- The Washington Times - Friday, December 17, 2004

Sounding off on the baseball plan

Whether the District gets a baseball team fails to address a more important issue: the credibility of the city government with any corporation, group or individual interested in doing business in the District (“Cropp, baseball refuse to budge,” Page 1, yesterday).

I do not support spending any public money on any stadium, but I also believe that a deal is a deal. If D.C. Council Chairman Linda W. Cropp was not aware of the nature of the negotiations with Major League Baseball, she was not fulfilling her long-standing commitment to the people of the District.

Mrs. Cropp is in over her head and does not seem to be able to see beyond the nose on her face. Her 11th-hour stunt has severely jeopardized our city’s chance of getting a baseball team, now and forever.

Major League Baseball is a vindictive, shortsighted, greedy organization. Mrs. Cropp and the members of the council who supported her amendment seem to have forgotten that MLB canceled a World Series because of a labor dispute, crippling the game for two years, yet failed to address the league’s financial problems. This is an organization that can work on spite.

Council member Adrian Fenty was quoted in The Washington Post on Thursday as saying Major League Baseball “is not going to walk. They don’t have anywhere else to go. One, they already looked everywhere else. No one else was financially feasible. … They set up a store, sold tickets and they have [RFK] stadium.”

It is apparent that Mr. Fenty is not familiar with MLB. A brief primer: eight work stoppages in the past 32 years; a canceled World Series during a strike that nearly crippled the game; and two years of sending the Expos to Puerto Rico for part of the season rather than give the team to a new city, any city.

Baseball is not like other businesses. Baseball spent eight years watching the Expos wither on the vine in Montreal. Anyone who thinks MLB would not put the Expos back in Montreal does not know Major League Baseball. Maybe the delay in settling on the District was because MLB feared exactly this kind of poorly thought out last-minute bait-and-switch.

Whatever happens, a city government that has tried to recover from decades of mismanagement and corruption will be forced to prove to a wary business community that the city can be a trusted partner in development.



The solution to the public-financing snag holding up baseball’s move to the District is right under Mayor Anthony A. Williams’ and D.C. Council Chairman Linda W. Cropp’s noses. All they need to do is lower speed limits and install a few more red lights.

With speeding and red-light cameras adorning so many open stretches and street corners already, the stadium will be funded in no time. This scheme will spread the burden from D.C. businesses and residents to include the able shoulders of suburban commuters, those folks from Virginia and Maryland who seem to be the most likely to attend Nationals games, anyway.



What is there about the American free-enterprise system that baseball club owners and Mayor Anthony A. Williams don’t like? The United States has fought long and hard to demonstrate to the world that capitalism beats socialism every time.

Now we have American ball-club owners and their allies saying to the world, in effect: “Well, capitalism is OK for some, but it wouldn’t be to our advantage. So we want Washington taxpayers to pick up the tab for us. And if you don’t do it to our way, we’ll pick up our marbles (or baseballs, in this case) and go home.”

I say, let’s play ball the good old American way.



Although D.C. Council Chairman Linda W. Cropp’s concerns have merit, the way in which she has endangered the baseball-stadium deal appalls me. A couple of months back, she was onstage reveling in a deal that she ultimately is not honoring. The time for her to voice her concerns was months ago, not in December. A bait-and-switch negotiating tactic may work once for her and achieve whichever goals she is pursuing, but it makes the city look dysfunctional and makes her look less than honest.

The way forward for this city is to improve its reputation as a target for smart money. This creates jobs and entrepreneurial opportunities for those whom Miss Cropp believes she is protecting from a bad deal.

She knows, I know, everyone knows that the money is coming from large businesses, patrons of the stadium and the team itself. The poor and marginalized will not lose one dime on this stadium, and Mrs. Cropp’s representations to the contrary are misleading.

I encourage Mrs. Cropp to act in an honorable way and honor the deal she once so boisterously applauded.



In defense of Annan’s U.N.

Your editorial “Kofi’s dysfunctional institution” (Dec. 6) glosses over the fact that Kofi Annan has on many occasions been labeled the “reform” secretary-general. In 1997, his first blueprint for action on reform, “Renewing the United Nations,” emphasized improved coherence and coordination and marked the momentum for change, evaluation and improved performance that has characterized his tenure.

Responding to serious criticisms of U.N. peacekeeping, he assigned the Panel on U.N. Peace Operations (commonly known as the Brahimi commission) to take a hard look at the weaknesses of peacekeeping. In 2002, it delivered vigorous recommendations for action by the secretariat and member states. Only a few weeks ago, the High-level Panel, appointed by the secretary-general last year, published recommendations on fundamental reform that must be implemented by the organization and its members.

It is the same organization that, under Mr. Annan’s leadership, has worked with the United States to bring peace to Afghanistan. A U.S.-led coalition toppled the Taliban, after which the United Nations took the lead in shaping and supporting a new Afghan government as part of the process to consolidate peace in Afghanistan.

The United Nations then helped with the constitution of an interim government and helped Afghans put together their first fully consulted constitution. The United Nations continues to support the political process and has just seen Afghanistan through its first democratic election.

Even in Iraq, where the U.S.-led coalition has paid a heavy price for its attempt to deliver the country from Saddam Hussein’s rule and bring peace, the United Nations remains engaged despite grave risks. The United Nations helped to set up the Iraqi Independent Electoral Commission and to draft the electoral laws.

The United Nations has made it possible for some 6,000 Iraqi electoral workers to be trained (both directly and by training Iraqi trainers), facilitated the voter-registration process, and helped register about 240 parties and electoral entities. Under the direction of Special Representative Ashraf Qazi, efforts continue to support the interim government and the Iraqi people in this transition phase and to engage with political parties to promote a credible and inclusive electoral process.

This is not a record of an institution or leadership that is negligent of its responsibilities or oblivious to the need for introspection and reform.


Under-secretary-general for communications and public information

United Nations

New York

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