Around Town: Crystal Ball: Bond windfall has mayor smiling about Franklin plans
by Lee B. Garrett, Joe Kirby and Otis Brumby III
June 21, 2013 11:52 PM | 3904 views | 0 0 comments | 90 90 recommendations | email to a friend | print
“You’re about to come into a whole lot of money …”

THAT’S SUPPOSEDLY what palm readers usually tell their clients.

And while there’s no indication that Marietta Mayor Steve “Thunder” Tumlin went to one of the palm-readers whose rezoning request was rejected by the county commission this week (see Dick Yarbrough’s column at left), if he did go, the lady with the crystal ball would have been right on the money (pardon the pun) in his case.

That’s because Tumlin suddenly is confronted this weekend with a classic good news/bad news scenario regarding this November’s scheduled referendum on whether to issue $35 million in bonds with which to start a makeover of the troubled Franklin Road corridor.

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THE BAD NEWS for Tumlin is that City Hall finance types who did the initial legwork on the bond severely miscalculated how much revenue 2 mills would raise.

The good news for Tumlin is that City Hall finance types who did the initial legwork on the bond severely miscalculated how much revenue 2 mills would raise.

In other words, rather than bringing in $35 million as first thought, Tumlin and the City Council suddenly are looking at a bonanza-like $68 million to work with on Franklin Road.

As Tumlin said, “I just about fell out of my chair when they told me.”

Can you say “Christmas in (almost) July?”

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THE DRASTICALLY CHANGED financial landscape presents a series of unexpected challenges for the mayor:

Can he persuade the council to enlarge the bond/redevelopment plans to include the new revenue total? Or will it prefer to stick to the original bond amount?

Can he persuade the council to devote all of the “new” revenue toward Franklin Road? Or will there be pressures to divert that money to other projects in other wards?

The original plan called for spending $8 million of the bond proceeds to build a new road linking Franklin with Southern Polytechnic State University and Life University, and for spending $4 million to improve streetscapes along Whitlock Avenue on the city’s west side. Will there be attempts to “spread the wealth” even further? To make the bond even more of what legislators like to call a “Christmas tree” — a spending plan with something under it for everybody?

PUBLIC SUPPORT for the bond has been generally favorable, with the exceptions of a few Libertarians like Marietta School Board member Brett Bittner; and Charles Levinson, who is running for mayor against Tumlin in this fall’s elections and has suggested the makeover is a thinly veiled attempt to rid the corridor of lower-income residents who “vote the wrong way” – i.e., Democrat.

But the surprise news about the revenue is sure to nip criticism from another group that had been supportive, but wary: those who thought the bond needed to be bigger, not smaller. Marietta Development Authority Chair Ed Hammock, for one, had suggested that doubling the size of the bond would let the city buy twice as many apartment complexes along Franklin and thereby reduce the likelihood that the surviving landlords would then raise their rental rates and thus later be able to sell their properties to the city or a developer for top dollar. There was no appetite prior to this week for doubling the size of the bond issue. But the bond is now on the verge of doubling — and pain-free to taxpayers. No more trying to jump-start redevelopment with just a shoestring budget.

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MIGHT THE POSSIBLE BOND WINDFALL put Franklin in play as the 50-acre site sought by the Development Authority of Cobb County for an industrial client seeking to move to Cobb? The industry would mean about 350 good-paying jobs. Or would the city do better to focus on higher-density, more intensive use for most of the land? Should it hope for high-rise office towers akin to those in the Galleria area?

Meanwhile, if negotiations by the Atlanta Falcons for a new stadium site downtown stall out, don’t be surprised to see Falcon owner Arthur Blank use the threat of relocating to the Franklin corridor as a negotiating ploy. The Atlanta newspaper reported Friday that one of the two churches on the site being eyed by the Falcons has rejected a $13.5 million offer for its building and property. Sources tell Around Town that Tumlin and Cobb Commission Chairman Tim Lee have already put their heads together to see what would be involved in putting together a proposal for a stadium site on Franklin.

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THE BOTTOM LINE? The new calculations are a potential game-changer for the Franklin redevelopment push — and a big momentum-builder for the mayor.

We suspect the picture of Franklin Road in the mayor’s crystal ball suddenly is a whole lot brighter.

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WONDERING WHETHER the Fed is planning to raise interest rates soon? Marietta Kiwanians might get a sneak preview at their meeting on Thursday at the Marietta Hilton/Conference Center, when their speaker will be Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta President Dennis P. Lockhart — but they might have to “read between the lines” in order to do so.

Lockhart is a California native and has served as president of the bank since 2007. He next year is slated to rotate onto an “alternate” slot on the Federal Open Market Committee, the monetary policy-making body of the Federal Reserve System.

That committee is composed of the seven members of the Reserve’s Board of Governors (headed by Ben Bernanke) and five of the 12 Reserve Bank presidents. But all of the Reserve Bank presidents, whether voting members or not, attend the committee’s eight annual meetings and participate in the discussions.

Incidentally, the Federal Reserve System is celebrating its centennial this year, having been set up in 1913 by President Woodrow Wilson at the behest of his Treasury Secretary, the inimitable William Gibbs McAdoo — who was born in Cobb County in 1863 and went on to be a key (but sadly now almost forgotten) player in early 20th-century politics.

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THE METRO-MARIETTA Kiwanis Club will host DJ “Moby” of “Moby in the Morning” at its noon meeting Monday at First United Methodist Church of Marietta. Cost is $15. Contact Rose Wing at (678) 386-1059.

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11TH DISTRICT Congressional hopeful Bob Barr picked up a plum endorsement on Friday — that of Southeast Cobb Commissioner Bob Ott.

“Bob Barr understands the needs of taxpayers and businesses in Cobb County and across Georgia. When he returns to Congress, Bob will retain his seniority and that is a very positive reality for businesses in Cobb County and across the district,” Ott said.

Barr is running succeed U.S. Rep. Phil Gingrey (R-Marietta), who has announced plans to run in next year’s GOP Primary for the seat of retiring U.S. Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.).

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WILL Southwest Cobb Commissioner Lisa Cupid “stand by her man,” i.e., stick with her nomination of SPLOST opponent Lance Lamberton to the county’s SPLOST Oversight Committee? Or will she defer to the wishes of Commission Chair Tim Lee and nominate someone else in his place? The vote on Lamberton, barring any changes, is slated for Tuesday.

NATIONALLY KNOWN Civil War historian and author Ed Bearss will be in town for the July 6 meeting of the Cobb County Civil War Roundtable. His visit will come as preparations gear up for the 150th anniversary of The Battle of Kennesaw Mountain, which will be the subject of his 5 p.m. talk that day at the KSU Center, 3333 Busbee Parkway next to BrandsMart.

The talk is free for Roundtable members, $10 for others.

Bearss, who was severely wounded as a young Marine in the Pacific during World War II and who recently celebrated his 90th birthday, is the author of several books, is the Historian Emeritus for the National Park Service and spent time at the Kennesaw battle park during the 1950s. He’s probably best known as one of a handful of featured commentators (along with the late Shelby Foote) in filmmaker Ken Burns’ TV series “The Civil War” that first aired two decades ago on PBS.

For more on Bearss’ visit go to cobbcivil warrt@gmail.com or email David Brannan at brannan53ga@gmail.com.



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