Testimony given by the A.N.S.W.E.R. Coalition

Testimony given by the
A.N.S.W.E.R. Coalition
before the joint hearing of the
Committee on Finance and Revenue
and the Committee on Economic Development
on the "Ballpark Omnibus Financing and Revenue
Act of 2004," Bill 15-1028.
October 28, 2004


Testimony given by Peta Lindsay
National Youth & Student Coordinator,
A.N.S.W.E.R. Coalition

before the joint hearing of the Committee on Finance and Revenue
and the Committee on Economic Development
on the "Ballpark Omnibus Financing and Revenue Act of 2004," Bill 15-1028

I want to thank the City Council for holding this hearing and for the consideration of this testimony. My name is Peta Lindsay. I am a student here in DC at Howard University and I am the National Youth and Student Coordinator for the A.N.S.W.E.R. Coalition, which stands for Act Now to Stop War & End Racism.

The reality of the plan to build a new baseball stadium is that working class people will be taxed to fund a stadium that upper middle class people frequent, and the money that they spend will go to further increase the riches of even wealthier people the billionaire owners.

Because we - the people - will fundamentally subsidize the stadium and they - the billionaire owners of Major League Baseball teams - will increase the value of the sale of the Montreal Expos franchise to new owners, we will in effect be putting $10 million into the pockets of each of these 30 billionaire owners. The value of the Montreal Expos franchise will go sky high because we the people rather than the billionaire owners will pay for the new stadium in Washington DC.

Every penny of this $440-plus deal is desperately needed to fund people’s needs, from housing to healthcare to schools and job programs.

In DC each year there are thousands and thousands of people on the waiting list for the DC Housing Authority’s House Choice voucher program, the area’s most widespread form of federal housing assistance. In 2000, there were 13,442 on the waiting list and in 2003 that number was 24,000 almost twice the number from three years earlier.

In the last several years homelessness has increased by 40 percent. Between 2001 and 2002, more than 16,000 people experienced homelessness at some point, and the number has risen each year.

In DC, approximately 1 out of every 10 people does not have healthcare insurance that’s 65-85,000 people with no access to healthcare.

The plan to take desperately needed money from poor and working people and give it to billionaires is indicative of the situation in the entirety of the United States.

The United States has one of the highest poverty rates of all industrialized countries, whether poverty is measured using an absolute or a relative standard for determining who is poor. The per capita income in the U.S. is the highest in the world (except for Luxembourg), and is more than 30 percent higher than in the rest of the industrialized countries.

And just like gentrification in DC impacts on African American and Latino communities more than any others, so do all attacks on poor and working people.

While close to 19 percent of all people in the United States who were below 65 years old and not in prison did not have health insurance in the first half of 2003, 14.5 percent of whites had no health insurance in this period versus 20.8 percent of African Americans and 35.7 percent of Latinos.

The situation for poor and working people is only getting worse. The average amount by which poor people fell further below the poverty line has increased sharply since 1996. In 2002, it was 23 percent larger than in 1996, after adjusting for inflation.

We in the A.N.S.W.E.R. Coalition join with others in demanding that the City Council vote NO to a stadium that is publicly-funded and that dislocates the city’s residents. Vote NO to a subsidy for the rich.

Under the guise of bringing baseball back to Washington, the City is planning to provide a form of welfare for the owners of Major League Baseball. That’s what a publicly-funded stadium is: Welfare for the rich and a gigantic attack on working class neighborhoods and on the living standards for working class people throughout the city.


Testimony given by Caneisha Mills
National Organizer,
Youth and Student A.N.S.W.E.R.

before the joint hearing of the Committee on Finance and Revenue
and the Committee on Economic Development
on the "Ballpark Omnibus Financing and Revenue Act of 2004," Bill 15-1028

I want to thank the City Council for holding this hearing and for the consideration of this testimony. My name is Caneisha Mills. I am a student here in DC at Howard University and I am a National Organizer with Youth and Student A.N.S.W.E.R., the youth and student affiliate of the A.N.S.W.E.R. Coalition, which stands for Act Now to Stop War & End Racism.

I am here to speak against the public funding of the new stadium and to insist that if there’s a new privately-funded stadium it should be in an area that does not dislocate residents of Washington DC.

Mayor Anthony Williams should be ashamed. As the elected mayor of Washington DC he is supposed to represent the majority in this city. Instead, the mayor has proven that his real constituents are the 30 billionaires who own Major League Baseball teams. He is willing to destroy working class and predominantly African American neighborhoods and give away $440 million as an incentive to the billionaire owners of Major League Baseball to move a team to Washington DC.

Don’t get me wrong. I love baseball as much as the next person, although I admit that my career as an outfielder ended in the fifth grade. I always blame that on the fact that as a left handed person I was forced to wear a glove meant for a right handed person. But isn’t there a way to spend money so that real people, especially real young people, can participate in organized sports, including baseball, rather than having to endure the current situation where programs throughout the city are being slashed?

All the hype about bringing baseball back to Washington is just hype.

Washington DC is a tale of two cities. One is rich and predominantly white and the other is working class and predominantly African American.

Washington DC is one of the most affluent areas in the country - including surrounding counties whose average household incomes are among the highest in the nation, $27 billion currently being spent in development projects and one of the hottest real estate markets in the country.

It’s rarely told in the mass media, but the working class and predominantly African American Washington DC is in crisis. The percent of people living in poverty in DC is almost twice that of the national percentage.

It is a disgrace that in the capital of this country so many people are living in poverty or barely making ends meet. It is a disgrace that in this city the opportunities for young people to have access to education or to get decent paying jobs or to participate in organized athletics has become so diminished.

What is the answer proposed by the powers that be to the crisis facing Washington’s African American community? Just move them out. And that is what is happening. In 1990, African American people made up almost 66 percent of the population in DC. In 2003, the number of African American people living in the District had been reduced by 67,954 to 59 percent. The destruction of this working class neighborhood for the purpose of building this stadium will accelerate this process.

I want to say a few words about where the stadium will be built and who will be affected. The city plans to build this new stadium in a working class, African American neighborhood in southeast DC. Only 40 percent of the site is currently vacant, meaning that people who live in the area will be forced to move. I want everybody in the Council to think what the furor would be like if the proposal was to build a stadium on Connecticut Ave. and Chevy Chase circle? That would never happen.

The city plans to run ferries to transport people from Georgetown, one of the richest areas in DC, to bring people to the stadium and to the businesses that will flock to the area. After the stadium is built, rents in the area will rise, thus forcing virtually all of the residents of the area to relocate.

This is the way the process of gentrification has proceeded in neighborhood after neighborhood in Washington DC, from Columbia Heights to Adams Morgan to U St. to Southeast and Northeast.

I call on the City Council to reject the stadium because it is a subsidy for the ultra-rich. I call on the City Council to provide the funds needed so that real people in Washington DC can have access to real sports programs and a real education and real jobs at living wages. I call on the City Council to put the needs of the people of Washington DC first rather than be bullied by the juggernaut that aims at putting billionaire owners of Major League Baseball teams on a pedestal. We - not they - are your constituents.


Testimony given by Sarah Sloan
National Organizer,
A.N.S.W.E.R. Coalition

before the joint hearing of the Committee on Finance and Revenue
and the Committee on Economic Development
on the "Ballpark Omnibus Financing and Revenue Act of 2004," Bill 15-1028

I want to thank the City Council for holding this hearing and for the consideration of this testimony. My name is Sarah Sloan. I am a National Organizer with the A.N.S.W.E.R. Coalition, which stands for Act Now to Stop War & End Racism.

The representatives of the A.N.S.W.E.R. Coalition who are here today testifying and observing this hearing and those who rallied outside this building this morning prior to the hearing are here to urge the City Council to vote NO on a new stadium that is publicly-funded and that dislocates the city’s residents.

Washington DC already has RFK Stadium. It is a perfectly adequate stadium. Using that stadium will not dislocate large numbers of Washington DC residents. Admittedly, it will not allow the new billionaire owners of the Washington DC baseball teams to automatically sell sky box seats to the well-to-do, although if it is a big priority for the owners they can renovate RFK for that purpose. Personally, I consider making sky box seats a priority seats that are only available to the rich - to be disgusting.

Professional sports in the U.S. must be considered one of the great tricks in modern capitalism. Millions of people root for “our team” whether it’s the New York Yankees, the Boston Red Socks, the St. Louis Cardinals, or the Baltimore Orioles. People invest huge emotion into rooting for “our team” - but they are not really our teams. Professional sports is big business. It is dominated by billionaires and by big corporations, including big media corporations.

Ticket prices are too high. Profits are too high. And the needs of working class people are almost totally ignored. Just think for a moment what the effect would be if the politicians insisted that the participation of young people, middle aged people and old people in sports and exercise was actually a priority. Everyone wants to participate in sports and everyone needs to participate.

But that’s not what this stadium giveaway is all about. Under the rubric of “love for baseball” the District of Columbia is proposing the destruction of working class and predominantly African American neighborhoods and a subsidy for already rich Major League Baseball owners.

Working class communities in Washington DC are in crisis. Washington DC has the highest infant mortality rate on the country. It has the highest AIDS rate in the country. Funds are seemingly so scarce that 30 DC public schools have no librarian. Just drive a few blocks from the White House or the Capitol and you will find a Washington DC that lives in poverty.

We in the A.N.S.W.E.R. Coalition believe that the priorities of the government are all wrong and that DC elected officials need to fight for the people and not go along with the status quo.

This is a very rich country. It has a $12 trillion economy. It is so rich in fact that the Federal Government can spend $1.6 billion a week to occupy another country, Iraq. That’s right, the U.S. government spends $227 million a day that’s $10 million every hour to occupy Iraq. In fact, if you think about it, the amount that the Federal Government spends in two days occupying Iraq is the equivalent of the $440 million that will be used to subsidize a new stadium. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not suggesting that the Federal Government should pay for a new stadium for Major League Baseball owners or that the $440 million is not s significant amount of money to the people of DC I’m just making the point that there’s a lot of money out there that could be used to meet people’s needs.

We are told that what’s good for Major League Baseball is good for the District of Columbia. It’s like that old cliché what’s good for General Motors is good for the country. But the truth, the fact of the matter, is that what’s good for big business, whether it be General Motors or Major League Baseball, is not necessarily good for the country or the District of Columbia.

The District of Columbia does not have to get on its knees and beg the billionaire owners of Major League Baseball to come to Washington and agree to subsidize them to the tune of $440 million in order to get 380 new jobs.

The members of the City Council have been elected to represent the people. They should represent the people.

Every City Council member must make a choice: Do you stand with the people of this City? Will you become a voice in their struggle for adequate funding to meet people’s needs? Or will you become part of the big business lobby?

We urge you to stand with the people and vote NO on a new stadium that is publicly-funded and that dislocates the city’s residents. We urge you to stand with the people in the larger struggle demanding that we have money for jobs, housing, education and healthcare.


A.N.S.W.E.R. Coalition
Act Now to Stop War & End Racism
1247 E St. SE
Washington DC 20003
202-544-3389
[email protected]


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