Greater Greater Washington

Government


Evans withdraws ticket plan, blasts criticism

Thanks to the many of you who sent letters yesterday, Jack Evans decided not to propose his budget amendment to allocate free sports tickets among councilmembers. Evans is also, not surprisingly, displeased that I compared his attitude over tickets to malfeasance from Harry Thomas Jr, Kwame Brown, and Harriette Walters.


Photo by afagen on Flickr.

Primarily, he argues that it was inappropriate to criticize him because he was just proposing to tweak a law that gives the council free tickets, not create a new one.

While it's indeed important to get the legal details as precise as possible in our articles, it's also still wrong for councilmembers to get free tickets. Any law that clarifies who gets which tickets only cements the dangerous attitude that members are entitled to free goodies by virtue of their positions.

As Evans noted, the law already requires half of DC's free tickets at the Verizon Center and ballpark to go to the DC Council, and the other half to the mayor. Evans' amendment would not create a new ticket requirement, but would have spelled out exactly how many tickets go to each member, as well as the parking passes.

Evans is right that my original intro paragraph was imprecise. I wrote that he "wants to enshrine into DC law the current practice that politicians get free sports tickets." He notes that this is already enshrined.

It is indeed important to try to get details right. I should have been more accurate. I was thrown off slightly by the Post headline that said, "D.C. politicians' free tickets could be written into law," but that's not a reason not to get things right as much as possible.

However, this also isn't the point. There is a big difference between a law that says the council gets some tickets, and a law that explicitly divvies them up among members. It also means something to take steps to further codify details of such a scheme into the law. This sends an even stronger message that these tickets are for councilmembers, their guests, or people they choose to reward. It sends the message that these are perks to which members are entitled.

Let's say 3 people come across a lost wallet on the street, and start quarreling over who saw it first and who should get the money. Is the proper response to try to help them agree on a division, or to tell them to mail it back to the person whose driver's license is in the wallet?

What Jack clearly doesn't understand is that most residents view the entire ticket giveaway as dirty. Try to move the piles of dirt around, and you just get dirtier.

Evans is the District's biggest cheerleader for huge public land and money deals for sports teams. He also benefits personally from these deals. As a result of the baseball deal, he now gets free tickets. If he succeeds in wooing the Redskins to the District, he will likely get them too. And so will his colleagues. How can we trust that they're acting in the public's best interest?

Having free parking passes (a current practice that Evans' bill would explicitly continue) also distorts our council's view. DC has made enormous efforts to make the ballpark accessible by transit, and to encourage most baseball fans to use those options. If councilmembers get free parking which most of the public doesn't get, will they recognize the value of funding better transit service?

Small perks can make a huge difference in someone's psychological outlook. Evans has been very clear that he doesn't see a problem with free tickets and parking passes, or having substantial outside income from lobbbying activities, or as he said on the WAMU Politics Hour last Friday, with the District's campaign finance laws. Most residents I've spoken with absolutely do think these are problems, and feel that the Council's ethical compass as a whole is seriously miscalibrated.

David Alpert is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Greater Greater Washington and Greater Greater Education. He worked as a Product Manager for Google for six years and has lived in the Boston, San Francisco, and New York metro areas in addition to Washington, DC. He loves the area which is, in many ways, greater than those others, and wants to see it become even greater. 

Comments

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"What Jack clearly doesn't understand is that most residents view the entire ticket giveaway as dirty."

Huh? All but Ross Elementary, Dupont and Georgetown Village, the seniors and students of Ward 2, and the list goes on and on. Who exactly are you talking about? Evans serves Ward 2 and the tickets go to folks in Ward 2. Why should he care what a planner from MD thinks?

I have seen these tickets given away constantly to residents of all stripes. I do not think it is dirty.

[Deleted for violating the comment policy.]

by Ward 6 Rez on Jun 6, 2012 9:32 am • linkreport

@David "Let's say 3 people come across a lost wallet on the street, and start quarreling over who saw it first and who should get the money. Is the proper response to try to help them agree on a division, or to tell them to mail it back to the person whose driver's license is in the wallet?"

This is really unfair to the CM because this is a completely inaccurate analogy.

What Jack clearly doesn't understand is that most residents view the entire ticket giveaway as dirty. Try to move the piles of dirt around, and you just get dirtier.<./i>

And this is a misconception you should be trying to clear up vs. perpetuate.

Among the many laudable reasons, the CMs use these tickets to reward their staffs for hard work at little pay, incentivise neighborhood activists to keep doing the hard volunteer community work that the District seems to depend on vs. paying for these valuable services (because we're spending all our money on schools and welfare), and giving kids who otherwise wouldn't have a chance to go to these games a chance to participate.

Jack's right. A lot more research on your part should have been done before attacking him personally. [Deleted for violating the comment policy.]

by Lance on Jun 6, 2012 9:38 am • linkreport

""What Jack clearly doesn't understand is that most residents view the entire ticket giveaway as dirty."

Hmm? True? I'd said most GGW readers, perhaps, but I strongly suspect that doesn't scale to DC residents.

by charlie on Jun 6, 2012 9:55 am • linkreport

How good are these tickets? Are they in the Diamond Club, or are they way up under the scoreboard? That makes a huge difference. A lot of people probably don't even want the tickets if they're up in the 300s.

by Dan's High Top Fade on Jun 6, 2012 9:58 am • linkreport

Tempest in a teapot.

by movement on Jun 6, 2012 10:00 am • linkreport

"While it's indeed important to get the legal details as precise as possible in our articles, it's also still wrong for councilmembers to get free tickets"

One of these is fact, one is an opinion.

by Barabas on Jun 6, 2012 10:02 am • linkreport

I didn't read the comments in the original article so excuse me if this is a redundant point but:

Instead of proposing to simply codify how many tickets each government offical receives, Evans could/should have proposed a law directing that any tickets received must be donated to a nonprofit social entity (or something of the sort.) In fact, I'm sure you can draft a law that directs the sports team to donate those tickets directly to the nonprofit social entity so that the DC government officials are not in any way involved. Regrettably, I can foresee a scenario where an official "donates" tickets to a nonprofit social entity with the tacit understanding that the entity will invite the official's preferred guests.

I'm not a fan of the government getting free tickets, but if it's already happening per contractual agreement then at the very least we should ensure, to the best of our ability, that those tickets do not get doles out by politicians. Those tickets are for the public, not the government officials.

by 7r3y3r on Jun 6, 2012 10:03 am • linkreport

I'm glad you've admitted that your post was misleading. I was one of those who fired off an email to Evans yesterday and was a little embarassed when I read the linked article explaining that it was codifying a way of divvying up the tickets they already get, not requiring tickets out of the blue. But, you've seen that your website can cause change. How about a chain letter that addresses the need to address juvenile crime or that addresses the need for DC to swear in judges that aren't all former Public Defenders who are soft on crime in general?

by I. Rex on Jun 6, 2012 10:20 am • linkreport

What a joke. This is such a sham. How these people get free tickets blows me away. To be clear, they should be given these tickets, if (AND ONLY IF) it advances a DC business interest. Such as taking a developer to a game.

The practice of taking their family/employees/employees families is absolutely ridiculous. How does it advance the interests of DC to let Kwame Brown's press secretary take his family to a game?

Advance a DC interest, or donate them to a school. No gray area here. If you are unable to see the conflict of interest, you just aren't looking hard enough.

by Kyle W on Jun 6, 2012 10:23 am • linkreport

Not everyone views this as dirty. I have no problem with the free tickets. It is like the "constituent fund." A good politician will pass them out to the little league teams, etc. The bad ones won't. The voters can decide.

by beatbox on Jun 6, 2012 10:27 am • linkreport

Great owning up DAl. Grrreaaat owning up!

I would argue that what has gotten to those who didn't agree w/your approach is that idea that you based the entire story on a very false premise. I believe it's perfectly fine to argue that the CM's shouldn't get tickets at all. But you've taken this three steps further and now ultimately holding Evans responsible for striking the deal in the first place. I think that's unfair. It's unfair because the council voted for this, not Evans alone. So if anyone's to blame, it's the council. Yet, you singled out Evans.

I certainly disagree with your belief that "most" residents have a problem w/this. I don't think they do. It's the rhetoric and sensational headlines (like the WPOST one that misled you) that in some sick way encourages people to protest something. Then the very vocal few become the voices of the majority.

There is a big difference between a law that says the council gets some tickets, and a law that explicitly divvies them up among members.

Really? So does this mean you would still have an issue w/the law if it had already clarified the distrubution of tickets? Likely not. But of all the things to make a big stink about. This one? This? Something that's already law? And that is somehow Evans' fault?

It seems as if this community has taken a side..and Evans has another. How has the city benefitted from this discussion?

by HogWash on Jun 6, 2012 10:38 am • linkreport

The codification of ticket distribution also allows the Council to hide the current disputes they regularly have about ticket division, which reminds the public that they are actually getting these free tickets.

Once there's an explicit division, rather than fighting, it becomes like a feudal tithe to the Council.

by ah on Jun 6, 2012 10:40 am • linkreport

I think the amount of time spent arguing over baseball tickets over the years tells you a lot about how venal our city politicians are.

In any well-governed city this would be a non-issue. At most, the mayor would have a box to entertain VIPs and potential investors, and that would be it.

by Phil on Jun 6, 2012 10:51 am • linkreport

"Evans is the District's biggest cheerleader for huge public land and money deals for sports teams. He also benefits personally from these deals. As a result of the baseball deal, he now gets free tickets. If he succeeds in wooing the Redskins to the District, he will likely get them too. And so will his colleagues. How can we trust that they're acting in the public's best interest?"

Hello, slippery slope my old friend. So, you're saying that Evans wants the Redskins back for some free tickets -- which he wont ever see, given that he is may be retired by the time the redskins come back (5 years at best?)

I 100% agree it is unseemly seeing kids squabble over free tickets. I say give them all to the Mayor.

by charlie on Jun 6, 2012 11:33 am • linkreport

The District government shouldn't be given these tickets, period! That is the only way to avoid these situations. If they want to purchase tickets for promotional purposes, that is fine.

by Dan's High Top Fade on Jun 6, 2012 11:41 am • linkreport

The Redskins are staying in Ashburn. The Ashburn facility will be receiving about $30 million in upgrades and training camp will be moving to Richmond in 2013.

by selxic on Jun 6, 2012 11:42 am • linkreport

Dave,

Your original post was more than a little misleading. I read it, and understood it to mean that Evans had struck the deal, and was furthering the deal through this new action. In fact, his current action is essentially incidental to the practice of giving free tickets. Some of us, who you state baldly you are representing, don't care about how the pie is sliced, but do care about the provision of the pie in the first place.

Evan's clarification prompted me to write a retraction to his office for my original letter on the issue.

by CJ on Jun 6, 2012 12:26 pm • linkreport

No advocate for good governance on the planet supports putting elected officials in charge of ticket distribution.

All of DC's teams do a lot of outreach and that's who should do it. One of the Nat's was at my kid's DCPS school this week.

Our politicians should spend their time governing not handing out tickets or arguing over who gets which ticket.

by Michael D. on Jun 6, 2012 12:32 pm • linkreport

When these tickets are used by CMs and their staffs, either they are gifts or they are compensation. If they are gifts, then they should be subject to the Office of Government Ethics Uniform Standards of Ethical Conduct. These standards would prohibit CMs and their employees from using the tickets for personal use other than in very limited circumstances.

If on the other hand, they are compensation paid to the CMs and their staffs (which is probably the way they see it) then they should pay taxes on the fair market value.

As it is now, they treat them in some netherworld category where they can accept this expensive benefit for free and neither subject it to ethics rules nor recognize and report it as income.

by TM on Jun 6, 2012 12:36 pm • linkreport

I don't view the tickets as dirty, I just view the time spent bickering - and now legislating - over how they're divvied up as a misplaced priority. And that's what I put in my e-mail Councilman Evans.

by Pamela on Jun 6, 2012 3:22 pm • linkreport

Great posts Michael d and TM.

I have yet to see any of the pro free tickets commenters present a compelling argument for why the council or the mayor's office should have any free tickets. Let's kill the process entirely. Why is Evans not advocating for this?

Ps Wells comes out of this K. Brown fiasco looking great. He was the only one to stand up to Brown and then all the other committee members voted to strip him of his chairmanships. They look like animal feces right now!

by h street landlord on Jun 7, 2012 12:19 am • linkreport

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