D.C. council balks at cap-busting loophole

D.C. Mayor Anthony Williams’ gambit to find $20 million in Washington Nationals stadium money under the sofa cushions isn’t going over too well at the D.C. city council. Council chair Linda Cropp, who wrote the legislative language that Williams is hoping to exploit, declared yesterday that “I don’t think the intent was for cost overruns” and that she’ll tell the mayor not to use surplus stadium tax revenue to evade the council’s $611 million spending cap; Kwame Brown, another key swing vote on the council, is likewise opposed. Councilmember Marion Barry, who helped broker the last-minute deal to pass a Nats lease in exchange for a spending cap, was, as you might expect, more colorful, telling the Washington Post:

“If there’s one thing I said to the mayor, it’s that I didn’t want any shenanigans, no side deals like this. If he does this, this stadium is dead again. . . . We wanted a cap that was tight. Everyone was confident, so we went with it. If it’s not tight, there will be rebellion.”

Of course, this is the D.C. council we’re talking about here, and Cropp and Barry have both opposed the stadium previously, before they voted for it. Could they just be blowing smoke to placate voters who might not be too pleased with the loophole they handed to Williams? The Washington Times notes:

It is unclear whether the council can do anything to prevent the deal from moving forward. The body will vote Tuesday on a temporary version of the cap legislation, which would extend its life for 225 days and give time for the council to pass it on a permanent basis.

But if MLB signs off on the deal, it will have done so Monday, before the council can act.

“Once a lease is signed, a lease is a lease,” Williams said. “It’s a contract. You can’t authorize people to enter into a contract and then change the law to de-authorize it.”

Of course, this is also MLB we’re talking about, and signing a lease before getting assurances that it won’t have to pay a dime isn’t in its nature. Oh, to be a fly on Bob DuPuy’s wall this weekend…

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