Hey, everybody, I’m back! Let’s see what we missed while I was gone … hey, it looks the Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s Truth-o-Meter has called into question Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed’s statement that the state is limited in how much money it can spend on land for a Falcons stadium:
The mayor said the state, specifically the Georgia World Congress Center Authority, which is in charge of negotiations with the church, can only offer a certain amount of money. Reed explained during an Aug. 7 interview with Sports Radio 680 The Fan.
“The state has some limitations on what they can pay above the appraised price. … We’re not going to be able to pay Mount Vernon $19.5 million because of the constraints that the state has in what they can pay,” Reed said on the station’s The Front Row program…
Reed’s statement is based on an interpretation of a portion of the Georgia Constitution, purportedly long-held best practices and an almost two-decade-old attorney general’s opinion on property leases. The mayor and others have turned to the opinion and language in the state constitution as case law.
The mayor, however, specifically said this: “State law says that once the state appraises a piece of property, they can only pay it a certain amount above appraisal.”
That’s a precise statement. And our research found no laws establishing this limit.
We rated Reed’s claim False.
So that’s big news if the state isn’t actually limited to paying the appraised value for the church land, since it means that that $9.3 million funding gap might be fillable after all. Gee, I wonder what else I might have missed while away…
PolitiFact originally rated Reed’s claim False. But state Attorney General Sam Olens disagreed, saying the mayor was correct. Reed, too, asked us to rethink our rating. PolitiFact decided to do more digging and reconsider its original ruling, drawing in more expertise…
Olens said in an email to PolitiFact that his office has for decades interpreted the Gratuities Clause in the state constitution as limiting the state to “paying fair market value for property, absent some additional source of value that the state receives from the transaction.”
The Attorney General’s Office believes there’s no gray area concerning state guidelines on appraisals, said Lauren Kane, a spokeswoman for Olens.
“It’s a black and white issue,” she said…
Given that, we reverse our earlier ruling.
We rate Reed’s statement True.
The truly hilarious part here — other than that the AJC seriously has a column called the “Truth-o-Meter” — is that Reed is the guy advocatingfor the state buying the church land, so presumably would have a vested interest in trying to make the case for the state being able to kick in more to do so. So it’s not exactly surprising that he knew what he was talking about here, since what politician lies in order to undermine his own interests?
Anyway, we’re back to where we started: The state can only legally pay $6.2 million for Mount Vernon’s land, Mount Vernon wants $15.5 million, and only Reed and the Atlanta city council seem to care whether the stadium gets built there as opposed to on the competing north site. Meanwhile, Reed has apparently promised to relocate Friendship Baptist Church, the other church in the way for the stadium, to the campus of a bankrupt local college that is currently trying to sell itself off to pay its debts, and now Friendship has delayed its membership vote on the sale while college supporters are holding pray-ins to try to keep the campus intact. Maybe the AJC should really be running a “Bizarr-o-Meter” instead.