Photo by Mr. T in DC on Flickr.

DC Councilmember Jack Evans wants to enshrine into DC law

modify DC’s law to further codify the current practice that politicians get free sports tickets. This sends exactly the wrong message to DC residents frustrated with corruption and rampant cronyism in government. It tells voters that Jack, and anyone else who votes for this idea, share the sense of entitlement of far too many DC officials, some of whom are going to jail.

Former councilmember Harry Thomas, Jr. (D-Ward 5) stole money directly from the public. Free sports tickets aren’t the same, but share many similarities. Thomas stole because he felt that he deserved more personal benefit from his position. Jack Evans (D-Ward 2) seems to feel that he deserves some freebies as well.

Please send Jack and the other councilmembers a message that their job is not to enrich themselves but to serve the people, and ask them to drop any law entitling them to free sports tickets.

The people of Ward 2 didn’t elect Jack to go to sports games. They elected him to represent their interests. He already gets one of the highest salaries of a city councilmember in the nation, and then makes even more money lobbying on behalf of companies without even disclosing their identities.

But Jack seems to feel that his job entitles him to get free stuff, including stuff that he gets because of public money he spent, like $693 million on the baseball stadium. People are still debating whether that was a good deal or a horrible waste of taxpayer money. How can we trust that leaders voted with the best interests of DC at heart, or just for their personal benefit?

What about for potential stadium deals in the future? Is Jack more excited about a football practice facility than a soccer stadium just because he wants football tickets worse than soccer ones?

This attitude is sadly rampant on the council and in parts of the executive branch. Many people feel they’ve worked their way up to a position of power and now deserve something for it. This was the attitude behind Kwame Brown’s 2 overpriced “fully loaded” Lincoln Navigators, behind Thomas’ embezzling, behind Hariette Walters at the Office of Tax and Revenue, and many more. It’s got to stop.

The only difference between Thomas taking money from youth baseball to pay a Hooters bill and Jack trying to get the budget to require free tickets for himself is that one broke the law to get free goodies and the other would make free goodies the law would adjust the law to cement the free goodies. But neither is right.

Here’s a better idea for a budget amendment: require that any free tickets given to politicians instead be sold, and the proceeds go toward one of many legitimate needs, from library books to just shoring up the rainy-day fund.

Tell DC Councilmembers that any vote to mandate keep mandating sports tickets for themselves shows that they are putting their personal interests ahead of the people.

Update: To clarify, DC already gets tickets under an agreement when the stadiums were constructed, and it’s been common practice thus far to distribute them among elected officials. This is wrong in and of itself, but any move to cement in law that certain people get them makes the quid pro quo even more explicit.

Further update/correction: Evans has followed up to point out that the law already requires half of the tickets to go to the council, and his budget amendment would just assign the tickets to various members. I have corrected this detail of the post.

However, I continue to feel that any step taken by the council to divvy up something that is inappropriate in the first place only reflects a belief that this giveaway is not wrong. The Council should not be tweaking its formula for giving away tickets; it should be abolishing the practice, and not doing so shows a serious ethical tone-deafness.

David Alpert is Founder and President of Greater Greater Washington and Executive Director of DC Surface Transit. 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 lives with his wife and two children in Dupont Circle. Unless otherwise noted, opinions here are his and not the official views of GGWash or DCST.