Tuesday, November 23, 2004

Opponents to D.C. Mayor Anthony A. William’s plan for a publicly financed baseball stadium in Southeast said yesterday they will not quit, al though their efforts are becoming as ineffective as those of the protester at the announcement of team’s name on Monday.

Ed Lazere of the No D.C. Taxes for Baseball group said members will continue to fight, although the mayor appears to have more than enough votes to pass legislation for a $435.2 million ballpark.

“We are not giving up, because we think there is enough negative information out there and enough negative reaction to that information that we still think anything is possible,” Mr. Lazere said.

His comments come one day after Adam Eidinger disrupted a press conference on Monday at Union Station in which city and team officials announced that the name of the city’s new team will be the Washington Nationals.

Mr. Eidinger, a member of the D.C. Statehood Green Party, jumped on stage with a sign reading: “Stop the $614 million stadium giveaway.” He shouted at the crowd: “This is a bad deal, people.”

Sports announcer Charlie Brotman, 76, nearlytoppled the lectern when he tried to drag Mr. Eidinger from the stage. Police promptly subdued Mr. Eidinger, and the festivities resumed.

Mr. Eidinger was not charged with a crime.

The ruckus over Mr. Williams’ plan to publicly finance the stadium likely will continue from the first D.C. Council vote on Tuesday until the final vote scheduled for Dec. 14.

Ralph Nader, consumer advocate and former independent presidential candidate, yesterday sent council members a letter urging them to conduct an independent analysis of the stadium costs before voting on the legislation.

“The D.C. Council should be able to do better than the mess Mayor Williams left you with,” Mr. Nader wrote. “Baseball owners can invest their own money in a new stadium if they see market opportunities.”

Supporters of the stadium plans say that no tax money is being diverted from other programs and that a Nationals ballpark will spur an economic renaissance in the depressed neighborhood surrounding South Capitol Street and along the Anacostia River waterfront.

Mr. Lazere said his coalition will continue to hound council members, reiterating that the mayor gave away too much to lure a baseball team to the city. The city ends up with little more than rent for the stadium, he said, and the team gets all the money generated by baseball.

“When you say those things to a public forum or to a council member, it raises concern or even outrage,” Mr. Lazere said. “These are arguments that resonate and have resonated over the past months.”

Through protests and an aggressive media campaign, Mr. Lazere and other ballpark opponents succeeded in turning many residents against the public-financing plan. But they failed to erode majority support on the D.C. Council.

Mr. Lazere said the group will target its final lobbying push at council members sympathetic to their cause.

Mr. Williams, a Democrat, remains confident that seven of the council’s 13 members support his plan, which would pay off as much as $500 million in stadium bonds with rent payments from the team owners, taxes on ballpark goods and a new tax on multimillion-dollar businesses.

Before council Chairman Linda W. Cropp unexpectedly stopped a vote on the plan earlier this month, the mayor had lined up a slim majority to pass the legislation. Supporters are Democratic members Sandy Allen, Sharon Ambrose, Harold Brazil, Kevin P. Chavous, Jack Evans, Jim Graham and Vincent B. Orange Sr.

Still, the Williams administration continues to shore up support.

“We are not sitting on our hands,” said city spokesman Chris Bender. “The discussions continue. I think people have for the most part staked out where they stand on this issue. I’m not necessarily sure anyone is going to move very much.”

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