Falcons community benefits deal due amidst public distrust, as attention is diverted by Braves relocation

By David Pendered

Expect a tour de force starting Monday from those who are ready to wrap up five months worth of talks about a community benefits deal for three neighborhoods adjacent to the future Falcons stadium.

In the first expression of community coalition, Makeda Johnson outlined on Nov. 14 a vision of what the community benefits deal should provide. File/Credit: David Pendered

In the first expression of community coalition, Makeda Johnson outlined on Nov. 14 a vision of what the community benefits deal should provide. File/Credit: David Pendered

And expect the discussion to occur in a bit of a vacuum.

Public attention has drifted to Cobb County and the county commission’s scheduled vote Tuesday over public funding for a Braves stadium. In addition, the bulk of the Atlanta communities’ work product on the Falcons deal has already been introduced in the form of a resolution now pending before the Atlanta City Council and up for a vote in committee Tuesday.

That said, the community benefits deal is at a crucial stage. The city cannot release the $200 million in construction financing it promised in March until a benefits deal has gained council approval. That has to happen Dec. 2 or be delayed well into 2014.

The political question is whether Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed can corral enough council support to prevail in a vote that’s to take place two weeks after the public expressed outrage after learning its preliminary recommendations had been submitted to the council – without a vote by the committee created by the council to craft a deal.

Meanwhile, council President Ceasar Mitchell has said public trust in the process was eroded by the introduction of legislation before the CDP committee had voted. At least one other councilmember, Ivory Lee Young, Jr., has said public outcry must be addressed before the council votes on a community benefits plan.

Councilmember Michael Julian Bond (right) debates a point wtih Councilman Ivory Lee Young Jr. as NPU-L Chair Yvonne Jones listens at the Oct. 23 meeting. File/Credit: David Pendered

Councilmember Michael Julian Bond (right) debates a point wtih Councilman Ivory Lee Young Jr. as NPU-L Chair Yvonne Jones listens at the Oct. 23 meeting. File/Credit: David Pendered

Councilperson Michael Julian Bond, who chairs the Community Benefits Plan Committee and who introduced the pending legislation, has said he always intended for the pending resolution to be updated after the CDP committee approved its final recommendations. Bond has said he introduced the legislation at City Hall in order to preserve the potential for the council to approve a final plan this year.

Reed is expected to attend the Monday evening meeting of the Community Benefits Plan Committee, marking his second appearance at a CBPC meeting. Reed said last week the negotiations are ripe for his personal attention. The timeline the administration hopes for is:

  • Nov. 25 – Approval by the CBP Committee;
  • Nov. 26 – Approval by the city council’s Community Development Committee;
  • Dec. 2 – Approval by the Atlanta City Council.

So far, Reed has prevailed in every turn in the Falcons deal:

  • Reed stepped up early this year when Gov. Nathan Deal passed the issue of public funding to the city;
  • Reed convinced a majority of the council to support the deal at a time an additional public meeting had been scheduled by Councilmember Felecia Moore, chair of the council’s Finance Committee:
  • Reed convinced two historic churches to accept a cash buyout to make way for the future stadium;
  • After the Braves announced their relocation to Cobb, Reed said they were a potential drain on city coffers while the Falcons added revenues: “The Falcons are profitable to the city’s bottom line and prevent me from having to raise your property tax. The scenario with the Braves is nothing like that. Anything done by the Braves would have been financed and backstopped by your property tax – and no revenue stream,” Reed said at a Nov. 20 meeting of the Northwest Community Alliance.

The existing resolution can be amended before a full council vote. The red-line version contains many revisions, yet many proposals remain on the table, including calls for:

  • A full review of the Falcons stadium project by the Atlanta Regional Commission as a development of regional impact;
  • A comprehensive transportation study;
  • Extending the community benefits plan to include the entire $1.2 billion in expected costs of stadium construction.

David Pendered, Managing Editor, is an Atlanta journalist with more than 30 years experience reporting on the region’s urban affairs, from Atlanta City Hall to the state Capitol. Since 2008, he has written for print and digital publications, and advised on media and governmental affairs. Previously, he spent more than 26 years with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and won awards for his coverage of schools and urban development. David graduated from North Carolina State University and was a Western Knight Center Fellow. David was born in Pennsylvania, grew up in North Carolina and is married to a fifth-generation Atlantan.

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