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The price goes up
(Published April 18, 2005)

What part of the term "public funds" is eluding comprehension by the folks who run the D.C. Sports and Entertainment Commission?

The public has been down this road before with the appointed commission, which is charged with the responsibility of running Robert F. Kennedy Stadium and the D.C. Armory for the taxpayers who collectively own them.

Unfortunately, Mayor Anthony A. Williams and the D.C. City Council seem content to continue allowing the commission to treat income generated by activities associated with the public's assets as some sort of private stash that can be doled out like play money rather than invested for the public's good.

In recent years, the commission's profligate spending has wasted millions of dollars on a failed bid to attract the 2012 Olympic Games and a noisy Grand Prix auto race that was forced on surrounding residential neighborhoods in a shaky 10-year deal that went bust after one year. The commission's penchant for secret contracts and its contention that the money it spends is somehow not "public" funds for which it needs to be held accountable leaves the public only to wonder about the amount of cash that flows in and out of the commission's coffers.

Certainly, the sports commission has never seen a public dollar it couldn't find a way to spend. But the sorry state of athletic facilities for young people in the District shows that the commission couldn't care less about investing money toward developing local talent. Even the public schools have been forced to abandon the D.C. Armory for indoor track and field events, which they now pay to hold in suburban Maryland.

This leads us to the glee with which the sports commission and other city officials have been negotiating a reported $6 million deal with Pentagon brass to change the name of RFK Stadium to "Armed Forces Field at RFK Stadium."

Brass, indeed.

The deal, if sealed, will simply raise the public's cost of bringing Major League Baseball back to the nation's capital by another $6 million. Already, city taxpayers are on the hook for more than half a billion dollars to finance construction of a new stadium. City officials, who have been looking for a way to defray the public's costs, seem to have forgotten that the Pentagon spends D.C. taxpayers' dollars, too.

Meanwhile, whispered comments are criticizing the morality of public officials who would use a stadium owned by disenfranchised citizens to promote enlistment in military forces, which are sent off to fight and die in wars by a federal government that refuses to give D.C. residents voting representation in the national legislature.

And where is the morality in linking the memory of Bobby Kennedy to promotion of military force? Kennedy, former U.S. attorney general who later represented New York in the U.S. Senate, was assassinated in 1968 while seeking the Democratic nomination for president as a peace candidate. His calls for bringing Americans home from a controversial war then being waged in Vietnam are echoed today by many who seek an end to the U.S. military occupation of Iraq.

Copyright 2005 The Common Denominator