Budget shortfalls in Cobb County, Georgia that could cause the closure and/or consolidation of multiple public libraries bring extra attention to the millions of dollars that the county is spending on SunTrust Park, the home of the Atlanta Braves.
On Monday, February 5, the Atlanta Journal Constitution reported that the commissioner of Cobb County instructed the county's libraries director to find cost savings of $2.9 million. It looks like that will lead to the closure and/or consolidation of eight public libraries, and the elimination of 124 part-time positions.
While the county is looking to cut services to the taxpayers who live in the county, the commission is working hard to enrich one privately held business which is valued at $1.5 billion. That business is the Atlanta Braves.
As recently as May 2017, the commission has committed more taxpayer dollars to SunTrust Park, where the Braves play their home games. An oversight by the commission in reviewing the lease agreement between the county and the team led to the county committing nearly an additional million dollars to cover the costs of traffic control around the park.
That's besides the bond payments for the construction of the park that the county is already on the hook for. That figure is expected to rise beyond $400 million over a 30-year period.
While their tax dollars have gone to boost the coffers of the Braves, Cobb County residents have enjoyed higher ticket prices as compared to Turner Field and now face the loss of jobs and access to the services that public libraries provide.
The facts of these private-public sports stadium partnerships continue to show that they are nothing but corporate welfare for billionaires financed on the backs of people who often can't afford to attend the games put on inside the stadiums. Put another way, it's the sports franchises using the force of law to extract the dollars they want from the wallets of their potential fans that the teams could not get those people to hand over willingly.
The Braves aren't the only accomplice in this scam, however. The county commission is just as guilty. From unethically re-directing tax dollars meant for public parks for the stadium to holding meetings about the project in hallways to avoid the public eye, the commission has bent over backward at every opportunity to ensure that life is good for the Braves.
A cut in services and jobs for the people who elected those commissioners shows they aren't willing to do the same for their constituents at large. The Braves haven't volunteered to make up the county's budget shortfall either.
To all the Cobb County residents whose taxes funded SunTrust Park's construction and are about to lose services or their jobs, the Braves show their appreciation for their 28 percent growth in valuation with a sub-.500 team and higher ticket prices. The officials elected to protect the interests of the county have enabled this fleecing, and it's now up to the voters in the county to hold them accountable.
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