D.C. lease deal remains murky

Two days – okay, more like a day and a half – after Tuesday night’s bizarre no-we-won’t-approve-it, oh-yes-we-will Washington Nationals stadium lease vote by the D.C. city council, details are still trickling out about just what exactly was approved, and what’s likely to happen next. Some of what’s come to light so far:

  • The $611 million cap on construction, land and infrastructure costs – $26 million more than the council agreed to in December 2004 – pushes off responsibility for further cost overruns onto, in the Washington Post’s words, “the Nationals’ owner, federal sources or other private entities.” If that sounds nebulous, it is – leaving wide open the question of what happens if, say, the city loses its eminent domain case against landowners, and is forced to pay through the nose for the stadium site.

  • MLB issued a written statement that said in part: “We are very concerned about what we heard during the debate, and we need to read the materials and the legislative language so we can determine whether they are consistent with the agreements between Major League Baseball and the city.”

  • The Post reports that “Natwar M. Gandhi, the city’s chief financial officer, has not yet reviewed the spending cap and was concerned about its implications on the city’s plan to issue construction bonds on Wall Street.”

  • The final deal was brokered when Williams sent word, via city administrator Robert Bobb, that he’d agree to whatever was necessary to get a lease approved. (“I just said, ‘Whatever they’re voting on, we’ll figure it out later,'” Williams later told the Post.) Bobb and councilmembers Marion Barry, Kwame Brown and Carol Schwartz then scrawled out the final agreement in ballpoint pen in the council chamber, leaving it up to council staff to later turn it into formal legislation, in part by poring over videotape of Tuesday’s council meeting.

  • A timeline of Tuesday’s events by Post reporter Lori Montgomery notes: “The low point came about 6 p.m. when Cropp lost control of debate in the council chamber and hustled her colleagues into a private room and locked the door. Outside, a horde of outraged reporters gathered to accuse Cropp of violating the city’s open-meetings law by moving the public debate behind closed doors.”

  • Three of the four swing votes turned out to be Barry, Brown, and Vincent Gray – the three anti-stadium councilmembers whose primary wins in September 2004 set off this whole mad rush to approve a stadium. Brown later explained his vote: “People say, ‘You campaigned against this, you campaigned, you campaigned.’ Well, at some point, you have to be for something.”

  • In the midst of voting on Tuesday’s day-long stadium debate, says councilmember Sharon Ambrose, she turned to a committee clerk and said: “I’m not sure what’s in there. Hopefully, it’s not a mess.”


2 comments on “D.C. lease deal remains murky

  1. The eminent domain issue is already settled: http://www.wtop.com/?nid=25&sid=694112

    If you’re going to present yourself as an expert on this stuff, you really need to keep up.

  2. The ruling you’re talking about came down several hours after I posted this item – even experts can’t predict the future. Anyway, unless I’m reading it wrong, that ruling only confirmed DC’s right to use eminent domain, not the price it will pay for the land, since eminent domain proceedings typically allow for landowners to challenge compensation once the land has been seized.

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