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January 4, 2006

Three Jokes

Dear Jokers:

Three good jokes are in today’s news. The first is in every newspaper and all around the Internet, but it’s still worth memorializing here. Councilmember and former mayor Marion Barry, at his press conference Tuesday, reacted to having been robbed at gunpoint on Monday by saying, “There is a sort of an unwritten code in Washington, among the underworld and the hustlers and these other guys, that I am their friend. I don’t advocate what they do. I advocate conditions to change what they do. I was a little hurt that this betrayal did happen.” Many commentators have attempted to top this with their own jokes, but it’s just not possible to get any funnier.

This has to be another joke. Major League Baseball filed today to compel the DC Sports and Entertainment Commission into mediation to enforce their ballpark stadium agreement. Can you imagine these mediation sessions, with both sides agreeing that MLB should get anything and everything it wants, and neither side representing the interests of DC citizens? MLB and the Williams administration probably see this move as a way to bully fiscally responsible city councilmembers into giving in to their joint extortionate demands, but the joke is on them. It’s not legally possible for the mediation, or any subsequent arbitration, to order councilmembers to vote for the lease or to compel the city to build the stadium without council agreement. The only result will be to make councilmembers who support the baseball agreement look even worse, to expose them even more clearly as representing special interests against the citizens’ interests.

The third joke is contained in The Washington Post’s article on a charge of sexual harassment at the Department of Parks and Recreation ( No, the joke isn’t the harassment or the charge of harassment; it’s this sentence: “The District government has a ‘zero tolerance’ policy that prohibits sexual harassment in the workplace and requires any supervisor who receives a complaint to make sure an investigation is conducted.” The joke is the assumption that that paper policy bears any relation to the actual culture of the District government.

Gary Imhoff


Baseball’s Troubles with DC Are Self-Inflicted
Larry Seftor, larry underscore seftor .the757 at

Many years ago I took a course in negotiating. I found many ideas in the course interesting, but the most important concept was the ultimate goal of a negotiation: both parties should feel that they have been fairly treated and that they benefit from the arrangement, and no party should feel taken advantage of. The reason for not seeking unfair advantage is simple: one has to execute the negotiated deal, and working with a partner who is unfairly treated is trouble prone. In cases where conditions change, renegotiation is a standard business practice. Even in federal government contracts, where the government holds all the cards, renegotiation occurs when justified.

Given the change in conditions regarding the National’s ballpark, including the increased cost of the ballpark and the increased financial benefit recognized by baseball due to the popularity of the Nationals, this arrangement is ripe for renegotiation. The hard line taken by baseball leads to the results predicted by my negotiation course of years ago: a difficult partner and a business arrangement that is not serving anyone well.


MLB Official Arrogantly Disparages City and DC Council
Ed Delaney,

Bob Dupuy, the president of Major League Baseball, wrote an op-ed article that was published Tuesday in The Washington Post ( “33 years after the Washington Senators left town, the District government won a multicity competition to relocate the Montreal Expos to the nation’s capital. Now that the District has a team, the DC Council is trying to walk away from the agreement that brought the team here in the first place.” No, the DC Council is trying to make the city and MLB stick to the terms that the council had agreed to with them, namely to limit the city‘s costs associated with the ballpark project to $535 million, with a site shift being required should the costs at the current site not be certain to stay below the cost cap for that site. It’s MLB’s bad luck and the city’s good fortune that the DC Council noticed how empty the Brigade’s promises were regarding ballpark costs before it was too late. It’s not the city but MLB that insisted on changes to the deal outside of the original agreement after it was struck that drove the ballpark structure’s cost from $244 million to $337 million in the form of luxury add-ons that include an 7,500 SF conference center and a n entire concourse level worth of luxury suites and club seats. All of these changes and the lack of a final signed agreement with MLB (which appears to quash the threat of arbitration) gives the council every right to insist upon nothing less than acceptable terms from MLB. Dupuy’s reference to MLB’s departure from the area is clearly meant to imply the threat of MLB‘s departure, but all it shows is MLB’s lack of commitment to this area and in fact reminds us how this area survived quite well without it.

“When MLB agreed to move the Expos, we had a number of options available. Baseball in Washington had many good arguments — a potentially strong fan base, a large metropolitan area and a mayor who demonstrated leadership and commitment in bringing the sport back to town. But Washington wasn’t alone -- other cities wanted a baseball team and they, too, were bidding to get it.” Hey, no one forced you to make a conditional award here. Truth is, you chose DC because a legacy-seeking mayor concocted the most ridiculous overpayment of a sweetheart scheme in sports history and then played politics to engineer it so the deal appeared practically sight-unseen and covered with enough deceit and falsehoods under an artificial deadline to slide it past a lame-duck session of the DC council. Again, it’s MLB’s misfortune that the council’s actions authorized the obscenely generous public funding of the stadium but did not prevent the council from acting to improve the deal from the city’s perspective, just as MLB did when they pressured the DCSEC into acceding to MLB’s luxury add-ons after months of resistance over budget and cost concerns. It’s the DC council which has been consistently trying to stick to the sweetheart deal that MLB and the Brigade sold to them, when they could just as easily been insisting that the entire deal be worked from stem to stern.

In fact, the lack of a signed lease and CAA suggests that the city might not even have to face arbitration to get out of building a stadium if MLB keeps up with their arrogant actions. At worst, in the unlikely event of an arbitration finding against the city, the potential $19 million in damages could be covered by the $37.5 million already in the bank from the city’s baseball activity and taxation from the 2005 season. In other words, MLB can make a ballpark work at the RFK Stadium site with a overly generous public contribution of $535 million, or forget it and go chasing one of these other fabulous bidding cities. If the council sticks by its guns, watch how quickly MLB comes off its high horse and takes the modified deal.

“A ballpark on the Anacostia waterfront was not baseball’s first choice. We preferred the Banneker site, south of L’Enfant Plaza. In the end we agreed to Anacostia, and the District agreed it would be in charge of the new stadium’s design and construction. In fact, the city wanted to be in control of the project because of development issues that went far beyond the stadium’s construction.” This example fully illustrates the incompetence of both the Brigade and MLB in this process. MLB is officially acknowledging a preference for a site that was not included in even the most preliminary of the city’s site studies and evaluations for very good reasons. If you think land costs are bad at the current site the costs at this highly sought-after site, which had been pursued to house four more compatible projects, including the National Museum of African American History, in a part of town needing no revitalization would’ve put those to shame. Worse, the footprint of the sloping site was so small that part of the stadium complex would have to have been built over I-395, which as the Washington Times pointed out posed “daunting engineering challenges” that were “believed to be without precedent in America.” Throw in the involvement of the National Park Service, which owns the site, federal highway officials because of the I-395 issue, and the myriad of logistical challenges quite sensibly eliminated this site from even preliminary consideration by the consultants. That the Brigade would’ve touted such a site as viable to MLB shows how far from reality their cost estimates were, and that MLB would have a preference for a site that was so clearly unworkable for the city shows that their reality-starved preference for the equally unworkable current site must be disregarded by the council, on whom ultimate oversight and responsibility for this project falls.

“In baseball and in business, if you run the project, you’re responsible for its costs. When teams are in charge of design and construction, any savings go to them and any cost overruns are borne by them. That’s how MCI Center was built.” Exactly, and that’s why the costs for infrastructure, parking, and necessary Metro improvements were included in the project cost. However, part of being responsible for costs is excluding luxury add-ons that require major structural changes to the existing ballpark plan, which is what MLB incessantly insisted upon from the DCSEC for months despite the DCSEC’s reluctance due to cost and budget implications. If we’re to take you at your word here, than it’s incumbent upon the DC Council to remove these changes from the ballpark project, which I’m sure MLB will welcome in the name of responsibility, right?


Trashing DC’s Environment for the Sierra Club
Phil Carney,

Year after year and month after month, once again over fifty bright yellow notices have been posted in public space around Dupont Circle advertising: “JOBS To Save The Environment, Work with the Sierra Club and other groups, CAMPAIGN TO SAVE THE ENVIRONMENT, Sandy 202-546-3965”

Am I the only one who doesn’t get the logic of trashing our urban environment in order “to save the environment”? There are two issues that need to be addressed: the Department of Public Works needs to write tickets for illegal posting of notices in public space, and the Sierra Club needs to step up and stop the use of their name being used to trash our urban environment.


National Capital Medical Center (NCMC) Requires Full Disclosure of Facts
Samuel Jordan, Health Care Now!,

An article appearing in The Washington Times, on Friday, December 30, 2005 (, reported that Howard University Hospital (HUH) lost $17.3 million in its FY 2005 financial statement. This loss follows a correction made in the hospital’s FY 2004 financial statement over one year after it was released — a $150 million reported loss was adjusted to a $1.2 million profit. “Who’s minding the store?” is a question we wouldn’t normally ask unless the response conveys implications for the public treasury. In this case, it does. Should we entrust the publicly funded National Capital Medical Center (NCMC), a $400 million hospital construction project, to a health provider that has generated marginal profits over the last decade, has recorded a mammoth loss that was not recognized as an accounting error for a whole year, then experienced an “unadjustable loss” five-times the magnitude of its usual marginal profits? That is what we’re being asked to do, without a demonstration of competence or fiscal capacity, by HUH and the mayor’s office.

How will Howard finance three to five years of anticipated losses before the NCMC is profitable, if then? What range of services will be available at NCMC? What schools, departments, offices, clinics, specialties? And can this market support them? What role will NCMC play in improving the abysmal health status indicators suffered by too many DC residents? How will the hospital attract a customer base dominated by health care consumers who can pay their own way? What changes will have to be made in the hospital operations on Georgia Avenue? Will these changes precipitate a slow or rapid descent to closure or sale of the existing hospital? Will Howard’s recent problems with JACHO, the hospital and clinical program accrediting association, be resolved? Isn’t there some other way to bail out HUH? If that’s a desirable objective, let’s use more direct and effective methods. Who needs a charade?

It can be argued that Howard never intended to assume responsibility for a new hospital until the administration made it an offer it couldn’t refuse. The deal was pretty irresistible: We’ll build it. You operate it and take the profits. Whether you or we can afford it or not, the public won’t let us fail. This is very similar to the baseball stadium deal. The taxpaying public deserves some answers to some pretty basic questions. In a recent posting, Health Care Now! announced the opening of its survey line at 547-3237. Please call this number and register your support for a fully transparent, multimedia, real-time disclosure of the facts in the NCMC project. In light of the recent disclosures, the survey line will remain open until Tuesday, January 31. The Mayor’s Office, HUH and the Council should designate responsible representatives to discuss the project and respond to questions from the public. Circumventing the Certificate of Need review process and limiting public discourse to a few forums and Council hearings will not permit the many interested residents who can follow the discussion via cable and radio to assure themselves that this project is well-considered and of value proportionate to the public investment and guarantees.



Cleveland Park Citizens Association, January 7
George Idelson,

The Cleveland Park Citizens Association will meet on Saturday, January 7, 10:15 a.m., at the Cleveland Park Library, Connecticut Avenue and Newark Street, NW. The agenda includes an open forum on a group of current issues: 1) Tregaron: Preservation or Development? The historic landmark between Macomb Street and Klingle Road has been threatened by development for decades. A settlement may be near. What will it mean for the neighborhood? 2) Making Connecticut Avenue safer: what will it take? A recent tragic accident has a lot of people thinking about ways to improve pedestrian and vehicle safety. 3) Another bank on Connecticut Avenue? BB&T has applied for a special zoning exception to move into the old McDonald’s Restaurant building. Would it be a plus for the neighborhood? 4) Proposed expansion of historic Macklin Apartments. The Macklin apartment building at Newark and Connecticut is a familiar Art Deco landmark. A developer says there is room to expand. Not everyone agrees. For more information, contact the Cleveland Park Citizens Association, 362-4279 and


Chevy Chase Center Construction Watch, January 14
Lauren Searl,

Saturday, January 14, 10:00 a.m.-12:00 p.m. Construction watch tour of Chevy Chase Center. Originally built as 98,000 square feet of retail space, the totally redeveloped Chevy Chase Center in Friendship Heights, MD, has morphed into a 426,000-square-foot complex of high-end commercial, retail, and office structures. The architecture firm HOK’s design includes two parks that provide a pedestrian-friendly streetscape. Joel Miller, project manager with James G. Davis Construction, will lead a tour of this project, scheduled for completion in June. Open only to National Building Museum members, $18. Space is limited. Prepaid registration required. To register, call the Museum or visit beginning Thursday, December 22.


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