Let's Make a Deal
The Editorial Board of the Washington Post comes out with a tentative first discussion of the United Stadium Deal, and on balance I think this should be read encouragingly:
...The costs will have to be carefully analyzed, particularly since there is economic uncertainty. What will be harder to judge are the intangibles. Such as civic pride in retaining a popular and successful sports team. Or the spinoffs that soccer could provide to the boys and girls of the city. And what could perhaps be the most appealing argument for the stadium -- its potential to spark a revitalization of long-neglected communities east of the river. If soccer can help transform Ward 8 and Ward 7 the way basketball helped to change downtown, city dollars would be well spent.
Much of the discussion about these issues has, regrettably, been behind closed doors, as the mayor and council want to avoid the kind of debilitating battle that occurred over baseball. That desire must not rob the public of full and open discussion of the issues. Or of an answer to the question of what best serves the District of Columbia.
Perhaps some of these arguments sound familiar? Well, they should, as I'd say the Post is in agreement with this very blog from six months ago on many of these points. Now, I feel encouraged by this editorial, cautious as it is, for a number of reasons:
- No false, but temptingly easy, comparison of the popularity and cash flows between baseball and soccer.
- The willingness to consider, as the Post says, "intangibles." That's something we don't discuss, not because we don't feel it, but because I think they are so difficult to quantify. And the intangibles of keeping United in D.C. are, if considered at all, in our favor. We don't argue that because they are, as the post says, "harder to judge." And any deal that is bad will not be made better by intangibles. But a fair deal looks even better with them.
- The openness to the idea of transformation of the Southeast neighborhoods.
- The fact that using any public monies at all, even as part of the so-called "public-private" partnership,is not summarily dismissed by the Post, as they could all too easily take a position of "No money for greedy sports owners! Spend it on schools and libraries!" and then pat themselves on the back for their populist integrity.
The one place where I will critique the Post is its argument for transparency. Any deal must be openly vetted, we agree with that. Once, or if, a deal is reached all the details should be put out for view. But the discussions that lead to that deal should be handled in a mature, responsible, and quiet manner. Privacy can aid in that. The process of negotiation should not be unduly influenced by any outside agencies who might be all too quick to demagogue the issue, either for or against. This outside groups certainly include a few of the Post's own commentators.
No, I am content to let the negotiations be handled quietly, and then at that point, let's announce the proposed deal and have people take a look at it. I think this is the most likely way that an equitable, to all sides, deal can be formed.