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Mayor Anthony A. Williams
Response to Council Chairman Linda Cropp's memorandum on baseball legislation
November 5, 2004




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Council Chairman Linda Cropp’s memorandum on baseball legislation

Government of the District of Columbia
Executive Office of the Mayor

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(Washington, DC) Mayor Anthony A. Williams' remarks as prepared for delivery at today's press briefing on Major League Baseball:

"Good afternoon. I'm here to talk about baseball - and I'm here because the dream of a team in the Nation's Capital is at risk. Today, DC Council Chairman Linda Cropp put forward a proposal to move the new ballpark from the Anacostia Waterfront - a community that needs and deserves new development - and build it instead at RFK Stadium.

"I hope baseball fans are listening to this: If Chairman Cropp's proposal moves forward, there will be no Major League Baseball in Washington, D.C. Chairman Cropp, Councilmember Evans and I negotiated a deal with baseball. We negotiated a deal based on the Anacostia Waterfront site. The site made good sense for the city, it made good sense for Major League Baseball, creating jobs and new development.

"It is now three days before one of the most important votes on economic development this Council will cast - and the Chairman has come from out of left field to offer a plan that could risk our new team. Now, you're going to ask me 'why' she did this: Why now? Let me tell you: I have no idea.

"Let me tell you what I do know: It's been 30 years since we've heard the crack of a Major League bat, eaten Cracker Jacks behind home plate or done the 7th-inning stretch. Why would we want to risk 30 years more? If Chairman Cropp's plan passes, that's what is going to happen.

"Let me tell you what else I know:

  • "Baseball is about our communities: As part of the baseball package, I've outlined a $400 million community improvement fund. It's been endorsed by labor and faith leaders. It created new resources for our most important priorities, like recreation center and community health clinics. Chairman Cropp has suggested no community benefits. If her ideas are adopted, there's no $400 million. No new money for health clinics. No new money for recreation centers.
  • Baseball is about economic benefit. Bringing baseball back to the District will help revive the Anacostia Waterfront and will be a stimulus to economic growth across our city. I know there's been a lot of talk about 'economists' lately - so let me tell you about my 'economist:' The MCI Center: You don't need to look any further than the transformation of 7th Street to know that professional sports arenas can generate new investment and jobs. There's nowhere for new development to rise around RFK. If Chairman Cropp's ideas are adopted, there's no development. No new jobs. No new revenue. No new money for our priorities.
  • Baseball might once again be looking at Northern Virginia. Now, I'm not speaking for baseball - but I'm speaking as someone who knows business: If you had a deal, and it started falling through, wouldn't you start looking for somewhere else to take the deal?

"Now let me be clear: On this - or any project - I'm open to change. Over the past days and weeks, we've been working closely with community leaders, business leaders, organized labor and the Council to craft the best possible package for our city. As part of that commitment, we've worked with the business community to adjust the gross receipts tax and protect small businesses.

"Under the revised sliding-scale, larger companies have agreed to shoulder a proportionately larger share of the burden. This allows smaller businesses, many of whom have low profit margins, to pay a smaller share. But I am not putting baseball at risk. I am not putting a revitalized Waterfront at risk. I'm not putting $400 million in community benefits at risk - and neither should you.

"The District's Sports and Entertainment Commission did a survey during the last week of October. Listen to this: By a 2-to-1 margin, DC residents support bringing baseball to the District and building a new ballpark-55 percent to 27 percent. In Ward 6 - where the new ballpark will be built along the Anacostia Waterfront and where people will be most affected - support is particularly strong with 58 percent support. The people of Ward 6 understand the benefits a ballpark will bring to their area and are excited about the prospect of new economic development and jobs.

"My office has received closed to 7,000 letters supporting what we're proposing - including building a ballpark on the Anacostia. The Washington Baseball Club has received more than 6,000 emails supporting what we're proposing - including building a ballpark on the Anacostia.

"I have posters with messages from kids across the District that came into my office, saying they want Major League Baseball in DC. What are we going to tell these kids?

"If you support baseball, now is the time to show it: If you believe baseball will create jobs, now is the time to show it. If you believe baseball will create tax revenue and money for our priorities - like rec centers and libraries - now is the time to show it. And if you believe that baseball can help revive the Anacostia River, now is the time to show it. It's been 30 years since we've heard the crack of a Major League bat, eaten Cracker Jacks behind home plate--or done the 7th-inning stretch. It's time to support what we've negotiated - and it's time to return Major League Baseball to Washington, D.C."

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