So my Councilmember Jim Graham voted against using public funds for the stadium. Zoe was suprised to find out that “Jimmy G” didn’t respond to my letter by 9am the following day, but 48 hours later I am slightly happy about gettting a reply. However, I can tell this is a form e-mail because there is no reply to the issue of the Randall Homeless Shelter, instead a lot of info about his dedication to libraries….
Why I Voted Against Public Financing of Stadium
I voted “no” on the stadium financing legislation because, as I’ve said
consistently, I feel – and many people I represent feel – there are more
pressing needs in our city than a publicly-funded baseball stadium. Also, I
am very uncomfortable with a potential stadium cost that gets higher and
higher with every new estimate.
In order to meet some other pressing needs, I worked to include a $45
million bond for libraries as part of the baseball package. There is no
more neglected stepchild of the DC government than our crumbling
libraries, and I truly feel this was an opportunity to secure enough
money to lead to a true rebirth of our libraries. The District’s library
system has less than a $30 million annual budget, with just $1 million a
year allocated for capital needs. The library fund for which I fought would
have directed $45 million for repairs and reconstruction of our 27 branch
I proposed to put this fund – and it’s debt service – on par with the
debt service for the stadium bonds, but the Administration was not
willing to do so. The only commitment I was able to obtain was that the
library bonds would be “subordinate” to the stadium debt. And with
mounting stadium cost pressures, I was not convinced the Library Fund
would actually materialize. Then, on top of everything else, an
amendment passed today which stripped the bill of the sole potential
funding source – the securitized excess of the gross receipts tax – that I
had hoped would go to a library fund.
In addition, I had to step back from this situation and say: Is the
overall burden of this bill too much for our city to bear?
There is little question the costs have gone through the roof, and this
concerns me. When we started this discussion, we were told the total
stadium cost would be less than $400 million. Then it rose to $440
million. Then to $486 million. Then to $531 million. Then to $584
million. Then today an amendment was passed allowing $100 million over
the CFO’s most recent estimate of $531 million. Thus, the cost could
rise to $631 million.
With skyrocketing costs and no immediate funding for other pressing
priorities, it became clear today that I could not support this.
Therefore, I voted “no.”
I am somewhat satisfied that, in this debate, the needs of our crumbling
libraries have been given new visibility. My Council colleagues are more
sympathetic to these pressing needs than before. I know there will be future
efforts, which I will both initiate and support, to address these needs
which mean so much to literacy and education.
Councilmember Jim Graham, Ward One