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December 28, 2005

Spammed and Scammed

Dear Spammers and Scammers:

If you sent a message to themail and it’s not in this issue, please resend it. On Christmas day Comcast started blocking as spam all of my own mail that was being forwarded to me from addresses, so I missed at least two-and-a-half days of E-mail. Everything is working now, so please try me again.

When you do write, don’t feel that the only subject you can write on is the ballpark boondoggle. Here in themail, we’re about all aspects of living in Washington, not just about getting fleeced so politicians can do favors for their rich friends. Those of us who are being most badly fleeced, of course, are those who own property in the area around the southeast stadium site. Today in the Washington Post, David Nakamura and Thomas Heath report ( that the Williams administration plans to finance some stadium cost overruns by selling development rights to property seized by the Anacostia Waterfront Corporation from the citizens who own land in the stadium footprint. After the horrendous Supreme Court decision in the Kelo case, no one can tell for sure, but I can’t imagine that even the justices who voted for that decision could believe that a government can legitimately use eminent domain to seize property just so it can profit by selling its development rights. I hope the property owners’ lawyers are paying attention.

Tomorrow, Nakamura and Heath report that the administration plans to raid a DC-controlled fund under the Metro budget to pay part of the ballpark infrastructure cost of upgrading the Navy Yard Metro station ( This is the same fund that was supposed to be committed to build a light-rail system in Anacostia. This is just the first of many budget raids and funding redesignations that the city will use to disguise the real, total cost of the ballpark and to hide taxpayer funding for it. Keep watching in 2006; we’ll probably miss a lot of the sleight-of-hand tricks that will be played, but we’ll catch some part of them.

Gary Imhoff


New Metro Line Is Needed
Paul McKenzie, McKenzieDC at gmail dot com

Last week the Federal Government announced that they are interested in reserving a part of Walter Reed Army Medical for federal offices. This will have a big impact on roads and transportation around our area if this comes to pass. Traffic capacity is becoming more and more limited as DC roads are closed, or the numbers of lanes are actually reduced. There are places today which struggle to accommodate present car volume. We need to plan and think about the consequences of a new federal office park and a new Metro line to accommodate this growth.

A couple of other issues that the Washington Post reported on this week were the possible Metro extension to Dulles and the sad state of our Metrobus system. These two issues suggest the need to expand the Metro system to include a new line, which would alleviate our vehicle congestion. In addition to Dulles airport and the Walter Reed campus needing Metro stops, Georgetown would be well served, as would growing areas just inside the beltway, i.e., Oxon Hill, Arlington, as well as other District sites. This new underground rail line would be connected hopefully to new light rail line going along M Street, SE, for example.

To some it would seem like a tall order but we need to be planning ahead so our quality of life in this area can remain as high as we all would like it to be. A new Metro line needs to be built to assist emerging requirements as well as help locations that didn’t get a Metro stop originally.


Written Exam for Bus Drivers
Bryce A. Suderow,

I’m told that the written exam for bus drivers consists of three parts. Part 1 is high school level math, including some algebra, geometry, and trig. Part 2 is reading comprehension. Part 3 is answering questions on paper about a movie you’ve just seen. I think 2 and 3 are multiple choice.

Two bus drivers told me the test results in their respective classes. In one class, 65 people took the test. Twelve passed it. In the other class, 90 people took the test and 23 passed.

What does this say about our area schools?


Colin Powell, Fellow Citizen?
Larry Seftor, larry underscore seftor .the757 at

I’m curious as to whether Colin Powell is a resident of DC. The reason I ask is that he is publicly urging our DC council to commit taxpayers to the stadium for baseball ( He goes on to say that his group includes many people with roots in the DC community. Again, I don’t know if that means they live in DC or just claim DC when convenient. If Powell is a resident of DC, then he has as much right as the rest of us to argue the issue. If not, then, like many speaking out, he doesn’t have the standing to make a case.

In a related incident, I found it amusing about a week ago when the anchors on WTOP, who obviously don’t live in DC, expressed exasperation about the fact that the council was not approving the stadium. The person they were interviewing had to explain the obvious, that the council is elected by citizens of DC who generally disapprove the lease and not by those in the suburbs who want the team without bearing any of the burden.

The council should continue to take note; their constituency are the residents of DC. If they vote for the stadium in its present form then I and many others will vote them out of office at the next opportunity.


Latest SE Land Grab Makes RFK Site Even Better Option
Ed Delaney,

Http:// “It’s known as the ‘Blue Castle’ in the neighborhood where it has been a local landmark since the late 1800s. Now the building with the purplish-blue paint and the turrets has been swept up in the renaissance of redevelopment in Southeast Washington. Preferred Real Estate Investments Inc. recently paid $20 million for 770 M Street SE. Executives at the Conshohocken, Pa., developer said the location of the 100,000-square-foot building makes it ideal for retail stores such as a Barnes & Noble bookstore and a Whole Foods grocery. The upscale stores eventually would supplant three charter schools that now are in the building. The Blue Castle, across from the Navy Yard, is barely a block away from a huge new residential complex that is being built at the former site of the Arthur Capper/Carrollsburg housing project. More development is coming nearby the proposed baseball stadium; 2 million square feet of office, residential and retail at the Southeast Federal Center; and the headquarters for the Transportation Department, which is under construction and expected to bring more than 5,000 office workers to the area. ‘This is such a good corner, and there’s a real lack of services here,’ said Michael G. O’Neill, chief executive of Preferred Real Estate. ‘You see new glass office towers going up but no retail, and it’s a prime spot for retail.’”

If you remove “the proposed baseball stadium” part of the equation, it’s clear that its presence doesn’t really matter, as it is only a small part of the list of driving forces prompting the purchase and intended redevelopment of the property. Each of the development plans listed above were already completed or underway before the official announcement of the deal with MLB and the ballpark site in late 2004, and would’ve occurred within the same time frame without the ballpark’s presence. What a waste of a ballpark project, to put it at a site where the ballpark’s transformative presence and economic benefits will be underutilized, due to the area’s revitalization having been spurred by massive projects completed or underway beforehand and where even its proponents have admitted its presence will overburden the roads, sparse parking areas, and underdeveloped single-line Metro station with traffic and a flow of people “that 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” (Washington Business Journal, February 21, 2005).

"O’Neill said he found the Blue Castle building three years ago while driving around Southeast. He was in the area after he bid on another old building near the Anacostia River, but he lost it to a developer who was willing to pay more. When he saw the Blue Castle, O’Neill said, he saw an opportunity. One problem: It wasn’t for sale, according to its owner, a nonprofit group that provides services to mentally challenged people. ‘We kept badgering them,’ O’Neill said. ‘We felt that if we buy it and be patient, we could do something with it.’ They came to a deal in November.” Again, this guy from out of this area was eyeing this property three years ago, back when the current site was way down the list of potential sites as the Brigade was still salivating over the two sites adjacent to Mount Vernon Square. In fact, the Brigade was trying to hilariously tout the two Mount Vernon Square sites as needing the presence of the ballpark to spur and speed redevelopment in those areas, with dire economic consequences facing the city should they not jam a ballpark there as soon as possible. Not surprisingly, the doomsday scenario painted by the Brigade then -- the same one they are painting now at the current site — was agenda-driven and far from reality. The redevelopment ended up occurring so rapidly at those two sites that rising prices and a reluctance for landowners to wait for the ballpark forced their removal in 2003 for consideration as ballpark sites.

Per the January 31, 2003 Post: “The mayor’s comments [dropping Mount Vernon Square from the site possibilities] echoed the sentiments of several DC Council members who have argued that Mount Vernon Square, which is in Northwest Washington near the new convention center that is scheduled to open in March, has enough stimulus to ensure rapid development over the next several years. Cropp said the city government’s investment in a stadium, which the mayor has said could reach $300 million, would be better spent bringing economic development to a more sluggish area.” We already have clear evidence, including the story on December 25, that the current site is anything but sluggish and appears to meet the criteria used by the mayor and the council three years ago to drop the Mount Vernon Square sites from consideration.

If the city really wants to “bring economic development to a more sluggish area” of the city and still meet the ballpark siting goals of choosing a location with maximum access to public transportation, major arteries, and parking to not only serve city residents but bring in a maximum number of patrons (and the dollars they bring) from outside the city with a minimum of negative impact to city residents, they still have no better option than the RFK Stadium site. If we’re talking solely about city priorities, it makes sense even more going into 2006 to put a stadium where the city’s traditional stadium locale has been, where we understand from extensive testimony from residents living nearby the site that a stadium would be welcomed. Having a site with such unparalleled access and infrastructure resources for the city’s stadium makes it the only logical place for the ballpark to go, especially given the challenges on that front which are still unaddressed at the current site. It would be an incredible misuse of available city resources in the eastern part of the city to not capitalize on the site’s suitability to house a stadium and maximize the ballpark’s redevelopment potential there instead of shoehorning the ballpark into the current site where the ballpark’s redevelopment potential would be as underutilized as the city determined three years ago it would have been at the MVS sites.

It must continue to be noted that the RFK Stadium site of course has dozens of acres of land available for complimentary development that would enable the city not only to have more entertainment options as part of the ballpark experience but also have enough land left other for more diverse and creative development options at a location deep into northeast and southeast DC that could further succeed in its goal to give residents enough options close to home to where they can spending most of their retail dollars without crossing into Maryland or Virginia. That in turn incentivizes residents to remain in the District and makes neighborhoods from Kingman Park to Deanwood and Benning Heights direct recipients of the ballpark’s benefits thanks to the diverse redevelopment options it would spur that most certainly would not have reached that part of the city on such a significant scale any other way, which is certainly a noble goal. It doesn’t hurt that a site switch would also enable a more affordable stadium project to be built with much more certain costs associated with the project. The incompetence of the Brigade vis-à-vis the out-of-control costs associated with the current site that made the site over budget and unworkable, followed by the ensuing infrastructure games at the site might actually lead to a better solution if the council acts to switch the site and bring the stadium’s benefits to the RFK Stadium site, where the benefits can do the city the most good.


Strong Exception
Natwar Gandhi,

I take very strong exception to your [Gary Imhoff’s] characterization, in your November 30 column, of my role in the baseball financing debate. I would never mislead the Council on this or any other matter. In regard to the technical amendments passed by the Council on November 15, we explained to several council members the nature of these amendments and the need for enacting them. We could not issue the bonds for a new baseball stadium without these changes that clarified the December 2004 legislation and removed conflicting language.

I have been open and honest with the council members about the nature of these amendments. I wish you had at least given me an opportunity to talk with you before making such a slanderous attack on my professional credibility.

[According to the statements of Councilmembers Kwame Brown, David Catania, Jim Graham, and Carol Schwartz at the council hearing on November 28, statements that Mr. Gandhi did not contradict or dispute, Mr. Gandhi did not reveal to them the full effects of the “technical amendments,” or disclose to them that the technical amendments would lift the council-imposed cap on the cost of the baseball stadium. Is Mr. Gandhi now claiming that these councilmembers lied at the hearing, or did he explain “the nature of these amendments and the need for enacting them” only to those councilmembers who supported the baseball agreement? — Gary Imhoff]


Sewers and the Stadium
Marchant Wentworth,

Carol Schwartz has alluded in passing to stadium-related development slated for the DC WASA site in southeast. If true, this, if even possible, would not only add millions to the cost of the stadium, but involve some challenging engineering. It is certain to increase sewer overflows into the Anacostia. The WASA site is the home of the Main Sewer Pumping Station and its brother pumping station on O Street. Three massive pipes feed the pump station. The pumps are in the midst of a sorely needed and expensive upgrade. These pumps feed into three pipes that go underneath the Anacostia and feed into the treatment plant. Some fear that relocating this operation for the sake of development would be a very expensive mistake and an engineering nightmare. Even now, WASA struggles with containing overflows at the Pumping Station. Why would we want to make this problem worse?


Cooking the Numbers on the Stadium
Robert Marvin,

Instead of the $667 million oft repeated price tag for the baseball stadium in Southeast, a more accurate estimate comes in about 20 percent less at $557 million. Opponents of the stadium have unnecessarily added $110 million to the price by incorrectly including financing costs, RFK renovation fees, and other items outside of the footprint of the stadium.

When looking at the revised $557 million figure, the debt on the stadium can easily be covered by the four revenue sources planned for the stadium. Borrowing $557 million at a rate of 4.5 percent would create a mortgage payment of $3.5 million per month and $3.8 million per month would be raised. For a more complete analysis go to


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