- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 6, 2004

The ballpark bawlers are confusing a $50 hot dog with a plethora of social agendas, with none expected to be harmed or improved by a delightfully overpriced culinary choice.

The victims who step inside the ballpark will do so willingly, in the spirit of a free-market economy. No one will be ordered at gunpoint to purchase a $100 T-shirt featuring the team’s logo.

Yet the ballpark bawlers somehow insist that a souvenir program fetching $40 from a willing victim would be best spent on public schools, housing and hospitals. This is a stretch that ignores the principle of the marketplace. A sports enterprise pursues the entertainment dollar. A dollar spent in a ballpark is not necessarily a dollar that materializes in the nest of a protest group.

One portion of the ballpark plan of Mayor Anthony A. Williams is to stick it to those who desperately want to spend their afternoons or nights inside the ballpark. By the time the mayor is done playing with the ballpark numbers, he probably will impose a flushing tax on commodes. You flush, you pay extra.

None of this is intended to assuage the budget of a family of four. But there was no other alternative. You wanted a baseball team? The mayor delivered one. Now it will be up to the family of four to squeeze the team into its budget.

Many of those families undoubtedly will be from the suburbs — as many as 80 percent, according to D.C. Council member Jim Graham, Ward 1 Democrat.

The ballpark is the dollar-seeking carrot dangling in front of the suburbanites.

Otherwise, the suburban dollar just could wind up going to a TGIF in a strip mall beyond the Beltway.

Either way, the cries of the ballpark bawlers would go unheeded. Their public school system still would be one of the worst in the nation, their real estate some of the most expensive in the nation and their public-service sector seemingly doomed to be a 50/50 proposition.

“I really think the mayor’s people have to do a better job of explaining [the financing] to the city,” Mr. Graham said yesterday. “We could use this as a great opportunity to rehabilitate our libraries and recreation centers.” Mr. Graham has taken the pulse of his constituents in Ward 1 and found the publicly financed ballpark to be a “very unpopular issue.” It certainly has provided a bullhorn to those with a grievance, real or imagined, with a certain retro fun in one case.

One member of the New Black Panthers, new or not, dusted off some ‘60’s-style rhetoric in opposing the mayor and the ballpark.

“We have to put fear into this bow-tie-wearing punk, Anthony Williams,” the party member said. “Power to the people. Death to political, fascist pigs.” Not to quibble too much on the merit of free speech, but wishing death on someone because of a ballpark is probably not the most effective way to win friends and influence people.

The anti-ballpark alliance is framed in the sensibility of Felix and Oscar.

One group supports affordable housing, another supports libraries, and still another supports eliminating the discomfort associated with inflamed hemorrhoids.

These are all worthy causes, no doubt, although it is hard to grasp how a $300 souvenir baseball intrudes on the mission of the Council of Latino Agencies.

One element of the mayor’s plan that strains credulity is the contention that city residents won’t be picking up a portion of the ballpark tab. This assumes that those businesses slapped with a gross-receipts tax will not pass along their increased costs to consumers. This is a genuine rib-tickler.

If there must be a gross-receipts tax on businesses, then let a portion of it work in favor of the citizenry, as Mr. Graham suggests.

“I think [the plan] would be an easier sell then,” Mr. Graham said.

Toss the citizens a bone, and the mayor will have a home run.

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