The Atlanta Journal-Constitution on Thursday revealed emails exchanged by Reed’s administration upon learning that the Braves were leaving Turner Field for Cobb County.
Atlanta Deputy COO Hans Utz wrote in a Nov. 11 email that the team would still be called the Atlanta Braves.
“They are not going to call themselves the Cobb Crackers, or the Smyrna (expletive),” Utz wrote.
Utz went so far as to compose a poem to express his thoughts.
“The Braves might leave us/Becoming the Cobb Crackers/I feel bad for them,” he said in an email.
After giving a list of talking points about what the city of Atlanta should
about the Braves announcement, Utz wrote: “That is all. Though I do like the ring of Smyrna (expletive).”
The AJC reported Utz was suspended without pay this week.
Ehrhart: Fire him
State Rep. Earl Ehrhart (R-Powder Springs), who introduced county Chairman Tim Lee to Braves executives during a meeting at the Marietta Country Club this summer that kicked off the decision to move to Cobb, commended Reed for suspending Utz for “that type of childish rant.”
“He really needs to be fired,” Ehrhart said. “Calling the people who live in Cobb County ‘crackers’ or whatever expletive is not the type of behavior you need from somebody who’s paid with taxpayer dollars.”
Ehrhart said Reed did the right thing by suspending Utz.
“Let’s hope that the suspension without pay turns into — he needs to go find a job somewhere else and not get paid by taxpayers. A lot of those Cobb County ‘crackers’ are taxpaying citizens with their businesses in the area that pay his salary and that’s just not conscionable.”
State Rep. Rich Golick (R-Smyrna) said the unfortunate comments come from “the bitterness and frustration of realizing too late that Atlanta shouldn’t have taken the Braves for granted and strung them along for as long as it did.”
Businesses big and small need predictability and stability, and the Braves are no different, Golick said.
“Local Cobb officials as well as Cobb business leaders came together quickly with the sense of urgency that the Braves were looking for, and were able to seize the opportunity when it presented itself . . . an opportunity that others had in their hands, but allowed to slip away.”
Why the race card?
Commissioner Bob Ott, whose southeast Cobb District 2 includes the area where the new stadium will be built, said it’s unfortunate when any public official resorts to name calling.
Ott spoke of a growing trend of resorting to cries of racism when it came to issues in his district.
“I always view as unfortunate that anytime some positive thing happens in District 2 it seems that more and more people try to make it into some racist decision and that couldn’t be further from the truth,” Ott said. “That’s never a factor in the decision. When people come to me about development I look at them purely from an economic standpoint.”
Ott said there was an effort in the Atlanta media to impede the Braves move to Cobb by resorting to charges of racism.
“It’s unfortunate that it appears that the Atlanta media has tried in their attempts to stop the process from moving forward to paint it into a racist issue, and I think myself and other commissioners are very careful to not make any references to race or any other issue like that as to the reasons for the move,” Ott said. “The reasons for the move are not racist in nature. They’re economic in nature. Their fan base is to the north and they want to build a mixed-use development next door.”
Ehrhart also addressed the cries of racism coming from Atlanta.
“I think it’s a convenient crutch for certain individuals for their lack of success in certain things, and that’s disappointing and a shame,” Ehrhart said.
City of Atlanta officials enjoy talk of regionalism when it benefits the city of Atlanta, Ehrhart said.
“Like we’ve all been saying, it’s regionalism until it doesn’t just benefit them, and then it’s ‘Cobb crackers and expletives.’ It’s a convenient excuse,” Ehrhart said. “When you run out of facts, try racism. It may work in some quarters, but it’s not going to work among people of good will and people with any brains whatsoever. It just makes them look stupid. It’s demonstrating their own lack of intellectual capacity to resort to name calling.”
Commenting on the Atlanta official’s remarks, Commissioner Helen Goreham, who represents west Cobb, said, “I just think it’s unfortunate.”
County Chairman Tim Lee took a different approach when asked what he thought.
“We are extraordinarily pleased that the Atlanta Braves have chosen Cobb County, and we look forward to working with them for Game Day 2017, and we’re positive it will be good for the region of which we consider ourselves to be part of,” Lee said.
Commissioner JoAnn Birrell, who represents northeast Cobb, refused to comment on the matter.
Commissioner Lisa Cupid, who represents southwest Cobb, was the lone vote against the memorandum of understanding between the Braves and county last month.
“With respect to Atlanta, I can understand why they may be frustrated, considering how quickly everything occurred,” Cupid said. “Certainly I think that they might look over that email string and wish they may have stated things differently, but I can certainly understand their frustration.”
Cupid said she understands because she received profanity- laced emails from Cobb residents about the Braves move. Still, the comments underscore how many outside Cobb don’t realize what a diverse county it is, she said.
“I find it funny that sometimes people are in great wonder that we have a significant non-white population that lives here in Cobb, and the same Cobb that people may have attributed us to being perhaps decades ago has changed,” she said. “It’s a lot more diverse, and it makes me discredit those comments even more because Cobb County is a diverse county.”
New tax district vote postponed
Lee previously announced he would ask the Board of Commissioners at Thursday’s meeting to form a new tax district that would roughly follow the boundaries of the 5.5-square-mile Cumberland Community Improvement District.
The new district would tax owners of apartment complexes and commercial property 3 mills, projected to bring in $5.2 million a year. Lee had said he would also ask commissioners to assess hotels and motels in the new district at a rate of $3 a room per night. The $3 fee is expected to collect $2.7 million annually. The revenues would be used to pay the debt on the revenue bonds the county intends to issue to finance the stadium. But none of that took place Thursday.
Lee explained why.
“When we go forward with the districts we have to be very specific tax parcel by tax parcel,” Lee said. “We’ve just got to spend a little bit of time making sure we have the right map drawn. We thought we would be able to do it quicker.”
He expects the board will vote on the districts next month, he said.
During the public comment part of the meeting, Lance Lamberton of the Cobb Taxpayers Association read a certificate of appreciation he and a string of other group leaders signed thanking Cupid for “her bold and courageous decision to vote against passage of the memorandum of understanding between Liberty Media, the corporate owner of the Atlanta Braves and Cobb County.”
The certificate was signed by Lamberton, Dr. Benjamin Williams with the Cobb County SCLC, Rev. Coakley Pendergrass with the Georgia Community Coalition, Richard Pellegrino with the Cobb Immigrant Alliance, Charles Walker with the Partnership for Southern Equity, Michael Opitz with the Madison Forum, Elliott Hennington with the Powder Springs Community Task Force, Sharon Hill with Cobb United for Change Coalition, Debbie Dooley with Atlanta Tea Party Patriots, Susan Stanton with the Conservative Leadership Coalition, Colleen Kiernan with the Sierra Club, Tom Barksdale with the East Cobb Democratic Alliance and Joel Aaron Foster with Americans for Prosperity.