Politician responsible for Braves stadium deal loses re-election

Liz Roscher
Baseball Commissioner Elect Rob Manfred, center, is seen with Atlanta Braves President John Schuerholz, left, and Cobb County Chairman Tim Lee, right, during a ground breaking ceremony for the Atlanta Braves new stadium which will be called SunTrust Park, Tuesday, Sept. 16, 2014, in Atlanta. The Braves will be moving from Turner Field in Fulton County to the new stadium being built in Cobb County in 2017. (AP Photo/John Amis)
(AP Photo/John Amis)

Someone is finally paying for the mess that is the Atlanta Braves’ stadium deal in Cobb County, GA. That someone is Tim Lee, the architect of the deal that commits $400 million of Cobb County money to a new stadium the Braves don’t need. Tim Lee was defeated in his re-election bid for Cobb County Commission Chairman on Tuesday night, losing to Mike Boyce

Lee told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that he still stands by the deal that is essentially responsible for his defeat.

“I think voters are expressing a dissatisfaction with what they believe to be true,” Lee said. He called the Braves deal possibly “the most beneficial economic project for decades to come” for Cobb.

Lee said he was confident he did the right thing for the county, even if it made him unpopular.

Winner Mike Boyce was thoroughly determined to beat Lee, using public dissatisfaction about the new stadium, SunTrust Park, to his advantage. Boyce and his campaign team also reached more than 100,000 Cobb County residents by phone, and as someone who has worked as a phone jockey on a political campaign and in fundraising, I can say that is quite an accomplishment.

Make no mistake: the stadium deal is deeply unpopular. It started badly when it was announced out of nowhere in November 2013, leaving many angry that the decision to spend $400 million of Cobb County money was made without public input. (The public would only get to vote if a new tax was being introduced, and the stadium is being financed through existing taxes.) Braves president John Schuerholz said that the deal had to be brokered in secret because if people knew, they “would not want this to happen.” Funny, the public saying “no” is usually a sign that something should not happen.

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Lee did nothing to endear himself to his constituents in May 2014 when the Cobb County Commissioners voted to approve the stadium deal. Only those in support of the new stadium were allowed to speak, the speaking spots were limited to 12, the public meeting started at a time that was difficult for working people to attend, and the commissioners approved the vote without any debate. Seems fair, right?

On top of that, Cobb County is underfunding a parks bond that the public voted on in 2008. They’re shorting the $40 million bond by half, leaving them just $20 million to buy parks land that would allow them to meet the national standard of 10 acres of parkland per 1000 residents. To fully fund the bond, Lee said that a tax increase would be required. But there was plenty of money for SunTrust Park, of course.

While the deal is terrible, let’s not forget about the future shortcomings of SunTrust Park. It will be smaller than Turner Field (their current home), it will have less parking, and be inconvenient for anyone who wants to get there using mass transit.

Nothing can undo what’s already been done in Cobb County. But tossing Tim Lee out of his commissioner’s seat is essentially the public showing their dissatisfaction with how their tax dollars are being spent. Cobb County residents have been denied the opportunity to have any input on the Braves stadium deal, so this election was their chance. And their voice has been heard loud and clear.

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Liz Roscher is a writer for Big League Stew on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email her at lizroscher@yahoo.com or follow her on twitter! Follow @lizroscher