ATLANTA - Opponents of public money going toward new stadiums for the Atlanta Braves and Atlanta Falcons want lawmakers to require referendums for future public-private partnerships, even as those projects are underway.
The Braves have begun construction of a new stadium in nearby Cobb County to replace downtown Turner Field, and the Falcons are building in downtown Atlanta next to the existing Georgia Dome. Public bonds have been approved for both - $200 million toward the Falcons $1 billion stadium and $300 million toward the Braves $672 million stadium.
Atlanta Tea Party co-chair Debbie Dooley said that kind of public money put toward a private project should be voted on. Dooley and other opponents of the stadium deals said they plan to ask lawmakers of both parties to sponsor a bill during the next legislation session. They did not name a threshold that would trigger a referendum.
"When you have public-private partnerships of this magnitude, it is wrong that voters were not required to give their approval," Dooley said.
John Loud, who founded pro-stadium group Cobb Home of the Braves with other business owners in the area, said a referendum would be ugly and bring outside money meant to influence the outcome. Voters elect officials to make decisions like the stadium project, he said.
"The community starts fighting against each other, and ultimately taxpayers are hurt in the long run," he said.
Members of the coalition of black clergy, neighborhood associations and tea party groups announced Monday outside the Georgia Capitol said they will continue to fight bond approvals by appealing lower court decisions in favor of the city of Atlanta and Cobb County to the state Supreme Court.