'No' Vote Was Only Start of Council Ride

D.C. Council Chairman Linda W. Cropp and council member Jack Evans listen to arguments about the lease.
D.C. Council Chairman Linda W. Cropp and council member Jack Evans listen to arguments about the lease. "Everyone made a valiant effort," Evans said. (By Rich Lipski -- The Washington Post)
By Lori Montgomery
Washington Post Staff Writers
Wednesday, February 8, 2006

Some looked angry. Some looked nervous. And just before members of the D.C. Council voted 8 to 5 to reject a critical piece of the deal to build a ballpark for the Washington Nationals, council member Jack Evans, who has worked for years to bring baseball back to the nation's capital, pushed his chair away from the dais and briefly teared up.

"We are at the end of the line," Evans (D-Ward 2) told his colleagues. "When baseball leaves this time around, they will be gone for good."

But even before baseball boosters could properly mourn the vote, the stadium deal was being revived.

Outside council chambers in the marble hallway of the John A. Wilson Building, a phalanx of TV cameras waited for D.C. Mayor Anthony A. Williams (D) to make his way down from his penthouse office to express his disappointment. Just out of view, City Administrator Robert C. Bobb was quietly urging council member Marion Barry (D-Ward 8) to make a move to reconsider the vote.

We could do it, Barry told him, if the mayor would accept a cap on spending for the stadium, including funds raised by the quasi-independent Anacostia Waterfront Corp. "Eight or nine of us on the council would not fight it," Barry told Bobb.

Bobb looked startled, then dashed off to catch the mayor before he made his public statement.

"I'm very, very disappointed," Williams told the cameras moments later. "I beg and implore the council to reconsider the deal, even tonight."

A short while later, Bobb was back in the council chambers. He huddled with an aide to council Chairman Linda W. Cropp (D). He huddled with an aide to Phil Mendelson (D-At Large), who had voted no. He huddled with Carol Schwartz (R-At Large), who had also voted no. Then he suddenly sprang up and ran out of the room, his ostrich-leather cowboy boots clicking across the marble floor.

"Make sure they don't leave the chamber yet!" Bobb yelled to a reporter as he caught an elevator up to the mayor's office.

By 10 p.m., a huge and hopeful crowd had gathered at the dais. In the center, mayoral aide Stephen Green was trying to placate Sharon Ambrose (D-Ward 6) and Kathy Patterson (D-Ward 3), who wanted to make no changes in the deal for fear of alienating Major League Baseball officials.

Off to the left, Bobb hunched over a piece of paper with three of the no votes: Schwartz, Barry and Kwame R. Brown (D-At Large). As they talked, Barry adjusted a pair of too-big drugstore bifocals and scribbled revisions.

Cropp dashed frantically between her chair and her office, printing yet another version of the compromise legislation. And Evans sat in the center of it all, looking happy and relieved.

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