The D.C. council held its promised hearing on the D.C. United stadium plan yesterday, and I tuned in for a while before even watching the U.S. men’s soccer team seemed more exciting by comparison. Fortunately, DCist watched so we didn’t have to:
Just how far-reaching the city’s commitment in the deal is perhaps best demonstrated in a graph provided by John Ross, an official with the office of the Chief Financial Officer:
Yes, that’s, um, okay, I have no idea what any of that is supposed to indicate, but somebody put a lot of work into those icons, so give them props for that, okay?
So what else you got?
The Council heard testimony from dozens of witnesses. Some expressed fervent support for the agreement and took a seat at the witness table sporting the black and red colors of the team they’d come to support. Others expressed reservations about the deal, raising a handful of questions about its mechanics. And still others expressed their disdain for the deal as a whole.
If you’re starting to get the sense that this was just a bunch of people talking past each other while reciting things that everyone’s already heard before, that was pretty much my experience as well. D.C. administrator Allen Lew did indicate that the land swap that is at the heart of the United deal is a gimmick to get around the city’s borrowing cap; he sees that as a plus, while Ed Lazere of the D.C. Fiscal Policy Institute complained that the Reeves Center is “being treated in this legislation like a Monopoly property, to be traded for cash,” with no public process or community input over how it will eventually be developed. Plus, noted Lazere, “the plan calls for creating a new Reeves Center east of the Anacostia River, yet it offers no details and no financing. With the city very close to its debt cap, it is not clear how or when a new municipal center will be completed.”
There were a few more hints of things to come — one neighborhood organization pushing for a Community Benefits Agreement, for example, something that in the past has often served more as a smokescreen for developers than an actual benefit to communities. But the most interesting question is where the councilmembers stand on the project, and most of them are still hedging their bets. Reading tea leaves, you have to wonder if the council may not just try to drag this out until Mayor Vincent Gray is out of office at the end of the year, then start over with a new mayor — something that Gray and United both desperately want to avoid, but if the council digs in its heels, there’s not much they can do about it.