- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 8, 2003

Robert D. Goldwater, president of the D.C. Sports and Entertainment Commission, yesterday defended his 2½-year tenure as the city’s highest-paid employee, saying “not everything you try is going to be a home run.”Mr. Goldwater, who is paid $275,000 a year to manage RFK Stadium and the D.C. Armory, told editors and reporters at The Washington Times that his job entails taking some risks and doing the things necessary to attract premier sports and entertainment events to the nation’s capital.”I’d rather be viewed as an organization that tries to do things on behalf of the District than be viewed as one that is just going through the motions,” he said, responding to recent reports about his commission’s dramatic increase in spending on parties, travel and dining during the past two years.Mr. Goldwater, who managed New York City’s Madison Square Garden for more than 20 years, left as general manager of the Staples Center in Los Angeles to take over the District’s facilities in November 2000. He said he received a “slight” pay increase when he moved from New York to Los Angeles and another slight increase when he moved from Los Angeles to the District.The Washington Times reported last month that, since Mayor Anthony A. Williams first took office in 1999, the number of government workers earning six-figure salaries has risen from 301 to 575. The Times also reported that Washington, a city of 572,000 residents facing a $323 million budget deficit, has 156 more city workers making $100,000 than Chicago, which has almost 3 million residents.Mr. Goldwater said anyone who has an issue with how much he is paid should address his concerns to the commission that hired him.”I’ve been doing this for 29 years, and I’m proud of my career to date,” he said. “But it should be noted that my salary does not affect the city budget in any way.”The sports commission, an 11-member board appointed largely by the mayor, oversees Mr. Goldwater and his 58-person staff. The commission’s budget, funded by revenue from events at Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Stadium and the D.C. Armory, will be about $11 million this year, based on early projections. The commission has been running a deficit since 2001, however, as Mr. Goldwater dipped into cash reserves to pay for stepped-up efforts to attract Major League Baseball, renovate RFK and attract the Olympics, among other projects.Mr. Goldwater acknowledged that attracting a Major League Baseball franchise was the primary reason he was hired. “Certainly, that was the hook for me, the chance to help bring baseball back to Washington,” he said. “There’s still a lot to do, but I believe baseball is going to come here.”Mr. Goldwater said the District could get an answer from baseball officials by midseason, adding that the commission’s multimillion-dollar renovation of RFK would make the city’s bid for a franchise more attractive. He said a team could play in RFK for three years while a new stadium is built.Mr. Goldwater brushed off critics who say the city’s highest-paid executive isn’t producing results.”I don’t make any excuses,” he said. “We’ve taken some risks, and we’re supposed to. That’s what I was asked to do when I came here. The point is we’re trying these things to bring more sports and entertainment events to the city.”When representatives of Major League Baseball come to town, do I take them out to eat at some of Washington’s best restaurants? Yes, and that’s exactly what I am supposed to be doing, showing people what Washington has to offer.”He added, however, that criticism of the commission’s handling of some problem-plagued events may be deserved. Residents of the Kingman Park neighborhood tore into city officials and the sports commission last summer after the city’s inaugural 2002 Grand Prix at RFK, complaining of constant, high-decibel noise. The commission, which had hoped to turn the race into an annual event, last month canceled the last nine years of a 10-year contract with the race promoters.”Certainly, things were not done as well as they could have been or should have been,” Mr. Goldwater said yesterday, while predicting that Grand Prix racing would eventually resurface in the city.”The event itself was a success,” he said. “We could have another race out there … if it could be done better.” But Mr. Goldwater said the commission doesn’t deserve the blame for the collapse of the D.C. Marathon, which was canceled this spring just days before an estimated 10,000 runners were to take to the streets.”We were as disappointed and frustrated with that as anyone,” he said. “But we were not the promoters of the marathon. We were supporters. We were burned, just like everyone else was burned.” Local church leaders were especially unhappy with the inaugural marathon in March 2002, which blocked streets and made it difficult to attend Palm Sunday services.”Certainly, there was an obvious error in having the first marathon scheduled on Palm Sunday,” he said, acknowledging that the commission and race promoters could have done a better job of addressing the concerns of local congregations. “I didn’t deal, frankly, with religious leaders that much.”Asked whether city residents are right to expect the highest-paid executive in local government to take responsibility for making sure events such as the Grand Prix and the marathon go smoothly, Mr. Goldwater said yes.”There is accountability, and there should be accountability,” he said. “The accountability comes from learning from these instances and taking the steps to ensure that something like this won’t happen again.”The Washington Post reported last week that in the past two years, the sports commission’s spending on dining and travel has increased while its cash reserves have dwindled.


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