MDJ hit foul ball with Cobb-Braves analysis
by Tom Barksdale
February 19, 2014 12:00 AM | 2051 views | 2 2 comments | 40 40 recommendations | email to a friend | print
A recent MDJ “Around Town” column cited Kennesaw State University professor of Sport Management Dr. J.C. Bradbury’s opinion that Cobb Commissioners learned from Gwinnett County’s mistakes when negotiating with the Braves and cut a deal that guarantees Cobb handsome benefits from the Braves move. The article implied that, unlike the Gwinnett agreement, the Cobb/Braves Memorandum of Understanding guarantees Cobb revenues from things like parking and naming rights.

However, the article failed to cite the specific words of the MOU that grant this guarantee. Further, there is no mention of the actual dollar amounts Cobb is so assured of receiving and there is no independent financial analysis provided.

The MOU, after all, is exactly that: a general statement of intentions on both sides, woefully short on facts or in-depth analysis. No specific contracts have yet been signed that might clarify the two parties’ financial obligations. Cobb citizens still do not have the information needed to make an informed judgment about this deal.

In my opinion, Cobb citizens cannot assume that Cobb’s procedures have been better than Gwinnett’s because the Cobb MOU was made public, while Gwinnett’s was not.

The Cobb Citizens for Government Transparency dissents strongly from the idea that elected officials deserve praise for doing the absolute minimum required of them when presenting their constituents with a proposal requiring the commitment of hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars — at a time when our schools and public safety departments are strapped for cash.

The public announcement in November came with an arrogant grant of only two weeks for public analysis and comment. Depicting this travesty as the epitome of good government does the citizens of Cobb County a gross injustice.

Braves Chief Operating Officer Clint Moore’s public statement about stadium traffic at a January civic club meeting flagrantly compares apples and oranges. Moore looks at the Cumberland bottle neck — and assures us that, compared to Turner Field’s location, it will be traffic nirvana. No projections of vehicle numbers, rush hour surge, maps, routes — just “trust me, all will be well.”

The specifics on taxpayer obligations remain vague. The CCGT’s assessment is that this is a complex issue receiving too little attention to detail by our elected commissioners and much of the media.

The role the Braves deal played in the sudden resignation of two respected Cobb public servants sounds an alarm about the pitfalls involved. Cobb Public Safety Director Jack Forsythe announced his resignation in a scathing letter that cited an alarming shortfall in resources for his department — and specifically cited the Braves complex as sure to strain those resources further.

Parks Board Member Jim Dugan said: “I disagree with the way in which the process was handled … and how significantly, and adversely, it may lessen the availability of funding to other county departments.”

The CCGT is an ad-hoc coalition of diverse groups that span the spectrum from liberal to conservative. In December, we hand-delivered to the Board of Commissioners a letter with numerous questions about the Braves deal, and asked for a reply within two weeks.

The Board simply ignored our request. The CGT finally received a pro-forma letter on Jan. 10 which ignored the questions and told us to visit their web page.

The CCGT does not oppose the Braves’ move to Cobb. We simply want elected officials to abandon their imperial attitude and provide more information and more time for the public to assess that information.

Tom Barksdale is a member of Cobb Citizens for Governmental Transparency.
Comments
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Cobb Taxpayer
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February 21, 2014
Great and accurate viewpoint - cause for thought ?

The headline should be MDJ Wiffes on Cobb Brave Deals.
Joseph Pond
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February 19, 2014
The last two sentences mirror my opinion of the Braves Deal. Thank you, Tom, for summing up how a LOT of feel about this.
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