Eugene McCarthy died yesterday. Sam Smith has written a moving
appreciation of McCarthy, “Lunch with Gene” http://prorev.com/gene.htm,
that recounts several amusing political and personal stories from a
number of private lunches they had. I had only one private conversation
with McCarthy, but at least then I had the opportunity to tell him that
he had won my support in the 1968 presidential election with just one
word. As soon as I said that, he nodded — I assume that he had heard
it before from many other people, and knew the word that I meant. That
one word was in a television interview with CBS anchor Walter Cronkite,
who asked him, “What kind of president would you be?” Without
hesitation, McCarthy replied, “Adequate.”
That expressed exactly McCarthy’s modesty, which seemed to me to be
what the country needed in a president at that time. It was the perfect
contrast to the ambition and pride that drove Lyndon Johnson, and it,
more than any specific political plan or program advocated by McCarthy,
promised change. His modesty, which sometimes verged on self-mockery (a
disastrous trait in a politician), made it seem that McCarthy would be
able to avoid Johnson’s habit of doubling down on his bad bets in
order to avoid admitting his mistakes.
Some may see a connection in this to a certain mayor and his devotion
to a particular plan whose costs keep spiraling out of sight. Well, I
can’t control how people interpret things.
The baseball stadium lease agreement, http://www.dcwatch.com/govern/sports051209.htm,
was transmitted to the city council on Friday. It will be the subject of
a hearing before the council’s Economic Development Committee on
Friday, December 13, at 10:00 a.m. The full council is scheduled to vote
on the lease at a special legislative session on December 20.
In addition, on Monday, the city’s Chief Economic Officer, Natwar
Gandhi, is expected to release new cost estimates for the stadium
project at the South Capitol, SE, site, as well as at the RFK site.
David Nakamura’s article in today’s Washington Post (http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2005/12/10/AR2005121001278.html)
provides an historical perspective on the ongoing controversy regarding
the true cost of the stadium project.
Over the past two years, the DC government, the DC Sports and
Entertainment Commission, and Major League Baseball have all engaged a
variety of consultants and experts in preparations for their roles in
the baseball debate. Did Council Chairman Linda Cropp have the foresight
to engage independent counsels and consultants to advise the council in
its review of the lease, or will the council be at the mercy of these
consultants, representing the administration’s and MLB’s interests?
The Baseball Stadium: A Final Pitch
Greg DuRoss, firstname.lastname@example.org
So why am I not surprised? One year ago, when I protested this deal,
I said that before it was all over we would see a billion dollars spent
to build new stadiums for baseball and soccer. Little did I realize that
we might reach that number just for baseball! Before you say I am crazy,
just remember that the courts still have not litigated a final price for
the land and we still don’t have a clue as to what toxic waster lies
under some of those buildings. If we are now looking at $700 million, as
reported in The Washington Post on December 6 [http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2005/12/05/AR2005120502214.html],
when those prices come in I am confident we will have a billion dollar
baseball stadium on our hands.
How can councilmembers in good conscience continue to support a
several hundred million dollar windfall profit to multimillionaire
baseball owners to be funded by taxes and fees on DC businesses and
individuals? Where is their sense of moral outrage over this
irresponsible use of District resources, while children try to learn in
some buildings that neither you nor I would want to work in and probably
should be condemned? What are their moral values in helping the rich get
richer while the poor get poorer? Councilmembers, now you have a final
opportunity to tell Mayor Williams and Major League Baseball that this
financial travesty will not move forward. It is fiscally irresponsible
and bordering on a breach of fiduciary duty to taxpayers. Make no
mistake about it — this is a decisive moment for the District of
Columbia and the voters will remember how their elected officials voted
at this pivotal moment in time.
Venting here and elsewhere is good, but please also direct your
outrage to councilmembers supporting this stadium deal (and thanks to
those who have been leading the fight like Catania, Graham, and Fenty).
I have, and you are welcome to cut, paste and edit this letter. By the
way, a mini-poll by NBC4 is showing 79 percent of respondents are
opposed to baseball at any cost. Now admittedly the survey question is
poor, as it does not measure how many support baseball at some cost and
it is certainly not scientific polling, but with a margin of 79 percent
I dare say the trend is overwhelming, and hopefully the Councilmembers
and their aides that read this posting will be reminded that we not only
express our opinions, but we vote based on how candidate’s records.
The Stadium Vote
Mary C. Williams, email@example.com
Councilmember Mendelson, the fact that you cast the deciding vote
against a proposed cap on stadium costs is quite disturbing. In my view,
any elected official who would not support a comprehensive budgeted
spending proposal is fiscally irresponsible. This is not how I do
business, and I certainly don’t expect this city to operate taxpayers’
business this way.
You have lost my support and that of many of my Southwest neighbors
and friends. I think there are thousands more across the city who view
your action as a betrayal of residents demanding a more responsible
Having listened to particular councilmembers rant from their moral
soapboxes about how much DC Public Schools spends per square foot on
school buildings, it is pathetically ironic to see them justify this
city’s unwarranted expenditure on a stadium that exceeds DCPS’s
expenditure per square foot on facilities modernization. I would suggest
that they have no shame, but they are operating on the old adage based
on base self-interest: he or she who dies with the most toys wins.
Hopefully St. Peter isn’t.
Finally Calls Out Baseball Brigade
Ed Delaney, firstname.lastname@example.org
David Nakamura writes (http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2005/12/10/AR2005121001278.html):
“Williams and his top aides have quietly shifted major expenses for a
baseball stadium complex out of the city-approved budget of $535 million
in the past several months in hopes of persuading the public that the
city will spend no more than the amount agreed upon a year ago. But the
District’s fiscal commitment to the project has risen above that
budget by at least $54 million And it isn’t clear who will pay for up
to $125 million in additional costs, which would raise the total to $714
million.” Had the press weighed in with an adequate and consistent
level of analysis each time the Brigade pulled one of their tricks, then
the shifts wouldn’t have been able to occur so quietly.
“Although Williams declared publicly last week that the project
would not go over budget, the DC Council amended the stadium legislation
last month to add $54 million in bond financing fees. The change was
made at the request of DC CFO Natwar Gandhi, who called the amendment
minor but acknowledged that it increased the city’s commitment to $589
million.” The CFO didn’t acknowledge that until after the fact and
obscured the major consequence of the supposedly technical amendment
when the amendments came up despite pointed questions from council
members on the ramifications. Even the Post noted that the
amendments could only be for minor changes, which the CFO knew he was
acting contrary to at the behest of the Brigade, but don’t count on
the Post to strain too hard to make that clear.
“From the time Williams announced the arrival of an MLB team in
September 2004, his administration has understated the costs of the
stadium project at several critical points, in part to help sell the
deal to a skeptical council. As costs have risen in every major category
for the project along the Anacostia River in Southeast Washington --
buying the land, building the stadium and paying for infrastructure —
the administration has removed project expenses and placed them in a
separate category of costs that remain unfunded. The approved budget
plus the unfunded costs could reach $714 million, Gandhi told city
officials last week in a private meeting.” It’s nice to see all of
that reported in black and white for once. Of course, it’s crossed the
point of understatement to blatant misrepresentation of the facts and
perpetrating falsehoods, as will no doubt continue Monday when,
according to Saturday’s Times, the CFO and DCSEC will forward
misleading and largely fictional reports alleging that it’s harder to
build on the RFK Stadium site than on top of Mount Everest.
“Green’s budget 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.” There’s the real reason behind
every bit of this: the Brigade understated costs to get this boondoggle
past the DC Council practically sight-unseen with the mantra “Do what
we say and nobody gets hurt,” i.e., rubber stamp this or you’ll kill
the baseball deal. The Brigade figured — quite correctly unless the
council ever stands up to them -- that they could promise the moon and
have the CFO and DCSEC say anything they wanted to get things passed,
with the council being too uninformed or divided to ever overturn any of
the Brigade’s boondoggle. They’re set to unleash their final whopper
by telling the council that a site with no infrastructure or adequate
Metro or parking funding which has major land acquisition cost and legal
issues and as-yet unknown environmental hazards will be no less
affordable and workable than a site with certain environmental costs and
nowhere near the land acquisition costs and hurdles of the current site
(no matter what falsehoods the Brigade is prepared to unleash).
“With her 12 colleagues evenly split, Cropp negotiated several
changes to the stadium agreement with MLB before blessing the deal. One
amendment required Gandhi to conduct a second analysis of land and
infrastructure. If the new costs were no more than $50 million above his
first estimate for those two categories, the stadium could go forward.
On March 29, Gandhi sent a letter to Williams and Cropp stating that his
second analysis raised the price by $46.4 million -- just under the
council’s $50 million cap. The stadium project was a go but was over
the $535 million budget. Gandhi added the $46.4 million in land and
infrastructure costs to the budget and removed $54 million in bond
financing fees to be paid for another way. Gandhi now says that he
believed the legislation gave him that authority.” How blatant is
that? And Cropp really expects an honest analysis of the RFK Stadium
site from this CFO who’s got the switching skill and ethical
questionably of a three-card-Monte dealer? There needs to be an
independent analysis done, because we can dismiss the CFO’s pending
fiction before we’ve even seen it given the leaks from the Brigade.
“Wall Street bond raters asked Gandhi to get the council to approve
three amendments, including one that would allow the city to spend more
than the approved budget. Cropp agreed that the amendment was a
‘technical’ change that would establish the council’s original
intent to allow Gandhi to take out the financing fees, if necessary. The
council approved the amendment Nov. 15 without discussing that it
permitted the city to spend more than $535 million. Instead, Cropp cast
the issue in the opposite way: The amendments were needed to get
investment-grade bond ratings from Wall Street, which would save the
city significant money in interest. Several members who supported the
amendments now say they never intended to authorize more spending.
Williams, Cropp and Gandhi stressed that the financing fees will not be
paid with money from the city’s general fund, but rather with revenue
generated by the Nationals in the past season and interest earned on the
bonds next year. But the city’s commitment to the project had risen to
$589 million.” So what if the extra money isn’t coming out of the
general fund? It’s extra money that’s coming out of city revenue
above and beyond the original budget limit! The Brigade keeps screeching
about keeping its promises and commitments, but that’s not just for
MLB, but for the city’s commitment to its legally-binding
"deal" with the citizens of a fixed budget!
“‘The initial estimates that were developed by the city were for
an average ballpark,’ Lew said. ‘We wanted something iconic, and you
have to pay for that.’ To help cover the cost of the ambitious
ballpark, including buying land and the rising cost of materials, Lew
shifted money within the budget. Roughly $55 million that had been set
aside for infrastructure and $40 million in contingencies would be used
for construction.” Translation of Lew‘s quote: the city had to pay
for the luxury add-ons demanded by MLB outside of the original
agreement, consisting of an entire concourse level of club seats and
luxury suites and a 7500 SF conference center. The DCSEC’s own words,
as reported in the October 7th Washington City Paper rejecting
MLB for several months due to budgetary implications, only to eventually
accede to the changes and then have the ballpark structure’s cost
skyrocket accordingly, tells us all we need to know. The only thing
"ambitious" thing in the ballpark’s design was what MLB
wanted. The other changes have all been cost-savers on what is being
deemed a "Buick or Ford" project now rather than a Cadillac,
including the switching to the cut-rate glass, steel, and limestone --
oops, make that concrete, reportedly due to cost constraints —
materials which has made the greenhouse-like ballpark design as ‘iconic’
as linoleum flooring was when it was introduced to the world. (And I’ve
got nothing against linoleum; just don’t send me a $714 million bill
for it and tell me I’m getting something more iconic than Camden Yard’s
bricks, which, if you believe the Brigade, are old, tired looking, and
yesterday‘s news by comparison!)
“Those decisions have had significant ramifications. As Gandhi has
analyzed the costs during his study this month, he has put the
contingency and infrastructure costs back on the table and determined
that the price tag for all costs related to the project could reach $714
million, although government sources said he is likely to lower that
figure slightly.” Yes, we all know the CFO’s history on lowering
estimates, like his dropping of $50 million-plus worth of financing
costs to come up under budget.
“But uncertainty remains. Sixteen land owners at the stadium site
have not accepted the city’s offers and are asking a Superior Court
judge for more money. The sports commission is hoping to break ground in
March, but delays could result in even higher costs. ‘People have to
be alarmed,’ Graham said. ‘Do you want to finance a stadium at $535
million? That’s a lot of money. How about $634 million or $710
million? At some point, you lose everybody because it’s just not worth
it.’” Once again, there are no such uncertainties in terms of court
delays, final land costs, and environmental remediation costs at the RFK
Stadium site. No matter what fiction the CFO is reportedly set to
perpetrate when he compares the two sites, the current site is still not
in a state where remotely certain cost and timeline predictions can be
made. It’s about time that independent and comprehensive analyses of
both sites be done to allow the DC Council time to study the issue
thoroughly and arrive at the true costs of the stadium, and the council
should demand that no lease deal be approved until that work is done.
DC’s auditor was called in before to check the accuracy of the
stadium cost figures that had been reported when the CFO had
conveniently left out financing costs from his report. MLB has such a
sweetheart deal that is unmatched from stadium revenue to sales price
that they’re not going to do anything to jeopardize that while the
council and the independent entities complete their work -- on their own
timetable, since MLB had no problem holding the council to theirs. Let’s
give someone else besides the baseball Brigade a chance to find out the
facts of the situation before it’s too late.
Reaction and Inaction
Ed T. Barron, edtb@aoldotcom
For almost the whole seven years of Tony Williams’ tenure as mayor
of DC, his term could be described in two words, "reaction"
and "inaction." Every exposure of wrongdoing by city employees
is greeted by the reaction of horrified surprise from the mayor. Then,
as in the case of demonstrated illegal activities by members of the
mayor’s staff, the reaction is followed by inaction. No prosecution;
no accountability. Save for the incredibly cruel theft of union funds by
union officials (not city employees) we have had no action taken against
criminal activities, only surprise by the mayor and complaints about
those who have uncovered the wrongdoing. And to think, I voted for this
totally non-proactive mayor. Shame on me.
Guide for Giving
Wayne Turner, email@example.com
The end of the year is fast approaching, so many of us are being
inundated with fundraising solicitations from area charities. A little
research can help you get the biggest bang for your charitable donation
dollars. All tax exempt, 501(c)3 organizations must make their 990 tax
forms available for public inspection. The 990s give a good overview of
income, expenses, and the top salaries at your favorite charities. A web
site, http://www.guidestar.com, has assembled the 990 tax forms for
thousands of US charities, which can be viewed for free (no need to pay
for their premium service).
Here’s a comparison of some local charities that have been sending
me requests for cash. Food and Friends: program expenses $4,127,604,
Executive Director Craig Shniderman’s compensation $300,395.00 (2004);
Whitman Walker Clinic: program expenses $22,378,957, Executive Director
Cornelius Baker’s compensation $135,147.00 (2003 amendment); So Others
Might Eat (SOME), program expenses $10,200,850 (2004), Executive
Director Richard Gerlach’s compensation $105, 577.00.
Of course, volunteering your time is the best way to guarantee that
your contribution actually helps our area’s neediest residents who
depend upon social services.
Learning Videos Uploaded to the Web
Phil Shapiro, firstname.lastname@example.org
Three of the main purposes we’re here on planet Earth is to inform,
inspire, and instruct one another. The people on this E-mail list do a
pretty good job of informing one another, but we fall short on the
latter two. (Admittedly, the scope of themail does not extend much in
the direction of the latter two.) To give you an idea of what it’s
like when we teach each other things, I’ve uploaded to the web two
recently created video files. One of these videos is a guitar lesson
showing how to play the basic melody of the song Solsbury Hill, by Peter
Gabriel. This file is about four minutes in duration and about forty
megabytes in file size. It is suitable for beginner and intermediate
guitar players. The other video is a talking-head, 26-minutes bio about
the Wright Brothers, about 225 megabytes. Both videos play on Windows or
Macintosh computers with QuickTime 6.x or higher — and on the new iPod
for portable learning. I’m pretty sure these files play on Linux
computers, too. You can download these files from links on my Protopage
(Protopage is an excellent free service that lets you store text, links,
and photos for public or private purposes.)
Both of these video files may be redistributed for any purpose. They’re
my message in a bottle. Guess what? You’re the bottle. Thanks for
sharing word about these with people you know who might benefit from
them. Gracious thanks are owed to DC videographer Justin Swain who
helped me create these videos.
When I was in third grade I brought something for Show and Tell and
my teacher told me, “In third grade we don’t do Show and Tell
anymore. We don’t have time.” Oh, yes we do, ma’am. Yes we do. If
something is worthwhile, you make time for it. I vowed on that day that
Show and Tell would not be eradicated from my life or from the life of
my peers. Not on my watch, it won’t. (You can see a photo of me in
third grade at http://www.his.com/pshapiro.
I look at that photo from time to time to remind me of my vow.) Now, did
anyone else bring something for Show and Tell today?
Folk and Traditional Arts Mini-Grants
Tania Tam, email@example.com
Please help us get the word out about the DC Commission on the Arts
and Humanities FY 2006 folk and traditional arts mini-grant program. The
deadline for applying for the next cycle of grants is January 18, 2006.
If you know of any DC-based individuals or organizations who are working
to promote and educate in the area of folk or traditional arts, please
feel free to forward information about the grants to them. Further
information is available on our web site at http://www.dcarts.dc.gov.
I would be glad to assist with any questions you might have at 724-1400.
Joan Eisenstodt, firstname.lastname@example.org
Woohoo that the Council passed it. Boo that Tony Williams is making
veto sounds and saying that all the restaurant business will go to
Virginia. Boo that it may not be implemented until 2007. If NYC, Boston,
all of California, and so many US cities, states, and international
cities are making their restaurants smoke-free and thriving, why does he
think ours won’t? Even lobbyists and members of Congress won’t
schlep to Virginia for lunch just to smoke. Well, only those with
tobacco-related organizations. Imagine we’ll see some private clubs
for the cigar smokers. Who cares? Let them contaminate each other.
Can Congress veto this?
A Most Unstressful Christmas
Ed T. Barron, edtb@aoldotcom
Christmas for our clan comes whenever in December we can get a
critical mass of our kids, spouses, and grandkids. That opportunity came
the first weekend , plus a couple of days, this year. No problem with
the shopping. Most of our clan have embraced Internet shopping. In my
own case I am ready for Christmas by the end of July each year, taking
advantage of the out-of-season and post holiday sales. This year was a
record breaking event with the whole gang in attendance. Sometimes we
have to settle for 90 percent. Great event for all.
As for what to do when the real Christmas comes along? Will be
cruising the Danube from Budapest to Prague along with 140 other folks.
Further on NCMC Bailout of Howard University
Alan Kimber, email@example.com
Samuel Jordan hit the nail on the head [themail, December 7] in
asking whether the National Capital Medical Center is really just a
preemptive bailout of Howard University. We have yet to see the complete
proposal being negotiated in secret by the Mayor and Howard Board of
Trustees. What conditions imposed by the Howard Board will we find out
about only after the project has been approved by the Council? How much
taxpayer money will end up being transferred to a private university
instead of fixing our public schools?
The bailout doesn’t stop with the enormous subsidy that Howard will
receive to construct the new hospital. (does anyone trust the Mayor’s
cost estimates in light of the ballpark fiasco?) Once construction is
completed at Reservation 13, or possibly before, Howard will be able to
close down or move and significantly reduce their existing hospital
facility. Presto! Howard has a very valuable piece of property in a
prime location that it can either put to another purpose, or perhaps
more likely, sell to a developer for a princely sum.
Together with everything else -- the subsidy from DC, Howard’s
current inability to compete, failure to provide the right services at
Reservation 13, unknown strings being demanded by Howard’s Board —
the fact that Howard will also receive a windfall from the value of the
existing hospital property sure makes this "deal" sound like
one big bailout.
CLASSIFIEDS — EVENTS
DC Public Library Events, December 14-15
Debra Truhart, firstname.lastname@example.org
Wednesday, December 14, 1:00 p.m., Juanita E. Thornton/Shepherd Park
Neighborhood Library, 7420 Georgia Avenue, NW. The Shepherd Park
Wednesday Afternoon book club will discuss The Mermaid Chair by
Sue Monk Kidd. Public contact: 541-6100.
Thursday, December 15, 12:00 p.m., Martin Luther King, Jr., Memorial
Library, 901 G Street, NW, Room A-5. Soprano Malinda Dix-Hunt and
Mezzo-Soprano Andrea Duplechanin, with Pianist Michael Crabill, perform
a concert of favorite sacred songs, spirituals and popular standards for
the holiday season. Public contact: 727-1285.
CLASSIFIEDS — NEEDED
I need a used microwave oven. Do you have a used microwave oven that
you don’t need anymore? If you do, contact me.
CLASSIFIEDS — RECOMMENDATIONS
Pool Repair Company
Phil Greene, email@example.com
My dad’s swimming pool needs some plaster repair, some tile repair,
maybe just an acid wash, maybe re-plastering the whole thing. Does
anyone have a recommendation among contractors in this field? He lives
in North Chevy Chase, MD.
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