Mike Bowers Thrown Out Of DeKalb Commission Meeting

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.

15 comments

      • cmr says:

        George, Thank you for going to the hearing and reporting the facts. I for one am looking forward to the results of the Bowers and FBI investigations. This shady soccer deal was clearly a foregone conclusion, as the youtube announcement May released today, was actually uploaded 2 days ago.
        I appreciate your coverage of this and the rest of the Dekalb saga.

      • Progressive Dem says:

        Of the many outrages, the refusl to hear the public is unforgiveable in a democracy. Furthermore, imagine if the a white majority commission had refused to hear from a black group of citizens. What would complaint would be raised? Today it was a black majority commission refusing to hear a white minority who had packed the room and demanded to speak. They would not give 30 minutes of time to the public. Disgusting.

  1. Baker says:

    No way it will lead to criminal charges…

    However, is Vaughn Irons getting contracts out of the deal? I’m gonna go ahead and guess that’s a yes.

  2. gcp says:

    A 4/3 vote, which means nothing changes in Dekalb. Blame voters for continuing the dysfunction and corruption in Dekalb. They had the opportunity to elect someone from outside yet they chose another insider in Commisioner Johnson.

  3. LoyaltyIsMyHonor says:

    Great write up. I always enjoy your posts and your writing style. Loved the Facebook video too! I really want to like Lee May, but this is disappointing. Hopefully Cobb County voters will learn something from all this and dump Tim Lee and Bob Ott in 2016 (Lisa Cupid voted against funding it) — For DeKalb, it’s too late.

  4. Dave Bearse says:

    It’s a nail in the coffin for those opposed to municipalization of the County.

    It’ll fuel the fire seeking the balkanization of DeKalb County Schools, though new separate school districts will certainly be a tough row to hoe. Cityhood being old news, new separate school districts are a topic of conservation in Dunwoody and Brookhaven. Conversation about separate school systems is in the discussion of the LaVista Hills cityhood effort.

    I’m threadjacking here, forgive me George, but this is in the realm of your DeKalb County focus and expertise….I think school balkanization will be getting a push from the growing disaster that is the Cross Keys HS cluster. The cluster’s gerrymandered boundary was crafted to be a DeKalb Schools repository for children that are neither white or black. I think its pupils for the most part are getting a decent education given demographics and DeKalb Schools administration indifference to inferior facilities.

    There were 304 total portable classrooms amongst 18 DeKalb County HS clusters in 2014-2015. 88 of the trailers (29%) were located at circa 40 year old largely dilapidated Cross Keys cluster schools. (I’ll wager the number of Cross Keys cluster portables will be greater in 2015-2016.)

    Folks in southern Brookhaven ain’t having it, folks in northern Brookhaven and Chamblee don’t want their kids going to Cross Keys, and nobody countywide will be thrilled about the $100M it’ll take to increase capacity and update facilities.

  5. waitaminit says:

    You’re getting some play off of the LaVista Hills Yes newsletter with a link here.
    Other observation from the commission meeting–it was a big meeting along with the soccer stuff that was such a media bonanza–
    (1) The water department came in and explained all events of last week’s boil water and outage–having the commissioners rake the poor bastards over the coals was the longest part of the meeting;
    (2) The Doraville–GM Propoerty TAD was discussed–at least that won’t be sneaked in for a vote since they put it off a week. The TAD is for $293 million folks–80% will be made up of county taxes–20% Doraville. The discussion was interesting in one respect:

    As you know no public comments were allowed in the soccer complex part of the meeting. In the Doraville matter, Kathy Gannon moved for the board to allow public comments in next week’s meeting on the TAD. I believe that was accepted by the group.
    (the reason it was interesting is because Chairman Johnson assumed that all public comment will be in favor of the TAD because he thinks everyone in the “North” is willing to bend over backward and give up tax revenue in order to get econ dev goodies where we live–and the same people were in session today to deny that same opportunity to Central DeKalb).
    Bizarro World

  6. ANTiSEEN says:

    It’s sad to see that society hasn’t progressed to the point that individuals are judged on their character and actions instead of the color of their skin.

    Who the hell cares what the ethnicity of corruption is? That Blank hired Dekalb’s lobbying firm is almost comically incestuous.

  7. Dave Bearse says:

    Choose: A CEO that applies undue pressure a few times seeking a few thousand dollars campaign contributions, or a CEO that making a back room deal giving a billionaire $20M (tax free use of 41 acres located ITP and adjacent to a MARTA station is worth north of $10M) that will get him a few thousand in campaign contributions, and won’t hear public comment.

    It’s an incredibly easy choice to make.

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