THE WORD from Mayor Barry on a new stadium for the Redskins made it sound as if Sharon Pratt Dixon, Democratic nominee to succeed him, unaccountably hadn't known what was planned when she said the other day that she would oppose any facility that would require a major financial commitment by the District. Mrs. Dixon "should seek correct information before speaking," said Mr. Barry, as if all the world had known what was being planned in the way of a new home for the team. But the truth is nobody around town has known much of anything up to now -- because Mr. Barry and Redskins owner Jack Kent Cooke have been huddling on their own, doing the public's business without a whole lot of public help. Only after Mrs. Dixon's comments, in fact, did we learn the two men had reached some sort of agreement that Mr. Barry now claims will keep the city from paying for a facility "directly or indirectly."
Mr. Barry has now issued a statement revealing that the District had been negotiating with Mr. Cooke since September 1987 and that "from the outset, I made it clear, and Mr. Cooke concurred, that the city could not bear the cost of a new stadium, directly or indirectly. While there are several issues that must be resolved between us, the issue of financing is not one of them. We have never contemplated use of general funds." Mr. Cooke reportedly would pay for construction of a stadium in what is now one of RFK Stadium's parking lots, while the District government has indicated that it would issue taxable revenue bonds to finance an estimated $60 million worth of infrastructure improvements. The bonds would be retired with revenue generated by the new stadium.
If so, fine -- everyone should get a close look at whatever "letter of understanding" D.C. officials are said to want before they seek local and federal approval necessary to start the project. That's really all that Mrs. Dixon was saying -- that if she as mayor could keep the Redskins in the District without "affecting citizens through taxes," then "she's all for it." Mr. Barry and Mr. Cooke may well have a winner here, but nobody can know until it's trotted out onto the field for public scrutiny.