D.C. Council prepares to vote
As of 4:00 this afternoon, still no word on a vote by the D.C. Council. Today's Washington Post has much more on the last-minute negotiations aimed at securing a majority "yes" vote on the stadium finance bill. The fact that everyone involved wants to portray this issue in all-or-nothing terms, rather than take my suggestion or proceeding incrementally and building as much of the new stadium as can be done with the budgeted funds, suggests that all this is mostly for the sake of posturing. Too much money is at stake for the whole thing to collapse. According to WTOP Radio (now at 103.5 FM, rather than 1500 AM), however:
[I]f the District cannot pass the lease, WTOP has learned that Virginia is open to talks with Major League Baseball about pursuing the Nationals in Northern Virginia.
Meanwhile, D.C. Mayor Tony Williams is furious with the council for using a consultant with ties to the Virginia Baseball Stadium Authority.
Now, wouldn't that be something? I give that scenario a one percent chance, optimistically. The Baseball in D.C. page has been reformatted and updated with recent news items.
UPDATE: As of 5:00 PM, WTOP reports that Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine has expressed willingness to push for a new baseball stadium in Northern Virginia, in case the D.C. situation disintegrates. This eagerness stands in contrast to the prudent, arms-length attitude of his predecessor, Mark Warner. As a Virginian, I always preferred a new ballpark in Arlington (NOT Texas!) as the ideal outcome, and I remain deeply skeptical about the Dulles alternative stadium site. I also think it's a little unseemly for neighboring jurisdictions to be playing against one another in a delicate situation such as this. The D.C. Council is scheduled to vote up or down on the matter this evening. UP! UP! UP!
D.C. Council votes NO!
FURTHER UPDATE: As of 9:00 PM, WTOP reports that the D.C. Council voted 8 to 5 against
Mrs. Cropp's proposed emergency the stadium finance bill [submitted by Mayor Williams]*, which may just deal a fatal blow to the future of baseball in Washington. Or maybe not. Some council members seem to think that Major League Baseball will recognize that they have no better alernative than to make even bigger concessions and keep the Nationals in Washington. Perhaps, but that is taking an enormous risk. I would expect Bud Selig to issue an immediate statement condemning the D.C. Council vote, beginning steps to relocate the Nationals elsewhere (possibly even this season*), and I would have to support him. How in the world can anyone make a long-term commercial agreement with a government that reneges so capriciously on its existing solemn commitments? I have criticized MLB's heavy-handed tactics many times in the past, and there is no doubt that both sides share some of the blame for this disgraceful turn of events, but from what I can tell, the action by the D.C. Council this evening seems completely unjustifiable. It reeks of short-sighted, self-destructive, crowd-pleasing spite. I've been prepared for a lot of bluffing and brinksmanship by both sides, but this outcome is astonishing even to me. It will be interesting to hear what the "no"-voting council members have to say...
* I have raised the probability of the Nats being relocated from 10 percent to 20 percent; there is an additional 10 percent probability of relocation from D.C. to Northern Virginia.
* "EXTRA INNINGS" UPDATE: As of 11:00 PM, Washington's WUSA-TV 9 reports that the D.C. Council is still in session, considering the emergency legislation that was submitted by Mrs. Cropp yesterday. Earlier reports may have been erroneous in terms of which measure was being considered. Mrs. Cropp's bill would attach a cost-cap provision to the lease agreement, but many question whether that would be legally enforceable. A supermajority of nine votes is needed to pass legislation introduced on an emergency basis (so as to avoid hasty, ill-considered goofs), which would mean that four of the members who voted "no" earlier this evening would have to switch their votes. They'd better come with a darn good argument that the cost cap provision is really a deal maker-or-breaker.
LATE, LATE UPDATE: WUSA-TV 9 showed a live televised image of Council member Carol Schwartz engaged in debate as their news cast ended at 11:30 PM. The WTOP Radio link cited above has been updated with further details on the evening's agonizing developments. Finally, here is tomorrow's Washington Post story on the travesty. Unless tonight's meeting somehow resolves the matter, the next step appears to be binding arbitration, but whether an elected government can be compelled by an arbitration board to spend public money remains to be seen. Thanks to David Pinto for linking to this post.
Twins escape lease obligation
A Hennepin County judge has ruled that the Minnesota Twins have no legal obligation under the 1998 use agreement (which expired in 2003) to stay in the Metrodome after the 2006 season is over. According to ESPN, this "could increase pressure on lawmakers to approve financing for a new ballpark." Given the increasingly hostile political climate to subsidizing fatcats via stadium financing bills, however, the Twins may have less leverage in this matter than they think. Where else are they going to go? Besides, they have a long, established franchise history in their home city (metropolitan area), unlike the "at-risk" franchises in Florida. (link via David Pinto)