Common Cause GA opposes Falcons deal for “excluding the public”

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.

10 comments on “Common Cause GA opposes Falcons deal for “excluding the public”

  1. That’s not at all uncommon. It’s mostly only cities on the West Coast that have referendum requirements.

  2. Not that a public vote will mean very much when teams can spend $5 million in campaign advertising to convince the public to vote against its own economic best interests (Santa Clara 49ers stadium.) The 49ers spent $350 per yes vote, the most for ‘yes’ votes spent in any campaign anywhere in the U.S. To be fair, there is no truth in advertising for political campaigns because of freedom of speech, so when a campaign for a stadium provides false information in advertising – ‘No Cost to Santa Clara’s General Fund! No Cost to Santa Clarans, Period!’ and has a majority of council members backing up the lies, that’s hard for the public to overcome. Also, when the team can get the majority of council members to go for a team-paid-for ballot initiative – in the guise of a ‘citizen’s initiative’ with paid signature gatherers and former council members as the front people for a sham citizen’s group – then the team can completely control the message to voters. And then when the team can play the campaign as for the schools and for jobs, with nothing to do with the team or a stadium, and the opposition has very little money to get the word out about the truth of the stadium costs and environmental consequences, the public doesn’t see that what they’re being sold is not truthful.

    It is legal to lie to people in political campaigns. And teams have unlimited lawyers and money to run a ballot measure and a campaign worded their way for their own benefit. Then when the newspapers, which make money on ads during a stadium campaign, and stand to make more money if a stadium is built in their community, don’t accurately report the costs, but instead reproduce press releases put out by the team/campaign consultants and act like cheerleaders for the team, the public is pretty much hosed.

    Then after the stadium ballot measure passes and the actual contract is finished – when the council majority agrees to have a city agency carry $950 million in loans for stadium construction, loans which weren’t even mentioned in the stadium ballot measure – and citizens quickly gather enough signatures to put the loans up for a vote – the team just uses its lawyers to sue the people of the city to deny them the right to vote on the loans. And a judge rules in the team’s favor. The 49ers have taken away our right to vote twice. And they’re currently suing to keep property tax dollars in the former redevelopment area from flowing to schools/county agencies which rightfully should be getting those dollars.

    Any city looking to have a ballot measure on a stadium should learn from what happened in Santa Clara. Visit santa clara plays fair dot org and read the set of articles on How the 49ers Won the Election. See the timeline of a month by month account of what the 49ers did to dupe Santa Clarans into voting for the stadium.

  3. Of course Santa Clara is going to rake in the dough because of concerts, World Cups, SuperBowls!,& Olympics (source: Santa Clara City Council). (Local taquerias will also sell more burritos on game days according the the SJ Mercury.)

  4. LA hasn’t given into the NFL, I don’t see San Diego approving public financing for a new stadium, after being screwed over twice in the last 15 years. The Chargers aren’t willing to put up anything for a vote because they know they’ll lose and the city would rather tar and feather Dean Spanos than give him a public handout.

  5. Congrats to Santa Clara for assembling a little over 25,000 voters to vote on building a 68,000 seat stadium for the NFL. The 14,628 yes votes must truly show the will of the people, or at least one end-zone worth of seats.

  6. Is there any way to block the Santa Clara people? I’m getting very tired of them hijacking threads.

  7. We can ask. Hey, Santa Clara people! Please try to stick to the topic at hand! I can make the occasional open-thread topic for discussing the 49ers if that helps…

  8. You know, that tarring and feathering Dean Spanos thing could be a major fundraiser if produced and marketed properly. Maybe that’s a way to close the Chargers stadium funding gap (which, if I understand correctly, presently sits somewhere around 90% of total cost…)

    RE: Atlanta… I’m troubled that they seem to be dealing with Blank just 20 years after the GD was built for his team. From what I’ve read (which certainly isn’t everything associated with the GD), the Georgia Dome deal does seem to have provided some net financial benefit to the city (not just the usual “feel goods” about having a pro football team… insert Eugene Robinson joke here…).

    But the stadium itself is barely half way through what ought to be it’s useful working life. The fact that ‘others are better’ isn’t reason enough to tear it down. And frankly, there’s no reason to believe that the next stadium deal will be in any way beneficial for the city, given that much of the basis for the deal seems to be transferring money that presently is returned to the city in the current deal to the Falcons themselves.

    Giving money to others seldom makes you rich. That’s doubly true if the money in question is a public asset.

  9. Please see:

    “The term sheet lays out some key details. The 24-page document shows the state would own the stadium. But the Falcons would operate it and get all of the revenue.”

    There’s a good reason for that: Atlanta/Fulton County homeowners pay property taxes, but smart, millionaire NFL team owners do not.

    I’ll bet that the state tax laws of Georgia pertaining to possessory interest are like California’s: No NFL team wants to actually own a money-losing NFL stadium, so they stick that title on some local “authority” formed by local politicians. The basis of the Falcons’ taxation while they play in Atlanta, then, is not the hundreds of millions of dollars that Arthur Blank is going to scoop out of that stadium every year, but the mere ten days out of 365 that his team play there. Same trick as the San Francisco 49ers pulled here in Santa Clara, CA.

    Talk about insult and injury. Atlantans get stuck paying for the debt service on the $300,000,000 that Arthur Blank is demanding from them. The Atlanta Stadium Mob is clearly terrified not only of a public vote on this massive giveaway, but also will tolerate no public input on it, either.

    It looks like Common Cause is right “on the money.”

    Bill Bailey, Treasurer,