Nationals Disgrace

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Yesterday the D.C. Council voted, 6-4 (with three abstentions), in favor of Mayor Anthony Williams' plan to bribe Major League Baseball into moving the Montreal Expos to Washington with a stadium project expected to cost more than half a billion dollars. The plan, under which the team will be renamed the Nationals, is up for a second vote on December 14, but things are not looking good for the opposition.

The council did reject the $75 million in "community benefits" that Williams had dangled in an attempt to win votes. (But then, it turned out the taxpayer-funded largess wasn't necessary.) And Council Chairman Linda Cropp, who abstained, tacked on a provision that instructs the city's chief financial officer to do a second analysis of the project's costs; if it exceeds his original estimate ($530 million) by more than $100 million, the city will have to look for a cheaper site. This looks more like a face-saving measure for Cropp, who dramatically delayed a vote on the deal last month before backing down, than a provision that will have any practical effect. Likewise her amendment requiring the city to (rather belatedly) look into private financing options.

Council member David Catania, who voted against the plan, offered several unsuccessful amendments, including one that would have made Major League Baseball rather than the city responsible for cost overruns. "A lot of what he wants sounds good on its face," said council member Jack Evans, an enthusiastic stadium supporter, "but it's in actuality a poison bill designed to kill the deal." That objection does not exactly inspire confidence in the city's cost projections.

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