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Government and People
|Statement by Ralph Nader and League of Fans on the Announcement that the President of the D.C. Sports and Entertainment Commission is Stepping Down
October 6, 2003
Mayor Williams' mandate for the President of the D.C. Sports and Entertainment Commission (DCSEC) has collapsed under its own folly. The DCSEC had become a secretive and wasteful organization with a free pass for its leadership to do anything to attract Major League Baseball at the public's expense. Mayor Williams should learn an important lesson -- to think things through before giving up the public store, and to respect the heartfelt community dissent of citizens of the District of Columbia when attempting to turn their neighborhoods into entertainment complexes.
The announcement that DCSEC President Robert Goldwater is stepping down following a succession of controversies and embarrassments associated with the commission should conclude Mayor Williams' failed experiment with the agency. This is the perfect time for the Mayor and D.C. Council to take principal roles in redefining the leadership, goals and accountability of the DCSEC.
In addition to running and maintaining RFK Stadium and the Armory, the major goal of a redefined DCSEC should require a dramatic effort to rebuild and maintain D.C.'s decrepit neighborhood and youth sports, recreation and entertainment facilities. Mayoral and Council support of a revised mission for the DCSEC that focuses not on satisfying the avarice of wealthy developers and sports moguls, but on meeting the recreational needs of D.C. residents, would spread benefits broadly and enhance the well-being of the entire city instead of making D.C. a playground for corporate welfarists to easily extract public funds away from real life and displaced neighborhoods.
Along with this change in mission, new mechanisms of accountability must be imposed on the DCSEC. The commission should no longer operate so independently from the city government. Instead, the DCSEC should become the sports and entertainment branch of the D.C. Department of Parks and Recreation, using its considerable resources to complement the department, making better the public assets of the city's facilities and operating as a fully accountable government organization.
The time, money and resources already spent on the out-of-control bid to "attract" Major League Baseball, along with numerous other boondoggles for which the DCSEC is responsible, could have been used to significantly improve the recreational needs of the District's residents. Such investments may not appear in personal financial portfolios, but we should not doubt the profound effect they have on the lives of the people and children of the District.
The days of the DCSEC's fiscal mismanagement, questionable activities, secrecy and refusal to seek community input on projects should be over. So too should attracting "world-class" sporting events by dumping public funds into the laps of private businesses in the dubious name of economic development. Broadly-based economic development for the District rests on putting the city back together so it can be a better place for everyone to live, work and recreate, and the DCSEC should reflect that goal.
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