Print Columns   |   Web Chats   |   Blog Archives   |  

How Many Federal Agencies Does It Take To Say No To Nats Parking? Nine

In a little more than two weeks, when the Washington Nationals open their new stadium, many thousands of fans will be told there's no place nearby to park their cars. But two blocks from the ballpark, a 1,060-spot garage -- enormous enough to dramatically relieve the parking crunch around Nationals Park -- will sit empty, thanks to the federal government's rejection of the Nats' request to use the facility.

Just how the U.S. Department of Transportation got to no reveals a great deal about Washington, bureaucracy and the enduring power of the security hysteria that has infected our society.

Here's a list of the federal agencies that got involved in the decision to reject the Nationals' proposal, which was so modest that it asked the government to allow parking only by select season ticket holders who were federal employees with federal security clearances:

The Department of Transportation, including its offices of Security, General Counsel, Financial Management, Transit Benefits and Inspector General. The Federal Protective Service. The Department of Justice. The General Services Administration. The Federal Bureau of Investigation. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

And, quite possibly -- we can't know this for certain because key passages in a 10-page federal report reviewing the parking decision have been deleted to protect national security -- unnamed intelligence agencies.

Whew. So how did a simple request to use empty parking spaces at night, after Transportation workers have gone home, turn into -- excuse the expression -- a federal case? A report by Transportation's inspector general makes it clear that the feds were desperate to find a way to reject the Nationals' proposal.

The government threw everything at its disposal into crafting a massively complex no. Adding fans' cars to the mix at the garage "would almost certainly adversely affect normal DOT day-to-day operations," the report says. Federal lawyers raised alarms about whether the government would be liable if a season ticket holder committed a crime in the garage, or if excluded fans sued, alleging preferential treatment for season ticket holders.

From the start, Transportation officials saw fan parking as a national security issue. They hauled out a Department of Homeland Security (another agency heard from!) "framework" and started dreaming up "threats, vulnerabilities and consequences" that could arise from a fan parking in the garage. They even looked into the possible impact of an explosive blast inside the garage, although results of that probe are covered by a label that says "REDACTED."

Never mind that the public is routinely welcome to park in federal buildings throughout Washington. Never mind that a stadium holding 40,000 fans is probably a more attractive target for a bomber than the garage of a building containing people who work on road and transit projects. Never mind that the Nats' proposal would have applied the same level of security to fans as to the folks who work in the building.

"Limiting baseball-related parking to 'season ticket holders who have valid Federal government identification cards' would not necessarily guarantee adequate security," the Transportation analysis concludes.

Which is, of course, true. Life offers no guarantees. The feds note that "even if the probability of an occurrence was low from the increased threat the [parking] plan introduced, the consequences to the safety and security of DOT personnel and resources and consequently the performance of DOT's missions remained high."

The logic here is beautiful: Sure, the feds say, the chances that fan parking would lead to an attack are slim, but letting fans in could destroy the American transportation system as we know it. By this reasoning, all federal employees should work at home to protect precious buildings from possible attack.

The report considers the possibilities of car bombs and other terrorist attacks and even notes that the area around the building has "a high crime index." The theory appears to be that muggers might buy season tickets and get government jobs to gain access to the garage, where they might then hold up office workers for cash or Ryan Zimmerman autographs.

How much did the feds want to reject this plan? The analysis questions whether department managers might be subject to ethics charges if they limited parking to fans who are federal employees; this might be seen as federal workers "using their public office for private gain." The analysts even twisted the Nats' offer to reimburse the government for all security costs of using the garage into a possible violation of federal law governing who may receive outside funds. "The responsible official may be removed from office," the report breathlessly concludes.

The only risk the new ballpark will pose to federal workers will come from the frustration of fans who will walk by the empty garage on their way to a game, aghast at what a grandiose hysteric their government has become.

Join me at noon today for "Potomac Confidential" at www.washingtonpost.com/liveonline.

By Marc Fisher |  March 13, 2008; 7:00 AM ET
Previous: Making Sausage: A Reporter's Emails | Next: Ritual AARP Eligibility Column

Comments

Please email us to report offensive comments.



There's one paragraph that's, well, a bit of a reach:

And, quite possibly -- we can't know this for certain because key passages in a 10-page federal report reviewing the parking decision have been deleted to protect national security -- space aliens from Arcturus.

And, quite possibly -- we can't know this for certain because key passages in a 10-page federal report reviewing the parking decision have been deleted to protect national security -- Elvis

And, quite possibly -- we can't know this for certain because key passages in a 10-page federal report reviewing the parking decision have been deleted to protect national security -- Dave Barry.

And, quite possibly -- we can't know this for certain because key passages in a 10-page federal report reviewing the parking decision have been deleted to protect national security -- Gene Weingarten.

And, quite possibly -- we can't know this for certain because key passages in a 10-page federal report reviewing the parking decision have been deleted to protect national security -- The Secret Love Child of Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton.

And, quite possibly -- we can't know this for certain because key passages in a 10-page federal report reviewing the parking decision have been deleted to protect national security -- the Fairfax County Chamber of Commerce.

etc. etc. etc.

Posted by: wiredog | March 13, 2008 8:21 AM

Your comment: "Never mind that a stadium holding 40,000 fans is probably a more attractive target for a bomber than the garage of a building containing people who work on road and transit projects."

You list of parking lot users includes:

The Department of Justice.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation.
The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

Road and transit projects? Really? Since when?

Are you really so ignorant that you believe these organizations only work daytime hours? Or do you think WE are ignorant enough to believe they are not a prime target for terrorists, drug cartels, or, apparently, WaPo hacks who feel free to take cheap shots without any facts to back them up?

Stick with facts - I know that will be a change for you, but give it a try. Leave the snotty comments to the people campaigning for President.

Posted by: SoMD | March 13, 2008 9:01 AM

Before you get so indignant, do we know how many season ticket holders are federal employees.

And after we find there are only a handful people who qualify. Then the argument will be, why can't the rest of the season ticket holders park there, since you have the garage open?

Maybe if major league baseball spent some of the money it saved by not having to build a new stadium. There would be plenty of parking.

I think the Feds saw how the stadium negotiations with the DC government went and decided it was not a good idea to get involved with these people (MLB).

Posted by: Tom | March 13, 2008 9:14 AM

SoMD - those are just the agencies that reviewed the request - not the people using the parking garage. Read a little closer before getting so critical.

And yes, it is absolutely absurd that they won't open this up.

Posted by: Arlington, VA | March 13, 2008 10:00 AM

The irony in Marc's selfish rant is that WHEN the next attack happens he will be among the first to vehemently criticize our government for not doing enough.

The last time I checked neither Marc nor the imbecile poster "Arlington, VA" has a security clearance (THANK GOD FOR THAT) and thus there is no way for you to have a clue about the daily threats posed against our citizens and the extraordinary efforts being undertaken by those who tirelessly work to keep us safe.

Your baseless (and outrageous) statement regarding "the security hysteria that has infected our society" makes me sick because despite the fact that we are at WAR you refuse to give our Government the benefit of the doubt. In your little bleeding-heart liberal mind, if the Government will not open up its parking facilities for Nats baseball fans that somehow translates into a grand right-wing conspiracy relating to security threats that don't exist, Halliburton oil contracts, and Bush families relationship with the House of Saud. GIVE ME A BREAK!

Do me a favor Marc, enjoy the new stadium that our city cannot afford; enjoy the game, while our best and brightest fight and die to protect America from real danger that you dismiss as make believe; and enjoy your hot dog and beer as thousands of our fellow residents within close proximity to the new stadium remain cold, hungry and homeless.

Please, take the metro, take a cab, take a bus, but, above all else, take a look in the mirror and GET A GRIP, PAL. There is a lot more important things for you to misinform the public about than whether you will be inconvenienced when attending a baseball game...

Posted by: Aaron Burr | March 13, 2008 11:04 AM

The important city leaders, members of the press, business executives and rich MLB owners wanted this fine stadium. Well, you've got a stadium in a dust bowl with no parking. Enjoy it. Regardless of the problems with this location and the city financed cost, a few people will get to enjoy their luxury boxes. Maybe after five or six years, northern Virginia will find a location and a new home for this team that comes with parking. Problem solved.

Posted by: DC Resident | March 13, 2008 2:31 PM

Perhaps I missed something. How can you determine if a person has a security clearance from the name of a county in Virginia? That seems like a difficult feat, if not an impossible one.

With the limited resources our government has to combat terrorism, I hope they aren't being wasted on keeping a parking garage next to DOT safe from harm. I would expect, as a taxpayer, that the risk assessment groups would determine that a parking garage is a much smaller loss than, say, a major bridge across the Potomac river. Or a major transportation hub. Or any number of other public areas that would affect large numbers of people and interstate commerce for years.

But perhaps I am mistaken...

Posted by: Jonathan | March 13, 2008 2:35 PM

Dear Jonathan:

You can rest assured that I did not deduce that the imbecile poster "Arlington, VA" lacks security clearance based solely upon the name they chose to utilize for purposes of this blog.

Indeed, your nimble-minded analysis confirms that you are also incapable of providing any intelligent input on this subject.

The bottom-line is that the Government denied the public access to the subject parking facilities for a good reason, and even if Jesus Christ himself were operating out of these facilities on our nation's behalf, you (and maroons like Marc Fisher and "Arlington VA") would still complain that such work was misguided, illegitimate, and/or hysterical because it involves the Bush administration.

Posted by: Aaron Burr | March 13, 2008 4:59 PM

The current government has not earned the benefit of anyone's doubt. On the contrary, it has abused the public trust, as has been well-documented.

Posted by: Lindemann | March 13, 2008 6:11 PM

Wait, so it's okay to park downtown in the Reagan Building, but the DOT is a too much of a bomb-magnet to let peolpe park?

It would be fine (and refreshing) if the feds just said the garage is closed because its our decision and we say no. Do we really need pages and pages of explanation?

Posted by: tj | March 13, 2008 6:18 PM

Get a grip - it's a parking lot. Not the White House, not the Pentagon, not a Memorial, not a bridge. A Parking Lot.

Fear has enveloped this city and I long for the days when I used to be able to take my family up the West Steps of the Capitol. There are security measures that make sense (such as the closure of those steps) - however this is not one of them.

Posted by: Bethesda, MD | March 13, 2008 9:44 PM

Why should any federal agency continue to facilitate the incompetence, shortsightedness and predictable poor planning by D.C. government? Anyone worrying or whining about baseball stadium parking should address their concerns to the owners, developers and shortsighted D.C. politicians who pushed and rushed this project through. If the concerns of District citizens (especially residents near the stadium) had been fully vetted and genuinely accepted from the beginning, this madness could have been avoided.

Now, let's watch how much money the seasonally open Nationals stadium does NOT make for the District, and how that will exacerbate the D.C. fiscal crisis that CFO Natwar Gandhi and the D.C. Council knows is coming. Don't we have enough big white elephants (new convention center, baseball stadium, near-empty condos, and potential soccer stadium) that won't generate major money for the District of Columbia? Don't we have far too many socioeconomic, infrastructure and fiscal needs that don't get the attention and financing given to this publicly financed (debt service) private venture?

Dennis Moore, Chairperson - dennis@DCIndependents.org
District of Columbia Independents for Citizen Control Party
http://www.DCIndependents.org

Posted by: Dennis Moore | March 14, 2008 8:53 AM

Arron burr???? what did you just crawl out of a casting call for Dr. Strangelove-the musical? Get a grip. Take off your blinders and open your mind. You have fallen under their spell, and I am sure they appreciate your vote of ignorance, whoops I mean confidence

Posted by: MGS | March 14, 2008 12:13 PM

Is that if the Feds won't play nice with DC, than DC should fight fire with fire. Won't let us use a parking garage for 4 hours, 81 nights a year?
Okay, DC DOT should take their pothole machines and tear up every city street that leads exclusively to a federal office building. Water? Leaded or Unleaded at DOT...
If the Feds have to be so ridiculous, than let them get a taste of their own medicine.

Posted by: My proposal | March 14, 2008 1:00 PM

The comments to this entry are closed.

 
 

© 2010 The Washington Post Company