Monday, February 20, 2006

Major League Theft

What do you call someone who lies to elected officials and the public in order to cover up millions of dollars being taken from taxpayers?

The Mayor of Washington.

It is truly sad the our "new and improved" mayor, Anthony Williams, decided to crown his largely successful reform efforts with a project that is completely corrupt and dishonest. I'm talking, of course, about the proposed new baseball stadium to be constructed at public expense for the private benefit of multi-millionaires.

Apparently because of personal ego and a desire to receive bribes in the form of luxury box tickets, a bare majority of DC's elected and appointed officials rushed the deal through at the end of last year. Lucky DC residents can look forward to higher corporate taxes, property taxes, and various other fee increases for decades to come. The final costs won't be known for years but here is one example of how DC gets screwed: a new tax on corporations in DC (dedicated to stadium debt) will rake in up to $24 million per year. The annual lease cost charged to the team's owners to use the stadium? Only $5.5 million. Oh, and the naming rights (and revenues) for the stadium will belong to the new owner.

How did DC negotiate such a bad deal for its tax-paying residents? Maybe it was 'roid rage. What we do know for sure is that the costs presented by DC chief financial officer Natwar Gandhi are bogus and always have been. This goes beyond any reasonable debate about cost overruns -- Gandhi and his co-conspirators knowingly lied about the costs of acquiring the land, preparing the site and building the stadium. As a result, the DC City Council voted -- just barely -- to endorse the stadium plan at the end of last year. Almost before they could run off for free drinks from lobbyists, the Council learned that the numbers were not just off base but the fiscal equivalent of a balk -- in the bottom of the ninth with the bases loaded.

Now, after months of fresh bribes -- er, "political wrangling", the DC Council has voted for a "spending limit" of $611 million in DC funds for the stadium. I don't know about you, but that sounds like real money -- and a real giveaway to Major League Baseball. Bear in mind that MLB, a Congressionally protected monopoly, has spawned the likes of President George W. Bush. What's next: public subsidies for crack whores?

The $611 million sounds like a "minor" increase (close enough for government work) over the original $584 million (!!) estimate. But that was just a first pitch -- swung on and missed -- that included such fantasies as "$65 million for land acquisition." That number was such a joke that the city's first offer for the land was $98 million. And once all the lawsuits are over, it could be double that amount.

This all just goes to show you that the best way to get ahead is to cheat. Baseball players have known that since they invented the spit ball. As usual, DC is getting screwed by its own elected officials. When the money runs out, I suppose they could raise additional dollars by charging admission to watch DC taxpayers being thrown to the lions in their new colosseum.

Of course, if you can't beat 'em, join 'em. To submit your bid for part of the construction of the stadium, click here.

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