ATLANTA — A deal for hundreds of millions of dollars in public money to draw the Atlanta Braves north of their downtown home is pitting conservative tea party activists against the elected and civic leaders in staunchly Republican Cobb County, with opponents saying the use of public money to help a private business is not what American capitalism should be about.
The argument for the deal is simple, says Commission Chairman Tim Lee and other supporters. Almost $400 million in county bonds and immediate infrastructure improvements, with debt payments approaching $600 million over 30 years — will generate enough economic activity and, thus, tax revenue to justify the spending.
“This is a home run for Cobb County,” Lee said at a public hearing on the eve of the commission’s 4-1 vote, “and I’m confident the people of Cobb will come to understand that.”
Nonsense, says Atlanta Tea Party Leader Debbie Dooley, whose group has a Cobb chapter.
It’s all “appalling hypocrisy” and “arrogance,” Dooley explained, particularly from the four Republican commissioners who pitch their conservative credentials and champion the idea of a free market. Dooley and other tea partyers typically associate active, expensive government with Democrats, but it was the commission’s lone Democrat who cast the only dissenting vote.
Citizens’ groups have blasted both the financing arrangement and the secretive manner that it came about, with commissioners approving a deal in late November, just weeks after Lee and Braves executives shocked Major League Baseball and metropolitan Atlanta by announcing a plan they’d hammered out in private.