By Collin Kelley
The old idiom about the left hand not knowing what the right hand is doing applies to City of Atlanta officials after a string of emails about the Braves move to Cobb County were published by the local media this week. Both the Atlanta Business Chronicle and Atlanta Journal-Constitution have published some of the more embarrassing emails, which everyone at city hall clearly forgot were available via a simple open records request.
I’m sure Deputy COO Hans Utz wishes he could retract his haiku (although I do admire anyone who attempts poetry under pressure) and references to the Braves becoming the “Cobb Crackers” or “Smyrna Sh**tholes”. I’m sure he’s had time to think about those words since he was suspended for three days without pay. Someone had to fall on their sword and Utz got the job.
It appears from the emails that Mayor Kasim Reed and other members of his administration knew of the Braves’ plan at least four days before the world found out. The Nov. 11 revelation by the Braves (the “Veteran’s Day Surprise”) and launch of a shiny new website is further proof that this decision was made weeks, if not months, earlier. Shortly after the bombshell announcement, the Braves rolled out some pretty renderings of the new Cobb stadium and entertainment complex just to rub more salt in the wound. A few weeks later, the Cobb County Commission voted to approve the new stadium. The breakneck speed of this deal put in sharp contrast the drawn out, tedious and very public negotiations over the new Falcons stadium.
One would have thought Mayor Reed would be nonplussed at this turn of events, but he’s played it cool and indifferent. You couldn’t turn on a television, pick up a paper or visit a website without Reed piping up on the Falcons stadium deal and how important it was to the city, but the Braves… meh.
Two day after the Braves announced their move, Reed held a press conference and casually announced that Turner Field would be demolished and turned into a middle class, mixed-use development. While other city leaders urged Reed back to the bargaining table with the Braves, Reed said he wouldn’t meddle with a business deal. The City Council – obviously thrown for a loop – offered up $200 million to renovate The Ted without an explanation of where the money would come from.
Reed said he didn’t want to spend taxpayer dollars on keeping the Braves when there are more pressing needs, including serious infrastructure repairs, that should come first. There’s no disputing that, but the whole story of how the negotiations with the Braves was handled has yet to be revealed, but what we know so far, frankly, stinks.
Maybe the administration doesn’t think so, but playing favorites with the Falcons and letting the Braves slip out of the city is an embarrassment. Maybe someone else should be falling on their sword.