Common Cause opposes public funding for new Falcons stadium

By Maria Saporta

Common Cause Georgia will do all it can to prevent any public funds from being used to build a new stadium for the Atlanta Falcons.

Willam Perry, executive director of Common Cause Georgia, said at the Sustainable Atlanta Roundtable meeting Friday morning that his organization was going to try to get a bill introduced to stop the hotel-motel tax from being used to finance the proposed $1 billion stadium.

In the 2010 session, the General Assembly authorized that the hotel-motel tax collected in the City of Atlanta’s and in unincorporated Fulton County could be extended to build a new stadium as long as it was built on property owned by the Georgia World Congress Center (GWCC).

“We are going to stop it,” Perry said. “We are going to get a bill to stop that from happening.”

In a telephone interview after the SART panel, Perry explained that he would like to see hotel-motel taxes be used on other amenities such as infrastructure improvements. He said he would support changes in the hotel-motel tax legislation to allow the tax to be used on a broader range of tourism and hospitality-oriented projects.

“Mainly we want to change the hotel-motel tax so it is no longer authorized to fund a new stadium, be it in the City of Atlanta or in the suburbs,” Perry said. “It’s a law that they wrote that can be changed.”

At the same time, Perry wrote a letter Friday to Atlanta Falcons owner Arthur Blank complaining about the lack of openness and public involvement in the negotiations of the new stadium. And because of that, Common Cause Georgia “now opposes any public funding being used in the construction of such a stadium.”

Perry’s letter said it does not oppose a new stadium being built; it just opposes it being built with any public dollars

In addition to the funding question, Perry brought up the possibility of Los Angeles trying to woo the Atlanta Falcons to their city. While the Falcons have been committed to Atlanta and Georgia, Perry wanted more assurances from Blank.

“Common Cause Georgia hereby respectfully asks and calls upon you as the majority owner and decision-maker of the Atlanta Falcons to openly publish and declare that the Falcons organization is committed to remaining in Atlanta Georgia….” the letter stated.

GWCC spokeswoman Jennifer LeMaster did not comment on this story because she said the organization is honoring the 15-day quiet period.

The Atlanta Falcons had not responded as of this posting.

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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