By David Pendered
A central question facing the Atlanta City Council is how to harness the city’s influence in the proposed deal to help pay for the planned Falcons stadium.
Just this month, the city enacted a new law that seems to require the stadium’s builders to hire a certain proportion of disadvantaged and underemployed residents. Falcons President Rich McKay said the team is committed to such social objectives – and that they will be addressed.
In addition, some on the council want the new stadium to address blight in nearby neighborhoods, specifically along Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard. However, Councilmember Michael Julian Bond noted that the project can’t be a panacea for, “every social ill under the sun.”
In Buckhead, there’s even talk about seeing if the deal could require the Falcons to pay for construction of a soccer stadium at the public high school being built along I-75, on the site of the former IBM complex. That concept wasn’t discussed Wednesday at the council’s work session.
The new city law, which the council passed unanimously Feb. 4, contains a variety of objectives aimed at the construction industry. The bill was introduced in 2010, indicating it preceded the city’s proposed role in the stadium deal. Whether it will apply to the stadium is a matter of discussion.
The idea behind the new city law is to foster the formation of a middle class through well-paid construction jobs. The legislation says such jobs are open to workers who don’t have advance degrees, or who may face barriers to “quality and sustainable employment.”
Specifically, the law applies to most city contracts, as well as construction projects funded with city revenue bonds. The stadium proposal calls for Atlanta to sell revenue bonds to help pay for the stadium’s construction, with the principal and interest being repaid by revenues from the city’s hotel/motel tax.
The law requires employers to follow certain criteria and maintain a goal of hiring 50 percent of its entry level workers from workers registered with the Atlanta Workforce Development Agency.
In addition, the law creates a new program – City Build – that establishes an apprentice program. Ten percent of construction work must be performed by apprentices, according to the law.
Councilman Ivory Lee Young, Jr. advised Falcons President Rich McKay of the new law. Young said he would like the future term sheet, which would be reached by the city, Falcons, and Georgia World Congress Center Authority, to reference the new law, as well as a hiring goal of 35 percent minority participation for all work on the stadium.
McKay said both matters have been brought to the team’s attention by Penny McPhee, president of the Blank Foundation. McKay said team owner Arthur Blank is committed to being a good civic partner.
“You have our commitment, and everything we can do, to ensure that everyone hired in this project has an equal opportunity program,” McKay said.
“We’re not at a stage where I can say, ‘Let me give you those numbers,’ because we’ve been spending all our time working on a deal that will work for us,” McKay said. “When it comes to the idea of procurement, construction, operations – that commitment will be there and be clear to you. As a general contractor comes on board, we’ll know the things we can and cannot do.”
After Young fleshed out his comments, McKay responded: “We will work with you and see how it can be applied to the contract. From Mr. Blank’s commitment to the city, these programs are going to be as important to us as they are to you.”
The clock is ticking to resolve these and other concerns:
- Within three weeks, the mayor’s office intends to deliver the meat of proposed legislation to the council, according to Atlanta’s COO, Duriya Farooqui;
- Feb. 27, at 6 p.m., the council’s Finance Executive Committee will convene a public input session, at which residents will be allowed to voice their opinions;
- March 1, at noon, council President Ceasar Mitchell has called a special meeting of the council to discuss the proposed financing deal.
- August 2017, the Falcons intend to open their season in a new stadium – where ever that may be located.