District mayoral candidate and council member Vincent B. Orange Sr. (D-Ward 5) has accused mayoral opponent and council Chairman Linda W. Cropp (D) of trying to silence him and his concerns over the building of the Nationals' baseball stadium.
Cropp hopes to block a public hearing by Orange's Government Operations Committee on Monday to question the private financing deal the city has struck with Deutsche Bank, planned land acquisition and other issues. If Orange holds such a meeting, it will not be recognized as an official D.C. Council hearing, Cropp said.
Orange calls the hearing a search for truth. Others label it a publicity stunt to call attention to his mayoral bid and embarrass Cropp, who has been the leading proponent of private stadium financing.
Cropp is threatening to prevent council staff members from participating in the hearing; Orange said he will go to court on Monday if Cropp does not allow the hearing to go forward.
"This is just an abuse of power,'' Orange said.
Cropp has ruled that Orange's hearing would be improper because baseball falls outside the committee's jurisdiction. If committee chairmen could take over whatever issue they want, she said, the council would descend into anarchy. She said all baseball matters must go through the economic development and finance and revenue panels.
"He can have a meeting with anyone he wants," Cropp said. "What he will not have is an official meeting of the council."
The council's acting secretary, Ira Stohlman, said the chairman was exercising her authority to rule on "issues of purview and germaneness.''
Orange, though, said that the council voted unanimously last week to approve the public hearing and that Cropp's power as chairman does not trump a unanimous council vote.
Cropp said a meeting agenda for Monday that included Orange's baseball hearing was a clerical error.
Waiting on the sidelines is the mayor's office, which is wondering about the hearing's scope and whether to send an administration representative.
Orange, last year an ardent supporter of the publicly financed stadium for the Washington Nationals, lately has been criticizing some facets of the project.
He is calling for local ownership and is questioning the private financing deal with Deutsche Bank, the German financial giant that has agreed to invest in the project in return for stadium revenue.