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Ralph Nader
Letter to city councilmembers on ballpark stadium financing
November 23, 2004




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November 23, 2004

Dear Councilmembers:

No one knows how much this stadium boondoggle is going to end up costing the District or what exactly Mayor Williams was thinking about when he gave away the store to Major League Baseball during “negotiations.” But a few things are well known:

a) we know that the cost estimates for the stadium project are quickly rising by substantial amounts (now $614 million according to the Washington Post);

b) we know that the overwhelming majority of District residents are opposed to the use of public funds to build a new stadium (69 percent according to the Washington Post), with over half strongly opposed;

c) we know that the proposed “community investment package” is a consolation prize attached to the stadium deal used by the Mayor to secure Council votes, and that public money spent on the stadium is money that will not be available for community investment;

d) we know that virtually every independent economic study shows that there will be no positive impact from a stadium on the economy or on employment; and

e) we know that councilmembers who favor a stadium bill which subordinates life’s necessities to private, for-profit, monopoly entertainment corporations are not representing the peoples’ perceived best interests.

Despite the things we know, reports say that a slim majority of the DC Council is prepared to give their approval on Nov. 30 to the Mayor’s stadium plan without public support, and without having a clear idea of how much the project will cost or enough time for reasonable discussion of alternative financing or location possibilities. As Nov. 22 editorials from both the Washington Post and Washington Times point out, this is legislative irresponsibility and fiscal recklessness.

Experience with stadium deals shows the more the public and media examine the rosy projections of the stadium promoters, the more the taxpayers discover about the real costs and negatives of a proposed deal. If the stadium bill passes, the District will assume all of the financial risks, and the team owners will reap all of the benefits from this runaway gravy train.

I urge the DC Council to require an independent review of the costs for the stadium project before moving forward with this legislation. Absent an independent review, the stadium bill must be voted down. This legislation is too consequential to hurry through to meet the extortion demands of Major League Baseball without being confident about what the costs are.

The DC Council should be able to do better than the mess Mayor Williams left you with. Baseball owners can invest their own money in a new stadium if they see market opportunities. Let them be capitalists. Will you instead focus on putting the District back together so it can be a better place for everyone to live, work and play?

Ralph Nader

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