- The Washington Times - Monday, November 8, 2004

Hallelujah! I just want to say “Praise the Lord” for D.C. Council Chairwoman Linda W. Cropp for stepping up to the plate and telling the truth about the District’s ballpark boondoggle. Can I get an “Amen”?

It takes a sensible woman to tell an immature man, “No, honey, you can’t buy that souped-up Harley until you finish paying for the ‘hoopty’ in the driveway.”

“No, baseball fans, we’re not going to build billionaire baseball magnates a spanking new stadium for more than $500 million when one costing half as much of the taxpayers’ dollars will do.”

Did folks forget that the District can’t even afford athletic activities in its public schools?

By all accounts, Mrs. Cropp is a sensible woman — so much so that they call her “the voice of reason” on the council. As a matter of fact, I sometimes think she tends to bend over backward to be too reasonable and too conciliatory when some of her colleagues could use a good swift kick in the seat.

So when folks get all bent out of shape because Mrs. Cropp is doing what she does best — being a responsible, respectful public servant — they need to check themselves for flaws.

She did not throw a curveball to strike the team. She’s been making the same pitch from the beginning to get a home run for the hometown. She publicly pledged to scrub the numbers in this dubious baseball deal from Day One. I heard her. I wrote her carefully worded comments in my hastily scribbled notes.

When all the Big Boyz were slapping each other on the back at the City Museum during the fanfare that accompanied the Major League Baseball announcement, it was Mrs. Cropp who stepped up to the podium to calm a heckled constituent’s concerns about diverting city money from more pressing issues.

“The council will not support financing that diverts money from schools… or any other area of the city budget,” she said.

Mrs. Cropp is trying to make sure that city taxpayers and business owners get the best bang for their buck by pushing for the undisputedly cheaper alternative to building a multimillion-dollar ballpark in Southeast — renovating RFK Stadium in Northeast. Isn’t that what D.C. Mayor Anthony A. Williams should have done in the first place?

I’ve said all along that the city could tear down RFK, build a new stadium there and still spend less money.

“While I truly want baseball, my first responsibility is to D.C. citizens and businesses; not baseball,” Mrs. Cropp told me this weekend.

Listen up, fellas; hear Mrs. Cropp loud and clear. The world will not come to an end if the District does not get a baseball team. If Major League Baseball decides to take the homeless, ragtag Montreal Expos somewhere else, well, so be it.

Baseball is a losing proposition, most economic analysts agree. A publicly funded stadium will not be an economic engine fast enough to put money in Mr. Williams’ imaginary investment fund to fix crumbling schools, treat sick seniors or stop senseless killings.

Where are our priorities? When people get as worked up about the horrific conditions that too many city children live in as they do about which side of the river to build a baseball stadium, that’s when I’ll “make a joyful noise unto the Lord.”

Seriously, Mrs. Cropp needs to be commended for doing what she called “due diligence” in this irresponsible stadium deal.

“I always had conditions on it,” she said Saturday. “I don’t understand why the controversy. Baseball gets what they want at a huge savings to the taxpayers.”

Mrs. Cropp estimates that the RFK site will save 20 percent over the Southeast site. Both locations, she notes, are equal distance from the U.S. Capitol, and economic development will occur in both waterfront areas slated for development.

Among the biggest factors in her decision to push for the RFK site were comments from residents at community meetings that she has attended and from business owners, who object to the size and length of the special gross-receipts tax that they will have to pay to finance the stadium.

It should come as no surprise that she is making good on her promise. Unlike some previously mentioned folks, Mrs. Cropp is a woman of her word.

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