- The Washington Times - Friday, December 31, 2004

D.C. Council member-elect Kwame R. Brown says his first priority will be to address concerns that local businesses and workers are at risk of losing out on jobs in renovating RFK Memorial Stadium for the Washington Nationals and building the team’s new ballpark in Southeast.

“We have to make sure local businesses participate like everyone claimed they would,” said Mr. Brown, a Democrat who will be sworn in tomorrow as an at-large council member. “That’s what I’m going to make sure happens.”

The Washington Times first reported last week that the $18.4 million contract for renovating RFK Stadium awarded to New York-based Turner Construction appears to exclude local minority contractors.

The contract requires 35 percent project participation by local, small and disadvantaged business enterprises as certified by the D.C. Office of Local Business Development.

However, the company apparently has aimed to fulfill that obligation in part by subcontracting to Tompkins Builders, a D.C.-based company owned by Turner Construction.

Robert Green III, president of the Capital Area Minority Contractors and Business Association, has said he fears Turner Construction and other large out-of-town construction companies involved in ballpark construction will use their local subsidiaries to disguise the exclusion of local workers and businesses.

Earlier this week, D.C. City Administrator Robert C. Bobb said the contract with Turner Construction needs to be amended to ensure more work for local and small contractors.

“I don’t want to see a major contractor doing this work and bringing in workers from other states,” he said.

Mr. Brown echoed that concern.

“From reconstruction of RFK to building the [new] stadium and the infrastructure surrounding it, local residents and businesses of the District of Columbia must participate in the economic reward,” he said.

Mr. Brown and the two other new council members taking office tomorrow — Democrats Marion Barry and Vincent C. Gray — opposed the plan to publicly finance the $435.2 million ballpark project, which includes funds to refurbish RFK Stadium as the Nationals’ home field until the new ballpark near the Anacostia River waterfront is ready in 2008.

It is not clear whether the trio will join current anti-ballpark members on the council to try to repeal the legislation and stop the issuing of the stadium bonds. Once the bonds are issued, which is not expected to occur for about six months, the stadium deal will be irreversible.

Nevertheless, the new members create a decidedly liberal shift in the makeup of the council. Populist issues related to the ballpark, such as gentrification and distribution of community benefits, likely will take center stage.

“I wanted baseball here. I didn’t want to pay for it,” Mr. Brown said. “Unfortunately, I didn’t have a vote on it. But now I can at least make sure that local businesses participate and have an opportunity to grow and prosper.”



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