Mr. Mayor, use best play for Red­skins

The Washington Times Daily - - Metro - DEB­O­RAH SIM­MONS

Dear Mayor Vin­cent C. Gray: Now that the Washington Red­skins cat is fi­nally out of the bag and there no longer is a need for me to hide my sources or speak in hushed tones, it’s time for me to re­veal my hand and for you to play yours. And if you’re the gam­bling man that stake­hold­ers in the na­tion’s cap­i­tal sus­pect you to be, you’ll ap­pre­ci­ate what I’m about to say. Go all in with the hand you have been dealt. You and at least two other D.C. Coun­cil mem­bers, Jack Evans and Michael A. Brown, want to lure the Red­skins back to Washington by help­ing them build a prac­tice fa­cil­ity near their old stomp­ing grounds at RFK Sta­dium. It’s a win-win propo­si­tion for the team, tax­pay­ers and your own po­lit­i­cal hides, but only if you get rid of that an­noy­ing how-dare-you ex­pres­sion you dis­play when your judg­ment is be­ing ques­tioned.

Now, hav­ing said that, here’s a look at the up­com­ing pros-and-cons list the op­po­si­tion is pre­par­ing to ex­ploit.

1) Do not bluff. Typ­i­cally, may­ors and other sup­port­ers of pro­posed pub­licly fi­nanced sports are­nas spin the de­bate around fu­ture eco­nomic ben­e­fits.

But you must keep in mind three things: You and other city lead­ers are al­ready com­mit­ted to spend­ing money to keep the soc­cer team in the city; the ball­park for the Na­tion­als base­ball team has yet to de­liver the cul­tural and eco­nomic prom­ises for the av­er­age Wash­ing­to­nian; the Red­skins plan would be eas­ier to sell if it closely mim­ics the Abe Pollin-gallery Place deal, in which tax­pay­ers paid for in­fra­struc­ture for the Ver­i­zon arena.

Re­mem­ber this too: Smart-growth, en­vi­ron­men­tal and anti-car ac­tivists surely will co­a­lesce against build­ing a fa­cil­ity for the Red­skins, so they are nat­u­ral op­po­nents. The key is not to cede ter­ri­tory, which any­one who plays or ever played team sports knows is key to win­ning the game.

They will call the propo­si­tion a heist of land and tax dol­lars, and so it is.

But so are the land deals and tax breaks and cred­its the city gives to the Na­tion­als; Wiz­ards; Mys­tics; Cap­i­tals; D.C. United; ho­tels and mo­tels; big-box re­tail­ers, churches and small store­fronts; Daugh­ters of the Amer­i­can Rev­o­lu­tion and other his­toric sites; the IRS and other fed­eral en­ti­ties; Fan­nie Mae; and busi­nesses and non­prof­its small and large that use D.C. ZIP codes.

2) Pol­i­tics is a team sport. You, your leg­isla­tive coun­ter­part, Coun­cil Chair­man Kwame R. Brown, and, quite frankly, the other law­mak­ers, have yet to pro­pose sig­na­ture leg­is­la­tion that has ex­cited the denizens this cap­i­tal.

And while no sin­gle neigh­bor­hood — not River Ter­race, not Hill East, not King­man Park — should have more say than an­other, they all should have their say.

It is your job to gin up sup­port, to get res­i­dents and busi­nesses across the city to rally ‘round the Red­skins plan, get them to imag­ine a cap­i­tal whose al­lur­ing spring­time at­trac­tions reach be­yond the na­tional mu­se­ums, mon­u­ments and cherry blos­soms along the Mall and truly un­der­stand that the boys of sum­mer ain’t got nothin’ on the Red­skins.

(I know you’re a base­ball guy, Mr. Mayor, but I wear my badge of Red­skins fa­nati­cism with honor.) In other words, show res­i­dents that you and the city are ma­jor-league po­lit­i­cal play­ers in a ma­jor me­dia mar­ket that gets short shrift from the en­ter­tain­ment in­dus­try.

3) Be your­self. When I’ve bumped into you at a ‘Skins game or we’ve chat­ted about quar­ter­back Rex Gross­man, D.C. high school sports or the records of the Washington Wiz­ards vs. the Washington Bul­lets, your face ex­udes the con­fi­dence of a true fan who looks be­yond the box scores.

That’s the face you should re­veal when dis­cussing your Red­skins propo­si­tion. Leave the pe­cu­niary de­tails to the bean coun­ters and other D.C. em­ploy­ees we pay six-fig­ure salaries to wear green eye­shades.

Tell them the short­est dis­tance be­tween two points is a straight line, so get busy.

You’ve ex­pended much of your po­lit­i­cal cap­i­tal to date on state­hood and abor­tion rights, Mr. Mayor, is­sues that do noth­ing to raise the ca­chet of the Dis­trict of Columbia or put the na­tion’s cap­i­tal on the en­ter­tain­ment in­dus­try’s radar screen.

Bring­ing the Red­skins home, if only to train with and scrim­mage against them­selves, would give you some­thing to add to your list of ac­com­plish­ments come 2014.

Team D.C. needs you to be it’s No. 1 cheer­leader on this, sans a skimpy uni­form, of course.

Don’t blow it.

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