July 14, 2005

Inside Baseball, DC Style

I hadn't planned a second post for today, as the Triple Play crew is skipping out early to take in an Indiana Jones double-feature at the AFI Theatre. Just Raiders and Last Crusade, no Temple of Doom where Lucas strayed from the Judeo-Christian canon and suffered the consequences. But I digress...

Dave touched on one of my favorite topics, the intersection of baseball and politics. We've seen plenty of silly linkages between the two, not the least the presidency of a former Texas Rangers owner, but the Nats have had a major impact on the DC political scene. I'm polite enough not to bore my friends by talking about this at length in public, but I'm going to talk about it here.

2006 is a mayoral election year in DC, the only election that really counts, since DC doesn't have voting representation in the U.S. Congress. Our incumbent mayor Anthony "Tony Bowtie" Williams, hasn't actually committed to running for a third term, and about half the city council is waiting in the wings to run if he vacates the office.

Once upon a time, Mayor Williams was widely considered the savior of Washington, DC. He balanced the budget, buoyed the city's credit rating, attracted development to declining neighborhoods, and generally put DC back on the map as a respectable place to live and work. He was also the anti-Marion "Bitch Set Me Up" Barry.

When Mayor Williams ran for reelection in 2002, the bloom was off the rose. Downtown was still booming, but redevelopment made very few inroads into far Northeast or Anacostia, and some DC residents were complaining that, as Dave noted, the city may be a much nicer place to visit, but it isn't necessarily a better place to live. Williams, the anti-Barry, was accused of ignoring poorer areas of the city, and promoting businesses at the expense of people.

In spite of the criticism, Tony Bowtie cruised to reelection, but his fervent support for DC baseball has reinforced many of the old arguments. Councilman Adrian Fenty, in particular, loves to harp that “If we can find the money to build a new baseball stadium, surely we can find a way to fix our schools.” as though the two things are either mutually exclusive or even related. Fenty is young, popular and adamantly opposed to spending any public money on the Nats.

But the most interesting potential matchup for Mayor Williams is city council chair Linda Cropp. Wildly unpopular among Nats fans for potentially torpedoing the move from Montreal at the 11th hour, Cropp has positioned herself as guardian of the DC taxpayer at every turn. What makes her worth watching is her increasing support in the business community, where there is little love for the gross revenue tax that will fund the new Nats stadium. Between Fenty chipping away at his popular support, and Cropp courting business leaders, the adulation of Nats fans alone may not be enough to get the mayor a third term.

I promise that this will be my last extended DC politics rant for a while. The Brewers are on deck to start the Nats second half. Maybe Preston Wilson will hit one out.

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