Watchdog group launches petition to stop new stadium funding

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ATLANTA —

A legislative watchdog group announced Thursday they are now collecting signatures to force public financing for the new Atlanta Falcons stadium onto a November ballot.

Common Cause Georgia is hoping to collect at least 35,000 signatures on a petition that asks citizens if the legislation should be repealed.

The maneuver comes after the organization discovered a clause in the city charter.

If the signatures are gathered in 60 days, voters would then be asked if they want to repeal the City Council measure that allows $200 million dollars in hotel/motel taxes to be used for the $1 billion stadium project.

Common Cause Georgia Executive Director William Perry told Channel 2’s Lori Geary that he is not opposed to the stadium, but is opposed to the use of public funds for construction.

“This is a historic attempt because nobody has ever even tried this... much less successfully pulled it off,” Perry said.

Perry said he is aiming to collect 40,000 signatures. The law requires the signatures of 15 percent of Atlanta’s registered voters in 2009, the last citywide election.

“Until they get the bonds certified and they’re able to sell the bonds, until they break ground on the stadium, we think people still have the opportunity to raise up,” Perry said. “Let their voice be heard and if the majority of the people don’t want it, just stop it.”

Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed quickly lashed out at Common Cause and spoke of the economic benefits of a new stadium.

“William Perry is sacrificing the reputation of a once-venerable and well-respected organization for the sake of furthering his own personal ambition. His attempt to derail the stadium development is a losing proposition,” Reed said in a statement.

“We have already had tangible wins because of the approved stadium development deal. The construction of the new stadium will create much needed-construction jobs and include opportunities for women and small business owners,” Reed added. “Common Cause Georgia should focus on moving our city forward, not taking us backwards.”

The Falcons plan to be in their new stadium by 2017, with demolition of the Georgia Dome to follow.