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Virtual Insanity in DC

7th February 2006

As you may have heard, there’s a vote going on in the DC council on the lease agreement today. Well, Linda Cropp and the council decided to add there own cap yesterday, and that’s created the need for emergency legislation.

Here’s where things get crazy…

As of 11:26am EST, the council now plans to combine the lease and the emergency legislation dealing with the cap into one emergency measure. It will require nine votes to pass. They’re doing this because there was a big argument on whether the lease should be voted on before the cap.

Also, they’re pushing all ballpark-related things to the very end of the session today.

So…

Get a dinner in and take catnaps… this is going to be a long, long day.

Just coming across the AP wires, Marion Barry says if there was a vote on the proposed lease right now, there would not be enough votes to pass the measure. Councilman Adrian Fenty says he doesn’t know if there are the nine votes needed to approve emergency legislation to establish the cap. Councilman Phil Mendelson says that could amendments might have to be introduced during the emergency session to get enough support.

I will be adding comments and commentary on this posting throughout the day as this soap opera continues. 

21 Responses to “Virtual Insanity in DC”

  1. maury Says:

    No, wait… Things are getting better


    Press Release from Mayor Williams
    :

    Mayor Williams Questions Consultant

    (Washington, DC) Mayor Anthony A. Williams issued the following statement today upon learning that the lawyer hired by the D.C. Council had previously worked against the District getting a baseball team in the first place. The Council paid Louis Cohen an undisclosed amount to advise Councilmembers on baseball; Cohen earlier worked for the Virginia Baseball Stadium Authority, which fought to keep the Montreal Expos from coming to DC.

    “This is a shocking conflict of interest,” Mayor Williams said. “How can the residents of the District of Columbia trust the advice of a lawyer when his previous work was on behalf of Northern Virginia? It’s a blatant and inherent conflict – especially now that Cohen, and others at Piper Rudnick, have encouraged the Council to take actions that could jeopardize the fragile deal to keep the Nationals in DC.”

    Williams added: “I assume the Council was unaware of this conflict of interest. A decision this important should not be left to a firm that sought to build a ballpark in a cow pasture in Virginia.”

  2. maury Says:

    The latest…

    WTOP in DC has reported that a spokesman for Virginia governor Kaine said that the governor would be interested in pursuing the Nats should the lease be voted down.
    Oh no… Dulles crashed and burned and was a poor to terrible site location to begin with.

  3. maury Says:

    In this ever evolving process today… the best word may be “fluid”…

    As of 3:40 EST:

    Word is that belief now is that the emergency legislation and lease will be voted on separately, as part of a special session following this long legislative session. They’ll need nine votes for the cap legislation and seven for the lease.

    However, MLB was reportedly pissed that the emergency legislation called for the league to pay for cost overruns, or at the very least opened the league up to that possibility. So the feeling is that the emergency legislation will be pulled. The Mayor and Chairman Cropp might then put the lease up for a vote regardless, rolling the dice and hoping for the seven.

  4. maury Says:

    A bit of commentary…

    Normally — and I repeat normally — when legislation goes through this much gyration at the last minute it’s due to the votes not being lined up. Doing some tea leaf reading, this vote would have been teetering before the shake-ups today, but with it sounding like Cropp and Williams going for the crap-shoot, I think they’re exhausted and ready to say, “Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead.”

    There’s some pretzel logic in this.

    For one, if this continues to hang out there longer, it simply has the capacity for more requests… more amendments. It’s clear that there are some on the council that would like to continue to try and back MLB in the corner and get more concessions on the deal. Williams, as a lame-duck, has lost the power to broker a deal with the council, and now it appears Cropp is trying to pull things together.

    If this mornings meeting was an indicator, this council is frustrated and tired of dealing with an ever changing landscape. The word I have received is that the meeting this morning was heated, which is becoming more the norm than the exception.

    More as news becomes available. Crazy day, considering the council has yet to get into the meat and potatoes of the stadium vote in chambers today.

  5. maury Says:

    The game is on… Currently opening statements by members. Mendelson says there are not enough votes. Fenty is now speaking from the dias.

    For those that have a media player, you can watch the proceedings from the following link:

    Media Link (Windows Media, or Real Player required)

  6. maury Says:

    Quote of the day, so far, from Marion Berry:

    “If Virginia Wants the Baseball Team, let them have it.”

  7. maury Says:

    Orange is called for being out of order on his consultant hired by the Council. As a reminder… the consultant worked prior for the VBSA.

    Evans up to bat.

  8. maury Says:

    Evans…

    “DC was not the first choice by MLB.”

  9. maury Says:

    Let’s be clear today, folks… Those on the council are emotional today.

  10. maury Says:

    Ambrose (D-Ward 6) at the mic… remember… the ballpark is within her Ward

  11. maury Says:

    Graham at the mic… An opponent of the stadium.

    “What would change my mind to change my vote. It was a bad deal in 2004 and a bad deal today.”

  12. maury Says:

    Barry… “Let’s vote now.”

  13. maury Says:

    Patterson…

    “Let’s move forward.”

  14. maury Says:

    Mendelson mentions that the deal has changed as it was originally submitted, and MLB or Nats ownership could cover the cost overruns.

    “Let MLB build the stadium, not the District. That’s where I am, and that’s where I think the council should be.”

  15. maury Says:

    Evans pulls up the leveraging stick by bringing up Jack Kent Cooke… Goes on, “We’ll really show MLB, won’t we?! We’ll tell MLB to stick it and they’ll move the team to Dulles, and we’ll watch the Virginia Nationals.”

    Commentary by Maury… Dream on, Jack.

  16. maury Says:

    Cropp..

    “There will be a vote today. I don’t think there are 7 votes today to pass the bill.”

    Talks of emergency bill. Sounds as if the lease, as is, will be tabled. Then, the emergency bill that will help get the council over the hump… at least that’s the theory.

    To clarify… the current lease would be tabled until the emergency legislation, and then after that vote, then Cropp would reconvine the council to reconsider the lease.

    Calling a recess… to go over administrative protocols and get a conclusion on moving where they are headed…

    Take a break, folks. Get some popcorn and take a, uh… “water break.”

    Be back in a few…

  17. maury Says:

    No, I didn’t drop dead. The council is still wrapped up. I’ll be out of touch on posts for a bit. Until then, this latest from the AP:

    Here’s the 7:13 AP update:

    WASHINGTON (AP) – The fate of a proposed Washington Nationals baseball stadium lease remained uncertain late Tuesday after a key supporter predicted it was unlikely to be approved.

    Councilman Vincent Orange, D-Ward 5, told the AP that Mayor Anthony A. Williams’ proposal lacked the seven votes needed for approval.

    The council moved into a private session to discuss emergency legislation that would cap the city’s construction costs for the stadium at $300 million. That measure would need nine votes to pass. It was unclear whether the lease itself would come up for a vote.

    “If we don’t get this thing done today, we’re going into arbitration,” said Williams, who warned construction costs would only increase during the arbitration process.

  18. maury Says:

    I just got back in, but if you haven’t heard…

    Nothing was resolved during the executive session break. As many may have noted, it went way over the alotted time they said it would (6:30 PM EST was the latest they were supposed to be and they reconvined at 8:24PM).

    The vote went quickly with Evans dejected.

    Here’s the final vote. Emergency legislation to cap costs fails 8-5:

    8 Against: Graham, Mendelson, Schwartz, Barry, Catania, Gray, Fenty, and Brown.

    5 For: Orange, Patterson, Ambrose, Cropp and Evans.

    Next step? Binding arbitration. Can they force the council to build the stadium? No. But, they can impose penalties on the District.

    You’re going to hear that the Nationals are bound for Dulles. That’s nonsense. There is no site and no interim facility (can you imagine trying to get into RFK after all of this… after a full season in DC?).

    Here’s what’s certain. There’s more politics coming. Wait till tomorrow when the statements from Williams, Evans, Cropp, and DuPuy come out.

  19. maury Says:

    More… it appears Cropp may call a speacial session. Waiting for more details on this.

    In the meantime… DuPuy has commented…

    D.C. Council Rejects Stadium Lease Agreement
    From WTOP News
    Feb 7th – 12:44pm

    WASHINGTON – The fate of baseball in the District is uncertain after the D.C. Council rejected a lease agreement for a new Washington Nationals stadium on Tuesday night.

    The council voted 8 to 5 to reject the lease after a 2 ½ closed-door meeting in which members discussed emergency legislation that would cap the city’s construction costs for the stadium at $300 million. That measure would need nine votes to pass.

    But members could not agree on a measure, and opponents of the lease said they could not support the lease as it exists.

    [snip]

    Before the vote, Ward 2 Councilman Jack Evans, baseball’s biggest supporter on the council, said he believed the Nationals would remain at RFK Stadium for the next year or two, then move somewhere else.

    “Today’s vote is a serious setback to all those in the Washington community who sought the return of a team to the nation’s capital,” Bob DuPuy, baseball’s chief operating officer, said in a statement. “I regret very much that D.C. officials have failed to honor the agreement they made when they successfully bid for the Expos to move to Washington. Baseball has no choice but to pursue arbitration so the terms of our original agreement can be honored and to begin to explore whatever options are available to us.”
    (to read the entire article, use the link provided above)

  20. maury Says:

    Yep… I’m hearing that proponents on the council are trying to resurrect the deal. This isn’t out of the question. I was personally involved in ballpark legislation that died on a Senate vote on a Friday, only to pass on a reconsider motion the next day after some amendments.

    More to follow.

  21. maury Says:

    WOW….

    For those tuning in late tonight, after the emergency legislation for the cost cap failed, the council immediatly went back to work revising some the deal to get clarification on some sticking point that created the initial failure.

    As Tim Lemke of the Washington Times reported early Weds. morning:

    [L]ate last night, the council began reconsidering the cap legislation, after receiving clarification on several provisions. It made it clear that the city would pay no more than $300 million for the “hard cost” of the stadium construction, plus $175 million in various “soft costs,” such as infrastructure and insurance. The rest of the money would be used for land acquisition and financing costs. All overruns for the project would have to be paid for by the team owner or other outside sources — or through savings on construction of the stadium structure.
    The cap legislation likely would require nine votes for approval, because it was an emergency measure. It was still not clear last night whether the council planned to vote again on the lease if they were satisfied by the changes to the cap legislation.

    Well, Tim, they did vote. Here’s how the revised vote went down (9-4) in favor:

    YES:
    Orange
    Patterson
    Barry
    Schwartz
    Brown
    Cropp
    Evans
    Ambrose
    Gray

    NO
    Catania
    Fenty
    Graham
    Mendelson

    A key swing vote was Marion Barry, who changed direction (imagine that) and has the quote of the entire day, “That $71 million dollars can’t be used for toilet paper for our young people”

    Here’s what’s key:

    MLB has until March 6 to approve the cap or the lease agreement is dissolved.

    That’s going to be the key question: Will MLB agree to the change?

    With this type of brinkmanship, one would think that MLB would find away to save face, cover their collective behinds and agree to this arrangement.

    As I said… things can happen, and today and tonight, it certainly did.

    Look for a new thread covering the late night vote passage after the inital failure, and MLB getting involved in the Marlins stadium efforts Weds. morning.