Four D.C. Council Members Want to Auction Season Tickets to Nationals Park
Wednesday, April 22, 2009
With the standoff between Mayor Adrian M. Fenty and the D.C. Council over baseball tickets entering its third week, four council members have gotten behind a proposal to auction off city lawmakers' season tickets to Nationals Park to raise up to half a million dollars for city services.
Council member Kwame Brown (D-At Large) introduced the proposal yesterday as the board stepped up its criticism of Fenty for allegedly holding hostage its allotment of tickets to Suite 61.
The controversy, a repeat of a similar squabble over Nationals tickets that occurred last year, has come to symbolize the contaminated relationship between Fenty (D) and the council.
"People are losing their homes, people are losing their jobs, people are suffering, and here we are talking about where [baseball] tickets are in the District of Columbia," said Brown, who has accused Fenty of being "immature."
Under the city's agreement with the Nationals, Suite 61 at Nationals Park is made available to council members. They can take in the games themselves or distribute the 19 tickets to constituents.
Council members said the Nationals are supposed to deliver the tickets to the D.C. Sports and Entertainment Commission, which divvies them up. But council Chairman Vincent C. Gray (D) said Fenty came into possession of them this year and has refused to hand them over, even though he has access to a separate suite at Nationals Park.
In an interview Monday night, Fenty said his staff is working on the issue. Asked why he wasn't personally resolving the matter, he said: "It's baseball tickets. I have bigger things to do."
Brown is moving ahead with his proposal to get rid of the perk. He is being joined by council members Michael A. Brown (I-At Large), David A. Catania (I-At Large) and Mary M. Cheh (D-Ward 3), all of whom signed on to his bill as co-sponsors.
Brown said the city would auction off 86 season tickets -- 67 allotted to the mayor and 19 to the council -- and parking passes for both the mayor's and council's suites.
He estimates that the city could raise a half-million dollars, which he would deposit into a "People's Stadium Fund." He noted that $300,000 could fund 15 teacher aides.
Brown said he's confident that his proposal is legal as long as the city does not run afoul of anti-scalping laws by selling the tickets for more than face value.
Attorney General Peter Nickles said he would have to look into that. "I just wonder if the city has the power to auction off what essentially is a gift," he said.