Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Gandhi Said HOW much???

$700 million is a lot of clams. But what started out as a breathless claim sans detail via NBC-4 has been explained, of sorts, by more reasonable and balanced approaches.

Here's what we know:

Yesterday, the Mayor's office held a meeting with members of the DC Council. Details of that meeting were leaked anonymously to NBC-4, who breathlessly reported that costs were expected to rise to over $700 million.

Here's what we surmise:
Because the source for the NBC report, as well as the WaPo's version is anonymous, and they report the extreme number (although the Post version does so critically), it's fair to say that it's someone with an agenda. Can we think of anyone at that meeting who might have an agenda in letting such a bunker buster of a number appear?

POOF! There appears David Catania, chipping in with his objections later in the article. He wouldn't go on the record with quotes on some things, but provide anonymous background, right? Nah.... that sorta thing is never done. (HA!)


NONE of this is to construe the belief that the stadium is a reasonable deal, or that there won't be cost overruns. (I've been tracking those since near day 1)

But the $700 figure is a shock figure designed to provoke an intense reaction. And it is working. Catania is expected to introduce two measures today that would 1) cap DC's contribution at the $535 figure, and 2) require infrastructure costs to be included in that total. Interesting timing given the anonymously sourced release of these numbers and the upcoming hearing. Amazing how that sort of thing works. I guess Catania should drop to his knees and thank serendipity.

When you delve into the figure, you see that there's not a lot of there there. That $700 million figure (at least as it's composed today) is made up of pie-in-the-sky costs that were already eliminated from the design, and that might not require DC to pay the full burden.

It includes:
-- $41 million for underground parking. This proposal was dropped from the stadium plan because it was deemed too costly.
-- $20 million to upgrade the Navy Yard Metro. Just last week they said they could survive without the entire renovation, and that they were hoping that the federal government, which is in the process of locating the Dept of Transportation to that station's area would contribute.
-- $12 million to upgrade roads. This was another propsal that was cut in previous versions. (probably wrongly, however.
-- $40 million in contingencies, which is twice what MLB had agreed to provide (in return for the parking situation, which I addressed earlier.)

That's roughly 100 million of the increased costs there.

Who knows what will make it into the final version. But it seems pretty clear that a $700 million is untenable, especially with the lease set to head back to the council. But, as reported yesterday, that $700 million figure isn't quite accurate. It's, as a poster on the BPG forum put it, a "kitchen sink number."


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