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Angela M. Jones, Executive Director, DC Action for Children
Committee on Economic Development and Committee on Finance and Revenue Joint Hearing on the “Ballpark Omnibus Financing and Revenue Act of 2004,” Bill 15-1028
October 28, 2004




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DC Action for Children
Testimony on Bill 15-1028, "Ballpark Omnibus Financing and Revenue Act of 2004"
before the Committee on Finance and Revenue and the Committee on Economic Development

by Angela M. Jones
Executive Director
DC Action for Children

October 28, 2004

1616 P St NW, Suite 420 * Washington DC 20036
(202) 239-9404 * (202) 234-9108 fax * www.dckids.org * dcaction@dckids.org

Good afternoon Mr. Evans, Mr. Brazil and other members of the Council. I am Angela M. Jones, Executive Director of DC Action for Children. DC Action for Children is an independent, non-profit, multi-issue advocacy organization dedicated to improving conditions for children, youth and their families in the District of Columbia.

I am pleased to take this opportunity to present our views of Bill 15-1028, "Ballpark Omnibus Financing and Revenue Act of 2004," the Mayor's proposed financing plan to build a state-ofthe-art stadium for the Expos. We believe that the mayor's proposal is ill-advised as it is a giveaway to wealthy team owners. We also believe that it sends the message to hardworking residents that their needs are not deserving of the time, energy and commitment of the mayor, his administration and Council supporters. As a result, we oppose the plan and urge you, the committee and your colleagues on the Council to disapprove the legislation.

Mr. Evans and Mr. Brazil, 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 more than $440 million in public money when the city is flat- or de-funding core programs. Consider, for example, that it was just five months ago that you and your colleagues passed a budget that will

  • only serve 12,600 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 and is certainly not the sort of economic development that our constituents need. More importantly, this is not the sort of economic development that your constituents need, want and have asked for.

DC Fiscal Policy Institute once again has identified and clearly explained the problems with the legislation. Their work is supported by 90 economists who have concluded that "it is dubious to justify the use of public funds to subsidize construction of a DC baseball stadium on economic development grounds." (http://www.nodctaxesforbaseball.org/DCStadiumEconPR.pdf

Furthermore, we contend that 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.

In light of the city's commitment to the Anacostia Waterfront Initiative, the administration's argument that the stadium is central to the success of the revitalization is disingenuous. According to the city's own web site, the initiative has been underway for four years, involves residents and the local and federal government agencies that control the land in the AWl area and have made significant strides toward achieving the goal of making this area a "great waterfront." To date, millions of dollars have been invested in this area compared to other blighted areas which are densely populated with; poor residents.

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.

Given the District's tenuous fiscal situation - 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 without devoting such a large amount of public funds. As you move forward with your deliberations we urge you to be guided by the following principles and adopt the recommendations.

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. 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.

The city's contribution should be significantly reduced and consist of required infrastructure issues, such as roads. The team owners should pick up the rest of the tab.

The District's exposure to financial liability needs to be minimized. Cost overruns and future repairs should be the responsibility of the owners and not the city.

The city must negotiate a substantial community benefits package that is informed by the community. There are a number of ways that team owners and players and those that will benefit from the stadium (e.g., construction companies) can fund the package. The package should be on an annual basis and should not absolve the city from providing core and other services it is and/or should (such as sufficient emergency shelter for families).

Members of the Council, all due respect, we cannot afford it and therefore should not do it. What we can and should be doing is focusing on the many and diverse needs of residents of the District of Columbia, your constituents, tax payers and voters.

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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