themail.gif (3487 bytes)

December 14, 2005

Third Strike

Dear Batters:

Mary Katherine Ham, on Hugh Hewitt’s blog, writes about the “Cost of Baseball in DC” ( . She cites the newspaper article about the estimated cost of the baseball stadium rising again by tens of millions of dollars, and says, “Ok, but please, Mayor Williams, please for goodness’ sake don’t quote ‘Field of Dreams’ again. That just makes the ride you’re taking us on more humiliating. ‘“We’re not in a cornfield in Iowa, but we’re building [the ballpark] and they have come,” Williams said of the developers, playing off the famous line from the movie “Field of Dreams.”’ Urrggh, you did it. It’s like a punch in the gut every time you do that -- a punch in the gut on top of the tax hikes and the eminent domain takings and the floating price tag.

“The headline on this story is ‘Stadium Pricetag to Rise By Millions.’ I’m willing to bet (a lot) it’s not the last time we’ll see it between now and '08-ish, when the stadium is due to be finished, and most of the funding will be ‘public,’ which is a nice way for Mayor Williams to say ‘someone else’s, so I don’t have to worry about it too much.’”

You may also want to read Nicole Gelinas’ article in the August 2005 issue of City Journal, “They’re Taking Away Your Property for What?” ( It explains why eminent domain seizures for the purpose of economic development, such as those that the mayor plans for the baseball stadium and for the rest of the Anacostia Waterfront project, are not just an unjust abuse of state power, but also almost always economic and planning failures. Among many pertinent points, including a sidebar on what Gelinas calls the “eminently silly” Skyland Shopping Center project, read her description of the Atlantic Yards stadium and office building project in Brooklyn, so similar to the Anacostia Waterfront plans. It’s another example of how government intervenes in an up-and-coming area where development is already taking place and, with a massive investment of public funds, succeeds only in replacing organic, natural, piecemeal development with a centrally planned, dull, failed project — and in massive profits for the politically favored developers. “In the free market,” Gelinas writes, “a poorly designed project will fail and be replaced by a well-designed project — or just won’t find private financing to get built. With government central planning, ill designed projects last forever — and they retard natural growth around them. Take Mayor Bloomberg’s recently scuttled plan to subsidize a football stadium on Manhattan’s West Side. Like Ratner in Prospect Heights, Bloomberg pitched the deal as a necessary stimulant for a long-dormant neighborhood. In truth, developers have been moving midtown Manhattan steadily westward for two decades, beginning with the Worldwide Plaza office and condo tower on Eighth Avenue in the early 1980s and now extending westward and southward with new apartment towers along Ninth, Tenth, and Eleventh Avenues throughout the West 40s and 50s. A stadium would only serve as a wall against the continuance of that natural growth. We can see the effects of 1950s-style urban renewal — the housing projects still stand. It’s harder to see missed opportunities.” She could be describing the Anacostia Waterfront project. As developers repeatedly testified yesterday at the council hearing on the stadium, development will take place in this area anyway, and the most that government investment and planning will accomplish is speeding it up by a few years — but at the cost of billions of dollars of public funds, seizures of private property from disfavored owners to give to politically favored developers, and governmentally planned projects that will be far inferior to what would otherwise be built.

Gary Imhoff


More Questions about the NCMC
Samuel Jordan, Health Care Now,

The current administration came to office on the strength of the mayor’s reputation as a no-nonsense financial officer at the US Department of Agriculture, followed by a chief financial officer stint under the aegis of the Control Board. We are, consequently, smothered in irony when the administration’s drummers for the National Capital Medical Center (NCMC) speak of public responsibility while campaigning to suspend the Certificate of Need (CON) process. A CON inquiry requires an examination of the market impact and market value of the services offered by the proposed hospital within the local health services/facilities matrix. Will the additional beds glut the District? Are the costs of construction and startup to be recovered within a nonpublic source revenue generation strategy? Will Howard University Hospital survive? Just commonsensical stuff.

While a CON review may not approximate vetting by the US Government Accounting Office or by Easy Rawlins, Private Eye, it may encourage public confidence in the scheme. Yet, the administration has embarked upon an attempt to avoid scrutiny, then hustle the plan off to the council where a number of members have already committed to endorse it -- without any significant deference to facts. The method chosen shrouds the proposal in an unnecessary cloak of suspicion. The drum section has only itself to blame for the increasing skepticism. The NCMC project may provide an object lesson in pitfalls to avoid when an administration wants to assure the voters that its proposals have merit. Never begin the sales tour by seeking suspension of a thorough public examination of the details. Isn’t this rule elementary? Nevertheless, the administration’s argument for suspension of the CON process is that it takes too much time and is somehow obsolete. Really, what is left? A few hearings before the Council? That approach to scrutiny has gotten us a lock on a $714 million baseball stadium.

While financial minutiae should be fully disclosed, another challenge for the NCMC has not been addressed at all. Health Care Now! has insisted since the project was announced that the proposed hospital disclose its role in a general strategy to improve the health status indicators for District residents, particularly those in medically underserved communities. For over thirty years, in spite of urgent pleas, not one stethoscope, test tube, or cotton swab made the half-mile trek from DC General Hospital to River Terrace to determine why this community on the banks of the sewage-laced Anacostia and guarded by a Pepco power plant smokestack, was generating the metropolitan area’s worst health statistics for respiratory illnesses and deaths due to carcinogens. We need an assertive, health improvement outreach and service-oriented plan for the District, not another passive treatment fortress on a hill. DC residents should demand the details on how their public tax dollars are spent. Health Care Now! recommends that Howard University Hospital, the Williams administration, and the Council conduct a multimedia, cable television/radio/online, simulcast panel discussion to give the public full disclosure on the NCMC proposal. Register your support for a transparent public information process on the NCMC by calling the Health Care Now! Survey Line, 547-3237, before December 31, 2005.


More Noise in DC
Joan Eisenstodt,

I know . . . don’t live downtown if you don’t want noise . . . though the suburbs are not noise free nor was our home on the Hill. I’ve left five messages at the DC office of compliance for construction and no call back. Ever. It seems that projects can receive variances for hours. The building (mammoth office/retail space) going up at the corner of 6th and H Streets, behind our building and next to Coyote Ugly, my “favorite” bar, is building seven days a week, starting well before the 7 a.m. stated time to start construction in DC. At 6:30 this (Monday) a.m., the noise had begun. It goes on seven days a week from early morning. Other than moving (not a possibility right now) anyone know who in the DC government might give a damn? (OK . . . I know . . . but maybe.)


One Year of S. 195
Steve Leraris,

S.195, which has only thirteen cosponsors, and HR. 398, which has only eighty cosponsors, will be a year old on January 26, 2006. Will there be any kind of news conference, or better yet, a protest planned involving all the voting rights groups and our elected leaders.

I’d like to suggest something outside Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean’s home (someone here must know where he lives) to put the Democrats on notice that their tepid support for DC voting rights has to end, and aggressive support must begin now! All the Democrats have to do is insert language in to an upcoming must-pass Omnibus Bill.


The Eleventh Hour
Dorothy Brizill,

With the council vote on the baseball lease set for December 20, Mayor Williams testified on Tuesday before the council’s Economic Development Committee to defend the lease he had negotiated with Major League Baseball. He stayed at the hearing for more than four hours, spending more time and being more engaged that he ever had on any other issue in his two terms in office. During his testimony, the mayor consistently argued that the second panel of witnesses, which consisted of the developers whom the city had chosen to get the land around the stadium, after it had been seized from its current owners, would be able to answer the council’s questions about how the city would get private financing for the infrastructure costs at the South Capitol stadium site. The developers, however, did not deliver. When repeatedly asked, they said that they would help contribute to the infrastructure costs related to their individual projects, but they categorically refused any notion that they would contribute to the infrastructure costs of the stadium project.

During the course of the hearing, the council also raised questions about the Anacostia Waterfront Corporation’s having awarded development rights to two large parcels of land that it doesn’t own and can’t seize by eminent domain because they are owned by the Water and Sewer Authority (WASA) and by the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA). Councilmembers Carol Schwartz, who is on the board of WASA, and Jim Graham, who is on the board of WMATA, both stressed that these utilities’ boards had not been approached about selling the properties and were unlikely to approve of selling them. They talked about the usefulness and value of those properties and the immense costs involved in purchasing and relocating the multipurpose WASA facilities and the bus garage and parking lot that are on them -- costs that do not seem to have been factored into the cost estimates of the stadium project.

The witness list on Tuesday consisted of sixty-three names, and was top-heavy with stadium supporters who had been invited by the administration. Most of these supporters, however, did not show up to the hearing, and most of those who did come left long before their turn to testify. The supporters who were there were mostly from recreation groups — youth team coaches and so on. Business groups such as the DC Chamber of Commerce and the Greater Washington Board of Trade did not show, suggesting to onlookers a possible weakening of business support as the unfunded costs of the project soar.


Even Fans Hate the Stadium Deal
Jon Desenberg,

One aspect of the stadium situation that has gone unnoticed is that many of the people shelling out thousands for season tickets would rather stay forever in RFK. I was once in favor of the stadium, but after discovering that my season ticket seat location would be displaced at the ultra-lux new palace for corporate boxes I changed my tune. Yes, I live in the District and have the same fiscal reasons that everyone else has listed for hating the stadium deal. But it came down to something much more selfish; they want to kick us regular folks out from behind the plate and move us somewhere where we won’t get near the swells or the players.

Long live RFK.


The Important Section
Gregory E. Mize,

I find it curious that Section 18.16 of the Stadium Lease Agreement between DC Sports and Entertainment Commission and Expos Baseball, Inc. has a waiver of jury trial found at section 18.16. That Section reads:

18.16. Waiver of Jury Trial


It is the only section of the lease that is entirely capitalized. This suggests that it is an especially important contract term for the parties. What message does that give? It is clear that the parties are very eager to make sure that, if there is a breach of the contract or some other civil complaint arising out of the lease arrangement, a fair and impartial jury of DC citizens should not be the fact-finders. Why is that?


Kathy Patterson, Stealth Member of the City Council
Larry Seftor, larry underscore seftor .the757 at

As a resident of Ward 3, I’m continually stuck by the fact that I hear, see, and read about other members of the city council, while my council representative is apparently in hiding. Therefore, it is with some interest that I hear (on WTOP) that Kathy Patterson is one of three swing votes on the baseball stadium financing issue. While I read on Patterson’s web site, for example, that the “Wilson Pool Completion Date Moved Up One Year,” I can find nothing about the potential commitment of close to a billion dollars that Ms. Patterson is soon to vote on. Ms. Patterson, I call on you to stand up and speak out. Explain to me, and others who you represent, your position on the baseball stadium. Explain why, in light of the facts that Abe Pollin paid for an arena downtown and the Redskins ownership paid for a stadium in Landover, that DC taxpayers are supposed to build a single use stadium for a monopoly that is reaping a windfall by the upcoming sale of the team. Explain why, if economic development is important for Southeast, that there are not better types of investment for urban development than a single use stadium. In short, explain to me, and others in Ward 3, the rationale for your upcoming vote in light of the interests of your constituents.


Vote Grubbing
Ed Delaney,

The Associated Press reports that mayor absentee is going into vote grubbing mode rather than standing up to Major League Baseball with the city council ( “The mayor is hoping that the promise of $3 billion in economic development and the creation of up to 20,000 permanent, year-round retailing and hospitality jobs in the ballpark district will help him land the additional votes.” Failing that, he’s going to go into vote buying mode like he did the last time. The ability of MLB to drive such a bad deal down the throat of the District simply because the mayor will be handing out political swag to self-serving council members would truly signify the private sector’s control of the political situation and make Tammany Hall look democratic by comparison.

“Williams said Tuesday that 70 percent of the 2.7 million people who attended Nationals games during their inaugural season were not city residents. Most of the money to repay construction costs for the new ballpark would come from taxes on tickets and concessions. ‘Why wouldn’t we want to invest in something where most of the dollars and purchasing is coming from outside of the city?’ Williams asked during his weekly news briefing.” Because most of the dollars and purchasing are not staying in the city but are immediately going to be swallowed up in stadium costs despite the cut-rate nature of the stadium or are going to flow back out of the city coffers and into the coffers of MLB, Deutsche Bank, and the developers the Brigade is cronying up with for the development projects near the stadium.

“Major League Baseball officials have said the original site is essential to the success of the franchise and will not accept a new location.” They didn’t say that they won’t accept a new site. They said that “We are not prepared to summarily agree that the site ought to be moved,” which is not the same thing whatsoever as saying MLB would not accept a new location but it rather leaves MLB plenty of wiggle room to allow the RFK Stadium site to still be accepted. But this guy Derrill Holley — who recently has seemed to be attached to the mayor’s hip during this baseball process — has been carrying water for the Brigade hard, so what’s another falsehood here and there when you’ve got an agenda to drive?

“We will have residents that will be able to have jobs. There will be revenue from people stopping off at restaurants,” said Cropp. And that’s the reason to pass a deal at the current site where costs have led to the dropping of infrastructure, parking and Metro improvement costs? How are these people going to get to the stadium site and home from it in order to stop off at a restaurant if the Brigade doesn’t take care of the infrastructure, Cropp? The access issues created by the lack of certitude on infrastructure along with the forced cuts in stadium amenities into a cut-rate greenhouse that you yourself said would lead to “a Buick or Ford” ballpark isn’t going to lead to any significant amount of revenue compared with the costs. Plus, any jobs benefits, low-paying and menial as they likely will be, would almost certainly be counterbalanced with the loss of DC businesses who are unwilling to shoulder the extra tax burden brought by the ballpark, especially since the Deutsche Bank proposal cannot provide businesses tax relief due to Wall Street requirements. I missed the CFO and mayor talking about that spin-off result of the ballpark.

“Councilman Vincent Orange, said revenue from the planned entertainment district around the ballpark would help raise money for schools, libraries, construction of the National Capital Medical Center and other projects within five years. ‘Having $3 million coming to this city each year to attend these baseball games, represents new dollars,’ said Orange.” When details were sought at yesterday’s hearing about where such a deal was spelled out in full, the Brigade balked and couldn’t produce a thing, because there is no such plan up and running and ready to go. It was supposed to be comprised of excess project revenue, but the plan’s cost have risen so that we know the city has had to make cut after cut in the stadium project to pay for it. If there’s no excess revenue to even cover basics such as parking, infrastructure, and revenue improvements, there’s going to be no money of consequence to be found for this unrealistic "community benefits fund.”

No one’s even mentioning the possibility — and I’d say the likelihood given the cut-rate stadium design and accessibility issues — that the $24 million that is anticipated to be raised annually from ballpark-specific taxes and revenue will be less than anticipated, even though it was less than anticipated this year for the city while the team made greater profits than expected. In the October 8th Post, the city’s revenue shortfall of at least $500,000 (and likely a lot more, though no follow-up story has ever been done) was explained thusly: “John Ross, a senior financial adviser for the city, said the potential shortfall is due mostly to more no-shows at games than anticipated, meaning less revenue was generated from parking and in-stadium concessions and merchandise sales. Nationals officials said that though an average of 33,728 fans bought tickets to each game, more than 25% did not attend. The industry standard is 15% to 20%. "If people aren’t coming, they’re not buying concessions and merchandise," Ross said.” Now, this occurred in the franchise’s first year, where merchandise sales figure to be at an all-time high. There were also no rainout games this year, and there was a winning team on the field. What’s the excuse going to be when the team isn’t so hot on the field and the ballpark’s Windex-riffic sheen has worn off (which figures to be rather quickly considering the transportation and parking issues as well as the cut-rate nature of this uninspired greenhouse suggests that anyone not in the luxury boxes will be served up a sub-par experience by design)? That would leave even less possibility that excess revenue would ever reach the community, yet the Brigade is still throwing out these fantastic numbers of $450 million and $3 million annually to the community as their deceit machine rolls on.

“Williams said he is working with council members who might vote for the lease if their concerns are addressed.” Ka-ching! It’d be comical is it weren’t so serious.


The Press at Its Best
Phil Shapiro,

Almost as penance for publishing a full-length article about a junk food board game, the Post publishes a column by Donna Britt ( that reminds us what the press is at its best. There is hope, but only if more readers and subscribers speak out about what a newspaper should aspire to. That junk food board game article? Premeditated arbicide. Donna Britt? She should be elevated to a newsroom editor. She wouldn’t let any junk food board game articles pollute our eyes. She knows how to separate wheat from chaff.


Eugene McCarthy, An Appreciation
Joan Eisenstodt,

Thanks for what you wrote, Gary [themail, December 11]. I, too, had the opportunity to meet him a few times when I worked for a not-for-profit in DC. I had campaigned for him and my very first vote ever, in the '68 Ohio primary, was the proudest vote I’ve ever cast. He ensured that a generation was active and still is today. Who will ensure that a new generation, and all those in between who are not voting, will be active?


December 2005 InTowner
Peter Wolff,

This is to advise that the December 2005 on-line edition has been uploaded and may be accessed at Included are the lead stories, community news items and crime reports, editorials (including prior months archived), restaurant reviews (prior months also archived), and the text from the ever-popular “Scenes from the Past” feature. Also included are all current classified ads. The complete issue (along with prior issues back to May 2002) also is available in PDF file format directly from our home page at no charge simply by clicking the link provided. Here you will be able to view the entire issue as it appears in print, including all photos and advertisements. The next issue will publish on January 13 (the 2nd Friday of the month, as always). The complete PDF version will be posted by the preceding night or early that Friday morning at the latest, following which the text of the lead stories, community news, and selected features will be uploaded shortly thereafter.

To read this month’s lead stories, simply click the link on the home page to the following headlines: 1) “Final Hurdle Cleared Now Ensures Columbia Heights Retail Project”; 2) “HPRB’s Strict Aversion to Deviation from Original Design Recently Obvious”; 3) “Art and Artists Proliferating Throughout the Inner City as Recent Open Studio Events Attest.”


Two Hospitals Too Many
Len Sullivan,

This has been Hospital Month at NARPAC. On the positive side, we have taken a closer look at the Walter Reed site and see a strong redevelopment possibility that, if carried to its fullest potential, could bring the city as much as $270 million in additional annual revenues. It would also present the ideal opportunity to review outdated zoning restrictions near the city’s fringes. You’ll probably find something to disagree with at

On the negative side, we agree with most of the genuine experts that building a grandiose new hospital on the DC General site would be a waste of both money and opportunities to improve the health of DC’s most vulnerable residents. The concerted push by DC leadership for the National Capital Medical Center appears to be a triumph of political pandering over real-world rationality. Furthermore, the generalized statements of need are clearly incomplete, and not well-supported by the ambiguous "Stroudwater Assessment.” Analytically, important statistics are not included, or not projected far enough ahead. And in scope, basic regional realities are ignored completely. Take a look at our (lengthy) analysis in the December update of our web site at We think it’s high time to return to reason.



DC Public Library Events
Debra Truhart,

Friday, December 16, 12:00 p.m., Martin Luther King, Jr., Memorial Library, 901 G Street, NW, Main Lobby. The Metropolitan Black Arts Community Choir will sing songs of the holiday season. Public contact: 727-1211.


Historic Silver Spring Book Discussion, December 17
Jerry A. McCoy,

The Silver Spring Historical Society announces publication of Historic Silver Spring by Jerry A. McCoy with a discussion and book signing on Saturday, December 17, 1:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m., at the National Register-listed 1945 Baltimore & Ohio Railroad Station, 8100 Georgia Avenue (at Sligo Avenue), in downtown Silver Spring. Cost of the book is $19.99 (check or cash only). Discussion is free. Limited parking available in front of the railroad station. Refreshments will be served. Information 301-565-2519.

Published by Arcadia Publishing, Historic Silver Spring celebrates the community’s past, beginning with founder Francis Preston Blair’s 1840 discovery of the mica-flecked spring and the 1873 arrival of the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad. Vintage photographs document the progressive growth of main streets Georgia Avenue and Colesville Road, and the construction of the Silver Spring Armory and National Dry Cleaning Institute in 1927 and the Silver Theater and Silver Spring Shopping Center in 1938. The volume culminates with modern pictures of downtown Silver Spring’s 21st-century revitalization, which continues to preserve the past and secure the future of the area. In a pictorial journey through the community’s Central Business District and bordering residential neighborhood of East Silver Spring, Historic Silver Spring honors the people and places that have come before.

Author Jerry A. McCoy is a public librarian for Washington, DC, history special collections at the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial Library’s Washingtoniana Division and the Georgetown Branch Library’s Peabody Room. A resident of downtown Silver Spring since 1992, McCoy founded the Silver Spring Historical Society in 1998 and co-produced with Final Cut Productions the 2002 local Emmy-nominated documentary “Silver Spring: Story of an American Suburb.” His monthly history column, "Silver Spring: Then & Again" appears in the Silver Spring Voice. An image of the book’s cover may be viewed at


HIV Planning Summit, December 20
Clifton Roberson,

The DC Department of Health, HIV/AIDS Administration, is hosting a community-wide planning summit on Tuesday, December 20, from 2:00 to 6:30 p.m. (registration beginning at 1:30 p.m.) at the Academy for Educational Development (AED), 1875 Connecticut Avenue NW. It will bring representatives of planning groups focused on prevention and care, as well as community stakeholders, together in order to help formulate a comprehensive community planning process.

Marsha A. Martin, DSW, Senior Deputy Director, HIV/AIDS Administration, said the meeting is an important first step for developing a regional HIV plan. Invitees will be asked to help outline the key components of a comprehensive plan for the region, as well as identify ways to maximize resources to ensure equity in services to those infected and affected by HIV. Martin said she will make recommendations and suggestions from the meeting available to the public at a later date.



House History and Neighborhood History
Paul Williams,

Give the lasting gift of history for the holidays! Purchase a gift certificate from Kelsey & Associates for a complete house history! You’ll be amazed at the amount of historical details we can uncover about your homes past and about those that owned or rented it by researching building permits, biographies, Wills, census, deeds, and even vintage photographs. Each of our color reports is handsomely illustrated and bound. Visit for samples and a free estimate.

Or stop by your local book seller and give the gift of history through one of our eleven titles on DC neighborhoods and themes, each with over 200 vintage photographs with extensive captions. We’ve sold over 20,000 books by author Paul K. Williams to date. Our titles by Arcadia Publishing include: Dupont Circle, Logan, Scott & Thomas Circles, Greater U Street, Woodley Park, Cleveland Park, Capitol Hill, Georgetown University, Washington During the WWII Years, Washington Then & Now, Nostalgic Views of Washington (only at Borders), and soon, Southwest Washington. Look for Forest Hills and Art Deco Washington in 2006!



Volunteering on New Year’s Eve
Charlene Collings,

There are ample opportunities for volunteering on Thanksgiving and Christmas, especially for helping with holiday meals. Are there any metro-area organizations serving less-privileged folks who need volunteers at New Year’s Eve events this year?


themail@dcwatch is an E-mail discussion forum that is published every Wednesday and Sunday. To subscribe, to change E-mail addresses, or to switch between HTML and plain text versions of themail, use the subscription form at To unsubscribe, send an E-mail message to with “unsubscribe” in the subject line. Archives of past messages are available at

All postings should also be submitted to, and should be about life, government, or politics in the District of Columbia in one way or another. All postings must be signed in order to be printed, and messages should be reasonably short — one or two brief paragraphs would be ideal — so that as many messages as possible can be put into each mailing.

Send mail with questions or comments to
Web site copyright ©DCWatch (ISSN 1546-4296)