Braves’ move was lesson in how not to govern
by Roger Hines
December 08, 2013 12:00 AM | 1188 views | 2 2 comments | 41 41 recommendations | email to a friend | print
I know. It’s a done deal. For now, that is. But billionaire sports team owners enjoy competitive sports, and they are masters at playing taxpayers. Who thinks that the Braves owners won’t be back to negotiate different, better terms within a few years?

The euphoria was undeniable and understandable. It certainly got to me. Visions of sugar plums! Visitors to our county! Visitors bearing dollars, of course! An opportunity to keep Cobb County an exciting, vibrant place!

Frankly, the euphoria is still working on me, messing with my mind and my love for sports, crowds and stadiums. Which is exactly what our county commissioners and business leaders desired and worked hard and fast to drum up. But euphoria should always be examined and considered. Euphoria doesn’t just dazzle; it blinds. Sometimes it should be resisted.

No, the euphoria wasn’t examined. There was no time to examine it. Taxpayers were not allowed to seriously consider the matter and then let their commissioners know what they thought about it.

But no problem. Our commissioners would decide for us. We were supposed to get excited about having a professional baseball team in our backyard and approve of it with no questions. Oh, a few makeshift town halls were held, but within an extremely short time frame.

Apart from the fact that we saw exactly how government should not govern, the maneuvering was brilliant: one elected official makes a deal with powerful, private business interests; he informs the public of the deal; he demands and gets a quick, successful commission vote; community business leaders and Braves owners almost die from ecstasy; and taxpayers — particularly those who don’t care a thing about baseball, but of course are supposed to — stand dazed, not knowing what hit them.

At the town halls there were the obligatory signs, posters, T-shirts, rah-rahs and boos, all of which illustrate the juvenile way in which public policy is hammered out these days.

I’d like very much for the Braves to come to Cobb County, and I already want to go see the new stadium, the shops, the restaurants, and all the other thrilly things, not to mention the possible “Riverwalk” that yet another developer wants to build near the stadium. But all of that is still the euphoria. I don’t like making decisions while under the influence of euphoria. Governments shouldn’t either.

Yes, the county government voted on and approved a deal long before the euphoria had settled. I read recently in a fancy financial magazine that along the Charlotte-to-Phoenix axis, there is a tendency to tear down still-usable structures at the drop of a hat. Often those structures have been paid for by taxpayers and are hardly two decades old. No wonder some of the good folks of the tea party and some of my Libertarian friends are getting fed up with this.

For instance, it’s a shame to tear down the Braves’ Turner Field which was built only 17 years ago. (Who was it that pointed out that Turner Field is younger than Miley Cyrus?) What a waste! What a message to our children! But that’s the way of the Sun Belt. We’ve got to have something newer, bigger and more dazzling, even if we haven’t paid off the structure to which we’re giving the ball and chain.

Yes, I do compare our Commission’s action to the absolutely partisan passage of the Affordable Care Act. Frantic were the faces and the voices of our political and business leaders. They said we should not delay. And whom does that sound like? Yes, Nancy Pelosi, who said we should pass the ACA so that we could see what’s in it.

There’s a philosophical point to be made about the matter as well. Tea partyers and Libertarians were not off base to question the deal. It’s reasonable to perk up and ask questions whenever elected officials hobnob with billionaires and then announce that taxpayers are going to give the billionaires and their multi-million dollar athletes millions of tax dollars.

It’s also not outrageous to argue, as Rep. Charles Gregory did so eloquently, that if a venture can’t stand on its own in the free market, taxpayers shouldn’t be forced to pay for it. Just let ’em vote.

I say much of this is all about guy stuff, namely stadium envy. You know how we Southern guys are, guys from Charlotte, Atlanta, Miami, New Orleans and Houston. If you build a big stadium, we’ll build one bigger.

But it’s not just a Southern guy thing. The San Francisco 49ers and the Minnesota Vikings are set to go calling on their city and state taxpayers for stadiums to be built in 2016. I believe they’re complaining that their athletes need more money.

Roger Hines of Kennesaw is a retired high school English teacher.
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Mike McDonald
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December 09, 2013
The ParaSite:

Cobb County @ I-285 & I-75

How the Liberty Media Braves stole home on Atlanta.

The Liberty Media Braves in cahoots with Cobb County have pulled off a triple play. They have stolen the Atlanta name. They have left the City of Atlanta and Fulton County with a white elephant, still in its teens. And their master plan will damage the economic and environmental infrastructure that they leave in the wake of this cynical, parasitic maneuver.

“The gold standard team, the Atlanta Braves, moves to the gold standard county, Cobb” clucked John Scherholtz, after the Cobb County Commission voted to authorize a memorandum of understanding with the Braves on the night before the eve of Thanksgiving. Thus, mercilessly killing the goose that laid the golden egg for the Braves for half a century … Atlanta, Fulton County, GA.

There are many culprits in this foul play. For starters, they range from the Atlanta Mayor’s office to the Georgia Governor’s office. Oddly, the Mayor seems quite happy to see the Liberty Media Braves leave, which raises questions about his personal agenda for Turner Field and its environs. His feckless actions are in sharp contrast with the courageous, bold moves of the esteemed Mayor Ivan Allen and the Forward Atlanta movement that brought the Braves to Atlanta in1966 as a tangible centerpiece for the slogan: “Atlanta: the World’s Next Great City”. All citizens of Fulton County need to keep a sharp eye on how Turner Field is carved up by hizzoner.

Governor Mis-Deal exclaims that Braves’ move to Cobb is: “Good for the State of Georgia”. While this may be good politics for his Republican base in that bastion of conservatism, Cobb County, it may not play so well in Atlanta and Fulton County come next Election Day. New York City never forgave President Gerald Ford, who during NYC’s financial crisis, in effect, said: “Drop Dead, New York”. Putting Hot Dog Nathan on the grill and turning the heat up might be in order for those of us who think Nat gave us a raw deal with his tone-deaf proclamation.

John Malone, CEO of Liberty Media never met a tax avoidance gambit he didn’t embrace. The scheme to acquire the Braves from Time Warner was solely based upon a tax-free exchange of assets, which has now run its course. Owning a MLB team is not a great fit with Malone’s portfolio of companies … unless there will be significantly new tax breaks accruing from the ParaSite deal. Or, if Terry McGuirk, John Scherholtz et al, have worked out a pre-arrangement to insure their employment futures by anticipating an eventual leveraged buy-out of Liberty’s interest, If the hidden agenda, game plan calls for Casino Gambling in Cobb, Big John Malone may want to permanently stay in the game at the green felt..

Cobb County Commissioners, and other powers that be, epitomize Cobb as the ParaSite. They have beggared their neighbors for years by failing to provide a rapid rail transit system for its booming population and thereby clogging the roads of Fulton and DeKalb Counties with their invading and retreating iron cavalry … while getting a free pass from these fore bearing neighbors. Cobb’s $300 million bribe to the Liberty Media Braves is akin to the biblical “thirty pieces of silver”. Two adages come to mind: one, “Be careful what you wish for” and two, “What goes around, comes around”. The Cobb electorate may well rue the day they got in bed with the gold digging, avaricious Liberty Media Braves. Conceptual drawings depicting the scenes around the ParaSite Stadium smack of a carnival midway-cum-Coney Island. Pure corn on the Cobb.

The juncture of I-285 and I-75 impacts the interstate commerce of our country … as well as the heavy intrastate and local traffic. Currently, without Braves’ traffic, it is a notorious bottleneck that in time lost, wastes multimillions, perhaps billions of dollars. With the Braves at the ParaSite, the lost time factor will be exponentially greater. The Federal, State, County and City DOTs must have an important up-front say concerning the ParaSite’s viability. By exercising their collective responsibility and authority they could call: “Foul ball” on the ParaSite for the public good. A Federal, legal injunction could prevent yet another “Spaghetti Junction” @ The ParaSite.

There is no question that the Liberty Media Braves have financially injured the taxpayers of the City of Atlanta and Fulton County with their planned exodus. The City of Atlanta and Fulton and DeKalb Counties have some powerful weapons in their bat bags to make the Braves sit up and take notice. These remedies are available in the legal courts and in, the even more powerful, court of public opinion. The baseball seasons for 2014, 2015 and 2016 should experience a significant drop in attendance at Turner Field. If enough folks in Metro Atlanta want to vent their outrage at this parasitic ploy, diminished viewership, diminished listenership and diminished readership of Liberty Media Braves baseball could also deliver a severe economic blow to the corporate heart of Liberty Media; and also to its beholden media outlets. Imagine the adverse monetary impact if fans let the Liberty Media Braves’ sponsors know how they feel about this latest example of MLB hubris … screwing and holding cities and their citizens’ hostage and raping their tax base. By not flying Delta or not drinking Coke or Bud or disconnecting ATT, the will of the people would impact corporate P&Ls. Does BBBB have a ring to it? Boycott Braves Base Ball. If released, these Bs can really sting.

If the legendary Judge Kennesaw Mountain Landis were the Commissioner of MLB today, he would not have tolerated this blatant, economic thievery. Landis saved the game of baseball as Commissioner after the Chicago Black Sox Scandal in 1919 through his iron-fisted intolerance of any kind of skullduggery concerning what was, in another era, called: “Base Ball - America’s Pastime”. If he were to be confronted with this ParaSite gambit in Cobb County, he would have surely said: “Not in my backyard”.

This whole episode could play out as a Waterloo for the egregious, over-reaching of all professional sports vis a vis their benevolent, city hosts. Baseball might well end up, past its time, if it doesn’t shape up and fly right. There is a difference between what’s legal and what’s moral, particularly in this ParaSite case. On both counts, the Liberty Media Braves have been caught off base.

The citizen, taxpayers of Atlanta and Fulton County should stage a bench-clearing brawl with the Liberty Media Braves in the absence of any stand-up leadership on the part of the Atlanta Mayor and the Georgia Governor. The best community, legal and business minds of the Major League City of Atlanta should not give up without a smart, tough, street fight even though the “wise-guys” from the Liberty Media Braves claim that “there’s no going back”. The City should throw Malone and his Braves a hard, inside, chin-high, 98 mph, fastball and make ‘em eat dirt.

The near 50-year history of the Braves organization in Atlanta clearly demonstrates that when challenged at clutch-time, they usually fold.

In addition to making the current Mayor and the Governor eat their words of non-support, let’s ultimately make John Scherholtz and Liberty Media seek their fool’s gold elsewhere from Atlanta and its environs. No carpetbaggers, political hacks or ParaSites welcome here in Georgia.

Michael G. McDonald

Chief Nok-a-Homa
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December 08, 2013
Don't miss the profile of Commissar, er Commissioner Lee in the other newspaper's Sunday edition.
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