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Taking note . . .

Observations about public affairs in the nationís capital
by the editor of The Common Denominator

RHETORIC VS. REALITY: It’s hard to imagine what Major League Baseball officials could be thinking when they threaten to take the city to arbitration over the baseball stadium deal. And D.C. officials promoting the mayor’s stadium deal should be ashamed of themselves for misleading the public by claiming the District’s reputation would be tarnished if the city fails to follow through on the deal.

If anyone’s reputation might be sullied, it would be the mayor’s, rather than the city’s. At this stage, taxpayers might rightly wonder if the mayor forgot that he cannot single-handedly commit the city to multimillion-dollar deals without first gaining approval from the D.C. City Council.

Could it be that Major League Baseball’s high-powered negotiators didn’t realize that they never had a legally binding stadium deal in the document signed by the mayor? Or were they just blowing smoke, hoping the public would help them bully elected leaders into accepting a bad deal, against council members’ better judgment?

D.C. law requires all city contracts that exceed $1 million in spending to be approved by the city council. The stadium project, as originally envisioned by the mayor’s team, carried a price tag well over $400 million — which has now escalated by about $200 million even before ground is broken.

Kudos to the four councilmen — David Catania, Adrian Fenty, Jim Graham and Phil Mendelsen — who displayed the fortitude to stand their ground by voting against the $610 million taxpayer giveaway that nine others on the council blessed with their vote on Feb. 7.

Arbitrators can’t tell city officials, in violation of the law, to implement a multimillion-dollar agreement that the council never approved. So what would happen if baseball’s moguls decide not to accept the council’s amendments to the mayor’s deal and, instead, demand arbitration?

“I think they would be negotiating a whole new agreement,” opined one staff member in the office of D.C. Chief Financial Officer Natwar M. Gandhi.

It could be a whole new ballgame.

REST IN PEACE: Wilhelmina Rolark, former four-term Ward 8 councilwoman and civil rights activist, died Feb. 14 of colon cancer. She was 89. The Wilhelmina Rolark Higher Education Scholarship Fund has been established to help African-American women with graduate/professional studies in law, journalism or public policy. Contributions may be sent to the fund c/o United Black Fund, 2500 Martin Luther King Jr. Ave. SE, Washington, D.C. 20020.

Copyright 2006 The Common Denominator