Mayor Anthony A. Williams said yesterday he believes he has lined up the seven crucial votes on the D.C. Council to pass his plan to build a baseball stadium on the Anacostia River in Southeast Washington.
Williams (D) spent the day pushing his message to council members, business leaders and the public in a furious race to consolidate support in time for a council vote today on the stadium legislation.
"I believe we have the votes," Williams said at a midday news conference, flanked by council members Jack Evans (D-Ward 2) and Vincent B. Orange Sr. (D-Ward 5) and nearly two dozen business leaders. "We're just trying to shore them up. We're close."
Under the mayor's pact with Major League Baseball, the city would build a stadium, which could cost $530 million, through a combination of a gross receipts tax on big businesses, a tax on concessions and an annual rent payment by the team. In exchange, baseball officials would relocate the Montreal Expos to Washington in the spring.
The mayor focused largely on securing the votes of Jim Graham (D-Ward 1) and Sandy Allen (D-Ward 8). Staffers for the two said they were leaning toward supporting the mayor because Williams would fund libraries for Graham and a recreation center for Allen.
Graham said yesterday that the mayor has promised to create a $45 million investment fund for libraries that Graham had sought. Cropp has not offered a similar deal.
The mayor promised activists that he would create a community investment fund that could reach $450 million and be used for schools, libraries and recreation centers. A deal with Graham would focus the first $45 million from that fund on libraries.
Council Chairman Linda W. Cropp (D), who shocked the mayor and colleagues Friday by announcing an alternative proposal to build the ballpark near Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Stadium, also made her case yesterday.
She reiterated that her plan would save the city about 20 percent on the cost of building the stadium. She acknowledged that she does not have enough support on the 13-member council, but she added, "We got the attention of the citizens about what the real issues are here."
If neither Williams nor Cropp has enough council support today, the measure probably would be tabled and brought up again at an emergency legislative session in the next couple of weeks, Cropp said.
Natwar M. Gandhi, the city's chief financial officer -- who said two weeks ago that the mayor's plan would cost $530 million, up from the $440 million that Williams's aides had estimated -- released an analysis of Cropp's plan.
He said her proposal would cost $410 million, or 23 percent less than the mayor's proposal. Under Cropp's plan, the analysis said, the city would need to collect $21 million in gross receipts taxes a year to finance the stadium bonds, down from the $26 million for the mayor's plan.
The frantic, final-hour lobbying by Williams marked one of the most intense campaigns he has waged and stood in sharp contrast to his performance over the past month, when he traveled to Asia for 11 days while dispatching aides to make his case on the baseball plans.
Yesterday, Williams conducted radio and TV interviews, typed answers for an online chat with Washington Post readers and made a plea on the city's cable channel.
During his cable address, Williams said that if the council approves his plan, it will "create thousands of new jobs, millions in new revenue and revive one of the District's most treasured and tarnished jewels, the Anacostia River."
Baseball officials have told Williams that the league will not put a team in Washington if the stadium proposed for the Anacostia waterfront is not approved, according to people familiar with those discussions. Those sources said Cropp's proposal would kill the deal and end Washington's hopes for a team.
In a response to Williams's comments on the same cable program last night, Cropp said that a stadium at the RFK site would offer lower costs, equal distance from downtown, easier land acquisition, freedom from possible litigation, better Metro access and more parking spaces, and some economic development.
Proclaiming herself in favor of baseball in the District, Cropp said she also wanted a stadium that is "in the best interest of the citizens I represent." She told council members late yesterday that she planned to unveil a compromise proposal today.
The support of business leaders, including the Greater Washington Board of Trade and the Federal City Council, gave Williams a show of strength at his news conference. The officials said they agree with Williams that building a stadium along the Anacostia near the Navy Yard and South Capitol Street would revitalize the area and bring additional resources to the city.
"We have a chance to build an inner harbor like they have in Baltimore right here," developer Douglas Jemal said. "We should make this deal. I stand behind the mayor one thousand percent."
The Washington Baseball Club sent an e-mail to its membership and generated more than 4,000 e-mails to the D.C. Council in support of the mayor's plan, said Executive Director Winston B. Lord.
Cropp has said her primary motivation for offering the plan to build near RFK was that business leaders are concerned that the gross receipts tax will grow if the mayor's stadium plan has significant cost overruns, which are common in such projects.
She met with a half-dozen business leaders yesterday morning. One of them, Jim Rosenheim, chief executive of the Tiny Jewel Box, said the mayor's plan is too risky.
"If there are cost overruns, it could cost me three times as much as what they are saying," he said.
The votes of Allen and Kevin P. Chavous (D-Ward 7) are considered crucial for Williams. Both council members lost their bids for reelection, so their votes have been less easy to predict, mayoral aides said. Allen and Chavous could not be reached for comment.
When asked what she could offer to woo council members, Cropp said, "Certainly not the entire city government and jobs."
Cropp declined to elaborate.
Staff writer Thomas Heath contributed to this report.