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Dorothy Brizill, DCWatch
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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Testimony of Dorothy A. Brizill
Executive Director, DC

On Bill 15-1028, The Ballpark Omnibus Financing and Revenue Act of 2004

Joint hearing of the Committee on Finance and Revenue and the Committee on Economic Development
October 28, 2004

Good afternoon. My name is Dorothy Brizill. I am a resident of the District of Columbia, and I am the executive director of DCWatch, a good government organization in the District of Columbia. I do not have written testimony today, but I shall submit written testimony prior to the close of the record.

In the interest of brevity, I want to make just a few points. First and foremost, I am opposed to the legislation before the Council, Bill 15-1028, "The Ballpark Omnibus Financing and Revenue Act of 2004."

I am also opposed to the process Mayor Williams and the City Council have engaged in with respect to the effort to bring baseball to Washington. To date, and for more than two years, the mayor, his administration, and the city council representatives have engaged in discussions and negotiations behind closed doors, neither informing the general public nor seeking its active participation. This agreement with Major League Baseball was not publicly vetted prior to the city’s signing it. I believe that on an issue as important and as costly as this, the mayor and the city’s elected officials owe citizens not just a public dialogue and an opportunity to express their opinions, but also a real discussion on the terms of the agreement to relocate the Montreal Expos. Instead, citizens and the members of this council have been presented with this very flawed and expensive contract with the contemptuous command that we accept it without change, or that we forfeit forever any chance of having a Major League Baseball team in Washington.

I should note that even after the mayor announced the decision by Major League Baseball, he promised to take his case to the community in a series of community meetings. Instead, the mayor attended only one community meeting just prior to his trip to Asia, and that was the meeting of the Penn Branch Civic Association. After his return from Asia, there was a community meeting this past Monday, October 25, sponsored by Advisory Neighborhood Commission 6D and the Southwest Neighborhood Assembly, the community where this stadium would be sited. The mayor didn’t attend. Even today, the mayor has failed to appear, although he was listed on the witness list. Meanwhile, the mayor appeared before the Judiciary Committee two days ago, on Monday, to testify at a hearing on emergency preparedness. But he decided not to appear here today, not to testify and respond to questions, not to defend his proposal in an open public forum.

Let me repeat. On such an important issue there must be a public dialogue. The mayor and members of his administration cannot be afraid to engage citizens in a process in which they have a meaningful opportunity to affect the outcome of the deliberations. I would also say the same about councilmembers. How many members of this council have convened or even attended a public meeting at which you have discussed this proposal with the citizens of this city? Instead, what we have here today is a sham, where the outcome is foregone and the schedule so shortened that the many unanswered questions about thisproposal will not begin to be answered before the council will be required to vote on it, and the citizens are given only three minutes each to vent about a bill that we have been told must be accepted whole without alteration in any way.

I am opposed to a council process that has a hearing today, a markup of the legislation next Wednesday, November 3, and a full council vote on November 9, with a second vote in December. Under this rushed scenario, the goal is to secure council approval and a council vote with three lame duck councilmembers -- Allen, Brazil, and Chavous -- who support the baseball stadium but who were defeated in the September primary in large part because of their position on public financing of the stadium and the community’s opposition to it. The council vote will occur despite the fact that the council hasn’t had time to study major aspects of the bill, and despite the fact that many important questions about the proposal have not been answered by the administration, and despite the fact that the administration will not provide specific answers to these questions before the council’s vote.

There has been no planning exercise with the community, no architectural or siting studies, no parking, transportation, or traffic studies, no environmental assessment. Instead, the Williams administration tells the council, and the council tells the public, that these necessary studies will be undertaken only after the council has voted and the deal has been signed and sealed.

The citizens are angry, and they should be angry. Like the closure of DC General Hospital, this issue is reverberating throughout the community and among the people. The implication for the next general election, in 2006, is clear. Is this council going to act as a responsible steward of the public purse? Is it going to ask the questions that it should ask and demand straight and honest answers? Is it going to demand a honest accounting of the true costs of this project? Or is it going to accept fraudulent exaggerated projections of profits and underestimates of costs, and rubber-stamp the worst stadium deal that any city has ever signed?

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