December 1, 2004 [LINK]

D.C. Council approves stadium

By a 6-to-4 vote, with three abstentions, the D.C. City Council approved a bill that will provide city funding for construction of a baseball stadium for the Washington Nationals. It provides for the possibility of some private financing and obliges Mayor Anthony Williams to renegotiate terms with Major League Baseball, for whatever that's worth. It was a closer call than it had to be, as some believe that Williams got complacent and neglected to persuade key council members on the merits of his grand plan. A second vote to finalize the bill's passage will be taken in two or three weeks. See for details. Some are still denouncing the package as a case of "corporate welfare," and there's some truth to that, but no one can deny that the new stadium will provide an uplifting impact on a wretched, forlorn part of the city that's only a mile from the Capitol. The only question is whether the stadium design and the construction contracts will be handled in a way that integrates the ballpark into the local community. Councilmember Adrian Fenty's proposal to force the Nationals to play at RFK Stadium indefinitely is hopelessly unrealistic, as is Chairwoman Linda Cropp's proposal to use land near RFK as a backup site if cost overruns get out of hand. I'm more convinced all the time that the timing of the announcement that the team will be named the "Nationals" was aimed at providing political ammunition for Mayor Williams, who opposed reuse of the "Senators" name because the District lacks any voting representatives in Congress.