What do local officials and an area billboard have in common? Last week, they all took a ride on the AJC Truth-O-Meter .
We researched the advertising sign’s claim about the amount of funding that the United States gives Israel. We also ran the numbers on Atlanta’s violent crime rate to check a claim about the impact of Georgia’s strict sentencing guidelines. And we revisited the proposed $1 billion Falcons football stadium. This time we reviewed a claim that renovating the Georgia Dome would cost more than the upfront public money designated for a new stadium.
Abbreviated versions of our fact checks are below, and full versions can be found at: www.politifact.com/georgia/. The website also features ongoing fact checks of claims made by all levels of elected officials on the impact of the federal budget cuts under sequestration.
To comment on our rulings or suggest one of your own, go to our Facebook page (www.facebook.com/politifact.georgia). You can also find us on Twitter (http://twitter.com/politifactga).
Fulton County District Attorney Paul Howard: “In Atlanta, since 1994 when the ‘Seven Deadly Sins’ (mandatory minimum sentences) took effect, the violent crime rate has dropped 62 percent.
About two decades ago strict sentencing revisions were approved in Georgia that implemented sentences of 10 years with no parole for committing one of the “seven deadly sins,” which included rape, armed robbery, kidnapping, aggravated child molestation, aggravated sodomy and aggravated sexual battery. A second conviction mandates a life sentence without parole.
Efforts are under way to dial back the laws and give the courts some flexibility on mandatory minimum sentences. But Howard, Fulton County’s district attorney, said that these sentences have led to a drastic drop in crime.
His claim was based on the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reports. With slight rounding, those reports do show the decrease in the crime rate — the number of incidents per every 100,000 residents — was 62 percent.
But criminology and law experts say it is almost impossible to tie the decrease directly to this one issue of mandatory minimum sentencing. It’s also notable that violent crime rates dropped not just in Atlanta, but in other places across the country, including places without mandatory sentencing.
Howard’s numbers are accurate, but his statement needs additional information.
We rated his statement Mostly True.
Center for National Interest: The United States gives $8 million a day to Israel and gives that country a blank check.
A message on an electronic billboard in Gwinnett County read, “$8 million a day to Israel just doesn’t make sense!” and “STOP The Blank Check.org.”
The Council for the National Interest paid for the billboard. The nonprofit organization’s goal, according to its website, is to support a just resolution to the Arab-Israeli conflict.
Israel uses almost 75 percent of money from the U.S. to buy U.S. defense equipment. President Barack Obama proposed spending $3.1 billion in military financing for Israel and an additional $15 million on refugee resettlement for fiscal year 2013, a 12-month period that will end Sept. 30. That’s nearly $8.5 million a day, like the billboard said.
While some say there is no willingness in Washington to question Israel or America’s funding for it, experts said calling the spending a “blank check” is really a matter of interpretation.
We rated the Council for the National Interest’s billboards Mostly True.
Mayor Kasim Reed: Says the Georgia Dome would need up to $350 million in work over the next five to seven years.
The figure in Reed’s claim is more than the cost of the upfront public money ($200 million) that could be needed for a proposed $1 billion Falcons stadium.
Reed cites figures from a 2010 study that puts the Dome’s renovation costs at about $393 million, including 369,000 square feet of new space, a roof replacement and upgrades to the seating bowl/field area.
A study the following year, completed by the same company, lists maintenance and capital costs to keep the Dome at “today’s” levels between $79.5 million and $114.5 million. Those costs would include basic renovation items such as technology and plumbing upgrades, along with a new roof.
The difference lies with which style of renovations is chosen: major upgrades and expansion or the basic maintenance and improvements.
The mayor’s statement is partially accurate but needs more information and context.
We rated Reed’s statement Half True.