- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 18, 2006

D.C. Council Chairman Linda W. Cropp said she is working to build support for a stadium construction-lease agreement, but only one council member has said there is any room to negotiate.

Council member Carol Schwartz, at-large Republican, said she could stand some small increase to the $535 million cap if “other concessions” are made.

“I have some minor flexibility,” Mrs. Schwartz said, “if the development rights are protected for the city, and making sure the infrastructure, like alterations to the [Navy Yard] Metro stop are taken care of and not passed on.”

Mrs. Cropp last week sent Mayor Anthony A. Williams a letter identifying 10 concessions the council wants in the lease deal with Major League Baseball.

She has delayed sending a more specific letter to Mr. Williams this week because council members have disagreed on a cap for the District’s contribution to the stadium.

“We’re trying to look at the cost-overruns issue, and when it is finished, it will clarify that the city will put no more than X amount of dollars into the stadium,” said Mrs. Cropp, an at-large Democrat running for mayor.

Meanwhile, time is running out for the District to seal the deal.

Mr. Williams, a Democrat, had planned to have the council vote on the lease Feb. 7. He will have to submit it by Jan. 27 because all issues to be voted on by the council must be published in the D.C. Register at least 10 days before the vote.

Several council members yesterday said the cap on the District’s contribution for the proposed $667 million stadium in Southeast is the major sticking point.

Council member Vincent B. Orange Sr., a Ward 5 Democrat running for mayor, said the $535 million figure is unrealistic.

His plan would cap the city’s contribution at about $630 million, including the $535 million the District intends to borrow. The Orange plan includes $30 million in debt service, $10 million the District will save in borrowing because of its recent bond-rating upgrade and a $20 million contribution from MLB, among other items.

“Whoever the next mayor is stands to get four benefits: $110 million in revenue, $450 million in the community-benefit fund, 20,000 new jobs by 2010 and $20 million annually after the city pays off the debt service,” Mr. Orange said. “Why anyone is opposed to that is beyond me.”

But council member Marion Barry said the Orange proposal merely juggles numbers and will not get majority approval from the council.

“What Linda and Tony have to realize is that this is a bad deal, and this tinkering with it here or there is not going to work. There has to be a basic restructuring of the deal,” said Mr. Barry, Ward 8 Democrat.

He said most of the 13-member council will not support any deal that exceeds the $535 million cap.

On Tuesday, Mr. Williams announced that former Detroit Mayor Dennis W. Archer will act as mediator between the District and MLB, the first step toward arbitration.

Mediation will last 15 days, but if a deal is not reached in that time, the city and MLB will likely go to binding arbitration, which could take up to six months.

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