is now hosting a column by Kevin McGeehan on the stadium deal
. This post will summarize his argument, and then articulate why we think he's got it wrong, and also the reason why he's so cynical about this.
As anyone who has followed the DCenters knows, developments recently have been mildly promising, although there have been caveats listed along the way. Well, Kevin does a close reading of the situation and comes to another conclusion:
After reading the accounts in the Washington Post of a town hall meeting last week, those who can read between the lines should be afraid? very afraid.
His main objection seems to be that the involvement of Barry and the construction of affordable housing as part of the stadium package could taint the entire situation, especially if Barry has control of the distribution of the housing units:
It is unclear how a stadium only makes sense if 3,000 houses are attached to its construction. It is also unclear at this point who will build this housing, how it will be planned, and how it will be distributed. What is clear is that with this reversal, Barry will make sure that he and his cronies will be intimately involved in the process. Kevin Payne and DC United are walking down a very dangerous path.
Fair enough. McGeehan also notes some of the other roadblocks (congress, studies, etc...) and then continues his wondering about the housing:
United's owners can only foresee two probable outcomes here. One, the stadium is built along with the housing, private developers retain control of the housing and parcel it out carefully, the area's real estate booms, and the team and city are happy. Two, the housing is dropped from the plan for some reason and it's no longer an issue. Any other outcome and this plan isn't worth the trouble for United. Both likely outcomes guarantee that the lives of Anacostia's residents are not improved. That's where Marion Barry comes in. He can't ensure that the stadium is built, but he can ensure that it isn't. If all of this money is being spent in his ward, he will want to do something to benefit his constituents. What does that mean? Who knows, but it will only add onto the cost and the trouble of building this stadium for United.
This sounds like the beginning of long, painful process, where the stadium dies of a thousand paper cuts courtesy of DC politics as usual. Ask for more and more from a team that has less and less to work with. This could get ugly.
Okay... I think everyone gets the sense of McGeehan's column. Now, a rebuttal:
First, when McGeehan says that Barry can't stop the stadium, he's wrong in that Barry can certainly stop a stadium in Ward 8. And I think DCU fans are fairly strong in their belief that a stadium should be inside the DC city limits, and that Poplar Point is the most logical location for that stadium. The DC Council has a decidedly more populist air to it than it has had in years. Which means taking a stand against "Big business" and "for the little guy" by opposing a stadium plan that has any city support is an easier stand to make than, say, two years ago. Fenty, Orange, Cropp... I could imagine they might all side with Barry if he were to oppose the stadium. So from that point of view, Barry's public support does much more to help the stadium deal get through than it does to hurt it.
As for distributing housing, McGeehan has a quite legitimate point. If the housing distribution process is not seen as a fair process to Ward 8, then community relations could well be poisoned between DCU and Anacostia. Yet we have every indication
that DCU is proceeding carefully in dealing with the community, and has been for some time. And let's not forget that Kevin Payne does not own the team by himself. His partners: Lauterbach, Kissler, and Lore are all experiences real-estate developers or attorneys. Which means that handling this sort of deal is something they are prepared by their job training to handle. So while the concern is valid, there's no obvious reason to think that DCU is doing something wrong in this area.
McGeehan's real problem seems to be with Barry. He views Barry as a corrupting influence, who will eventually do more harm than good. If Barry is involved, then the deal must also be corrupt, or corrupt soon. This may be a problem of perception of politics. I'm not sure that Kevin McGeehan is the same Kevin McGeehan who wrote The Far Post blog
in 2002, but given the soccer sounding title of the blog and occasional soccer content it seems more than possible. Based on the content of that blog, McGeehan's politics lean distinctly to the right. Marion Barry has long been a favorite joke/bogeyman of conservatives, so this might explain much of the antipathy McGeehan feels to any process involving Barry. So McGeehan's view of things is, well, skewed based on his political
preconceptions. Which is why I am also worried when politics and soccer intersect. If it makes McGeehan view the situation through what I believe is a distorted viewpoint, then it could also do the same to me. (Note: the fact that USSoccerPlayers is publishing a conservative shows that J. Hutcherson was absolutely right
to knock me for calling USSP a "Labor mouthpiece". They certainly do have diversity of opinion.)
Hat tip to Big Soccer
where I first saw that this article was up.