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Atlanta City Council to seek Braves advice on fixing Ted area, pass Falcons community benefits deal

Never let it be said that the Atlanta City Council doesn’t have a sense of hope and humor.

The council will ask the Atlanta Braves to serve on a task force to recommend ways to spiff up the Turner Field area. The Braves intend to leave the Ted for Cobb County in the the 2017 season.

In addition, the council expects to adopt Monday the community benefits deal regarding the future Falcons stadium, which has riled some civic leaders, and a slate of recommendations on how to bolster Atlanta’s central business district – where the office vacancy rate is among the region’s highest.

Falcons stadium funding clears hurdle; Atlanta City Council to cast final vote Dec. 2 on last provision

This story has been updated.

The Atlanta City Council is slated to vote Dec. 2 on the community benefits deal that must be approved before the city can provide $200 million in construction funding for the future Falcons stadium.

The council’s Community Development Committee approved an amended deal at 7:20 p.m., almost four hours after residents of stadium neighborhoods first gathered in a crowded council meeting room.

The outcome of the city’s $200 million in stadium funding remains uncertain. Opponents have said they will file a lawsuit to prevent the city from issuing the funds.

Community cut out of community benefits deal at Falcons stadium; Mayor Reed ready to engage

Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed is on track to wrap up on Dec. 2 the loose ends of the city’s promise to provide $200 million to the Falcons for a new stadium.

For that to happen, a committee that’s worked on a community benefits plan since July was told Wednesday night that it will not get to recommend a plan to the Atlanta City Council. The political fallout has already begun: Atlanta City Council President Ceasar Mitchell says the process has lost credibility; civic leaders talked Wednesday of filing a lawsuit to halt the process of providing the money to the Falcons.

While this controversy was erupting at City Hall, Reed was at a community meeting near Buckhead talking about a number of initiatives for his second term – including the demolition of Turner Field, after the Braves depart in 2017, in order to create a 57-acre tract that will be, Reed said, “wildly attractive to investment.”

Falcons funding deal oh so close, but politics and opposition could extend debate into first quarter of 2014

The stage is all but set for the Atlanta City Council to approve on Dec. 2 the community benefits deal that’s required for the city to provide its $200 million to help pay for a new Falcons stadium.

Whether that will happen remains a huge question. There likely is a good deal of political pressure mounting on one side for the council to pass the measure, and on the other to defer a vote until two newly elected citywide councilmembers take office in January – Andre Dickens and Mary Norwood. Both were opposed by Mayor Kasim Reed.

In addition, a scathing YouTube video was posted late Thursday. The two co-spokesmen are the Rev. Anthony Motley and the Rev. W.L. Cottrell, Sr. – both with deep ties to the stadium communities and both of whom have criticized the city’s process for crafting a community benefits deal.

Atlanta Brave looks back on choosing family over baseball fame

When the Braves made yet another early post-season exit last week, this time against the Los Angeles Dodgers, former closer Billy Wagner said he was in bed. He said he was too busy working with his son’s private high school baseball team, which he coaches, in Crozet, Va. to watch the National League Division Series.

In 2010, Wagner gave up $6.5 million from the Atlanta Braves, the near-certainty of being major league baseball’s No. 1 closer and any hope of playing in a World Series. He chose home over the game.

How could he give all that up so easily? He answers in a new memoir, “A Way Out: Faith, Hope & Love of the Game.”

Falcons stadium: Local hiring plan still to be addressed in discussions of community benefits deal

The issue of how to harness the economic power of the future Falcons stadium in order to create jobs for lower income residents of nearby neighborhoods has received scant attention in the discussion to date.

Now the jobs forecast is in: 1,300 new jobs are predicted in the city’s redevelopment plan that covers English Avenue and Vine City, but not Castleberry Hill – which is supposed to be part of the deal. Of these jobs, 47 appear to be temporary construction-related jobs; 891 appear to be permanent jobs in retail shops and a hotel; and the tasks associated with 362 jobs are not specified in the plan.

There has yet to be a significant discussion of the creation of local hiring program to give nearby residents a first crack at these jobs – let alone jobs building the stadium.  Yet such a program is not new ground, because Atlanta has established provisions relating to jobs in previous community benefits deals.

Falcons stadium: Residents question $15 million city had earmarked before deal reached among city, state, team

The $15 million offered by Atlanta to fix up neighborhoods around the planned Falcons stadium is the subject of an emerging controversy.

The money had already been earmarked for the neighborhoods before the stadium deal was announced in March, according to an Invest Atlanta official. A planning firm had already been hired to recommend how the money be spent.

In that case, the sum shouldn’t be counted toward efforts to help mitigate stadium-related issues such as traffic and storm water runoff, according to neighborhood leaders who serve on the committee that’s guiding the stadium-related community benefits deal.

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No quit in football team of Atlanta immigrants

Down 41-0 at halftime Friday night, the Cross Keys Indians could have easily folded. They had every reason to be discouraged: They haven’t had a winning season since 1994. They haven’t won a game since Sept. 16, 2011.

But these sons of immigrants, first generation Americans and football players, never fold. Just as their parents haven’t given up on building a good life in a sometimes inhospitable land of opportunity, so too, it seems, these teenagers keep believing they can master a game that was alien to them as children.  

“Giving up is for punks,” said senior quarterback and free safety Oluwatomi “Tomi” Adedayo, whose team of 37 players includes 16 born in Asia, Africa, and Central America. “You start to give up and they’ll see it in your eyes. So you just keep your head up and you keep fighting.”

Clues of interest rate on Falcons stadium bonds may come from another Atlanta bond sale Tuesday

Atlanta is scheduled to sell more than $550 million in revenue bonds Tuesday in order to refinance existing water and sewer bonds, according to bondbuyer.com.

The refund itself appears unexceptional, though the sale may have prompted credit rating agencies to review – and improve the rating on – Atlanta’s $3.1 billion in outstanding wastewater system revenue bonds.

However, the sale planned for Tuesday does offer a window into the current state of municipal debt at a time Atlanta prepares to sell $200 million in bonds for a new Falcons stadium. Atlanta will be selling into a volatile market in which buyers demand increasingly high interest rates for bonds maturing in more than 10 years, according to an Aug. 8 report by Morgan Stanley Wealth Management:

Atlanta’s $200 million for Falcons stadium now bottled up in committee

Atlanta City Council President Ceasar Mitchell applied the brakes Wednesday to efforts to hurry the city into providing $200 million in construction financing for the new Falcons stadium.

Mitchell’s action seems to bolster Atlanta’s bargaining position in the negotiations to have the stadium built on the south site – the location preferred by the city. The Falcons organization said July 30 it is focusing on the north site because the south site was not on track by Aug. 1 to be acquired from two churches.

Mitchell’s action makes it unlikely that Atlanta will be in a position to provide any of the $200 million anytime soon, and certainly not during the November timeframe that seemed possible just last month. It’s not clear when the Falcons need the money from Atlanta to continue with design and development.

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Fran Tarkenton ran onto the field in his first college game, launched a long drive and a legendary career

The Georgia Bulldogs were losing 7-0 in the fourth quarter in their season opener in Austin, Texas, when they fielded a punt on the five yard line. The University of Texas, then the #11 team in the country, seemingly had the game well in hand on that humid Saturday night, September 20, 1958. Eighteen-year-old Sophomore Fran Tarkenton was not only a third-string quarterback on the Bulldogs, his coach was planning to frustrate the ambitious athlete further by postponing his football career another year by designating him a “red-shirt” player.

As the offensive players ran onto the field, Fran looked over and saw his team’s star quarterback sitting on the bench. In a move that today would no doubt be played over and over on ESPN Sports Center highlights, Fran strapped on his helmet and ran onto the field and knelt down in the huddle and called the next play.

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After basketball star Drey Mingo lost her hearing, she started nonprofit for hearing-impaired children

As the captain of the Purdue Boilermakers women’s basketball team for a third straight year, Andrea ‘Drey’ Mingo is no stranger to hard work. The 6-foot-2 forward was a McDonald’s All-American at Atlanta’s Marist high school, an AP honorable mention All-American in college and has dreams of one day being a pediatric cardiologist. But no amount of physical or mental training could have prepared her for the trials and tribulations she faced starting in her junior season at Purdue.

Drey went to her trainer to say she wasn’t feeling well. She was prescribed some over-the-counter antibiotics and sent home. A day later, she was found unconscious on her bedroom floor. She had contracted bacterial meningitis. She lost her hearing five days later.

With stadium deal approved, GWCC seeks new lobbyist for state, local affairs – especially Atlanta City Hall

Now that Atlanta has approved public funding for the Falcons stadium, the Georgia World Congress Center is hiring a new lobbyist at a salary that could exceed $100,000 a year.

The GWCC was sidelined during the final financial negotiations for public funding for the $1 billion stadium. Gov. Nathan Deal decided against asking the Legislature to get involved in the tax issue and asked Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed to broker a deal with the Falcons.

Frank Poe, the GWCC’s executive director, told ESPN.com on the day the preliminary deal was announced, March 7, that he was not aware of the financial agreement until, “the last 24 hours.”

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Disturbing story sparked minister Fred Northup’s Moment to start group promoting sportsmanship

After serving 25 years as a minister in the Episcopal Church, Fred Northup opened up his newspaper’s sports section to find something more troubling than usual in December 1997. As he read a story on NBA basketball player Latrell Sprewell angrily walking up to his Golden State Warriors coach P.J. Carlesimo and choking him during a practice, he sensed the future of sports was in deep trouble. He wondered if he could help.

Living in Seattle at the time, Fred and his wife were preparing to move to Atlanta and he was looking forward to a lunch meeting with a friend to discuss his options in Atlanta. But their lunch conversation focused on the Sprewell incident. Fred tried to change the subject.

“He said, ‘Well, Fred, you can do a lot of things, but if you could get these athletes to grow up and behave then the world would love it.’ ”

A relation between stadium deal and stalled MARTA bill? Who’s to say

There may be no relation whatsoever, but the plan to build a new Falcons stadium is moving forward and the proposed legislation to restructure MARTA and privatize some of its operations appears to be fading for the 2013 session.

Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed’s administration delivered a final deal within two months after receiving a troubled proposal from Gov. Nathan Deal. Reed’s team provided the $200 million in construction financing, plus somewhere around $100 million in public/private funds to fix up the area around the future stadium.

Rep. Mike Jacobs (R-Brookhaven) indicated Tuesday that he’s done about all he can to sweeten his team’s proposal to reorganize MARTA. Jacobs has offered to eliminate the privatization provision in House Bill 264 and to resolve in MARTA’s favor all but one concern MARTA has raised. Still, the bill is stalled in the Senate.

Atlanta City Council passes stadium deal; two approvals down, one to go

By Maria Saporta and Dave Williams

Despite pleas from constituents to slow down the train, the Atlanta City Council voted Monday evening 11 to 4 to approve a funding plan for a new $1 billion football stadium in downtown Atlanta.

The City Council vote, which did not go through the normal multi-week committee process, was pushed through on a super fast track on Monday after a six-hour meeting of the whole council.

That approval followed Friday’s unanimous vote by the Georgia World Congress Center Authority that endorsed the new retractable roof stadium for the Atlanta Falcons. Only one more governmental body is needed to approve the deal — the board of Invest Atlanta.

Revive communities by designing new Falcons stadium on a human scale

Part Two: A new football stadium and the surrounding communities

If the first time you don’t succeed, try again.

When the Georgia Dome was developed 23 years ago, setting aside $10 million for the adjacent community — including an $8 million housing trust fund — was seen as a way to address the area’s multiple problems.

But two decades later, the situation has only gotten worse. Population has declined from about 9,000 to 3,000. Nearby blocks that used to be filled with homes are now boarded up or vacant lots, some victims of flooding that could have been caused by run-offs from downtown developments including the convention center and the Georgia Dome.

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In Africa, former Atlantan helps kids One World Futbol at a time

For a couple of weeks in 1996, Sandra Cress helped bring the world of soccer to Atlanta. Today she lives in Nairobi and is helping children around the world live healthier lives through one tough soccer ball that stays round when they kick it.

The standard soccer balls used across Atlanta suburbs don’t stand a chance in the thorns, glass and barbed wire of the developing world. There, kids create makeshift balls of rags or whatever they can find. Cress said she saw kids kicking a ball made of old fruit taped together.

The virtually indestructible One World Futbol, made of a hard foam similar to that in Crocs sandals, has already transformed Cress’ world and should inspire anyone with deep knowledge, contacts and enthusiasm that do not seem to fit in the present job market. The indestructible ball offered Cress an opportunity to come full circle in her passion for soccer and expertise in humanitarian aid.

New Falcons Staduim

To the rescue — City of Atlanta carries the ball for new Falcons stadium

Part One: The politics of the new Atlanta Falcons stadium deal

Once again, the City of Atlanta is leading the way.

The tentative agreement reached between the City of Atlanta and the Atlanta Falcons holds great significance — far beyond the building of a new home for one of the state’s top professional sports teams.

The agreement is yet one more example that without Atlanta’s leadership, Georgia would have been stuck in reverse.

There are too many examples to name.

But here are a few. Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport, arguably the most important economic engine for the whole state, was and is a creature of the City of Atlanta.

Atlanta’s new workforce law among possible community agreements to be addressed by city, Falcons

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.”