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Councilmember Jim Graham 
Statement on passage of the ballpark financing bill
December 22, 2004




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The Final Vote on Baseball This Year

Dear Friends,

I cast my vote "no" yesterday on the Council's approval of the baseball stadium-financing bill. It passed, 7-6. For the record, I voted "no" in committee, in first and second reading, and yesterday on the final action.

This is the fifth time I have provided a detailed explanation of my votes and thoughts on baseball financing. I feel it's important to engage with my constituents in this most important public policy debate. Whether we agree or disagree with each other, you are entitled to know how I have reached a particular decision, especially on a matter as significant as this.

I sincerely respect those of my constituents who are ardent supporters of public financing of the stadium. While we disagree on this issue, rest assured that your views really do matter to me.

I applaud the Chairman's effort to bring about a better deal. Through her work, the financing package now includes a cap on the District's investment, a provision that seeks significant private financing, co-responsibility for insurance costs, and a limit on our compensatory damages if stadium construction is delayed. This final element of the deal -- the District will pay a maximum of $5 million (instead of $19 million) in the first year (back up to $19 million for the second year) to MLB if the stadium is not constructed by March 2008 -- was the first Cropp amendment on which we voted today, and I voted "yes." That was clearly a step forward.

But a second Cropp amendment eliminated a "sunset"--or "drop dead" provision--requiring that the legislation would expire if private financing was not found by a date certain. Only two of my colleagues (Catania and Fenty) voted with me in opposition to eliminating this sunset provision (which passed 10-3).

Thereafter, the public financing of a baseball stadium was approved.  

However, I continue to believe this baseball package, while improved, is not improved enough. With scarce public funds and many pressing needs, I am not comfortable with the District investing $400 million -- assuming that private financing which does NOT rely on public resources comes to $150 million -- into a baseball stadium. Moreover, 'private financing' should include funding from the private interests with the most money to spare: the baseball owners themselves. It seems clear this will not be the case. Finally, in addition to the known costs, there are the unknown future costs that concern me. I sincerely hope that the costs will be contained, and that even more public resources will not be needed. But, quite frankly, I doubt it.

I also wonder about all the energy that the Mayor and his advisors have put into making baseball a reality in this city. Wouldn't it be great if similar determination was put into our schools, libraries, recreation centers, and other pressing needs?

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