‘Turkey’? or filet mignon? It depends on who you ask about Braves deal
by Joe Kirby, Otis A. Brumby III and Lee B. Garrett, - Around Town Columnists
December 02, 2013 10:52 AM | 2442 views | 0 0 comments | 90 90 recommendations | email to a friend | print

“TURKEY DAY” is just two days away. And critics of the Atlanta Braves’ plans to move to Cobb County describe it just that way — as a “turkey” of a deal.

But to Cobb Commission Chairman Tim Lee and the many local supporters of the move, it’s filet mignon, not turkey.

Details of the pending deal are well known by now and don’t need to be rehashed here. Suffice it to say that the impact on local property taxes outside the Cumberland Community Improvement District would be minimal, just $26 for the owner of a $200,000 house.

That hasn’t stopped critics from mounting a last-minute push to delay tonight’s vote by the Cobb Commission on whether to approve a Memorandum of Understanding with the Braves. Those critics argue for delay and complain about wanting full transparency. Yet many have yet to articulate what it is they are looking for, what they hope to find or what it is the county has yet to release.

There’s no question that for many of those pushing to delay the move, their real agenda is to derail it. A delay of a few weeks or months will give them time to nitpick the deal to death; give the city of Atlanta time to mount a more serious counter-offer; and give other communities (Gwinnett County, to name just one) time to come up with their own proposals to put under the Braves’ noses.

Only six speakers are expected to be allowed to address the commission at its meeting tonight, but you can be sure that the meeting room will be packed with forces for and against the move. 

 

THERE’S LITTLE QUESTION
 that Chairman Lee is gambling his political career on the Braves deal. He’s already tended to live “close to the edge” during his brief tenure as chair, after he barely managed to pass an extension of the county road sales tax in 2011, raised property taxes later that year to avoid a budget shortfall, survived being the Cobb “front man” for the unpopular TSPLOST referendum that was clobbered by voters in summer 2012 and needed a runoff to narrowly hold off three candidates running to his right in the 2012 GOP primary. He’s clearly had more than his share of close calls for such a short (three year) career as chairman.

But Lee won’t have to face the voters again until the summer of 2016, an eon from now in political terms. Yes, some voters will have long memories and it’s possible that that campaign could be a referendum on how the stadium deal looks two years down the road. But the guess here is that it will still be on track and that if Lee were to get snagged on an issue, it would be on something that has yet to come along. 

 

LEE WON’T BE THE ONLY
 commissioner with the dice in his hand tonight. Commissioners Helen Goreham of northwest Cobb and JoAnn Birrell of east Cobb will face the voters next year, some of whom might still be simmering about their expected backing tonight of the Braves deal. But both have been astute judges of public opinion in their districts most of the time and probably are not marching in the opposite direction of their voters now. And Around Town’s prediction is that there are more people in those districts excited about the Braves move than there are people worried about the finances or traffic connected with it.

Yet it’s harder to tell how the dice will roll for Southeast Cobb Commissioner Bob Ott, who initially was excited about the move but has backed away from it as the tea party winds started howling in his district. If he heeds their call and votes against the MOU, he can forget about having significant impact on the project as it goes forward, and Lee could also freeze him out on other issues regarding his district. On the other hand, if Ott ignores the tea partiers, politicos say he increases the likelihood he’ll have a primary challenger next time he runs, although he won’t be on the ballot again until 2016. 

 

AN UNLIKELY
 rainbow coalition of opponents to the move has coalesced under the banner of the “Citizens for Government Transparency.” Its members include tea party groups like the Madison Forum ( Michael Opitz), the Gwinnett-based Atlanta Tea Party Patriots ( Debra Dooley), the East Cobb Democratic Alliance ( Tom Barksdale), The Cobb Taxpayers Association ( Lance Lamberton), the Cobb Immigrant Alliance ( Rich Pellegrino), the Georgia Community Coalition (the Rev. Coakley Pendergrass), the Cobb SCLC (Dr. H. Benjamin Williams), the Partnership for Southern Equity ( Charles Walker), The Powder Springs Community Task Force ( Elliott Hennington) and The Cobb United for Change Coalition.

The North Fulton and Friends Tea Party weighed in on Monday, demanding a two month delay and a public referendum on the move.

Also opposing the move is the Georgia Sierra Club, which sent out a press release Monday describing the Braves’ stadium plans as “wasteful of wooded acres in a prime location in Cobb County” and describing the planned stadium site as a great place on which to build playing fields. No mention, though, of the fact that those same “wooded acres” would have to be clear-cut to build playing fields, too. And no mention, of course, of the fact that playing fields would generate no money for the Cobb school systems like the stadium complex will — or of the fact that county-owned playing fields would generate even less tax revenue for schools than the land does now under its present use as vacant land under the ownership of the B.F. Saul Co.

 
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