I got up at 4:30 this morning to get in line at the DeKalb commission meeting, to speak against the use of $12 million of public money for Arthur Blank’s proposed soccer complex. I remember how Cobb County screwed the public out of an honest thrashing of their elected leaders when the Braves Stadium came up for discussion, stacking the speaking list with shills so that opponents would be shut out.
The DeKalb commission decided they didn’t need to be so clever. They simply denied public comment entirely.
I’m glad I showed up early, though, because I ended up killing an hour or so with Mike Bowers’ team. Bowers, a former attorney general, is ostensibly being paid a small fortune to help uncover graft and corruption in DeKalb County. I am inclined after hearing from them to brush up on the finer points of the Gratuities Clause in the Georgia constitution.
The commission’s recent vote to strip the investigation of funds leaves the state of the Bowers investigation in question. Bowers hoped to speak to the commission today, to discuss the state of his interim report and the path forward.
I watched him argue with Nichole Simms, one of Lee May’s staffers. And then he was asked to leave, which he did — visibly pissed off.
Bowers may dump his report early. Be prepared.
Meanwhile, the sham, back-room negotiated deal for the stadium passed on a 4-3 vote. I might otherwise hesitate to note that the vote split along racial lines, with the newly-elected black majority asserting its renewed power. But the emphasis on development in South DeKalb — though, really, the site is in central DeKalb — lays the split bare. The voting majority today plainly doesn’t care one whit what the public thinks of them, even as they light a pile of money on fire like the Joker in “The Dark Knight.”
No veneer of democratic illusions were necessary, despite Commissioner Jeff Rader noting how the county’s incentives offer is six times as generous as offered by Marietta, and how Blank hired negotiators from the McKenna Law, heavy Democratic political donors and the same firm that DeKalb uses as legislative lobbyists, to manage his side of the bargaining.
No real discussion was to be had, despite Commissioner Nancy Jester noting how the public’s snap reaction was overwhelmingly negative, and how the county intends to waste money on this stadium despite crumbling infrastructure like a fire station two miles from the site that’s falling apart.
No public feedback was needed, despite Commissioner Kathy Gannon describing in example the utter lack of promised knock-on economic development around Cool Ray Field, the Braves’ minor league stadium in Gwinnett County.
Blank had the deal in the bag, and the only real question is when it happened and whether it leads to criminal charges, as such transparently terrible land deals have led to before around here.