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Five hundred million is a number so round—resting halfway between zero and 1 billion—that it’s a convenient accounting figure. It’s the number of dollars in the U.S. Congress’s initial appropriation to finance the Civil War. It’s the maximum value of a contract awarded to construction firm Contrack International for work done in Afghanistan. Most recently, it’s about the number city officials are tossing about for a should-be-old-school-quaint ballpark that the city will build on the shores of the Anacostia river in Southeast. But before the District spends this substantial hunk of dough on a stadium, maybe it should look at some other uses for its taxpayers’ $500 million.
Item: Average D.C. public-school teacher’s salary
Cost: $64,029 per year
What $500 Million Will Get You: About 7,809 extra teachers for a year
Item: Street sweeper
Cost: About $100,000
What $500 Million Will Get You: About 5,000 sweepers
Item: Salt to melt ice on wintry roads
Cost: About $480,000 a winter
What $500 Million Will Get You: About 1,042 reasonably safe winters
Item: Renovation of Congress
Heights Recreation Center basketball and tennis courts
What $500 Million Will Get You: About 1,667 better places to play ball
Item: Department of Public Works annual budget
Cost: Roughly $105 million
What $500 Million Will Get You: About five extra years of top-notch trash collection
Item: City Museum operating budget
Cost: $2.3 million (fiscal 2004)
What $500 Million Will Get You: About 217 more years of such exhibitions as “Chinatown: Place or People?”
Item: The lobbying services of Patton Boggs LLP
Cost: $450 per hour (average)
What $500 Million Will Get You: One partner, working on D.C. statehood 12 hours a day, seven days a week, for about 254 years
Item: Arlington County’s total property-tax assessment
Cost: Roughly $40 billion (2001)
What $500 Million Will Get You: About 1.2 percent of what should belong entirely to the District
Item: Seven-member ANC budget
Cost: $20,000 (typical)
What $500 Million Will Get You: 25,000 years of bickering
Art accompanying story in the printed newspaper is not available in this archive: Emily Flake.