Common Cause Georgia (CCGA) executive director William Perry announced today that the group had come up well short in its effort to collect 35,000 signatures from Atlanta voters to put public funding for the Atlanta Falcons proposed downtown stadium on the ballot.
In an email to supporters of CCGA, Perry called the effort a “Hail Mary” and said he will hold a press conference tomorrow to announce the group’s future plans.
“As the clock runs out, it appears the ‘Hail Mary’ pass we threw up will not result in a touchdown. But as most football fans will tell you, if there is no other option to win a game when your team is down – you have to throw the ball up in the air and try your best – and we did,” Perry said in an email to members and supporters.
CCGA’s petition drive began June 11 and ends on Saturday, August 10 per the City of Atlanta’s Charter and related ordinances that set a limit of 60 days for signature collection. In his email to supporters Perry estimated that the group had garnered only around 10,000 signatures, well short of the required number.
“This is an important issue, not just for people who live in Atlanta, but for all Georgians who will be the “owners” of the proposed new stadium,” Perry said in the email. “The win we take away from this is we know now, more than ever, that what we tried was the right thing to do.”
The stadium was approved by the Georgia World Congress Center Authority, Atlanta City Council and Invest Atlanta, but Common Cause was attempting to amend the city charter to block the more than $200 million from Atlanta’s hotel/motel tax from going toward the stadium by placing the issue on the ballot for Atlanta voters.
Common Cause’s attempts to put the stadium referendum on the ballot created 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 in May. “His attempt to derail the stadium development is a losing proposition.”
Reed and many on both sides of the stadium debate have cited the amount of money from Atlanta taxpayers as $200 million, but that could be just the tip of the iceberg. All things considered, the cost to the public could actually end up being closer to $900 million.
Through principal and interest payments the hotel-motel tax could be as much as $450 million over 30 years and, according to projections cited by the AJC, another $450 million could go to the stadium during that time for operations and expenses through a “waterfall” fund.
The $200 million number is a conservative estimate of the cost. The money going toward the stadium comes from the 39.3 percent of Atlanta’s 7-cents-per-dollar hotel-motel tax that is mandated by state law to go to the GWCCA or a stadium project.