- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 10, 2006

Major League Baseball brakes for Major League Baseball, and nobody else. The selfishness of baseball’s biggies was demonstrated over and over during the District’s negotiations with MLB, as the baseball establishment is called, and we see it again with the Lerners’ attitude over parking at the new Anacostia stadium. Economist Scott Wallsten’s analysis of the parking gambit by the Nationals’ owners, in this section, rings true. The Nationals’ new owners won’t budge an inch. Their pursuit of their interests is dogged and unflinching, baseball owners against the interests of the people of the District of Columbia.

The underground parking flap isn’t really about where and how to park cars. It’s about the Lerners’ laser-like focus on the bottom line. It’s apparently too much to expect graciousness and gratitude in the wake of one of the most favorable stadium deals ever; instead the city is expected to acquiesce, abandoning underground parking to avoid inconvenience for the Lerners and delay of the completion of the stadium. No one has made a compelling argument that delays would constitute an insuperable problem for the Nationals’ owners. This has been asserted as if were self-evidently bad, and it isn’t.

For well over half a billion tax dollars, the city’s interest is to get Anacostia development right. The only leg standing in support of the city’s largesse is that it would lead to the development of a vibrant neighborhood, increase tax revenues and boost a struggling waterfront. But, as Mr. Wallsten writes, that is the city’s agenda, not the Lerners’.

Mr. Wallsten argues that the Lerners’ interests lie not with vibrant development, but with preventing the proliferation of shops and restaurants that could depress ballpark concessions and merchandise sales. The Lerners do not necessarily seek to thwart neighborhood development — though it’s beginning to look that way. There’s no compromise visible, and the owners’ argument that underground parking is too complicated is not persuasive. The District has shown generosity and good will with the sweetheart of a stadium deal, and it’s time for the Lerners to figure out how to give something back. The District government should stand firm against bullying.

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