- The Washington Times - Monday, November 15, 2004

Judged by the standards of three-card-monte dealers, the bait-and-switch gambit being perpetrated by Mayor Tony Williams is a perfect example of fiscal obfuscation. Long before the first shovel of dirt is turned, the projected costs of the stadium and the necessary infrastructure improvements are already spiraling out of control. In the eight weeks since the mayor announced that the city had enticed the Montreal Expos to relocate to the nation’s capital, estimates of the taxpayer-funded stadium commitment have skyrocketed from $435 million to $614 million.

The $179 million difference represents an escalation of more than 40 percent over two months. When you include the out-of-the-blue $450 million “community investment package,” which the mayor felt obliged to attach to the stadium-subsidy proposal being considered by the D.C. Council in order to grease the legislative skids, then the total costs already exceed $1 billion. The financial timebomb is still ticking.

Chief Financial Officer Natwar Gandhi added a cool $100 million to the projected cost because the infrastructure costs were initially underestimated. A few weeks later, D.C. Auditor Deborah Nichols reviewed the project for the council. Citing “unrealistic” infrastructure costs, she added nearly $50 million more to Mr. Gandhi’s $535 million estimate.

Above and beyond those concerns, the new stadium may require the costly relocation of a Metro maintenance garage. In addition, the Navy Yard Metrorail Station, which is accustomed to handling 3,000 to 4,000 passengers a day, would need to be significantly upgraded to accommodate the 20,500 passengers who are projected to use the station before and after sold-out games. Despite the fact that relocating the garage and expanding the Navy Yard station could cumulatively cost $100 million, the Williams administration never bothered to discuss these matters with Metro officials until late October, more than a month after the stadium project was unveiled, The Washington Post recently reported. Meanwhile, the D.C. Water and Sewer Authority, which told The Post that it had not been consulted by the mayor’s office either, estimates that it will have to spend at least $3 million to $5 million protecting its pipes from the ballpark’s weight. Consideration of these infrastructure costs and other amenities increases the project’s costs to $614 million.

Since the mayor never broached the need for nearly half-billion-dollar community chest, which is filled with social-spending goodies for votes from recalcitrant council members, these bribes deserve to be added to the stadium’s costs. That brings the grand total to more than $1 billion — and counting.

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