Transparency Group Fights Against Legitimizing Braves' Financing

Cobb Citizens for Governmental Transparency has blasted the Cobb Board of Commissioners' "reckless railroading" of the stadium deal and the additional burden it could place on public safety and county taxpayers.

The Atlanta Braves' new stadium in Cobb County could be ready for Opening Day 2017. Credit: Atlanta Braves
The Atlanta Braves' new stadium in Cobb County could be ready for Opening Day 2017. Credit: Atlanta Braves
A group of concerned Cobb County citizens from both sides of the political spectrum has asked the Cobb Legislative Delegation not to support any proposals from the Cobb County Board of Commissioners to legitimize plans for public funding for large projects like the Braves' new Cobb stadium.

Cobb Citizens for Governmental Transparency (CGT), who counts among its members Atlanta Tea Party leader Debbie Dooley and progressive activist Rich Pellegrino, met with individual members of the delegation on Monday.

The coalition wants to ensure that the legislative delegation does not introduce proposals into the Georgia General Assembly that would retroactively legitimize any potentially unconstitutional actions performed by the Cobb County Board of Commissioners to establish public funding for projects like the Atlanta Braves' Cobb County stadium and the proposed Riverwalk development near the stadium site.

The group cites the recent resignation of Cobb Public Safety Director Jack Forsythe as a reason to act more urgently; Forsythe wrote in his resignation letter that a lack of funding and other resources was negatively impacting the police department. The group alleges that the Cobb Board of Commissioners' "reckless railroading" of the Braves stadium deal will put additional strain on an already underpowered public safety force.

The Braves Come to Cobb

In addition, CGT has roundly criticized the memorandum of understanding (MOU) between the Braves and Cobb County, believing that there are too many ambiguities and inconsistencies in the documents that may force across the board tax hikes if the anticipated economic boom from the stadium does not pan out.

The MOU fails to pass even a rudimentary smell test as the basis for committing hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars,” said Pellegrino in a CGT press release. 

CGT is also concerned about the generous tax abatement being handed out to John Williams' Riverwalk project inside the Cumberland Community Improvement District. The abatement as currently planned could cause the Cobb County School District to lose out on increasing property tax revenue for the site.
Albert Maguffin January 14, 2014 at 03:04 PM
For the COUNTY - MAYBE. This is a BIG BIG BIG cost to US. As for Smyrna residents - they are being asked to deal with this massive traffic jam and actually are being told to deal with it. There was no choice. This was literally rammed through. If it were truly a great deal, it would not have been carefully kept secret and then pushed quickly through on Thanksgiving Eve. This truly stinks and there is no way to handle that kind of traffic. None.
Brian January 15, 2014 at 04:22 PM
Increased highrise economic development in an area like Cumberland from something like the mixed-use development and the stadium business (baseball has hundreds of games a year) has an outsized long-term decrease on millage and taxes for homeowners vs the almost neglige-able upfront investment. Bob Ott also demonstrated that the public wasn't going to carry most of the cost. I'd focus on softening the blow of the necessary transportation improvements (bonds, etc) which are probably going to be more than the original 10 million estimate, largely because they are just starting the study. By using incremental bond financing, for instance, the future developments would have to help carry some of the cost of transportation overruns that are bound to happen. Also, most of these projects were eventually going to happen anyway, so by using bond financing, it ends up costing about as much per year as it would have anyway (ignoring interest). Keep in mind that Cobb, however, has more than 10 million in reserves.
Brian January 15, 2014 at 04:36 PM
Now, on the whole bs conspiracy theory thing. You need to think a bit how the business world works. It's just that things like this can't be done in a public forum or what tends to happen is they collapse because the business will pull out of the discussion. Cobb was competing with other counties and the city of Atlanta. The Braves president went over the whole chronology of events at the VBA meeting, and there wasn't any decision made until July. Before that, I think spring if I remember correctly, the Braves were trying to work with the city of Atlanta for longer than the entire year of 2012 and had started looking elsewhere by spring 2013. Once the decision is made to seriously consider Cobb, a business entity is not going to publicly deal when they are looking to acquire land, etc. Doing so would cause serious problems including having to compete with opportunists for the land, deal with special interest groups and lobbyists, etc. So businesses do not announce these things until the deal is struck. Obviously, the Braves needed to know Cobb was going to be a partner before they made a decision. But Cobb couldn't talk about it. In fact, if I were the braves, I'd have made Tim Lee sign an NDA binding the entire county. I don't know whether or not there was an NDA, however the Braves would have walked if it became public. Even the city mayor of Smyrna and Bob Ott didn't know what was going on. You elected the ones who voted for the stadium and they represent your interests. Think about the interest of the huge mixed-use development, new restaurants, new entertainment. They decided this deal is in your interests, and I agree with them. They also had a professional negotiator involved so we got a pretty sweet deal. We only have to cover half the maintenance costs of the stadium for instance, and there's a $30 million cap on that. That kind of thing is unheard of.
Brian January 15, 2014 at 04:37 PM
Btw, if you are worried about services and live in an area bordering Smyrna, I recommend asking the city to annex you with certain stipulations of improvements they need to offer.
Albert Maguffin January 15, 2014 at 05:01 PM
First, I offered no conspiracy theory. It's a fact that this was not done in day light. Yes many negotiations require discretion. However, there was little time offered for open discussion. Only town halls on the eve of the vote and at such events, the Braves had propaganda there. That's not a theory, that's fact. As it is fact that we in Smyrna (no need to annex me, I'm there) have no say on what's happening to US. The county leaders don't have to deal with it. They already decided it. And again, there is NO way to accommodate that much traffic volume. Period. I'm in it every day. It's bad as it is. That's ridiculous concept to put such a venue there. This will all be vehicular traffic. No transit (after all Cobb still wants Atlanta to remain behind the river of course...)


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