T-SPLOST voter intimidation?

Big business moving workers

We’re three weeks away from voting on a 1-cent sales tax to fund $8.5 million in transportation improvements in metro Atlanta. (Early voting is open now.) A conservative leader writes that Atlanta companies are intimidating their employees to vote ‘yes’ on July 31 and tax themselves. A Coke executive says better transit and roadways will help workers save time and keep local businesses humming.

Tom Sabulis is today’s moderator. Commenting is open following John Brock’s column below.

By Sadie Fields

Voter intimidation is wrong no matter who does it.

Voter intimidation can be as extreme as when members of the New Black Panther Party stood out front of a polling place in Philadelphia on Election Day 2008 wearing paramilitary garb, with one carrying a nightstick.

In our own backyard, voter intimidation is taking a more subtle approach as exhibited by the Metro Atlanta Chamber regarding the upcoming T-SPLOST vote. The business community is calling employees into staff meetings to encourage them to vote for the tax increase. An employee of any company would certainly feel intimidated and perhaps believe his or her job is on the line if he or she didn’t toe the company line on the tax hike.

Sam Williams, president and CEO of the Metro Atlanta Chamber, is leading the charge in this effort to squeeze employees into voting themselves a 10-year tax increase for a transportation plan. It is also a plan that is not cost-effective, one that is too focused on mass transit and will do little to ease congestion.

Williams told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution that several member companies are working on turn-out-the-vote efforts, including hosting employee meetings to brief workers on the plan and offering time off to vote. The article goes on to say businesses are committed to turning out an extra 50,000 voters on July 31 when Georgians vote on the T-SPLOST referendum.

This reminds me of the tactics you see in states such as Wisconsin or Ohio, where unions used intimidation to repeal measures to keep the size of government in check.

Voters just don’t like to be told what to do, and they certainly don’t like a bully.

Apparently, the $8 million advertising campaign to push the sales tax increase may not persuade enough voters to tax themselves for another decade. Thus, we have a chamber and business community resorting to “suggest” to employees that they vote themselves a tax hike.

Georgia prides itself on being a right to work state, staving off efforts of organized unions for decades. Now, it seems a consortium of businesses with interests at stake want to be the unofficial union in Georgia. And just like any union, it will be at the expense of taxpayers.

Encouraging employees to vote in order to ensure a free society is a laudable exercise. Encouraging employees to vote in a certain way is an exercise in power. If you control a man’s livelihood, you have power over his will.

An issue that cannot succeed on its merit should fail. Employees should not fear reprisal if they choose to exercise their constitutional right by expressing an opinion contrary to the powers that be.

The power play displayed by the metro chamber is a violation of the prin­ciples of a free society. If a vote is sovereign, it must mean voters have the right to set the agenda, discuss the issues and then directly make the final decisions.

I will be voting “no” on the tax increase July 31 and encourage fellow Georgians to do the same.

Sadie Fields is the former chairwoman of the Christian Coalition of Georgia and Georgia Christian Alliance.

By John Brock

One of the most important lessons a region, its leaders and businesses learn is that transportation is critical to prosperity. If goods and people can’t go, a city can’t grow.

That has always been true for Atlanta, which was actually founded on transportation. It was a railroad hub that flourished and became the booming capital of the New South, thanks to city leaders with the foresight to build an international airport and to capitalize on the federal interstate system.

Our fabulous transportation system made Atlanta the envy of others, and it paid off: Major companies such as UPS, Newell Rubbermaid and NCR moved their headquarters here.

Our status as a transportation hub was the magnet for companies such as Caterpillar, AGCO and Kia Motors.

Time is money, and that’s never been truer than in today’s 24/7 world. The executives who relocated here, bringing thousands of jobs and adding to our tax base, needed to be able to move quickly to capitalize on business opportunities — whether it was around town, around the country or around the world.

From a Coca-Cola Enterprises and a Coca-Cola system standpoint, it is critically important for us to have a transportation system that allows employees to get to and from their homes and offices efficiently.

And today, they cannot. Just as important, it is key that trucks carrying Coca-Cola products get these products to and from stores in an efficient system.

Unfortunately, what once built us up now holds us back: Transportation has become a detriment to Atlanta’s success. I frequently hear, “We would love to move our company to Atlanta, but the traffic …”

Traffic has become a bad joke — on us.

Consider these depressing numbers from the 2010 Texas Transportation Institute Annual Urban Mobility Report:

The average metro Atlantan spends 43 hours a year stuck in traffic — that’s five work days.

Atlanta’s daily peak period travel time is the worst in the nation at 127 minutes.

Atlanta’s total cost of traffic congestion is nearly $2.4 billion annually. That’s money lost.

The regional transportation referendum gives us the opportunity to turn those numbers around, to make sure that Atlanta continues to thrive. Your “yes” vote July 31 will notify business leaders across the nation that Atlanta is serious about resolving its traffic woes, and that we are taking important steps to remain attractive to commerce.

This regional funding mechanism, which expires in 10 years, will allow us to invest $8.5 billion in 157 projects that will enhance transportation in our 10-county metro area, improvements that will save us thousands of hours and billions of dollars while building metro Atlanta’s income and tax base.

When you vote, I urge you vote “yes.” Follow the lead of Atlanta’s far-sighted leaders who, decades ago, innately understood that transportation is crucial to the prosperity of our region.

John Brock is chairman and CEO of Coca-Cola Enterprises Inc.

80 comments Add your comment

Tom Tracy

July 11th, 2012
6:01 pm

We do not need new sales taxes. Fix the gas tax so those that drive pay the bill. Fix DOT that does not know how to manage our roads. This tax hurts the senior citizens and low income who spend all there money on daily living expenses. You are cutting their ability to speed for their needs.

Sir SpeaksAlot

July 11th, 2012
4:55 pm

Yes Citizens = As you Governor we promise that when 400 is paid for the Toll Gates will come down ! So says Nathan “bum” Deal = well, liar, liar pants on fire and you think I’m going to believe anything you say.

Saw Gov Deal on the news last night defending his taking of millions of dollars from the “Foreclosure Funds” that he has been slow to disperse any way ! Say’s he gonna create jobs with it = I guess he will use the money to pay the salaries of The Bass World employees that the previous genius Gov Perdue built in the piney untraveled woods of Georgia ? I don’t trust this guy with my money, do you !

Sir SpeaksAlot

July 11th, 2012
4:46 pm

Enter your comments here

Sue

July 11th, 2012
1:40 pm

Please tell me, how commuter rail, busses and the beltline will move good faster through the area? Things that attract businesses are good schools, quality of life, low taxes, and consumers who can afford to purchase their goods and services. This boondoggle proves none of these requirements.

atltk

July 11th, 2012
12:00 pm

Remember the 400 extension? I grew up right next to it, had many friends forcefully “relocated” by the state, and everyone was told that the tolls would be removed in 20 years(2011), after they “paid for the extension.” Well, I just paid my toll again this morning… Why would the Atlanta government be any more careful with the TSPLOST money than they were with the 400 money (or the other hundreds of millions of dollars they fail to properly spend every year)

Transportation Supporter

July 11th, 2012
8:17 am

Allen,

Counties and cities do not have the budget to fund large transportation projects. Most are funded by GDOT or FHWA depending on the roadway classification. GDOT is mandated by law to spend equal amounts of its budget in 7 districts accross the state, 1 of which is metro Atlanta. The result is what you see, a city growing rapidly with the supporting infrastructure lagging behind. So the T-SPLOST is a way to fund the projects necessary to “catch up” to that growth while keeping all of the tax dollars in the region. Not really buying that localities are capable of doing this on their own without some sort of regional structure to it all.

Another thing, this isn’t creating another government bureaucracy, which is a plus. It’s basically a board of existing leaders who have organized and prioritized projects that have been identified as the most critical. Now we just have to find a way to pay for it. I wish people would realize that roads are not free.

Chris Sanchez

July 11th, 2012
7:47 am

@Transportation Supporter: whose payroll are you on? This supposedly “defined” project list neglects over $1B in expenditures. This is not a $0.01 tax increase. It is a 1% increase. Quite a difference there! I am advocating a “do nothing” position. I want to do the right thing and this measure is not it!

@Bryan — MARTA supporter: This tax increase will not be permitted to expire in ten years. The projects will not be finished and their true cost has been underestimated. Even Senate Majority Leader Chip Rogers says the TSPLOST is a poorly crafted initiative disagreeing with Gov. Deal and most other members of the GOP.

Links 7/11/12 « naked capitalism

July 11th, 2012
6:15 am

[...] Williams, president and CEO of the Metro Atlanta Chamber, is leading the charge in this effort to squeeze employees into voting themselves a 10-year tax increase for a transportation [...]

JW

July 10th, 2012
7:10 pm

I would not, and did not, vote for TSPLOST for the simple reason that I am damn tired of hearing the same “tied up traffic in Atlanta” commercial over and over and over again. This message wears thin and is turning off more “yes” votes than might otherwise be the case. The proponents of issue who keep airing the same commercial need something new instead of this worn out piece of garbage. This commercial is hurting you more than it is now helping you.

Bryan -- MARTA supporter

July 10th, 2012
6:05 pm

This is ONE region. Nothing is going to get solved by having Cobb work its issues while Clayton does something different while Fulton does another. Until people realize that we will never have a great transit system. We will never have a road network that complements one each other in every county. Not supporting this will result in lost jobs, more traffic with no money to fix, and our economy going down. VOTE YES to success!