Political Notes: Supreme Court’s stadium bond ruling gives Reed, Perry something new to disagree about

[private]It would be difficult to find two people in Georgia politics who dislike each other more intensely than Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed and Common Cause Executive Director William Perry.

They’ve been squabbling for years over various political and ethical issues, so it was no surprise that they would disagree over the Georgia Supreme Court’s ruling Monday that upheld the bonds issued for the new Atlanta Falcons football stadium.

“The new Atlanta stadium will generate $155 million in annual revenue within the city, secure the retention of the Atlanta Falcons in our downtown for another 30 years and create 1,400 well-paying jobs during the building’s construction,” said Reed in response to the court’s ruling.

“It will also keep the City of Atlanta at the forefront of the hospitality and tourism industry, which generates $13 billion annually and supports more than 200,000 jobs in the region,” Reed said.

Perry, who contends that Atlanta voters should have had an opportunity to weigh in on the bond issue before the bonds were approved by Invest Atlanta, saw it a bit differently.

“In green-lighting the bonds, the court not only gives the City of Atlanta the go-ahead to reimburse the Falcons for $200 million in current construction costs, but upwards of a billion dollars in taxpayer dollars over the life of the project,” Perry said.

“With all of the information that has come to light over the course of this case, we know the citizens of Atlanta deserved a better deal,” Perry said. “We applaud this group of citizens who bravely stood up in an attempt to hold power accountable.”

The Supreme Court’s unanimous decision, which had long been awaited, was that the bonds issued by Invest Atlanta in 2013 were constitutional. The justices rejected the arguments by a group of Atlanta residents who were challenging the bond validation.

Criticizing a name change

If the Legislature goes along with Gov. Nathan Deal’s request to approve a name change for the state’s Technical College System, they could be inviting trouble from the organization that accredits these colleges.

A group of retired technical college presidents has openly questioned the proposal to rename these institutions as “Career Colleges” and estimates the cost to the state’s taxpayers would be $14 million.

Lee Shearer of the Athens Banner-Herald reports that Belle Wheelan, president of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges, is questioning the proposed name change to Georgia Career Colleges:

The presidents and Wheelan wrote letters to Deal asking him to reconsider.

“Throughout the United States, there is a hierarchy of institutions that are recognized by the general public ranging from the elite Ivy League institutions to state colleges and universities to technical and community colleges,” Wheelan wrote.

“Career colleges are generally not recognized in that hierarchy and if the name of the TCSG were changed, I believe it would not only cause confusion, but would significantly change the perception of the quality of the educational offerings that the system’s institutions have worked years to earn.”

Instead of encouraging more people to attend, “I’m not sure it wouldn’t have the opposite effect,” said Bob Jones, the retired president of Columbus Technical College and chair of a retired technical college presidents group.

HB 315 is the bill that would change the name of the state’s Technical College System to the Georgia Career College System. It has passed the House and is pending in the Senate.

Development authorities are also on the line

State Sen. Brandon Beach (R-Alpharetta) is catching some flak for a bill he’s trying to get through the Legislature that would greatly enlarge the kinds of development projects that would be eligible for bond funding through local development authorities (SB 85).

Ricky Leroux writes in the Marietta Daily Journal:

“It’s a linguistic change, a modification to streamline the process,” said Beach, who is the president and CEO of both the Greater North Fulton Chamber of Commerce and the North Fulton Community Improvement District in addition to being a state senator.

However, Sen. Lindsey Tippins (R-west Cobb), who voted against the bill, disagrees with Beach, saying the bill would replace the 14-part definition of projects with “10 lines that gives (development authorities) virtually unbridled authority to accept any project that they in their judgment deem to be in the best public interest.”

Randy Scamihorn, chair of the Cobb Board of Education, said he agrees with Tippins “110 percent” and called the bill a “serious intrusion” into the taxing authority school boards have.

“I don’t accept that (the bill) cleans up the language,” Scamihorn said. “It takes discretion and authority away from local school boards and it also limits our ability to justify and to control our authority to tax our citizens.”

Scamihorn explained how the changes in the bill would hamper school boards.

“By broadly defining projects, then anything could be a project,” Scamihorn said. “Therefore, I can take whatever money when I want it, regardless of how the local school board feels about it.”

© 2015 by The Georgia Report

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Tags: Atlanta Falcons stadium , Brandon Beach , development authorities , Georgia Supreme Court , Kasim Reed , name change , Technical College System , William Perry