‘Stop Braves’ efforts distract from perils to taxpayers
by Ron Sifen
December 21, 2013 11:00 PM | 1208 views | 0 0 comments | 44 44 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Taxpayers may have some legitimate concerns about some aspects of the Cobb/Atlanta Braves deal, but before opposing the agreement that is bringing the team to our community, let’s step back and ask whether the Braves deal is good for Cobb or bad for Cobb.

If the Braves move to Cobb is bad for Cobb, then that is a good reason to come up with a solid case for opposing it. Why is it bad for Cobb for the Braves to move to Cobb? If the Braves move to Cobb is good for Cobb, then that is a good reason to figure out what the problems are and try to fix them.

• Traffic: Traffic management and parking in the immediate vicinity of the stadium will be a challenge, but the Braves and Cobb are working on it. The traffic impact for the rest of Cobb may be minimal.

The Braves can help by scheduling weeknight games to start at 7:35 instead of 7:05. This will enable fans to begin their trip after the worst part of rush hour.

The stadium capacity will only be about 42,000. Braves games are typically attended by groups of two or more. Even if there were no transit, there would probably be no more than about 17,000 car trips, dispersed among numerous roads. Many of these trips will be in the opposite direction of rush hour traffic. And in reality, there will be effective transit options that will eliminate several thousand of those car trips.

The Atlanta region already has a very successful express bus network with already-built express bus lots. After the afternoon express bus commutes are completed, Braves fans could use the same lots and use the same express bus infrastructure to go to Braves games. This can get thousands of cars off the road, cost-effectively for taxpayers.

• Delay the vote and/or hold a referendum?

We elect our representatives to make small and big decisions.

I wish there had been more time, but realistically, there is a lot that has to be done in order for the stadium to be ready for play by the opening of the 2017 season. If the Braves had been asked, and if they said OK, it probably would have been reasonable to grant the 14-day delay that Commissioner Lisa Cupid had requested. The demand by some for a 60-day delay had the appearance of attempting to create long enough delays to prevent Cobb County from meeting the timelines of the deal.

A better tactic would have been to identify the legitimate issues and ask Cobb to resolve them immediately rather than just trying to delay the project into an inability to meet deadlines.

• Are the bonds legal? Now that is a legitimate question. My guess is that both Cobb County and the Braves were aware that these bonds would have to be legal. The bonds have to go through a legal underwriting process in order to be issued. Court challenges can bring additional legal review. I will be shocked if the courts or the normal underwriting legal process result in a legal determination that the attorneys for Cobb and the Braves were unable to construct a legal structure for these bonds.

• Will Cobb homeowners experience a tax increase? This is another legitimate issue. Cobb can make the case that they are only extending an existing tax. Opponents can legitimately make the case that this is a tax that could have ended after 2017, and will now be extended for another 30 years. That is 30 more years of a tax that taxpayers otherwise would not have had.

• Will there be other additional costs to taxpayers? The Braves will result in Cobb having significant additional costs. The Braves and surrounding development and other economic activity will result in Cobb receiving significant additional tax revenues. Will the additional revenues exceed the additional costs? Probably, but there is no guarantee. Cobb taxpayers will not know whether we will have to suffer additional tax increases until and unless we get hit with those tax increases.

• I believe this issue has been decided, and the Braves are coming to Cobb. There are other perils for Cobb taxpayers that merit our attention, where citizens could have an impact. Developers and other businesses are figuring out how to use Cobb’s poor policy definitions to get tax abatements, which will necessitate other taxpayers paying more so that the rich and powerful can pay less. Let’s not let the Braves distract us from other important issues.

To The Braves: Welcome to Cobb.

Ron Sifen of Vinings is president of the Cobb County Civic Coalition.
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