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Mayor Anthony Williams on Red Cross Bond Approval
October 25, 1999




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Press release Letter to City Council


(202) 727-6224
Monday, October 25, 1999
(202) 727-6224


Mayor Concerned about Message this Delay Sends to Business

Mayor Anthony A. Williams issued the following statement today on the District Council's inaction on approving the National Red Cross Revenue Bond Project Resolution of 1999.

"I am very disappointed that the District Council postponed action on a resolution to approve a revenue bond project for the National Red Cross. At stake are more than 1200 jobs over tune, the ability to attract more businesses to the city and chance to stop the attrition of associations based here and most importantly, our credibility as a city "Open for Business." I urge the Council to pass this resolution at their next meeting.

"This is the Council's second postponement of the project which is located on federal, not District, property. The National Capital Planning Commission and the Commission on Fine Arts both have approved the project using the same information provided to the Council.

"The Red Cross has applied for tax-free Industrial Revenue Bonds to be issued by the District. I approved the application for the bonds and, as required by law, forwarded the request to the Council for action, which chose not to act. I am concerned that the failure of the Council to vote for the resolution puts our industrial Revenue Bond program in jeopardy by discrediting this financing option Associations interested in the District for their headquarters instead may choose from among our suburban competitors.

"I applaud those members of the Council, particularly Chairman Cropp and Councilmember Jarvis for their leadership and support of the Red Cross resolution. And I urge other members of the Council to join with them in approving the Red Cross revenue bond resolution." During this year of numerous natural and man-made disasters, the American Red Cross has fought the effects of flood, drought and war worldwide, preserving a tradition of humanitarian assistance. I invite the Council to consider this: do we want to lose forever an institution with such stature?

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October 25, 1999

Ms. Linda W. Cropp
Council of the District of Columbia
One Judiciary Square, Suite 700
441 4th Street, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20001

Re: PR 13-232, the "American National Red Cross Revenue Bond Project Approval Resolution of 1999"

Dear Ms. Cropp:

Last week, the Council of the District of Columbia determined, for the second time this month, it would postpone consideration of PR 13-232, the "American National Red Cross Revenue Bond Project Approval Resolution of 1999."

I am writing to convey my deep sense of regret that some members of the Council concluded the situation they believed they were facing was not yet in their collective view, "ready" for a vote -- months after I forwarded the request to you for approval.

I applaud those members of the Council, particularly you, Councilmember Jarvis, and several others, for leadership and support of the Red Cross resolution. While I understand the difficulty this resolution may cause for the other members of the Council. I urge them to join you in approving the Red Cross' revenue bond application.

Throughout my campaign and in the time since my election and taking office. I have been working to get out a new message about the District of Columbia — that we are "Open for Business." This means operating in ways that are predictable and understandable, knowing who is responsible for what, and holding Agencies and their officials accountable for their actions and the pace of their actions.

In the context of the proposed national headquarters for the American Red Cross ( (ARC) there are several distinctions from the "normal" building process. First, as it would be built on Federal land, approvals are made by duly authorized Federal agencies. Federal land is "unzoned," but ARC's development program was reviewed and approved by the National Capital Planning Commission (NCPC) as appropriate in lieu of normal zoning controls. Moreover, the overall design of the project was reviewed and approved by the Commission on Fine Arts (CFA). Each of those agencies was provided the data needed for them to evaluate the site and the plan, and to reach conclusions. Each approved ARC's plans under their respective delineated authorities and criteria, and processes that are predictable as to steps and timeframes. The General Services Administration (GSA) is positioned to review detailed construction plans to assure compliance with building and construction standards.

Second, the American Red Cross also elected to seek tax-free Industrial Revenue Bonds (IRBs) that would be issued by the District of Columbia under authority we have been granted by the Congress under the Home Rule Act. Our laws provide that the Executive is to review those applications and pass those we approve on to you for approval, as I did in ARC's case much earlier this year. In the history of the IRB program. there has been over 100 packages presented to the Council for approval, involving over 60 different applicants. The bonds total over $5 billion dollars, providing critical, cost-effective capital for our city, its residents and institutions.

By its actions today and in the time leading up to it, the Council now seems to be indicating that it is prepared to operate as a kind of "appeals" board in instances where here project has been approved elsewhere but not to the liking of all involved or affected. I regret that this involvement may send a most unfortunate message to potential users of the IRB program — that they are "at risk" of being examined not only for compliance with the statutory requirements relating to the program, but also an open set of exogenous issues of a purely subjective nature that will be taken up — and decided at some later, but unspecified, time — when one or more members determine to do so.

On the immediate front, I cannot predict what the American Red Cross will do. They may be able to make some changes that would, soften the impact of their project without triggering a complete re-review of earlier submissions and approvals by NCPC and CFA. They may not.

They might also opt, despite significant investment in the site and the project, to reopen the question of whether to return their national headquarters to the District. of Columbia remain in Virginia, or locate elsewhere If ARC should fail to return to the District, we loose a sizeable employer many of whose employees were previously and would again become District residents (and taxpayers).

I will work with you and your colleagues, officials of the American Red Cross, relevant Federal agencies, and all others to do what I can to make sure ARC does return to the District at the proposed location.

As I indicated earlier, I want the District to be "Open for Business." Instead, right now, I feel ARC may have concluded that the District has "given them the business.''

Apart from its impact on the ARC, I am also concerned about the possible impact of your actions on the overall Industrial Revenue Bond program. This is an authority the District enjoys that was specifically granted by the Congress. We have tried to use it wisely and appropriately. It is a financing mechanism, for stated public purposes. It is not intended to provide a forum for design review whatsoever. Those who provided us This authority may look disfavorably on any action that has the effect of changing its purpose and scope. Loss of that program authority would be devastating to our overall well being and hobble our economic engine.


Anthony A. Williams

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