District of Rats

Washington D.C. has successfully invested more than $600 million in a new baseball stadium, but the city's infamous infestation with rats is nowhere near resolved. Reason's Matt Welch asks why.
May 12, 2008, 5am PDT | Nate Berg
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"Washington, D.C., is lousy with rats, and not just of the human variety. I knew that before moving here-you'd always see them scampering around sidewalks and alleys when walking around town-but it took living full-time in the city to appreciate both the awe-inspiring magnitude of the infestation and the jaw-dropping indifference of a municipal government more focused on giving free money to billionaires than addressing the capital's legendary civic rot."

"What made my reacquaintance with rodents much more difficult to accept was that it came during the very month that the city was congratulating itself for a gleaming new expenditure of local taxpayers' money-a $611 million stadium to house the Washington Nationals baseball team. Actually, that figure is much too low: Eminent domain settlements with in-the-way property owners added $43 million to the cost, and a handful of outstanding cases could tack on $24 million more. There were also $32 million in municipal infrastructure improvements."

"So how much is $710 million in the scheme of D.C.? More than 12 percent of the city's annual local budget. (It receives an additional $4 billion or so from the federal government.) It's almost as much as the $773 million that Mayor Adrian Fenty is proposing this year to spend on the District's notoriously awful public schools. Less than 10 days before Nationals Stadium first flung open its doors, Fenty announced various remedies for a $96 million budget shortfall: postponing a tax cut on commercial property, doubling the cost of a business license, increasing ambulance fees, charging an extra 23 cents for every phone line that can call 911."

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Published on Friday, May 9, 2008 in Reason
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