The Atlanta City Council approved an amended resolution today authorizing the extension and use of the hotel/motel tax to partially fund a new retractable roof sports stadium for the Atlanta Falcons in downtown Atlanta that is estimated to cost $1 billion plus infrastructure and other costs.
|Dist. 8’s Yolanda Adrean
|The resolution was approved by a vote of 11-4, with Dist 8 Councilwoman Yolanda Adrean being the only Buckhead representative to vote in favor of the resolution.
The other yea votes were: council members Carla Smith, Ivory Lee Young, Jr., Cleta Winslow, Natalyn Archibong, C.T. Martin, Keisha Lance Bottoms, Joyce Sheperd, Michael Julian Bond, Aaron Watson and H. Lamar Willis.
The nay vptes were: Council members Howard Shook, Felicia Moore, Alex Wan and Kwanza Hall. Shook, Moore and Wan all represent parts of Buckhead.
Moore, who chairs the city’s Finance Committee, consistently spoke out during the proceedings Monday with objections to fast-tracking the resolution through City Council without full vetting of all aspects of the deal–including potential unanticipated costs to city taxpayers.
|Dist. 7’s Howard Shook
cast a no vote
Adrean, who told the Buckhead Council of Neighborhoods last Thursday night (March 14) that she would not vote Monday to pass the resolutions before council for the deal, because of a number of issues she felt had not been fully vetted, apparently saddled up to support the mayor in the end.
“I feel like council pushed hard for new concessions,” Adrean wrote in an email to BuckheadView Monday night. “The final amendments are not insignificant: another $20 million in infrastructure, no use of general fund money for infrastructure, operations or maintenance and a community benefits program before issuance of bonds,”
Adrean’s email also stated: “I felt I needed to stay at the table to negotiate for the most concessions we could get. Negotiations are difficult and you never get 100 percent. The transaction was significantly improved from what the state dumped in our lap.”
But, three of Buckhead’s four representatives on City Council apparently continued to believe that the proposal offered by the city administration and the Falcons organization still should have passed through the normal channels of City Council approval of major economic projects.
That process normally would require a first reading in City Council of an “ordinance”, followed by that being sent to committee for full review and only after that review was completed in a public forum having the ordinance returned to City Council for a vote.
|Dist. 9’s Felicia Moore,
one of four no votes.
That process would have taken a few weeks, which neither the administration of Mayor Kasim Reed nor the Falcons organization wanted to go through. Therefore, the agreement was presented in the form of a “resolution” to City Council, which can be presented and voted on at the same meeting without committee and public scrutiny.
At one point during the council meeting, Moore said, “This is unprecedented. We are voting on about something that will impact this city for 50 years or more. We need to take our time and make sure all our i’s are dotted and t’s are crossed.”
A motion by Moore to refer the stadium deal to the Finance Committee, rather than taking the action Monday, was rejected on a 10-5 vote. The five yes votes were by Moore, Shook, Wan, Hall and Archibong. Adrean voted no on the motion to refer to committee.
In the end, Moore made a final statement about her colleague’s vote: “I grew up near a train track and my mother always said ‘Don’t play on the train track.’ Well, the train is coming….I am gonna sit on the platform and bid you all adieu.”
|Councilman Kwanza Hall
“needed more time”
Atlanta City Council members received copies of the formal stadium proposal, with accompanying resolutions for passage by council, last Wednesday at 4:30 p.m., less than a week before being asked to vote on the 200-page package on Monday of this week.
The resolution passed Monday authorizes (1) the extension of the 39.3% hotel/motel tax to 2050, (2) approves a stadium funding agreement with Invest Atlanta, the city’s development arm, and an operation and maintenance agreement with the Georgia World Congress Center Authority (GWCCA).
Invest Atlanta, which has not been without controversy over the past few years, has agreed to issue revenue bonds in the amount of $200 million as the public’s contribution for the construction of the new $1 billion stadium. Falcons’ owner Arthur Blank will contribute the remaining $800 million needed for the public-private partnership to construct costs of the facility.
Several amendments were attached to the resolution during Monday’s meeting. An amendment by Councilmember C.T. Martin calls for the Falcons to contribute an additional $20 million towards infrastructure cost for a total contribution of $70 million.
|Dist. 6’s Alex Wan
cast a no vote.
The Falcons’ infrastructure contribution anticipates the need to reroute Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Drive in order to accommodate the facility on the preferred site south of the Georgia Dome.
Councilmember Carla Smith amended the resolution to state that no General Fund dollars will be used to finance the construction of the new stadium project or used for cost overruns, operations, maintenance or all related infrastructure costs.
Councilmember Michael Bond’s amendment calls for Invest Atlanta to facilitate development of the community benefits plan/agreement for the surrounding neighborhoods prior to the issuance of bonds. The plan/agreement must be adopted by the City Council and approved by the Mayo. The plan is to address traffic congestion, environmental impact, public safety and game day activities and economic development.
The Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation has committed $15 million for the purpose of investing in Vine City, English Avenue, Castleberry Hill and other neighborhoods contiguous to the new stadium. The funds, which will be controlled by the Blank Foundation, will be dedicated beginning in 2013 and no later than 2017. All funds will be invested in projects for the communities by December 2020.
Invest Atlanta has also committed $15 million from the Westside Tax Allocation District (“the TAD”) to co-investments in the targeted neighborhoods. It is anticipated that planned uses of the TAD funds will leverage additional public and private funds.
The Falcons organization plans to spend $20 million for site acquisition and development costs, but has not yet settled on which of two sites might be selected.
|City Council President
“From the beginning, I championed the need to make this a 360 degree deal that touches on the issues that are important to the community including infrastructure improvements, community investment and inclusion of local businesses during the construction of this new facility,” said City Council President Ceasar C. Mitchell.
“We look forward to our partnership with the Atlanta Falcons to tackle the hard work as we move forward,” Mitchell said.
Since February the Atlanta City Council has held a series of work sessions and public hearings on the proposed new stadium, including an extensive meeting last week with academic, accounting, and legal experts. But they had not receive the formal proposal until the close of business last Wednesday.
However, the formal proposal apparently was the result of more than two years of secret meetings and negotiations between the Reed administration and the Falcons organization.
“The agreements approved today represent the fruits of more than two years of collaborative discussions leading to a solution that serves the best interests of all involved, including the neighborhoods surrounding the new stadium,” said Falcons owner Arthur Blank. “The actions taken today are also a critical step toward the completion of final agreements necessary to move the new stadium forward.”
To promote full and equal business opportunities in connection with the design and construction of the new stadium, the Atlanta Falcons and the GWCCA have agreed to develop an Equal Business Opportunity Plan that will ensure at least 31 percent participation by women and minority business enterprises.
The construction of the stadium is expected to create more than 1,400 full-time equivalent jobs in Atlanta and more than 4,500 full-time equivalent jobs across Georgia over a three-year period, according to a study completed by Georgia State University Associate Professor Dr. Bruce Seaman.
The GWCCA Board of Governors on Friday authorized the authority to execute a binding memorandum of understanding between the Falcons and the GWCCA for a new stadium on the Georgia World Congress Center campus.