From Nicholas B. Reese of Augusta, GA:
I know there has been a lot of discussion recently in Aberdeen regarding mayor Micheal Bennett’s trip to Augusta, GA on behalf of Ripken Baseball. So I thought it may be helpful to write in to provide the perspective of someone from Augusta. As you may be aware, Ripken Baseball also owns a minor league baseball team down here called The Augusta GreenJackets. For the past 5 years there has been a proposal to build a new stadium for the team, supposedly in downtown, to replace the 16 year old ballpark at Lake Olmstead. Though many people agree that a brand new stadium would be nice, as would many shiny new amenities, most people are against using public money to build a new stadium, especially when the current one appears to be more than adequate. In fact, a Democratic straw poll just last year showed that over %77 of respondents were against using any public money to build a new stadium and numerous media polls have reflected that sentiment.
Still, despite the overwhelming opposition from the public, our mayor Copenhaver and Ripken Baseball officials continue to push for the stadium and even try to label anyone who opposes using tax money to build it as anti progress or “against everything.” That’s simply not true. We are just against the city of Augusta, which is struggling financially with yearly budget shortfalls, going into further debt over an unneeded ballpark.
I also believe the sales pitch for the stadium has been based on mostly false information. From the beginning, claims have been made that revenues from the stadium would more than cover the city’s cost, and that it would spur adjacent development like condos, retail and a hotel.
So it was quite interesting to learn from a 2007 Baltimore Sun article by Justin Fenton, that Aberdeen was losing hundreds of thousands on dollars on Ripken Stadium and most of the expected adjacent development that was supposed to compensate the taxpayers had stalled or was cancelled. From reviewing the facts, it seemed quite obvious that the city of Aberdeen made a very one-sided financial deal with Ripken Baseball. A group of concerned citizens brought this information to the attention of public officials here in Augusta, so that this city could hopefully avoid making a similarly bad financial deal.
So it was quite surprising when your mayor Bennett made a trip down here to Augusta with Ripken Baseball officials (at their expense) to essentially say that none of that was true. That Aberdeen had not been losing money on the stadium, and that those of us who were saying this were spreading rumors. But the facts say otherwise. Even the most current budget for Aberdeen shows that the city is still taking hundreds of thousands of dollars from the general fund to service stadium debt, and the vast majority of the promised adjacent real-estate development has not materialized.
So for mayor Bennett to come down here at the behest of a company with which Aberdeen has a financial relationship and white-wash the facts and try to discredit those of us who have been trying to get whole story out there is disingenuous at best and outright dishonest at worst. It is certainly not my place to tell the people of Aberdeen who to vote for in your upcoming mayoral election, but I will leave you with this: Shouldn’t the taxpayers expect their public officials to work for them and not as a lobbyist for a private company that does business with the city? Shouldn’t the public expect honesty and forthrightness from their public servants instead of political spin and obfuscation of the truth? That is for you to decide, but I know what my answers would be if I were in your shoes.
Nicholas B. Reese
bring baseball downtown says
Funny Reese considering you don’t live in Augusta anymore but claim you do. I am not sure how much else to believe in your story above.
Tom West says
Amazing how far the reach is for the Augusta machine that is trying to get a downtown stadium in Augusta (see the response from Bring Baseball Downtown).
The issue is local government keeps pushing this albatross and it has already been voted on in a Democratic primary last year where it failed miserably.
It is true the lands adjacent to the proposed stadium location are owned by the friends of the mayor or the mayor’s extended family but I guess even in these times of budget slashing and job worries a simply mayor has to provide for himself and his family and friends.
Augusta, Georgia is the land of government for graft, graft for influence and certainly for voter election fraud.
Great letter and spot on. Here is my $0.02 worth on this whole mess.
I am from Augusta, and even though I may not currently live there (I live and work in Africa for the past five years) I own property there, my family owns a house and business there, my wife and children live there in our house and I have many friends who also pay taxes and vote in Augusta.
People can spin mayor Bennit’s visit to Augusta anyway they like, but your mayor came to Augusta and tried to mislead us into supporting another tax payer boondoggle just like the one Aberdeen is strapped with. How else can you characterize his assertions that the Ripken stadium was a good deal for the city of Aberdeen?
The ones who paid for the trip hopes that through a muddying of waters on the financial viability (should be LIABILITY) of the Aberdeen stadium that they can turn around the fact 70% are against this in Augusta.
I mean come on people, that deal with Ripken Baseball is SO bad that it cost the tax payers of Aberdeen $300,000.00 a year over the expected obligations. Proponents can say it was because some other developments fell through, but the fact is, the promised developments almost NEVER happen on these things. I know that because we (the opponents to this huge waste of tax payer monies) have all done volumes of research on these stadiums so we would be armed with the facts when faced with a lot of hollow promises of “growth” and “job creation” if we (the tax payer) would just fork over another $40,000,000.00.
And as far as Mayor Michael Bennett being a Democrat, I am not sure what the Democratic Party there in Maryland stands for, but here in Dixie we don’t support already super rich far-right Republicans becoming even richer on the backs of working families. Which is exactly what the supporters of this stadium here are hoping will happen.
The proposed $40,000,000.00 Augusta Ripken stadium Augusta Mayor Deke Copenhaver has been pushing for Ripken Baseball (since day one in office I might add) is being pushed for one main reason, land values.
The land the current stadium sits on is wanted by some very rich, very connected (most to Mayor Copenhaver’s extended family) “developers” for condos. The land they are pushing the new gazillion dollar stadium to be built on is the SAME crew of ultra-rich “developers” we call the CABAL.
I can tell you one thing that I know to be100% correct, Mayor Michael Bennett involved himself in our affairs down here and tried to help Ripken Baseball pull the same bad deal on us he did there on you all, and so we are getting involved in his affairs up there.
It is non-partisan anger here and just an issue of right and wrong for us. And what Mayor Michael Bennett did was wrong. Period.
Toby Sanchez says
Thank you for your candor. I believe Mr. Bennett bold-faced lied to you all in GA. and to the citizens here in Aberdeen by implication. I am glad to hear there is an ethics investigation started.
Where does he live?
H. Gordy says
This letter is spot on. I live in Augusta and this is exactly what they have been trying to do here with this stadium. We keep saying no and they keep coming back like a zombie from a horror film. If Aberdeen has lost so much money on its stadium, why would this mayor Bennett come down to Augusta and try to say otherwise. Is he on the payroll for Ripken Baseball?
Ripken Baseball controls everything in Aberdeen, even their politicians. There has been no development at the Ripken Stadium site other than a hotel. And that’s only becuase the Marriot got a sweatheart deal! No property tax and they lease the land, actually part of the little league ball field, that is a scaled down copy the wharehouse at Camden Yards, from Ripken.
Ripken also owns a facility in Myrtle Beach, SC. Maybe your Agusta officials should contact their counterparts there and not wiat for Ripken to pay them off.
H. Gordy says
One more thing to add about the situation here in Augusta. Some people started looking in to who all owned the land around the proposed new downtown stadium in Augusta and found something interesting: that a lot of the land is owned by the mayor’s inlaws and best buddies and campaign contributors. This is crony capitalism at its worst. The fact that the Aberdeen mayor would come down here to help them sell this stadium idea by lying about what actually happened in Aberdeen is shameful. It makes you wonder if they are all on the take. Mayor Copenhaver bought the last two elections here.
jill peterson says
who do these mayors work for? i imagine possibly why augusta’s mayor pushes bad ideas onto the taxpayers’ bill that lose money; he’s a banker and developer and realtor trust fund baby pretending to have a job for a while to get his peeps some government slush, but what is bennett’s deal? what a chump. just kidding. augusta’s mayor is a huge chump as well. all studies and experts tell us these things don’t make money. who do our mayors work for and how hard do we have to work to stop them? it’s like having a pet monkey that can get into all the cabinets.
Jill, I can’t speak for all, but if you go by Deke Copenhaver’s meeting schedule, he works for Ripken Baseball.
P.S. Post those meeting numbers will you? I think the good readers should see the truth.
Pissed with the Government says
PLEASE WRITE TO THE ABERDEEN ETHICS COMMITTEE AND DEMAND THAT THEY INVESTIGATE MAYOR MICHAEL BENNETT AND RIPKEN BASEBALL
Election Day is November 8, the citizens can cast their ballot between 7 a.m. and 8 p.m. at the voting machines located at the Aberdeen Senior Center. Instead of 15 or 20 percent voting, let’s get 50 or 60 percent out there, and let the public decide. An overwhelming victory on either side can put this to rest.
Jason Wynn says
Bennett will crush McGrady in November. This city needs real expereinces and not what McGrady offers our community. Rumor has it that the guy that wrote the letter doesnt live in Augusta and he has his facts all wrong. I wonder if this guy lives up here now? I sure hope not because we dont need anymore loose cannons around here.
Vanessa R says
So Mr Wynn, what facts are wrong? YOu know as well as all of us up here how much the taxpayers have lost on this stadium. We need to be funding police, utilities and sanitation.. not wasting money each year paying debt on this white elephant. The stadium is nice, but the taxpayers of aberdeen should have never been put on the hook to build it, especially not on the lies that we were told. Now mayor Bennett is telling the same lies to the people in Augusta, when he knows full well the history of the stadium up here. I am frankly tired of having my water rates and taxes go up year after year to pay off this white elephant.
check facts, please says
Mr. Bennett bold faced lied both in GA and here in Aberdeen. He has only himself to blame for the ethics investigation. He is quite selective in his topics of concern, and his interests. Mr. Helton seems to have quite a bit of influence on Mr.Bennett, at the expense of “regular” citizens.
Mr. McGrady stands up for his beliefs. He supports liberty…which means to me, that he will cut the extra waste w/n the budget to “liberate” the funds so property taxes and water and sewer bills will not have to be raised again, w/n the next year, hopefully longer. Mr. McGrady says he will demand that the city employees treat the city residents with respect. Something that is not occuring at this time. Have you called the town office lately for info? Try it some time. Mr. McGrady is young, intelligent, energetic and has the ambition that many w/n our city admire. He doesn’t denigrate other candidates as has been done to him, and I do give him credit for his courage and his optimism. Good luck, Mr. McGrady. May God bless you in this adventure.
Vanessa R says
I voted for Mr Bennett the last two times, but not this time. The most important quality I judge a politician on is their honesty (yes I know cynics will say there is no such thing as an honest politician) But it is still something I believe in and I base my vote on. Honesty is more important to me than party affiliation. I believe that mayor Bennett was deliberately dishonest in his remarks to the people of Augusta in an effort to help Ripken Baseball. I do not believe I can trust him to conduct the business of this city for another 4 years. I am willing to give Mr McGrady a chance.
Jason Wynn says
McGrady wont get 20% of the votes because he daddy can only do some much for him. You people never let the facts get in the way of a good story.
vietnam vet says
Vanessa the Mayors Honesty, could certainly be in question.his past record would indicate that.
Phil Dirt says
Seems clear to me – a vote for Bennett means you support his version and have no issues with the deal between Aberdeen and Ripken’s group.
Pissed with the Government says
It’s not about the deal that was made before Bennett was mayor, and honestly I don’t care all that much about his lies to the people of Augusta, GA. What I care about is his unethical behavior as the mayor of Aberdeen who acted as a corporate shill for Ripken Baseball when they payed him to go down to Georgia to act as a salesman for Ripken baseball.
Enough of this Nonsense says
What lies did Bennett tell? That the former Mayor Doug Wilson made a horrendous land deal with the developer down in White Marsh (Nottingham) and didn’t tie the land sale to a firm construction date costing the city millions in taxable sales and wages from activity on the land that was promised as part of a lifestyle center. How many of you so called citizens were aware that the land sale for construction was the trigger to cover the debt on the stadium from day 1? Please tell me how that is Ripken’s fault? Or Ripken’s obligation to cover the city’s bungling of a simple land transaction? You already fired that Mayor and that administration, in the meantime Ripken Stadium and the baseball complex are the LARGEST driver of tourism in the entire county!!! that is FACT! Ask the hotels, resturants and retail how much better they would be off if the stadium was built…Good luck with that.
Where does Nicholas B. Reese live? I would like to get into contact with him.