Friday, October 8, 2004

Former D.C. Mayor Marion Barry yesterday thrust himself to the forefront of opposition to building a Major League Baseball stadium in Southeast, an area bordering the ward he likely will represent next year in the D.C. Council.

“I am working as hard as I can to kill this thing,” he said during an interview on WTOP radio.

Mr. Barry, who last month won the Democratic primary for the Ward 8 seat on the D.C. Council, said he would gladly foil Mayor Anthony A. Williams’ plans to publicly finance a $435 million ballpark along the Anacostia River.

The stadium-financing plan helped persuade baseball officials to relocate the Montreal Expos to the District. A tightly worded contract between baseball and city officials would void the Expos’ relocation if the council does not approve the waterfront ballpark location and a bond issue by Dec. 31.

“I have no problem taking credit for killing that [ballpark] deal,” said Mr. Barry, whose primary victory all but assures his election on Nov. 2. “I’d love to kill it. … Look at these raggedy schools you have around here. Put a gross-receipts [tax] on them to fix them up.”

If the city voids its contract with Major League Baseball, the Expos could be moved somewhere else in the country. But Mr. Barry said he is not a baseball foe.

“I want baseball here in Washington. I worked 10 years to get baseball here in Washington and gave up after a while,” he said. “[But] I am opposed to tax money being spent to build this baseball stadium.”

He said he is confident the city can renegotiate the deal.

Mr. Barry said he is plotting to repeal the stadium tax — a gross-receipts tax on multimillion-dollar businesses in the city — if the ballpark legislation is passed before he and two other stadium opponents join the council in January.

Currently, two council members staunchly oppose the stadium deal, David A. Catania, at-large independent, and Adrian M. Fenty, Ward 4 Democrat. In January, they likely will be joined by Mr. Barry, Kwame Brown, at-large Democrat, and Vincent C. Gray, Ward 7 Democrat, who won their Democratic primary races last month.

“There is a small chance that if we get on the council, we can repeal this tax,” Mr. Barry said.

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.

He repeatedly has said the stadium will not take “one dime” from city residents, and the team and its ballpark will bring money into the District.

The Williams administration selected a site near M and South Capitol streets for the ballpark, saying the facility will help spur an economic revival in an area currently dominated by warehouses, homosexual nightclubs and public housing.

Mr. Barry said he does not like the location because the waterfront property is too valuable to squander on a ballpark. He said the area would be better served by building moderately priced and affordable housing.

The former mayor suggested having the baseball team play at RFK Stadium on a permanent basis, or building a ballpark north of RFK.

Despite apparent majority support on the 13-member D.C. Council and an overwhelming desire among most residents to bring baseball back to the District after a 33-year absence, the stadium deal has prompted heated attacks from across the city.

A coalition calling itself No D.C. Taxes for Baseball, comprising more than 20 groups ranging from D.C. Action for Children to the New Black Panther Party, has staged demonstrations against the ballpark plan.

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