Cobb County chair who masterminded Braves deal gets booted in landslide

Voters in Cobb County, Georgia went to the polls last night for a runoff election between Cobb County Commission chair Tim Lee and his challenger Mike Boyce, and it wasn’t close: Boyce trounced Lee, 64-36%. And the main issue in the campaign was Lee’s engineering of $350-million-plus in public subsidies for a stadium to lure the Atlanta Braves to the suburbs, a deal concocted in secret, pushed through in just two weeks with little public debate, and approved before finalizing a transportation plan, leading to possible traffic and transit nightmares; Boyce remarked following the vote, “

Lee’s name is now added to the list of elected officials who were bounced from office for giving public money to pro sports teams against the wishes of their constituents, joining Wisconsin state senator George Petak (recalled by voters in 1996 for casting the deciding vote for public money for a new Milwaukee Brewers stadium) and Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Alvarez (recalled by voters in 2011 after advocating public money for a new Miami Marlins stadium). That’s a short list, but it’s still longer than the list of local officials who were booted because they didn’t approve sports subsidies — Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels is the only arguable member of that club, and he was more reviled by voters for not putting down salt on roads before a snowstorm and leaving the entire city paralyzed, then giving himself a “B” grade for his snow removal efforts.

So once we’re all finished dancing on Lee’s grave, what happens now with the train wreck that is the Braves stadium? Probably not a whole lot: According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Boyce indicated that “

As for Lee himself, he’ll probably have job options despite “couldn’t even find 15,000 people to vote for him” on his resume. The record in past ousters is mixed: Petak immediately landed a job with Wisconsin Gov. Tommy Thompson, the man who’d talked him into switching his Brewers stadium vote; Alvarez won an over-60 bodybuilding contest and then was arrested for assaulting his ex-girlfriend in a fight over his cat. If I’m Lee, I’d try to go the former route — Georgia does have a Republican governor who has backed the Braves project, so that’s always an option. Or, hey, the Braves could use a shortstop, and Lee probably wouldn’t hit much worse than the incumbent.

If nothing else, at least, we can rest assured that after two pricey stadium deals for the Braves and Falcons, Atlanta area residents have learned their lesson about signing on to large public subsidies to replace buildings that are barely 20 years old. Why, I bet no one could even propose something like that now without getting laughed out of

Compared to many other NBA teams, Phillips Arena is an old barn. I haven’t been to any of them, but I don’t have to. All that’s necessary is to crank up a recent edition of NBA 2K to see how far behind Phillips Arena is from like The Barclays Center in Brooklyn, or even The Amway Center in Orlando. … The Hawks provide their fans with a great product. How badly would some other cities like to have eight consecutive playoff seasons and counting in a row? … The only reason for the poor attendance has to be the almost-twenty year arena they have to perform in.

Sigh. Okay, settle in, we may yet be here a while.


18 comments on “Cobb County chair who masterminded Braves deal gets booted in landslide

  1. Neil, I’ve seen you print some incisive quotes on this site, but that quote from random Hawks fan Tyler Seller, via the Atlanta Hawks page on FanSided, the site that “believes that everyone is a Fan of something”, was devastating. Surely Mr. Seller is exceedingly close to being elected to political office and/or being hired to edit the Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s Opinion page, where his views on the public funding of sports stadia will be put into effect post haste.

  2. Is that a real quote? The one about knowing your arena is out of date because you play NBA 2k? That’s crazy. I’d go mock the person who said it, except I can’t get anywhere because our transit system is not nearly as good as the one on Sim City.

    • Yeah, there’s a link there now. (WordPress was having posting problems this morning.) I read it three times, sure it had to be meant tongue-in-cheek, but I’m now pretty sure it wasn’t, which is indeed jaw-droppoing.

      • Bad attendance is never the fans’ fault. It’s always due to reasons far and beyond their control.

        Well, I take the back a bit. It’s not the fans’ fault when it comes to my own favorite teams.

    • He wouldn’t be foolish enough to leave a paper trail. There are far more sophisticated ways of laundering money.

  3. Like most public sector workers when they move from one layer of government they use their past crooked votes to cash in on a new position at a different layer of government to collect a 2nd or 3rd full pension. At least that’s how it works in Illinois.

  4. I can only chuckle at the Hawks’ attendance question. If this database is even close to correct, the Hawks attendance has really never been good. If you aren’t enjoying watching Dominique Wilkins–a Georgia guy–I’m not sure how attractive the NBA really is to the audience. http://www.databasebasketball.com/teams/teamatt.htm?tm=atl&lg=n

    Atlanta is in the heart of SEC (and ACC) country. Pro sports have always had a tough time in Atlanta. A new arena with “amenities” changes little.

    • Exactly. Suggesting the building “must be” the problem is ludicrous. Why not blame the Hawks poor attendance on reptilian aliens invading human bodies as part of their plan to take over the earth (and, of course, the fact that the reptiles don’t grow up with basketball and have no attachment to it)?

      The causal link is just as direct.

  5. I know where I think Tim Lee will be working next.
    And the new job will probably include a significant pay increase for services rendered.

    Sadly, taxpayers effectively cannot prosecute their former representatives under law, as there appears to be legal remedy to the “gee, I guess that was a dumb thing I did” defense…

  6. I would add Elaine Scruggs to the list. Technically she did not run again, but this was only because she knew she would be trounced.

    Do elected officials actually save face if they retire rather than get defeated badly? I’d argue no… similar to resigning your job when faced with the company’s security video showing you stealing shamelessly from the organization. Even if you technically weren’t fired and went home and told the Mrs “Honey, I’ve had it with those idiots and their hypocrisy, I just can’t take it anymore so I quit”… the fact is you were pushed, even if you jumped as well.

  7. The sad part is he didn’t even understand why he was voted out. His camp was bemoaning the hostile culture against incumbents that led to his ousting. He himself just spouted about how voters just don’t (can’t?) understand how good the deal will be for the future of the county.

  8. That Aug 2009 primary election that Nickels lost also included a referendum that successfully repealed the $0.20 plastic bag fee that Nickels and Conlin had co-sponsored and, at the time of the Primary, McGinn was anti-alaskan way viaduct tunnel replacement while most candidates were for the Nickels-OKed projected (after the primary, McGinn softened to a “will not oppose project already in the works” stance).

    If you had a gripe against greenwashing or mega-projects, that was the primary to pay attention to.

    http://www.governing.com/blogs/politics/Lessons-from-Mayor-Greg.html

  9. I wonder if the Brewers would still be playing at County Stadium in 2016 if that bribe never happened. I can’t believe they didn’t put AC in the Brewer Dome. Nobody saw global warming coming?

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