MARIETTA, GA-- The new Atlanta Braves stadium is the central issue in a primary election next week in Cobb County. The project’s most vocal backer, Commission Chairman Tim Lee, faces two challengers who say voters are very unhappy with the stadium deal.
Cobb County voters never got an opportunity to vote on the taxpayer funded share of the Braves stadium. But they'll get a chance to sound off next week.
"I said I can complain about it, or I can do something about it," said Mike Boyce, a retired Marine colonel running for Cobb County commission chairman. He says voters are telling him the race is all about the stadium – the one Cobb County taxpayers are helping to fund.
"That issue resonates at the door. So this is in some ways a delayed referendum on the fact that there was no referendum," Boyce said.
The $1.2 billion Braves stadium and surrounding development is funded with a $300 million contribution from Cobb County taxpayers. Incumbent chairman Tim Lee pushed the project after weeks of secret negotiations and three weeks of public comment, but no public vote.
Challenger Larry Savage calls it sleight of hand. "When a magician does sleight of hand, it’s entertaining. When elected officials use sleight of hand to disinform or misinform the public or deny information, it’s not funny at all. It’s not entertaining at all. It’s a little disturbing," Savage said.
Chairman Lee declined our request for an interview. But in an Atlanta Press Club debate, he said the stadium project got plenty of public scrutiny. "The idea of bringing the deal to the public was brought forward in 30 days, 45 days of public review and scrutiny. And eventually a vote by the full board," Lee said.
The question is whether Cobb County voters are buying Lee's take on government transparency. "Who does due diligence on the $350 million business proposition in three weeks?" Boyce asked.
Boyce and Savage unsuccessfully ran against Lee four years ago.