Testimony of Shawn McCarthy
Director of League of Fans
Before the Committees on Finance and Revenue, and Economic Development
District of Columbia City Council
October 28, 2004

Chairpersons Evans and Brazil and Members of the Joint Committees my name is Shawn McCarthy, thank you for the opportunity to speak today regarding the “Ballpark Omnibus Financing and Revenue Act of 2004.” I work in Ralph Nader’s office as director of a sports reform project called League of Fans.

Among many issues with which we are concerned, are those regarding how city governments deal with sports franchise owners when they make demands for new publicly-funded stadiums for private profit.

Opponents of Mayor Williams plan welcome Major League Baseball to the District. It would be an entertainment option many would choose to take advantage of. But entertainment should be given the first right to survive the tests of a free market, not the right to demand and receive $440 million in corporate welfare, nor the right to kick people out of their homes and businesses through eminent domain, nor the right to escape paying their fair share of taxes back to the general fund for the benefit of the city.

Those that are here to testify in opposition to this plan, though not backed by the wealth of those few who stand to benefit financially from a publicly-financed stadium, are instead backed by a wealth of good and solid information with which proponents of this plan cannot compete. Mayor Williams and some members of the D.C. Council have been completely ignoring every piece of independent, academic, economic analysis of public financing of stadiums. Virtually every independent study concludes that public financing of stadiums can not be justified on economic grounds. Yet we still have officials from the Mayor’s office, with full knowledge that what they argue cannot be backed-up by solid evidence, saying that a publicly-funded stadium “will generate millions of dollars in new tax revenue for our schools, hospitals and social services.”

While this misinformation is being pumped out by the Mayor’s stadium “war room,” the contract between Major League Baseball and the District requires the stadium bill to be fast-tracked through the D.C. Council. Why is the Council so quick to respond to the wants and demands of a monopoly known for abusing its power instead of responding to the real needs of District residents? The people of this city feel marginalized, and for good reason. But we are determined not to allow our public servants to let an entertainment corporation control the purse strings of our city so they can profit at the expense of public necessities.

I would prefer to cheer for a team that I can respect as part of the community, instead of to despise one for acting above it — one that chooses to contribute to the community, instead of take from it. I fear that instead of watching the Grays, Senators or Nats play at RFK or a privately-financed facility, the District will host a team that would be more aptly named the “Washington Freeloaders” play at a place that would be appropriately named “D.C. Taxpayer Stadium.”

I’d like to thank the Joint Committees again for the opportunity to speak today.


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