Broad coalition calls for 60-day delay in Cobb vote for new Braves stadium

By Maria Saporta

A broad-based coalition of citizen, taxpayer and environmental advocacy groups is calling for a 60-day delay in the Cobb County Commission’s scheduled vote on Tuesday for a new $672 million Braves stadium.

The groups have formed the “Citizens for Governmental Transparency”  an ad hoc committee of organizations that includes the Atlanta Tea Party Patriots,  the Cobb County SCLC, the Cobb Taxpayers Association, the Cobb Immigrant Alliance, the Sierra Club – Georgia Chapter, the Partnership for Southern Equity, the Madison Forum, the Cobb United for Change Coalition, the East Cobb Democratic Alliance, the Cobb County NAACP and the Georgia Community Coalition among others.

Although the ad hoc coalition includes members who are both for and against the proposed Braves stadium deal, in a letter to Cobb County Commissioners, the group stated:

“We are unified in our belief that Cobb citizens should be given time to review and publicly comment on any Braves stadium deal that will require the use of significant county tax dollars. Therefore, we the “Citizens for Governmental Transparency” respectfully request that the Cobb County Board of Commissioners delay the Tuesday, November 26, 2013 proposed Braves stadium vote for a minimum of 60 days.”   

The ad hoc group also said that as residents and taxpayers, they believe that “citizens should be appropriately informed and engaged when significant tax dollars are obligated or expended by our elected officials.”

The group will be mounting a full-fledged, 11th hour effort on Monday and Tuesday before the Nov. 26 vote at 7 p.m. Their supporters are asked to wear red to show a united front in asking for the 60-day delay.

Several events are planned beginning with a press conference at 10:30 a.m. on Monday at the Cobb County Board of Commissioners at 100 Cherokee St. in Marietta, when advocates will read the letter sent to commissioners.

Another press conference will be held at 3:30 p.m. on Monday at the Mountain View Regional Library at 3320 Sandy Plains Road in Marietta, preceding Commissioner Joann Birrell’s town hall meeting there.

Ad hoc members also are expected to attend Commissioner Lisa Cupid’s town hall meeting on Monday night at 7 p.m. at the South Cobb Community Centr at 620 Lions Club Drive S.W. in Mableton or at Commissioner Bill Ott’s town hall meeting on Monday night at 7 p.m. at the Cobb County Board of Commissioners at 100 Cherokee St. in Marietta.

Of course, everyone is invited to attend the Cobb Board of Commissioners meeting Tuesday night at 7 p.m. at 100 Cherokee St. in Marietta when the vote is scheduled to take place.

No matter the outcome of the vote, the Citizens for Governmental Transparency plan to hold a follow-up meeting and town hall meeting tentatively scheduled for Wednesday, Dec. 4 at 7 p.m. to discuss the next steps after the vote and set up action committees.

“It is unfortunate that the Cobb County Board of Commissioners has adamantly refused to give Cobb residents the same courtesy that Mayor Kasim Reed gave Atlanta citizens on the new stadium for the Falcons,” said Debbie Dooley of the Atlanta Tea Party Patriots. “Mayor Reed held a series of public hearings on the public financing of the new stadium.”

Dooley went on to say that it appears that Cobb Commissioners do not believe the voice of Cobb citizens should be heard.

“If they go through with the vote two days before Thanksgiving, they leave voters with no recourse but to consider a recall campaign against those who voted to deny Cobb citizens public hearings on public financing of the Braves stadium,” Dooley said. “One has to ask if the Commissioners are trying to conceal the true cost of the new stadium from tax-payers and that is why the vote is being rushed?”

The Cobb Braves stadium also is reinforcing the Green Tea Party that was initially formed during a shared opposition to the regional transportation sales tax in 2012 and re-established earlier this year during hearings at the Georgia Public Service Commission on the accessibility of solar power.

Colleen Kiernan, director of the Georgia Chapter of the Sierra Club, said Sunday that the organization’s Centennial Group that covers Cobb and North Fulton voted on Thursday to oppose Cobb County funding for a new Braves stadium.

Kiernan said the Sierra Club was opposing the new Braves stadium based on five concerns:

First is the issue of open space. The Sierra Club said that the Cumberland area has very little open space. If the heavily-forested 60-acre site for the proposed stadium is developed, the Sierra Club is concerned about the amount of increased pollution and run-off.

A related issue is that the Sierra Club feels quite strongly that the Cobb bond referendum passed for parks should not be redirected for the stadium. Kiernan called that move a “bait and switch,” which has angered the environmental organization’s members. Voters approved the bonds for parks. After 2017, if they want funding for parks, that would involve a tax increase.

Second, the Sierra Club cares about the preservation of “our culture and heritage.” Turner Field — which was converted out of the 1996 Olympic Stadium — contributed to Atlanta’s entrance on the international stage, and that should be preserved, Kiernan said.

Third, the Sierra Club supports the “compact urban form” — areas with small blocks, sidewalks and parks that invite the opportunity for walkable neighborhoods.

“The supersized blocks around the Cumberland area necessitate automobile trips and are not conducive to bikes, walking or transit.

Fourth, the Sierra Club is concerned about the lack of acceess of affordable transit to the new Cobb Braves stadium. “Until the financial commitment is there (for bus rapid transit or rail), the Sierra Club can not support public funding” for the new Braves stadium.

Lastly, Kiernan said was the most simple and direct reason.

“We do not support wasting resources,” she said. “It’s simply wasteful to demolish a stadium that’s less than 20 years old.”

Maria Saporta, Editor, is a longtime Atlanta business, civic and urban affairs journalist with a deep knowledge of our city, our region and state.  Since 2008, she has written a weekly column and news stories for the Atlanta Business Chronicle. Prior to that, she spent 27 years with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, becoming its business columnist in 1991. Maria received her Master’s degree in urban studies from Georgia State and her Bachelor’s degree in journalism from Boston University. Maria was born in Atlanta to European parents and has two young adult children.

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