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Copyright 2014 The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Dan Klepal; Staff

A town hall meeting hosted by Citizens for Governmental Transparency on Tuesday night turned into a referendum on Cobb Commissioner Bob Ott.

That's because Ott was the only commissioner to attend the open forum and took the brunt of community questions. He gamely tried to answer the volleys.

"Baseball stadiums are losers as far as job creation," said Susan McCoy, who wryly pointed out that Cobb commissioners have spent more than a year considering a law on backyard chickens, but approved the $300 million Braves deal in three weeks. "Taxpayers are subsidizing (the) Braves ... at the cost of our police and our schools.

"What feasibility studies have been done? What (study) was done before the decision to bring the Braves up to Cobb County?"

Ott said he and Commissioner Lisa Cupid lobbied for a delay in the commission's vote on a preliminary agreement with the Braves, which was taken two days before Thanksgiving. There was no delay, and the commission approved a memorandum of understanding with the Braves by a 4-1 vote.

Ott voted in favor.

"I don't disagree with you," Ott said. "There are plenty of studies that do not support stadiums producing jobs. But from Day 1 of the Braves being announced ... Chairman (Tim Lee) had three votes. What I did, I represented the people I am elected to represent. I got a cap on the capital maintenance fund, I got a Bus Rapid Transit reference in the (agreement) removed. But from Day 1, it was going to pass.

"Is it the best deal we could have gotten? I don't know; they had three votes."

The Bus Rapid Transit is a mass transit system being considered for the business district in which the stadium will be built that would cost more than $400 million. Ott does not support the transit project.

Candidates used the meeting to drum up support for their run for public office.

Two candidates for County Commission said they need volunteers to knock on doors, make phone calls and contribute.

Tom Barksdale, a member of the East Cobb Democratic Alliance who is not running for office, said people need to vote for change: "If you want to change the situation, you have to go out and find people to run and you have to contribute to those candidates. We need people and money."

The Braves agreement calls for county taxpayers to spend $17.9 million annually for 30 years to cover the principal and interest on $368 million in bonds. The public financing also calls for $1.2 million a year for 30 years of capital maintenance.

Citizens for Governmental Transparency is a gathering of 10 community groups representing a diverse range of political interests. Ken Howell, a member of the organization, said the groups came together because of the way the Braves deal was handled by public officials.

"We need to be at the table while decisions are being made, not brought in after they are made," he said.


March 19, 2014




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