New Deal That Circumvents Legislature Coming Together For Stadium

January 23, 2013 10:36 am

by Charlie · 21 comments

Perhaps we should start calling the Gold Dome the inner perimeter, because it’s becoming one big bypass.  Maria Saporta reports of a deal in the works to shift bond guarantees from the Georgia World Congress Center to the City of Atlanta, negating the need for a legislative vote:

Currently negotiations are underway at the Governor’s mansion between Gov. Nathan Deal, the Atlanta Falcons and the City of Atlanta where the bonding capacity would shift from the state to the city.

No matter which governmental entity would end up issuing the bonds for the $1 billion project, the deal would not change substantially. The $300 million bond package would continue to be backed by the existing hotel-motel taxes that are collected in the City of Atlanta. The Falcons and the National Football League would cover two-thirds of the stadium’s cost.

Of course, as has become custom from too many news outlets, there is no mention of the State’s cost to purchase land for the stadium or the infrastructure improvements that the City is also preparing to pay for, to the tune of as much as $250 Million.   Regardless, as we’ve known for some time, Arthur Blank wants a stadium and Arthur Blank will get his stadium.

And the City will soon come to the state asking for help with issues that do affect the entire region, and those in the suburban part of the region will point to the distruction of a Dome with 20 years of functional life remaining and laugh.

griftdrift January 23, 2013 at 10:42 am

“those in the suburban part of the region will point to the distruction of a Dome with 20 years of functional life remaining and laugh”

Because as we all know, they really have needed an excuse to say no over the past 40 years

Charlie January 23, 2013 at 11:00 am

And here’s the problem I have with this argument and line of thinking.

We have parties from all sides in constant gripe mode that we need to do things differently, that the system is broken, that it can’t be changed.

Then, when clear lines are drawn as what it would take to try and put that system back on track, those same folks jump back in and say “that’s not the way it works, that’ll never happen”.

Pick your poision. We can either spend our time arguing over which flavor of crap sandwich we’re going to eat, or we can spend our time trying to highlight a path to good governance that will require work and a lot of leadership. I have a hard enough time trying to do one or the other. I’m not going to try to do both.

griftdrift January 23, 2013 at 11:14 am

Well there comes a point, Charlie….

And if there was any evidence of this changing, I might be on board with you. But let me ask you this, how many times does Atlanta have to get slapped before it says, “not this time”.

There’s been lots of promises in the past without much delivery. You want to talk about good governance? How about we don’t pass a transportation bill that the architects in the legislature immediately after birthing leave by the side of the road for the wolves?

I agree we need to work together, but at some point that has to be reaching out from the other in.

If I’m Atlanta? I have the means to get something now that benefits the city instead of relying on vaporous promises that history has shown have little chance of fruition.

A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.

griftdrift January 23, 2013 at 11:17 am

Oh and just to carry the analogy a little further. Not only did the Republican sponsors of TSPLOST leave the baby at the edge of the wolf filled woods, but also as they walked away pointed to Atlanta and said, “you protect it”.

And yet, on this issue, we expect Atlanta to AGAIN be the bigger party. Please.

atlanta_advocate January 23, 2013 at 1:23 pm

@Charlie:

As I said yesterday Atlanta cannot afford to wait for the suburbs and the state to decide – after decades mind you – that it is in their political and ideological interests to behave any differently. Not just my opinion, or the opinion of griftdrift. Check out this Saporta Report:

http://saportareport.com/blog/2012/08/its-time-for-the-city-of-atlanta-fulton-and-dekalb-counties-to-retake-control-of-their-own-destiny/

Atlanta could do everything right and it would still be a Democratic city surrounded by suburbs that are not only conservative Republicans, but populated\led either by A) people who left Atlanta and resent it or B) people who came to the Atlanta suburbs to escape urban areas up north and out west and believe everything that folks from group A) tell them about Atlanta.

That is why I asked you if you could identify what GOP legislators considered to be a worthy infrastructure project for Atlanta. Ask the voters that elect them that question and anything beyond fixing sewers and potholes they’ll declare to be a waste of money because it is a city filled with “takers” who want to live off the “makers” and run by corrupt urban Democrats who are looking for ways to loot their hard-earned tax dollars. Meanwhile, the city voters view the suburbanites as a bunch of racists. Even if the suburban and city leaders themselves know better, challenging that thinking among their voters is not the way to get re-elected, either in the suburbs or the city. Until the demographics and voting patterns of the city and/or the suburbs changes, things are going to stay like that. And the irony is that Atlanta actually needs the infrastructure projects that it can’t get any help with from the region or state in order to draw high income whites (and blacks, Asians, Hispanics, Martians, Ewoks etc.) back into the city in order to provide the sort of racial/ideological balance that would finally help the city/region/state start working together to move forward.

I am sorry, Charlie, but until David Ralston, Chip Rogers, Casey Cagle, Nathan Deal or somebody with influence with the GOP under the gold dome comes out and says “I support the Beltline” (or any other worthy infrastructure project in Atlanta) then giving up this deal in order to “earn” support for the Beltline makes no sense, because it is rejecting something that you will get for something that you likely won’t, and yes it is keeping the Falcons and the convention business in the city instead of letting that waltz off to the very suburbs that have spent the last 40 years refusing to join Atlanta with MARTA or anything else. The GOPers under the gold dome oppose – or refuse to support – the $47 million trolley idea that won’t cost them a penny (it is being paid with entirely from federal and city funds) … what makes you think that they are going to risk any political capital supporting the $1 billion Beltline?

Instead of asking the city to work to earn the trust of the region and the state, you should ask the state and region to demonstrate that the city’s earning their trust is possible in the first place. Short of electing a uniform slate of Republicans to all city and county offices, I say nothing is.

Charlie January 23, 2013 at 1:33 pm

Nathan Deal and David Ralston backed the T-SPLOST. A central snag in the program was the Beltline.

Had this been approached differently, it would be just as easy, maybe easier, for the Governor to say “this is Atlanta’s money” with the hotel motel tax and fund the Beltline, which I believe is solely within the city of Atlanta (maybe crosses unincorporated DeKalb in a small sliver) and used this money to fund that. Then, it takes it off the table.

You do have some folks willing to discuss commuter rail to Athens (brain train) or to Marietta. Getting the Beltline out of the discussion would make that a lot easier than coupling the discussion into one huge albatross of a package like T-SPLOST where everyone can find something they don’t like.

To your point about Fulton and DeKalb charting their own destinies – if so, that’s their choice and a path to leadership. And again, to my point, they now have $300 Million less to spend when implementing that plan.

griftdrift January 23, 2013 at 1:37 pm

Since we’re being picky about numbers it’s $100 mil less than they would have had to spend. The other $200 mil was never there to spend.

And since we’re advocating Dekalb and Fulton find their own way or we find a way for them and the state to work together, maybe a good start would be the legislature allowing them control how they spend their own money, i.e. MARTA.

Funny. I remember someone from Loganville talking about how certain organizations would support that measure. Funnier, I haven’t heard a peep about it since those organizations slayed the last dragon.

Charlie January 23, 2013 at 1:44 pm

I continue to advocate letting MARTA/Fulton/Dekalb control how they spend their own money if they’re not going to get state assistance. But now you’re the one lashing out in every direction possible, instead on focusing on the fact that if Fulton & Dekalb want to chart their own destiny for infrastructure, they now have $300M less. If they’re going to want to try and work with the state for help on rebuilding the regions’ infrastructure at the core, they have $300M less with which to bargain.

Instead, enjoy the “new” stadium. It’ll have the same view as the current one, but everything will be more expensive, and the benefits to the city, region, and state will not exceed those we have today without spending anything.

griftdrift January 23, 2013 at 1:50 pm

Lashing? Really Charlie?

Here’s some lashing. Where is this plan to work with the state on infrastructure? Does it lie somewhere between Debbie’s plan B and Governor Deal saying the day after TSPLOST went down that he would be making decisions about what gets priority?

My perspective is based a history of how the state has approached these “plans”. Yours is based on something that has never happened and there’s no evidence that it ever will.

Bob Loblaw January 23, 2013 at 12:24 pm

Wouldn’t the State have to go along with the demolition of the Dome? So the ATL would come to the State that agreed to tear down its dome and get laughed at? Help me out.

Charlie January 23, 2013 at 12:26 pm

Nope. No more help for you.

Bob Loblaw January 23, 2013 at 12:51 pm

Interesting thought, though. Could the State be forced with a decision on the future of the building if it lost its football tenant? Would the City then stand to receive some form of ownership interest in the new stadium? The GWCC would have to own the land, but if the bonds were financed by the City, then the City’s influence where the State currently has complete control will set up an interesting political dynamic. Is that good for the State?

Maybe we’ll be setting out for Atlanta Stadium to watch the Falcons?

Ed January 23, 2013 at 10:49 am

Yay, democracy!

IndyInjun January 23, 2013 at 11:00 am

No it is a representative republic – representative of one or a few but not the common good. This is why it is going down in flames before our eyes.

IndyInjun January 23, 2013 at 10:57 am

Anybody claims this is only $300 million of taxpayer support needs to be laughed out of the state.

Charlie January 23, 2013 at 11:03 am

While I agree it’s more than $300 Million, I don’t agree with your interpretation of the terms sheet. If you’re willing to put a list of bullet points together with references to the document where you have concerns (and without your doomsday editorializing around it), I’ll be glad to sumit it over to Frank Poe at GWCC and ask for a response.

That will go a lot farther and get much more attention from relevant players than the odd assorted references we’ve had in these threads the past few days.

IndyInjun January 23, 2013 at 12:43 pm

Inquiries are in progress and have been for several days. Thanks.

Lawton Sack (GATA Eagles!) January 23, 2013 at 11:07 am

Though it is absolutely unnecessary, there is not a single doubt in my mind that the Falcons are going to get a new stadium without Arthur Blank having to fund it fully himself. I am just waiting to see how it finally happens.

atlanta_advocate January 23, 2013 at 3:17 pm

@Charlie:

On the T-SPLOST, it wasn’t just the Beltline. It was also MARTA. And that takes us back to the same reality. The “region” was supposed to come together to help each other coordinate, plan and pay for a unified approach to traffic resolution. The suburbanites didn’t want to pay for urban rail. And the urbanites didn’t want to pay for suburban highways. Each side was willing to spite its face by denying itself projects that it wasn’t going to get any other way in order to keep their tax dollars from flowing to the other side.

Also, honestly, while you sincerely believe that this money should be used for the Beltline, the city leaders disagree. The city is already paying the MARTA tax for transportation. It shouldn’t be forced to a revenue source that even if you want to be flexible is essentially for other types of infrastructure improvements because the state and the suburban counties don’t want to play nice with MARTA. It is basically robbing Peter to pay Paul. Getting the Beltline at the price of losing the Falcons – and as I mentioned yesterday all the other events that would prefer the new stadium to the old one – is at best treading water and breaking even. Honestly, it could be catastrophic, because if the Falcons abandon downtown for the suburbs then the Braves are next. Keep in mind: Reed wants to build a mega-sports complex that includes the Falcons, Braves, restaurants, development etc. as a major part of his plan to revitalize the city. The Beltline is nice, but honestly no one is going to ride it if there is no place for them to ride the Beltline to.

So instead of using stadium money to pay for transportation projects that may wind up shuttling people to nowhere because the main reason for people to go downtown will no longer be there, the city leaders are content to use stadium money for stadium projects and transportation money for transportation projects. The city has other ideas for financing the Beltline (Creative Loafing bats them around all the time) but you won’t hear about them until Reed’s second term.

But it comes down to Atlanta being asked to sacrifice its stadium project because no one else – including the state and the suburbs – is going to do squat on the transportation issue (except for the 3 regions that passed T-SPLOST). No rail or mass transportation projects. No highway projects. No plans to add a badly needed long overdue second airport. No concrete plans to increase rail and highway capacity that is expected to occur from the Savannah port widening. Nothing. It isn’t as simple as adding “We don’t need a new stadium” + “we need transportation projects” = “let’s use the money for the new stadium to fund transportation!” Expecting Atlanta to do this when the rest of the state isn’t doing squat and when Atlanta already pays the MARTA tax is too much.

Your next column or blog post needs to be “well, now that Atlanta has rejected my sage advice and chosen the stadium over the Beltline, what are Cobb/Gwinnett/Rockdale/Cherokee going to do to move people and freight around and get our economy going again and pick up the slack”?

The Last Democrat in Georgia January 23, 2013 at 9:11 pm

“On the T-SPLOST, it wasn’t just the Beltline. It was also MARTA. And that takes us back to the same reality. The “region” was supposed to come together to help each other coordinate, plan and pay for a unified approach to traffic resolution.”

…You mean that the “region” was supposed to come together and vote to do the STATE’S JOB of funding and managing the transportation network (much of which is under the state’s jurisdiction) that the state does not want to do itself.

“The suburbanites didn’t want to pay for urban rail. And the urbanites didn’t want to pay for suburban highways.”

Not only did suburbanites not want to pay for urban rail (the steeply-declining MARTA), but for the most part, many suburbanites also did not want to pay for suburban highways for fear that more roads will only bring more auto-dependent sprawl and more traffic.
….It is within this traditionally transit-averse, but increasingly road expansion-averse political calculus that there is actually a building, but overlooked demand for regional transit service (regional commuter bus and regional commuter rail service).

“But it comes down to Atlanta being asked to sacrifice its stadium project because no one else – including the state and the suburbs – is going to do squat on the transportation issue….Expecting Atlanta to do this when the rest of the state isn’t doing squat and when Atlanta already pays the MARTA tax is too much.”

I absolutely agree with you on this point. The City of Atlanta absolutely cannot be expected to do the heavy lifting on improving mobility throughout the 30 county-plus metropolitan region that the state should have been doing years (and even decades ago) on the transportation network that is under the jurisdiction of the State of Georgia.

It makes no sense to expect the City of Atlanta to do the STATE’S JOB of going to bat for commuter rail service for a metro region whose suburbs and exurbs have admittedly always been more than happy to give the city the backhand whenever the opportunity presents itself.

It is NOT the City of Atlanta’s job to improve and upgrade mobility on the STATE’S network of roads and railways.
It IS the STATE’S RESPONSIBILITY to properly manage the transportation network that it under its jurisdiction, per the Constitution of the State of Georgia.

Nonchalant January 23, 2013 at 8:19 pm

May the only SuperBowl Arthur Blank ever has a real reason to be at be the ones that come to Atlanta.

I hope he enjoys his stadium.

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