Thursday, May 29 at Noon ET
Thursday, May 29, 2008; 12:00 PM
Potomac Confidential fills the midday lull with discussion by Metro columnist Marc Fisher who looks at the latest news with a rigorous slicing and dicing of the issues that define who we are and where we live.
Fisher was online Thursday, May 29, at Noon ET to talk about the District's move toward paying for a stadium for D.C. United, the Virginia congressional race between Gerry Connolly and Leslie Byrne, and the 45-year sentence handed down against Prince George's police officer Keith Washington..
A transcript follows.
Today's Column: A Stadium Plan That Won't Pay Off ( Post, May 29)
Check out Marc's blog,
In his weekly show, Fisher veers wildly from serious probing to silly prattle, and is open to topics local, national, personal and more.
Marc Fisher: Welcome aboard, folks.
Virginia's Republican Party holds its convention Saturday--a true crossroads for the party, as it makes basic decisions about whether to hew closely to conservative stands on social issues or to reach out to the middle. We'll see those choices both in the U.S. Senate race between Jim Gilmore and Bob Marshall and in the contest for party chairman between John Hager and Jeff Frederick.
In northern Virginia politics, the showdown between Gerry Connolly and Leslie Byrne in the Democratic race for Tom Davis's seat in Congress comes to a head in the June 10 primary, and the fight is growing ever more bitter. Still, are voters at all engaged? Will they show up?
And is now really the time and is Poplar Point really the place for the District to pay $150 million or more toward a stadium for the D.C. United soccer team? Today's column takes a look at that issue, and already, quite a few of you have strong views to share here today.
And we'll get into the Keith Washington sentencing if time allows and comments lead in that direction.
On to your many thoughts and queries, but first, let's call the Yay and Nay of the Day:
Yay to the Fairfax landowners, business leaders and residents who are carving out the path toward a Tysons Corner that makes more sense, encourages more density, and seeks to create a place where people can live, work and shop without spending their lives stuck waiting for a left-turn signal. Amy Gardner's story on today's front page spells out a scenario that may seem overly optimistic, but at least gets all the players talking about how to fix a place that is central to the lives of Fairfax residents, yet really doesn't work.
Nay to the still-broken D.C. ambulance system, which, as The Post's Elissa Silverman reports today, is producing shockingly poor results in dealing with patients in cardiac arrest, a common indicator of quality of ambulance care. Using data comparing the District with surrounding jurisdictions and other places nationwide, Silverman demonstrates that the reforms promised in the aftermath of the murder of David Rosenbaum have not yet produced the kind of care that all city residents and visitors expect.
Your turn starts right now....
Poplar Point: In every article you write about Poplar Point, you talk about how it's some lush, pristine park (it's not) that should be preserved for parkland for the ages.
I'm all for more public greenspace, but your argument is a canard. Poplar Point was federally owned land that was given to the District specifically to make up for the lack of tax revenue on all the land taken up by federal government buildings. The Poplar Point land has always been going to be developed.
You also mention that the government is going to pay $150 mil toward the stadium, when it's not -- that $150 million is going towards infrastructure improvements which will be borne regardless of what is built on the land.
I know you know both of these things, because they're continuously pointed out to you after each article against the stadium you write.
Marc Fisher: Well, there are elements of truth in what you say, but the facts aren't quite there. In fact, the National Park Service still controls ALL of the land under consideration for the soccer stadium and the retail and housing development proposed by the city and Clark Construction.
And both the White House and the Interior Department have made it clear that there will be no land swap if their concerns about retaining parkland are not assuaged.
On the stadium funding, both the mayor and Victor MacFarlane, the investor who owns D.C. United, regularly promised that the soccer stadium would be paid for by the team--until the city chose another developer to work up the master plan for Poplar Point. Now, MacFarlane wants the city to pay for the stadium--something the District ought not do because it would gain little if any expansion of the tax base from construction of the stadium.
Washington, D.C.: There will be a development at Poplar Point, right? Seemingly, the majority of residents in the immediate and broader Anacostia and Ward 8 area want that. They also seem to want a soccer stadium. It's not just about economics. Sometimes, when the residents in a city want something that makes them feel good, the city has to pay for it. Fenty screwed up and lost a great opportunity for a free stadium. Now DC will have to pay for it.
Marc Fisher: I'm not sure why you conclude that the residents of Ward 8 want a soccer stadium. The community meetings I've seen and the residents I've spoken to show that what many people want is jobs, housing and retail development, and the District's effort to create a whole new neighborhood in Anacostia near the river is a good response to that desire--if those efforts are coordinated with the revival of downtown historic Anacostia.
But there are strong views both for and against a soccer stadium in that community, and there's no particular reason why a stadium should be part of the larger development of the sort that Clark and its competitors envisioned. We've got a link to Clark's vision for the site, and the soccer stadium is presented merely as an option.
McLean, Va.: Your sentiment is the same as David Cay Johnston's in his new book, "Free Lunch." Basically, if sports stadiums are such great investments... then why would the government have to subsidize it? In fact, David has frequently asserted that sports teams at large would NOT be profitable if it weren't for government subsidies. Is this true?
Marc Fisher: In all of these trying debates over public dollars and sports facilities, both sides strain to make the case that public subsidies of arenas and stadiums are evil or the path to paradise. The truth is that sometimes public investments are legitimate and worthwhile and often they are not.
The public investments in the infrastructure around Abe Pollin's downtown arena or Maryland's building of Camden Yards are moves that have paid off handsomely in the expansion of the tax base and the building of confidence that encourages other developers to create new businesses and buildings.
But there are also many examples of foolish investments by governments in sports facilities. In general, football stadiums and isolated suburban stadiums have proven to be a huge waste of public money. Downtown facilities that jumpstart new residential and retail neighborhoods in formerly industrial or rundown sections of cities tend to work out better.
DC resident: In your column, you claim that a United stadium would be stripping Anacostia of parkland and compare it to "grabbing a chunk of Rock Creek".
Yet, in the plans from Clark, it clearly shows that the stadium space would not be parkland, but residential/retail space.
Can you explain your rationale and inconsistency?
Marc Fisher: In all of the existing plans, both from the city and from Clark and its competitors, the stadium is sited on the land where the National Park Service headquarters building and the D.C. police heliport are currently located--very much on the national park property.
Arlington, Va.: Mr. Fisher:
In your column today on the proposed DC United soccer stadium, you state that "there's plenty of privately owned land in Anacostia just right for a stadium."
Could you please name a couple sites you think would be good for a stadium? Thanks for taking my question.
Marc Fisher: Great question: Yes, there are several alternatives that would be excellent sites for a privately-funded soccer stadium. The landowners along Howard Road, immediately behind the park land, have been eagerly seeking development and seem more than willing to combine their properties to make a large-scale development possible. And the Clark Construction plan for the Anacostia waterfront envisions a deck over I-295 that would also be a strong site for a stadium. Neither of those sites would encroach on the public parkland.
Meridian Hill: Thanks for your piece today on the soccer stadium. A few thoughts come to mind:
1. Can Fenty continue to wiggle out of his strong opposition to funding Nationals Park when he was on the council? It's one thing to preside over the project's success as mayor and attach your face to the photos, but it seems like another thing entirely to advocate spending another $100-200m on another stadium.
2. For how much is the city currently on the hook for RFK in terms of infrastructure, any kind of financing, etc. -- if anything? And what would be the utility of RFK if United get their own home? A few summer concerts here and there? Would it be worth keeping?
3. Can you expand a bit on how the tax revenues of Nationals Park are exceeding expectations? By how much, by whose math, and is it expected to be sustainable?
Marc Fisher: Good questions.
Fenty has said from back during his campaign that although he opposed the baseball stadium deal, once the decision was made to go ahead, his job as mayor was to try to make the project and its surrounding development a success. And he seems to have kept his word on that, working with developers to clear the way for the many projects now planned for the baseball district.
But you're right--if the mayor believed so strongly that sports facilities are not a justifiable use of city financing, then he should oppose the spending of public dollars on the soccer project.
RFK would have no further purpose when United move to a new stadium. RFK would be demolished and the debate would then move to whether to try to lure Dan Snyder into the city to build a new football stadium, or to try to get the feds to let the District turn the RFK grounds into an extension of the urban grid--a whole new residential and retail neighborhood.
On Nationals Park, while attendance is not as high as had been hoped for, the tax receipts are substantially above projections and if the money is not redirected to a soccer stadium, the District has the chance to retire the baseball bonds in as little as half the time it had anticipated--that would be a great boost to the city's finances.
Stadium - 20009: Mr. Fisher --
This stadium would not merely be a soccer stadium, it could and would (to my understanding) also be used for a concert and entertainment venue. It has the potential to be used much more than the 35 times you stated in your article. D.C. United has done all the right things in this community. It deserves to remain in D.C. -- it would be a travesty to lose this team to the 'burbs, just like was to lose the Redskins. I agree that a blank check is a bad idea; however, if done properly, the city could and should support this cause... for the team and the community that deserves this in Anacostia.
Marc Fisher: Every developer of a stadium designed for a single sport--soccer, baseball, football--always promises in the planning phase that the building will be used more widely, that there will be concerts and festivals and all manner of wondrous entertainments for people at virtually no cost.
And every one of those promises turns out to be empty. Take a look at the schedules for those Major League Soccer teams that have already built stadiums like the one proposed for Washington--where are those concerts? Or look at Nationals Park--anyone see any concerts coming our way this summer? Or FedEx Field? It just doesn't happen.
Washington, DC: I'm with you on Poplar Point, but just so I can defend myself too, how is your argument not an example of NIMBYism?
Marc Fisher: Easy--because I very much support all of the development planned for Poplar Point (and more) on the Howard Road land and on a deck over I-295 and on the Barry Farm site and on various other excellent development sites in central Anacostia. Just not on national park land.
Reston, Va.: Why do you insist of trying to color the issue.
D.C. United isn't looking for the District to pay for the stadium, it's looking for the District to pick up the infrastructure tab, just like a supermarket, office building or movie theater would.
Marc Fisher: Well, when the city is talking about a $150 million payment toward a $220 million stadium, that's more than laying a few sewage pipes and paving some streets.
Adams Morgan: Marc, which do you hate more, animals or soccer?
Marc Fisher: Good thing there are no loaded questions around here.
I eagerly await the day when I can be attacked by a rampaging deer as I drive to a spanking new soccer stadium in Anacostia, where fans taking their dogs to the game peacefully and lovingly work out a happy solution as frightened children learn to love the dogs.
Bloomingdale, D.C.: Marc,
I found your "DC of the Future"
Marc Fisher: Thanks--there are of course many different kinds of people with very different views about what makes for a comfortable and successful community, so while places such as downtown Silver Spring and Ballston and perhaps a reworked Tysons Corner do indeed attract huge crowds of apparently happy people, there are also many folks who find such nodes of density to be an appalling and repellent development.
So every such effort to create the density that makes public transit workable will face powerful opposition. We are seeing that in the early protests against Maryland's Purple Line plan for an east-west connector rail line.
Looking toward 2025, as we did in the Magazine piece, the experts we consulted generally agreed that we are entering an era in which there will be dual pressures--both pushing for greater density in the city and close-in suburbs, and for further development of now-rural or exurban areas, where land is cheaper and people can still come closer to affording the dream of a yard and single-family house.
Washington, D.C.: Marc. About the further cuts at the Post.
I am having a hard time justifying continuing to pay for the paper. It's not that I don't read the news or can't afford it. I pay for subscriptions for the FT, the Economist, NYT Sunday delivery, and Le Monde diplomatique. It is just getting harder and harder to find something that sets the WP apart from the rest. I would have thought that the war and the election would have been two areas where the WP coverage was essential reading, but it hasn't been. Please enough with the local fetish, there are 3 free papers that show up on my doorstep covering HS sports and city council shenanigans.
Marc Fisher: Interesting. I suppose if your interests are largely limited to international finance, you are indeed best off reading some of those foreign publications. But if you're looking for a paper that is one of only four U.S. news organizations with a serious commitment to covering foreign news, fielding a full complement of foreign correspondents, and you live in the Washington area and care about your nation and where you live, then The Post delivers a better overall report than you'd find in any other metropolitan area in this country.
And no, you won't find comprehensive coverage of high school sports and local government and politics in any other paper or medium in this region. You can certainly find good, strong coverage of neighborhood and very local events and issues in your community weeklies, but no place else provides the full mix you get in The Post, which, despite the cutbacks, has more reporters covering local issues than any other American newspaper.
Washington, D.C.: Marc -- How can waste your time on trivia like schools and development when there are lawns in Prince William County that have not been mowed in -- gasp -- SIX WEEKS! Didn't you see the
Marc Fisher: Actually, that story by Nick Miroff was totally captivating and raised all sorts of good questions about what happens next in Prince William. The combination of the foreclosure mess and the movement of many illegal immigrants out of the county has left many streets seeming almost abandoned, and lots of folks on all sides of the immigration issue are wondering how the county can turn around its economic fortunes.
The tall grass may seem like a frivolous issue, but between the critters that move in and the overall sense that the unkempt properties communicate about the neighborhood, there are real problems here that will alter the course of events in Prince William and similarly suffering places.
Metered cab: Took one last night for $16, for a trip that on average was $20 back when the cabbies were making up prices.
So I'm happy.
Marc Fisher: Good for you--here we are three days before the city theoretically starts stripping cabbies of their licenses if they don't have meters installed, and of the last six cab rides I've had this week, not a single one had a meter in it.
Should be interesting.
Washington DC: Last week, my taxi-driver neighbor had his window smashed and his brand-new meter stolen. Since then I've noticed at least three other taxis parked around my neighborhood with platic taped over their broken windows.
Had you heard of a rash of meter-thefts? I didn't have much sympathy for cab-owners complaining about the one-time cost of installing the things, but now I feel terrible for the ones who have no choice but to buy them over and over again.
Marc Fisher: I've not heard of this, but it is indeed disturbing news. Thanks for sending that along.
Crofton, Md.:"...where fans taking their dogs to the game peacefully and lovingly work out a happy solution as frightened children ENJOYING THEIR DIPPIN' DOTS learn to love the dogs."
Marc Fisher: You win the bonus for the first half of today's game. Twenty points.
Bethesda, Md.: I continue to be doubtful about turning Tysons Corner in to a walkable, urbanized area. It's not absolutely impossible -- but the awful truth is that some of the big roads would have to be narrowed in order to slow down and reduce the flow of traffic. And who's going to be in favor of that?
Marc Fisher: Good point, but look at the District, which has been systematically narrowing its streets and reducing the number of lanes and making other design changes intended to slow traffic. And look at Ballston and other places in Arlington where similar efforts to extend sidewalks and narrow traffic lanes have moved ahead without terribly much outcry from motorists.
Arlington, VA: Marc Fisher: "I eagerly await the day when I can be attacked by a rampaging deer as I drive to a spanking new soccer stadium in Anacostia, where fans taking their dogs to the game peacefully and lovingly work out a happy solution as frightened children learn to love the dogs."
Carrying your handgun.
Marc Fisher: Along with everyone else, all packing, and smoking in restaurants too. What a grand crowd that would be, huh?
Reston, Va.: Okay, let's take a look at the schedules for other Soccer stadia:
LA (Home Depot Center) routinely hosts the X-Games, international soccer games, and the occasional concert. (And I'm not including the tennis center or other facilities)
Dallas has concerts on their current schedule (Kenny Chesney for example, Jimmy Buffet was just there), and some 'Freedom' community event.
Chicago's Toyota Park is hosting Dave Matthews, Jimmy Buffet, and some other musical events, in addition to some international soccer games.
I did that research in 8 minutes....
Marc Fisher: Yes, it's easy and fun, and you can do it yourself--and what you found proves my point exactly: Each of those stadiums has, at most, a handful of events each year. That simply doesn't come close to the 220-plus events that an indoor arena like Pollin's Phone Booth on 7th Street can and does host--a huge boost to the tax base and a reliable magnet for thousands of people who then use the eateries and entertainment spots that have popped up around the arena.
Washington, DC: As a DC taxpayer, why should we have to go to the trouble of filing tax returns? Why don't we have the option of direct deposit of our pay in sport mogul's bank accounts?
Marc Fisher: Did you miss that check-off box on this year's returns?
It was right under the one for sending your refund check directly to the bank accounts of the Tax and Revenue employees who handle your tax return.
Washington, D.C.: If I had to live, work and shop in D.C. for the rest of my life, I could deal with it. If I had to live, work and shop in Tysons for the rest of my life I'd take the first exit out.
Marc Fisher: Ah, but in the new Tysons, there will be no exit.
They arrive for work, but 5 o'clock never comes.
Yes, Tysons III--The New Urbanism, coming to a suburb near you.
Washington, DC: Changing one way to two way on 15th Street is a terrible idea. I both live and work there and I have yet to hear one person tell me how it will "calm" the area. I love it that it's one way. It makes things extremely predicatable whenever I walk, which I do a lot.
Marc Fisher: I'm glad to hear a defender of the 15th Street Expressway. I like it as a one-way boulevard for purely selfish motorist reasons--it's a fast way uptown. And I would vote to preserve it as is if only for one simple reason: As a memorial to the one street in the entire District of Columbia where the art of signal synchronization has been mastered.
Reston, VA: I believe you completely misread District Restident's comment.
He/She asked about how the United stadium would affect the Clark proposal including a certain percentage of parkland. Yes, the stadium is on the parcel, which is now 'parkland', but in the proposal, it'll be replacing buildings, so it will not gobble up parkland.
Marc Fisher: Actually, the greens and other proponents of leaving Poplar Point park its current size argue that the Park Service building and the heliport should go away and that land should be redeveloped as part of an improved park--not as a residential neighborhood or a sports facility.
20011: What to do about a threatening neighbor...
Many in my neighborhood have lived, for several years, knowing they stand a good chance of either getting a threatening note left on their cars or followed and verbally harrassed and threatened by a neighbor who feels that only he - and his next door neighbors - should be allowed to park on a public street in front of his home.
The guy, late at night, has followed women residents, AND guests visiting, a block or more to berate them and threaten that he "couldn't guarantee nothing would happen to their car" if they parked in front of his house.
What real avenues do we have to stop this nonsense?
Oh, did I mention this guy also happens to be our ANC member?!
Marc Fisher: Yikes, sounds like a dangerous situation. I've run into other such folks before, who apparently believe that the curbside in front of their home is somehow a reserved parking space. The only time I can see any sympathy for that point of view is during a major snow storm, when someone takes the trouble of digging out the space in front of his house and then sees it taken by a neighbor who is freeloading on our hero's shoveling efforts (or expenditures.)
Ever since I started writing about the ANC Crusader of Northwest Washington and his campaign to rid the area of pleasant places to sit on the sidewalks, I've been hearing all manner of horror stories about bad neighborhood commissioners. It all adds up to good reasons for good people to run for those seats.
Marc Fisher: Here's the piece on the Connecticut Avenue NW crusader.
Prince William: Not to pile on, but I read that story about PW Cty and part of me thought "serves them right!" That's what they get for treating human beings like criminals for wanting a better life, and for ignoring all the good things that immigrants can and do bring to their neighborhoods.
(I say this as a (Caucasian, which sadly seems to make a difference here) granddaughter of an immigrant and first generation American).
Marc Fisher: Well, but a good many of those foreclosures in Prince William have nothing to do with the crackdown on illegal immigrants, but rather reflect the fact that PW was perhaps the most affordable of Washington's major suburbs and therefore was ground zero for the flimsy mortgage deals that led us to this situation.
Washington, DC: One note about the video on the design for the new, new Tysons. Whoever did this mock up design is not thinking clearly. Did anyone see the skyway walkway between builldings? If you are seriously considering developing a more urban environment, you would be an idiot to believe an above ground walkway is the answer. I am sure there is some fine tuning to be done, but this looks like a 1950's video of how they envisioned Rosslyn in the 80's. We are tearing that road-instensive/skyway model down right now. The goal is to put people on the street not take them off.
Marc Fisher: Yup--for some reason, the planners and artists who draw up the pie in the sky plans for urban developments have never moved beyond the Jetsons phase. The good news is that those skyways never actually get built.
Let's get away from this topic before we veer into the Tysons tunnel issue again.
McLean, VA: I think you've found a new tag line for this discussion.
It's time to change "DC's Hour of Talk Power," to
"Mastering the Art of Signal Synchronization."
Marc Fisher: Top contender for the bonus points on today's second half of the big shew.
Arlington, Va.: On the Republican side for the Virginia U.S. senate race, the candidates are Bob Marshall and Jim Gilmore. Does anyone think either has a chance against Mark Warner? I assume Gilmore will run on the "we can get rid of all taxes and still have everything we want" campaign. And Marshall will run on the more of his God everywhere, no taxes, no abortions, and no illegals ticket.
Marc Fisher: I have yet to meet a Republican leader in Virginia who believes they have any candidate who can beat Mark Warner. They are focused instead on figuring out whom to put up against Jim Webb next time.
Oakton, VA: Marc,
I live in Va's 11th Congressional District, and I can't believe we have to give up Tom Davis for either Connolly or Byrne. Too bad we are so caught up with party labels that we can't let a fine gentleman continue to represent the District. My question is, who will be a bigger embarrassment, Connolly or Moran? Are we looking at a modern day Tweedle Dum and Tweedle Dee?
Marc Fisher: It's turning into an ugly race as we head into the last week and a half. The turnout, sadly, given the supposedly huge interest in politics this cycle, is expected to be miserably low on June 10. But no, there is likely no Republican in northern Virginia who could beat either Byrne or Connolly this fall. The demographics of that district have changed that much, and this year is not the one in which even a strong and attractive Republican would fare well in the 11th.
How to deal with a threatening neighbor: You can buy the Denver Boot online and put it on the guy's car, thus making sure that no car but his can occupy the space.
Marc Fisher: Now isn't that sweet. Somehow we manage to bring out the loving, neighborly gestures here on this show.
Mclean, Va.: Hiya Marc -- While maybe better suited for the politics chat, I wanted to get your take on the Scott McClellan story. I find his whole approach thoroughly disingenuous. He was the mouthpiece of the Bush administration for a time, and he did all he could to blur, cover up, distort, and obfuscate what was really happening in Afghanistan and in Iraq. His holier-than-the-Administration take at this point in time is dishonest and attempts to shift any responsibility a White House spokesman may have to tell the truth to the press corp and to the country. The country knew he was not being forthright when he was spokesman, and he should be ashamed for the big part he played in covering up, distorting, and otherwise lying to the citizens he was charged with serving.
Marc Fisher: I'd have a far easier time taking his turnaround seriously if he weren't hawking a book. If he truly felt a moral obligation to turn on his old boss and do some truth telling, the time to have done so would have been either while still in office or immediately after leaving, and in a venue in which his personal profit was not at issue.
Revelations coughed up for the purpose of selling books and setting up a career on the lecture circuit are barely worth the electrons we're wasting discussing him.
WDC: So now that the plans for a new library and the old convention center have been derailed, what do you think will happen to the library? Fenty says they are looking at alternative sites, but where in downtown is big enough to host a major library? I know that the DC Public Library is a mess -- always has been -- but isn't it time that we start trying to act like a major city that actually cares about literacy and open access to research instead of just letting the homeless take it over? The Library of Congress isn't meant to be a public library, despite what some people here seem to think, so the Public Library has to step up to the job that it was created for.
Marc Fisher: The Fenty administration does not share Tony Williams' passion for libraries or his belief that they can serve a vital role in creating community and boosting the downtown.
There is talk now of trying to squeeze the main downtown Martin King library's collection into the old Carnegie Library building across from the new convention center. But to do that, the library would have to move most of its back office functions to a new facility, most likely to be built in Anacostia. It's not the most plausible of plans, and the Carnegie Library has been fairly effectively cut off from the rest of the city by the traffic patterns there--it's basically one big traffic island now.
DC: ANC elections are this year folks, so run if you don't like the way you are represented. Ping Pong guy is bad enough but what about the ANC that derailed the new Giant on Wisconsin years ago threatening to have it "landmarked"--oh yeah, they are about to derail that project again...for the same reasons, too much density!!
Marc Fisher: So run!
why aren't more Latinos moving into dc: I'm puzzled at the immigration patterns of some Latino immigrants. If I was a an ex Prince William county resdient, I would head to DC as quick as possible and settle in parts of NE or SE where select neighborhoods are safe and as affordable as what they could get in PW county. Think North Michigan Park, Riggs Park, parts of Brookland and Woodridge, and Landgon Park, Hillcrest, etc.
Reasons: Political climate is most accepting of immigration and I don't see DC ever doing a PW style "crackdown".
Why don't we see more Latinos moving into the district? (I know the price pressure in Columbia Heights and Petworth are pushing Latino community out)
Marc Fisher: Not much mystery there: Three reasons--1) Housing is cheaper in the outer suburban counties. 2) Schools are better in those communities. 3) People, and especially immigrants, go where the jobs are, and in most of the fields in which unskilled immigrant labor get employed, the preponderance of the jobs are in the suburbs.
Adams Morgan: With respect, most of us who opposed the deal on the stadium for the Nationals did not say, no city funds ever for a baseball stadium. We said, too much city funds for too little return (and the "return" includes entertainment value for citizens whop like baseball). Why isn't the soccer stadium being discussed in those terms -- How much money should the city spend, what kind of deal can the city make that gets the greatest value for the money?
Marc Fisher: Good point--putting aside the parkland issue for the moment, a soccer stadium is a very good amenity for the city to seek, and I don't know of anyone who opposes the District spending some money on infrastructure if the team owner pays for the stadium itself.
Anacostia, Washington, D.C.: Hi Marc,
As an avid reader of your blog, I am usually supportive of your witty and often right-on commentaries. Can I clear up the "parkland" on the Poplar Point issue?
Currently most of Poplar Point is owned by the National Park Service. There are a number of Park/Police offices located on the site, as well as some parkland. However, in Clark Realty's plan (and every other one), the NPS facilities are relocated, and in their place is a giant mixed-use development, to include a massive waterfront park.
Where the stadium is suggested to go, it is not an issue of parkland v. stadium. The "parkland" on the site of NPS now will be developed either way. The stadium is just one of the options for filling the space.
(I also blog about the neighborhood at www.anacostianow.blogspot.com, but I am skeptical you will choose me as blogger of the month for questioning you!)
Marc Fisher: You never know--some of my Bloggers of the Month have indeed been harsh critics of the Post and of my column.
But despite the fact that the city and Clark and DC United all want to replace that parkland with either a stadium or other development, it remains true that there are large and important voices in this debate who want that piece of land to remain green (or to be turned green in the case of the existing structures there.) And those parties include some folks in the White House, Interior Department and Park Service--in other words, some folks who still have a big say in what happens at Poplar Point.
Other McLean: Marc,
On the subject of density and development, did you happen to read a story in a recent issue of The Atlantic that predicts the degradation of exurbs as fuel and transportation costs rise? Recent trends in Prince William and Loudoun make he article seem prescient.
If you wish to talk about more immediate crises, how about the Nats' lack of timely hitting (Last night's grand slam being an exception to the rule)?
Marc Fisher: Yes, and we certainly talked a lot about that in the research leading to the Washington 2025 story, but there are competing forces at work here, and while it might seem natural and inevitable that growth would focus on the inner city and close-in suburbs, it's also true that the most powerful development force in this society is the deep desire that people of many economic levels have for the classic American house with yard and privacy, and that leads toward ever more sprawl--even as the cities revive.
It is just getting harder and harder to find something that sets the WP apart from the rest: Well bully for you. I read the Irish Independent, Belfast Telegraph, Wall Street Journal, NY Times (subscribe to both WJ and NY Times) NY Daily News and the Post every day. By far the Post is the best paper when everything is accounted for. Also, the Post's commitment to local news while being standing out among all other papers in the nation and the world is what makes it great.
Marc Fisher: One vote for us.
Washington, D.C.: Apparently, funding for the bonds is supposed to come from having more revenue than expected from the baseball stadium taxes on businesses. I also read the article about developers being surprised to be hit up for school repair funding a second year in a row, because the first year it was made to sound like a one year deal. I don't want to argue whether businesses should make a contribution -- but I do wonder what the effect on the business climate will be here when politicians send a signal that they see businesses as some sort of money faucet that never has to be turned off. I remember with the baseball tax some argued individual citizens shouldn't care about a tax on business, because we weren't paying it, but that seems like a very small view on the problem.
Marc Fisher: Good point, especially when you consider how few businesses the District has within its boundaries. Remember that a wildly disproportionate number of businesses in the city are either non-profits or are otherwise not fully taxed. The District is a strange bird, a real anomoly when it comes to structure and finance.
Alexandria, VA: Marc-
I think your premise of a choice between maintaining parkland or building a stadium is a bit of a canard, but thanks for the column anyway.
I believe the main problem here is a glaring lack of facts around the whole Poplar Point deal. In one of your responses you point out that the Feds have environmental concerns, and that they still have not transfered the property to the District. I think this is good information (and it tends to support your opinion about the site). But I don't think this type of information is generally known.
I would hope that you and your Metro section colleagues would dig up more about this whole process. Typically, when a large project is this fuzzy, it is to hide something.
I would also hope that there would be a little more repetition of the background of facts until they are generally known.
What, exactly, is the process to transfer the property? Who has spent the time and effort on this process (apparently the Williams administration and DC United, but how so)? What, exactly is this $150M for? Is it construction for the stadium or is it infrastructure for the whole Clark project? How much is DC United willing to contribute?
I still think you have a bit of an axe to grind here, but I appreciate the attention to the issue, because I believe the greater problem right now is the overall lack of precise information about what the District, Clark, the Feds, and DC United are each really proposing here.
Marc Fisher: Those are all good questions and we will certainly try to address them in the continuing coverage. A lot of the uncertainty you mention results from the fact that many of the plans and proposals are very much in the formative stage and there simply are not yet hard answers to some of those questions.
Sec 114 Row E: Events at Nats stadium... no, there's no concerts scheduled yet - and I doubt they'd do anything on the field itself during the baseball season.
But, we have seen an George Washington Univ. baseball game, and the DC HS tournament is scheduled to be played there. There's also a proposed College Bowl game in December. And don't forget that the Pope made a well known visit to Nats Stadium.
Marc Fisher: And the Archdiocese paid rent for that visit.
But yes, you're right, no concerts are scheduled, and the teams that are the primary tenants in these various stadiums are often very wary of concerts because of fears of damage to the field.
Washington, D.C.: Why wouldn't the excess tax revenue from the baseball stadium not be used to retire the bonds that paid for it ahead of schedule?
If that is not possible for some reason, I'm sure that the money could be used for something other than subsidizing another sports venue. Could DCRA use some additional funding to pursue landlords who allow their tenants to live in squalor as
I don't mind paying taxes; we all need to if this city is going to be a pleasant place to live, but unless I'm missing a very good argument for another stadium, I don't see why we should be asked to help pay for it. Let MLS pay it's own way.
Marc Fisher: Paying off the stadium bonds early would be an excellent use of the unexpectedly high revenue. The District, as Nat Gandhi often warns, is really on the edge of being way too indebted, and any step in the correct direction would ease pressure on taxes and on the city's bond rating.
Washington, DC: I am a huge supporter of soccer (DC United and Liverpool FC in England), I never agree with you but... you're right on this. I also think that hoping to anchor redevelopment by putting in a soccer stadium is an extraordinarily faulty way of thinking. The MCI Center is very different with concerts and basketball/baseball making it useful throughout the year. Also, and I'll say this again after the city messed up with the Nats, putting a sports team in an area where there is only one Metro line is going to be a disaster.
Marc Fisher: Thanks. But on the transit piece, it might not be that big a problem--consider that Anacostia is a relatively untrafficked spot both on the Metro system and aboveground. And soccer games tend to pose fewer conflicts with weekday rush hours than do baseball schedules.
Alex., VA: Baseball Stadium vs Soccer Stadium
The baseball stadium was financed with bonds that were available because the baseball stadium plan was expected to make enough money to repay the bonds. And in fact, it is repaying those bonds and is providing funds in excess of those needed to repay the bonds.
The money used to build the baseball stadium would not have been available to build or repair schools or libraries or any other services needed by the residents of DC. Those facilities do not generate revenue, and thus, no bank would issue bonds for those items - unless the District requested those bonds and paid them from the general fund.
Now members of the DC Council (I'm looking at you Adrian) want to take the excess funds that Nationals Park is providing to build a soccer stadium. Those are funds that actually could be used to repair and build schools, libraries, a new DMV, etc.
How is this in any way consistent?
Marc Fisher: Well, they're not really the same dollars. The comparison between financing for a stadium--money that gets paid back through taxes on tickets, beers and the like--is not directly to the money that might be allocated for new schools or libraries, because those facilities don't then generate revenue for the city. They're really separate pots.
Washington, DC: Marc, in your most recent column you credit the Verizon/MCI Center with the East End's resurgence. Correlation, however, does not equal causation. Lots of development has occurred in this city without a nearby sportsplex -- Columbia Heights, Logan Circle, Capitol Hill -- virtually all of NW along with other parts of DC boomed over the last 10 years. To think that the East End would still be in the dilapidated state it was back in the early/mid 90s without Pollin seems silly in the extreme.
Marc Fisher: Sure, several other areas of the city have developed because of the 90s boom and tech influx and gentrification. But nothing remotely like the explosion of development in the East End. One developer after another has told me that the one thing that made them go ahead with projects in downtown Washignton was the foot traffic that businesses would be guaranteed by the presence of the sports arena. Yes, some development would have happened, but nothing like this, not remotely that quickly. For proof, look in any other direction around downtown D.C.--the pace and extent of development doesn't come close.
Marc Fisher: That has to kick things in the head for today. Thanks for coming along, folks.
Hey, three days before June, and still no air conditioning days--that's something to celebrate.
Back in the paper and on the big website with Sunday's column and the last Listener column--end of an era of sorts.
And there's more on the blog every day. Also, Raw Fisher Radio is available for your listening pleasure anytime at washingtonpost.com/rawfisherradio The next edition premieres Tuesday at noon.
Editor's Note: washingtonpost.com moderators retain editorial control over Discussions and choose the most relevant questions for guests and hosts; guests and hosts can decline to answer questions. washingtonpost.com is not responsible for any content posted by third parties.