Today in D.C. History: Nickles Hand-Delivers Baseball Tickets to D.C. Council
On May 16, 2008, D.C. Attorney General Peter Nickles personally delivered controversial baseball tickets to then-D.C. Council Chairman Vincent Gray, ending one of the more mind-boggling standoffs between councilmembers and the administration of then-Mayor Adrian Fenty. At least for that year.
At the center of the dispute were 19 tickets in Suite 61 at the taxpayer-funded Nationals Park that were supposed to go to the D.C. Council as part of a lease agreement with the Nationals. The mayor had his own set of tickets. But before opening day, the Nationals gave the D.C. Council's tickets to the mayor, who without much explanation, refused to give them up. When Fenty eventually doled out the tickets, he skipped over councilmembers he had clashed with. In a show of D.C. Council strength, all members returned their tickets until Fenty released all of the tickets for the season. A month after the standoff started, Nickles coughed up the tickets.
Though that year's ticket standoff was resolved, a similar row awaited D.C.'s elected officials the next baseball season, when several councilmembers and their constituents were denied entry to Nationals Park on opening day, because, as The Washington Post reported at the time, "Mayor Adrian M. Fenty (D) was withholding 19 tickets to their suite at the stadium." Gray said at the time: "It's deja vu. We were assured this fiasco would not happen again, and here we are with no tickets."
D.C. Councilmembers Kwame Brown and Mary Cheh proposed a legislative solution, mandating that all of the city's tickets be auctioned off to help close a budget gap, though that plan didn't go far. In the meantime, Fenty was very much irked when the press grilled him on the ticket fiasco and refused to elaborate, creating more animosity between the mayor's office, and, well, just about everyone in town! The battle, which concluded quietly on May 18 when "a young aide from the office of Deputy Mayor Neil O. Albert handed them over." As the Post assessed at the time, the ticket spat "raised questions about whether Fenty (D) was being petty and stubborn by failing to turn over tickets for the suite designated for council use."
For the 2010 season, the Fenty administration delivered the D.C. Council's full set of tickets in March, with Nickles telling the Post that "It just seemed like the right thing to do...We have reached our semblance of peace and order with the council." (Well, maybe just on the ticket issue.)
So what happened with the baseball tickets this year under Mayor Gray? There's barely been a peep on the issue. The mayor's office delivered the D.C. Council's tickets before opening day without incident, according to Wilson Building sources. There are, after all, better things for D.C. officials to spend their time bickering over—like the budget!
Photos by Darrow Montgomery