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Angela Jones, Executive Director, DC Action for Children
Testimony at Committee on Finance and Revenue public hearing on “Ballpark Revenue Amendment Act of 2003,” Bill 15-270
June 12, 2003




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DC Action for Children
1616 P Street, NW, Suite 420, Washington, DC 20036 · (202) 234-9404 · Fax (202) 234-9108
www.dckids.org - dcaction@dckids.org


on Bill 15-270, "Ballpark Revenue Amendment Act of 2003"
before the Committee on Finance and Revenue

by Angela M. Jones
Executive Director
DC Action for Children

June 12, 2003

Good morning Mr. Chair and members of the Committee on Finance and Revenue. I am Angela M. Jones, Executive Director of DC Action for Children. DC Action for Children is an independent, nonprofit, multi-issue advocacy organization dedicated to improving conditions for children, youth and families in the District of Columbia.

I am pleased to take this opportunity to present our views of Bill 15-270, "Ballpark Revenue Amendment Act of 2003", the Mayor's proposed financing plan to build a state-of-the-art stadium for a Major League Baseball team. As you know, DC ACT is committed to ensuring that programs to support children, youth and families are fully funded. We believe that the mayor's proposal jeopardizes the city's ability to adequately fund essential services. We also believe that it sends the message to hard-working residents that their needs are not deserving of the time, energy and commitment of the mayor and his administration. As a result, we oppose the plan and urge you, the committee and your colleagues on the Council to disapprove the legislation.

Mr. Evans, we like many others across the District and the region support MLB coming to the nation's capitol. But we cannot support an investment of $339 million in public money when the city is flat- or de-funding core programs. Consider, for example, that it was just last week that you and your colleagues passed a budget that will 

  • only serve 14,000 of the 31,500 children eligible for subsidized child care. 

  • fund only a small portion of the young people who want and need to work during the school year and on school break. The programs offered by the Department of Employment Services provide valuable opportunities to the city's future long-term contributors to the tax base.

  • deny more than 50% of the children and families who apply for emergency shelter. 

  • do little to improve the job skills of low-skilled and underemployed residents. 

  • severely limit access to out-of-school time programs.

All because there is not enough money 

DC ACT believes that the mayor's plan is fundamentally flawed: public financing of a MLB stadium is simply not good public policy. This has been demonstrated quite clearly by DC Fiscal Policy Institute here today, in their briefing to the City Council last month and their recent paper Would a Publicly Financed Baseball Stadium Pay Off for DC? Economic Research Suggests the Answer is "No". We believe it is equally bad public policy for an elected official to allow one segment of the community, in this case the business community, to take taxes off the table unless they approve. We believe, in fact, that increasing taxes on businesses to fund quality education, out-of-school time, youth employment and job training, and child care has benefits that far exceed those attributed to an MLB team in the District of Columbia.

Furthermore, we take issue with key elements of the administration's plan. Specifically:

  • Job creation:
    The proposal states that jobs would be created, a benefit for District residents. But the plan also notes that only one-third of the jobs, about 380 (180 FTEs at the stadium, 200 in the surrounding community/economy), would go to District residents. DCFPI projects that the cost per DC job is, therefore, $900,000. Not cost-effective and not significant given that the vast majority of these jobs will be day-of-game concessions and other low paying jobs.
    The jobs created, as mentioned above, will largely be minimum wage jobs, offering very little to workers and to the local economy. And families who earn minimum wage must earn approximately $14 per hour (for a family of 4) to meet their financial obligations (housing, child care, food, transportation, etc.). It is doubtful that M-stadium-related jobs will pay that wage.
    Finally, we suggest that spending limited resources on job development for suburbanites should not be a priority of the District government. As mentioned above, two-thirds of the jobs created are expected to go to residents of the suburbs.
  • Boosting the local economy :
    The Office of Planning asserts that MLB will increase the need and demand for restaurants, retail outlets and services. Yet, the research summarized by DCFPI shows just the opposite. And the non-District residents who work at the stadium or at surrounding businesses will take the majority of their earnings to Maryland and Virginia. 
    There is also the issue of the "trickle-down effect of the taxes on businesses across the city. While businesses may not pass it all on to customers, we are certain that at least some of the new taxes will be passed on. How will this boost the local economy? We believe that limiting the ability to spend because cash is restricted is not good for the economy.

DC ACT also takes issue with many supporters who view ML13 in the District as central to improving the visibility and image of the nation's capitol. While we might agree that Major League Baseball increase's the city's cache, we would argue that the current state of many neighborhoods would leave visitors with a negative impression, or worse, reinforce a negative impression. Consider, for example, the push of CulturalTourism DC. They are urging visitors to travel into neighborhoods that are often overlooked. A trip to Adams Morgan/Mount Pleasant/Columbia Heights will yield not only good food and people watching, but also a close-up look at trash and broken glass as well as unmowed grass at Lincoln Multicultural Center, a Department of Parks and Recreation Facility in Ward 1. A trip to U Street will have visitors eating in hip cafes. Just around the corner, they will find graffiti at Harrison Recreation Center.

We believe that how we treat our children speaks volumes about the character of the government and the residents of the District of Columbia. How can the city fund a playground for millionaires when recreation centers, pools and services for children are closing and children are playing amongst broken glass and other hazards? We believe that this is where the emphasis should be - in developing the human capital of the city's residents.

As I have said, DC Action for Children opposes the current proposal. What we do support are the principles developed by DC Fiscal Policy Institute. They are:

Given the District's current fiscal crisis - and its ongoing struggles to meet basic service needs -- a baseball stadium does not seem to be a wise investment of hundreds of millions of dollars of public funds. The District could develop alternate proposals that would show its support for a baseball team withoutdevoting such a large amount of public funds. An alternate proposal could be guided by the following principles.

A new stadium should be built primarily with private funds. Residents of other communities have rejected heavy public financing for new stadiums. In San Francisco, the team owner agreed to pay most of the costs of a new stadium after three voter referenda for public financing were rejected. The District can show its support for a baseball team through more targeted and limited investments.

A new stadium and team should generate direct tax benefits for the District. A new stadium should not be exempted from property taxes, and basic tax revenues generated from stadium activity should flow into the District's general fund, rather than being used to pay for stadium construction. This would help ensure that a baseball team provides some fiscal benefit to the District.

Any public financing for stadium construction should come from special fees or taxes on those who benefit directly. The District could support stadium construction through additional taxes on those who attend events at the stadium. This could include, for example, a surcharge on tickets, or an additional tax on parking or concessions. In this case, the standard taxes levied on tickets, concessions, and parking would go into the District's general fund, and only the special additional taxes would be used for stadium construction costs.

Given the District's current fiscal crisis - and its ongoing struggles to meet basic service needs - a baseball stadium does not seem to be a wise investment of hundreds of millions of dollars of public funds. Mr. Evans, again we urge you to deny the mayor his wish to bring publicly financed MLB to this city. We simply cannot afford it and therefore should not do it.

Thank you for providing this opportunity to testify before you today. I would be happy to answer any questions you might have.

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