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

johnny boy

July 9th, 2012
4:32 pm

It’s not a 1 cent sales tax, it’s a 1 percent sales tax. Big damn difference.

Eddiev

July 9th, 2012
4:52 pm

I’m not nearly as alarmed by companies pushing their employees to vote for a tax as Sadie Fields. What makes her think they’ll listen? Surveys show that many, many workers would like to leave their current jobs if they could. So I doubt they’ll be towing the company line.

And if they felt put upon, no one knows how a voter votes anyway.

Darwin

July 9th, 2012
4:52 pm

How is it intimidation? A corporation, union, membership, club, etc is certainly entitled to educate their workers or members in understanding what’s at stake. It’s called a democracy. Something Sadie doesn’t know much about.

Tammy

July 9th, 2012
4:53 pm

“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.”
If you work in an office where you fear being fired for not supporting the TSPLOST, it is time to get a new job.

MB

July 9th, 2012
4:55 pm

A plan that “is too focused on mass transit”?

Was that a joke?

Steve1255

July 9th, 2012
5:04 pm

It appears to me that our elected officials are trying to sell us a bill of goods. Here in Cobb county we do not seem to be getting very much for the taxes we will have to pay. Tim Lee is in peril of losing his job and it would not surprise me to see him working for the Cobb Chamber of Commerce once he is voted out of office. In fact he has had two slip of the tongue references to that lately.
Why should my tax dollars go to Atlanta,specifically the Beltline that has nothing to do with this tax?
they are using fear and intimidation to force a yes vote. Do they think that this is Chicago?
Vote no! Then go back and revisit the issue without all of the politics and come up with a plan that will actually work.

Red

July 9th, 2012
5:08 pm

This balanced discussion captures the essence of the debate. Reactionary, don’t change anything vs. progressive, change is inevitable. The question is, how will we choose to deal with change. Atlanta’s population growth has exceeded its transportation infrastructure. I’ve had a chance to live in 6 of the 10 most populated cities. The Atlanta region is a great place to live & work – except for the traffic. Having read about every one of the projects to be funded by this initiative, T-SPLOST will not solve Atlanta’s traffic mess. And some areas will benefit more than others. But to NOT provide the funding for these projects will result in total gridlock.

Jae

July 9th, 2012
5:17 pm

Every boss I have ever had has introduced me to a some type of candidate he (my boss) was supporting and urged me to vote for the candidate. Every candidate goes to large businesses and has the boss introduces him/her to the employees.

Last time I checked, almost every organization has a cause. When the organization finds a candidate/referendum which supports that cause, that organization will pressure it’s members to vote that way.

When G.A.E. or P.A.G.E. endorses a candidate and urges their member to vote, should all of the state’s teachers feel intimidated? NO!!

When the N.R.A. urges it’s members to vote a certain way, should gun owners feel intimidated? NO!!

ga values

July 9th, 2012
5:20 pm

Wouldn’t it be great if the $600,000,000.00 wasted on the beltline would be used to reduce congestion rather than to line the pockets of Reed’s corrupt cronies?

rik warren

July 9th, 2012
5:23 pm

Will they follow you into the voting booth?

Chicken Little, Squawk, Squawk

And by the way its just one person talking to another, because “remember folks, corporations are people too”. The Mitten.

SAWB

July 9th, 2012
5:40 pm

Everyone has a right to express their opinion and just because you own or run a company does not negate that right. If you disagree with your employer simply vote the other way. The folks crying about intimidation are simply using this to influence people to vote no. It is just like the folks who are trying to scare you into believe every job will leave the region if we vote the other way. All just scare tactics.

This is a very difficult issue, so educate yourself the best you can and then vote based on your view not someone else’s.

SAWB

July 9th, 2012
5:42 pm

ga values said, “Wouldn’t it be great if the $600,000,000.00 wasted on the beltline would be used to reduce congestion rather than to line the pockets of Reed’s corrupt cronies?”

Actually it went for birthday cake…

View From Midtown

July 9th, 2012
5:42 pm

Ol’ Shady Sadie is back? Well, Glory be! Of course Sadie doesn’t like for businesses to educate their employees, she thinks the only organization that should dictate how people vote is the church. You don’t need any messy facts or figures, just read the bible or better yet, don’t read at all and just do what your preacher tells you. Praise the Lord and vote Republican!!

And Steve1255, no Cobb tax dollars will be going towards the Beltline/Midtown Streetcar project; the project cost is well under what the City of Atlanta will contribute to the collections from the TIA sales tax. Only in your super-sized suburban imagination is Cobb County the center of the universe, much less the center of the region. The fact is that the mechanism for creating the project list and the balkanized nature of the region with its multitude of jurisdictions insured that each county would get roughly the same project value as their tax contribution since greedy, small-minded politicians driven by greedy, small-minded constituents wanted to make sure no other jurisdiction got a net-positive benefit from the TIA. This also insured that there were almost no Big-Bang projects; just lots of smaller project (and more studies than desirable). That being said, approving a non-optimal project list is still better than voting it down.

Defeating TIA will be worse than doing nothing; worse than if the legislature had never given this option to the public. Worse because a defeat would be used by cities/states across the country when competing for companies to say, “not only do they have huge problems, but when given a chance to do something about the problems, they chose to DO NOTHING.” It will set back economic development in the metro area and the state for a decade.

Aquagirl

July 9th, 2012
5:45 pm

Who dredged up Sadie Fields to comment on this? Was everyone else in the Rolodex on vacation? Is she afraid the T-SPLOST will turn our kids gay?

A paranoid foray into “it’s like the scary unions!” is mildly entertaining but apropos of nothing.

Andy Rooney

July 9th, 2012
7:23 pm

Has anyone actually checked the list of projects? Can someone explain how projects like a new control tower for McCollum Airport (2,500,000 USD) and a new runway approach lighting system for McCollum Airport (690,000 USD) contribute to a shorter drive in the Atlanta metropolis? Sales Tax boondoggles galore !!!

Thomas

July 9th, 2012
7:35 pm

Streetcars, Cobb’s air traffic control tower, the start of a Northern Arc which will destroy Georgia’s best fishing, hunting, camping, water streams. Nothing changes: “Stupid is, as stupid does”.

Pigs at the public trough.

nelson

July 9th, 2012
7:49 pm

If John says it, it must be true. What coke should do is find a moe efficient way to move their product. Depending on raising taxes to make them more efficient is the wrong way. I would consider having transfer sites or staging areas closely located to their retail outlets. I wish I was CEO. I would have everybody on the same page. Have my confidants at the Capital Club for long working lunches. I am becoming delusional, I am just a poor laborer at heart. I feel good, have my diet cola every day. i did not research T-Splost.

surly jb

July 9th, 2012
8:18 pm

There is nothing progressive about voting to tax ourselves billions of $$, only to turn it over to incompetent, corrupt bureaucrats (ok, I’m only talking about Atlanta, DeKalb, and Fulton, that’s all) who wouldn’t know a painted centerline from a power rail. Shiny new Southern Metropolis is dead, folks, the PowerThugs killed the Golden Goose right after the Olympics.

yuzeyurbrane

July 9th, 2012
8:28 pm

Bad move to have Sadie saying voter intimidation is bad. Sadie Fields! Give me a break.

james

July 9th, 2012
8:28 pm

Vote no on T-splost… Who is their right mind
would vote for a 10 years tax on their own income??
To heck with the Coca Cola guy… I am a big fan
of Coke….

Chris Sanchez

July 9th, 2012
9:04 pm

Perhaps the panic is finally starting to set in. The TSPLOST boondoggle is probably going to be defeated at the ballot box. Voting yes if like the chicken voting for Col. Sanders! Vote no and tell the politicians in the region to go back to the drawing board and put together a plan that will actually have a chance of successfully addressing congestion in the Metro ATL!

reaganite

July 9th, 2012
9:10 pm

Since when is the Christian Coalition (Sadie Fields) at war with Business? We have major corporations and conservative leaders advocating for YES on t-splost because it’s good for business. Unfortunately, Sadie doesn’t make a single coherent argument against the merits of the vote one way or another. These are not unions advocating for t-splost, Sadie, they are Multi-National Corporations who need to make sure their employees can get to work. As a fellow Christian, there’s no religious issue at stake here either. The Chamber of Commerce is a respected pro-business lobby. Can’t the AJC at least get someone to make a productive counter-argument?

reaganite

July 9th, 2012
9:17 pm

@Chris Sanchez, so you’re saying that instead of investing in existing roads, you’d rather convert 75, 85, 400 and the like into bicycle-only thouroughfares? Or perhaps we should all fly in to work with our personal helicopters? Double-decker roads? How about you make a suggestion for a better plan since you’re so down on this one? There’s nothing like bloviating know-it-alls who can only say what they don’t like without suggesting practical alternatives. The plan offered up make not be perfect, but it’s far better than the “nothing” that the naysayers are offering.

Jason

July 9th, 2012
10:15 pm

I’m against TSPLOST but to call this voter intimidation is down right silly. What the employers have been doing is tacky and unprofessional but far from being voter intimidation. Many have been engaging in this activity for decades (if not longer) with little to no outcry from Sadie and friends. We have secret ballots in this country. Unless Sadie knows something about the voting machines that she’s not sharing with the rest of us, it’s not possible for an employer to fire you for not voting for TSPLOST.

If you’re against TSPLOST like I am, vote no. If you’re for it, vote yes. Your employer isn’t going to come after you either way. But I’m sure Sadie knows that. Perhaps it’s time for Mrs. Holier-than-thou to have a refresher course on what the Lord had to say about spreading falsehoods.

Terry

July 9th, 2012
10:43 pm

TSPLOST isn’t an easy project to understand. It’s about 48-52% transit improvements and 52-48% roadway improvements, depending on who you talk to. Either way, it does not seem to me that it will really relieve our traffic problems or smog problems. It’s too little and too late.

By the time the 400/I285 interchange gets rebuilt (part of the plan), it will likely be unable to handle the new capacity required 10 years from now. Adding some Atlanta BeltLine segments and a Clifton Corridor transit rail doesn’t do a lot to relieve traffic on any of the major interstates. Cobb County still wants to hem and haw about rail transit vs. commuter bus lines. Way too many promises with little real focus on a long-term solution.

Why won’t the State make the people who use the roads pay for the solution. Georgia has one of the lowest gasoline tax rates of any state (only Wyoming and Alaska are lower). Why can’t the State put a 1 or 2 cent per gallon “carbon penalty” on all fossil fuel sold in our State and let’s make the people who continue to cause the smog the freeway congestion pay their own way!

middleground

July 9th, 2012
11:32 pm

The intimidation is very real and is also going on within the republican party for those opposing this new tax which is regressive and hurts the widows, working poor and minimum wage earners.
But hey they are without a voice so lets hurt them to make our life better.
Chamber of Commerce is a corrupt organization and helped the APS cheat kids. They always push for higher taxes and graft for a few of their members. They are truly unworthy of your membership.
Boycott Chamber Memebers businesses and tell them to stop working to raise taxes.

Inman Playa

July 10th, 2012
12:22 am

I’m sick and tired of the repetitive and nauseating false-equivalence that the media shamelessly displays just to get better ratings or more subscribers. Facts and reason are thrown out the window just so they can piously claim that they included both sides. The drivel that comprised that horrendous screed by Sadie Fields in no way resembles anything close to coherent thought. Out was completely bereft of logic and outside the realm of reality. I mean claiming that there is voter intimidation going on, for one, is looney. However the claim that corporations are assuming the rule of labor unions is downright tinfoil-hat-i-think-i-messed-my-pants crazy!

Atlanta didn’t become a world-class city by divine providence. It became one because we gave a damn and invested in its infrastructure. The proposed tax represents $8.5 billion of investment in the region’s transportation system. The project list isn’t perfect, but I challenge anyone to look at the list and not see at least one project that would make their day-to-day life easier.

Come on, Atlanta. It’s time to be grownups and take care of our transportation system that places us as the commercial hub of the Southeast.

Bernie

July 10th, 2012
12:51 am

These Corporations should have the pressure on the Good Ole Boys down at the DOME if they were really concerned as they say they are. I say we all vote “NO” and let the CEO’s, who have far much more influence with the politicians take a sit down and have a talk in one of those QUIET ROOMS.

TrishaDishaWarEagle

July 10th, 2012
2:23 am

I will be voting NO on T-SPLOST because, to paraphrase General Berringer from ‘war games’, “after very careful consideration, sir, I’ve come to the conclusion that your new transportation tax scheme/regional slush fund sucks”.

Bernie

July 10th, 2012
2:34 am

The Crooks and Thieves are smiling, planning their theft with all the expertise of a surgeon. The Patient will never know what happened until its too late……….

Coke Drinked

July 10th, 2012
3:03 am

I can drink Pepsi or better yet, pure water.
Folks, we the people are tired of giving our money to corrupt Politicians to get rich on and waste it.
NO TSPLOST

Laurie

July 10th, 2012
7:48 am

First off, companies “offering” time off to vote is a hoot, considering that they are required to do this by law. If the CEOs in this area want their employees to spend less time on the road, how about offering telecommuting or flexible schedules. Even better, move your headquarters out of downtown or buckhead, or offer your employees cost effective ways for them to live closer to your place of business.

PATSy

July 10th, 2012
8:29 am

Lots of hype. Few facts. The 3 transit lines will carry 20,000 commuters daily. This is less than 1/2 of 1% of those paying the tax. Mass Transportation ????? More than one BILLION ($ 1,000,000,000 ) will be “exported ” to buy Choo-Choos and rails. Removing all of this tax money from the local economy for the benefit of very very few is not going to help recovery or businesses. Why support a Polish iron worker or a Chinese welder when our jobless teachers,cops,firefighters,etc. cant afford to buy homes or food ?? Maybe because the Pols, lobbyists,consultants,contractors are more interested in donations (pay-offs,kick-backs,influence, power, position, pelf ) than actually helping solve our problems.- Lots of hype. Few facts.

Transportation Supporter

July 10th, 2012
8:30 am

I don’t think anyone would deny that we have traffic that is unacceptable pretty much all over the metro Atlanta region. We are running a 2012 city on a 1990’s highway system and a 1970’s rail system. This referendum represents the cheap version of what really should be done to create a comprehensive transportation network including roads, rail, trails, airports, sidewalks, etc. My question to everyone against the referendum is this: If not this then what?? If you can’t find any benefit in voting yes then do you realize what that means for the future of this city? Reality check: GDOT funding will be 80% on maintenance projects without this additional revenue. 20% of GDOT’s $2 billion annual budget is $400 million split between 7 districts (metro Atlanta is one of those districts) is a little over $57 million for new construction. Do the math, this does not bode well for a metro of 5+ million people.

Bryan -- MARTA supporter

July 10th, 2012
9:31 am

I don’t get how — as Sadie put it — encouraging people to vote yes, calling meetings to inform employees of it’s benefits, and giving time off for employees to vote is intimidation on them. Maybe all of you NO voters are intimidated because companies are informing people of the facts and benefits versus just telling lies and using tatics to distort the true.

When will people accept that this is not only about fixing transportation but about boosting our economy as well. Why fix the roads and add transit and not worry about the economy as well? Not worry about development and adding jobs to our area? What would be the point if there were no jobs here? Improving roads and transit will not only keep jobs here but make us competative to add new ones. I don’t get it because the companies here are telling people that this is important. It won’t be until the company that these NO voters work for leave and downsize and they don’t have the jobs anymore. Then you won’t have to worry about widening roads or improving transit. You won’t have no where to go, other than the unemployment office!

Bryan -- MARTA supporter

July 10th, 2012
10:01 am

@ Terry and Chris Sanchez

By your comments together it is basically “too late” to do anything (Terry) and the plan we have is not good enough an they need to go “back to the drawing board” (Chris).

So because for the last few decades of bad leadership not investing in our transportation structure, we should just say screw it and keep falling backwards? We should do nothing at all? WOW! And if there is a problem with the plan we have now, what needs to change? Basically a 50/50 split with roads and transit and over 150 different projects in the 10 county region. What needs to change since this won’t fix traffic? Not one NO voter can ever do that but talk about how messed up the project list is.

This list is not only about fixing traffic, it’s about maintaining our current infrustructure and economic growth. All things that will improve the region as a whole. If you people think the project list is going to take 30 minutes off of your drive time and that’s why you are voting no then you are just out of touch. Even if we had the 60 billion dollars needed to completely improve roads and transit it still wouldn’t take 30 minutes off your drive time. NO voters please come back to reality… thank you!

allen981

July 10th, 2012
10:13 am

I’m employed at a major Atlanta company, and yes, there is pressure to vote yes.
It’s wrong, and the T-SPLOST is wrong. Anyone who tells you that the solution to our transportation issues and future growth is a streetcar line is, to be blunt, an idiot. This city had streetcars; they died because they were impractical, slow, cumbersome, and got in the way of traffic.
The term ‘transit’ is being shoved down our throats by those who believe that trains – smelly, nasty, dangerous, carbon-hogging trains – are the solutions to our long term transportation issues. Trains and streetcars are nothing but 19th century technology that will hog electricity usage, create no real meaningful job growth, and require public support forever.
Rather than the hundreds of millions for a streetcar, why not just build a dedicated bus lane and run natural gas fueled buses on it with near zero emissions????
While the ‘transit’ backers are more than willing to tear up a neighborhood for a streetcar line or a rail line, they abhor the same process for a highway or, Lenin forbid, a bus line.
I’m in my early 60s, and I’ve lived in Atlanta all my life. I’ve seen trolley lines that blighted the downtown sky go away, ridden long discontinued passenger trains on local routes around Georgia, and flown all over the world from Hartsfield.
I’ve seen the cities with ‘transit’ – Portland, London, Paris, Amsterdam, Tokyo – and I’ll take Atlanta, just as it is right now, any day. In addition, I’ve driven the same route to work on I-285 for nearly 20 years, and today’s traffic is far better than it was in the mid-90s.

smottlicher

July 10th, 2012
10:18 am

Companies (and their employees) that will benefit from the improvements and who are trying to educate their employees are not intimidating them. If a firm stated that you must vote yes or lose your job…THAT is intimidation. Has anyone ever wonder WHY the various Chambers of Commerce, and so many firms that are NOT involved in transportation construction as supporting this?

I do have a question for this group…I keep seeing in print comments about “corrupt politicians” who will be enriched by this plan. Exactly who are these politicians and how does a plan that spells out exactly what projects and roughly how much money will be spent on them = corruption and enriching said politicians?

Its all nice to demagogue the TSPLOST because you disagree with it..but some actual facts would be nice to go along with your demagoguery. There are some legitimate issues with the plan that one can disagree with…but making up stuff or spouting off outright lies is just plan silly.

allen981

July 10th, 2012
10:22 am

To those who say, “if not this, what?” here is an answer:

First, build the long-scrapped outer perimeter. It will create tremendous relief for I-285 and all other existing highways,

Second, recognize that the costs of rail – any new rail – are unacceptably high in terms of both dollars and environmental impact. Rail using more resources, not less, moves fewer people at higher cost.

Third, get serious about insisting on telecommuting. Most office workers today can perform very acceptably working from home. This keeps cars off the road, improves productivity, and improves the quality of life for employees. Even two days a week is a major help.

Fourth, redefine our future and accept that Atlanta’s size and scope is more than sufficient for the long term. We do not have to have ongoing massive growth; let’s keep the size of this city in check to match the resources we have.

Just some common sense, which is in short supply for those that support the T-SPLOST and its reliance on 19th century technology to solve 21st century problems.

Lance Lamberton

July 10th, 2012
10:23 am

Mr. Brock:

Thank you for “sharing” your perspective. Thanks to your input, I will now accept the Pepsi challenge.

Matthew

July 10th, 2012
10:40 am

Will this build rail to Turner Field? No?

I’m out.

Bob Loblaw

July 10th, 2012
10:47 am

Sadie! Where was this outrage against intimidation against ob/gyns participating in civil discourse at the state capitol?

Transportation Supporter

July 10th, 2012
11:00 am

Allen, here are my responses:

To those who say, “if not this, what?” here is an answer:

First, build the long-scrapped outer perimeter. It will create tremendous relief for I-285 and all other existing highways,

Response: With what money? This project is unfeasible with GDOT’s current funding structure.

Second, recognize that the costs of rail – any new rail – are unacceptably high in terms of both dollars and environmental impact. Rail using more resources, not less, moves fewer people at higher cost.

Response: What is the cost of time lost to delay caused by traffic congestion? You may not like rail but it benefits all users by taking cars off the road. How is a 40′ wide railway more of an environmental impact than a 250′ wide interstate? Also, can you prove the electricity used by trains impacts the environment more than all the fuel used to keep cars/trucks/buses running?

Third, get serious about insisting on telecommuting. Most office workers today can perform very acceptably working from home. This keeps cars off the road, improves productivity, and improves the quality of life for employees. Even two days a week is a major help.

Response: Do you realize how much people telecommute already? And what about people that must physically be at their jobs? Maybe we should grow up and realize that the existing transportation system does not have enough carrying capacity for the current population.

Fourth, redefine our future and accept that Atlanta’s size and scope is more than sufficient for the long term. We do not have to have ongoing massive growth; let’s keep the size of this city in check to match the resources we have.

Response: When you get down to it, this referendum is really more about addressing critical needs, not about developmental growth. Atlanta’s size and scope may be more than sufficient for the long term, but it’s transportation system isn’t. When you have the chronic traffic congestion that is so common around the metro, it means that current infrastructure is failing to provide service to today’s traffic. And if Atlanta continues to grow, service levels will only get worse.

Just some common sense, which is in short supply for those that support the T-SPLOST and its reliance on 19th century technology to solve 21st century problems.

allen981

July 10th, 2012
11:18 am

Good job, TransSupporter. However, yes, it can be proven that rail uses more carbon and has a detrimental environmental impact.

And, two, we didn’t have a SPLOST to build any other road in Atlanta or Georgia. We had leaders who made a commitment and kept to it.

And three, where is the long term funding for the rail projects going to come from? It won’t come from passenger receipts; no train in the world (look it up) operates without subsidy. None.

This entire campaign is a poorly planned, poorly executed attempt to create billions in additional tax dollars with very little accountability for their use. That’s the sad bottom line.

JohnsonFloyd

July 10th, 2012
11:19 am

Voter intimidation! You do not know voter intimidaton until you have experienced your Union telling you how to vote. And what about the uneasy feelings you get when the minister in your church tells its congregation how to vote or you will be going straight to hell. (and all along the Union Bosses as well as the Preacher is receiving cash and favors under the table)

joeleejohnson

July 10th, 2012
11:24 am

Appears, from the by-lines’; The Christians are being mauled by the Lions–Again. Except in this 21st century arena, the game is rigged even more in favor of the Lions.

Transportation Supporter

July 10th, 2012
11:38 am

Allen,

1-If it can be proven then prove it. Post a link to a study proving it. I genuinely would like to know.

2-The unfortunate reality is the gas tax no longer provides adequate funding for major roadway construction projects. There’s a number of reasons for this. The gas tax is levied (for the most part) per gallon, not per dollar so it hasn’t risen with inflation. Construction and material costs have risen while tax revenue has been relatively flat. Also fuel efficiency, while great for our pocketbooks, has created a trend of more miles driven (i.e. more wear and tear on roads) per tax dollar paid. Electric cars pay no gas tax.

3-Transit funding (which I agree is not the greatest) will continue to be from counties that choose to opt-in (DeKalb and Fulton). If you don’t want to support it fine, then don’t live or shop in those counties.

And actually, this campaign was not poorly planned or executed. In fact it’s the result of several years of convincing the state legislature to budge a little and give up some local control. And the accountability of this referendum is much more solid than the gas tax considering it’s a 1-cent sales tax tied to a specifically defined project list that is bound by law and cannot be renewed without another referendum. To me, this looks much more clear cut than a statewide tax that pays for what again?

Chris Sanchez

July 10th, 2012
11:47 am

@reaganite: You will have a lot more credibility when you use your name.

@Bryan — MARTA supporter: I am not in favor of making perfect the enemy of good. The problem is the current plan is poorly defined and will not reduce traffic congestion. Further, once in place, the politicians will not allow it to expire. There will never be enough money for all of the “projects” politicians will come up with. As for public transit, let those who live in those cities/counties with public transit pay for it. Why in the world should people in Douglas or Cherokee Counties pay for MARTA? Fulton & Dekalb should pay for MARTA. If GA State government believes is it important to fund then put it in the state’s budget. I wonder if the people in Augusta or Savannah will support those state legislators for re-election if they do?

I have read the list of projects (the ones that have been proposed anyway) and do not believe those projects will reduce congestion. I can support paying for clearly defined projects to improve traffic in our region as I believe most reasonable people can. This TSPLOST proposal, as it currently exists, it not that!

Red

July 10th, 2012
12:00 pm

I’m still not sure how I’m going to vote, but unless an employer was in the booth with you, how would they know? Sadie Fields is a crackpot. She’s spews fear and deception. If employers are supporting the T-SPLOST, it’s because they understand that the threat of businesses turning away from Georgia is very real. What Ms. Fields doesn’t seem to get is how things won’t get better if a Regional Transportation solution isn’t found. My biggest complain over the years is that Dekalb and Fulton citizens shouldn’t be the only one who support this region in finding a transportation solution. Other counties reap the benefits and they should also pay into fixing the problems. There are plenty of places that are hurting and willing to invest in Transit and Quality of Life. If I were leading the search for a company I would choose a place that has a good transportation/transit infrastruction, not gripping deadlock traffic and a Transit system that is bound by rules that don’t support growth. Like I said, I’m still not sure if I’m voting for it. I’d like to know why there is no Rail out I-20 East? Why only in Northern burbs benefitting, not on the South side? I’m also skeptical of Georgia politicians who constantly lie (i.e: GA 400 tolls will go away after it’s paid for) and mis-manage funds. Why can’t we have trasparency and disclosure of the contract process? If I knew that even 50% of the the funds would help ease traffic (not beautify a rail corridor and help intown property values), I would be more likely to support it.

Chris Sanchez

July 10th, 2012
12:05 pm

@Red: we differ on some of this but both agree that there are problems with the poorly defined project list and the lack of trust in GA politicians!

Transportation Supporter

July 10th, 2012
12:14 pm

Chris,

The referendum is for a law that a 1-cent sales tax will levied for 10 years in counties within the region. Saying that it will be extended by politicians is like saying they can just create a new tax without us voting for it.

Also, tell me how widening SR 140 in Cherokee & Fulton, realigning SR 92 in Douglas, widening SR 120 in Johns Creek, widening SR 141 from PIB to the Chatthoochee, SR 400 @ Holcomb Bridge interchange improvements, 285 @ 400 interchange improvements, etc. will not improve congestion. Are you familiar with any of these corridors? Do you know how bad traffic is on all of these today? There is no telling when these corridors will be improved without the passage of this referendum.

Matthew

July 10th, 2012
1:06 pm

The problem will be with general distrust of state and local governments, especially when the proposal involves a large amount of taxpayer money and is centered around Atlanta. When people think optional tax, they think moronic ideas like streetcars on Auburn Avenue.

In a metro area that has failed for decades to wisely fix infrastructure, can you really be surprised if people reject this proposal?

Skeptical

July 10th, 2012
1:38 pm

Look at the project list
#1) $200+ million going to Ga 400 improvements – why is this not covered with the never ending toll money?
#2) $300+ million in marta rehabilitaion projects – such as escalators – sorry, but marta needs to learn how to sustain itself.
#3) The $700 emory line is not even close to an accurate number – expect twice that amount over 15+ years.

Where's the Rail?

July 10th, 2012
1:45 pm

Oh the irony in the Christian Coalition being upset over voter intimidation. Let’s re-read her response another way, keeping in mind that the Christian Coalition hands out pamphlets to churches every election on how “good Christians” should vote:

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

smottlicher

July 10th, 2012
2:01 pm

The Tsplost is guaranteed to end…it is written in to the law. This is in no way like the SR 400 tolls that were administered and renewed by the SRTA boardmembers. The Tsplost can not be automatically renewed without another vote. Read the law folks.

Now the Region authorities may put up a second Tsplost in 10 years for a vote, but just like now there would be plenty of discussion and a vote before the sales tax could be renewed. (so so tired of this worn out and incorrect talking point)

Transportation Supporter

July 10th, 2012
2:02 pm

Skeptical,

1) The GA 400 toll money is already being used for other projects (have you seen the new ramps from 400 south to 85 north?). And at $59,000 per day average weekday toll revenue, it’s a drop in the bucket compared to the cost of a large scale project such as the 285/400 interchange improvement. To even come close to the amount guaranteed by the referendum, you would have to take all the GA 400 toll revenue from every weekday for 14 years.

2) Are you aware that MARTA is mandated by law to spend half of it’s sales tax revenue on capital expenditures and the other half on operations? As a result, the agency has been struggling to pay for bus a rail operations and is unable to shift money from capital to operational spending. The governance of MARTA was written into law in the 70’s when transit construction and operation was much less expensive and it really needs to be updated.

3) The tax can only be levied for 10 years.

Skeptical

July 10th, 2012
2:23 pm

@ Supporter

#1) So, 10 years vs. 14 years??
#2) I am aware, but that just means the legislation needs to change, not diverting additional tax revenue to it.
#3) The ARC already has a plan through 2040. The arguement for continuing the tax will be the unfinished projects rail projects.

Also, why is the ‘Gultch’ project not priority #1? Seems a intermodal terminal is the starting point that would initially benifit all counties involved since most have a regional bus system.

Bud

July 10th, 2012
2:48 pm

I live in Henry County, and can’t see how I will even remotely be helped by paying extra money. It appears that Gwinnett, Cobb, and North Fulton counties are getting the lion’s share of the money, and those of us who are residents of the southside get a pitiful bone thrown our way. I’m voting no.

Skeptical

July 10th, 2012
2:54 pm

I will probably vote yes, but why is this a make or break deal? Why can’t they revise the project list and bring it up for vote again in November?

Transportation Supporter

July 10th, 2012
3:02 pm

I wish opponents to this would see the “do nothing” alternative is worse for the region than what’s being put forth in this referendum. I always want to ask, should we just continue down the path we’re on and settle for the bad traffic we already have? All it takes to see how bad it’s gotten is to go out of town for a few days and you’ll see it when you come back. We need to catch back up and get traffic under control so that our region can continue to have the success we’ve had the last 20 years.

massachusetss refugee

July 10th, 2012
3:07 pm

i work for ko, and i vote no. what “intimidation”?

Transportation Supporter

July 10th, 2012
3:11 pm

Bud, do you only drive in Henry county or are there more counties you drive through in Atlanta? US 19/41 widening is a good one, so is the Atlanta to Griffin commuter rail study. Henry is projected to contribute less than 4% to the total over 10 years so that’s why the county is getting less than others.

Transportation Supporter

July 10th, 2012
3:18 pm

Skeptical, thanks for the good discussion btw. It’s make or break because if it doesn’t pass, I think the likelihood of another vote is pretty much gone. It’s impossible to find a project list that will satisfy all 5+ million of us, so if we can’t rally behind this vote now then the future does not look good for a metro already suffering from severe congestion. A “No” vote for this effectively says “we are not willing to do anything to fix our problems”. Not a good recipe for success.

Tax the Churches & Religious Organization

July 10th, 2012
4:41 pm

Well, I can tell you one untapped source of revenue – churches and religious affiliated organizations who are violating their tax-exempt status by advocating for specific positions on policy. I wish the IRS would get off their duffs and start penalizing these blatant violators!

allen981

July 10th, 2012
4:45 pm

A ‘no’ vote means that localities will have to find ways to create their own solutions, and that we can address the existing issues in a more responsible, open way. This referendum is as much about how the T-SPLOST came to be as it is the projects themselves.

Most importantly, there is nothing in this referendum that is truly forward looking and innovative. Trains/streetcars are not innovation, they are and admission of failure to find new, high tech solutions to our problems.

Lastly, a vote ‘no’ frees all of us from a decades-long commitment to bad planning. While many individual projects are wise and necessary, the T-SPLOST is not the right approach to create them. As a result, the T-SPLOST is not the right approach for our future, and a ‘no’ vote reflects that.

Xavier

July 10th, 2012
5:01 pm

Sorry, but past (in)actions have future consequences. The powers that be have done f***-all with the money they have taken over the years, and I have no faith they will do what they’re promising with this special sales tax. Chalk up one more no vote.

Be good stewards with what you have been given, and maybe then you’ll get more. But not until then.

Joe_Harris

July 10th, 2012
5:15 pm

We definitely have to do more to improve our transportation infrastructure. It was not built to handle the volume that it currently has, as seen by all the road improvement projects that are continuously in the works. We need a plan that will integrate rail and road improvement projects the best way possible. The transportation referendum is the best way to go out improving the traffic problems that we currently have.

Bryan -- MARTA supporter

July 10th, 2012
5:36 pm

@ allen981

Your carbon argument acutually could be true (I laugh when I type this):

“But you can come up with examples in which driving a car looks better. A train produces more emissions per trip than any car, bus, or truck; it makes up for that fact environmentally because it carries a lot more people. It stands to reason, then, that if you ride in a full sedan on a day when the train is pretty empty—and, in particular, if you are in a fuel-efficient car—the car could conceivably be greener per passenger mile. (The study says a car would need to have about three passengers—double the average—to break even environmentally with the typical train.)”

Basically everyone would need to ride around in hybrid or electric cars, with 3 to 4 people in them, AND the trains would have to basically run empty all day long, just to break even with carbon emissions of a train and the number of people that are moved with this option. Now really, in a sprawling city like Atlanta and it’s burbs is that really going to happen? And the winner is RAIL!

Bryan -- MARTA supporter

July 10th, 2012
5:59 pm

@ Chris Sanchez

It is written into law that the tax can’t go on more than 10 years where the Ga 400 toll didn’t have that law.

And what is not defined? There are over 150 projects that are in complete detail of what it will fix, how long, and how much it will cost.

And the reason we have as much traffic is because there aren’t many alternatives to drive in those counties. I mean you have Xpress, which clearly shows there is a need for transit in the ‘burbs. Having local and express bus/rail into the city is what is needed because now the only option are the interstates. Once in the city we need an extensive network of buses and trains and streetcars to move people around. That’s how every major city is set up. Atlanta is a major city!

Dave

July 10th, 2012
6:01 pm

Oh hell, I’m on Sadie Fields’ side and I early voted.

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!

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.

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 [...]

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.

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.

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)

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.

Sir SpeaksAlot

July 11th, 2012
4:46 pm

Enter your comments here

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 !

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.