INMAN PARK — Atlanta City Councilman Kwanza Hall said Wednesday he is not necessarily opposed to a new stadium for the Atlanta Falcons.
Speaking to the monthly meeting of the Inman Park Neighborhood Association, Hall, whose District 2 includes that community, as well as Downtown, Old Fourth Ward and Sweet Auburn, said the council's March 18 vote to approve the project was taken too soon.
Hall, who is seeking reelection, is one of four council members who voted against the $1 billion deal for a new stadium.
Billionaire Arthur Blank, Falcons owner, wants a new stadium with a retractable roof to replace the team's current home at the Georgia Dome.
The deal, which has the support of and pushed by Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed, calls for the Falcons to cover 80 percent of the cost and city of Atlanta's hotel/motel taxes funding the remainder.
Both sides announced finalization of the agreement in a March 7, 2013 news conference.
But Hall said the project warranted more study by council members and time for review by those communities most affected by its construction.
"I believe in growth," Hall told IPNA. "I love football; I love our team. I just think we needed to be more deliberate."
Brian McGowan, Invest Atlanta's president and CEO told SaportaReport.com: “We want to take a minute and look at the amendments."
Following the IPNA meeting, Hall released this position statement to East Atlanta Patch explaining the reasons behind his 'no' vote:
The proposal before us this Monday was one of the most significant pieces of legislation that the Council has considered since I took office in 2006. I was looking forward to reviewing it with the seriousness that it deserved.
On the afternoon of Wednesday, March 13, copies of the proposal were first delivered to our offices. This was less than 24 hours before my colleague, Finance/Executive committee chair Felicia Moore, was to convene our first work session on the proposal. At the conclusion of the Thursday, March 14, work session, Councilmember Moore scheduled a second work session for today, Thursday, March 21.
On Monday, March 18 — five days after my colleagues and I first received the proposal — a resolution was introduced with the intent of forcing a Council vote that same day. In its original form, the proposal was primarily a document committing $200 million generated by the city’s hotel/motel tax for the purposes of constructing a new multipurpose sports facility. There was no community benefits plan in the proposal, and there was no provision to protect the City’s General Fund from expenditures related to the stadium.
Over the course of Monday’s Council meeting, a number of amendments to the proposal were introduced that improved the proposal greatly, including measures to protect the General Fund and a commitment, without details, to a community benefits plan.
I declined to support Monday’s vote out of deference to Councilmember Moore’s scheduled work session for today and because I wanted my constituents to have an opportunity to consider the many new features of the legislation which were introduced in rapid succession during Monday’s Council meeting. I was particularly interested in protecting and hearing from my constituents in Castleberry Hill, the Marietta Artery, and Downtown, the neighborhoods in District 2 that are most impacted by major new developments and events in the greater downtown area. These residents and small business owners were top of mind for me because over the past few years District 2 constituents have borne the brunt of two previous Council decisions that, in retrospect, could have benefitted from more time for Council deliberation: the details of the contracts for Park Atlanta and General Growth Properties.
With appropriate time for considered review, I might have been in a position to support this proposal.
My record of supporting growth and development within the City of Atlanta is strong. As a result of my convening the Old Fourth Ward community for a master planning process in 2007-2008, the Old Fourth Ward is currently a boomtown. My support of the Atlanta BeltLine, the Atlanta Streetcar, the National Center for Civil and Human Rights, and the College Football Hall of Fame demonstrate my commitment to projects destined to transform Downtown Atlanta. But: Decisions on those legacy projects, as well as the Council’s recent revisions to pension plans for City of Atlanta employees, came after serious collegial discussion and careful deliberation.
I have the greatest respect for Arthur Blank and the Atlanta Falcons, and I am grateful for the innovative philanthropy of the Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation, which has supported a number of projects in Council District 2, including the ground-breaking Wheat Street urban farm in the Sweet Auburn neighborhood.
Now that the Atlanta City Council has approved this proposal by a vote of 11-4, I look forward to working with the Blank Family Foundation and Invest Atlanta as we flesh out the details of the community benefits plan for the neighborhoods in the area. Throughout our work together, the residents of the neighborhoods immediately adjacent to the new stadium will be foremost on my mind and first in my prayers.