- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 14, 2004

Former D.C. Mayor Marion Barry said he plans to block construction contracts and legislation for building a baseball stadium in Southeast, even if the city seals a deal with Major League Baseball before he likely joins the D.C. Council in January.

“I’m going to do all I can to stop it at the council level and at other levels,” Mr. Barry said during an interview with The Washington Times. “We have a lot of opportunities to stop this.”

Mr. Barry is expected to win the Ward 8 seat on the council in the Nov. 2 election.

Ballpark supporters say they have enough votes on the current council to pass a $500 million bond issue for the stadium and approve land acquisition before a Dec. 31 deadline to seal Mayor Anthony A. Williams’ deal with Major League Baseball to relocate the Montreal Expos to the District.

Mr. Barry told The Washington Times that the next council will have enough anti-ballpark votes to repeal a new business tax to help pay for the stadium, prohibit the use of public lands for the stadium site and reject construction contracts.

“I’m not opposed to fighting it, to saying no,” Mr. Barry said. “This is a bread-and-butter issue to me. We are not here chasing some dream or something. This is serious business. This [ballpark] will end up as a billion-dollar boondoggle when it’s all over.”

Two of the council’s 13 members adamantly oppose the stadium plan: David A. Catania, at-large independent, and Adrian M. Fenty, Ward 4 Democrat. Council member Kathleen Patterson, Ward 3 Democrat, also has expressed some opposition to the stadium.

In January, they likely will be joined by Mr. Barry; Kwame Brown, candidate for at-large Democrat; and Vincent C. Gray, Ward 7 Democrat — all of whom won their Democratic primary races last month and oppose the stadium deal.

“I’m going to stop this baseball stadium and take the money and spend it on housing and schools,” Mr. Barry said.

Chris Bender, spokesman for the Office of the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development, declined to respond to Mr. Barry’s remarks about repealing the business tax and rejecting construction contracts.

Though his intended efforts could spoil the deal to return Major League Baseball to the city after a 33-year absence, Mr. Barry said he supports baseball in the city. He said baseball officials would move the team to the District without the “sweetheart” deal offered by Mr. Williams.

“He didn’t just give away the store, he gave away the city,” Mr. Barry said of Mr. Williams’ agreement to publicly finance the cost of a $435.2 million ballpark.

Mr. Williams had said he would meet with Mr. Barry to discuss the stadium plan before leaving today for a 10-day trip to the District’s sister cities Beijing and Bangkok.

But Mr. Barry said the meeting had not been scheduled, as of Tuesday night. And there appears to be little room for compromise between the two men’s positions.

Mr. Barry said there was “not much” the mayor could say to win his support for the ballpark other than that “he is going to build it at RFK [Stadium] without public financing.”

Ballpark foes join Mr. Barry in opposing publicly financing the stadium because they say the money could be better spent improving the city’s ailing schools, libraries and parks.

Mr. Barry also opposes the ballpark site — near M and South Capitol streets, an area bordering the poverty-stricken ward Mr. Barry likely will represent on the council.

He said a better development plan for the area would feature moderately priced and luxury housing mixed with retail and commercial space. Such plans have been proffered by major development companies, he said.

“The District is landlocked,” Mr. Barry said. “We don’t have land to spare for a stadium.”

Like others fighting the ballpark deal, including a citywide coalition of groups ranging from the D.C. Library Renaissance Project to the New Black Panther Party, Mr. Barry wants RFK Stadium to be refurbished as a permanent home for the Expos and the team owners to pay for it.

Mr. Williams repeatedly has said the stadium will not cost residents “one dime” and the facility will help spur an economic revival in an area currently dominated by warehouses, homosexual nightclubs and public housing.

“Think about it,” Mr. Barry said. “You come to a baseball game, you pay an admissions tax, you buy some beer and a hot dog. We get some money from that, but it’s not gong to cover the millions we are going to spend [on the ballpark]. … There are not many economic benefits.”

Mr. Williams has proposed paying for up to $500 million in stadium bonds with a combination of a 10 percent sales tax on baseball tickets and stadium concessions, an annual $5.5 million rent payment from the team owners and a gross-receipts tax levied on the city’s multimillion-dollar businesses.

“We have a campaign that has been launched and it is gaining momentum,” he said at his weekly press briefing yesterday, referring to community meetings city officials are holding to explain the plan.

He said he was confident that “we’ll have a positive vote by the council.”

• Jim McElhatton contributed to this report.

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