It is a long-held tenet of good governance in this country that the inherent power in any political subdivision resides firmly and ultimately with the people — and not those they elect to represent them. Or it should.
This non-negotiable truth has been cast aside and utterly ignored in Cobb County. The board of commissioners there badly needs a refresher course in this essential lesson of civics. This realization is based on the commission’s ongoing conduct around the matter of relocating the Atlanta Braves to new digs north of the ‘Hooch.
Cobb officials’ behavior thus far has drawn to mind images of questionable-at-best backroom deals forged in secret by political kingpins who believe their positions are beyond, or impervious to, public oversight and accountability. The process thus far as this deal clanks along has heavily tarnished the reputation of a county that, not long ago, was widely spoken of as an example of forthright, open government.
No more can that be said. Which is a profound shame, both for that county and the region it is part of.
In our view, there is no reasonable reason why a proposal of such importance to Cobb, this entire metro area and, arguably, much of the Southeast, had to be sprung upon the public and raced to done-deal status in scarcely two weeks’ time start to finish. Such a breakneck, reckless really, pace may have safeguarded vague business interests, but it has heavily damaged the public’s trust in government — in Cobb and beyond, we believe. Both this fractured region, and Cobb itself, should not have to bear such inflation in the price of civic distrust.
With hundreds of millions of public dollars now linked to this deal, taxpayers are fully justified in demanding that they have a right to know just what is, or was, going on much earlier than they did. And these same citizens are correct in questioning why this agreement could not have been conducted to a much-larger degree in the clean light of day. To do otherwise, as Cobb has done, frankly stinks.
Yet, the commission has been maddeningly consistent in its lockout of those who might dare criticize its maneuverings. During a commission meeting last month, opponents or skeptics of the proposal were barred from stating their case. Bureaucratic reasons feebly offered for this outrageous affront of the right to petition government also badly fail the smell test.
Cobb’s mulish insistence on keeping the public as far away from, for as long a period as possible, the decisions around the Braves’ move also unfairly call into question, if not impugn, the merits of what, at its core, is simply a business deal. Albeit a big one that moves an Atlanta — and Southern — institution from the central city to a new OTP home.
It’s worth stating here that this newspaper is not opposed to the team’s move. This Editorial Board has no position on where the Atlanta Braves ultimately play America’s pastime. In our view, the team, as a private-sector entity, is to be expected to seek the deal offering the best possible upside — wherever that may be around this great town.
Yet, Cobb County government’s behavior to this point has done no favors for a proposal that is best considered dispassionately — and openly. That would have been the best way to reach the best deal for all concerned, we believe.
And it should be the way forward from this point on for Cobb’s county commission.
Andre Jackson, for the Editorial Board.