Group requests BoC answer questions on Braves deal
by Leo Hohmann
December 13, 2013 11:50 PM | 4267 views | 14 14 comments | 45 45 recommendations | email to a friend | print
download Citizens for Governmental Transparency Letter
MARIETTA — A coalition of 11 citizens groups seeking greater transparency on the Braves stadium deal has sent a letter to Cobb County Commissioners requesting answers to its questions.

The Board of Commissioners approved the basic framework of the deal Nov. 26 with only Lisa Cupid, the commissioner repre-senting south Cobb, voting against. A final contract still must be appr-oved.

Like Cupid, the coalition of groups calling itself Citizens for Governmental Transparency is looking for more answers and a full risk analysis, said Tom Barks-dale, who heads the East Cobb Demo-cratic Alliance and penned the letter on behalf of the coalition.

The letter “respectfully requests that the Cobb County Board of Commissioners provide answers to the questions posed in this letter by Dec. 27.”

The questions have to do with financing, economic impact, transportation, taxes and other issues. It can be read in full online at mdjonline.com.

“I think it comes down to what are the actual facts, and where is the solid evidence of actual revenue that this (stadium development) is going to generate,” Barksdale said.

“And we have it on solid source that a number of other stadiums with exactly the same model did not materialize to the extent that was promised. So, what benefits are actually going to be derived? That would be my biggest question.”

One of the examples cited is the Braves’ minor league stadium in Gwinnett County, which Madison Forum president Michael Opitz, also a member of the coalition, said “has not panned out” as planned.

The coalition’s letter

says a 3 percent car rental tax plus stadium-generated revenue won’t be enough to cover the debt when principal payments begin in 2014. They based that claim on a recent Reason magazine article.

Not ready to sue

Barksdale is a retired intelligence analyst for the U.S. government who started the East Cobb Democratic Alliance in 2005, a group he said now has 30 to 35 “active members” with 200 to 300 on its membership rolls.

He said the diverse coalition, which includes liberal and conservative groups, has not hired a lawyer and does not, at this time, plan to file a lawsuit against the county. But that option has not been taken off the table.

“We do have lawyers in our group but we have not specifically hired one,” Barksdale said. “We are not backing a lawsuit at this time. We don’t rule it out in the future, but we’re not really confronting the board in any confrontational way. It’s an option we all hold open. There are some serious issues we all hope to get answers to.”

The coalition’s letter states that some of the groups involved are in favor of bringing the Braves to Cobb, they just would like to see more information.

The organization is made up of 11 organizations ranging from the conservative Cobb Taxpayers Association, the Madison Forum and the Atlanta Tea Party Patriots, to the liberal East Cobb Democratic Alliance and Cobb County Southern Christian Leadership Conference and Rich Pellegrino’s Cobb Immigrant Alliance.

They conducted a press conference Friday morning to formally read the letter and then presented it to the commissioners’ office.

Lee says he will respond

Commission Chairman Tim Lee said late Friday afternoon that he hadn’t had a chance to read the letter yet but would make an effort to answer any specific questions posed.

“We’ll put it in line and answer it just like everyone else’s questions we get, but we will respond to it in a timely manner to the best of my ability,” Lee said.

Lee said he has not had many formal requests for information from citizens.

“Not really,” he said. “The types of questions I’m getting now are more the type, how did I personally, Tim Lee, ‘how the heck did you do that?’ The negotiations aspect. That sort of intrigues people.”

Lance Lamberton, president of the Cobb Taxpayers Association and a member of the new coalition, said he recognizes that “most people are enthused about the Braves coming to Cobb County” but he wants to be able to examine the merits of the deal based on facts, not fanciful projections and promises.

“It’s the issue of how it’s being financed,” he said.

Lamberton said his primary concern is that, if the projections of tax revenue fall short, individual Cobb County taxpayers could be called upon down the road to make up the difference.

“If that’s the case, it’s stealing from the poor to give to the rich,” he said.

Strange bedfellows

Barksdale said it would take a big issue like the Braves stadium to bring such diverse groups together.

“This is probably one of the most unusual coalitions in America today,” he said. “There’s not very many places where this diverse of groups could get together and ask their local government for solutions. Looking at some of my partners, I would never have felt I would be involved in their lives and I’m sure they feel the same way about me, but here we are. There are some real issues that need to be resolved here.”

Barksdale said he believes it is the diversity of the group that will get leaders’ attention.

“I am cautiously optimistic they will recognize this is a broad-based coalition of citizens and that they would take the time to answer, and that these are legit questions posed by their constituents and we are hoping for an answer by Dec. 27.”

Read the six-page letter from Citizens for Governmental Transparency, which lists questions and concerns about the deal.



Comments
(14)
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anonymous
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December 14, 2013
Sad to see some otherwise respectable groups align themselves with attention seekers and hustlers looking for a payoff.

richierichie
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December 16, 2013
To anonymous, agreed. 'otherwise respectable groups align themselves with attention seekers and hustlers looking for a payoff' is code for, 'Rich Pellegrino!' The dude has no shame.
richierichie
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December 14, 2013
Rich Pellegrino...what a joke. He's Cobb County's own Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton, all rolled into one. He sticks his mug into the fray, any chance he can get. He's willing to let freebies flow like diarrhea for the illegals, but wants to stir up trouble for one of the best things to ever happen to Cobb County. Why does anyone give this fool the time of day? Any credibility this group might have goes out the door when they associate with Rich
Ol' Retired Doc
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December 14, 2013
The citizens of Cobb County have been kept in the

dark about most of the details of this deal and it's time for an enlightenment. We have been betrayed by our commissioners in a manner which is

unprecedented. I am ashamed and dumfounded at the

treatment we have received from our "representatives".
Just Wait
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December 14, 2013
I really don't care that much one way or the other about the Braves deal. What does upset me is that 5 or 10 people who aren't happy about it making demands, not informing themselves and tying up MY tax dollars in frivolous law suits to fit THEIR agendas. They seem to not realize that other people live in this county and that they can't have everything their way.
Community Lynn
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December 13, 2013
Makes me wonder what else this group is wrong about...they say they can't find who sits on the Cobb-Marietta Coliseum and Exhibit Hall Authority board. Well, they certainly didn't look very hard...the names are on the Cobb County Government website and MDJ has published the names.

"All seven members on the authority voted in favor, including county Chairman Tim Lee, Marietta Mayor Steve Tumlin, Smyrna Mayor Max Bacon, former county chairman Earl Smith, Authority Chairman Jerry Nix, developers Bob Voyles and Johnny Gresham."
I16
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December 13, 2013
Do you really think Lee. Gorham, Otto and the other clowns care?

Let's go Braves.

How about naming the New Stadium Hammering Hank?

G Levinwitz
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December 13, 2013
Wow, a collection of extremist groups came together and wrote a letter. I'm surprised the Muslim Brotherhood isn't involved. This will do a lot of good.
A Richardson
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December 14, 2013
Since when is being concerned that public money is spent wisely and for the benefit of the whole community "extremist?" The fact is that liberals, who advocate wise spending and taxation (perhaps more than some would like), and Tea Party people, who advocate very little taxation, can agree on this issue, namely that (1) the deal spends taxpayer money that the county CLAIMED it does not have, and thus could not spend on the task of educating our children, when the budget was passed, and now suddenly we can afford, and (2) the SECRECY with which it was negotiated "smells" of possible (maybe not, but possible) corruption.

Incidentally, such negotiations are explicitly BANNED in some states, such as our oft-maligned neighbor, Florida (which has had a Sunshine Law in place since the 1970s, so strict that customers of a public utility are warned not to send emails to that utility, since their email addresses and the texts become public record).

When I was taking civics classes in high school, the idea of locking a governmental entity into a contract with no public scrutiny, other than military secrets of course, was considered PRIMA FACIE crooked. So yes, two groups who may disagree about other issues can agree on this one.

And what does the Muslim Brotherhood have to do with this? They do not even operate in the US, but if they did, and objected to misappropriating taxpayer money, we would be happy to work with them also. I believe their religion, like most others, puts ethical constraints on officials who serve the public (as in, thou shalt not steal). But don't worry, no one is going to let the MB cut off Tim Lee's hand.
Connie Mack Jr
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December 14, 2013
Right! Now to really make a big impact on the issue is for the Groups to armed themselves to the teeth and march on the Muslin Brotherhood and the Braves Corporate Board and Tommyhawk them to Death or Goldman Sachs decides that the Bond issue is too hot for them to handle...
Rich Pellegrino
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December 14, 2013
Hmmmm...I guess you are right, in one sense...anytime citizens stand up or stand together for transparency and accountability in government that is an "extremist group" in this county and country..."extremely active" compared to the apathetic masses and lemmings who let their elected leaders get away with nonsense and then sit in their armchairs and complain about them. I would suggest you and any other armchair warriors get out and meet some of these "extremists" and find out...hey, they aren't really much different than anyone else...especially those whose opinions, affiliations and labels differ from yours. This has been the greatest win already for Cobb....that the Braves and BOC, through their back room dealings, have brought together the most diverse coalition in the history of Cobb and most other places. (And you'd be surprised how many "moderates" of all persuasions, are with us.)

So, again, I invite you to join us for a meeting, or even, if that is too outside your comfort zone, an on-line discussion via email. You will be pleasantly surprised.
Let us vote!!!!!!
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December 13, 2013
Please, let the county residents who will pay for the darn play pen vote on it, or let the BOC sign as co-lenders personally since it cannot do anything but make $$$$$!!!!! Why do we need a public private deal, let the BRAVES finance it thru LIBERTY their owner!!
u dont live n Cobb
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December 13, 2013
Most of these questions have already been answered like the gas pipeline being relocaded by the Braves. Rather than complaining maybe you need to read the paper before producing slick but uninformed documents.
Beancounter Eric
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December 13, 2013
I DO live in Cobb - have for nearly 20 years.

Many of us take the "answers" provided by the Cobb County Politburo, er, Commission with a hefty grain of salt - one about the size of the DOT salt stockpile near Kennestone Hospital.

What is the basis of the economic assumptions being used? Are we looking at self-serving projections provided by Liberty Media and subsidaries?

Why isn't an independent analysis being performed on the proposal - oh, wait, we're in a hurry to close this deal, and besides, it's only the taxpayers being fleeced.

Notwithstanding the fundamental issue of whether the taxpayers should be building/financing sports arenas, an independent analysis of the financing plan needs to be performed.
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