Council Juggles Stadium Plans
Residents Oppose Public Funding, Poll Says
It was almost all baseball almost all the time in the District last week. D.C. Council Chairman Linda W. Cropp blocked approval of legislation to build a baseball stadium with public money on Tuesday, saying that she had a plan that could provide up to $350 million in private funding.
Cropp also said she would drop her effort to build a stadium next to RFK, which was the bombshell she had dropped on the city the previous Friday. The next day, she said she would back Mayor Anthony A. Williams's plan for a stadium on the Anacostia River, providing that the contract stipulates that private funding could be added in the future.
Meanwhile, a Washington Post poll showed that more than two-thirds of District residents oppose using public funds to build a stadium on any site, and an even larger majority worries that average taxpayers would end up paying for the project.
Salvation Army Christmas Toys Taken
Donations Being Accepted to Replace Goods
Thieves stole $2,500 in toys from a store on Wisconsin Avenue in Northwest Washington, where the Salvation Army had kept the goods until they could be given to needy children at Christmas. The toys had been purchased to supplement gifts donated to the Army's "Angel Tree" program.
Thieves broke into the store during the first weekend in November, taking not only toys but also computer equipment that contained information about the 2,000 families who had signed up to receive gifts and information about gift donors.
Volunteers are working to re-enter the computer information, and donations are being accepted.
Pennsylvania Avenue Reopened
Area in Front of White House Closed Since 1995
The stretch of Pennsylvania Avenue in front of the White House reopened last week as a pedestrian plaza. The avenue was closed to traffic in May 1995, after the bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City. A rustic brown pavement has replaced the asphalt in front of the executive mansion, and trees and designer guard booths will be planted and finished later.
Ex-Official Guilty of Bribery Conspiracy
Business Steered to Companies for Trips, Gifts
A former D.C. Office of Property Management official pleaded guilty last week to charges that he steered millions of dollars in city contracts to two area companies. In return, he got trips to Florida and Las Vegas, the use of luxury cars, designer watches, sports tickets, cash and other gifts.
Michael Lorusso, who was fired in 2003 as deputy director of the office, faces a prison sentence of 57 to 71 months.
Fernando J. Villegas, owner of International Builders Inc., also pleaded guilty to bribery conspiracy. He faces up to five years in prison and a fine. The government charged that Lorusso steered $8 million in orders to Villegas's company, often without competitive bidding, excused it from performing substantial portions of the contract without reducing the payments, exercised lax oversight and helped the firm get paid for work it never did.
Bill to Bar Hazardous Materials Fails
Company Will Reroute Most Dangerous Freight
The D.C. Council rejected legislation that would have barred railroads from shipping hazardous materials through the nation's capital. The ban failed on a 5 to 5 tie. Opponents of the bill said CSX Corp. already has agreed to reroute the most dangerous freight from its Washington line at the request of the Bush administration.
Across the Region
EPA Sued; Concert Hall Planned
* The Chesapeake Bay Foundation filed a lawsuit against the Environmental Protection Agency, signaling a more aggressive strategy to speed up progress in cleaning up the bay. The lawsuit accuses the federal agency of dragging its feet as sewage plants across the region pollute the bay's waters.
* Prince William County and George Mason University have agreed to help finance a $56 million performing arts center near Manassas, styled after the famous La Scala opera house in Milan.