Cobb political opponents unite to delay proposed Braves stadium

Some of the strange political bedfellows who joined forces last year in opposition to the transportation sales tax referendum are uniting again in hopes of putting the brakes on the proposed Braves stadium in Cobb County.

On Friday, Citizens for Governmental Transparency, which counts the Atlanta Tea Party Patriots and East Cobb Democratic Alliance among its members, hand delivered a letter to the Cobb County Commission demanding answers to what they say are several unanswered questions about the $672 million stadium project.

“We want it slowed down so it can be properly vetted,” said progressive activist Rich Pellegrino, a member of the newly formed ad hoc citizen’s committee. Pellegrino, director of the Cobb Immigrant Alliance, called the decision to fund the stadium without citizen input “a prime example of crony capitalism and back-room dealing.”

Last month, the Braves disclosed plans to move to a new stadium near I-75 and I-285 scheduled to be completed in time for the 2017 season. The county will carry just under half of the debt for the project, along with about $1.2 million a year in maintenance costs.

Cobb commissioners voted 4-to-1 to approve the deal on Nov. 26 and have signed a memorandum of understanding that would keep the Braves in Cobb through at least the 2046 baseball season.

But opponents say the stadium is far from a done deal.

“No contracts have been signed, and each contract will require the approval of the (Cobb) commission,” said Tom Barksdale, chairman of the East Cobb Democratic Alliance. “We think it can still be slowed down.”

Among the concerns outlined by the Citizens for Governmental Transparency:

•”The assertion that the deal is certain to provide a cornucopia of revenue for Cobb County without requiring new taxes is more hyperbole than fact,” the letter states. “We are convinced a strong argument can be made that the local taxpayers will still end up bearing significant costs, and the county will have to raise property taxes.”

“We’ve seen a plethora of evidence that stadiums elsewhere haven’t lived up to their promise” as revenue generators, Barksdale said.

• The decision to bypass the Atlanta Regional Commission, which the group argues should have been involved since the Braves move is a regional issue.

• The absence of a transportation plan. “If the stadium is built without proper transportation in place, wouldn’t that create the potential for a major disaster,” the CGT states in its letter to commissioners. “Where does mass transit figure in the planning?”

The group said it wants answers to these questions no later than Dec. 27.

“We’ll take into account their concerns and respond to it,” said Cobb spokesman Roberty Quigley, speaking on behalf of the commission.

But don’t expect the commission to reconsider their support for the new stadium. At a public hearing on the eve of their vote to approve the stadium deal, commission chairman Tim Lee called it “a home run for Cobb County,” adding he was “confident the people of Cobb will come to understand that.”

“Their position is that they’ve made their decision and they don’t need our input,” said conservative activist Michael Opitz, president of The Madison Forum. “But (commissioners) can be recalled, they can be voted out.

“This is far from over,” he said.

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