increases taxes and calls for a new ballpark in Southeast; and the proposal put forth by Council Chairman Linda Cropp, which is 20 percent cheaper than the mayor’s and calls for a new ballpark adjacent to RFK Stadium. We reject both plans on principle.
The mayor is getting increasingly desperate to leave a legacy of Major League Baseball — going so far as to outbid himself. The initial cost was $350 million. This time last week, the council was considering the mayor’s $440 financing package. Then Chief Financial Officer Natwar Gandhi, who ordinarily is more cautious about spending public funds, projected costs at $530 million. The mayor followed by upping the ante: raising spending costs to $550 million.
For her part, Mrs. Cropp offers a substitute to the mayor’s plan. Sure, the Cropp plan costs less, since it calls for a ballpark to be built at a different site — a site that already has undergone environmental studies. But the differences between hers and the mayor’s plan begin and end there. While the site for a new stadium cannot be made without the support of Major League Baseball, it is indeed disappointing that Mrs. Cropp failed to offer a true alternative that would have called for little or no public dollars.
Most D.C. taxpayers know where the majority of the 13 foxes stand on the stadium financing plans — alongside the mayor. To know that Council member Jim Graham, who has aspirations for citywide office, falls for the mayor’s allure of a so-called community chest — as if taxpayer dollars are Monopoly money — is quite revealing. On the other side, Council member Adrian Fenty has said all along that city officials should not dip into public coffers to finance a stadium. We still stand with him.
Don’t, however, mistake our principled stand as anti-baseball. The likelihood that America’s pastime is poised to return to Washington is an exciting prospect, one that we have supported all along. We draw the line at the substantial subsidy for wealthy owners of Major League Baseball.
Still, there is nothing the mayor can say tonight that will draw our endorsement of his plan — unless he flip-flops and announces a private financing package. Since that is not going to happen, we urge other lawmakers to stiffen their backs and guard the henhouse along with Mr. Fenty.
By Matt Kibbe
The short-term deal will assure long-term overspending
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