Friday, November 12, 2004

D.C. Baseball's White Elephant Is Running Wild

By Sally Jenkins
Friday, November 12, 2004; Page D01

The new baseball stadium is already a drain on Washington, D.C., and ground hasn't been broken yet. The project grows more illogical by the day. You really think a publicly funded baseball stadium is going to be good for the municipality, after watching the quarreling of the last week? Allow me to voice a small but nagging suspicion: The mayor and the city council could be devoting such energy, attention and argument to better things than a ballpark.

Perhaps as early as this week, Mayor Anthony A. Williams and his colleagues on the city council will probably pass a publicly funded stadium deal, over the objections of two thirds of city residents and contrary to all good advice. Why?

"Politicians have an edifice complex," says David Boaz, executive vice president of the Cato Institute. "They like to be seen building big things."

But this thing is a big cheat. Williams's statements on the costs and benefits are alternately wrong or bogus, and in either case, you have every right to feel cheated that your local politicians don't show this kind of devotion and creativity to bigger problems. You also have a right to feel that your representatives have been robbed of common sense. For example: This week, city council chairman Linda W. Cropp was accused of Reneging and Political Maneuvering because she tried to save the city oh, I don't know, maybe a hundred million dollars.

That's the kind of moral confusion and rot this stadium deal has plunged the city into.

It's actually very clear: Sixty-nine percent of residents don't want to use public funds to pay for a stadium. They don't want to give Major League Baseball a half-billion-dollar subsidy out of taxpayers' pockets. Not a single independent economic study bears out the mayor's claim that a public-funded stadium will be a boon to the local economy. Yet the mayor has willfully ignored these facts -- until he was forced to pay attention by Cropp's sudden desertion and attempt to do a better deal. Personally, I don't call that "serving the people."

Cropp, whatever you think of her or suspect her motives to be, has done one good thing, something the mayor hasn't. She's listened to her constituents. She's heard the small- and medium-sized business owners and residents who will bear an unfair and disproportionate tax burden. Pepco and Verizon can easily stand the tax hits the stadium will cost, but people who run vegetable markets can't.

Read the entire article here on the Washington Post website.