Wednesday, December 07, 2005

They Doin' The Mess Around

Mayor Williams blasts back, arguing that the $700 million number floated two nights ago was politically motivated, and that it doesn't represent the costs of the ballpark. He contends that the figure was inflated with projects and figures that aren't technically part of the project budget. He said that $55 million worth of infrastructure improvements to roads and Metro that were taken out in a previous iteration of the cost, will be paid for by private developers or the federal government.

At yesterday's council meeting, David Catania's motion to put a cap on the costs of the stadium, including infrastructure and financing charges at the $535 figure failed by one vote. Several of the council members who voted against it said that they were waiting to see the final version of DC CFO Natwar Gandhi's report, which will detail the costs, and from which the $700 million figure was leaked, on Friday. We'll know more then.

Others voted for it because they were willing to admit that they are incompetent, shouting from the rafters about how unfit they are for their job:
Several council members voted in favor of the resolutions on the grounds they were unaware they had voted last month to allow the city to remove borrowing costs, infrastructure, Metro upgrades and other non-ballpark costs from the $535?million to be borrowed. The changes were made in technical amendments to the financing plan, which was passed by the council 10 votes to 2.

"People feel misled," said Kwame Brown, an at-large Democrat who voted in favor of the technical amendments last month but was for yesterday's resolutions. "And because they were misled, they want an opportunity to reverse their vote."

They're certainly entitled to reverse their vote, especially if it brings them more in line with how they intended to vote, but this admission doesn't really engender confidence that they know what they're doing, does it?

At any rate, the lease is expected to be presented to the Council by Friday. The check's in the mail. And Jose Vidro's healthy. 0/3, perhaps?

The Post's best-known non-minority sports columnists weigh in. One's useful. The other's not. Boz schills for the stadium at the current location, noting that the other options: renovating RFK, or building anew at RFK defeat the point of a large subsidy. Kornheiser does the rubber chicken routine ripping out knock-knock-quality jokes in a column that could be summed up as: "Stadium Costs Much! Me No Like!" (Strangely, that Cliff's Notes version is about as funny.)

The final word on the stadium goes to a commenter from DCist. His summation is the clearest, most concise defense of the public expenditure for the stadium I've seen. As you can tell from my writings, I'm wobbly on the stadium. As the proponents have moved to an argument solely based on the belief that the city is going to be transformed into something that John Winthrop would smile at, I've felt more and more uncomfortable. But this guy's comments reassure me. Way to go, that guy!
I don't think there's much doubt that the stadium will increase the city's revenues from the SE geographic area. Even the studies you cite say that. What's at question is whether those increases are off-set by decreased revenues from other geographic areas and the public outlay to build the stadium.

There's a debate over where it will net-out, but you're only focused on the outlay side, and deny that there will be any increased inflows. Maybe the inflows will not overcome the outlays (or "stolen entertainment dollars" etc.), but you seem to be saying that unless there's a net benefit, than there's no benefit at all.

My point is that after it's all netted out, it will not cost the city whatever numbers you're bandying about. It will receive some return on investment, which under honest accounting lowers the "cost" of the stadium.

Economists don't say that it is absolutely a irrational act to publically finance a stadium. Here's a hypo: Stadium costs $500 million. Over ten years, city's overall revenue attributable to the stadium increase by $400 million. It was irrational right? Not necessarily. In the end, the city got a stadium worth $500 million for only $100 million. It may be worth it to the city's citizens to have a stadium at that cost, not because it paid off more than it cost, but because they just want it. My point is that we need to know what that final netted number is to decide whether we want a stadium at that price. Just focusing on the first number is misleading.

Some of this logic can be applied to the schools. Say we could quantify how much more revenue the District gets from better schools, netted against the $2 billion. Even if this nets a loss, it might be worth it to the District just to have good schools, even if it's a money loser. I'm fine with that, I just think that they're going about it wrong by throwing too much money at the problem with little oversight and control.


  • Tony Korndog's lame-ass Woody Allen routine with a sports angle has never been all that funny in my opinion, so this one was really no different.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 12/07/2005 2:39 PM  

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