Multiple members of the Atlanta City Council say they were kept either largely or entirely in the dark about the negotiations between Mayor Kasim Reed and the Atlanta Braves that led to the Braves decision to move to a new stadium in Cobb County.
According to documents provided to the Daily World by the mayor’s office, negotiations had been taking place between the city and the team since July 2012, when Mike Plant, Braves vice president of operations, met with “City officials to discuss redevelopment RFI and solicit more active engagement on the part of City officials.”
Council members, however, including Council President Ceasar C. Mitchell, say they knew little to nothing about the meetings and learned that the Braves had made the decision to move to Cobb County at nearly the same time that the general public did.
“I was never briefed by the administration on what was happening,” said Mitchell. “I was aware that there were negotiations going on, [but] I was not aware that the Braves had made a decision to leave. I learned like everyone else, I learned roughly the same time that the mayor did…although I was aware that there were negotiations that were going on for at least a year.”
Mitchell added that other members of the Council told him they were not aware of the negotiations, but declined to give names.
Councilman Michael Julian Bond said that he was one such council member who had been left entirely out of the negotiation process with the Braves. He insisted that if the Council had been more involved more could have been done to help the Braves stay inside Atlanta’s city limits.
“We could have brought something to the table, I am sure, to help the Braves feel more comfortable about staying in Atlanta,” Bond said.
The deal for the stadium in Cobb County has reportedly not yet been signed and will be taken up at a Nov. 26 Cobb County Commission meeting. Bond said that the longer Atlanta waits, the more likely it is that citizens of the northern suburb that is home to approximately 700,000 people will get the team.
“I don’t know how wise it is for us to wait for Cobb County to act, because if you look at the blogs that are going on, folks in Cobb County are excited about the possibility of having the Braves there,” he said. “So I think having the Braves come and brief us of what their desires were, what they were asking for, is paramount, so we can understand, so that we can hopefully address it before they’re scheduled to take action.”
Carla Smith, who represents District 1, which is home to Turner Field, also said she had not been included or made aware of negotiations between the city and the team.
“No,” Smith replied when asked whether the mayor had reached out to her about the talks. “Obviously we’re coming out of the recession, I think we’re gonna be redeveloped one way or the other and I’m trying to stay positive. But no, I don’t know what’s going on.”
During a press conference earlier in the day, Reed said that he was certain the City Council would have been unwilling to commit to either matching the reported $450 million offer made by Cobb County or providing the $100 – $300 million investment in improvements to the stadium he said the Braves were requesting.
It was a sentiment that Councilman H. Lamar Willis agreed with, particularly given the public’s initial response to the mayor’s backing and City Council’s approval of at least $200 million of the city’s hotel/motel tax revenue going to the Atlanta Falcons for a new stadium over the next 30 years.
“He’s right,” Willis said of Reed. “Because we know what we went through to get this Falcons stadium and we’re still going through that process, and I don’t think anyone on Council would have supported such a significant city financial commitment such as this or similar to what Cobb is giving the Braves, given our recent foray into building a new football stadium.”
Smith said that she was torn about the prospect of trying to meet the Braves requests to keep the team at Turner Field, particularly if it required to using money from the city’s general fund.
“I love the Braves. I would do pretty much anything to keep them here, but that is our rent money, if you will,” she said in reference to the general fund. “I’ve got sidewalks, bridges, I’ve got all kinds of things that need to be worked on. I mean, we’ve just got lots of priorities.”