Billionaire in front, residents take a back seat

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Billionaire in front, residents take a back seat
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To the editor: 

Alexandria officials believe that bringing the Washington Capitals and Wizards to Potomac Yard will somehow revitalize it and make Alexandria a destination like National Harbor. 

The January 27 town hall at the Charles Houston Recreation Center showed, however, that Council doesn’t care an iota whether a sports arena will cause nightmarish traffic jams, a spike in housing prices or more crime as long as they get their pet projects approved by the billionaire who owns the Monumental Sports & Entertainment enterprise. 

That sports economists all agree that stadiums and arenas are bad public investments is irrelevant to arena supporters. In fact, in a recent letter, Ted Leonsis countered arguments that the arena would not have a positive benefit by simply stating that such claims were “illogical.” If a billionaire who stands to benefit from one of the largest public subsidies on record says it’s illogical, it certainly must be true. 

Following the public announcement in December 2023, supporters have been rushing to get the General Assembly to approve the deal before anyone has the opportunity to stop it. The Alexandria Economic Development Partnership has hired lobbyists in Richmond to help push through legislation to establish a sports authority. 

Mayor Justin Wilson has been briefing Democrats in the General Assembly on the supposed benefits of building an arena. Shortly after, Senators Scott Surovell (D) and Delegate Luke Torian (D) introduced a bill sent to them by Gov. Glenn Youngkin (R), who is a close friend of Ted Leonsis, that would fund the new arena. 

In Alexandria, City Council is holding town halls where citizens aren’t allowed to speak but must submit their questions on notecards. City officials quite clearly don’t want to hear what anyone opposed to the arena has to say. The goal is to make it even harder for citizens to say “No” to this boondoggle. These events are all for show for the media and General Assembly. 

When Council members were asked if they would support a referendum the answer is always the same: “We were elected to represent you.” It seems to me that the only person being represented is a billionaire sports team owner. Muting or ignoring public opinion has been the hallmark of this Council, as the recent 301 N. Fairfax St. vote certainly showed. Only Councilor John Chapman voted no. 

Robert Reich, the former Secretary of Labor and a Democrat, calls these subsidized stadium deals scams. He’s right, and this one is no different. 

-Andrew Macdonald, former Alexandria vice mayor 

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