themail.gif (3487 bytes)

April 16, 2006

Costs and Benefits

Dear Accountants:

Art notes: aside from the weather, the most spectacular thing about this spring season in DC is the outstanding selection of art exhibits currently at our museums. Be sure to see “Degas, Sickert and Toulouse-Lautrec:London and Paris, 1870-1910,” now in its last month at the Phillips Collection, and “The Renoir Returns: A Celebration of Masterworks at the Phillips Collection,” open through July ( “Cezanne in Provence” is in its last three weeks at the National Gallery of Art; “Dada” is here for only a week longer; and the Frans van Mieris exhibit is on until late May ( Once you’re full of culture, you can move on to entertainment. The New York Times approves of U Street’s nightlife, and says “The Corridor Is Cool Again,”

I’m a terrible predictor of political races, but for what it’s worth I think that Leo Alexander is right that race is going to be an important issue in this political season. However, he’s completely wrong about how race is going to play out as an issue. Alexander wants black candidates to run with an explicitly racial agenda and to frame issues like the National Capital Medical Center in racial terms, and he claims that he doesn’t understand why that should be seen as divisive. My instinct is that both black and white voters are instead going to be looking for candidates who promise to continue Washington’s progress away from divisive racial politics. Successful candidates won’t run as black or white, but will be able to assure and convince residents of the city, regardless of race, class, and neighborhood, that their interests will come first — before the interests of the developers, lawyers, sports promoters, special interests, and nonresident “stakeholders” who come first with the current administration and council. Citywide candidates who follow Alexander’s advice and run based on racial appeals, and you know who they are, will lose badly, and they will deserve to lose.

One issue on which developers’ interests are coming before those of the residents is the mayor’s desire to dispose of the Martin Luther King, Jr., central library, which the city council is pushing on a fast track. Kathy Patterson, below, gives the details for a town hall meeting at which residents can voice their opinions on MLK. The same councilmembers who didn’t understand the value of the Wilson Building, and who made the mistake of giving a developer a long-term lease for it, now don’t understand the value of MLK, and want to give some developer a sweetheart deal on it (the developer would get a ninety-nine year lease, be allowed to add two additional floors to the building, and pay the District an estimated $60 million over the entire life of the lease). The plan seems to be to give away the city’s assets, with the best and most important ones going first. As Trotsky once said about Dwight Macdonald, “Every man has a right to be stupid on occasion but Comrade Macdonald abuses it.” It’s one thing to make a mistake once; it’s another thing not to learn from your mistakes. Councilmembers who would make this big and this bad a mistake again, and you know who they are, too, should lose any of their races badly, also.

Gary Imhoff


Mayor’s Proposal to Lease the Martin Luther King, Jr., Library
Ann Loikow,

[An open letter to councilmembers] I urge you to delete section 2032 of subtitle D of Bill 16-679, “the FY 2006 Budget Support Act,” which would authorize the Mayor to lease the Martin Luther King, Jr., Library for ninety-nine years. This centrally located and architecturally important building should remain under public ownership and control and be used for public purposes. If it is not used as the city’s main public library, which I would prefer and for which it was designed, it should be renovated and used to house the District’s archives and a a state of the art District government public information center for residents wanting to access government information. The Archives are very important and also much neglected public information depository that the District needs to better support and preserve. We should not dispose of this building just because the District Government has not maintained it and has allowed it to deteriorate.


The Omnibus Public Safety Act of 2005 and My Opponent in the At-Large Race
A. Scott Bolden,

When I was a prosecutor my colleagues and I looked toward elected officials for leadership on public safety measures. Residents and business owners depend on elected officials to act prudently and quickly to fill gaps in the system; gaps that criminals exploit. My opponent in the At-Large Council race, Phil Mendelson, chairs the Judiciary Committee. Alarmingly, he has single-handedly stalled legislation proposed by the Mayor, backed by the police union, and supported by District residents across the city to get tough on criminals.

A striking example: Mendelson has failed to act on a proposal that would protect individuals using public restrooms from illicit videotaping and photography, and penalize those who perpetrate this vile invasion of privacy. Mendelson is also blocking measures that would impose mandatory prison sentences for possessing armor-piercing bullets, violent crimes that target juveniles and possession of a firearm by convicted felons. In our city, armor-piercing bullets have but one purpose; to kill police. Adults who engage in violent acts against children and teens deserve little mercy. Repeat offenders caught with guns should spend an extra year in jail. I call on Mendelson to move this legislation now! (see Omnibus Public Safety Act of 2005, Bill 16-247,

Public safety is at risk, yet Mendelson is dragging his feet. These anti-crime proposals are now more than a year old and Mendelson is solely responsible for the delay in enacting them.


Stamp Act Congress Voters Guide
Andy Catanzaro,

We asked all the candidates for mayor what they though about DC voting rights and what they planned to do. Only Linda Cropp answered our E-mails. We posted her reply on the blog ( I guess there is not much for the next generation of political dialogue via E-mail and the web. Regardless, read her replies to our voter’s guide here.


MLK and Emancipation
Ralston Cox, Dupont Circle,

An article on another listserv noted the good, if not overwhelming, turnout for the MLK Day parade held recently (and rescheduled from January to avoid bad weather). The article complimented all the hard work that had gone into what was described as something of a modest event.

With DC Emancipation Day coming, I received several notices about the parade on Pennsylvania Avenue and the bells ringing at the Old Post Office Building, and a festival at Freedom Plaza, etc. What if these two events were blended together? I know MLK Day is a much bigger event nationally and I don’t in any way want to stifle the celebration for the accomplishments of Dr. King, but if these were put together we might also gather some non-local press interest in DC Emancipation Day and — maybe — some non-local interest in the lack of voting rights right in dear old DC.

I’d really love to see the local marching bands and color guards strutting up Pennsylvania Avenue — on a regular ol’ workday for those of us who don’t work for the city. Given how it happens during tourist season, it might make a mighty big splash with those here from out of town, who might just take a bit of real local lore back home!


Don’t Miss a Single Inning of the Nationals’ Games
Ed T Barron, edtb1@macdotcom

While out here in Seattle, I have been watching (dismally) all the Nationals’ road games on the ESPN Internet Gamecast. It’s almost as real as being in the ball park. For those who are statistics nuts, there are all the stats you could wish for on the batters and pitchers. You "see" every pitch when it comes to the plate and the screen shows you where that pitch went. The ball rises up out of the field when it is hit by the batter and the ball goes in the direction of where it is hit. You can track every single play of the game by scrolling on the right window. This is a major upgrade of last season’s Gamecast broadcasts. You have to bring your own beer and hot dogs and need to provide your own crowd noise. Other than that, you are "watching" the real game live and in color.


Ticket Prices at Our New Baseball Stadium
David Sobelsohn, anc6d02 -at- capaccess -dot- org

I read with dismay Ed Barron’s April 12 report from Seattle’s Safeco Field, new home of Major League Baseball’s Seattle Mariners. According to Ed, seats in Safeco’s “nosebleed section” — presumably not the best seats — usually cost $18 each. Gulp. My Detroit friends tell me that, in the old Tigers Stadium, now slated for demolition, not only were tickets among the cheapest in the majors, but the team sold thousands of seats for five bucks each. When the Tigers moved to a new taxpayer-financed stadium, the team more than doubled ticket prices. Tickets then became among the most expensive in the majors. At an ANC meeting on April 10, I asked Warren Graves, Chief of Staff at the Sports and Entertainment Commission, what assurance he could give my constituents that residents of my neighborhood, the neighborhood of the new Nationals stadium, will be able to afford Nationals tickets after the team moves in. Mr. Graves assured us that the new team owner would sell tickets at a fair market price, whatever that turns out to be. He added ominously that current RFK ticket prices are among the lowest in Major League Baseball. Does history repeat itself? Is the Pope Catholic?

For an explanation why teams building new stadiums avoid building cheap seats, see


Safeco Field Versus Nationals Ballpark
Christopher Jerry,

As I read Mr. Barron’s piece on Safeco Field in Seattle [themail, April 12], I thought people should know that the baseball home of the Seattle Mariners is often held up as an example of cost overruns gone amok. I’ve had the pleasure of going to Safeco to watch a baseball game two years ago, and also twelve years ago to its predecessor, the King County Stadium, also know as the Kingdome. The official cost of the stadium is not $365 million as Mr. Barron quotes; instead the number is $517 million ( Further, unlike what DC is trying to do in putting a stadium in a footprint that has no supporting infrastructure at all, Safeco Field was built partly on a parking lot of the demolished Kingdome.

My point is that something that ended up being a $150 million overrun — in 1999 — in a place that already had infrastructure in place, could be nothing compared to the total cost of the new baseball stadium and infrastructure here next to the Navy Yard. The Safeco Field overrun was held as low as it was because the decision was made to just have a retractable roof to cover the field but not enclose the stadium in such a way it would be an all-weather facility. And unlike Seattle, where the Mariners picked up a large chunk of the overruns, its still not clear how much, if any, money will be put up by the Nationals. The much ballyhooed tax on businesses that is to pay for the stadium does not pay for in surrounding infrastructure cost.

Though I am a Nationals season ticket holder, it’s my long shot hope as a city resident that something could still happen to torpedo the baseball stadium plan at this site.


Safeco Field, Seattle
David Hunter,

Being a former other Washingtonian, I must disagree with Ed Barron, who put the cost of the Safeco Field at “$365 million, which included the moveable roof cover.” Not unlike DC, Seattle voters had much to say about the stadium costs and also had a statewide referendum, which failed once before the legislature kicked in money anyway because they didn’t want to lose the Mariners.

In 1999, total costs were set at $516 million for Safeco Field, which was the most expensive ballpark in Major League Baseball until DC came along. And, I might add, over $100 million in cost overruns are still in litigation! As you can see below, the taxpayers of Seattle/Washington State and visitors are really paying for this stadium, as compared to the “deal” Mayor Williams and the council worked out. I have to say it still ticks me off every time I fly into Seattle and rent a car. Seattle did get a retractable roof, which isn’t cheap, and the number of seats is much larger than in the planned DC stadium. Unlike Ed, it is one of my favorite parks in the country behind Pittsburgh.

Safeco Field
Seattle, Washington

Tenants: Seattle Mariners (AL)
Style: Retractable roof
Surface: Grass
Capacity: 46,621 (baseball only); main bowl: 24,399; club level: 4,254; suite level: 936; upper bowl: 16,022; disabled seats: 1,010 (505 companion seats).
Architect: NBBJ (Seattle).
Owner: Washington-King County stadium authority.
Cost: $517.6 million (as of July 1999).
Public financing: $340 million from a one-half-cent prepared food tax in King County and rental-car tax.
Private financing: $75 million from Mariners owners. Cost overruns of over $100 million are still being settled.

The Washington State Major League Baseball Public Facilities District (PFD) is the public body responsible for actual construction of the ballpark. The PFD worked with the Mariners on design and construction and has oversight of the ballpark now that it is built. On September 9, 1996, the Washington State Major League Baseball Stadium Public Facilities District (PFD) selected a site south of the Kingdome for Seattle’s new ballpark. In December, 1996 the Seattle Mariners Baseball Club signed a 20-year lease keeping them in Seattle through at least the year 2019.

On June 4, 1998 the Mariners announced that the name of their new ballpark will be Safeco Field. For the right to have their name on the stadium, Safeco, a diversified financial services company whose roots in Seattle date back to 1923, will pay $1.8 million per year for the next 20 years.


State Contribution:

Sales tax credit: state authorized, county imposed .017% sales tax, which is offset against the sales tax now collected by the state in King County. (This results in no sales tax increase to the general public).
Proceeds from sale of baseball stadium commemorative license plates.
Proceeds from sale of two to four sports theme lottery scratch games ($3 million is guaranteed from this source).

Local Contribution:

Special stadium sales tax of .5% on restaurants, bars and taverns in King Co.
Special stadium sales tax of 2% on rental cars.
Admissions tax: county has authority to impose two admissions taxes on the new stadium of up to 5% each.

Mariners Contribution:

The Mariners contributed $75 million. Cost overruns exceeding $100 million have yet to be settled.


DC’s Perfect Storm
Leo Alexander, Ward 4,

Movie references seem to go over rather well with this audience, so here’s another one — The Perfect Storm. There are some good people out there who really don’t want me to continue to talk about race relations here in the District of Columbia. For whatever reason, it makes some uncomfortable. One local AM radio talk show host told me she thought my comments were, “…so divisive.” I ask you, what is so divisive about this topic, and why can’t we continue to talk about it? I know that some members of my own community want to act as though slavery and the struggle for civil rights were so long ago that they are therefore passé. Some members of the white community are reluctant to have this conversation because I guess they feel at the end of the day the solutions to racial inequities will cost them too much to fix — so why even bother.

I bring race back up this week because it cannot be ignored when you talk about the medical feasibility surrounding the proposed National Capital Medical Center (NCMC). Whether we like it or not, our Mayor has gotten us all caught up in a perfect storm of race, class, economics, healthcare and politics, all while a community continues to suffer.

Let’s try to put this puzzle together. When the request for proposals hit the street that the District was looking to partner with an established hospital to put a Level-1 trauma center on the site of the old DC General Hospital (DCGH), all except one ignored the SOS. Howard University agreed to downsize their level-1 trauma center on Georgia Avenue, and move 230 of their allotted beds to the new state-of-the-art hospital on Reservation 13 (the old DCGH site). So basically, they agreed to shift resources from a sector where there is a surplus of trauma centers to an area with a void in these same services. Critics are quick to point out that the people in the eastern sector of the city need primary care services instead of a trauma center. Good argument; but why can’t there be both, since nearly half of all trauma calls come from Wards 7 and 8?

Who benefits from this continued delay in providing Level-1 emergency medical services to the eastern half of the city? Bob Malson of the DC Hospital Association is protecting the members of the DC Health Care Alliance of service providers by lobbying the Council and the Mayor against this proposal. And here’s why, the serious money can be found in the District’s till for uncompensated care. One name keeps popping up — MedStar, which owns both Georgetown University Hospital and the Washington Hospital Center, has both hands in this all-out cash grab for medical services to the poor. A source, who asked not to be identified, offers a couple of interesting connections or mere coincidences: MedStar/Georgetown’s community affairs VP, Regina Knox Woods, was recently appointed by the Mayor to the Sports Commission, where she joins GU’s community affairs AVP Linda Greenan (of Ward 2 Democrats and formerly of Jack Evans Council staff). Woods, former DC health department staffer, came to MedStar a year and a day after she oversaw the certificate-of-need approval for MedStar’s purchase of the GU hospital, which had been hemorrhaging money. Now you decide, is this a classic example of improper influence of a government official or just a mere coincidence? I also hear GU is also looking for a new president, now would it be just another mere coincidence if the Mayor has struck a secret deal to kill the NCMC for an opportunity to lead this hallowed institution of higher learning? After all, he is a lame duck mayor on the job hunt, and with connections to MedStar and their financial connections to GU — Stevie Wonder could connect the dots.

Have we lost our collective moral compass here or did it ever exist in the first place? I ask this because where is the outrage from the members of the clergy? Are they there just to pass the plate on Sundays and have us believe we can buy our way into God’s good graces through tithing alone? Where is our compassion?

Mind you, this is the same city that just ponied up more than 600 million dollars on a stadium deal. City Council Chair Linda Cropp passionately fought for this initiative by leveraging her significant power behind the scenes to cajole her colleagues on the council to support her pro-baseball position. Madam Chair, where is that same passion for the citizens east of North Capitol Street as it pertains to their rights to an equitable distribution of this city’s health care resources? Where is Fenty in this fight? We know he recently voted against a measure to protect affordable housing. Does he think revitalizing classrooms alone will win the election? And what happened to Barry, "The People’s Mayor," why has he been silent in this battle? Are Orange, Gray, Brown, Graham, and Catania the only ones who get it?

As far as I’m concerned, if September 12 rolls around and we still don’t have a deal on the NCMC on Reservation 13, I know who won’t get my vote for Mayor and Council Chair. One thing is for sure; DC’s perfect storm has exposed a painful cavity in our soul that has revealed an absence of morality, compassion and decency for our less fortunate.



Community Briefing on Campus Plans, April 18
Toby Fallsgraff,

Are you tired of watching the city government do the bidding of well-connected developers regardless of the impact on our neighborhoods? Please join the Federation of Citizens Associations of the District of Columbia, the Committee of 100 on the Federal City, the Foggy Bottom Association, and concerned DC residents for a breakfast press conference and community briefing regarding efforts to stop George Washington University and the DC government from violating the law and polluting the environment by gutting their existing campus plan development agreement. The event will be held at 10:00 a.m. on Tuesday, April 18, at the Melrose Hotel at 2430 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW.

George Washington University’s campus plan is a binding agreement with the city that sets reasonable limits on development in order to protect neighborhood residents and students from pollution, noise, traffic and other threats to quality of life. The University has violated its existing agreement and is seeking the DC government’s approval to scrap it and write a new one with few neighborhood protections. The new agreement would reward unethical, illegal behavior and radically expand commercial development without an environmental impact statement. The effort to stop the new campus plan has implications for all DC neighborhoods seeking to maintain their quality of life in the face of pollution and overdevelopment. If this city gives the green light to George Washington University to break its word, no neighborhood is safe.

So join us on Tuesday morning. Have some breakfast, meet fellow concerned citizens, and learn about the latest efforts to stand up for the rights of DC neighborhoods and how you can help!


Council Chairman and At-Large Councilmember Forum, April 18
Dwayne Toliver,

The Ward Three Democratic Committee and the Ward 4 Democrats, Inc., will cosponsor a joint forum for candidates for chairman of the DC city council and at-large city councilmember on Tuesday, April 18, 7:00-9:00 p.m., at Woodrow Wilson High School, 3950 Chesapeake Street, NW. Moderator: Colby King, Washington Post; panelists: Kathy Sinzinger, Common Denominator, and Dorothy Brizill, DCWatch. Open to the public (doors open at 6:30 p.m.).

Hear candidates discuss issues of importance to Ward 3 and 4 and submit questions for the candidates. For more information on our forum, please call Ward Three Democratic Committee Chair, Robert M. Brandon, at 966-5333 or 331-1550 or E-mail him at, or call Ward 4 Democrats President, Dwayne M. Toliver, at 585-8852, or E-mail him at


ABC Public Charter School Orientation Night, April 20
Karen Baker,

On April 20 at 6 p.m., there will be a mandatory orientation night for all current and prospective parents of ABC Public Charter School. ABC is currently recruiting sixth and seventh graders.

This will be a night filled with fun and information. ABC will introduce new programs for the fall: the Home School Alliance, Club ABC, the ABC Starter Kit, and the Parent Referral program. Students from the Poetry Club and Step Squad will perform along with door prizes and food. Current and prospective parents will need to submit all of the information needed to secure the students space for the fall: application, transcripts, health records and proof of residency. If you need to get this a list of the information needed please, contact the office at 822-6301 or visit us at


Arts Opening in Brookland, April 21
Lisa Farrell,

Washington Works on Paper presents Padre e Figlia (Father and Daughter), an exhibition of drawings and photography by Daniel Shay (drawings on paper and papyrus) and Ginevra Shay (recent photographs). Opening reception for the artists on Friday, April 21, 6-8 p.m. Exhibition continues through June 3. Free and open to the public.

Washington Works on Paper, 3420 9th Street, NE, 526-4848, 526-0837 fax, Hours: Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday, 12-4 p.m., Thursday evening, 4-8 p.m. Metro: Brookland/Catholic University Station.


Tijuana, April 20-21
Barbara Ruesga-Pelayo,

Thursday, April 20 and Friday, April 21, 7:00 p.m., seminar: “Tijuana: Laboratory of Postmodernity” (video and film makers from Tijuana). All the films and subtitled in English. Free admission and refreshments. At the Cultural Institute of Mexico, 2829 16th Street, NW. For more information, call 728-1675. Presented by the Cultural Institute of Mexico and the Cultural Center of Tijuana.


The Future of Martin Luther King, Jr., Library Town Hall Meeting, April 21
Kathy Patterson,

The memo [that Gary Imhoff] mentioned [in themail, April 12] was dated and delivered Monday, April 10; the Budget Support Act hearing was April 11, and it was during the hearing that I discussed holding a subsequent hearing, which Chairman Cropp then mentioned publicly. I favor considering the issue separately which is why I sent the memo, and we take the bill up for first reading May 9.

The first order, though, is a more thorough public vetting of the mayor’s proposal, which we’ve scheduled Saturday, April 22, at 1 p.m., at MLK [901 G Street, NW]. It will be a town meeting rather than a public hearing because recess apparently extends through the weekend and I can’t hold an official hearing during recess.


UDC Commencement, May 13
Michael Andrews,

Anthony A. (Tony) Lewis, President of Verizon, Washington, DC, will deliver the keynote address at the University of the District of Columbia’s 29th Commencement Convocation, scheduled for 10:00 a.m., on Saturday May 13, as graduates will receive their associates, baccalaureate, masters, and juris doctorate degrees. Mr. Lewis will address the graduates and guests at the ceremony at the Verizon Center, which will be presided over by University President William L. Pollard, PhD.



Bike Found
Bernie Arons,

Bicycle found at Cleveland Park Metro stop bike rack. Blue Roadmaster Mt. SportSX, 18 Speed, in pretty good shape, but brake cables were detached. Unlocked. If you left it there, or think someone else may have used it and then left it there, E-mail me at to further describe and make arrangements.



Kitchen Contractor
Rachel Hines,

Does anyone have a recommendation for a contractor who can do kitchen cabinet refacing and some other minor kitchen updating?


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)