Curry's power play Temporary leverage: His tough stance on P.G. stadium could cost his county dearly.

February 21, 1996

WAYNE K. CURRY is flying high these days. The Prince George's county executive, a newcomer to elected office, has discovered that taking a tough negotiating stance on Jack Kent Cooke's football stadium can be both popular and lucrative for his county. But Mr. Curry had better take care: This euphoria is temporary and could led him into a political quagmire.

Mr. Curry is a lawyer who knows how to drive a hard bargain. And he has the image of Cleveland Mayor Michael White in front of him: Mayor White's tough-talk and tough stance led to a good deal from the NFL and owner Art Modell.

So far, Mr. Curry has gained big concessions from both Mr. Cooke and the state. For allowing construction of Redskins stadium, Mr. Curry gets a total of $12 million for a Taj Mahal sports complex that will offer local residents an astounding array of recreational activities.

But Mr. Curry wants more. It is that intoxicated feeling of power that could betray him.

He rejects having the county pay its share for bringing a revenue-generator like the Cooke stadium to P.G. Instead, Mr. Curry wants the county to get a free ride -- all the tax revenues and stimulus but none of the expenses.

That's not fair. The state is kicking in $73 million for roads and infrastructure. Baltimore City used $48 million in highway funds for roads at Camden Yards and contributes 80 percent of admission tax revenue. What does Mr. Curry offer to pay for his new stadium? Nothing.

We find this unacceptable. Everyone in Maryland will benefit from the Baltimore and P.G. stadiums. The economic impact will generate jobs and tax dollars for other worthy programs. If Mr. Curry drives too hard a bargain, he could kill both projects.

Not only would the Redskins stadium disappear, so would that $12 million for a P.G. sports complex, as well as all that local tax revenue from those football games. Retribution in Annapolis would be swift. And the word would go forth that Prince George's County no longer welcomes new business opportunities.

In politics, knowing when to strike a compromise is critical. For Mr. Curry, that time is fast approaching. At the moment, the P.G. executive is reveling in his successful holdout. But he shouldn't be deceived: He could go from hero to villain in the wink of a political eye.

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