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Cooke, D.C. Agree on Stadium

By James Ragland and Martin Weil
Washington Post Staff Writers
Saturday, February 6, 1993; Page B01

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Washington Redskins owner Jack Kent Cooke and negotiators for the District signed a formal agreement yesterday on plans to build a new football stadium for the team here.

"That's true," Cooke said last night, confirming the deal, but he declined to give specifics. However, another source said the agreement is substantially the same as the tentative agreement made in December.

"In the end, you'll conclude yourself the deal comes out looking remarkably like the deal going in," the source said.

After speaking last night with Cooke, Clifford L. Alexander Jr., Kelly's chief stadium negotiator, said the details of the agreement will be announced today.

Cooke has said that he wants the new stadium ready for the start of the 1994 season. With the signing of yesterday's agreement, the major remaining obstacles to reaching that goal appear to be obtaining the necessary environmental approvals.

Cooke and city officials reached agreement late Dec. 7 for Cooke to build, pay for and own a 78,600-seat stadium for the team adjacent to Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Stadium.

The announcement made then, which followed more than five years of bargaining, said formal terms would be contained in a memorandum of understanding that was to be signed a short time later.

Since the optimism of that day, however, negotiations appeared to bog down. Part of the reason, sources said, was an issue that had been a sticking point in previous talks between Cooke and the city: minority-contracting goals.

The language agreed on yesterday could not be learned.

"We've spent weeks and weeks arguing about it and came up with something that we all felt comfortable with," the source said.

Mayor Sharon Pratt Kelly has insisted that at least 35 percent of stadium construction work go to minority contractors. She has also demanded that at least 51 percent of the construction jobs go to city residents.

Cooke has previously expressed concerns about those goals because the District reportedly wanted the power to halt construction if the goals were not being met.

In the tentative agreement reached in December, city officials said they expected Cooke to make a "good-faith" effort to reach those goals.

Since then, according to sources who were involved in the negotiations, haggling began over what constituted good-faith effort and how compliance could be ensured.

At the end of December, Alexander said parties to the negotiations were "working on clear definitions on various terms within an overall agreement."

The bargaining was apparently affected by a federal judge's recent ruling that struck down the city's minority contracting law.

On Dec. 22, U.S. District Judge John Garrett Penn ruled that the city's 15-year-old practice of setting aside 35 percent of city contracts for minority firms was unconstitutional.

Having failed to document a pattern of discrimination, the judge ruled, the city had devised a plan that was not tailored precisely to remedy a specific wrong.

That ruling, Cooke said in December, "threw a monkey wrench into everything from the city's point of view."

© Copyright 1993 The Washington Post Company

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