Thursday, May 29

DC THURSDAY

Watching the Fenty administration at work brings forth the idea that it might be cheaper for us to buy off our politicians rather than letting the local business community do the job. Here's how it might work: public campaign financing plus a guaranteed pension beginning when the pols leave office. For the mayor it might be a modest $500k a year, for the city council, let's say $250k. Of course, you lose it if it's found you've been working behind our backs. It sounds like a lot of money but if the mayor and every elected member of the council resigned right now to take the offer, it would cost under $4 million a year, less than half of Fenty's gift to Ford's Theater this year or 109 years of a baseball stadium.

You may think we're joking, but when you add in the baseball stadium and the proposed giveaway of $150 million to the DC United owners, you're talking about roughly $1350 for every man, woman and child in the city. That's high even by Richard Daley or James Curley standards.

And that's before you included the uncomputed value of the parkland the soccer team would get. . . Says Marc Fisher: Whoever pays, a decision to build at Poplar Point would represent another flip-flop on the part of the city. Less than six months ago, Fenty told me -- as he had assured environmentalists who were among his most avid supporters -- that Poplar Point was probably not a good place for a sports facility, that although it was important to keep United in the District, there were good alternative sites for a stadium. Poplar Point is a national park, a place of remarkable beauty that could become a gateway to the river, a gathering spot for recreation and exploration of nature. In this divided city, the notion that an irreplaceable riverfront park is the right place for a stadium development would never pass the laugh test over in the affluent, white part of town. Grab a chunk of Rock Creek Park for a stadium and massive parking lots? The ultimate nonstarter. But in poor, black Anacostia, all politicians and developers have to do is keep reciting a mantra of "jobs, jobs, jobs," and maybe they can get away with a land grab of the most cynical kind. Remember those numbers, though. A stadium that gets used maybe 30 times a year isn't going to spark development, and it certainly won't create many decent jobs."

On the other hand, city at least plans to spend $20 million for renovations at 11 athletic fields, including six at public schools, says the Post. "The fields will receive new turf, goal posts, press boxes, tracks, bleachers and lights. Improvements are planned for Anacostia, Cardozo, Eastern and Spingarn high schools; two elementary schools; four recreation centers; and the Benning Terrace field.

The American College of Sports Medicine has given DC fourth place in its list of fittest cites. Factors included "percentage of people who exercise regularly, maintain a healthy weight, eat the recommended daily servings of fruits and vegetables, have access to health care, have health insurance and don't smoke." Alcohol consumption and sanity were apparently not included.

Phil Mendelson is calling the mayor on his failure to follow the law and give the city council the sort of budget information it has gotten in the past. Fenty's submission, says Mendelson, omitted "important and necessary detail. Furthermore, requests for additional information, and even questions directed at Executive witnesses during oversight hearings, met with resistance or outright refusal."

The folks who live on Capitol Hill are not only getting the pleasure of added stadium parking, they're helping to pay for it. The city's new widely spaced pay to park meters have been installed in areas where parking used to be free after the business day but now charge up to midnight. The signage is awful and even the meter attendants don't seem to be sure what the rules are. Among those being hurt: businesses that rely on neighborhood clients after the evening rush.

Robin Diener of Save DC Libraries tells what's happening on the local library scene

Chris Johnson, Blade - The prospect of local gay couples marrying in California and returning to the District is not enough to convince Mayor Adrian Fenty to release a secret memo drafted for the previous mayor that reportedly details whether or not the city should recognize gay unions. Acting D.C. Attorney General Peter Nickles told the Blade that he has advised Fenty not to release the memo. "I've advised him that the Spagnoletti memo is outdated and that it ought not to be released," he said. . . Former D.C. Attorney General Robert Spagnoletti, who is gay, drafted the opinion under the administration of former D.C. Mayor Anthony Williams, who refused to release the memo. Fenty, while campaigning for mayor, promised to make the opinion public immediately upon taking office, but has yet to release the document. Anonymous sources have told the Blade the opinion states same-sex marriages would be recognized under D.C. law. Domestic partnerships are legal in the District.

Mike Debonis, City Paper Ward 6 Councilmember Tommy Wells. . . has long been one of the District's strongest opponents of charters, dating back to his stint on the Board of Education. He believes that these schools, which now number 55 in the District and serve more than 22,000 students, are poorly monitored and provide an uneven education to their own students while at the same time siphoning resources from the public schools. . . If the city essentially adopts seven Catholic schools as charters, it'll have to find $14 million in funding in the fiscal 2009 budget. "What do we do?" asks Wells. "Do we defund $14 million worth of D.C. Public Schools in order to do it? Where does that $14 million come from?. . . They're going to have to cut some service in District government in order to fund these private schools."

Ed Delaney, DC Watch If we're going by the estimates of the DC government, the [Nationals] should be drawing 38,000 this year but is in fact only drawing 29,151 per game over the first two months in its new ballpark. . . That figure is not only well below city government estimates, but ranks the city's attendance average seventeenth out of MLB's thirty teams, a worrisome sign for the team, since the lean months of August and September are yet to come and the team is not likely to be in the pennant race. Moreover, it stands to reason that many season ticket buyers who bought plans at the ballpark due to unknown demand and the potential for Redskins-like sellouts at a new ballpark, might now realize with the ballpark drawing under 75 percent capacity even during its honeymoon period that good seats figure to be available for the foreseeable future. Thus, the team could see a number of plans being downsized or given up entirely, as occurred after the inaugural season at RFK Stadium.

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