- The Washington Times - Monday, November 8, 2004

District Mayor Anthony A. Williams, pushing to save his proposal for a ballpark in Southeast near the Anacostia River waterfront, seeks a majority vote on the D.C. Council without the aid of powerful chairwoman Linda Cropp.

Long thought of as a key vote for the mayor’s plan, Cropp sent shock waves through the city Friday with her last-minute plan to move the ballpark location to the grounds of RFK Stadium, a maneuver that would violate terms of the city’s relocation agreement with Major League Baseball.

But rather than hinge hopes on a resurrection of Cropp’s support for the mayor’s plan, city sources said yesterday Williams is looking for the majority seven votes without the powerful Cropp. Sources close to the mayor said Williams believes he has six solid votes, with a full-throttle effort under way to secure the crucial seventh.

The full D.C. Council is scheduled to vote on the ballpark bill tomorrow. MLB is mandating legislative approval of financing for the Southeast site by Dec.31.

“[The Southeast plan] has got to get through on Tuesday,” a city source close to the mayor said. “There’s still technically time to come back if it doesn’t, but it’s going to be real tough.”

According to several city sources, the most likely road map for Williams to get to seven votes is with Democrats Jack Evans, Harold Brazil, Kevin Chavous, Vincent Orange, Sharon Ambrose, Jim Graham and Sandy Allen.

Graham widely is seen as a potentially critical swing vote. The Ward1 councilman strenuously lobbied for a direct link from the gross-receipts tax on large District businesses that would fund much of the ballpark costs to city amenities such as libraries and recreation centers.

The mayor’s staff has sought to do essentially that with the recent introduction of a $450million community benefits fund. But the details on the measure, including the inclusion of a tax-increment financing district around the stadium and distribution of the benefit fund, remain sketchy.

Meanwhile, Williams put together an aggressive public schedule for today to make his case for the Southeast site. The mayor will appear on several local broadcast outlets, hold a general press conference, and then make a public address on D.C. cable channel 16 at 8p.m. to lobby for the Southeast site.

Williams, who canceled a regular monthly legislative breakfast with the D.C. Council, also plans to meet today with business leaders and some individual council members.

The mayor conducted several such meetings over the weekend, with yesterday’s sessions including Ambrose, Allen, Graham, and Ward3 Democrat Kathy Patterson.

“This is all about reframing the debate,” said Chris Bender, city spokesman. “He’s going to be talking about the economic development that is eyed for the Southeast waterfront and giving people of that area the same type of development that has occurred in other parts of the city. He will also be talking about commitments, and how it’s incumbent upon us as a city to keep our word.”

Cropp, who over the weekend was due to talk with both Williams and Jerry Reinsdorf, chairman of MLB’s relocation committee, was unavailable for comment.

The Washington Baseball Club, the prospective ownership group led by financier Fred Malek, also is jumping into the last-minute lobbying game. The group sent e-mails to the more than 20,000 people on its mailing list, imploring them to write council members urging their support of the Southeast stadium plan.

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