Cobb stadium critics push for delay of tomorrow’s Braves stadium vote

The newly formed Cobb Citizens for Governmental Transparency — which includes such odd bedfellows as the county branches of the Tea Party and the Sierra Club — has two press conferences scheduled for today to call on the Cobb County Commission to delay tomorrow’s scheduled Atlanta Braves stadium vote, so that there’s time for “citizens [to] be appropriately informed and engaged when significant tax dollars are obligated or expended by our elected officials.” And at least one state legislator, Democratic state senator Jason Carter, says he’d like to see more time for discussion as well:

“As a fiscal conservative, it makes sense to me to be careful when talking about $300 million in taxes and debt assumption. I love the Braves. I have to believe that the deal is good for them and for Cobb County. But if that’s true, then there is no reason not to let people digest the plan before the vote. Frankly, this is not even a controversial position and I’d be surprised if the governor or any other candidates disagreed.”

If you think you recognize that smile and that surname, yes, he’s Jimmy Carter’s grandson. (Jack’s son, not Amy’s. Amy has apparently managed to keep such a low profile since reaching adulthood that her Wikipedia image is of her as a child holding a cat.) He’s also running for governor, so prone to making public statements like this, and from Decatur on the other side of Atlanta, so not really likely to be listened to by the Cobb commission. Still, given the likelihood that this whole project is going to need state approval at some point — if only for highway upgrades — it’ll be interesting to see whether more opposition emerges in the state legislature, especially from Atlanta representatives.

State representative Earl Ehrhart, meanwhile, — who helped engineer the Braves-Cobb deal, and who is a partner in a “mega sports park” under construction near the Cobb stadium site — says that any delay would risk Atlanta stealing the Braves back:

“Give them four weeks to let them spend that big Atlanta money?” he scoffed.

Yeah, because you know Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed is just champing at the bit to try to outbid Cobb’s offer — wait, what?

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14 comments on “Cobb stadium critics push for delay of tomorrow’s Braves stadium vote

  1. [“Give them four weeks to let them spend that big Atlanta money?” he scoffed.]

    Please, please, please say that there was a suspender snap after he said that.

  2. I’m sure some (rightfully) fear that this has been the Braves attempt to force Atlanta to give them a brand new stadium for nothing to keep the team, and that the Braves have been using Cobb County (which we all know has happened many times before elsewhere, and will happen many more times in the future), and so they want to sign on now to make sure nothing can stop this. The problem is Cobb is signing a far worse deal than they should be signing to make sure the Braves don’t back out, and we’ve already seen the financial damage Santa Clara took in their Niners stadium for the same reasons.

  3. I think you can come up with worse cautionary tales than Santa Clara, but yeah, it definitely does seem like “Let’s throw money at the Braves fast just in case Atlanta decides to counteroffer!” I mean, we do have the example of Hartford’s offer to the Patriots that Robert Kraft then took back to Massachusetts to get them to sweeten their pot. (And to the NFL — he didn’t get much more from MA, but did get the creation of the G-3 fund out of the league.)

    Bidding wars over a unique item never go well for the bidders, really, but Cobb seems determined to bid against itself.

  4. Ryan, what financial damage did Santa Clara take? If anything they’re one of the few examples of a city that came out more or less even from their stadium deal. They’re probably the worst example you could have chosen.

  5. Dan, its a lost cause to even argue with the SC folks. No matter what facts have been pretend, they will never come around. To them the Santa Clara deal was, is and will always be the worst stadium/city partnership in history.

  6. I was naming SC because it’s a recent example, people, it’s not like I have a problem with the Niners. Besides, the reason why things will probably work out in their favor, as Neil himself has mentioned, is thanks to the Niners getting a huge naming rights deal and selling it’s seat licenses for top dollar, both thanks to the team being good again. If the team was still bad and those 2 things didn’t happen, it would be a money pit for Santa Clara, especially thanks to stuff like the beyond horrifying Super Bowl 50 deal. They got lucky, which might not happen with Cobb County and the Braves. Big Boss Man may no longer be with us (RIP), but those in Cobb County better prepare for those Hard Times to still be served there.

  7. Dan & Guey,

    When asked about the meaning or significance of the French Revolution, Chou en Lai famously replied “it’s too soon to tell”. I don’t have such a long view of history myself, but I think any reasonable assessment of Levi’s Stadium won’t really be apparent for several years.

    I never said that it appears to be the worst stadium deal in history, because I don’t believe that it is. However it’s pre-mature to state that the city made out because it’s basically “break-even”, because it’s way to soon to tell if it’s even that.

  8. Why not give the people of Cobb a chance to vote on something that will be in there county for the next 30 years?

  9. “No one believes more firmly than Comrade Napoleon that all animals are equal. He would be only too happy to let you make your decisions for yourselves. But sometimes you might make the wrong decisions, comrades, and then where should we be?”

    The people of Cobb won’t be allowed to vote because they’d almost certainly vote against it. The politicians in Cobb not only have a run of the mill edifice complex, they also have a severe inferiority complex. Who outside of Georgia knows anything about Cobb County other than perhaps they were excluded from the Atlanta Olympics for being homophobic and they put stickers questioning evolution into their science textbooks? For the hated City of Atlanta to be known around the world while Cobb County, filled with what they believe to be superior humans, is barely known across the state line sticks in their craw. Almost every metro has suburb versus center city issues but metro Atlanta takes it to a whole different level. For the Cobb County Commission, this is as much about giving Atlanta the finger as it is about anything else. If they put it to a vote and got turned down while Atlanta was able to avoid a vote and push through an unneeded new football stadium would be a huge slap in the face. Next time the county commissioners saw their Atlanta peers, they’d be reminded of who has power and who doesn’t. It wouldn’t matter if that power was being used for useful purposes or waste.

    Atlanta made a stupid decision to shower the football club with public money. Cobb has to make sure they can one up the stupidity.

  10. “Bidding wars over a unique item never go well for the bidders, really, but Cobb seems determined to bid against itself.”

    Amen. See “Barret Jackson/batmobile auction”, 2012.

    Even auction hawks believed the batmobile might have a novelty value of $400-700k. I’d have put the novelty value of that particular Barris creation significantly lower… but it matters not. Two idiots decided to fight a war over it (one admitted on camera it was because the half-his-age blonde to his right “told him to”) and when the dust cleared…. $4.6m including the buyers premium, as I recall.

    Thanks for the Animal Farm reference Jason. Can I offer a quote from Dr. Strangelove in return?

    “Mr. President, we cannot allow a mine shaft gap!”

  11. I read in today’s AJC that one stadium proponent, developer Jeff Fuqua, states in defense of the stadium deal that “Cobb could look to generate $100 million in sales and property taxes over a 20-year period.” Now, even assuming that estimate is accurate, why in the h*ll would we spend $300 million (plus interest, plus maintenance costs, plus traffic improvements beyond what has already been planned, because they will be needed, trust me) to generate $100 million in additional revenue? Am I missing something here?

    The pro-stadium group “Chop to Cobb” states in a Facebook promo that the stadium deal will bring in $3 million per year for Cobb schools. I have a better idea – how about nearly $9 million per year beginning in 2017 when the parkland bond debt is paid off? If we can divert those funds to help fund a stadium, without technically raising property taxes, why not just divert it to education and save ourselves the trouble?

  12. BRW: Because then adjacent land owners (some of which are huge boosters of this deal) and other billionaires can’t be handed tens of millions in of public money???

    As George Carlin once said, “If you want to end homelessness in America just devise a system under which the rich can steal a few million dollars while building homes for the homeless” (paraphrasing, but that’s essentially it).

    The reason this project is being promoted at all is that there is a path for already wealthy people to avail themselves of tax dollars. If they just came out and said “we want you to close schools and hospitals, layoff police and firemen and give us the money” people wouldn’t accept it (which isn’t to suggest they have accepted this, of course, nor will they be given an opportunity to accept or reject it…)

    If none of the major boosters stood to benefit financially, I think you’d find there was little or no interest in bringing the Braves to Cobb county. As you’ve rightly deduced, the net benefit to Cobb appears to be (even under the rosiest of predictions made by boosters) significantly less than the net cost.

    As ever, follow the money…

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