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December 18, 2005


Dear Doggled:

Why does the mayor favor the southeast site for a new ballpark? Why did the mayor and the Chief Financial Officer exaggerate the difficulty and inflate the cost estimates of building the stadium at the RFK site? Because the ballpark is an integral part of the mayor’s plan for the Anacostia Waterfront Initiative. The Anacostia Waterfront Corporation, formed to carry out the government’s plan for this area, does have a few legitimate public-interest purposes: to clean the Anacostia River, to ensure public access to the riverfront, and to plan and develop public parks and green space in the area. But these purposes are all subordinate to its primary purpose, to act a central government planning agency directing economic development in the area, dictating what can and will be built and choosing who will be allowed to own, develop, and profit from the land under its control. Our city government is run by people who believe that central government planning of economic development is superior to, and gives better results than, a free market economy.

Are our politicians, then, a fifth column of communists, determined to overthrow capitalism? No, because their preference for centralized government planning of the economy is really a mask for much more practical benefits for politicians. If politicians choose who can own, develop, and profit from property, they have enormous power. They can reward their rich and powerful developer friends with property -- whether that property was already owned by the public or is seized from less powerful citizens -- and those developers will in turn reward them, professionally and personally. Politicians can then direct massive tax-funded subsidies to their friends’ development projects, further enriching them and keeping their friendship circle intact. (Ministers whose support for the ballpark was bought by the promise of TIF funding for their community projects should note that all of the developers chosen by the AWC have said they want those same TIF funds to subsidize their projects.) And when a project is finally built, politicians won’t be relegated to the sidelines, congratulating developers at the groundbreaking or grand opening; they will be front-and-center taking credit for all the "hard work" they did to bring the community this new convenience store, or Starbucks, or big-box retailer. (In 2006, we in Columbia Heights are sure to go through the fourth electoral cycle in a row in which politicians will stand in an empty lot at 14th and Irving Streets and proclaim that a Target store will open there in a few months, and that they deserve the credit for it.) There’s no need, therefore, to believe that our mayor and city council actively prefer centralized government planning because they are committed to communism; it is sufficient to believe that they are committed to corporate welfare and corruption.

The Washington Post, in an editorial today that is so weakly reasoned as to be irrational, says that the city council should vote for the ballpark lease and commit taxpayers to pay the hundreds of millions of dollars currently estimated, the hundreds of millions of dollars in inevitable construction overruns, and the hundreds of millions of dollars in upgrades that the baseball team will demand in coming years, even though most of this money is unbudgeted and unfunded, and then hope that the rest of the money turns up somewhere ( Perhaps, the Post suggests, the new team owners, having just paid the extortionate price for the team demanded by Major League Baseball, will want to donate a few hundred millions that they have no legal obligation to pay. Sure, and maybe the city’s financial plan is to buy some PowerBall tickets and hope it wins a big lottery. Administration officials are desperately trying to convince undecided councilmembers to ignore the bad deal, not to worry about the money, and, most of all, not to worry that Allen, Brazil, and Chavous lost their reelection races after being prominent supporters of the ballpark boondoggle. The baseball supporters claim that the ballpark vote was irrelevant to last year’s election outcomes, and they badmouth these three losing councilmembers, their close friends and allies last year, as poor politicians and weak candidates who would have lost anyway. Don’t worry, they tell their disposable allies this year, vote to give us the money; we’ll finance your campaigns in return, and the voters won’t punish you for your fiscal irresponsibility. Famous last words.

Gary Imhoff


Buying and Selling Votes
Dorothy Brizill,

In an eleventh hour effort to garner council votes for the baseball lease, Mayor Williams has resorted to ultimatums and outright threats. At the mayor’s weekly press briefing last Wednesday, he made a barely veiled threat when he indicated that he "will work tirelessly to support" councilmembers who vote for the lease, and he "will not forget" those who vote against it. Since then, the mayor and his baseball team have been more direct and explicit in their threats to punish councilmembers who vote against him. He has said he will campaign actively against anyone running for elective office in 2006 who opposes the lease, and his office is holding out a blank check for supporters who have pet legislation or programs needing the mayor’s signature. For example, the mayor is now promising to support and sign Kathy Patterson’s school modernization legislation (with some modifications); to raise money from the business community for Linda Cropp’s mayoral campaign; and to give assurances to Kwame Brown that local, small, and disadvantaged businesses will reap additional benefits from the ballpark and the Anacostia Waterfront Initiative.

The question arises as to whether Williams’s threats are real or hollow. As a lame-duck mayor in his last year in office, does he have any political capital with District voters that could help or hurt candidates in 2006? In this regard it should be noted that 75 percent of those who attended Nationals games this year were from the suburbs and are not DC voters; and that every poll indicates that a vast majority of DC voters (in some polls as high as 70 percent) do not support the deal Williams negotiated with Major League Baseball, are concerned about the stadium’s cost, and prefer the RFK site. If Williams were perceived as acting in a retaliatory way against the constituents of any councilmember running for reelection or higher office, for example by withholding city services, that retaliation could well create voter antagonism to Williams and redound to the benefit of the targeted councilmember.

There is one councilmember, however, who may have succumbed to various threats and promises emanating from baseball backers, according to Wilson Building sources. Ward Three Councilmember Kathy Patterson is not running for reelection, but is a candidate for council chairman in 2006. Williams promised to support her school modernization bill. In addition, however, according to those who are in a position to know, Patterson met last week with lead baseball supporter Jack Evans. Evans, who was polling poorly in his bid to run for council chairman and who has multiple Office of Campaign Finance problems with his campaign finance reporting and political action committee expenses, withdrew from the council chairman’s race last Thursday -- according to him, to spend more time with his family. However, he called on Patterson prior to that withdrawal, and offered to withdraw from the race in exchange for Patterson’s vote in support of the baseball lease.


Anthony’s Folly
Larry Seftor, larry underscore seftor .the757 at

The fact-based article in today’s Post,, makes a stronger argument than I ever could against the baseball deal. It is clear that financial disaster is certain and that it will come after Mayor Anthony Williams is no longer in office. The citizens of DC will bear the burden of the Mayor’s mistakes and will only have naming rights for the disaster in return. I suggest "Anthony’s Folly."

[It’s a great idea, but the administration gave naming rights away to Major League Baseball, along with the keys to the DC treasury. — Gary Imhoff]


A Picture Paints $1.2 Billion Words on the Stadium Issue
Ed Delaney,

From Adrienne Washington’s column in the Washington Times: “Anthony Williams offers many an analogy. At a meeting with editors and reporters at The Washington Times this week, he likened buying a baseball stadium to buying an expensive painting. It’s a painting everyone in the family wants, so they pool their money and offer an outrageous bid at auction. The painting is soon theirs, even though they recognize that ‘it’s not the best circumstances.’ In other words, they know they got jacked, but they have their family heirloom. But, as these things go, when the family gets home and hangs the painting above the hearth, one complains that they paid too much and wants to send it back. ‘Everybody comes out of negotiations unsatisfied,’ Williams said. I don’t know about the Williams family, but in the Terrell family, Grandma Bea would have spoken up before the deal was struck and said, ‘Sorry, we can’t afford a pretty painting when we have children to feed and educate first.’” Read the whole thing at


Individual Taxpayers Will Pay for the Stadium
Greg DuRoss,

The Mayor and baseball supporters say that we individual taxpayers are not paying for the stadium, so they don’t understand our opposition. Well, their position is a bunch of crap. They are using a utility tax to generate income. Why is it that no one seems to have focused on the fact that all utility taxes get passed right through to the users — that would be us taxpayers. If you don’t believe me, just check out your bills for that new tax line they added when the city started charging fees to use the public right of way for electric, cable, phone lines etc.


“Ward 10” (i.e., NARPAC) Weighs in on a World-Class Baseball Stadium
Len Sullivan,

The DC council is about to make a narrowly focused decision on a much broader issue. If our national capital city is to get a baseball team, appropriately called the Nationals, surely it needs a world-class stadium that preserves the national image and serves DC’s financial interests as well. The financial success of a new Nationals’ Stadium depends not on local employment, ticket sales, and parking fees, but on its ability to spawn full development of otherwise fallow nearby land. The planned South Capitol Street stadium site sits amid about fifty acres of utter squalor, unfit for any US city. Mostly commercially zoned and unencumbered by neighborhood NIMBYism, those acres are surrounded by major redevelopment projects already well underway or on the books.

The alternate site for a Nickel & Dime RFK-replacement Stadium sits amid about fifty acres of federally-owned surface parking lots at DC’s east end. It is probably permanently isolated from downtown by hundreds of residential acres, settled by over 20,000 possessive, middle-income, single family, homeowners. The nearby 43-acre DC General Hospital site is to be redeveloped, but its revenue-potential appears limited by its location, a school, and a questionable council plan to saddle it with a nine-acre, “world-class hospital,” half funded by the city. The council has smartly earmarked future tax revenues from ‘Reservation 13’ for the city’s abiding healthcare problems.

A downtown acre of high-density residential or commercial development can now generate three million dollars in annual tax revenues, and cost DC a tiny fraction of that in services. A moderate-density, mainly residential development away from downtown might generate 25 percent as much in per-acre revenues, but much higher city services for schools, healthcare, and safety. NARPAC bets a first-class South Capital Street stadium can stimulate tenfold the net city income from its surrounds as an economy-class RFK stadium can from its surrounds. And the council can just as easily declare a special tax zone earmarking proceeds for capital infrastructure investments as for routine operating costs. NARPAC asks the council to stop grandstanding, look at the bigger picture, and act in the best interests of America’s capital. Stop focusing on penny-pinching the costs, and start weighing the benefits in long-term net revenues by expanding our world-class national capital downtown.


Stadium in Southeast
Rob Marvin,

[An open letter to city councilmembers] The debate over the stadium in southeast has focused almost exclusively on construction costs. How much and who should pay? The debate has failed to fully recognize the economic and tax revenue boost from the stadium. Each night fans will spend hundreds of thousands of dollars which over the course of the season will translate into hundreds of millions in additional tax revenue. One NBA playoff game, for instance, generated $100,000 in sales tax revenue, according to the Washington Examiner. Remember 82 home baseball games are played each year (plus playoffs, god willing).

Similarly, the additional real estate development — condos, retail, offices — will contribute millions to the DC tax base. Developers say over $100 million in tax revenue will be generated. The objection to the use of public funds amounts to nothing more than political grandstanding. The debt on the bonds will be serviced by patrons of the stadium through ticket sales etc. While many of those patrons will be from DC, most will be from the Maryland and Virginia suburbs. Additional stadium tax revenues could be used to improve schools, fund other benefit programs or lower taxes. Vote “yes” for the site in Southeast along the Anacostia.


An Open Letter to Councilmembers Schwartz, Catania, Brown, Graham, Fenty, and Barry
Thomas Smith,

Yesterday’s public roundtable on the baseball lease agreement was a disgrace. Because you used the roundtable to make repeated speeches on the issue, many members of the public were denied an opportunity to share their views — both pro and con — with you and other members of the public. Because I have a business to run, I had to leave after little more than three hours of speeches by council members — although I am aware that my testimony will be included as part of the official record.

But I was stunned by the lack of civility to the mayor and to others who testified at the public roundtable, including a group of developers — as well as, on occasion, a lack of civility to one another. There are many issues that divide this city, but we all share a commitment and responsibility for civil discourse. During the course of your speeches yesterday, on occasion you made reference to the importance of fiscal prudence. As I sat for more than three hours listening to you repeat these speeches and try to subject witnesses to public ridicule, I could not help but ask myself if this process in which you were engaged was an effective use of my tax dollars as a thirty-year resident of the District of Columbia and as a local political activist for twenty-five of those years.

Frankly, the citizens of this city deserve better than the behavior on display yesterday. I was one of those who planned to testify at the roundtable in support of the baseball lease agreement. I made that decision on my own without any prodding by anybody. Contrary to all the nay-sayers, I believe this will be good for the future of the city. I left after four hours because I had to work and because it was clear that council members only wanted to hear themselves talk, not give all the residents of the city an opportunity to have their voices heard.


Major League Baseball’s Strategy
Ann Loikow, Cleveland Park,

As we reach the closing days of the debate on the lease for new baseball stadium on South Capital Street, I would like to refresh folks’ memory of a very prescient editorial from The Washington Times, entitled “Baseball Talk,” published on December 18, 2002, p. A-18. The last half says (I added emphasis): "The interest of the 29 owners is clear: The more public money extorted to build the ballpark, the more dollars baseball’s 29 current owners can extract from the DC ownership group that wins the likely bidding process. In February, MLB purchased the Expos for $120 million. For the 2002 and 2003 seasons, MLB will likely spend $60 million keeping the franchise afloat.

“Make no mistake: The owners are salivating over the ‘capital gain’ they expect to extort from the winning DC ownership group. They know that the Cleveland Indians, which once was virtually bankrupt, fetched an astonishing $320 million in 1999. And they know that in 1998 the Cleveland Browns, an expansion football team, commanded $530 million in a bidding contest. Most important of all, the baseball owners know why: The fact that both teams play in publicly financed stadiums caused their franchise values to soar far beyond what they otherwise would have been. For their two-year cumulative investment of roughly $180 million in the Expos, baseball owners expect to receive as much as $350 million [now $450 million] for the team - and perhaps more, depending upon the intensity of the likely bidding.

“Of course, the various DC-area groups competing for the franchise know that the value of their investment will largely depend upon the extent to which they can convince elected officials to commit taxpayer money for a revenue-gushing, state-of-the-art ballpark. Luxury suites. Club seats. personal seat licenses. naming rights. parking fees. Concessions revenue. Signage. Broadcast rights in a hugely upscale, largely untapped market. [All of which MLB claims in the draft lease.] If taxpayers were to bear much of the risk by financing a ballpark, the largest physical investment expenditure a team will have, the sky would be the limit for profits to be realized by already-wealthy, now publicly subsidized, relatively risk-free owners.

“The DC Council should repudiate Mayor Anthony Williams’ ill-advised offer of $200 million [now $700 million and climbing] in public subsidies. Necessary infrastructure improvements? Yes. Corporate welfare? Never.” Amazing, isn’t it?


Jack Evans and the Foolish Council
Ed Dixon,

Jack Evans sat on the pre-control board council as he sits on the post-control board council. He has frequently used this “experience” to point out “I’ve been there” and “I know what needs to be done.” However, the experience that he has may be the experience that drove DC to the control board to begin with.

According to DC Code 3301.2, a person shall be prohibited from offering, and a public official, or any member of a public official’s household, shall be prohibited from receiving anything of value, based on “any reasonable inference that the thing of value would influence the public official’s discharge of duties.” On May 26 and 30, 2005, DC Fund, formerly known as Jack Pac, reported receiving $1500 from registered lobbyists John Ray and Tina Brown while conducting business during the January to July session. John Ray and Tina Brown were officially lobbying at the time for, among other interests, Major League Baseball. The Washington Post has been reporting on the Evans’ campaign coffers and their fiscal mismanagement. The Office of Campaign Finance is investigating the reimbursements issued by the DC Fund and what was spent on a recently failed mayoral campaign. What folks need to look at as well is the extent that contributions act as quid pro quo for legislation. Certainly with the examples of Ray and Brown the lines are getting very blurred.

Folks nationwide are surprised about the giveaway that DC is about to make in regards to baseball. The fact that there is no cap on spending overruns on the stadium deal (caps which Evans has badgered the city for in regards to the schools) raises serious doubt as to whether or not Evans understands from where all the money is going to come. As evidence of the surprise nationwide, the Monterey Herald in California ran Ray Rivera’s story in the Post on cost overruns ( See the Council is not just setting the standard for how DC is going to work with big business but it is setting the standard for how the country is going to deal with big business. Once DC gives in, other cities will have to follow, making the situation a lot worse for everyone. Thanks, Jack!


Untreated Ice, Endangered Pedestrians
Yoma Ullman,

Snow and ice are never cleared from the sidewalk fronting Muhlenberg Park between Everett and Ellicott Streets on Connecticut Avenue. The result is a sheet of ice that endangers people who walk that way and people who go to the bus stop on that block.

I know from past experience that exposure in themail can bring results, not to mention allies. Any suggestions?


A Community Videocast and Joy to the World
Phil Shapiro,

I’ve been wondering recently what a community videocast would look like and sound like. Something that would be inclusive and that would bring together sights and sounds from across the city. Something grassroots and authentic that celebrates the many strengths in our community. (Continued at

In this season of peacefulness and tranquility, I thought it might be nice to share a video of a raucous, no-holds-barred rock-and-roll version of Joy to the World. (Continued on page 2 of my Protopage at

Foot stomping and spontaneous hollering allowed in this manger.


Not All Failures
Ed T. Barron, edtb@aoldotcom

Gary has cited a failure of economic development in Brooklyn [themail, December 14] as what is likely to happen here in DC. I’m very familiar with the changes in downtown Brooklyn over the last ten years, having spent several days each week up there doing consulting work (since 1995) at a university a few blocks from the Brooklyn Bridge. There have been dramatic positive changes to the landscape in downtown Brooklyn and much of it due to the efforts of the developer, Bruce Ratner. He is now bringing a new NBA arena to the middle of downtown Brooklyn, much like the MCI Center here. It will be for the “New Jersey” Nets. MetroTech, a collection of five or six major office buildings, has been built right in the heart of downtown Brooklyn by Ratner. These buildings, some thirty stories tall house major financial organizations and other major companies. The successes of Ratner greatly outnumber the failures.

That’s not to say that the proposed development in the Anacostia area in southeast DC will ever be a success. I personally doubt it. But you can’t argue with what has happened, and what is happening, right around the new Convention Center, and around the MCI Center. That area is booming.


The Press
Gabe Goldberg, gabe at gabegold dot com

Phil Shapiro began a recent post [themail, December 14] with, “Almost as penance for publishing a full-length article about a junk food board game. . . .” C’mon, how about praising Donna Britt — Phil’s real point — without this silly and repeated slam at the Post for printing this article? I don’t read — I’m not interested in — everything in the Post or any other publication, but I just skip what I don’t care about. I skimmed this story, it was mildly interesting — silly game, people buy/play it, local “inventor” if I remember correctly. It started on Page 1 — maybe it shouldn’t have. Maybe it belonged in Style. But maybe others were interested in it, maybe they were less interested in Donna Britt’s piece than Phil. That’s life. Micromanaging and microcriticizing detracts from any real point being made. Phil presented good news. It would have been better news standing alone.



Schools B4 Stadiums, December 19
Marc Borbely,

Please come to a rally at Freedom Plaza tomorrow (Monday) at noon, to ask the city council to vote no on the proposed stadium lease, on Tuesday. The Council should not approve this lease without setting a cap on public spending, or demanding that baseball pay a fair share of the costs, or the cost overruns. Stadium-at-any-price supporters have called a rally at noon. The media need to see us there too. Freedom Plaza is at 13th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue, NW (Metro Center, Federal Triangle metro stations).

According to a letter to the council by Chief Financial Officer Natwar Gandhi on November 22, the more we borrow for stadiums, convention center hotels, and similar projects, the less we’ll be able to borrow for the District’s human needs, such as schools, libraries and affordable housing. Expected costs have already almost doubled, and construction hasn’t even begun. If you can’t come to the rally, or if you can, call councilmembers. They can be reached at 724-8000.

According to yesterday’s Post, the following councilmembers are likely to vote yes on the lease: Evans, Patterson, Orange and Ambrose. The following Councilmembers are likely to oppose the lease: Catania, Graham, Fenty and Barry. The following Councilmembers are considered keys to the outcome: Schwartz, Mendelson, Brown and Gray. Here’s a story in today’s Post, on who normally pays cost overruns (“Beyond Washington, Most Teams Cover Stadium Overruns: District Agreed to Pay Costs Exceeding Ballpark Budget,” Here’s an analysis, “Rising Baseball Stadium Costs Create Problems for the District,” published by the DC Fiscal Policy Institute on Friday:


Blink, December 20
Debra Truhart,

Tuesday, December 20, 6:30 p.m., Southeast Neighborhood Library, 403 7th Street, SE. The Capitol Hill Book Club will discuss Blink by Ted Dekker. Public contact: 698-3377.



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