Two sharply divided D.C. Council committees approved legislation to build a baseball stadium with public funds yesterday, setting up a vote by the full 13-member council next week.
During separate meetings that included roughly three hours of heated debate, the Committee on Finance and Revenue and the Committee on Economic Development each approved the bill by a vote of 3 to 2. Council member Kevin P. Chavous (D-Ward 7) serves on both committees and for the first time indicated his support for the legislation.
Jack Evans (D-Ward 2) used an expletive during a heated exchange with another council member.
(The Washington Post)
At one point, council member Jack Evans (D-Ward 2), chairman of the finance committee, used an expletive while discussing one of the 20 amendments offered by David A. Catania (I-At Large), who opposes the measure.
More than two dozen amendments were offered by council members, but only two minor ones were adopted.
The legislation would finance construction of a stadium in Southeast Washington along the Anacostia River, at an estimated cost of $440 million to $530 million. The project would be funded through a combination of a gross-receipts tax on the city's biggest businesses, a tax on concessions and an annual rent payment by the team. Major League Baseball has agreed to move the Montreal Expos to Washington in the spring.
The bill includes a community investment fund that city officials say could provide $450 million for schools, libraries and recreation centers, although some council members and activists have said the plan is vague.
"This is a good bill that enables the stadium to get built," Evans said.
Evans, Chavous and Harold Brazil (D-At Large) voted in favor of the stadium bill during the finance committee's meeting; Catania and Kathy Patterson (D-Ward 3) voted against it.
At the economic development committee meeting, Evans, Brazil and Chavous again voted in support; Adrian M. Fenty (D-Ward 4) and Jim Graham (D-Ward 1) voted against the bill.
Evans used the obscenity while speaking on a microphone during a heated argument with Catania. He then apologized to the crowd of about 80 business leaders and residents.
Catania said he offered his amendments to "memorialize" promises that the city had made to residents and businesses to win support for the stadium. For example, he wanted to ensure stadium workers a living wage with health benefits and guarantee that at least 50 percent of the apprentice jobs during stadium construction go to city residents.
City officials are "making promises to the community with no intention of keeping them," Catania said. He vowed to offer his amendments again next week.
Several council members said they would be open to some of the ideas but need more information before making a decision.
The gross-receipts tax and the community investment package could undergo changes when the full council votes Tuesday.