Cobb County residents are beginning to push back against the county's plan to contribute $300 million of taxpayer money to build a new stadium for baseball's Atlanta Braves. But that outcry likely won't matter, because county officials have decided that the money will be approved in a vote among Cobb commissioners, and not by a public referendum.
Why won't the voters (and taxpayers) get to weigh in? "It would have to be a special election, and that would cost taxpayers 300, 400 thousand dollars," Cobb Commissioner JoAnn Birrell said to CBS Atlanta.
In Birrell's view, a baseball team moving about 20 minutes closer to Cobb residents is worth $300 million to the area. A democratic vote in costing less than 0.1 percent of that shiny new stadium, apparently isn't.
We noted previously how that public funding is a "really crappy deal" for Cobb County, which won't see nearly that much money come back to them in economic benefits. The biggest opponents so far appear to be Tea Party groups in Cobb, the original home of Newt Gingrich. Tea Party organizations have taken to incessant robocalling of residents, encouraging them to dial their local leaders and oppose the deal. That's having some success, as the citizen calls are shutting down the county's regular phone lines. “It’s like a denial of service. We’re unable to let anyone who’s calling in with regular business, or needs assistance from the commissioner, to get through," a Cobb spokesman said to 11Alive.
Even without a public vote, it's unlikely that the Braves and Cobb County — which finalized a Memorandum of Understanding on Tuesday – will call off or change their deal. Cobb County official Tim Lee claimed there won't even be a public hearing on the subject. "I don't know that having a public hearing would add to the objective of getting more input since we've got a lot of input to date." Cobb is intent on ramming the new taxes through, avoiding both a hearing and a vote that could scuttle the whole thing. Opponents have until next Tuesday to make their voices heard before the executive committee votes to approve the stadium.