The Green Tea Coalition: Why the Sierra Club and the Georgia Tea Party keep teaming up
The Atlanta Braves want to relocate from the city to the suburbs of adjacent Cobb County in 2017 — and into a sparkling new $672 million stadium built with $300 million in public funds.
The Georgia chapters of the Tea Party and Sierra Club, however, have different plans.
In an unlikely pairing of libertarian anti-government angst and liberal tree-hugging activism, the two organizations are teaming up against the proposed stadium and calling for a public referendum on the project. Cobb County commissioners have tentatively approved the stadium deal, though they must still vote for final approval next Tuesday.
At first blush, the alliance between the polar opposite purveyors of agitprop sounds like a Mad Lib. Yet the two groups, at least in Georgia, have a history of successful cooperation premised on their occasionally overlapping interests.
Both groups contend the proposed stadium is a crooked deal stuck behind closed doors against the will of the people. But the Tea Party is concerned mainly with the taxes that will fund the project.
"This is another example of the good ol' boys getting rich and the taxpayers getting the shaft," Debbie Dooley, co-chair of the Atlanta Tea Party, told Bloomberg Businessweek.
The Sierra Club, on the other hand, is concerned that a suburban stadium, which won't be as readily accessible via mass transit, will put more cars on the road and dump more pollution into the air.
Last year, the two groups joined forces to successfully lobby against a proposed 10-year, one percent sales tax that would have funded a major transportation project. As with the stadium deal, the Tea Party bristled at the threat of higher taxes, while the Sierra Club panned the plan for being too highway-heavy and mass transit-light.
Both sides also warned that the deal would pour money into the pockets of connected pols. A "suspicion of cronyism and back-room deals," wrote the Atlanta Journal-Constitution's Jim Galloway, "served as an effective, non-ideological glue for both sides."
"And by sticking together, the two groups have permitted right and left wings to communicate and coordinate in a way that otherwise would have been unlikely," he added.
Despite facing an enormous fundraising gap, the activists prevailed, and voters struck down the $7.2 billion plan by a resounding 63-37 percent vote.
That's not all. Another alliance between the two groups, which have dubbed themselves the "Green Tea Coalition," has worked more recently to promote renewable energy in Georgia.
The Sierra Club's interest in that issue is pretty straightforward. But the Tea Party Patriots took a more unique route to backing alternative energy, saying it would increase choice in the energy marketplace and drive down prices for everyone. Essentially: Laissez faire wattage.
Here's how Dooley, the Atlanta Tea Party head, explained the partnership in a guest post for the eco-blog Grist:
In Georgia, we have one company controlling all of the electricity production, which means consumers have no say in what kind of power they must buy. A solar company could not start up and offer clean power to customers because of restrictions in state law. Our Constitution does not say that government should pick winners and losers, but that is what government is doing when it protects the interests of older technologies over clean energy that’s now available at competitive prices. I say, let the market decide. [Grist]
So you see, the two sides aren't such strange bedfellows after all. Perhaps members of Congress should take note.