Might a Washington-style overhaul happen in Cobb County?

In 2004, Major League Baseball entertained offers to relocate the Montreal Expos (who were actually a good team at one point) to a variety of locations.  Eventually, MLB settled on Washington, DC with the lure of a publicly financed ballpark that left little for the owners of the franchise to worry about – at least in terms of what they’d be on the hook for.  In the end, the prospect of public financing tanked three city council elections for incumbents and even gave the chance for Marion Barry to make a comeback politically.  The change in the city council makeup changed the dynamics of the stadium financing deal, and Washington almost lost the relocated franchise.

DC’s primary elections were held before any vote took place on the stadium deal.  Former Mayor Marion Barry won 57% of the vote in his primary, and Vincent Gray took 50%.  Political newcomer (at the time) Kwame Brown trounced a fourteen-year incumbent in the district’s at-large seat by 22 points.  They focused on a populist message, something fed significantly by the stadium controversy:

In each race, the challengers gained ground by contending that entrenched incumbents had failed to ensure that average families got their share of the city’s expanding economic pie. Barry, in particular, accused the council and Mayor Anthony A. Williams (D) of focusing too much attention on rebuilding downtown and too little on helping the city’s downtrodden.

The victories of Barry, Brown and Gray could have enormous implications for the direction of economic development in the city. All three called for greater emphasis on affordable housing and new development for neighborhoods. And all three say they oppose raising taxes to build a Major League Baseball stadium, a priority for Williams and for baseball officials, who are on the verge of deciding whether to move the Montreal Expos to the Washington region.

Cobb County finds itself in similar circumstances if not identical.  Vocal opponents are upset about the financing arrangements, even though it is far more favorable than the DC stadium deal was.  The governing body is going ahead with plans to ensure the deal is secured despite opposition.  Most importantly, an election is looming where this issue will most certainly raise its head.  May isn’t too far off (assuming that’s where primary elections for state and local offices will be set) and the two commissioners facing reelection contests are likely to see even more opposition as a result.

The responses thus far haven’t exactly been endearing from the public officials.  From Helen Goreham’s response saying “I would think you’d be pleased…” to Commission Chairman Tim Lee’s response of “I need the .33 mills to make this happen…” (you read that correctly – I and not we need this park bond mill levy).  Sentiment like that on the part of public officials doesn’t build a positive relationship with constituents.  Yes, we elect them to make decisions on our behalf.  No, that doesn’t insulate them from criticism or complaint when those decisions are unacceptable or convoluted.

The political dynamic of this cannot be understated.  Recent polling shows Cobb residents support the move but oppose public financing options.  Tim Lee owes his seat more to bad opposition than good execution on his part during the last election cycle.  The conservative wing in Cobb is not a big fan of Helen Goreham and she will face serious opposition in this election cycle.  Should anyone mount a well-organized challenge, she will lose.  The aggressive (if somewhat uncouth) efforts of the Tea Party is showing their muscle in the fight and have a legitimate bone to pick with the plan.  Likely, the Tea Party will be unsuccessful in stopping the Memorandum of Understanding from passage; they’ll likely harbor resentment for those facing re-election come the May primary.

The Nationals and the Braves have a growing rivalry, and smart public officials would do well to call on the history of the rivals to find a better way forward.  I don’t imagine that is going to happen, though, as the “I’m the winner” mentality I previously wrote about will demonstrate.  Tim Lee will win this fight with five votes on the line, but his ally in Goreham will probably be off the board come this time next year…and he might face some renewed challenge to his position from a better organized candidate in the next cycle after.

What the Braves stadium shows about about “Atlanta”

Since last week when details emerged about the financing package for the new Braves stadium, the rhetorical battles of what was good and bad about it have begun in earnest and are likely to heat up significantly as we inch towards the 26th when the Cobb County Commission vote on the memorandum of understanding.  I think one thing is apparently clear as this debate goes forward.  Cobb County’s public financing scheme seems a little dubious.  However, had we a good understanding of Atlanta outside the City of Atlanta, we’d likely have better options to finance the park.  A bad solution is emerging from a great idea.

Public financing of stadiums are not always bad decisions to make.  I can remember how Coors Field and Mile High were financed via the Denver Metropolitan Major League Baseball Stadium District/Metropolitan Football Stadium District.  In the early 1990s, as Major League Baseball finished the process of awarding expansion franchises to two cities, Denver made a successful bid and won the franchise that became the Rockies.  Part of that success lay on the passage of the Denver Metropolitan Major League Baseball Stadium District Act by the Colorado legislature.  That created a special six county district which, upon voter approval, levied a 0.1% sales tax to finance bonds for a period of twenty years.  In other words, for every $1,000 you spent in taxable goods and services, you contributed $10 to the construction of the baseball stadium.  Here’s the benefit of it all – the authorities paid off bonds for two stadiums in the twenty year time frame; Mile High was rebuilt by a voter approved continuation of the tax when the original bonds were paid off ten years early.  One only need to visit LoDo (Lower Downtown Denver) to see the positive and lasting impacts the small sales tax had.

Now, why do I bring this up?  Well, Atlanta and Denver have a lot of similarities.  The sprawl of the cities is noticeable.  They are the major markets in their respective regions.  The airport’s are eerily similar in design and distances from the affluent passengers that are likely to use them.  That said, this stadium deal is exposing significant differences between the two.  Whereas the Denver Metro Area united in support given to building a new baseball stadium for the Rockies, and again in voting for the continuation of the tax to build a new football stadium, the Braves stadium deal is clearly exposing some very apparent divides.  Nowhere was this more noticeable in the comments by Cobb County GOP Chairman Joe Dendy in saying:

It is absolutely necessary the solution is all about moving cars in and around Cobb and surrounding counties from our north and east where most Braves fans travel from, and not moving people into Cobb by rail from Atlanta.

Most folks from the north and east of Cobb and the City of Atlanta, regardless if they’re wanted in Cobb County or not, weren’t too keen on the deal either.  I don’t think any of these comments or opinions are reflective of racism or outright hatred for folks that come from somewhere else.  The comments above by Dendy even recognize needed solutions to welcome fans from outside the county.  However, the opinion poll and comment demonstrate the outwardly anti-metro area bias that residents of one county have towards others.  Regardless if it’s accepted or not, the world recognize Atlanta as the metro area – not the city – and functionally that’s no different either. The Braves stadium will still be in a zip code labelled as Atlanta despite residing in Cobb County.

Why is all this important?  Well, it explains why such a convoluted and bad financing package has to be put together by Cobb County.  The State of Georgia could never agree enough in the legislature to pass something similar to what Colorado did.  Granted, the novelty of baseball in Denver united seemingly disparate factions to pass the law, but Georgia isn’t really different when it comes to the Braves.  It’s not as if the Marlins or Rays compete for a fan base.  However, Georgia is notorious for a mentality of “to the winner goes the spoils.”  It’s what underlies the bombastic rhetorical flourish of Vincent Fort when he gets a chance to oppose anything, and it’s more than apparent in this case, too.

Cobb County couldn’t have won the stadium without taking $8 million/year from the general fund, nor could it incorporate any entity outside of Cobb County to win this deal.  That’s why conceivably property owners in the Cumberland CID (which includes our home) could pay higher taxes.  It’s why outsiders visiting the hotels in Cobb County will pay a few bucks more each night to stay.  It’s why “95% of Cobb County” won’t see tax increases until the $8 million taken for the stadium is needed somewhere else and then taxes spent.  Furthermore, it’s also reflective of “to the winner goes the spoils” on the part of the Cobb County Commission who seemingly will stop at nothing to make sure this deal goes through without a hitch, meaningful public input, or even a dissenting vote.  However, it’s all a poor solution to a great opportunity.  Dissension in the ranks might be a good thing here.

Personally, I think the Braves moving to suburban Atlanta is the right move.  If done right, it can be an economic home run for Cobb County.  Logistically, I think it’s going to a better spot for traffickers to the games than just off the downtown connector.  That said, a little bit more cooperation would be welcome here to make sure the public financing is a little better.  As I’ve written more times than I care to count, though, philosophy matters.  So long as our philosophy of Atlanta is “us in Cobb County and the rest of y’all out there…” then we’ll have problems like this for years to come.

 

#sorrynotsorry

I am sorry that they are finding themselves in this situation based on assurances they got from me.”  There, he finally said it.  Whew, that must be a load off of the President’s shoulders.  Apologies don’t come easy to Democratic politicians in Illinois, where they pretty much control every piece of meaningful government property from the top down and Republicans can’t do anything to stop it.  Townhall reports the problem is that people aren’t buying it.  Frankly, I don’t either.  It’s saying you’re sorry that you were caught, not saying “Sorry, I really screwed up.”

As I mentioned the other day, owning up to the problems you’ve created is critical in improving the fortunes of any bad situation.  Frankly, the apology should read something along the lines of “Ya know, I made a big assumption here that we could easily provide a solution.  I know, it’s a big law, but I was so happy passing it that I never thought about what it would mean to implement it.”  Of course, that would be a mea culpa that people could believe in.

Frankly, this is the demosntration of why Obama’s such a piss poor president.  For all the talk about fairness and compassion for the downtrodden, there doesn’t appear to be any for the people that are being trampled on and suffering through this horrific policy.

Jason Carter is in so let’s take the chance to jump right in with him.

By now, the worst kept secret in Georgia is out.  Jason Carter, the grandson of former President and current peace-lover Jimmy Carter, is running for Governor against (presumably) Nathan Deal.  Last night, I had the chance to shine for a total of about 8 seconds on 11 Alive talking about Senator Carter and Georgia politics in general.  I shined so much I cannot find the video to embed, so you’ll just have to take my word for it.  I was magical..

…nevertheless, I tried to stress the point that Jason Carter represents the archetype of what we should expect from major Democratic candidates going forward in Georgia.  Young, vibrant, dynamic, Atlanta-based (at least for the time being), and able to carry themselves with some prestige in a difficult environment.  The reason we should expect this on the right is simple – Georgia is growing into fertile ground for Democrats.  With some good cultivation (organization) and a little of fertilizer (money) Georgia could prove a purple state in the mold of Virginia.  This election presents a perfect opportunity to build that foundation for winning, especially for candidates like Nunn and Carter the Youngers who are probably a bit more liberal and left-leaning than their preceding family members.

You don’t get to beat the best without running against the best.

I also had the chance to listen in on another conversation take place that talked about the Republican primary and some folks’ desire to see Pennington and Barge out of the race.  I disagree, but not because I think either candidate presents a great alternative to a very good governor.  Pennington’s appeal lies with the fringe of the party, and needed broad-based coalitions won’t line up behind him.  Barge is a burned candidate; campaigning against the GOP’s major school choice reform (after saying you supported the same concept if not exact policy) was not a good move to base a run for “govner” on.  Plus, I’m just a firm believer that Deal governs well.  Georgia has a healthy economic environment, companies are leaving their home states to open some new Georgia digs (e.g., Caterpillar), and generally speaking he isn’t an embarrassment to the party.  Deal wins the primary and governorship no matter what, but taking advantage of a good reason to use resources effectively and build those networks of volunteers, voter IDs, and coalitions can never be understated in importance.

Younger conservatives won’t have the same easy fights in coming election cycles as they do in this one.  It’s time we start to consider this one difficult, too.  Jason Carter and Michelle Nunn are well-moneyed, but they also are able to communicate a message.  If you’ve seen Carter on the Senate floor, you know he’s able to aggressively, but respectfully, present his liberal leanings in a chamber where his voice is drowned out as part of a super-minority.  Michelle Nunn’s campaign rollout was flawless in my opinion, utilizing the new digital media platforms to announce her candidacy.  The future is here.  It’s a good idea to make sure the younger generation of Georgia conservatives are part of that future.

Younger conservatives have a fantastic opportunity to prove that in this election cycle.  Without a viable opponent, the respective chairman and leaders of the Georgia Young Republicans and Georgia Association of College Republicans (both of whom I’m proud to call good friends, by the way) have done tremendous work in building for the future.  Now, we have the chance to build and test and a series of candidates which can help expose our flaws and entrench our strengths.

It’s exciting times.  Let’s take advantage of that.

Why Obamacare is demonstrating a very disturbing trend in American politics

Elie Wiesel penned the phrase “…the oppose of love is not hate, it’s indifference…” way back in 1986.  This is an undeniable truth, and although I’m sometimes very poor in recognizing this by demonstrating otherwise in my own behavior, I do try to remember it when I find people or things are beginning to bother me.  No more have I tried to follow this philosophy than in my political relationships.  Naturally, certain people aren’t going to like me.  I accept that.  Again, I’m not perfect but I do try.

This is why it’s also a bit bothersome to me what the Obama Administration is demonstrating in its response to the growing chorus of criticisms about its Obamacare rollout.  The things that Obama should be ambivalent about seem to be the rub while those that the administration should focus significantly on are what we don’t seem to find much care about.  Responding to criticisms of your person will never end well, as it does nothing but contribute to a tit-for-tat environment; taking customer complaints as opportunities for improvement are what successful organizations do across the world, regardless of how justifiable those complaints might be.

First, let’s take a look at the things he should be taking seriously.  Edie Littlefield Sundby by know is a well-known cancer survivor/patient from California.  One of the most oft quoted passages from her article in the Wall Street Journal reads:

My grievance is not political; all my energies are directed to enjoying life and staying alive, and I have no time for politics. For almost seven years I have fought and survived stage-4 gallbladder cancer, with a five-year survival rate of less than 2% after diagnosis. I am a determined fighter and extremely lucky. But this luck may have just run out: My affordable, lifesaving medical insurance policy has been canceled effective Dec. 31.

While Ms. Sundy’s story is anecdotal, there is a disturbing trend of evidence that real people are being hurt by the stream of cancellation notices taking place.  The response from the left and Obama Administration is frightening.  Think Progress took the approach of saying “No, Ms. Sundby, here’s why you don’t understand you’re wrong…” in an article posted earlier today.  This mirrors the Obama Administration’s public relations plan of blaming those greedy ol’ insurance companies that decided to cancel the policies after the individual mandates came into force.

Here’s why this is bothersome.  Obama’s routinely followed the tactic of “kill the messenger” in order to maintain the moral high ground in his communications.  While the commentary coming out against Sundby is a telling example, simply look at the budget debacle that recently concluded and how Obama’s entire series of arguments can be summed up in #GOPShutdown.  It’s always someone else’s fault, and I will do whatever I can to make sure people see it.

This is problematic in a very real way in that it necessarily draws attention away from the real conversation needed to address the problems at hand.  Attack the messenger, defenders will begin to fire, and now you have a battle of words over who is the bad guy.  Make no mistake, as the GOP and the right begins to engage in the tit-for-tat environment they only contribute to the problem.  That said, the type of arguments we should ambivalent towards are gaining far too much ground and have commanded our attention far, far too much.  Debate and rational policies suffer because of it.

Which is what Obama continues to maintain an ignorance of, and in my opinion, for very good reason – his policy is broken already and the rollout has done nothing but demonstrate that truth.  The tales of healthcare.gov failing are legendary by this point, but it is now coming to light the Administration knew of the potential impact to consumers.  Furthermore, it doesn’t appear that the alternate enrollment methods are not working quite as well as they should, either.  Even furthermore, significant portions of the bill have been demonstrated by actuary tables – the very instruments intended to make insurance plans and pools work – to be unsustainable.  Even even furthermore, Obama’s going as far to say he never made the promises he was videotaped making.

This, too, unfortunately demonstrates the disturbing trend among American political groups of their completely irrational devotion to their own stuff.  Another such example is Common Core.  When Republican states were leading the charge for a nationally based methods to make Springfield, IL the same as Springfield, TN the same as Springfield, MA in terms of education, we heard not a peep.  Now that a Democrat president has incorporated the standards into his own methods of improving education, the conservatives are willing to rise up and challenge the “federal takeover” without acknowledging the GOP’s role in creating that takeover.  Don’t get me wrong, Common Core is a bad idea and major liberalization of the education market must occur, but also don’t get the facts wrong.

Wiesel’s statement goes on to say “…the opposite of art is not ugliness, it’s indifference.  The opposite of faith is not heresy, it’s indifference.  The opposite of life is not death, it’s indifference.”  There are things we should be indifferent to, at least in terms of the potential negative impacts they have on us.  Personalizing the attacks that may come our way, whether intended to cut us deeply or provide valuable criticism, is something we should be indifferent to.  There are things we should not take so lightly, such the ways in which such criticisms can demonstrate a path towards improvement.  That our politics is now driven so much by personality and cult like following around individual people should be bothersome.

After all, the opposite of a free society is not totalitarianism, it’s indifference.  Let’s not be indifferent to what’s happening and why.  As I’ve said before, and will continue to say again and again, it’s our personal philosophy that demands attention.  Obama will eventually go, but it’s the philosophy he holds and continues to proselytize that will inevitably be our biggest threat.