THANKS TO THE strong financial interest of
Capital Centre owner Abe Pollin -- with a little help from his friends in high congressional places -- members of the House of Representatives are about to consider an appropriations bill into which has been tucked a financially irresponsible sleeper provision: it would ban all sports events, concerts, circuses, rodeos from the new D.C. Convention Center.
Neither Mr. Pollin nor his attorney in such matters, John R. Risher Jr. (who was D.C. corporation counsel -- the city government's chief legal officer -- when earlier convention center plans were approved) was eager to discuss this provision yesterday, even though it had been the subject of discussion between them and certain members of the House and Senate beforehand. Convention center officials hadn't exactly talked about it much, either -- not even, apparently, to the Barry administration. Why? Because if any local officials were to object to this objectionable provision, the key committees in Congress just might object to any money at all for the center this year, including $2.3 million in the bill for the purchase of 10,000 seats in the convention center.
The chief argument for this restriction -- that it was never the intent of Congress to allow non-convention-related commercial activities in the center --doesn't wash. If that were so, there would be no need to repeat the restriction in this appropriations bill. Not only is this an attempt to rewrite legislative history in an appropriations bill -- which should raise objections in Congress -- but it is financially reckless as well. Why commit Congress to a convention center in the nation's capital that is barred from booking events that would make it a financial success -- and that are booked in every other local facility from Largo to Fargo?
Responsible members of the House -- those who support a busy, financially successful convention/entertainment center in the heart of town -- should see to it that the restriction is eliminated.