- The Washington Times - Monday, September 29, 2014

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

You love a good sports story, right?

Well, residents of the nation’s capital are about to begin paying for a new soccer stadium for D.C. United, the pro team. The stadium is going to be built at Buzzard Point, a Southwest neighborhood within smelling distance of the wharf. Its proposed neighbors have put together a prenup to this public-private marriage that pretty, which predetermined how much residents will have to toss into the public coffers — $100 million, at least.

And the city’s denizens won’t get that much in return.

Now, some folks kinda understand why United wants a new place to kick around in: Baseball got a new home, the city is trying to bring the Redskins back home and the D.C. officials kicked $50 million back into the Verizon Center bucket to the benefit of the Mystics, Wizards and Capitals. So when United raised its hands, city officials said, “Oh, alright.”

Many neighborhoods in Southwest, including Buzzard Point, are gentrifying. Marvin Gaye, who was reared there before he began singing street corner doo-wop and recording in Barry Gordy’s Hitsville USA in Detroit, would not recognize that area of the city, a peninsula wedged between the Potomac and Anacostia rivers.

The Nationals’ ballpark. Lots of few-years-young retail, residential and office spaces. Thousands of new taxpaying residents. The funky, old-school wharf for fresh seafood lovers. Arena Stage, one of the city’s heartiest performing arts venues.

All of the above led Southwest residents to put in their wish list, and the fact that they have means they endorse the city’s efforts.

The mouthpieces for the efforts, or at least two of them, are the D.C. Fiscal Policy Institute, which is a think tank to turn to for points of view against tax cuts and credits, and the Community Benefits Coordinating Council (CBCC), a coalition of Southwest residents. (Keep in mind, the CBCC concerns itself only with part of Southwest, not the parts on the other side of the Anacostia, which are represented by D.C. Council member Marion Barry, if you get my drift.)

The prenup proposed by the CBCC is typical of community benefits agreements, or CBA as they are typically called.

The highlights include:

A $5 million community fund to support recreational and educational programming for the community’s youth. The CBA also will call for funds for the Randall Recreation and Arthur Capper Community Centers. Interesting, isn’t it, that it’s sometimes OK to rub shoulders with wealthy businesspeople? Is this to further gentrification or merely pacify folks who live in public housing?

Speaking of publicly financed housing, CBDD also wants the city to commit to preserving the existing affordable housing in the area.

“Affordable housing preservation will allow lower-income residents to stay in the neighborhood and take advantage of the jobs and amenities from the new development,” the D.C. Fiscal Policy Institute said.

Hmm. Lower-income residents cannot afford “amenities from the new development.” Many of them cannot afford what’s there right now.

And jobs? “The proposed CBA calls for the team to set aside some of the stadium’s construction and operation (ticketing, concessions, guest services) jobs for residents living in the immediate neighborhood. This, along with city funds for workforce development and training, will help residents gain long-term employment.”

What? Hourly wage jobs? Are there no “residents living in the immediate neighborhood” worthy of white-collar, trade or professional employment? And the city — i.e., already tax-burdened residents — will be asked to kick in again?

Excuse me, but the higher unemployment and poverty rates are on Mr. Barry’s side of the Anacostia!

This may be hard to swallow, but D.C. isn’t a soccer town, and the fact that United puts on average only 14,000 butts in seats doesn’t explain why a red public cent is proposed being spent on a 20,000-seat stadium in a neighborhood where poor folks and overwhelming unemployed and underemployed are even being considered to benefit from a benefit agreement.

The folks who need help most are not part of this “community benefit package.”

And, most disturbing, they aren’t benefiting from their other new neighbors, the Nationals, either.

From the perspective of Mr. Barry’s side of the river, the only good thing will be the bright lights of stadium.

Deborah Simmons can be reached at [email protected]

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