On the steps of City Hall Tuesday, members of Common Cause Georgia (CCGA) gathered to announce their petition drive for a public referendum on a proposed new $1 billion Atlanta Falcons stadium.
The stadium has already received approval votes from the Georgia World Congress Center Authority, Atlanta City Council and Invest Atlanta, but Common Cause is looking to amend the city charter to block more than $200 million from Atlanta’s hotel/motel tax from going toward the stadium.
“We just want to hold our government [accountable],” said William Perry, executive director of CCGA. “It’s not about if we think the new stadium is a good idea or bad idea, it’s about giving the citizens the right to vote on it.”
Common Cause has been engaged in a contentious back and forth with Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed, who has accused the organization of attempting to derail progress and singling out his administration like no other in history.
“William Perry is sacrificing the reputation of a once venerable and well-respected organization for the sake of furthering his own personal ambition,” Reed said in a statement about CCGA’s petition. “His attempt to derail the stadium development is a losing proposition.”
Common Cause pressed on despite the mayor’s objections and today held a petition kick off featuring State Senator Vince Fort, Atlanta Citizens Review Board member Maceo Williams and a number of CCGA supporters. After the kick off, the group began canvassing local neighborhoods to get signatures from Atlanta citizens who want to see the issue put to a vote.
“The challenge is not finding enough people to sign,” said Perry, “literally the challenge will be finding the man power and woman power to help hit the streets. If we can do that this will be an easy task to accomplish.”
CCGA received an official copy of the requested petition from Atlanta Municipal Clerk Rhonda Johnson at 9:30 a.m. and will have 60 days to get the 35,000 signatures from registered Atlanta voters needed for a referendum.
“We try to do everything we can to promote transparency with our government and with the voters of Atlanta,” Ryan Splitlog, Assistant Director of CCGA, told the Daily World. “I think we see stadiums being built across the country and those specific citizens are allowed to have a referendum to vote yes or no, we just want that same right.”
Prior to the announcement of a deal between Reed, Gov. Nathan Deal and Falcons owner Arthur Blank, public opinion of the proposed stadium had been mostly negative. Around the state, polls showed 70 percent of the public opposed to the idea of using public funding for the stadium.
A 2012 poll by the by Mason-Dixon Polling & Research for the AJC found disapproval expressed by 75 percent of men, 61 percent of women, 59 percent of Democrats, 71 percent of Republicans and 70 percent of independents.
Reed announced an initial bonding capacity contribution from the city of no less than $200 million, but published reports suggest the cost could be more than $900 million contributed from the public to the stadium. The actual agreement calls for 39.3 percent of 7 cents collected from the hotel-motel tax over a 30 year period.
If the hotel-motel tax generates more than the estimated $200 million, the excess taxes would go into a fund that is held directly by the Falcons that would legally be mandated to pay for other debt on the project or for refurbishment and capital improvements to the stadium.
(Photo: Common Cause Georgia Executive Director William Perry speaks during press conference; far left State Sen. Vince Fort; right of Perry Common Cause Ryan Splitlog. Photo courtesy of Common Cause Georgia.)