BATTER UP FOR BETTER OR WORSE--WE FEAR IT WILL BE FOR WORSE
[from April 2006 issue]

PRIOR EDITORIALS ARCHIVED HERE


Well, it seems to be a fait accompli and we taxpayers will be living with the consequences for years to come, long after ex-Mayor Williams has moved on to greener pastures more to his liking having left us to hold the deflated bag.

Those of us citizens and the few city council members -- at least those who didn’t abandon their commitments to the voters at the 11th hour -- have been roundly criticized for presumably not comprehending the brilliance of the financing deal engineered for the benefit of Major League Baseball. We have been constantly told we didn’t know what we were talking about, that we had not grasped the intricacies of high finance as did the big boys so we couldn’t possibly expound intelligently about the deal and how it was going to be a wonderful thing for the taxpayers.

When we say “we,” we are not pointing at us specifically; we are thinking of the vast numbers of highly intelligent and financially savvy citizens who inhabit this city and of two members of the city council specifically, at-large member David Catania and Ward 4 member Adrian Fenty, who held firm to the bitter end and stuck by their convictions.

Now, we are no longer alone. For those who don’t read the Wall Street Journal they would have no idea that in its April 7, 2006 edition it ran a report outlining how matters got to where they did, prominently published on page B1 that day. What was reported seems to us to be vindication for the opponents of the deal as it came down. Is the city’s Chief Financial Officer going to claim that this venerable financial newspaper of record doesn’t know what it’s talking about?

By the way, is anyone surprised by the lack of response about the Journal’s report from the stadium deal proponents? Did we overlook the Washington Post possibly having picked up the story? (If it did, they sure as heck must have buried it.)

So, for those who are not privy to the findings reported by Stephan Fastis under the headline “Major League Baseball Wins in Washington,” we share some of the more interesting points (italics ours):

“’God should have been so good to you and me,’ says Mark Rosentraub, dean of urban affairs at Cleveland State University, who has been a consultant for teams and cities but hasn't been involved in the Nationals deal.”

“The Washington transaction comes at a time when other teams are picking up most of the tab for stadiums. The St. Louis Cardinals on Monday will begin playing in a $365 million ballpark built largely with private financing. About a quarter of nearly $2 billion in proposed stadium development projects for New York's Yankees and Mets would be borne by the public.”

“Unlike in traditional deals, baseball didn't adhere to a timetable, setting and breaking numerous deadlines. Bids were required before two key financial components were in place, the team's stadium lease and local television rights. People involved say MLB also didn't clearly enumerate what it sought in a buyer or what due diligence it was conducting. ‘There is a semblance of it's our way or the highway', says David Carter, a professor of sports business at the University of Southern California.”

“[Major League Baseball’s] tough negotiating stance with the District of Columbia yielded a deal that will let the Nationals control virtually all revenue from the proposed ballpark but pay only a fraction of the costs.”

“MLB stands to turn a profit of about $250 million on the sale, or more than $8 million per team. Its tough negotiating stance with the District of Columbia yielded a deal that will let the Nationals control virtually all revenue from the proposed ballpark but pay only a fraction of the costs.”

Whether we will ever be in a position to say, “We told you so” years from now we have no way of really predicting. Hopefully, we will be proven wrong, but given this city’s historic track record in managing finances over the long term, we are not optimistic. All we can do now is to stay tuned and hope for the best rather than the worst.