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EARLIER STORIES

FEBRUARY 2007

SUITEHEART DEAL FOR CITY POLITICIANS SHOULD BE AGAINST LAW

ONCE AGAIN THE POST has told its readers that its readers that Abe Pollin built the downtown arena with "with private financing." We quoted Tom Sherwood on this misinformation the last time: "Whatever praise Abe Pollin deserves for bringing his team to dc, he did not do it alone. The city itself spent more than $100 million on infrastructure (including moving a Metro line) preparing the site for Abe, including removal of contaminated soil. The city also continues to this day to forgive property taxes on the arena for the portion of time that sports is played there (not sure how that is tallied), and the arena receives free extra police protection on game days, something the city often tries to get little neighborhood groups to pay for at their little events."

Now Pollin wants $50 million more and he's willing to give the city's pols their own "rent-free, 24-seat luxury suite, which includes a private bathroom, two TVs, a refrigerator, a food service area and an unobstructed view of the arena floor." In defense of this outrage, Jack Evans "said the city government has a box that seats at least 40 people at RFK Stadium, where the Washington Nationals play. The box is controlled by the D.C. Sports and Entertainment Commission. The city will get a box at the publicly funded baseball stadium in Southeast Washington when it opens next year."

Some sharp lawyer ought to check out whether such near-bribes can be challenged in court. At the very least no elected official or any official with any connection or responsibility for the arena should be allowed to use the suite. If it is illegal for contractors to give kickbacks to city officials, it should be illegal for the owner to do so, either.

PROGRESSIVE REVIEW, 2002 - The tax giveaways to Abe Pollin and company for the MCI Center represents more than half of all the money spent on CDC in the past decade. Now - according to the fraudulent bookkeeping used by the city and accepted by the Post - the fact that the new arena would provide new taxes makes it all even. But there's another way of looking at it: what the city is really doing is paying Abe Pollin's taxes for the next two decades. To test it out, ask your city council member how much the city is willing to pay you if you buy a new house.

These giveaways are far from unique to Washington. By Senator Arlen Specter's calculation, American citizens have given $7 billion to sports magnates in order to build new homes for 41 professional sports teams. He has called it "legalized extortion." But the Post and the city government think it's wonderful and never tell the taxpayers that they have paid an average of $230 each into Abe Pollin's business accounts.

Ironically, the final negotiations for the MCI Center the Post loves so much were carried out by none other than the purportedly corrupt and incompetent Robert Moore, now being excoriated for his CDC role. While the Post's Metro editor might not remember this, reporter Yolanda Woodlee should, for she worked on both stories.

And sports magnates are not the only ones involved in legalized extortion. About 500 bonds worth $4 billion a year are floated annually around the country in covert payoffs to developers known as tax-increment financing. These bonds are paid off by the development's taxes; in other words the citizen taxpayers pay the developer's taxes which otherwise could be used for such things as schools and health centers. Of course, the developers say that they wouldn't have built without the incentive. You try that for yourself on your city council member and see how far you get. On second thought, maybe you better not. It might be illegal.

But in big business, it's all different. Here's a Post lead from October 9, 1999: "Real estate developer Herbert Miller has just about everything lined up for his new $180 million Gallery Place project next to the MCI Center . . . But one not-so-small detail is missing: Miller wants $44 million from the District government and he wants it soon." Well, there goes another $170 from each taxpayer.

TIFs could be more supportable if, say, the city became an equity partner in the projects but that wouldn't be permitted because offends the business community's perverted sense of free enterprise. How taxpayer subsidies fit into free enterprise remains one of the great mysteries of economics.

In any case, people like Robert Moore - to borrow a phrase from the drug world - are just the mules of urban corruption. The real action is elsewhere.

PROGRESSIVE REVIEW, 2002 - The Washington Post, which likes to sniff pompously at any hint of poor deportment elsewhere in the world of journalism, is happily promoting the sports arena scheme of its de facto non-profit subsidiary, the Federal City Council, with all the gusto of a third rate daily boosting some new real estate development. Unfortunately, it turns out that the Washington Times also has a tad of a conflict of interest, what with a building near the proposed arena being owned by a spin-off of the Unification Church. Meanwhile, DC readers are being consistently misled and uninformed about the downside of the project. For example, both papers only just admitted that the arena -- supposedly to be paid for by developer Abe Pollin -- will actually cost the taxpayer's money after all -- anywhere from $50 million to $70 million. That's enough to provide $2 million worth of recreation facilities in each of the city's 36 neighborhood commission areas. . .

PROGRESSIVE REVIEW, 1998 - THE MPD [is] hitting up the Georgia Day and Latino Festival organizers for exorbitant overtime fees while absorbing $800,000 in overtime for events at the Abe Pollin Mausoleum.

JANUARY 2007

WASHINGTON TIMES EDITORIAL - The Anacostia Waterfront Corp. will hold a public hearing Saturday at Ballou Senior High in Southeast to discuss the proposed Poplar Point stadium for Washington's D.C. United soccer club. . . he proposals are not so different from those in Major League Baseball's stadium boondoggle. The likely largesse is different -- a land transfer in lieu of the outright subsidy the city gave organized baseball -- and the scope will probably be smaller. But here we go again. This is a sweetheart deal for wealthy sports magnates worth tens and possibly hundreds of millions of dollars. D.C. United's new ownership will pay construction costs for the $150 million, 27,000-seat stadium in exchange for development rights to a portion of the 110-acre Poplar Point land parcel the U.S. Park Service transferred to the District last month. That land was not free: The city exchanged a series of properties elsewhere in the city, a deal which the feds considered sufficiently fair and both Congress and the White House approved. Its fair-market value is in the range of tens of millions of dollars. But under the reported terms of the deal it would be effectively granted free to an ownership group whose chief, real-estate millionaire Victor B. MacFarlane, lives in a $30 million San Francisco penthouse. . . A land swap is no less egregious than the unfortunate city funding of the Anacostia stadium for the Washington Nationals.

FOUL BALLS

GARY INHOFF - The next massive fleecing of the people will be another big stadium giveaway, a government financed and underwritten stadium for the new owners of the DC United soccer team . . . In the wake of the public's outcry over the wasteful and massive giveaway of the baseball stadium, there will be some delay as city officials figure out how to hide the subsidies and pretend that the city isn't giving them a massive amount of land for and around the stadium and also paying the construction costs.

http://dcwatch.com

MARC FISHER, WASHINGTON POST - [Dan] Snyder and D.C. United's owners realize the District is in neither the mood nor the condition to pay for more temples of professional sports. . . So the soccer and football concepts are structured in a new way: The team owners would pay all or nearly all stadium costs in exchange for the right to develop adjacent land with hotels, retail and housing. The city can say that it's getting free stadiums, and the team owners can win control of -- and massive profits from -- choice real estate. . . The bottom line, however, is that this kind of giveaway is no more fair to the taxpayer than the baseball deal. As expensive and messy as that process was, at least it involved some competition for the rights to develop the area around the ballpark. In a perfect world, baseball's owners should have footed the cost of the stadium.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/01/10/AR2007011002496.html?nav=rss_opinion/columns

WASHINGTON POST - MacFarlane has recruited several former D.C. government heavy-hitters to work for the D.C. office of MacFarlane Partners, his real estate management firm. Linda Greene, who served as chief of staff for council member Marion Barry (D-Ward 8), is vice president for community affairs and public relations. Dana Bryson, who was chief of staff to former city administrator Robert C. Bobb, is vice president for business development. Now, MacFarlane is wooing Bobb, who was recently installed as president of the D.C. Board of Education, a part-time job that pays $16,000 a year. Bobb's expertise in city matters would presumably be helpful for MacFarlane, who is bidding to build a soccer stadium, along with residential and commercial development, on part of the 100-acre site known as Poplar Point. When reached by telephone, Bobb said he is considering several options and declined to elaborate. But Julie Chase, a MacFarlane company spokeswoman, said: "It's fair to say Bobb has every intention of joining the firm, but it has not been defined what role he would play."

SEPTEMBER 2006

WE WEREN'T EXPECTING THIS STORY UNTIL NEXT YEAR

THOMAS HEATH WASHINGTON POST - Faced with sluggish attendance and a last-place team, the incoming owners of the Washington Nationals said yesterday they will reduce the price of 2,000 upper-deck seats, some to as low as $3 each, and cut the cost of some refreshments in an effort to attract more fans. . . The family of Theodore N. Lerner is paying Major League Baseball $450 million for the Nationals, whose attendance ranks 18th in the league this season at 26,506 per game. The number of people actually in the seats has been fewer because of no-shows. The team has seen its season ticket sales decline 5,000 from last year. . . The team drew only 23,118 on July 4 -- one of the lowest totals in the league this year on what is traditionally one of the biggest attendance days after Opening Day -- compared with 44,331 on July 4 last year. USA TODAY

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/07/10/AR2006071000696.html?nav=rss_business

AUGUST 2006

DC TAXPAYERS BEING RIPPED OFF BY BASEBALL CORPORADOS MORE THAN ANY OTHER CITY

WASHINGTON TIMES - This week, the New York Yankees broke ground on a privately owned $1 billion stadium next to "the House that Ruth built." By Washington's standards, it makes Gotham City look thrifty and taxpayer-friendly. New York residents will bear about 20 percent of the cost, or somewhere over $200 million counting infrastructure improvements, whereas Washington taxpayers will foot the full cost of the $611 million Anacostia waterfront stadium and possibly more if the Nationals' ploy to hand the city the overruns succeeds (the tally is likely to be over $700 million. . . Since 2000, seven new Major League Baseball stadiums have been christened, and all the deals were more favorable than Washington's. All took place in smaller and less affluent cities. In 2000, three stadiums averaging about 67 percent public financing opened: Detroit's $300 million Comerica Park (38 percent taxpayer-financed); Houston's $250 million Minute Maid Park (then called Enron Field), which cost taxpayers $180 million or 68 percent; and San Francisco's $357 million AT&T Park stadium (formerly called PacBell Park and then SBC Park), which was financed almost entirely by private sources. In 2001, 75.5 percent of Milwaukee's $400 million Miller Park was financed by taxpayers and all of Pittsburgh's $262 million city-owned PNC Park was footed by the same. The year 2003 brought Cincinnati's $ 325 million Great American Ballpark (86 percent publicly financed). Finally in 2004 Philadelphia covered just over half the cost of the $346 million Citizens Bank Park. Now a $1 billion stadium in New York is under construction with about 20 percent public financing. New Yorkers have decried the $200 million-plus in public contributions as corporate welfare, which it is. But compared to Washington, which will be bilked for $611 million and possibly more, New York comes off looking nearly wise.

http://www.washingtontimes.com/op-ed/20060818-091842-8694r.htm

MAY 2006

THE CULTURE OF IMPUNITY

WOULD SOMEONE PLEASE REMIND US why we're meant to get excited about one of the wealthiest men in the area getting a $600 million taxpayer subsidy so he and his buddies can fill their pockets and fulfill their jock dreams?

Theodore Learner's company has built over 22,000 homes, owns some 6,000 apartments, owns and manages 20 million square feet of commercial and retail space including White Flint and Tyson's Corner and Lerner himself has a piece of the Capitals and the Wizards as well as the complex that was formerly MCI Center.

In the Post's four pages of coverage of this gift to a man who once made Forbes list of the wealthiest Americans was not the slightest hint that some in this fair city might find this deal repulsive and sick.

APRIL 2006

THE BAD ECONOMICS OF STADIUMS

DRAKE BENNETT, BOSTON GLOBE - The most recent ballpark to be built, St. Louis's new Busch Stadium, was paid for almost entirely by the Cardinals after city and state officials refused to commit public funds. A proposed Manhattan stadium for the New York Jets died last year when the state government refused to chip in the asked-for $300 million. The political battle over the funding of Miller Park, in Milwaukee, was so vitriolic that former Wisconsin governor Tommy Thompson refused to set foot in it for years after it was built.

This new skepticism of public sports team funding is thanks in part to a small community of economists who have taken up and methodically rejected many of the claims made about the economic benefits of major league sports teams: that they create jobs or bring money to local businesses or otherwise spur economic growth. ''Generally speaking," says Andrew Zimbalist, a professor at Smith College and a leading sports economist, ''the independent research suggests that we can't anticipate any economic impact" from sports teams and stadiums.

Still, despite wide unanimity on this point among economists, not even the harshest critics of sports team subsidies believe the practice is in danger of extinction. Less than two weeks ago, Washington, D.C., agreed to pay an unprecedented $611 million to build the Washington Nationals a baseball stadium, raising again the question of why it is we're so willing to throw money at our hometown heroes. . .

WHEN A TEAM WANTS money, and it's usually money for a new stadium, it commissions an economic impact study. The predicted economic impact tends to be dramatic. The study the accounting firm Ernst & Young did for the proposed New York Jets stadium in Manhattan predicted that it would bring in $72.5 million in additional annual tax revenue. A similar study by the consulting firm Economics Research Associates, ERA, calculated that the new Dallas Cowboys stadium in Arlington, Texas, due to open in 2009, will add between $12.48 billion and $27.65 billion to the county economy over an estimated 30-year lifespan.

Independent economists dismiss these numbers. Much of the envisioned economic impact, they argue, comes from the money spent by fans, either on tickets or concessions or in nearby restaurants, hotels, souvenir shops, and the like. The problem with this argument, economists say, is that most families, whether they keep a budget or not, spend a finite amount of money on entertainment. As Vanderbilt University economist John Siegfried puts it, ''What are people going to with their money if they don't spend it on the Red Sox, flush it down the toilet? No, they'll spend it on something else: books, maybe, or bowling, things that Boston would benefit just as much from."

As for new jobs, sports teams and their stadiums do create them, but remarkably inefficiently, according to Roger Noll, an economics professor at Stanford University and co-editor, with Zimbalist, of ''Sports, Jobs, and Taxes" (1997), one of the most comprehensive works on the public funding of sports. In Baltimore, he says, the cost per job created by Camden Yards was $125,000, whereas for the city's other urban redevelopment programs it was $6,000 per job. And $125,000, according to Noll, is actually pretty efficient for a sports stadium.

University of Chicago economist Allen Sanderson puts it another way. ''Cities would be better off," he says, ''if the mayor were to go up in a helicopter and dump out $100,000."

The jobs stadiums do create are mostly part time-baseball stadiums tend to be used only 81 times a year, football stadiums eight times a year (a few more if they host concerts and conventions)-and low wage: parking lot attendants, security guards, ticket-takers, and vendors.

Of course, a few people in a sports organization are handsomely compensated: the owners and players, who receive the bulk of a team's earnings. This tends to do the local economy little good, however. Many owners and players don't even live in their team's home city (Vanderbilt's Siegfried has found that only 29 percent of National Basketball Association players live near the city where they play), and even when they do, they tend, like most wealthy people, to save or invest most of their earnings rather than spread them around to local businesses. . .

http://www.boston.com/news/globe/ideas/articles/2006/03/19/ballpark_figures?mode=PF

FEBRUARY 2006

WHY YOU DON'T WANT FRED MALEK RUNNING YOUR BASEBALL TEAM

CITY CAVES TO BASEBALL MOGULS

ADRIAN FENTY is the big political winner in this disaster, along with at large candidates Phil Mendelson and David Cantania. Graham didn't have to win since he's not at risk but he might be encouraged now to run for city council chair against Kathy Patterson who went along with the charade. Recent DC elections have been driven mainly by money, thus toadying to big contributors has paid off. Fenty, however, has several advantages that might mitigate this, especially since he'll get plenty of money anyway:

- This may be a rare local election where generational factors will make a difference. Fenty appeals to the growing younger constituency.

- Fenty has locked up just about everyone of whatever age who is mad with the way things have been going in some manner.

- The baseball stadium is, among other things, an attack on a key gay entertainment district and, consequently, an assault on a key active constituency.

WHERE DOES BASEBALL FIT INTO ALL THIS? For one thing, the archaic wing of local politics has probably overestimated the appeal of professional sports - and baseball in particular - to both the city's new gentry as well as to longer time black residents. Surveys suggest the latter strongly prefer football and city officials need to look no further than head urban narcissist Richard Florida to find out what their beloved, if absurdly named, 'creative class' thinks.

A study by Nadav Enbar argues that "in evaluating sports amenities, Florida virtually rules out spectator sports as true catalysts of urban development, reasoning that while they arguably add to an areas overall appeal, they do not appeal to the right demographic. For Florida, the young, educated, tolerant, well-rounded, and active creative class eschews passive forms of leisure for a more participatory experience. his creative class, for instance, is less inclined to spend three hours in a major league baseball stadium sitting in the bleachers drinking beer during a sunny afternoon when it could instead enjoy a more participative afternoon experience rollerblading, bicycling or playing baseball in a local park. . .

"Working class people defined as those employed in manufacturing, construction, production, maintenance, and repair, among other occupations spend much of their day engaged in physical labor and are inclined to relax during their time off by watching TV, movies, and attending spectator events. Meanwhile, creative work surrounding arts and entertainment, management and business, education and technology, and other professions, tends to be more intellectual and sedentary which, he reasons, leads members of the creative class to pursue physical activity such as cycling, rollerblading, and participatory activities to recharge and release. . .

"Still, Florida does not totally discount spectator sports, specifying that the creative class favors continuous action sports that are more packed with experience. Again, citing interviews, he explains that sports like basketball and hockey are more likely to draw the creative class because the games are action-packed and occur mostly during the cold winter evenings when there is less to sacrifice. Conversely, attending a baseball or football game during a summer or fall afternoon represents a much larger trade-off in opportunity cost and is less likely to be patronized."

In other words, two of the city's largest constituencies don't really care all that much about baseball. And it's probably not totally irrelevant that Fenty grew up in a family that sells gear to runners, bicyclists and swimmers.

There's another political problem with pushing baseball, described in a 2002 study prepared for the Jacksonville City Council:

"More than half of the attendance in major league team sports is accounted for by season ticket holders. In baseball, which attracts by far the largest number of fans, a team that sells two million tickets will draw fewer than 200,000 separate individuals. Thus, in the Bay Area, only about one person in seventeen will attend a professional baseball game during a normal year. This figure is high compared to the entire nation, where in a year about one person in 25 will attend a professional baseball game."

So baseball may not only be bad economics, it may be poor politics as well.

http://culturalpolicy.uchicago.edu/emergingscholarsconf04/papers/enbar.pdf

ANOTHER PROBLEM WITH BASEBALL

HERE'S ANOTHER PROBLEM with baseball in DC: a Harris poll finds baseball to be the top favorite sport of only 6% of blacks. In contrast, 47% list football as their favorite sport. Baseball is also losing popularity nationally; only 14% call it their favorite sport. That's an 18 point gap with football.


GARY IMHOFF, DC WATCH - Linda Cropp saved the public from watching the worst of the process by taking not just one, but two, recesses for the council to conduct, illegally, the public's business in secret. After the first lengthy recess, the council assembled to vote down the baseball lease by a vote of eight to five. That turned out to be a pro forma vote, held only to give four council members -- Barry, Brown, Gray, and Schwartz -- the opportunity to pretend that they lived up to their campaign promises and stated principles, to give them the chance to parody John Kerry's line by claiming that they were against the boondoggle before they were for it.

After that vote, Cropp ended the legislative session, and the council members gathered again in secret illegal session for the last round of horse-trading, arm twisting, bullying, and bribing, after which they emerged for an additional legislative session. At that late-night session, Cropp introduced a sham "cap," riddled with loopholes, on city expenses for the stadium. Barry, Brown, Gray, and Schwartz pretended to believe that the cap would really control city expenses, and testified about how the deal that was too bad and too expensive for them to support when it cost $535 million was so much better now that it cost a hundred million more. Why anyone would believe any of these four about anything in the future is beyond me. Amidst all our self-congratulation about how, at the very least, DC's politicians aren't corrupted by straight money bribes, this time next year let's remember to get together to review who has contributed to pay Marion Barry's legal defense and past due tax bills, and who has retained ex-Councilmember and losing mayoral candidate Vincent Orange to lobby his former colleagues.

RALPH NADER - Despite initial reports of a cap on city spending of $610.8 million, a major loophole renders this so-called cap meaningless. The legislation requires that, in the event of cost overruns, unidentified private and federal sources be tapped. Should nothing come of these unspecified sources, the DC taxpayers would again be responsible for costs above and beyond the $610.8 million, which the project will far surpass without the turning of a single shovel of dirt. The legislation passed by the DC Council fails even to require Major League Baseball to be responsible for cost overruns.

The request for more money from District taxpayers is inevitable as spending pressures mount and costs continue to escalate out of control. If construction begins, Mayor Williams, the DC Sports & Entertainment Commission, the team owners and others will come back to the DC Council with hat in hand, demanding funding beyond the $610.8 million. With the project underway and no committed sources for funding these further cost overruns, taxpayers would be forced to pay the open-ended costs.

COMMON DENOMINATOR - On the heels of this morning's D.C. City Council vote to approve a new stadium for the Washington Nationals, legislation that sought to allow nightclubs displaced from the ballpark site to relocate within the city has been withdrawn. Councilman Jim Graham, D-Ward 1, who cast one of four votes against the publicly funded stadium, announced this afternoon that D.C. law does not allow the council to overrule city zoning regulations, which was the intention of his legislative proposal. "For all practical purposes, this means once the District takes their land for the stadium, these businesses are out of business," said Graham, who chairs the council's Committee on Consumer and Regulatory Affairs.

Graham said that council members for the past year had been relying on incorrect information from the D.C. Office of Planning and the Anacostia Waterfront Corp., which led them to erroneously believe the nightclubs' liquor licenses could be transferred to other locations without requiring a lengthy public hearing process that does not guarantee approval of the relocation requests.

"In fact, there is nowhere in the District for them to move as a matter of right," Graham said. "The regulations say that the licensees can only move to the central business district and nearby streets, and then only with a special exception from the zoning board."

http://www.thecommondenominator.com/020806_update1.html

DC SCREWS UP HIGH SCHOOL SPORTS AS WELL AS MAJOR LEAGUES

D.C. politicians have virtually ignored high school sports for many years to the point where D.C. Public Schools' interscholastic athletics coaches often have needed to pull money out of their own pockets simply to ensure that their players have clean uniforms. . . Unfortunately, the politicians more focused on Major League Baseball than D.C.'s kids didn't do their homework before proposing their latest one-shot gimmick for "helping the children." Led by D.C. City Council Chairman and mayoral candidate Linda Cropp (a former school board president, who should know better) and Councilman Vincent Gray (Ward 7's first-term representative, who is being touted as a potential candidate to replace Cropp as chair), city leaders are pressuring the organizers of the annual City Title varsity basketball games to move this year's contests to what they consider a "prestigious" venue. Doing so will cost about $30,000, based on past events.

Two weeks ago, Cropp pledged $2,000 toward the effort and challenged others on the council to pitch in. Gray took up the gauntlet and, later in the week, said he had secured $25,000 in funding from the D.C. Children and Youth Investment Trust Corp., a nonprofit instrumentality funded primarily with D.C. tax dollars.

The plan currently calls for moving the games, in which the girls' and boys' championship teams from the D.C. public school and Catholic school leagues play each other, from Coolidge Senior High School's gymnasium on March 5 to George Washington University's Smith Center on March 14.

The problem? Nobody bothered to ask the organizers of the City Title games officials from the D.C. Interscholastic Athletic Association and the Washington Catholic Athletic Conference whether spending $30,000 to relocate makes any sense. . .

http://www.thecommondenominator.com/020606_edit.html

DC COURT OF APPEALS SAYS IT'S OKAY FOR MAYOR TO RIP OFF STADIUM SITE LANDOWNERS

DC EXAMINER - The D.C. Court of Appeals Thursday swept aside an adult entertainment magnate's suit challenging the city's plans to build a baseball stadium where his adult-themed fiefdom now sits. Robert Siegel, an Advisory Neighborhood commissioner and one of the largest landowners along South Capitol Street where the stadium would be built, challenged the city's eminent domain action by claiming the property value estimate of District Chief Financial Officer Natwar M. Gandhi was bogus. Led by Chief Judge Eric Washington, a three-judge panel of the court said Seigel's suit could be dismissed on technical grounds. But the judges went a step further, saying the courts can't second-guess the city on the accuracy of Gandhi's report. "We conclude that as a matter of law, the sole judges of whether or not the CFO's estimate was made in bad faith are the D.C. Council and the mayor," Washington wrote for the panel.

http://dcexaminer.com/articles/2006/02/10/news/d_c_news/94newsdc10domain.txt

MARK SEAGRAVES, WTOP - "Given the focus of the Council on enhancing revenue opportunities for the city and the legislation's overarching purpose to quickly and efficiently establish a site for a Major League team in the District, it is improbable that the Council intended to grant landowners the power to interfere with the economic development plans of the city by giving them the right to challenge the legitimacy of a reevaluation study," Chief Judge Eric T. Washington wrote.

http://www.wtop.com

EARLIER STORIES

ANOTHER PROBLEM WITH BASEBALL

HERE'S ANOTHER PROBLEM with baseball in DC: a Harris poll finds baseball to be the top favorite sport of only 6% of blacks. In contrast, 47% list football as their favorite sport. Baseball is also losing popularity nationally; only 14% call it their favorite sport. That's an 18 point gap with football

HOW TO REALLY HAVE ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT WITH BASEBALL

RALPH NADER, WASHINGTON POST, JANUARY 9, 2005 - If the District is absorbing most of the costs of attracting baseball to Washington, why shouldn't the District own the team? Consider the economics of the stadium deal. The District could spend as much as $631 million to build a stadium. The new owners of the baseball team will pay Major League Baseball about $300 million for the team, to be known as the Nationals -- a team the league acquired from its previous owner in 2002 for $120 million.

Control of the stadium and a huge chunk of the profits it generates -- concession sales, naming rights, parking revenue -- will go to the team's yet-to-be determined owners. Those owners also will enjoy the profits from ticket sales, merchandise and TV rights. Given the level of fan commitment to purchase season tickets, those profits could be munificent. A municipally or community-owned team could use these profits to cover the costs of a stadium -- including acquiring land, environmental cleanup, expanding Metro and construction. . .

The District could find the financing to buy the Nationals by selling 49 percent of shares publicly, as the Cleveland Indians baseball team and the Boston Celtics basketball team have done. The District also could float Class B stock or sell small-denomination -- of say, $100 -- bonds redeemable only for face value. The idea would be to tap into regional enthusiasm for baseball, and let the fans pay for -- and own a chunk of -- the team.

The Green Bay Packers -- one of the most venerated and successful teams in professional football -- is community-owned. The nonprofit Packers is financed through the issuance of stock, and more than 100,000 people own shares in the team.

Packers stock cannot be resold, except back to the team for a fraction of the original price. Limited transfer -- to heirs and relatives -- is allowed. No dividends are paid. To prevent any one person from gaining control, no one is allowed to own more than 200,000 of the more than 4.7 million shares of stock.

With similar municipal or community ownership, the Nationals' profits could be directed to paying off bonds floated to pay for the stadium. And Major League Baseball has ensured that the team will be profitable because its owners will capture so much of the revenue associated with the new ballpark.

Green Bay shows that structures can be put in place that lead to effective management by a publicly or community-owned team. The Packers' stockholders elect a board of directors, which elects an executive committee. That committee directs management, which handles the business of the team. . .

With municipal ownership, the District never again would face shakedown threats that the team would move unless some new demand from commercial ownership was satisfied. And the District would get back some financial return on the hundreds of millions it is preparing to pour into the stadium. A community-owned stadium still wouldn't be the smartest priority for a city with so many unmet needs, but it would be a lot better than the giant giveaway the District now plans.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A57857-2005Jan7.html

HOW THE MAYOR FOOLED THE COUNCIL ON THE STADIUM

[Buried in David Nakamura's summary of the stadium fiasco is a startling description of how casually the mayor's office came up with the early estimates of stadium costs and what was left out to mislead the council into thinking it would cost less than it really would]

DAVID NAKAMURA WASHINGTON POST - The deal was made official in a 70-page contract between the District and baseball officials known as the Baseball Stadium Agreement, which contained a $435.2 million budget. Stephen M. Green, a top mayoral adviser, developed the budget along with paid consultants who specialize in facility planning and construction, and received input from baseball's stadium consultants.

The budget, which included $244 million for materials and labor, was made over two years, starting in 2002, well before the city received a team or had any architectural designs. It was based largely on an analysis of other sports stadiums, Green has said.

In a memo dated Oct. 14, 2004, consultants stated that the District could expect to spend $232 per square foot for the stadium, comparable to ballparks in San Diego, Cincinnati, Detroit and Pittsburgh that ranged from $210 per square foot to $225. On virtually every aspect of the stadium, the consultants settled on an average cost and adjusted it for inflation and the D.C. construction market.

Green's budget, however, did not include money for upgrades to a nearby Metro station and roads or other infrastructure costs because a stadium site had not been selected, said a source who helped prepare the budget. The source, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the project is at a sensitive stage, said officials also added relatively small contingency costs because they knew it would be hard to persuade the council to approve a larger budget.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2005/12/10/A R2005121001278.html

FACTS DON'T SUPPORT BASEBALL ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT MYTH

DENNIS COATES, CATO - Supporters [of DC baseball] argue that this will bring economic development to D.C. That's gotta be worth something, right? Thomas Boswell, in a recent Washington Post column, suggest that the Mayor "promised baseball a sweet deal because he thought Washington would eventually get back far more in return." He points to construction that has already begun along South Capitol Street as evidence of the "return" on throwing taxpayer money at a multi-million dollar operation like MLB. For stadium supporters, no price will ever be too high for the promise of economic development.

But it's very unlikely that economic growth will occur as a result of building a stadium for the Nationals. Economist Brad Humphreys and I analyzed the impact of professional sports teams (football, basketball, and baseball) on economic growth of cities from 1969 to the present for the Cato Institute in 2004. After accounting for all the other factors that economic theory suggests will affect income and growth, the presence of professional sports has, in the best case scenario, no effect on economic growth. In the most likely scenario, professional sports actually reduce income per person and they have no effect on overall economic growth in a metropolitan area.

In fact, some sports insiders have acknowledged this. Jerry Bell, point man for the Minnesota Twins' attempt to get a new stadium, was quoted in the Minneapolis Star Tribune last June as saying of the argument that stadiums do not generate economic development, "At some global level they are obviously correct." He also said, "I don't think the economic argument turns it one way or another, so why go there? If there are side benefits, great. If not, so what?" Yet, D.C. has fallen for the myth. And the costs are going to be huge. Under the new agreement, Major League

o The presence of pro sports teams in the 37 metropolitan areas in our sample had no measurable positive impact on the overall growth rate of real per capita income in those areas.

o The presence of pro sports teams had a statistically significant negative impact on the level of real per capita income in our sample of metropolitan areas.

o The presence of pro sports teams had a statistically significant negative impact on the retail and services sectors of the local economy. The average effect on employment in the services sector of a city's economy was a net loss of 1,924 jobs as a result of the presence of a professional sports team.

o The presence of pro sports teams tended to raise wages in the hotels and other lodgings sector by about $10 per year. But it tended to reduce wages per worker in eating and drinking establishments by about $162 per year.

o The presence of pro sports teams tended to raise the wages of workers in the amusements and recreation sector by $490 per year. However, this sector includes the professional athletes whose annual salaries certainly raise the average salary in this sector by an enormous amount. As it turns out, those workers most closely connected with the sports environment who were not professional athletes saw little improvement in their

o Our research suggests that professional sports may actually be a drain on local economies rather than an engine of economic growth.

http://www.cato.org/pubs/briefs/bp89.pdf

HUGE CONFLICT OF INTEREST FOR BASEBALL NEGOTIATORS

JOHN HANRAHAN - The law firm of one of the city's top negotiators in the deal to bring Major League Baseball to the District of Columbia has MLB itself as one of its clients. Additionally, the law firms of two other top city negotiators have Major League teams as clients, according to the law firms' web sites. The city's top negotiators in the baseball deal (according to LegalTimes, December 19,) were Mark Tuohey, chairman of the DC Sports and Entertainment Commission and partner in Vinson & Elkins; William Hall, a Sports Commission board member and partner in Winston & Strawn; and W. Andrew Jack, of Covington & Burling. It should be emphasized that their law firms' web sites do not show Tuohey, Hall, or Jack personally representing MLB or any MLB team. But all three of their firms -- particularly Andrew Jack's Covington & Burling -- do have well-established ties to MLB.

These ties raise questions of appearances of conflicts of interest that need to be pursued by the press. Such scrutiny is especially needed given the yearlong concern of

Under the circumstances, just how hard a bargain did our negotiators drive?

[Material in quote marks comes from the various law firms' web sites):

Covington and Burling's Jeremy D. Spector's "representative clients in the sports world include the National Football League, Major League Baseball, the Boston Red Sox, the National Hockey League, the National Basketball Association, and the Arena Football League." Spector's "practice involves tax planning, IRS controversy work, and the structuring of corporate transactions, with particular emphasis in advising sports leagues and teams. . . ." Additionally, his "sports-related work encompasses such matters as the purchase and sale of sports franchises, public and private stadium financing, player compensation, and the treatment of sponsorship, licensing and broadcast agreements."

Covington & Burling's senior tax partner Andrew H. Friedman's "representative clients in professional sports include all four major leagues -- Major League Baseball . . . and professional sports clubs including the Boston Red Sox." Vinson & Elkins's Christopher A. Knepp, based in Austin, Texas, "represents management's interests in numerous major league baseball salary arbitration cases." I called Knepp and left a message asking which MLB organizations he represents, but as of this writing he has not called me back.

Winston & Strawn's M. Carter DeLorme, whose specialties include "union avoidance," has "represented Major League Baseball franchises in both a consulting and lead trial counsel role with respect to their player salary arbitration concerns." Also, Winston & Strawn's M. Finley Maxson's experience "has included transactions involving a major league baseball club. . . ." (It is unclear whether Maxson's client was a baseball club or a party in a dispute with the club.) And an American Bar Association on-line magazine reported, in an article on legal marketing, that Winston & Strawn some years ago made a "pitch [for] the business for Major League Baseball," but it is not stated whether that effort was successful.

johnhanrahan5@aol.com

THE NEW ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT

[If we get this right, we need a new baseball stadium in order to increase land values around the stadium so we can sell the land to pay for the new baseball stadium]

DAVID NAKAMURA AND THOMAS HEATH WASHINGTON POST - District officials are considering selling development rights on land adjacent to a baseball stadium to the Washington Nationals' new owner or development companies as a way to help cover potential cost overruns on the ballpark project, D.C. Council members said yesterday.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2005/12/27/AR2005122701221.html

FOUR GOOD REASONS TO MOVE THE STADIUM TO RFK

DEBBY HANRAHAN, DC STATEHOOD GREENS - Soaring stadium costs and MLB's greed have made it painfully obvious that the South Capitol Street site should be shelved in favor of a refurbished Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Stadium or a new stadium on a site near RFK. RFK would save $200 million or more, since it would have no land acquisition costs, and has existing parking lots that can accommodate 10,000 vehicles. Unlike South Capitol's tiny Metro stop, RFK has the much larger Stadium-Armory station that can handle larger crowds. Furthermore, the RFK site would not require the city to seize the businesses and residences of citizens by eminent domain to benefit the greed heads of MLB and the team's eventual billionaire owners."

DO YOU SEE A PATTERN HERE YET?

WASHINGTON POST EDITORIAL - The question of the hour is this: Why build a stadium that because of escalating costs will not deliver the enhanced facility and improved infrastructure as promised? The question is germane because the mayoral aides who negotiated the stadium agreement with Major League Baseball have not inspired great confidence in their budget projections. For instance, they estimated that the 41,000-seat stadium would cost $395 million, but they included no money for infrastructure in expectation that Metro and the federal government would pick up the tab for those expensive improvements. It turns out that the city's chief financial officer, Natwar M. Gandhi, had to raise their estimate to include infrastructure costs, based on the realistic assessment that the federal government and Metro were unlikely to carry the District's water on the stadium. The same team that produced the unrealistic budget also chose an architectural team whose stadium design sent costs soaring from $244 million to $337 million. Finally, as predicted by D.C. Council member David A. Catania (I-At Large), a critic of the stadium plan, land costs have turned out to be $70 million more than city financial experts projected. To make the numbers fit under the $535 million ceiling set by the council, city aides are cutting corners on the original plans

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2005/11/21/AR2005112101305.html

WASHINGTON TIMES EDITORIAL - As Neil deMaus of Baseball Prospectus pointed out earlier this year, private companies are paying for three-quarters of the new $387 million Busch Stadium the St. Louis Cardinals expect to use in 2006. The figures for stadiums in San Diego and Philadelphia that opened in 2004 were two-thirds of $449 million and half of $458 million, respectively. But for the Washington Nationals, just over one-tenth of the $550 million cost will be private. The city will handle the rest. So Washington's stadium deal -- a deal in a much more promising market than any of the above -- works heavily in MLB's favor, and against a decade's precedent in stadium finance.

http://www.washingtontimes.com/op-ed/20051119-111339-4562r.htm

THINK TANK QUESTIONS STADIUM FINANCING PLAN

[Nice to the have the DC Fiscal Policy Institute join this lonely journal on this matter, albeit for different reasons. Our complaint with the sweetheart deal is the Deutsche Bank gets a guaranteed comfortable return on its money come hell, high water, a terrorist attack or sale of the ball club, while the city takes all the risk]

DAVID NAKAMURA WASHINGTON POST - A private financing plan being used by the District to help pay for a new baseball stadium project has the potential to cost city taxpayers nearly $60 million in lost revenue. . . The study by the DC Fiscal Policy Institute, a nonprofit liberal think tank, determined that by using private money, the city will in effect take six years longer to pay off the stadium debt -- 25 years instead of 19. During that time, businesses will contribute $60 million less -- adjusted to today's dollars -- toward the debt. Instead the city will rely more heavily on the other revenue sources, including a 1 percent utility tax on businesses and federal buildings and the $246 million from Deutsche Bank.

WASHINGTON RHUBARBS RUN INTO MORE PROBLEMS

[To summarize: the mayor gets a free trip to London thanks to an affiliate of the bank with whom he's struck a sweetheart deal far better for the bankers than anything the city's been able to get out of Major League Baseball. And among the frontrunners for ownership of the Washington Rhubarbs: a group that includes Fred Malek - once known as the man who helped Nixon get rid of Jews in the government - Franklin Raines, the guy who screwed up Fannie Mae (with help, incidentally, from Fred Malek). Oh yes, there's also Vernon Jordan, late of the Clinton scandals. As Marc Fisher pointed out a few years ago: "Malek has the advantages of being hugely rich and hugely connected in both business and politics, including having been co-owner of the Texas Rangers along with President Bush. But Malek is also the guy who did Dick Nixon's anti-Semitic bidding back in 1971, when the unimpeached co-conspirator ordered up a list of members of the 'Jewish cabal' who worked at the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Malek, the good soldier, produced the list, and soon enough, some of those Jews found themselves transferred. Malek says that he's no anti-Semite and that he actually refused Nixon's first few requests to produce the list. Maybe in his book that's backbone, but he has no business representing this city in any capacity." And Bud Selig continues to toy with his new colony: Washington DC]

DAVID NAKAMURA AND THOMAS HEATH WASHINGTON POST - Major League Baseball is resisting the District's demand for a guarantee of $6 million in annual rent at a new ballpark, an issue that has bogged down negotiations over a stadium lease, held up the sale of the Washington Nationals and left city officials increasingly frustrated. MLB President Robert A. DuPuy said later in an e-mail that the lease "remains a troublesome topic, and one which needs to get resolved.". . .

Nationals manager Frank Robinson complained this week that his team is unable to sign top free agents in the off-season without an owner in place. And with the city paying for most of the $535 million stadium project with public money, D.C. officials said they are eager to see an owner named, particularly a local one, to help them win more support from stadium skeptics.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2005/11/11/AR2005111101958.html

THOMAS HEATH WASHINGTON POST - Venture capitalist Frederic V. Malek appears to have done all the right things in assembling a group of 14 fellow investors to purchase the Washington Nationals. He recruited rock-star names such as former secretary of state Colin L. Powell and Wall Street banker Vernon E. Jordan Jr. He won the backing of D.C. Mayor Anthony A. Williams. And he elevated local business wunderkind Jeffrey D. Zients from an investor in the group to a partner in charge of its day-to-day operations.

But as Major League Baseball nears a decision on who will be the team's next owner, Malek's front-runner status also has a downside. Some involved in the sale process quietly suspect the Malek-Zients team of orchestrating media and political attacks against fellow bidders. These include sowing doubt about the reliability of Indianapolis media mogul Jeff Smulyan, a past owner of the Seattle Mariners, and Washington entrepreneur Jon Ledecky, whose partnership with billionaire George Soros drew criticism from leading Republicans on Capitol Hill.

The suspicions ran deeply enough that Commissioner of Baseball Bud Selig alluded to the matter during an interview with Malek and Zients two weeks ago at Selig's office in Milwaukee, according to sources familiar with the meeting. Malek and Zients declined to comment on the meeting. The Malek-Zients group denies it has sought to undermine any bidders, and there is no public evidence that it did.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2005/11/11/AR2005111101679.html

COMMON DENOMINATOR - An affiliate of Deutsche Bank, the German financial institution that wants to help finance a new stadium for the Washington Nationals, is picking up the tab for Mayor Anthony A. Williams' four-day trip to London to participate in an urban planning conference. . . Mayor Williams traveled to New York City in February, also at the conference sponsors' expense, to participate in the opening session of the series. . .

In January, Deutsche Bank was among companies that presented private financing proposals for a new stadium. The city council, at Chairman Cropp's urging, required the Williams administration and Chief Financial Officer Natwar Gandhi to investigate private financing options when it voted late last year to approve the mayor's deal with Major League Baseball officials, which relocated the former Montreal Expos franchise to Washington.

Deutsche Bank's financing proposal, favored by Mayor Williams, would provide the city with $246 million in cash toward the estimated $535 million cost of building a new stadium near the Washington Navy Yard to replace Robert F. Kennedy Stadium. While the plan would decrease the city's need for traditional bond financing, critics of the deal argue that the bank's plan would result in greater long-term costs for D.C. taxpayers to retire the total debt -- estimated to reach about $1 billion, including financing charges, before the stadium construction is paid off.

http://www.thecommondenominator.com/111005_update1.html

TOM BOSWELL, WASHINGTON POST - So far, it's been promises, promises from Commissioner Bud Selig, who has yet to name a Nationals owner. Selig and MLB don't appear to be in a hurry to find the Nats an owner. Just three years ago, if baseball had auctioned off the Montreal Expos, it would have been lucky to get $100 million. Now, Washington has a billion dollars on the table with baseball's name on it, free and clear, for the same ex-Expos. That's $450 million to buy the Nationals and about $550 million to build a new stadium for the team, not one cent of it provided by baseball or the team's eventual owner. Just a clean, round number: a billion dollars invested in the baseball industry.

In return, what does the city and team ask? Not much, just an owner, like every other franchise, so the club can begin to compete on a level playing field. And what does baseball do, over and over? Promise and renege, promise and renege.

The Nats were told they'd have an owner by January, then by the all-star break in July, then before the end of the season in September and then at the owners' meetings next week. Now, Commissioner of Baseball Bug Selig says it won't be next week, after all.

Selig's excuse is that he has only interviewed five of the eight potential ownership groups. What's the problem? Can't fit eight lunches into 365 days? Does somebody need a desk calendar for his birthday?

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2005/11/10/AR2005111002315.html

ANNYS SHIN WASHINGTON POST - Fannie Mae yesterday disclosed additional accounting errors, adding to the list of problems the mortgage finance company must sort through as it tries to untangle a nearly $11 billion financial scandal that came to light last year. . . Fannie Mae's accounting scandal led to the ouster of chief executive Franklin D. Raines and chief financial officer J. Timothy Howard . . . Fannie Mae's board is turning over as well. Thayer Capital Partners Chairman Frederick V. Malek plans to retire from the board at the end of the year, the company said.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2005/11/10/AR2005111000459.html

DULLEST STORY OF THE DAY: STADIUM COSTS MOUNTING

DAVID NAKAMURA WASHINGTON POST - The rising price of construction materials has significantly increased the projected cost of the District's baseball stadium complex, prompting officials to begin discussing what to eliminate from the project, city leaders said yesterday. Officials declined to say how much more the $535 million project would cost under their most recent analysis, which was conducted by the D.C. Sports and Entertainment Commission. But they said potential cutbacks could come from features inside or outside the ballpark, such as reducing the size of concourses, suites and other amenities or moving parking above ground and reducing the number of retail stores at the site. "We'll have to reduce some things and not be able to do a Cadillac stadium, but we could do a Buick or a Ford," D.C. Council Chairman Linda W. Cropp (D) said at the council's monthly legislative meeting. . .

Yesterday, Catania challenged Cropp, arguing that the council had approved the stadium package last year after being told that the city needed a state-of-the-art ballpark to replace 44-year-old Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Stadium. "If we want a Buick, we have one -- it's called RFK," said Catania, who voted against the financing package last year.

DEVELOPER: CITY OFFICIALS TOLD HIM STADIUM COSTS MAY SOAR

THOMAS HEATH AND DAVID NAKAMURA WASHINGTON POST - Franklin L. Haney, a developer bidding to buy the Washington Nationals, pledged to pay potential cost overruns of up to $200 million for a new baseball stadium if he is awarded the team and the chance to buy land near the ballpark for private development.

The offer comes as Haney seeks to gain ground on the three front-runners for the team as the sale process by Major League Baseball enters the final stretch. Highly placed baseball sources have said the league could name a new owner within three weeks and have named two Washington-based groups, along with Indianapolis media mogul Jeffrey Smulyan, as the favorites. . .

Haney said he has been told by city officials that the costs of the publicly funded $535 million stadium project could soar because of several factors, including land values, the rising price of materials and construction delays. "All costs over or above the originally budgeted $535 million would be our responsibility," Haney wrote in a letter to Mayor Anthony A. Williams (D).

In an interview yesterday, Haney said that if the city sticks to its budget, the Nationals will end up with an inferior stadium, and fans will end up with a poor experience. "I was told that by city officials," he said. Haney declined to say which city officials he had spoken with. . .

Vince Morris, spokesman for Williams, said the mayor is not concerned. "We talked in detail about the stadium just the other day, and the conclusion is that we'll have a real nice stadium," Morris said. "There was some talk about how everything would be allocated but that we'll keep it to $535 million."

DC OUT OF STEP AS OTHER PLACES MOVE AGAINST LAND STEALS FOR PRIVATE INTERESTS

CLEVELAND PLAIN DEALER - A bill preventing cities from seizing unblighted land for economic development through 2006 cleared the state legislature easily, as lawmakers responded to public concern that a recent U.S. Supreme Court decision could make the practice widespread. . . Sponsored by State Sen. Tim Grendell, a Chester Township Republican, the legislation creates a 25-person task force to review Ohio's eminent domain laws in the wake of the high court's Kelo v. New London decision. . . .

Eminent domain has traditionally been reserved for such public purposes as roads, schools, military bases, highways or parks.
Lakewood, however, gained national attention two years ago when the city threatened to take land for building upscale housing and shops. The 20-acre project, which would have wiped out 700 apartments and 55 houses, collapsed when voters narrowly barred the use of eminent domain.. . .

Bert Gall, an attorney for the Washington, D.C.-based Institute for Justice, said the public outrage spawned by the Kelo decision has been so widespread that 36 states have introduced or intend to introduce legislation blocking eminent domain use that benefits private developers.

"If you look at the opinion polls, several pollsters have said they've seen nothing like the numbers in terms of how it's galvanized the public," he said. "It's united people on all parts of the political spectrum - conservatives, liberals, Republicans, Democrats. This decision literally touches home."

RALPH NADER SCORES NO HITTER AGAINST STADIUM LOBBY

[From a letter from Nader to the City Council]

RALPH NADER - From the beginning of this boondoggle, Major League Baseball has dictated terms for the stadium and the DC Council has failed to provide adequate oversight. Consequently, it's no surprise that the deal is changing to further maximize the profits of Major League Baseball, at the added expense to the District and its residents.

Too few questions were asked and too few specific answers were provided during Council hearings on the stadium proposal last year. And under pressure from the salesmen -- in this case Major League Baseball, the DC Sports and Entertainment Commission and Mayor Anthony Williams -- to immediately sign on the dotted line, the DC Council agreed to a bad deal for DC taxpayers. The stadium bill was hastily shoved through . . .

The Council's reluctance in representing the peoples' best interests through project oversight, after subordinating DC residents' life necessities to the avarice of a private, for-profit, monopoly entertainment corporation is indefensible. Without ensuring accountability to the citizens of the District of Columbia, the Council is allowing the incompetent DCSEC and city planners who are in charge of the stadium project to do even more damage behind closed doors. This situation invites Major League Baseball freeloaders and wealthy, opportunistic developers to manipulate terms and further profit at the expense of the under-represented District taxpayers.

The Council's committees generally responsible for oversight of the stadium project are chaired by members who unforgivably prioritized this corporate welfare development, against the will of the people, over investments in public education, public health, literacy, affordable housing and other long-suffering social services. Still, to sidestep accountability and avoid verifying costs for this continuously altered debacle is negligence and an insult to taxpaying residents. . .

Following, are just a few of the oversight points and questions that must be addressed publicly by the DC Council in the interest of the taxpaying residents of the District of Columbia:

1) When the Washington Redskins were attempting to site their new stadium next to RFK Stadium in 1993, the team's owner Jack Kent Cooke sought to handle the matter privately, hiring private entities that deemed the site to be environmentally sound. As part of this procedure, the District along with the National Park Service initially agreed to conduct a brief environmental assessment of the proposed site. However, community concern prompted both parties to undertake a more in-depth analysis by the NPS and the Environmental Protection Agency in the form of an environmental impact statement. The new study yielded a finding of lead contamination at the site, apparently placed in the ground by the Army Corps of Engineers during dredging of the Anacostia River. Remediation of the contamination was estimated at $8 million to $12 million.

The current stadium process has even more need for extensive environmental analysis given its proximity to the waterfront and the varied uses of the land - including industrial uses - in its history, yet no such thorough analysis has been completed despite the precedent established during the Redskins' stadium process. The people in charge of getting the stadium built may not be giving proper weight to the need to adequately examine the Anacostia waterfront site for environmental issues, especially since each remediation impacts the cost cap associated with the site. . .

The question is: Will the Council put the well-being of the citizens and the environment above the wishes of those who are continuing to fast-track the stadium in order to meet arbitrary time-lines and avoid cost caps and other overruns?

2) The DC Council needs to use its powers of oversight on the stadium to ensure that proposals that are completely contrary to the promises made by proponents of a subsidized stadium are disallowed. As reported by WTOP the DCSEC is attempting to circumvent DC Council oversight on terms for the stadium lease. The Washington Examiner reported that Major League Baseball is actually refusing to guarantee its stadium rent payments (an average of $6 million per year), the one and only revenue source promised that the team would have to provide every year they used the taxpayer-funded stadium. DCSEC Chairman Mark Touhey's attempt to keep private some contracts and documents pertaining to the stadium must be confronted head-on to ensure accountability on the final lease and stadium legislation.

Questions must also be answered regarding the planned 60 percent cutback of the promised Navy Yard Metro expansion, under pressure to cut corners to secure a qualifying estimate for stadium project costs from the Chief Financial Officer. This would eliminate the Metro expansion needed to ensure adequate service to baseball fans and would lead to a transportation nightmare before and after games.

The Washington Times reported that the DCSEC is now demanding above-ground parking for the stadium because below-ground parking would threaten the cost and time-line of the project and thereby threaten the workability of the current site. To do this, the DCSEC is attempting to change existing zoning laws against the wishes of the Anacostia Waterfront Corp. In addition, unnamed "city officials" who insist on below-ground parking, "are considering removing parking entirely from the cost of the stadium and paying for it separately, using tax-increment financing or other revenue streams." These issues demand scrutiny by the DC Council. All along, stadium project costs were all-inclusive, and parking was specifically designated as part of the project in every estimate.

Likewise, questions must be answered as to why, after years of promises as to superior fan-amenities in a new stadium, as opposed to those at RFK, plans now are to appease only the wealthiest few fans while most fans would likely have no better, if not worse, fan amenities at the new stadium than at the present RFK stadium.

As the Washington City Paper revealed, Major League Baseball has prevailed over the DCSEC's objections for a double-decked layer of luxury suites that will boost construction costs. An extra level can be built, explained DCSEC CEO Allen Lew, because of "certain changes that they made that reduce certain costs." In addition, the DCSEC is now indulging Major League Baseball with a 7,500 square-foot conference center and a 10,000 square-foot lounge for "Diamond Club" members, both of which were -- among other perks -- rejected in a February 28, 2005 memo from the DCSEC explaining that it "cannot agree to changes that would result in an increase in the project budget." Though the DCSEC again objected to the changes in a June 7 letter to the Nationals, months after final costs for the ballpark had been estimated by District Chief Financial Officer Natwar Gandhi, the changes have been implemented nonetheless with no proof that the budget would not change accordingly.

Such major changes warrant scrutiny over rising costs and what cuts (or additional changes) are being made to offset them. Thanks to the double-decked layer of luxury suites, fans are likely to have worse seats in the upper deck of the new stadium which would be 21 feet higher than those at RFK Stadium. And due to a reduction in the planned upper-deck seat widths for the new stadium, fans would be wedged into their 19-inch-wide seats as opposed to the seats at RFK which are 20-21 inches wide. "Planning documents," according to the City Paper, even call for non-refrigerated drinking fountains in the new stadium's public concourses, with only suite and club-seat fans enjoying cold drinking fountain water. Why are the taxpayers of DC paying the bills for all of this fan discomfort in a new stadium that would accommodate 5,000 fewer of them than RFK? These consumer-related changes are completely contrary to years of fan-amenity promises made by proponents of a subsidized stadium.

3) According to the Washington Post, the District's Director of Development Stephen Green said that "in making assessments, contractors hired by the District considered property values in other areas in the city because sale prices for the land around the stadium site had skyrocketed after the plans were unveiled. 'We looked at other locations where there was not as much speculation,' he said." Were this stadium being placed in an area that had no prospects for massive redevelopment without the stadium and would likely not see such development without the stadium, then the city's valuation approach would have been more legally justifiable and the results more legitimate.

However, the values of the properties in question would continue rising even without the stadium being placed there. Abandoned warehouses and industrial facilities near the current site are being replaced by massive office, retail, and residential projects in development speculation sparked by factors other than the stadium, the site of which was in question [as was the chance of getting a team in DC] and wasn't even announced until late last year. The size and scope of the SE Federal Center project combined with the Navy Yard and the new Department of Transportation headquarters have been the driving force for the extensive redevelopment that has been occurring and growing at the area surrounding the current stadium site before the stadium plan was announced. . .

Andy Altman, former director of the Office of Planning, said in these presentations that the area would be redeveloped and economically transformed "whether a ballpark is there or not," and excerpts from the site evaluation study confirm this opinion. In light of Director Green's recent comments, the Council must secure new valuations that do not tie the value entirely to the existence of the stadium but to the entire massive redevelopment and transformation of the area surrounding the current stadium site.

4) District CFO Natwar Gandhi developed an estimate for land acquisition, environmental remediation and infrastructure costs for the planned stadium site at the Anacostia waterfront well before accurate answers to those questions could be gathered. Because of the existing businesses and residences on the site in question, it was impossible to gauge if and when the city would be able to secure the properties -- and at what cost -- due to litigation concerning land values. It was also impossible to develop an accurate cost estimate for environmental remediation due to the extensive amount of analysis that would have to have been completed for this site with its proximity to the waterfront and its varied history of uses including industrial uses. . .

Given the promises of further lawsuits from landowners at the proposed site [Washington Post, September 25 and October 22, 2005] and the uncertainty that additional design issues and potential environmental issues present, no city official from the CFO to the head of the DCSEC [especially with its history of overspending and overruns] can verify the current cost estimate for the stadium, making the CFO's estimate meaningless as a gauge for assessing the workability of the site.

In the interest of obtaining the cost certainty that the current site cannot provide, the DC Council must seriously consider the RFK Stadium site, where most of the challenges facing the current site have been addressed or do not exist and the temptation to cater to cost and time constraints is greatly alleviated.

As reported in the Washington Post: "The bidding groups have been informally polled by baseball officials about their willingness to buy the team if a stadium is built near RFK Stadium, rather than near South Capitol Street and the Navy Yard along the Anacostia River, according to sources familiar with the process who asked not to be named because of the sensitive nature of the negotiations." Two (unnamed) potential ownership groups contacted by the Post "said they would still offer to pay $450 million for the team if the ballpark is constructed on another site."

The significance of Major League Baseball treating the Council's possible selection of the RFK site as a potential reality cannot be overemphasized. Despite the tough front put up by baseball officials, this indication that the sale price for the Nationals would be unaffected if the RFK site is chosen should put to rest any worries that a change in the stadium site would be a deal-breaker for Major League Baseball. This evidence, added to the growing problems and costs at the current site, should make a site relocation the only viable option.

Furthermore, any concerns by the Council that a change in site for the stadium would adversely affect developers in the area near the current site should be eased. On October 16, 2005 the Washington Post reported that "Rockville-based developer Ron Cohen, who recently paid $51 million for a city block at Half and K streets SE, a few blocks north of the stadium site, said he didn't think developers would be harmed if the site changed. 'The area has come into its own,' he said. 'Baseball gives it some identity, but with the Navy Yard down there, the [U.S. Department of Transportation], all the other office buildings along M Street and the waterfront redevelopment, they're not feeding off of the stadium. They're feeding off of commerce.'"

Instead, the Council should be concerned for the existing property owners of the current stadium site who stand to have their land taken from them by eminent domain. Such careless and needless disregard for the welfare of these people by the District government could be prevented by choosing the RFK site. It is an alternative that would also reduce costs to taxpayers, improve the timeline of the stadium project, offer public transit capable of handling game crowds, include known remediation cost, and even provide development opportunities.

If the DC Council cannot now find the motivation to publicly address the stadium project and its costs through oversight to ensure accountability, then shame on its members. The District can not benefit while its residents are taken advantage of in favor of autocratic corporate welfarists. This issue is not going to go away.

WORKING FOR PEANUTS

JEFF HORWITZ, CITY PAPER - Some of the jobs D.C. baseball brought to town didn't come with legal wages. Before city officials inked their deal with Major League Baseball, they argued that a franchise would bring jobs and economic-development opportunities to D.C. residents. Elijah Scriver, a 57-year-old District native and resident of the Community for Creative Non-Violence, the city's largest homeless shelter, is one beneficiary. He says he's worked at RFK Stadium four times, cleaning the stands after the last out.

"[T]hey work you like a slave," he says. "[Picking up trash] took me almost five hours of constantly bending. I must have filled up 10 bags of Miller Lite bottles." Scriver and two other CCNV residents say they were not given breaks during their shifts and were paid $7 an hour. It takes as many as 200 men and women to clean up after a sold-out Nationals game, wiping, sweeping, and power-washing away the mess of 48,000 fans.

Paying day-labor janitors at RFK in the $7 range runs afoul of federal law. The D.C. Sports and Entertainment Commission, which oversees events at RFK Stadium and the nearby D.C. Armory, acknowledged on May 3 that at least one of the companies supervising workers at RFK seems to be in violation of the McNamara-O'Hara Service Contract Act. The act guarantees the federally determined prevailing wage for all employees of federal and District government agencies and contractors. Labor lawyers Kerry O'Brien of the D.C. Employment Justice Center and Terry Yellig of Sherman, Dunn, Cohen, Leifer & Yellig were the first to contend that the act applied to cleanup jobs at RFK. For janitors, that mandatory wage is $10.12, and must be supplemented by a $2.59 health and welfare benefit.

http://www.washingtoncitypaper.com/special/wages050605.html

MORALE BOOSTING FUNNY FIGURES OF THE DAY

WASHINGTON BUSINESS JOURNAL - The foundation is floating a plan that calls for a 120,000-square-foot maritime museum surrounded by a retail and office development and possibly even a hotel. It would secure funds for the museum and hope that developers then put in money for the chance to be close the tourist attraction.

The museum would cost $50.7 million to develop, not including the land price - which could be significant. The Spirit of Enterprise would bring in $96.7 million to the city over a 10-year period, according to the Howard University Center for Urban Progress, which the foundation hired to do an economic impact study.

A replica of a 19th century tall ship [in the Anacostia River is going to generate almost $100 million for the city.]

"We're not sure what the development program is, so we can't comment on whether it's going to be a driver," says Uwe Brandes, a project manager with the Anacostia Waterfront Corp. "It's a base of uses like this that collectively are going to make the Anacostia a major destination in the city. It's just such a morale-booster. We're definitely in favor of it."

ECONOMIST: SPENDING MONEY ON SPORTS DOESN'T PAY

BETH KASSAB, ORLANDO SUN-SENTINEL - Spending state money on sports arenas or stadiums generates little or no financial benefit for the public, a Senate economist told lawmakers. "Every single study indicates that there is no positive economic benefit -- net positive economic benefit -- for publicly funding professional sports teams or stadiums," said Ross Fabricant, an economist who works for the Senate budget office.

Six cities, including Orlando and Daytona Beach, are asking for a combined $200 million to help build facilities for the Orlando Magic, NASCAR, Florida Marlins and three spring-training teams.

In a presentation to the Senate's committee on commerce and consumer services, Fabricant said his conclusions were based on 40 studies conducted throughout the country by independent analysts.

He said the bottom line is that whatever money is spent at a sporting event would likely be spent in that same city at another restaurant, show or other recreational event if the sports team didn't exist there.

Fabricant also disputed contentions that the facilities generate jobs, construction spending and other value to the community. He said residents would derive even more benefits if the state chose to spend money on other public projects such as schools or highways.

BUYING THE COUNCIL TO BUY A STADIUM
http://dcwatch.com

DOROTHY BRIZILL, DC WATCH - Some councilmembers have listened to the public opposition, and others couldn't stand the stench of the deal from the beginning. Others, however, put their votes up for sale, and pledged to soak the public for the full cost of the ballpark giveaway in return for various payoffs that were detailed in the second revised version of the financing bill that Councilmembers Evans and Brazil were going to introduce on Tuesday. Here's what these councilmembers got in return for their votes: Ward 8 Councilmember Sandy Allen got $5,000,000 for a "Learning and Sports Center" to be located adjacent to Fort Greble Recreation Center in that Ward. Councilmembers Ambrose and Chavous didn't have any particular projects in mind, but each one got $5,000,000 for future allocation to unspecified projects in Wards 6 and 7. Allen and Chavous also got ten percent of the bond revenue authorized by the financing act, or $45,000,000, allocated to the Department of Housing and Community Development for commercial development in Wards 7 and 8. Councilmember Vincent Orange sold out cheaply; he got only $2,000,000 for equipment and supplies at McKinley Technology High School in Ward 5. And Councilmember Jim Graham didn't even get his bribe into the ballpark financing bill; he only got a promise that the mayor would sign future legislation to dedicate $45,000,000 to public library construction and reconstruction, assuming that such legislation would be passed in the future.

BASEBALL TIP

ADD UP ALL THE BIG economic development schemes the city has spent billions on over the past few decades including freeways, Metro, two convention centers, urban renewal, Pennsylvania Avenue plan, TIFs and so forth.

Now try to find how those billions have helped the city. You will discover that:

- Employment of DC residents has declined

- Major city services including public health and schools have deteriorated

- Metro has lost jobs, businesses, and tourism to the suburbs while greatly increasing the number of non-taxpaying people using the city and its services each day. Further, by encouraging more development many if not most of whose users are auto commuters, the subway has actually increased street traffic.

- Until a national phenomenon occurred - upscale whites moving into cities to get away from suburban liabilities including traffic - sales tax revenue increases barely kept up with inflation.

In short "economic development" as carried out by the DC government has been a disaster and the proposed stadium is in the same dismal and costly tradition.

DENNIS COATES IN WASHINGTON POST - Fellow economist Brad Humphreys and I have studied every U.S. city that has had a professional baseball, football or basketball franchise since 1969. Our findings? The professional sports environment actually reduces per capita income in the standard metropolitan statistical area as consumers shift their money away from their ordinary spending patterns.

Moreover, wages and employment in the food services, hospitality and recreational industries -- the alleged big winners from stadiums -- are either no larger or substantially smaller once a stadium is operating. Employees in eating and drinking establishments, for example, earn on average $144 less a year post-baseball stadium, while employees in hotels and other lodgings earn $38 less a year. Employees of amusement and recreation enterprises do even worse, earning, on average, $503 less a year.

These reductions result largely because of the substitution of spending inside the stadium for spending on entertainment outside of it. Also, vendors within stadiums often are volunteers who are raising money for local organizations, such as Babe Ruth Baseball and high school sports booster groups, so fewer waiters, waitresses, and other employees of eating and drinking establishments are paid. Those who are paid serve fewer customers. . .

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A29447-2004Nov5.html

HENRY AARON, BROOKINGS INSTITUTION, IN WASHINGTON POST - What does the city get from this deal? A major league team to whose games residents of the Washington metropolitan area will be able to buy tickets. That's about it. Under the deal inked with Major League Baseball, the District will get not one cent from advertising proceeds, local television or other media rights. Despite building and paying for most of the stadium, the District would have the right to use or rent it out just 12 days a year. The team owners, by contrast, would be able to rent it out -- and keep all of the proceeds -- on other non-game days. The agreement commits the team to support various community activities, but omits mention of how much money the team will be required to spend on such activities. The amended package released this week puts in provisions that would let the District tax itself to fund up to $450 million in community activities. The city always had this power. . .

There is one nice perk in the deal. During the regular season, the Sports and Entertainment Commission gets the use of two private suites, parking and 25 box seats, free of charge. In the post-season, the commission can have the space, but it has to pay for it, just like season-ticket holders.

The District also gets to collect the 10 percent tax on tickets and concessions, and the 12 percent tax on parking. But these taxes are too low. All of the revenue from them -- and more -- will be needed to pay off the stadium bonds. The District is taking on a large risk and it should participate in the gains that a well-run team will generate. Its share of the team's revenues should go up as proceeds from tickets and parking exceed specified targets. . .

Numerous studies have shown that large stadiums, surrounded by parking, do little to promote economic development. You might have hoped that the failures of urban renewal would have made city planners understand that mindless constructionism does not lead to healthy urban growth. Economic development requires houses, apartments, offices, small shops, theaters and parks. A stadium attracts attendees for perhaps 350 hours a year. Money spent on tickets and in restaurants and other concessions inside the park do little or nothing to promote economic development for the remaining 8,410 hours.

Let's be clear. The guys who negotiated this deal from baseball's side are not spending their own money. They are spending yours and mine. Who's getting it? Well, to start with, major league owners who collectively took over the Expos in 2002. And whoever ponies up an expected $300 million or more to buy the Expos. And Baltimore Orioles owner Peter Angelos, to whom other baseball owners will make additional side payments on the grounds that a team in Washington will somewhat diminish the value of the Baltimore franchise.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A29610-2004Nov5.html
mailto:haaron@brookings.edu

LOOK WHO DOESN'T THINK THE STADIUM IS A GOOD IDEA
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A18835-2004Nov28.html

[Buried in the business section, of course]

DANA HEDGPETH WASHINGTON POST - Over the past four decades, Bob Gladstone has been both a formal and informal adviser to city and business officials on projects ranging from the development of Pennsylvania Avenue to the building of the city's old and new convention centers, the rejuvenation of the shops at Union Station and the redevelopment of the East End near the MCI Center. Gladstone, 75, was trained as an architect at Massachusetts Institute of Technology and now serves as chairman of the 250-person company that he founded in the 1970s, Quadrangle Development Corp. The company owns 7 million square feet of offices, residential units and shops in the greater Washington region.

Q What are your thoughts about the deal the city cut with Major League Baseball to put a team in the District?

A My personal view is this comes down to tough questions of priorities. Is it appropriate to have public funds used to build a stadium? I haven't seen any plan yet that resolves that issue. I'm not in favor of it.

Why not?

There are other priorities, like providing education, health care and security. And I'm not convinced that the benefits are worth the costs. The tax on businesses is clearly a burden. The additional tax burden will make D.C. less attractive. That's already an issue now. We've lost significant tenants because of taxes.

MONTREAL COUNCILOR: WATCH OUT FOR MLB
http://dcwatch.come

DC WATCH - Montreal's city councilor Marvin Rotrand has written a letter to Washington, DC's, city council members warning them about dealing with Major League Baseball, and it's the wise voice of bitter experience: "I believe that you may find that MLB's prime interest in Washington is for little more than securing an infusion of public money for a new stadium. I realise Washington's interests and Montreal's may not be the same in this matter. However I urge the District of Columbia Council to exercise prudence when dealing with MLB. Washington's first concern should be its taxpayers and it is far from clear that Washingtonians will be the ones that benefit from paying the entire price for the Expos relocation."

LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION

WE NOTED THAT two articles in the Washington Post following Linda Cropp's baseball salvo reported that the mayor's location for the stadium was more convenient to downtown. Leaving aside the question of why this is relevant since most fans don't live downtown, the Post is right . . . by 1.22 miles and 8 minutes according to Mapquest. Don't know about the Post but we would happily drive another eight minutes to save $80 million.

We used 6th & K just south of the convention center to define downtown since the colonistas seem to think that's located just fine. Here are the stats:

S Capitol & M to 6th & K NW : 2.45 miles and 5 minutes
2400 East Capitol to 6th & K NW: 3.67 miles and 13 minutes

RALPH NADER ON THE STADIUM

RALPH NADER - No one knows how much this stadium boondoggle is going to end up costing the District or what exactly Mayor Williams was thinking about when he gave away the store to Major League Baseball during "negotiations." But a few things are well known:

- We know that the cost estimates for the stadium project are quickly rising by substantial amounts (now $614 million according to the Washington Post);

- We know that the overwhelming majority of District residents are opposed to the use of public funds to build a new stadium (69 percent according to the Washington Post), with over half strongly opposed;

- We know that the proposed "community investment package" is a consolation prize attached to the stadium deal used by the Mayor to secure Council votes, and that public money spent on the stadium is money that will not be available for community investment;

- We know that virtually every independent economic study shows that there will be no positive impact from a stadium on the economy or on employment; and

- We know that councilmembers who favor a stadium bill which subordinates life's necessities to private, for-profit, monopoly entertainment corporations are not representing the peoples' perceived best interests. . .

Experience with stadium deals shows the more the public and media examine the rosy projections of the stadium promoters, the more the taxpayers discover about the real costs and negatives of a proposed deal. If the stadium bill passes, the District will assume all of the financial risks, and the team owners will reap all of the benefits from this runaway gravy train.

STRIKE ONE

WASHINGTON BUSINESS JOURNAL - As D.C. and Metro officials hammer out a lower-cost plan to upgrade the Navy Yard Metro station before opening day at the Washington Nationals' new ballpark, fans should keep one thing in mind: They're looking to get you home, but not too awfully fast. That way, they figure, while you're waiting for the crowds to die down you'll stick around and spend money at the businesses that crop up around the new stadium. It's the very definition of economic development.

"We're trying to balance the desire to move people in and out with the idea that we want people out on the street," says Steve Green, director of development in the D.C. Office of the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development. Over the next six months, planners will find a way for the Navy Yard station to handle as many as 15,000 fans in a single hour -- a big jump from the 3,000 to 4,000 people who now move through there each day.

To save about $28 million off Metro's original $47 million expansion plan, they'll call for more fare gates and escalators but no new station entrance, as was originally proposed.

The new plan, officials acknowledge, might create a logjam on sold-out game days that could keep hundreds or even thousands of fans milling about South Capitol Street and the surrounding area. . . . 3/05

WHY DC SHOULD OWN THE NATIONALS
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A57857-2005Jan7.html

RALPH NADER, WASHINGTON POST - If the District is going to pay most or all of the costs of a new baseball stadium, why shouldn't it own the team and earn the profits the stadium is likely to generate? Or, put more directly, if the District is absorbing most of the costs of attracting baseball to Washington, why shouldn't the District own the team?. . .

Control of the stadium and a huge chunk of the profits it generates -- concession sales, naming rights, parking revenue -- will go to the team's yet-to-be determined owners. Those owners also will enjoy the profits from ticket sales, merchandise and TV rights. Given the level of fan commitment to purchase season tickets, those profits could be munificent.

A municipally or community-owned team could use these profits to cover the costs of a stadium -- including acquiring land, environmental cleanup, expanding Metro and construction.

How might municipal ownership work in the District? The District could find the financing to buy the Nationals by selling 49 percent of shares publicly, as the Cleveland Indians baseball team and the Boston Celtics basketball team have done. The District also could float Class B stock or sell small-denomination -- of say, $100 -- bonds redeemable only for face value. The idea would be to tap into regional enthusiasm for baseball, and let the fans pay for -- and own a chunk of -- the team.

The Green Bay Packers -- one of the most venerated and successful teams in professional football -- is community-owned. The nonprofit Packers is financed through the issuance of stock, and more than 100,000 people own shares in the team. Packers stock cannot be resold, except back to the team for a fraction of the original price. Limited transfer -- to heirs and relatives -- is allowed. No dividends are paid. To prevent any one person from gaining control, no one is allowed to own more than 200,000 of the more than 4.7 million shares of stock.

THE STRAIGHT STORY
http://dcwatch.com

GARY IMHOFF, DC WATCH - The straight story is that the mayor and the DC Sports and Entertainment Commission struck a lousy deal, by far the worst deal any city ever made to get a sports franchise, with Major League Baseball. The city council, through its opposition and through the very real threat that it would not pass that deal, has marginally improved it, so that it is now only the worst deal ever, not the worst deal by a huge margin. Council Chairman Linda Cropp and the six councilmembers who consistently voted against the deal fought on behalf of Washington residents and taxpayers, trying to get a less expensive and less risky deal for us. The six councilmembers who lost the vote on the stadium financing bill won the fight to improve the contract, though it will take a few years to determine exactly how much public expense they have really saved. The mayor, his administration, the DC Sports and Entertainment Commission, and the six supporters of the MLB deal fought as hard as they could to preserve every advantage for Major League Baseball and to prevent any change that would improve the deal for Washingtonians. They won the vote to pass the stadium financing bill, but they lost the war of public perception. Opponents of the deal, through the council debate, exposed the faults of the agreement with MLB, and the public -- even those who are enthusiastic baseball fans -- understood well that they were being taken for a ride by its supporters.

That explains why the winners in this fight -- Mayor Williams, Jack Evans, Vincent Orange, and Harold Brazil especially -- are such sore winners, so sour and ungracious in their victory, so vindictive toward the councilmembers who lost the vote, and so bitter toward Linda Cropp, who finally voted with them to pass the bill with her amendments. And it explains why they are so eager to revise the history of what happened over the past two months. They are portraying Cropp as a turncoat, falsely stating that she not only knew all the elements of the agreement in advance, but that she and her staff participated in the negotiations with MLB herself -- and they have sold that misrepresentation not only to credulous sports writers, but also to some who are normally among the most skeptical and perceptive reporters in town: Jonetta Rose Barras, Marc Fisher, and Tom Knott. In fact, as Cropp stated in Tuesday's debate, "I never saw that agreement until it came down to the Council on October 14th," and as Phyllis Jones, the Secretary to the Council, wrote to me, neither Council Budget Director Artie Blitzstein nor Rob Miller was involved in the negotiations.

The sore winners are rewriting our Home Rule Charter, claiming that the mayor has unilateral authority to commit the city to contracts and agreements, that the city council is obliged to rubber-stamp whatever agreement the mayor presents to it, and that the councilmembers who improved this deal failed in their duties by examining it closely. And the sore losers are straining credulity, even among the most credulous, by claiming that paying for the stadium with tax funds isn't public financing. Get over it, fellows; you're only hurting yourselves.

WALL STREET JOURNAL: A LOSING GAME?
http://www.opinionjournal.com/taste/?id=110005823

A NEW STUDY released by the Cato Institute indicates that local sports teams can actually have negative economic effects, because the activities people forgo to attend games tend to be more productive in terms of generating revenue. Examining data from 37 cities that had at least one major league sports franchise between 1969 and 1996, researchers found, for instance, that "on average, professional baseball lowered the earnings of workers in eating and drinking establishments by about $144 per employee per year . . . lowered the per employee annual earnings of workers in the hotel and lodging sector by about $38 . . . lowered the annual earnings of workers in the amusements and recreation sector by $503."

Mayor Williams has already mocked Cato for bothering with the study. And there will always be folks who remain willfully blind to the high costs and associated idiocies of publicly financed stadiums. . . Now, it is true that the minor leagues in particular can point to some towns, like Akron, Ohio, where new franchises have revived derelict areas. But getting new parks built can take years. Usually this is because there is so much public opposition to corporate-welfare financing schemes and eminent-domain grabs.

Washington doesn't have years, and even if the deal goes through, there is another reason to worry about the mayor's revenue projections. They assume high attendance at a 41,000-seat stadium for 80 games each season in a town where die-hard sports fans are far outnumbered by lobbyists. Once the thrill wears off and if the team is a loser, will they come?

THE RFK PROCRASTINATION SOLUTION
http://www.hillnews.com/hillscape/101304.aspx

DUNCAN SPENCER, HILL NEWS - When Jack Kent Cooke wanted to build a new stadium for the Redskins, using part of the vast parking area out there between Eastern High School and Kingman Island, sensible voices were raised to urge the cheaper and simpler solution. To enlarge RFK.

That' s right. A local architect, since moved to Frederick, Md., testified to the City Council that enlarging RFK would be relatively inexpensive, could be done quickly, by adding another tier of seating (a second circle around the already circular structure), and could be done without demolishing the present playing field - in a single off-season.

Mayor Anthony Williams (D) and the city fathers are counting on an average of 30,000 patrons per baseball game as a financial starting line. There is much evidence that this is an unrealistic goal. Even the most cheerful of the promoters of the new stadium deal say that suburbanites, not city dwellers, will be the backbone of the ticket buyers - just as in the case of the Redskins and the Capitals. It was hard enough to get them to come to MCI Center; without the draw of the beloved Redskins, they would not have come to RFK. Now the city is expecting these people, who have showed their opinion of the city with their feet for 50 years, to flock to 2nd and O streets S.E. And who will pay for it? Not them. Us.

Williams and the eager business crowd ought now to do what Washington does best: procrastinate. The Expos are going to play at RFK for three years at least. Let the attendance tell the tale. If baseball works for RFK, then build the new stadium, or enlarge the old one. But not before.

When Cooke, in the nine years of wrangling from 1987 to 1996, offered to pay for a new stadium in Washington, it was the city that stood in his way. Now we' re on our hands and knees begging to throw gold at one of the worst teams in the National League, offering bribes to Baltimore Orioles owner Peter Angelos, offering to build a $450 million colossus in the middle of nowhere.

ECONOMIST: WASHINGTONIANS WILL RUE THE DAY THEY GOT A BASEBALL TEAM
http://www.economist.com/diversions/displayStory.cfm?story_id=3261515

ECONOMIST - Washington has promised to spend $440m of public money on a new stadium for the still-ownerless Expos. Anthony Williams, its mayor, says the development will create jobs and revitalize the depressed Anacostia waterfront. But a wealth of studies suggest otherwise: that public-funded stadiums create huge tax burdens, cannot alone regenerate neighborhoods and cannibalize revenue from other venues rather than generating entirely new income. The Expos and their future owner will bear less than 18% of the stadium's costs - other cities have demanded that teams pay at least 33% - and will retain parking revenue, naming rights (expected to generate $2.5m annually) and the right to hold other events at the stadium. Assuming the City Council does not reject the deal (a majority of its members favor the plan, though some want to see more financial details before they approve it), one of the nation's poorest and worst-run cities will give baseball its sweetest deal ever. All of which means that when the novelty wears off and fans balk at paying $30 to watch a losing team, the team's owner (whoever that might be) will have little incentive to stick around. At best, Washington baseball fans will pay handsomely for the privilege of having a hometown team; more likely, their eager celebration will leave a nasty hangover that will last for decades.

90 ECONOMISTS SLAM BASEBALL PLAN
http://www.dcwatch.com/govern/sports041021.htm

THE HUGE PUBLIC SUBSIDY behind the District's baseball stadium scheme "will not generate notable economic or fiscal benefits for the city" - that's the assessment of 90 prominent economists from across the nation who signed a joint statement presented today at a downtown event hosted by several organizations opposed to the $440 million plan.

"Most studies find that new sports stadiums do not increase employment or incomes and sometimes have a modest negative effect on local economies," the signatories noted. Although the new facility "may shift some entertainment spending from the Maryland and Virginia suburbs to the District," this outcome is not likely to justify the outlay of tax dollars. Nor is a stadium likely to lead to an economic renaissance in Anacostia, because few of the financial windfalls accrue to neighboring businesses.

"The sobering words from these economists tell us that the Mayor's plan to use a baseball stadium to revitalize the Anacostia waterfront is mere wishful thinking," said Ed Lazere, Director of the D.C. Fiscal Policy Institute. "The District should not spend hundreds of millions of dollars on a stadium based on such unrealistic claims."

"Public financing of a baseball stadium gets us farther away, not closer, to the realization of a revitalized and unpolluted Anacostia waterfront," said Chris Weiss, an advocate with Friends of the Earth. "It's simply ridiculous that we spend money we don't have on a baseball stadium that a vast body of research suggests will not generate notable economic benefits for District residents."

THE STADIUM AND THE SOUTH CAPITOL STREET PLAN

DOUGLAS A. WILLINGER, TAKOMA PARK DESIGN STUDIO - Has anyone noticed the recent disregard for the National Capital Planning Commission plan to create a new green way at South Capital Street, that has gone unmentioned by newspaper accounts?

NCPC's 1997 brochure "Extending the Legacy: Planning America's Capital for the 21st Century" features an illustration of a new Green way/Mall extending southward from the U.S. Capitol Building, with existing South Capital Street removed from the South Capital axis, and replaced by a greenway that would be flanked by replacement roadways starting at Half Streets SW and SE that would converge to the north, with the greenway anchored at its southern end with a new monumental building centered upon the South Capital axis, as the Lincoln Memorial is upon the West Capital axis, and RFK Stadium is upon the East Capital axis.

The proposed stadium though, would be located on a square boundaried by N and P Streets to the north and south, and by 1st Street SE and South Capital Street, that is, *existing* South Capital Street, directly in the path of NCPC's proposed green way and its relocated surface roadways. In a sense it would be like going back to the 1790s when L'Enfant envisioned the National Mall, with a proposal to instead construct an "West Capital Street" directly along that axis, and line it with buildings for the sake of more taxable square footage. Try to imagine an alternate reality Washington, D.C. without that big expanse of open green public space between the Capitol building and the Lincoln Memorial.

Of course this can lead one to ask about NCPC, as the stadium would legally require its formal approval. As of October 7, the NCPC has issued no statements regarding the Stadium or its location's conflict with the NCPC proposed greenway. Given the prominence of the numerous renderings of the future South Capital Green way given by NCPC in its printed materials and its website, NCPC's silence may seem mysterious to members of the general public.

When one goes beyond the pretty NCPC illustrations and reads the fine print, though it is obvious that NCPC is poised to abandon its well-publicized South Capital Green-way proposal, and was moving towards a minimalist option.

Word is that NCPC has backed away from its South Capital Green-way proposal due to pressure from the local D.C. government, with D.C. Mayor Anthony Williams and his appointees Andrew Altman, Director of the D.C. Department of Planning, pushing to maximize the amount of taxable real estate square footage.

Stadium planning went towards the site least expensive in monetary costs, though most expensive with regard to incompatibility with what has been the centerpiece of the National Capital Planning Commission's popularly received "Extending the Legacy" planning. Those backing the current stadium proposal, such as Washington Post Architectural Critic Benjamin Forgey who wrote that "you just got to love the location" have chosen instead to let lust for a *quicker* development create a convenient amnesia about its desecration of the NCPC's vision.

http://www.HighwaysAndCommunities.com

CONGRESSMAN: FANNIE MAE SHOULD COUGH UP, BACK BASEBALL TEAM

REPUBLICAN Rep. Richard Baker tells WTOP's Mark Plotkin that Fannie Mae ought to cough up at least $100 million a year in local taxes, not as much as it was owed if it were not exempted from such payments by Congress, but a good start. It wouldn't hurt Fannie Mae all that much since it's given out $245 million in executive bonuses over the past five years and Franklin Raines himself got $17,732,657 last year.

Baker also suggests that the local baseball team by subsidized by Fannie Mae. They could call the team the Washington Fannie. That would allow a lot of headline puns like "Fannie May But Probably Won't."

POST AGITPROP OF THE DAY

THE POST IS TO LOCAL BASEBALL as Fox News is to George Bush. In today's example, the paper dissed critics of the stadium in a front page article saying that "Within days, carping about Williams's promise to raise taxes to build a ballpark drowned out the happy news that baseball is back, after 33 years. And what might have been the brightest moment of Williams's tenure as mayor dissolved into another opportunity for critics to take their shots."

Just for the record, "carping" has been defined by one dictionary as "fussy or petulant fault-finding."

The Post clearly prefers the definition of a city offered by Mayor Anthony Williams in the same article: "How can you be a major league city when you don't have a Major League Baseball team?"

Jobs for local residents, affordable housing and a public hospital might help.

On the other hand, the mayor might want to consider the wisdom of Frank Zappa: "You can't be a Real Country unless you have a beer and an airline. It helps if you have some kind of a football team, or some nuclear weapons, but at the very least you need a beer."

Since we have Old Heurich, it would seem that a baseball team is superfluous.

CITY OFFICIALS, WHO FORGOT TO CHECK WITH CONSTITUENTS, STUNNED BY STADIUM REACTION
http://www.washingtontimes.com/sports/20041010-124630-6969r.htm

"We finally get the team, and still nobody is happy. It's the most incredible thing," [Jack] Evans said. "It's almost like I want to call Bud Selig and tell him he can have his team back." Evans' comment about Selig was clearly facetious, but the battle over Williams' stadium financing plan is no laughing matter.

The city's proposal to finance the entire $435.2 million cost of the proposed ballpark in Southeast and revive the gross-receipts tax on large District businesses clearly won over MLB executives, blew away the rival bid from Northern Virginia and presents the best available future for the Expos franchise. Seemingly few other people, however, are satisfied with the financing plan.

A wild mix of entities - ranging from current and incoming city councilmen and black power activists to environmentalists and library advocates - are calling for a repeal of the tightly worded agreement with MLB, Williams' head or both.

"We're taking on all the risk," said David Catania, at-large independent on the council. "That's not a partnership. This is an affront to the city, and I believe we can negotiate a better deal."

The backlash caught many city officials off guard, particularly as a majority of the 13-member council is widely believed to support the ballpark financing bill. . .

There is no renegotiating, however, with baseball. The city's master Baseball Stadium Agreement is set, and the Expos could end up elsewhere if any of several key steps are not honored - most notably the approval of stadium financing legislation by Dec. 31. What can be done, and is already under way, is local horse trading among the mayor and city council members to make the forthcoming ballpark far more palatable politically.

STADIUM TO END PLANS FOR PLANT
http://www.washtimes.com/metro/20041007-113113-1005r.htm

JIM MCELHATTON, WASHINGTON TIMES - The District's bid to build a $435.2 million baseball stadium along the Anacostia River in Southeast is shaking up the city's road paving industry. One month before the city announced it would house the relocated Montreal Expos at a waterfront stadium along P and South Capitol streets, Fairfax-based Roubin & Janeiro Inc. had submitted plans to build an asphalt plant at that location. The plant at 60 P St. SE would have been the only such facility in the city not owned and operated by the District's largest road paving operation, Fort Myer Construction.

THE WASHINGTON COLIFORMS
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A2869-2004Oct2.html

ANGUS PHILLIPS, WASHINGTON POST - "See that yellow flag?" asked Robert Boone, president of the Anacostia Watershed Society, who has worked the past 15 years to try to clean up the Potomac's filthy feeder. He pointed across the water to a flagpole above the Earth Conservation Corps' riverfront headquarters, just a few hundred yards from the spot where one day soon umpires will shout, "Play ball!"

The butter-colored banner fluttering there, and others at nearby Matthew Henson Environmental Center and the Anacostia Community Boathouse, signaled that on that particular day, the fecal coliform count in the river exceeded the recommended level for human contact. Fecal coliform is the scientific term for poop. The flag was to warn folks to stay away. . .

"When they flushed the toilet at the White House yesterday," said Lawrence Silverman, an environmental lawyer who was along for our boat ride past the new stadium site, "this is where it came out." . . .

Washington's antiquated sewer system, which dates from the 1800s, combines stormwater runoff and sanitary sewage in the same pipes. Everything flows to Blue Plains, the city's modern and efficient sewer plant near Oxon Hill, for treatment. It all works out fine except when there's heavy rain, when the pipes can't handle the flow and huge slugs of combined street runoff and raw sewage are diverted, most of it directly into the Anacostia. . .

BASEBALL STAT - Number of seats in proposed stadium: 41,000. Number of parking spaces in proposed garage: 1,100

WASHINGTON TIMES - Hundreds of angry phone calls, faxes, and e-mails poured into the offices of council members yesterday. Some of those messages came from businesses upset by the return of the gross-receipts tax, though the Greater Washington Board of Trade, Federal City Council and other local trade groups support the measure. . . Councilman Adrian Fenty, Ward 4 Democrat and the most vocal opponent to the baseball plan, called the offer "crumbs" from baseball's table. "The residents of the District of Columbia have grown tired of this," Mr. Fenty said. "If you are going to fund baseball, don't say you are doing it to help children. They are doing it as tokenism."

JAYSON STARK OF ESPN reports informed sources as saying "MLB could be stuck with this club anywhere from another six months to (better grab the smelling salts) two years." At best, if the D.C. city council passes a stadium bill quickly and then MLB picks a new owner shortly after that, the Expos could be in new hands by next spring - way too late to sign any free agents to improve this year's pathetic squad. Or, for that matter, to sell any tickets: "There's not one person working on selling a baseball ticket right now," one sports exec told Stark. "There's not one person working on selling a suite, or a marketing deal, or a sponsorship. And there's already too little time to do all of that right."

OSING ALMOST $6 MILLION: Officials have been unable to explain some of the numbers contained in a one-page "Summary of Benefits of MLB Team in Washington, D.C." provided to reporters during a briefing on Sept. 30, a day after Major League Baseball officials announced that the National League's Montreal Expos will play in Washington next season.

Among bulleted items on the sheet: a total of $20 million more annually spent in the city's hotels and over $17 million annually spent in D.C. restaurants.

That's an annual injection of $37 million into the District's hospitality industry.

But two bulleted items later, the sheet places the "overall economic benefit to the hospitality industry in the District" at a quite specific total of $388,246 per game, or $31,447,926 annually.

Apparently, the District's "financial wizard" mayor wasn't asked to vet the numbers - or someone thinks journalists can't do math.

BARRY AND THE STADIUM

SUE HEMBERGER , FIELD OF SCHEMES - Corruption, ineptitude, and cronyism have marked Williams's administration as well as Barry's. Maybe the difference is in the cronies. Williams robs from everyone to give to the super-rich, the developers, and the suburbanites. Barry's more traditional rob from the rich to give to the poor (and/or to create a group of people who with government jobs who will vote to re-elect you) sometimes looks downright sensible by comparison.

Also Barry was a political animal and Williams isn't. The stadium deal (with it's "I checked with the businesses who are footing the bill and they agreed, so the rest of you (voters) don't have a right to complain") is symptomatic of broader problems with this administration which ignores the concerns of neighborhoods and residents in favor of development schemes that seem almost exclusively oriented to affluent visitors.

It sucks and, ultimately, it may drive even more people out of the city.

[Or the way we've put it, under Barry you could buy favors, under Williams you can buy the whole damn city. Back when Barry was making a comeback in the 1990s, we argued that we were all for redemption but didn't see why it had to take place in the mayor's office. But given that Barry is back on the city council, it seems as good a place for redemption as any. Wouldn't it be interesting if Barry end up the way he started: helping the little guy?]

THE RFK PROCRASTINATION SOLUTION

DUNCAN SPENCER, HILL NEWS - When Jack Kent Cooke wanted to build a new stadium for the Redskins, using part of the vast parking area out there between Eastern High School and Kingman Island, sensible voices were raised to urge the cheaper and simpler solution. To enlarge RFK.

That' s right. A local architect, since moved to Frederick, Md., testified to the City Council that enlarging RFK would be relatively inexpensive, could be done quickly, by adding another tier of seating (a second circle around the already circular structure), and could be done without demolishing the present playing field — in a single off-season.

Mayor Anthony Williams (D) and the city fathers are counting on an average of 30,000 patrons per baseball game as a financial starting line. There is much evidence that this is an unrealistic goal. Even the most cheerful of the promoters of the new stadium deal say that suburbanites, not city dwellers, will be the backbone of the ticket buyers — just as in the case of the Redskins and the Capitals. It was hard enough to get them to come to MCI Center; without the draw of the beloved Redskins, they would not have come to RFK. Now the city is expecting these people, who have showed their opinion of the city with their feet for 50 years, to flock to 2nd and O streets S.E. And who will pay for it? Not them. Us.

Williams and the eager business crowd ought now to do what Washington does best: procrastinate. The Expos are going to play at RFK for three years at least. Let the attendance tell the tale. If baseball works for RFK, then build the new stadium, or enlarge the old one. But not before.

When Cooke, in the nine years of wrangling from 1987 to 1996, offered to pay for a new stadium in Washington, it was the city that stood in his way. Now we' re on our hands and knees begging to throw gold at one of the worst teams in the National League, offering bribes to Baltimore Orioles owner Peter Angelos, offering to build a $450 million colossus in the middle of nowhere.

CITY OFFICIALS, WHO FORGOT TO CHECK WITH CONSTITUENTS, STUNNED BY STADIUM REACTION

"We finally get the team, and still nobody is happy. It's the most incredible thing," [Jack] Evans said. "It's almost like I want to call Bud Selig and tell him he can have his team back." Evans' comment about Selig was clearly facetious, but the battle over Williams' stadium financing plan is no laughing matter.

The city's proposal to finance the entire $435.2 million cost of the proposed ballpark in Southeast and revive the gross-receipts tax on large District businesses clearly won over MLB executives, blew away the rival bid from Northern Virginia and presents the best available future for the Expos franchise. Seemingly few other people, however, are satisfied with the financing plan.

A wild mix of entities — ranging from current and incoming city councilmen and black power activists to environmentalists and library advocates — are calling for a repeal of the tightly worded agreement with MLB, Williams' head or both.

"We're taking on all the risk," said David Catania, at-large independent on the council. "That's not a partnership. This is an affront to the city, and I believe we can negotiate a better deal."

The backlash caught many city officials off guard, particularly as a majority of the 13-member council is widely believed to support the ballpark financing bill. . .

There is no renegotiating, however, with baseball. The city's master Baseball Stadium Agreement is set, and the Expos could end up elsewhere if any of several key steps are not honored — most notably the approval of stadium financing legislation by Dec. 31. What can be done, and is already under way, is local horse trading among the mayor and city council members to make the forthcoming ballpark far more palatable politically.

STADIUM TO END PLANS FOR PLANT

JIM MCELHATTON, WASHINGTON TIMES - The District's bid to build a $435.2 million baseball stadium along the Anacostia River in Southeast is shaking up the city's road paving industry. One month before the city announced it would house the relocated Montreal Expos at a waterfront stadium along P and South Capitol streets, Fairfax-based Roubin & Janeiro Inc. had submitted plans to build an asphalt plant at that location. The plant at 60 P St. SE would have been the only such facility in the city not owned and operated by the District's largest road paving operation, Fort Myer Construction.

EXPOS TO RENT SPACE FROM CITY AT 47 CENTS A SQUARE FOOT

THE best rental deal in town is the 20 acres that the Expos will be renting for a mere 47 cents a square foot per month. To figure out how little that is, just multiply the square footage of something you rent by 47 cents. But then, your landlord isn't Anthony Williams.