Copyright 2014 The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Critics of Cobb's public investment in a new Atlanta Braves stadium finally got a chance to address commissioners Tuesday --- two weeks after the elected officials ratified a series of important stadium agreements.
Three stadium critics addressed commissioners. Each had been escorted by police out of the meeting room two weeks ago when they would not relent in asking Commission Chairman Tim Lee to add additional speaking slots.
A pro-stadium group with ties to the Cobb Chamber of Commerce came to the meeting hours early to take each of the 12 slots and shut out opposing voices. The AJC found that 11 of the 12 speakers either owned or worked for businesses that are members of the chamber --- the 12th speaker recently graduated from high school and also supported the stadium investment.
Rich Pellegrino, a member of the Cobb Citizens For Governmental Transparency, urged the commission to come up with a new policy that would allow more debate before important or controversial votes.
"I'm not fronted by the chamber or a billion-dollar corporation," Pellegrino said. "What I'm proposing is there be a rule change, so commissioners come up with something more equitable in terms of encouraging participation, especially when it's packed."
When asked if the commission would consider Pellegrino's suggestion, Commission Chairman Tim Lee said, "We'll take a look at it."
Lee said immediately after the May meeting that he did not allow additional speakers because "consistency is important." But Lee made an exception for additional speakers in November, before the commission approved a preliminary agreement with the Braves.
Gary Pelphrey began his comments Tuesday by reassuring commissioners that he "was not in custody very long."
"I was denied the right to speak at a public meeting because of you," Pelphrey said. "I'm here to tell you that the road you're on is a dead end."
Commissioner Lisa Cupid apologized for not bringing to a vote her proposal to allow more speakers. But she said those removed from the room acted inappropriately in disrupting the meeting. She cited Common Cause Georgia board member Terry Taylor who, upon seeing he would not be allowed to speak, gave Cupid his written statement. She then read some of that into the record.
"I had tried to work diligently with people on all sides of the issue to make sure we are doing right by all people," Cupid said. "I would ask in such instances that you would work with me, when I have put myself out there to work with you."