Lee at the plate: Residents challenge Braves deal at bond hearing
by Asia Ashley
July 08, 2014 04:00 AM | 4304 views | 11 11 comments | 57 57 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Cobb County Board of Commission Chairman Tim Lee takes the stand as the first witness Monday called by attorney Tucker Hobgood, the first of nine complainants who arrived in Judge Robert Leonard’s Cobb County Superior Courtroom to challenge the validation of the bonds the county government wants to issue to finance the Braves stadium.<br>Staff/Kelly J. Huff
Cobb County Board of Commission Chairman Tim Lee takes the stand as the first witness Monday called by attorney Tucker Hobgood, the first of nine complainants who arrived in Judge Robert Leonard’s Cobb County Superior Courtroom to challenge the validation of the bonds the county government wants to issue to finance the Braves stadium.
Staff/Kelly J. Huff
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MARIETTA — Cobb Commission Chairman Tim Lee didn’t have much to say when he was subpoenaed Monday for a six-hour bond hearing concerning the new Atlanta Braves stadium.

The county hopes to issue up to $397 million in bond proceeds to pay for the stadium, but before it does, a Cobb Superior Court judge must sign off on the deal.

Fourteen Cobb residents filed challenges to the bond deal, and nine were present during Monday’s hearing before Cobb Superior Court Judge Robert Leonard.

Leonard said he hopes to have a decision on whether to validate the bond issuance by the end of the month.

Attorney Tucker Hobgood, a former president of the Rotary Club in Marietta, is opposed to the bond issuance and quizzed Lee on several components of the deal, prompting Lee to direct him to the financial agreement.

“What you’re stating seems to be the obvious,” Lee told Hobgood at one point as the attorney read over parts of the agreement.

Hobgood said the Braves would own most of the rights to the stadium. He said documents regarding the project imply the stadium will be privately owned, arguing there will be no public use for the facility.

“The agreements don’t show sufficient public use,” Hobgood said. “You can see this is not intended for public use.”

Taxpayers, Hobgood said, should not be forced to pay for a project they will not use.

“This is a private agreement and shows that the Braves get to call all the shots,” he said.

Larry Wills of Marietta, a retired recycling consultant who also challenged the deal, quizzed the county’s financial advisor, Dianne McNabb, about taxpayer contributions to the project.

McNabb said the bonds will come from Cobb County revenues, but said she didn’t know if any revenues would come from Marietta taxpayers.

Another challenger, Christopher Peters, said the project serves no public benefit and the board “overstepped its boundaries by creating special districts to supply revenue.”

The Cobb Board of Commissioners created a special tax district in February, which roughly follows the same boundaries as the Cumberland Community Improvement District. Revenues from the new district will go toward paying off the bond debt.

Commissioners are violating the Constitution, Peters argued, because the General Assembly, not local governments, should authorize these extensions of taxes and special districts.

Yet Kevin Moore, attorney for the Cobb-Marietta Coliseum & Exhibit Hall Authority, argued the Supreme Court ruled revenue bonds secured by valid intergovernmental agreements are constitutional.

Almost 10 motions to intervene were denied by Leonard because they were filed after the start of the hearing.

Comments
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Tim Lee's Toe
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July 08, 2014
You critics are mistaken. I stand for progress. That's why I'm a progressive. Suck it losers.
Cobb Taxpayer
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July 08, 2014
This whole taxpayer funded and maintained Braves Stadium is pathetic - taxpayers pay $400 million and $25 million a year for a stadium that is private and we don't even get nameing rights !

What a batch of manure ! And this is only the beginnng of taxpayer abuse ! Just because other taxpayers in other counties have been sucked in does not make it legal, ethical nor right !

Let the taxpayers of Cobb vote on how what public projects to fund with Cobb bonds
D.G in Clarkdale
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July 08, 2014
Remember the county plans on a millage increase on PROPERTY OWNERS, it might not seem like a lot but added up across this county its a considerable sum. Add this to the rain tax, etc..... FYI: PDF posted on the county"s website,

"The Cobb County Board of Commissioners has tentatively adopted a millage rate which will require an increase in property taxes by 1.48 percent.

All concerned citizens are invited to the public hearing on this tax increase to be held at the Cobb County Board of Commissioners meeting room at 100 Cherokee Street, Marietta, Georgia on Monday, July 14, 2014, at 11:00 a.m.

Times and places of additional public hearings on this tax increase are at the Cobb County Board of Commissioners meeting room at 100 Cherokee Street, Marietta, Georgia on Tuesday, July 15, 2014, at 6:00 p.m. and on Tuesday, July 22, 2014, at 7:00 p.m.

This tentative increase will result in a millage rate of 7.320 mills, an increase of 0.107 mills. Without this tentative tax increase, the millage rate will be no more than 7.213 mills. The proposed tax increase for a home with a fair market value of $225,000.00 is approximately $8.56 and the proposed tax increase for nonhomestead property with a fair market value of $300,000.00 is approximately $12.84.

Cobb Smyrna
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July 08, 2014
I appreciate these folks standing up to the railroading of this project for certain individuals personal gain. This will be a loosing proposition to all of the Cobb County citizens (whom were not allowed to participate in the process) by building a new stadium that does not have adequate infrastructure and never will and likely will never pay for the expenses associated with it. This is a private stadium for private use and should be left as such
Journalism 101
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July 08, 2014
How is there not a conflict of interest with Judge Robert Leonard presiding over this hearing? He's in the pocket of the Cobb Chamber of Commerce, aka Tim Lee's BFFs, and most recently served with their Leadership Cobb group. The outcome seems to favor the Braves supporters y'all!
Tom Barksdale
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July 08, 2014
I sat through all six hours of the hearing on the bond validation issue. Those who argued against the Court’s validating the bonds used facts and logic to establish that the whole Braves sports complex project is a sham and a fraud being perpetuated against the taxpayers of Cobb County by the Cobb County Commissioners and their cohorts, aided and abetted by some misguided souls at Atlanta Braves, Inc.

--The public is being misled by skillful efforts to disguise the true, unique nature of the bonds and what they finance. Most bonds are issued to create something for general public use that free enterprise would not otherwise produce. Prime example: parks, sewer lines, water mains, roads. The Braves bonds are going solely to finance a private facility built by a private corporation.

--The sports complex will produce profits for Braves, Inc., but will not provide any more of those profits to Cobb County than sewer pipes. But the sewer pipes benefit the general public. A Braves stadium will not.

--The Intergovernmental Agreement between the County and the Cobb-Marietta Coliseum and Exhibit Hall Authority, making the Authority the actual issuer of the bonds and the prime direct interface with the Braves, ranks as one of the purest examples of legal flim-flam ever devised by the mind of man. One after another of the testifiers hit the nail squarely on the head: the very complexity and opaqueness of the IGA was a deliberate effort to obscure and hide from public view the extent to which the public is being taken to the cleaners by the Braves deal.

--The Authority‘s role, for example, is solely to issue the bonds, that is, to arrange for the use of public money to finance a private project. It will then lease the stadium to the Braves—and the Authority will have absolutely no say in how the stadium is used, much less share in the profits. This is the telling difference between the Braves deal and the Authority’s role in the Galleria complex. The Authority has a continuing role in the actual operation of Galleria.

--In sum, the Braves stadium will be, beyond question, a private facility and solely a private facility. And all the rhetoric from Chairman Tim Lee and the other Commissioners about this being a “public-private” enterprise is pure phony baloney rhetoric designed to thicken the smoke screen surrounding that masterpiece of deliberate opaqueness, the IGA.
JR in Mableton
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July 08, 2014
It's sad to see a handful of people trying to manipulate the legal system to thwart progress. When did people in Cobb start acting like liberals? The commission approved the deal....we voted for the commissioners. Are we going to go cry to the courts every time the BOC makes a decision 5 citizens don't like. As to the "King Lee" comment......last time I checked he was re-elected by the citizens of Cobb County.
HotinAtlanta
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July 08, 2014
@ I16 - Apparently not. He's just like Odumba - sit in their ivory towers on their self-imposed thrones and do whatever they want with our tax money. We need to throw them all out of office and let them survive on unemployment. None of them will have to deal with the traffic increase and the increase in crime (that's already starting to show up).
I16
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July 08, 2014
Can anybody stop KING LEE and his comrades?
west Cobbite
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July 08, 2014
I intend to try the next time he is up for election! I voted for him the first time but never again. Ironically, I am glad the Braves are moving to Cobb...I just don't like Lee's love of taxes which is reflected in prior actions, not just this current quest for bond money. If he thinks I've forgotten his promises surrounding the most recent SPLOST vote and the subsequent raising of property taxes, he is mistaken.
Stomped-on
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July 08, 2014
Über alles, Über alles!

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