BRADENTON, Fla. — The watchdog group Common Cause Georgia has called off its petition effort to seek a referendum on the issue of public financing for the $1 billion new stadium for the National Football League's Atlanta Falcons.
The organization said on its website that it spent 58 days collecting petition signatures, and the deadline to submit 35,000 signatures ended Aug. 10, but it did not have enough to force the issue onto the ballot.
Because of the laborious task of getting and notarizing each signature, Common Cause said that it concentrated on getting signatures and did not know exactly how many names were collected. The group estimated there were around 10,000 signatures.
As the clock ran out on time to gather voters, Common Cause said it appeared that the "Hail Mary" pass it threw to get the question onto the ballot "didn't result in a touchdown.
"But as most football fans will tell you, if there is no other option to win a game when your team is down — you have to throw the ball up in the air and try your best — and we did," the group said.
Despite the failed effort, Common Cause said it remains convinced that voters want a referendum and do not want public funds spent on the stadium.
"This is an important issue, not just for people who live in Atlanta, but for all Georgians who will be the 'owners' of the proposed new stadium," the organization said.
When the group filed a notice at city hall May 30 pronouncing that it would attempt to force the referendum, a legal dispute with city officials developed over whether a petition process to seek a referendum even existed.
At the time Mayor Kasim Reed accused the organization's executive director William Perry of sacrificing the group's reputation "for the sake of furthering his own personal ambition" and attempting to derail the stadium development.
"The state-of-the-art facility is going to help strengthen the city's $10 billion tourism and convention industry and the 220,000 jobs it supports, spur economic development in the surrounding neighborhoods, and keep the Atlanta Falcons in the heart of downtown for the next 30 years," Reed said.
Earlier this year the Atlanta City Council approved issuing $200 million of municipal bonds secured by a local hotel-motel tax to support the Falcons' $1 billion, retractable-roof stadium.
The remaining $800 million will come from the Falcons, the NFL, and personal seat licenses.
Invest Atlanta, the city's economic development agency, currently is planning to issue the 30-year bonds in July 2014.