Don’t look now, but the Atlanta Falcons just picked up a new opponent to their demand for $400 million or so in public subsidies for a new stadium. Common Cause Georgia, which previously hadn’t taken a position on the stadium deal, now says it opposes it on the grounds that the public hasn’t been allowed sufficient input:
“We are opposed to any public financing of a new stadium in downtown Atlanta,” Common Cause board member Wyc Orr said during a news conference in downtown Atlanta.
Common Cause believes that more public input is needed and claims that everything has been done behind closed doors.
“You’re left very clearly with the negotiating parties excluding the public while including the public’s money,” Orr said.
“The public can come to their meetings if they want to and listen in but don’t really have the opportunity to give input or even speak before the board,” said Common Cause Georgia Executive Director William Perry…
“If you’re not going to hear from the public, then you ought not to use the public’s money,” said Perry.
Common Cause wants an independent economic impact study, publication of full terms of any stadium lease, and a 90-day public comment period before any deal is consummated; the state-run Georgia World Congress Center Authority, which is trying to pass a stadium deal without any public votes (but which will almost certainly require at least a vote of the state legislature), says its meetings are open to the public, so what’s all the fuss?
Not that Common Cause is a major heavyweight, but this still isn’t going to help Falcons owner Arthur Blank’s cause as he tries to convince a skeptical legislature to raise the GWCCA’s debt limit so it can hand over $300 million to his team’s stadium fund. (The rest of the money would come from state construction sales tax breaks and city infrastructure spending, the cost of the latter of which is still unknown — another of Common Cause’s gripes.) At the very least, it could push the legislature to require some form of public input before okaying the deal. Though given the public’s stated feelings on the matter, you can understand why Blank and the GWCCA might rather not have to hear from them at all.