Cobb County Commission chair could be ousted over Braves stadium subsidies

So far the list of politicians booted out of office for throwing money at stadium subsidies has been a relatively short one, consisting of Wisconsin state senator George Petak, who was recalled by voters in 1996 for casting the deciding vote for public money for a new Milwaukee Brewers stadium, plus arguably Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Alvarez, who was recalled by voters in 2011 after he fought for public money for a new Miami Marlins stadium, though he was recalled for other reasons as well. (The list of mayors booted for not throwing money at stadiums is even shorter, namely zero.) They may need to make room soon, however, for Cobb County Commission chair Tim Lee, who is now facing a July runoff against an opponent who has been using Lee’s support of public funding for a new Atlanta Braves stadium as a key campaign push:

Chairman Tim Lee barely made it into a runoff against Mike Boyce, a retired Marine colonel who outpolled Lee by clobbering the county’s stadium deal with the Atlanta Braves…

“I simply asked the question: If I can vote on a $40 million park bond, why can’t I vote on a $350 million stadium bond?” said Boyce in an interview Tuesday night as the runoff scenario was emerging.

Lee, you will remember, didn’t only approve $355 million or more in county spending on that Braves stadium without a public vote, he also got brought up on ethics charges for hiring a lawyer for the project with county money without even telling his fellow commissioners about it. (He got out of that one by saying he was sorry and would never do it again. No, really.) So if anyone deserves to have his political future be a referendum on stadium subsidies, it’s Lee. Vote early and vote often, Cobb County!

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52 comments on “Cobb County Commission chair could be ousted over Braves stadium subsidies

  1. I’m sure there are many more examples beyond Nickels. In fact, Neil, I challenge you to find an example of a Mayor who DID win re-election after a major local team left due to stadium problems.

  2. We’ve covered Nickels a dozen times here: According to both media reports and actual Seattle residents I’ve spoken with, he was not re-elected for many reasons, and the Sonics leaving was only a small part of that. He almost certainly would have been gone even if the Sonics had stuck around.

    As for mayors re-elected after teams, I’ll need to make a list of all teams that relocated. Give me a sec.

  3. Actually, that didn’t take long at all: Robert Wagner was re-elected as New York mayor *twice* after the Dodgers and Giants announced in 1957 that they were leaving town.

  4. Richard Riordan was also re-elected as mayor of Los Angeles in 1997 after both the Raiders and Rams left town during his first term.

    There are undoubtedly more examples, but Wikipedia is long and life is short.

  5. Ben said “an example,” Neil, as in one, but you provided several. Looks like Ben wins again.

  6. CHAIRMAN TIM LEE NEEDS TO FINISH WHAT HE STARTED. No, he should not finish as a conservative but CONSISTENCY in TRANSITION to a new era in Cobb County. There are a lot of balls in play and a new coach could inadvertently drop one to the peril of Cobb County Citizens and the business community. Sure, Tim Lee would learn his lesson for not following expected procedures but not at the peril of the distorted reputation and progression of Cobb County. The good news is that in addition to the Braves relocation, Cobb County is growing by leaps and bounds. Many positive and accumulated improvements have been and are being made in many areas.. While the process he used to acquire the Braves may be in question, he did it in the pursuit of growth for Cobb County. He has been duly reprimanded. Let’s not throw away the baby with the bath.

    1. I think that by now we’ve all ascertained that the typical baseball stadium generates less impact on a local economy than a department store and that when measured against the opportunity cost of other development (commercial, retail, residential) a baseball stadium always comes up short. So while Cobb County may be growing in leaps and bounds it is independent of the Braves move there, and while Tim Lee may have been pursuing growth with his policies, the numbers say that moving the Braves is not an effective economic growth strategy.

  7. I work in Cobb County and I see all of the construction. I can’t believe any of this growth has ANYTHING to do with the new stadium. The business growth has been fueled by incentives and tax breaks given to the business, and the construction is centered around an area that is at the intersection of 2 major freeways which is always a prime location for business with or without a stadium. You can easily argue that the stadium will hurt local business: 1. fans will be in the stadium and will be given every opportunity to spend all of their money in the ballpark instead of nearby, and 2. the traffic situation here is already horrible BEFORE the ballpark and will keep non-fans away during baseball games.

    If only the locals would approve the expansion of the subway into the county – it would make it so much easier for people to get to/from here.

    1. If they succeed in making getting to the mall so difficult that the stores all die out, that will solve the Braves parking problem.

  8. I can’t comment on the NYC mayor at the time the Giants and Dodgers left, but was that a stadium controversy?

    The Rams were not in LA and the Raiders had no stadium controversy whatsoever.

    If you manage to come up with an actual example of a mayor getting re-elected after losing a team due to a stadium controversy, I’m all eyes & ears.

    1. Walter O’Malley wanted land for a new stadium for the Dodgers where the Atlantic Center is now in downtown Brooklyn (because the fans could get there by train). He even suggested a dome designed by Buckminster Fuller. Robert Moses did not want to build one there, and instead wanted to build a stadium modeled on the Roman Colosseum in Flushing Meadows, which would be accessible by car; Moses wanted Flushing Meadows to be his Central Park.

      Los Angeles wanted an MLB team since the major leagues would not upgrade the existing PCL teams to Major League status.

      So looking at the option of a stadium that he didn’t want in a location that he didn’t want, and a place that gave O’Malley the opportunity to open up an entirely new and untapped market, O’Malley moved the Dodgers.

      I’m not sure you can really categorize that as a stadium controversy, but it had something to do with it. If O’Malley had gotten his way, he would have funded his own Buckminsterfullerdome on city donated (I believe) property in downtown brooklyn.

  9. “I can’t comment on the NYC mayor at the time the Giants and Dodgers left, but was that a stadium controversy?”

    You’re joking, right? There have been entire books written about Walter O’Malley and Robert Moses and the battles over building a new stadium for the Dodgers.

    It’s hard to find too many examples of teams that left entirely over “stadium controversies” because that almost never happens, but if you want some others: Michael White was re-elected in Cleveland after the Browns left, and Pat McCrory was re-elected twice in Charlotte after the Hornets left. Both cities got new teams eventually, sure, but that just goes to show how hard it is to find examples — in most cities where mayors say no to team owners’ demands, the owners stick around longer than the mayors do.

    1. I would add the issue of the Giants leaving the Polo Grounds to join the Dodgers in California, but it was less a stadium controversy (although the Mets and Jets would find out…in their early years, the place was falling apart on a daily basis) and more an issue of keeping the rivalry alive.

      Mayors rarely will have their demise caused by a ballpark issue. That is a minor catalyst. BUT…as what happened in Cleveland…some team owners may want to be wary of their associates (for years, there was a tale of there being a few folks who wanted to go all Tommy D on members of the Modell group , because of the relocation of the Browns to Baltimore. Again….this was just a ‘tale’).

    2. Re: Dodgers leaving

      My understanding was always that O’Malley wanted to go to L.A. You’re saying he wanted to stay in Brooklyn, but he just couldn’t get public subsidies for a stadium after years of trying. I’m dubious, to say the least.

      Re: Browns & Bugs

      The fact that White & McCrory got re-elected is PRECISELY my point. Both mayors gifted a new stadium with huge public subsidies in part BECAUSE they’d have been ousted if they hadn’t have replaced the team that left.

      1. Cleveland is a tough case to assess, because the NFL quickly realized that Art Modell really threatened to damage the NFL’s reputation and legal status by moving one of the most famed teams. The level of league ownership of restoring the Browns was really unprecedented and speaks to how dumb this move was from a league perspective.

        1. Agreed there GDub. It was unprecedented …and unlikely to happen again, barring changes of heart, the immaculate reception, I mean conception, part two, etc.

          Which means both Oakland and St. Louis are UNLIKELY to get replacement teams, due to the simple fact that the mindset of the owners now is different than it was at the time of the leaving of the Browns. Not being mean…just being honest, as well as observant of the crap that sprouts up around obtaining or keeping a sports franchise.

        2. Well, Cleveland also agreed to fund a new stadium to get a new Browns. If St. Louis were to do the same, I’d be willing to bet the NFL would find or create a team for them.

          1. Neil….they very well could. My own thinking is that the city fathers…as well as the state will think and think again if the expense is worth it overall. Considering too that there would need to be additional development around same (like around Busch) for this to be more than an 8 or 10 event arena.

            Plus if this were to happen…this sort of mitigates why the Edward Jones Dome still is in existence. The fate of the Silverdome comes to mind.

          2. An NFL stadium is inherently an 8-10 event/year venue. (Well, maybe 12-15 if you’re lucky.) I’m not saying it would make any economic sense for St. Louis, just that the NFL has made it pretty clear what the price is for getting a new team.

            If the Jones Dome is still standing in ten years, I’ll be stunned. Unless it’s a giant Bass Pro shop or something.

          3. Don’t give anyone any ideas about turning the dome into a mall….or a mega Cabella’s or Outdoor Man

            That said….and this is just a thought…it could be razed and rebuilt, with the purpose of it being made ready for a new NFL team, when the next expansion round arrives.

          4. I’m not convinced St. Louis would get another team if it built a new stadium. The new guard of NFL owners seems to be indicating that they want teams to add “value” to the league (meaning themselves) and not just a stadium. They are getting a nice TV check every year and adding a team in St. Louis only makes that check smaller.

            Jurrah and a few of the more tech-savvy guys probably feel like the NFL has enough “dead end” markets right now. Mayors who think they can play this game should be even more careful.

          5. Call it a hunch….but let’s say…for the sake of discussion, the new media deals (as in those for Thursday night and bringing ABC back in for the playoffs) nets enough to just barely cover a split of the fee revenues, so a team could be in St.Louis. If what was just mentioned above were to come to pass….then that 3rd attempt to keep a franchise near Busch….and other items …would be viable…if not barely.

            Also….do not be surprised if down the road…Fox were to drop the NFC package. If what has been going on with the flex scheduling of games is any indication (as in, by proxy…they are getting the short end of the good schedule stick), someone will step up and pay more for the US and Canada rights…which in turn will increase the coffers, so barring the lack of a new stadium and ….cough cough….a fanbase…the Gateway City could….and I stress COULD be a part of the club again.

          6. Jeez, guys, the NFL is semi-seriously considering *Las Vegas* for a team. I think if you handed them a $1 billion stadium on a platter, the league would consider giving a franchise to Chattanooga, let alone St. Louis.

            Not that St. Louis would or should do this, mind you. But I guarantee there’s a price point at which the NFL owners would be happy to take their money.

          7. Gotcha Neil….my point was based on the idea if there was that fickle date called TV revenue used in the decision. But with Vegas and the bid around same having all the stability of a floating crap game, this is just another possibility.

            Funny you bring up Chattanooga, in that there have been stranger cities (as in someone thinking a fanbase is in same, with the city selling its soul to Methistopheles to get a team and ballpark) which have been brought up in the past. As for the RAIDERS OF THE LOST CAUSE…they may be just the right crooked fit for Vegas. Or Frantic, I mean Atlantic City :)

  10. Didn’t St. Louis re-elect Vince Schoemehl after failing to build the so called football team a new stadium?

    1. Ooh, good one! Yes, Schoemehl was re-elected to a third term in 1988, a year after the Cardinals left for Phoenizona.

    2. Schaefer technically wasn’t re-elected as mayor of Baltimore after the Colts left because he was elected governor instead. Not sure if that counts…

    3. St. Louis doesn’t count because they barely care about American’s Game.

      But yes, I’ll concede that if you are Mayor of a city that barely cares about a sport (football in St. Louis, soccer everywhere else) and the team leaves, you can stay in office.

    4. Ben, I think you’ve just managed to eliminate every team relocation in history except for the Sonics.

      1. This is funny. He challenged you to find a single example… you (and many others) have cited numerous examples of mayors being re-elected after teams relocated.

        But none of those examples apparently meet Mr. Miller’s (ever changing) personal standard of proof.

        That sort of behaviour could be described as “Trump like”.

      2. In addition…one needs to mention that even in lean years….St.Louis is a baseball mad city. And apparently is still that mad…where support is unwavering.

        As for relocation stories being eliminated or reimagined…that happens when there is a vacuum of facts and the urban legends come in. Good thing this is not about the real reason why the first Washington Senators franchise left for Minneapolis-St Paul….because, in spite of the reprehensible nature of the move, that may be redone to be ‘kind’.

  11. Neil:

    Perhaps Bob Bedinghaus, former Hamilton County (Ohio) commissioner, should join Petak and Alvarez on the list of politicians who lost their jobs over stadium subsidies. Here is an article by then-Cincinnati Enquirer columnist Tim Sullivan from 2000:

  12. Hello Ben, I think the 2008 snow storm (followed by sub-freezing temperatures that didn’t thaw roads) that paralyzed Seattle for weeks while Nickels backed a policy of not salting roads, rsing rubber tips on the plows, and gave the city’s snow response a “B” hurt more. Poorly handling snow is something that is also cited as a reason for public figures to not be re-elected.

  13. “Ideology” is a collection of beliefs held by an individual, group or society. It can be described as a set of conscious and unconscious ideas which make up one’s beliefs, goals, expectations, and motivations.

    Ideology and truth may have no direct correlation. One’s ideology can be based entirely on deliberate misrepresentations perpetrated in furtherance of a particular goal, for example.

  14. Visited my sister in Atlanta recently (I live in Birmingham but lived in Atlanta for 20 years). She lives in Cobb County; off the Canton Highway near the Cherokee County line. Anyway, the travel took me from I20West to I285 to I75 – that is right by the stadium site. I was amazed that Ga. DOT was expanding I75 and I285 (again) right through the area where the proposed bridge to connect the stadium to the Galleria office complex in located. This is going to be an engineering challenge; and expensive.

  15. I’d have to imagine this wouldn’t be too hard, as the list of teams that have moved is pretty short (at least in the “sports anyone cared about” era–which wouldn’t include the NBA before 1979).

    Just baseball alone would have something like 11-12 franchise moves (to include intra-municipal relocations like LA and Atlanta). The NFL might have about 8. Many have already been covered.

    Did maybe the Brooklyn Borough President lose his job over the Dodgers? Anyone? The way Doris Kearns Goodwin goes on about it I’m surprised anyone got out of bed before 1963.

    1. Brooklyn Borough President John Cashmore was unanimously re-elected in 1957:

      They finally got him out of office in a box in 1961. He was also apparently the inspiration for the Harry Chapin song “Cat’s in the Cradle,” which is by far the most interesting thing about any Brooklyn borough president ever:

  16. Taking the comments collectively, that was a fascinating and appreciated walk down history lane. Thanks to all who have commented! The Walter O’Malley story about originally wanting to stay in Brooklyn and build a ballpark there has been re-reported a lot in recent years (sometimes extensively) because the site he proposed I believe was the same where the Barclay’s Center was eventually built.

    1. That’s been re-reported a lot recently too, but it’s not true. The proposed Dodgers site was across the street to the north, where Ratner’s mall is now.

  17. KJ is leaving by the end of this year, but… Damned phone call recordings entirely unrelated to arenas.

    1. Hopefully his next accommodation will also be “state provided”, but in a different way…

  18. All depends on what the shee-ple see as important – bread and circuses or accountability.
    My bet is on the former…

  19. Paddy Chayefsky through Howard Beale had something to
    say about the shrinking citizen…
    For those of you with short attention spans, ff to 1:45 and
    play to 2:00.
    Accountability will take more that just yelling out a window though.

  20. There’s another example of a pol getting the boot after a stadium: former Hamilton County (Ohio) Commission President Bob Bedinghaus was voted out of office in 2000, after more than $50 million in overruns at Paul Brown Stadium became public several months prior to the election. He also was held largely responsible for the Bengals’ lease, which is widely considered one of the worst deals (for the public) in the history of professional sports. Bedinghaus has now worked for the Bengals for 15 years, as the team’s director of riverfront development. Dan Klepal, Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

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