washingtonpost.com  > Live Discussions > Metro > Potomac Confidential

Potomac Confidential

Marc Fisher
Post Metro Columnist
Thursday, December 16, 2004; 12:00 PM

Potomac Confidential fills the midday lull with discussion of the latest news and a rigorous slicing and dicing of the issues that define who we are and where we live.

This Week's Columns:

Marc Fisher (The Washington Post)

It's Time, Bud, To Serve Up Concessions (Post, Dec. 16)

Mayor Shares Blame for Eleventh-Hour Betrayal (Post, Dec. 15)

Driving in Circles On the Route To Taxi Reform (Post, Dec. 14)

In his weekly show, Washington Post Metro columnist Marc Fisher veers wildly from serious probing to silly prattle, and is open to topics local, national, personal and more.

A transcript follows.

Editor's Note: Washingtonpost.com moderators retain editorial control over Live Online discussions and choose the most relevant questions for guests and hosts; guests and hosts can decline to answer questions.


Marc Fisher: Welcome, baseball mourners and foes alike. We may get to some other topics at some point in this hour, but judging by the early posts, I think we will be focused pretty heavily on the 78-day march to collapse that followed 33 years of begging at baseball's door.
Today's column, and yesterday's Web-only offering, make the argument that we're in this situation not because of anything to do with finances--after all, the contours of this deal haven't changed from Day One--but because the mayor and others involved in shaping the deal lost control of the subject and allowed baseball to become a symbol of the deeper local debate about race, class, gentrification and the past.
We'll get going right after the Yay and Nay of the Day:
I wish I could be enthusiastic about a Yay today, but on this day, there are as yet no heroes. Council member Jack Evans comes closest; he has emerged as a voice of reason on the council, regularly dosing the panel with shots of reality, accepting that any deal with baseball is at root an unfair deal, while showing that the District can nonetheless profit well from bringing a team here.
Nay to Linda Cropp, Tony Williams, the other nine council members who voted for the deal-killer, the local baseball ownership group, baseball's corporate boosters around this region, the local media and MLB itself--all of us failed to sell the idea behind public support for a baseball franchise, allowing opponents to hijack the issue for their own unrelated purposes.
The Pick Story of the Day is Paul Schwartzman's Page One story about the madly inflating salaries being paid to public servants throughout the region. Check out today's Extras for comprehensive listings of the richly rewarded public employees in your area, and go online for the complete lists in all jurisdictions.
Now, your turn....


Springfield, Va.: Hi Marc,

What has been the highest bid on eBay for your Nationals baseball cap?

Marc Fisher: I'm not selling. But others are, and the prices are still reasonable, which either means that our predicament hasn't sunk in throughout EBay world, or that there are more optimists out there than you might think.


Reston, Va.: Linda Cropp knocked the park out of DC baseball - how's that for irony? But to move forward, what can be done at this point? As I understand it, short of the city council rescinding/amending its action of two days ago, the city may lose baseball again (for who knows how many years?). Is there anyone who can talk any sense into Ms. Cropp? Anyone she'll listen to at this point?

Marc Fisher: That is the half-billion dollar question. The mayor's staff is the only hope, really, because only they can come up with a "private financing" deal that would let Cropp declare victory and vote yes. Of course, there is no such thing as private financing. No project of this size and nature is financed privately; the government will sell the bonds. The only question is who makes the payments on the bonds, and it's really a matter of terminology that we're arguing about, because in the deal as it exists now, it's the fans, big businesses and the team that cough up the bucks. How is that public money?


Capitol Hill, Washington, D.C.: Do you think that the council really appreciated that uproar that their actions on Tuesday would cause? Is there a realistic possibly that they will go back and actually undo the damage next week? Is it only the private financing requirement that MLB objects to -- will they accept the other new provisions?

Marc Fisher: Oh, by the time they voted, they knew. Some of them were too thick to understand Cropp's proposal when she first stated it. Vincent Orange spent the better part of an hour trying to comprehend it. But it was clear enough, and they went for it anyway.
There's still hope, but it will require huge egos to step down a couple of notches and come together, and there is precious little history of that happening in this bunch.


Anonymous: I have to ask you a question. You stated in your column today that Washington, D.C. was "a market that led three pro sports leagues in attendance last year." To what three leagues are you referring -- NFL, MLS and WNBA? I can't believe that the Wizards and Caps led the NHL and NBA in attendance.

Marc Fisher: Yes, NFL, women's hoops and soccer. Granted, the latter two are hardly huge presences in the popular culture, but the local numbers, especially compared with the rest of the country, are impressive. The bottom line is that, contrary to our reputation, this is an excellent sports market.


Arlington, Va.: Is it too much to hope that Peter Angelos bribed the council members? Please? Can't we make this a wonderful juicy scandal that kills multiple birds with one stone? Paging Woodward and Bernstein...

Marc Fisher: The sad truth is that Angelos didn't have to deliver any bags of cash or even make a phone call. The reactionary forces in the city simply had to shout "Race!" and tar baseball as the game and business of the rich white elite, and that did the trick. Of course, baseball shares some of that blame because it has allowed itself to be perceived as a sport that does not care about appealing to all of America.


Oldie Townie, Alexandria, Va.: Your suggestion that Selig serve up concessions on the stadium deal seems as naive as Cropp's proposal. You seem to think baseball wanted to come here. It didn't. Two big negatives -- the lack of a reliable governmental structure and the nearby Orioles -- were breached only when D.C. dangled money. You (and others I've read) keep assuming that the city has baseball over a barrel on this one. But, to put in Seinfeld terms, MLB is the one with "hand."

Marc Fisher: I stated straight out in columns yesterday and today exactly what you're saying: Baseball never wanted to come here. But the District made baseball an offer they couldn't refuse. I have never said that the city has baseball over a barrel; to the contrary, baseball can and will walk. But the city can still make this work, simply by living up to its commitment.
I've already received quite a few notes from business heads and Congressional sources saying that this debacle deals the city a huge blow in its efforts to reestablish some credibility in the post-Barry era. Williams gets that. Now the question is whether he will act to save both the city and his own reputation.


Clifton, Va.: Marc,

The D.C. baseball stadium fiasco is another good example of why D.C. residents should not be allowed to govern themselves. Time again for Congress to take over running D.C. Somebody needs to tell the D.C. council that the baseball stadium is really a commuter tax in disguise! No wonder D.C. can't run its schools or solve murders. Home rule needs to end now! Hopefully either Wolfe or Davis will put the D.C. council in its place!

Marc Fisher: I knew this would be coming. Yes, the city has bungled this badly. Yes, they're the gang who couldn't shoot straight. Yes, you could have predicted this. But what does that have to do with the basic right of any American to self-government? Do we really have to start stripping voting rights from all U.S. cities and towns that are grossly incompetent at self-governance?


Arlington, Va.: So did it sting a little to credit DC United for its success?

Marc Fisher: Actually, it was the late Freedom of the women's league that led its league in attendance. The United did not.
But yes, it stings. Hey, the truth can hurt.


Falls Church, Va.: Any chance for Northern VA to step in and say, "hey, remember us?" Or even Norfolk?

If not, "Las Vegas Nationals" has a ring to it.

Marc Fisher: Norfolk recognizes that it is many years away from major league status. But northern Virginia remains an intriguing possibility. If Gov. Warner had the guts to make a move to take land in Crystal City or another Arlington location, a powerful compromise could emerge very quickly. But there appears to be no appetite for standing up to the handful of NIMBYs who would stand in the way of any use of local land, and the Virginia Baseball Stadium Authority goes out of business Dec. 31.


Takoma Park, Md.: I think you hit the nail on the head in your column. And MLB doesn't lose face by "giving in" to D.C.'s demands. Every situation, every city is different; it's ridiculous to think that folks who are this rich are gonna get taken. They should build some more ballparks for kids (I don't actually know what they've committed to do on that front) and provide permanent funding for upkeep. Heck, help build baseball at the grassroots level not just in D.C. but in Md and Va. as well. Really do some outreach. Perhaps Selig could get a "Taxation without Representation" bumper sticker and push for D.C. statehood.

Marc Fisher: Right, but the lords of baseball don't see things as we do. They want everything handed to them on a silver platter, and they know they can get it--if not here, then elsewhere. They really don't care where it is, as long as they get their cash. The fallacy in my column today is that it is based on Selig and that crowd caring about how baseball is perceived. At some level, they must care about that, but that level is so deeply submerged under their personal greed that I hold out little hope for a good resolution here.


Washington, D.C.: Your column is one-sided and self-interested, Marc. So was the baseball deal.

Marc Fisher: You might be right about me, but not about the baseball deal. Ask yourself why all these local big businesses were so eager to be taxed for a ballpark--they're not in it as a charity, they think they're going to get either higher profits or bigger tax relief down the road. They know what a pro sports team can do to channel entertainment spending into the city and they know what potential there is for economic development.


College Park, Md.: I wanted to write in and say how angry I am at Cropp. She was all for the deal when it was announced and she was in the spotlight right up on stage with Williams. But really, it's her right to change her mind. She didn't see this deal as good for DC, so good for her for not accepting it. I guess she's willing to take the risk that she may be the bad guy.

My question is for all the spend on other things people. If baseball doesn't come, there won't be the tax package, there won't be the half a billion dollars. You're not gonna get half a billion to spend on other programs. Baseball comes, tax package, baseball leaves, nothing, no new money. So what's their real argument?

Also, if you had cities bidding over you to come there and they all were willing to build you a house, would you take it? So why is everyone down on baseball doing the same thing. They wouldn't demand public funds if nobody gave them any.

Marc Fisher: You've hit on the central problem with the Anti argument: Losing baseball won't put an extra penny into the DC schools, roads, or any other city program. In fact, the opposite effect will happen because the city's tax base will suffer as the mayor's Anacostia riverfront plan languishes or dies and the city fails to develop the S. Capitol Street corridor.


Washington, D.C. Home Rule: So white men don't get baseball and so they claim in your column here today that the city's leaders -- black folks -- are incompetent. And you don't see any racial angle in that?

Marc Fisher: It's a mistake to buy into the idea that baseball is for white guys. My email queue is too jammed with notes from black coaches and parents who've been thrilled to pieces to have baseball coming here for me to accept your theory. And if you look at the vote on the council, you'll see no racial pattern to their votes whatsoever. Rather, you see whites and blacks alike on both sides; the distinguishing characteristic of those who voted against baseball is their ambition for the mayor's office--Cropp, Catania, Fenty--or for an at-large seat on the council--Graham, Patterson and (though he's already there) Mendelson.


Cleveland Park, Washington, D.C.: Has Cropp committed political suicide? If not, what can we do to get her out of office? She's given us a black eye. Who would want to do business with a city that doesn't honor agreements made by its mayor?

Marc Fisher: Hardly. Quite to the contrary, she's greatly boosted her chances to become mayor. She wins either way: If baseball walks, she's the one who stood up for the taxpayers and took a stand against the elite forces trying to take over the city. If she gets a private money deal, she's again the taxpayers' savior.


Washington, D.C.: It seems like a lot of reporters are jumping in on the Cropp bashing. As I understand it, she wsa not fully informed of the deal being negotiated by the Mayor with MLB. I was a HUGE supporter of DC baseball, and a stadium, RFK renovations, etc. However, when I learned of the deal that was agreed to, I was appalled. None of us IN THE CITY LIMITS need baseball THAT bad.

Lets give Cropp a break, and focus on the horrible negotiation skills of the Mayor.

Marc Fisher: Cropp was in on the deal from the very start. She sat in on meeting after meeting in the initial phase of the talks. She was informed at every turn. She showed up at the celebration at Union Station and sang Take Me Out to the Ball Game (quite lustily, in fact.) She had ample opportunity to question or oppose the deal. Instead, she promised the mayor and his staff at every turn that she was on board. Then she started pulling her last minute surprises and saw that this won her the support of people outside the debate who resented the way the city has been changing. And here we are.


Springfield, Va.: Hi Marc, I really do understand both positions of the City Council and MLB regarding the stadium. What perplexes me is the way that D.C. residents feel that the money generated for the stadium would still be there for hospitals and schools if MLB goes away. What's worse is the fact that the council members opposed to the stadium play on this ignorance to further their own agenda.

Marc Fisher: It is sad, and quite dishonest. The same council members who are pushing that line are among the smartest folks on the council and they well know the severe limitations on the city's finances. They know that expanding the tax base is the city's only hope long-term.


Portland, Ore.: Isn't it fair to question the competence of DC's original negotiations with MLB? That is, if the DC had to build the ballpark, why couldn't some of the eventual capital gains to be realized by the team's ownership have been designated for distribution to the investors: i.e., D.C.? Also, as an Anacostia High grad ('46!) I must ask some of your angry suburbanites: Do you know where Anacostia is? It is on the other side of the river, not the proposed location for the ballpark.

Marc Fisher: Carol Schwartz correctly went on a rant about this at the Tuesday night council meeting--the stadium site is simply NOT in Anacostia. It's across the river from Anacostia. But then we also hear many council members calling this the Southwest site when it's actually in Southeast.


Dupont Circle, Washington, D.C.: As someone who is outraged by the actions of Linda Cropp, I wonder if there are enough people like myself out there to recall Ms. Cropp and destroy her dreams of being Mayor like she has destroyed 33 years of dreams for baseball.

Marc Fisher: I understand your rage, but that doesn't have a prayer of happening. Cropp routinely wins election with 90-plus percent of the vote. She's powerful and popular.


Baseball in Virginia?: "If Gov. Warner had the guts to make a move to take land in Crystal City or another Arlington location, a powerful compromise could emerge very quickly."

Are you kidding? Much too close to Metro. Any new building in Virginia must be unaffordable high-rise apartments and condos, or high-rise office buildings. After all, why would we want gridlock only for baseball game days when we can have it 365 days a year?

Marc Fisher: Right--and the development that will go into Crystal City on the site that baseball had in mind will cause vastly more congestion that ball games might have.


Arlington, Va.: Yesterday in your online column you called DC a "damaged and declining city" (I believe those were your words). But it seems that everywhere I go in DC there is all sorts of new building and business going on. Real estate prices are rising in the District just like they are in the suburbs. There's even a fair amount of building going on already in the vicinity of the proposed new stadium. So exactly what did you mean by the city being in decline?

Marc Fisher: You're of course right--in so many ways, the city is undergoing an amazing renaissance. But the mayor's ambitious plan to add 100,000 new residents is far from fruition, and is unlikely to come close to that number because the schools are still a total mess and the basic structure of the city--its inability to tax commuters or a large portion of its own landowners--makes no sense. In that way, the city is condemned to a long-term slide--unless basic structural change occurs.


Washington, D.C.: One way or another the costs of building a baseball stadium will trickle down to us. Even if taxes are not imposed on us directly, we will still pay through increased prices, interest rates, or unwillingness of business to accept further tax increases. Please don't insult our intelligence by pretending we can get baseball for nothing.

Marc Fisher: I've yet to hear anyone say we can get baseball for nothing. But the way this deal is structured, the costs are shared primarily by people and institutions that can afford this far more than the average taxpayer. Look at the list of big businesses that would pay the stadium tax--very few are positioned to pass costs on to ordinary consumers. The District, sad to say, is simply not a retail center.


Arlington, Va.: Let me put this simply for the DC council
Baseball in D.C. is a commuter tax. 90 percent or more of the attendees will be from the burbs.
Their dollars will be spent and tax revenue generated. This revenue disappears without a team. We aren't going to spend it going to KC or other places. The courts will never allow a commuter tax and Congress will stop it. This your best bet.

Marc Fisher: Exactly right. Even those economists who believe that pro sports are a bad bet for economic development agree that the Washington area is a special case because any team in the District would result in a huge transfer of entertainment spending from Virginia and Maryland into the city. That's a real transfer of resources, unlike when, say, a Maryland resident chooses between dinner in Bethesda and a ball game in Baltimore. For the state tax man, that choice is a wash. But if that money comes into the District, D.C. wins and Annapolis loses. That's real change.


Washington, D.C.: Marc,

The comments about this Baseball fiasco giving DC another black eye are right on. But for me an even worse moment occurred this week in the lack of a murder conviction of the Ballou student, along with the subsequent blaming of the victim and the school system. It seems DC resident are getting what they want ... "Blame someone else"

Marc Fisher: That was another very sad moment, but a very useful reflection of the state of jury trials in the District, where nullification is a real and dangerous phenomenon. Criminals frequently walk because juries want to send a message about too many of their neighbors being arrested. It's a scary scene.


Chicago, Ill.: I understand the only public money used to finance the stadium will be generated by the stadium, but will any of that revenue go back into the city?

I see the overrun risks and the fuzzy promise of revitalization. In the best situation, it looks like the city breaks even. Is there any definite way this stadium will really benefit the residents of D.C.?

Marc Fisher: The primary benefit to the city, if you want to believe the naysayers about a stadium not sparking any development, will be the transfer of spending from the suburbs to the city, as I described above. That's a real and huge boost to the city. But on top of that, this stadium site does indeed promise to generate development, much as the MCI Center did. That could mean billions in new tax revenue for the city.


Reston, Va. -- Please help me clarify this baseball question!: Does the mayor even have legal authority to negotiate deals on behalf of the city? I know people like to say that he negotiated this and that or did this with MLB, but if he hammers out a deal with MLB, does he even have the power to do that? Or does this power in fact rest with the City Council.


Marc Fisher: It's the mayor's job to negotiate deals and bring them to the council. He did that, and he did involve Cropp, Evans and others in the talks. But he dropped the ball at the crucial moment, when it came time to make the sale to the citizens of the city and to the full council when they were hearing that pressure from the voters. That's when Tony Williams decided to spend his time in beautiful China.


Washington, D.C.: What are the chances you think that baseball will give D.C. an extension to re-vote on this plan or find a private funder?

Marc Fisher: Zero, nil, nada, no chance whatsoever. The city's last chance comes at next Tuesday's council meeting.


Detroit, Mich.: Do the residents of the city know how immature they look when their council killed this deal? Say whatever you want about Detroit, but three out of the four major team sports stadiums are in the city, and each has proved to be a benefit despite the financing issues (even with the dismal Tigers and Lions). I'll just look at the District and laugh.

Marc Fisher: Sadly, that's what's happening in board rooms across the land, and among the bond raters on Wall Street, and in all the other venues where the city's credibility is measured.


Rosslyn, Va.: Why can't the "Nats" play in Northern Virginia and still be known as DC's team? The Redskins don't play in D.C., but they are D.C.'s football team. There ya go -- problem solved!

Marc Fisher: Ok, but play where? Northern Virginia might have had the franchise by now if they'd been able to find a piece of land anywhere inside the Beltway with reasonable access to Metro. But they couldn't, or at least didn't. That left them with Loudoun County, which is very nice but way too far from the center of the region to be attractive to baseball. You got a patch of land? Now's your moment.


Washington, D.C.: First, as a 10 year D.C. resident, I really appreciated your comment "you are dealing not with the supremely confident capital of the free world, but an ailing city with a pathological aversion to change and deep anxieties about race, class and the urban-suburban divide."

Second, why do you think that we did not hear one thing from the yammering nabobs on the City Council about the sad shape our D.C. services until now?

Marc Fisher: Thanks--that view is resonating more than I'd even hoped it would. The only way to push this forward is for baseball to realize that this is not about them, they Cropp stuffed them not because of this deal, but because of the underlying pathologies that hold the District back.


Arlington, Va.: Hypothetical -- Say, things get worked out and D.C. is allowed a baseball team. Can Congress say -- no, we don't want baseball in the city we work in and that's that? I mean, residents have no say over what happens without big brother stepping in, so, why would this be any different?

Marc Fisher: I can't see why Congress would want to stop baseball from coming here. To the contrary, Congress has pressured baseball over the years in the opposite direction, largely out of self-interest of course. They'd like to go to the games. But Congress has been oddly silent on this matter this fall. Could they apply some pressure now? Sure. Will they? No sign of it as yet. Nor, of course, from our baseball-loving prez.


Washington, D.C.: I can't understand why suburbanites seem to think that D.C. has bungled this. It seems to me like D.C. is acting in its own interests. Most D.C. residents aren't fans. But it's their tax dollars that are paying for it. If Virginia fans want a stadium so much, why don't they propose a gross receipts tax on Virginia businesses and everything will be hunky dory. It seems to me like a lot of people moved out of the city because the suburbs have lower taxes but then they still want D.C. taxpayer dollars to pay for their toys.

Don't tell me that it's all good because gate receipts and game night restaurant meals will bring in suburban dollars. If they were enough, we wouldn't need a gross receipt tax and this wouldn't even be an issue.

Why should D.C. subsidize Virginia's entertainment?

Marc Fisher: You're right, of course--and that's the calculus that Linda Cropp is depending on. As she said yesterday, she's been besieged with howls of protest, but mostly from the suburbs. Her constituents, as she sees it, don't want this.
But D.C. should subsidize Virginia's entertainment for exactly the same reasons that we have the Kennedy Center and the Smithsonian and fine restaurants and all the other amenities of a major city--to lure suburbanites into town so that they spend money here, have a swell time, and come back again. That's payments in lieu of a commuter tax, and everybody wins.


D.C. Tourism = Tax Base: Tourists expand our tax base. They don't go to Detroit for the ball games. They come to D.C. for the museums and the Mall.

With a weak dollar we can get more tourists from abroad TODAY if we address their fears that D.C. is the "murder capital". That would be a proper use of a city bond.

Marc Fisher: Bonds for public safety? That's actually been tried in quite a few cities and counties around the country, with some success in winning over voters. But if money were the main factor in ending crime, D.C. would have been a crime-free city long ago. We have the highest cops per capita ratio in the country, and look at our crime rates.


Washington, D.C.: "All these big businesses were eager to be taxed?" Um since when do the Washington Post, Verizon. and PEPCO become "all"? My company qualifies as a large business and we certainly did not ask Mayor Williams to increase our taxes. To add insult to injury, we are a small enough business that our contribution would not be capped, like The Post, PEPCO, and Verizon. Would those three support the tax if it were unlimited and could cost their shareholders tens of millions of dollars?

Marc Fisher: The deal was changed to remove the smaller big businesses from the gross receipts tax. I'm sure there are some businesses remaining on the list that don't share the enthusiasm for the deal, but given the rabid support from the Board of Trade and its membership, those businesses are very much in the minority.


Washington, D.C.: I call on Linda Cropp to resign.

Her two-faced actions have caused our city enormous damage and she should now remove herself from the council.

Marc Fisher: That and one of those impossible-to-obtain SmartTrip cards will get you parking at a Metro parking lot.


Springfield, Va.: I've already spent $75.00 on Washington Nationals cap, t-shirt, etc. Looks like I wasted my money. Should I ask Tony Williams and Linda Cropp for a refund?

Marc Fisher: Nah, you'll get well more than that by selling them on eBay next year.


Capitol Hill, Washington, D.C.: Marc,

As a constituent of Linda Cropp, I can't begin to express my rage at being sandbagged by such a self-interested pol. What are our chances of keeping the team?

Marc Fisher: A lot of you are asking this question. My kids do this all the time: "What percent chance," they ask. So, ok, I'll give you a number: I'd say there's a 19 percent chance that the council will find a way to declare victory and restore the public financing piece of the deal on Tuesday.


Washington, D.C.: Sorry Mr. Fisher, but I disagree with you on the matter 100 percent. I'm not against baseball for the District, but like the 68 percent of the tax-paying residents, I am against public financing of building a stadium for a business.

When Mayor Williams compared the deal with baseball to a promise to a major retailer or other business considering relocating to the city, he must have forgotten that the businesses locating in the city usually build their structures or rent/buy space from developers. Let MLB or the new owner(s) of the Nationals build its own stadium.

Bravo to Council Chair Cropp! Ditto to Fenty and Cantania. Nay to Evans, Orange and Brazil.

Marc Fisher: Well, you're of course entitled to that view, but you should take a look at some of the deals that have enticed businesses and retailers into the city. They were at least as generous as this one; some of those businesses have been exempted from paying taxes for years, even decades. Many jurisdictions play this game, of course, and there are real questions about how much benefit those businesses bring if they're not paying taxes at all.


Philly, Pa.: What does it say that so many officials who were anti-stadium were recently elected? Regardless of the pros and cons of the deal, why can't we respect the voice of the voters of D.C?

Marc Fisher: You're right--the voters' voices should be heard. But shouldn't the voters get one fair crack at the facts--shouldn't the mayor and council have gotten out to neighborhoods and layed out the potential benefits of the deal so that voters had something to weigh against the claims of the anti crowd?


Washington, D.C.: I knew THIS was coming. Self-representation? Home rule? Ask yourself one question and the debate ends. Does Marion Barry deserve to be a United States Senator? Conversation over.

Marc Fisher: We'll be hearing a lot more of this in the days to come. But you're right--Barry doesn't hold a candle to the likes of James Traficante, Tom DeLay, Maxine Waters and so many other fine public servants.


Washington, D.C.: According to an ESPN report, baseball's owners can profit more by contracting the team in 2006 than by selling it. What do you think of this scenario: baseball operates the Nationals in D.C. for one year, and then threatens to contract the team unless we pay them a king's ransom?

Marc Fisher: Could be, but not likely. The owners spent years considering contraction and eventually decided that it wasn't worth the confrontation with the players' union. Baseball could make a mint here, and they know that.


Naming rights: Couldn't a company like Pepco, the Post put up the money in exchange for naming rights? Naming rights are usually a contract over time, but these companies may be able to make sizable cash dumps to secure future earnings. The Post would make more money if there were another big market team to cover, I would assume.

Marc Fisher: Sure, the naming rights could bring in $3 million or $4 million a year. But MLB insisted that the city sign over the naming rights to baseball, so that revenue source is gone.


Re: Norfolk: Just FYI, Norfolk is the largest US metropolitan area with no major league sports team. You're correct that it's not on anybody's radar screen, but if Jacksonville, Buffalo, Charlotte, and Sacramento can be major league, so can Norfolk.

Marc Fisher: In a decade or so, perhaps. But not now.


Washington, D.C.: Where was Cropp months ago? Why did she not have the guts before? She is just an incompetent fool. I am glad I am leaving DC for the suburbs, the DC Council are also fools. Pity.

Marc Fisher: Cropp wouldn't have gotten nearly this much publicity if she'd expressed doubts back then. Last minute dramatics play much better, and that's what she's all about right now. The interesting thing is that this is very much a change for her; she's been known most of her career as a behind the scenes player. But she was never running for mayor before.


Washington, D.C.: I am a District resident. I will not miss baseball if it does not permanently locate in Washington. The city continues to build office buildings, and gentrification continues at a brisk pace in several sections of the city. Anacostia will have a major makeover. There is already construction occuring near the Navy Yard and Southwest Waterfront Metro stations, without a baseball team. Meanwhile, I think that many city services are poor, including the police, libraries, schools, water and sewer, and the list goes on. It is highly aggravating that the mayor has spent so much time and energy on Olympics and baseball instead of some of the more pressing problems in the city.

Marc Fisher: Ok, but we're losing this team precisely because the mayor didn't put in the time and effort to sell this package. He did push hard to get a deal with baseball, but then he dropped the ball. And it's impossible to travel around this city without seeing the many new projects he has initiated and supported--it's a remarkable change, and one that he has not been given proper credit for.


Rockville, Md.: If there was someone willing to pay for the stadium themselves, wouldn't that person have stepped forward by now?

BTW, correct me if I'm remembering this wrong, but didn't Cooke offer to pay for a new stadium for his Redskins himself if the city would buy the land and pay for other improvements and the city rejected him?

Marc Fisher: Right--the dream of a Bill Gates or Mark Cuban rushing in at the last second is pure fantasy.
Before we go, one post on a non-baseball issue...


Washington, D.C.: Marc -- Your column on D.C. cab reform missed the basic point. D.C. cabs are an embarrassment to the city. They're dangerous, filthy, and often driven by people who can't find basic locations like the Supreme Court. I've lived here 10 years without a car, so I've taken hundreds of cabs. I'd say only about 20 percent of D.C. cabs are actually safe and clean. I've seen everything from obviously malfunctioning brakes to convoluted lies from the driver about fare amounts.

What we need is real cab standards, like pretty much all other U.S. cities. New York cabs are kept to a strict safety and cleanliness standard or the cabbie loses his license.

Zones versus meters -- frankly, I don't care as long as I get a safe and clean cab. As it is now, I usually don't. Again, an embarrassment to the city I love.

We need better standards, real oversight, and a 'retirement' requirement for old, worn-out cabs, like nearly all other cities have. Anything less is just pretending to fix the problem.

Marc Fisher: I love D.C. cabs--always there (when you're downtown, anyway). The price is clear and fair, the cabbies are knowledgeable. They even have air conditioning these days, which is a huge step forward.


Washington, D.C.: You stated earlier, that "the deal as it exists now; it's the fans, big businesses and the team that cough up the bucks…" If this is indeed the case, then how is it not clearly stated to the public as such? As of right now, most residents I have spoken to seem to believe they will be taxed at a higher percentage to raise money for the new stadium. How come the actual facts are not clearly stated to the public and who's doing the misleading to the public? Has the media done enough to explain this point thus far?

Marc Fisher: Good point--there was not nearly enough coverage of this in the run-up to the franchise decision, either on TV or in the papers, and the politicians have not done their part to generate that coverage by going out to sell the deal.


The baseball deal is.....: "cropped."

Marc Fisher: Good way to end our hour. Thanks for coming along. Let's hope that when we get back together here next week, we have something to celebrate.


© 2004 Washingtonpost.Newsweek Interactive
Viewpoint: Paid Programming

Sponsored Discussion Archive
This forum offers sponsors a platform to discuss issues, new products, company information and other topics.

Read the Transcripts
Viewpoint: Paid Programming