Transportation tax will require delicate balance

Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed found himself playing the skunk at a dinner party Wednesday, raising an unwelcome stink in an otherwise congenial, cooperative meeting of the Atlanta region’s transportation roundtable.

But the stink was necessary.

The roundtable’s mission is to compile a list of needed transportation projects in the 10-county region, then build public support for funding those projects with a 10-year, one-penny sales tax estimated to raise $8 billion. (The vote is scheduled for 2012).

In hard times such as these, with tax dollars hard to come by, everyone understands that it’s going to be tough to get 50 percent plus one of the region’s voters to support such a tax. But as Reed and other members of the roundtable executive committee made clear Wednesday, success is crucial to metro Atlanta’s quality of life and its economy. Without a major surge of transportation investment, the region’s future will dim.

Earl Bender, part of the team hired with private dollars to elicit public input into the transportation plan and then build voter support for its passage, put the challenge well:

“It’s something that we all need to do together. It’s our region, our list, our future that’s at stake. It’s our families. We need to build the widest possible coalition both to give input and to support the eventual choices that will be made so that we can pass this to benefit the entire region.”

After Bender finished, Reed interjected, pointing out that Bender and the other three leaders of the messaging team hired to sell the referendum to voters were white males. No women. No minorities. Not the best way to build “the widest possible coalition.”

“This is a huge problem,” Reed said. “If they want to go down this road where they’re going to assemble a team that is not inclusive and not representative of this region, we’re going to lose.”

It’s important to note that Reed expressed his concern in terms of performance, not symbolism or patronage. In fact, he was building on Bender’s larger point: Passing a sales tax referendum in a 10-county area will require a coalition of exurban and inner city residents, the affluent and the poor, transit riders and auto lovers, bike riders, walkers and yes, even the golf-cart dependent. Reaching that diverse audience is going to require a diverse messaging team. They have to be able to appeal to the region as a whole, as an entity with a shared future, and also to individual communities more concerned about their own more narrow challenges. If they can’t do both, the measure will be rejected.

In fact, that defines the whole challenge, as roundtable members seem to understand. All of them are local elected officials, representing local constituencies with local concerns and local transportation needs. And it would be easy to make satisfying those local needs their top priority. However, they also understand that if each of them tries to get as much money as possible for their own districts, they will more likely get nothing because the tax will fail.

In fact, while Reed’s statement provided a shot of drama and tension in Wednesday’s meeting, the session as a whole was marked by a spirit of cooperation and a commitment to a regional vision. Ten years ago, or even five years ago, it was almost inconceivable that locally elected leaders would be speaking sincerely in such terms. But they do today.

Of course, the true test of that spirit will come as the executive committee sifts through the hundreds of projects proposed by local governments, deciding which to fund and which to reject. If roundtable leaders handle that difficult process with maturity and vision, and without rancor or jealousy, it’s going to go a long way in convincing voters around the region that they’re being treated fairly.

161 comments Add your comment

md

May 27th, 2011
9:11 am

“And again, in many ways residents of Atlanta have a lot less to gain from this than the suburbs do. md’s attitude is badly out of date in that regard. Atlanta residents don’t have major commuting problems; it is largely a suburban problem.”

Attitude?? How does one determine an “attitude” from an observation/comment? I believe that would take some assuming……..

Anyhow…………that “flight” hasn’t stopped, that is why the metro region now includes 10 counties vs the original 5 and 28 overall………yes, those areas have grown, but many still want to stay out of the “city”. There is a distinction by those that do not live downtown…………

josef nix

May 27th, 2011
9:11 am

bob

Oh, goodie, now we can go THERE! Wheee…day crew is so much more fun! Actually, though, I was thinking maybe the Log Cabin Republicans for that spot…

stands for decibels

May 27th, 2011
9:12 am

Oh that’s right, those ingrates pay a good portion of the bill.

as their bills had been paid when Milton County went bankrupt and was merged into Fulton.

you know that, right?

josef nix

May 27th, 2011
9:12 am

“Do you wake up in the morning wondering what the black people are going to do that day to keep you down?”

Don’t know about DDR, but on those mornings I wake up gay, I sure do…

Mr Smoketoomuch

May 27th, 2011
9:12 am

Peadawg

May 27th, 2011
9:13 am

“How on God’s green Earth did you come to that conclusion Pea?”

Pretty easily, actually. Just difference of opinions between those who see everyone according to their color and always wanting to make color an issue, and those who don’t.

DannyX

May 27th, 2011
9:13 am

One thing is certain. If the transportation tax does pass, extra scrutiny must be paid to Gwinnett County projects. Any project that involves buying land, (which of course will be many,) must be looked at with a fine tooth comb.

Land deal, after land deal in Gwinnett have been full of corruption and instant generous profit to the connected. Lots of crooks in Gwinnett stealing taxpayer dollars.

zeke

May 27th, 2011
9:13 am

If a tax is approved, hopefully not unless major changes are made, THERE SHOULD NOT BE ONE DOLLAR SPENT FOR TOLL LANES, HOV LANES, ANY MARTA REDISTRIBUTION PROJECT! Just the Cobb County list is enough to make sensible taxpayers revolt! There are simple solutions to the area’s traffic! First and foremost, YOU MUST DIRECT ANY TRAFFIC NOT GOING TO AN IN TOWN DESTINATION AWAY FROM THE CITY, NOT INTO IT!!!! THE OUTER BELTWAY WHICH SHOULD HAVE BEEN BUILT IN THE EARLY 90s! THE NORTHERN ARC! ANYTHING TO MOVE TRUCKS AND CARS, ESPECIALLY TRUCKS, AWAY FROM THE CITY! A DIRECT ROUTE WITH ONLY 3 OR 4 INTERCHANGES FROM 75 N TO 75 S, FROM 85 N TO 85 S, FROM 20 E TO 20 WEST, WITH CONNECTIONS TO EACH OTHER WOULD TAKE A TREMENDOUS AMOUNT OF TRAFFIC AWAY FROM 285 AND THE INNER CITY! BUT, AS USUAL, THAT DOES NOT MEET THE SOCIAL ENGINEERING AGENDA OF THOSE IN GOVERNMENT!!!

Normal

May 27th, 2011
9:13 am

josef nix

May 27th, 2011
9:08 am

OK! That mental picture put a smile on my face!

Normal

May 27th, 2011
9:15 am

USinUK,
Not to worry, I don’t own a BBerry yet. I still have this possessed motorola. I’m waiting for the minutes to run out and then I’m going to drown it in Holy Water!

Jay

May 27th, 2011
9:15 am

Bob, how do you know they don’t already have a spot? Maybe all FOUR of the spots?

(they’re sneaky that way, you know?)

ty webb

May 27th, 2011
9:15 am

Josef,
but it’s not the black people keeping you down…didn’t you get the memo, It’s the mormons!

jm

May 27th, 2011
9:17 am

RE Air France. I’ve flown some. God knows what the pilots were doing without an airspeed indicator, and heaven only knows why the elected to climb (if they did), and second why the didn’t try to gradually pull out unless they were in a flat spin.

Ugh, must’ve been an awful 3 minutes…..

http://noir.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=20601087&sid=aM_45aj0kXEE&pos=8

zeke

May 27th, 2011
9:18 am

The article on Douglas transportation woes, I20 backup, trucks blocking roads, ONLY REINFORCES MY PREVIOUS COMMENTS!!! BUILD ROADS, EXTREMELY LIMITED ACCESS, TO DIRECT TRAFFIC AROUND AND AWAY FROM THE CITY, NOT INTO IT!!!!

Bosch

May 27th, 2011
9:18 am

ty and USinUK,

Yeah, me too with the mator sandwiches. Now, I want one on white bread with gobs of mayo and black pepper……

jm

May 27th, 2011
9:20 am

Peadawg 9:13 – color may or may not matter to you. But the fact is many people continue to see things through the lens of color (in the white and black community). And they have a very different set of experiences and perception of the world.

If you think an all white male communications team can effectively market the transportation tax to this community, I’m afraid you are mistaken, my friend.

USinUK

May 27th, 2011
9:20 am

Bosch – STOP!!! I’m MONTHS away from my mators ripening!! in fact, they’re still little buggers

TaxPayer

May 27th, 2011
9:20 am

The LBGT’s and NAMBLA called, they want a spot on the board.

I don’t see it as Bob playing the white victim card.

I don’t see it as “white victim card” now either.

josef nix

May 27th, 2011
9:20 am

JAY

“(they’re sneaky that way, you know?)”

Ain’t they just…and the Jewish ones are particularly conniving…did somebody check on that… :-)

Jay

May 27th, 2011
9:20 am

OK, clean sheets above.

jm

May 27th, 2011
9:21 am

The Air France pilots are starting to look really dumb, but its hard to know what they were seeing on their radar…… but it makes no sense that they kept pulling up…. not an uncommon mistake sadly in a moment of panic….. inexperience. The flying copilot was 32…..

ty webb

May 27th, 2011
9:21 am

Bosch, UsinUK,
My Grandad used to eat “‘mator sammiches” with peanut butter. I’ve never had the nerve to try it, but he really enjoyed them.

Peadawg

May 27th, 2011
9:21 am

“But the fact is many people continue to see things through the lens of color”

Yup. Sad. Sad, sad, sad.

josef nix

May 27th, 2011
9:23 am

ty

The Mormons…I forgot! Yeah, that’s right… them and the ragpickers… :-)

BOSCH
And that sammich has to be eaten over the kitchen sink!

Bosch

May 27th, 2011
9:23 am

“My Grandad used to eat “‘mator sammiches” with peanut butter”

Eww. I just threw up in my mouth a little. [gag, gag, gag]

Old people are weird.

colored MARTA ridin' TeeVee thieves

May 27th, 2011
9:23 am

ANY MARTA REDISTRIBUTION PROJECT!

oh noes they are on to us

md

May 27th, 2011
9:24 am

“The findings by the French BEA air-accident investigation bureau show the autopilot disengaged shortly after the pilots had alerted cabin crew of possible turbulence ahead.”

Basically, they let the plane just fall out of the sky……….either they weren’t paying attention, or the computer systems rely to heavily on sensor readings…….

Bosch

May 27th, 2011
9:24 am

josef,

over the kitchen sink or outside! :)

jm

May 27th, 2011
9:26 am

Fly by wire….. blows

md

May 27th, 2011
9:27 am

And Atl’s problem is and always has been the convergence of 2 major interstates in the middle of the city……..the bypass is now full of outliers, and the masses from everywhere else have no place to go……….

Joe Mama

May 27th, 2011
9:27 am

If it ain’t Boeing, I ain’t going.

md

May 27th, 2011
9:29 am

“Fly by wire….. blows”

Don’t agree……..take out the wires, and have a computer failure, and what is left?

poison pen

May 27th, 2011
9:31 am

Denver, where a similar transportation referendum was supported strongly by Republican voters but was rejected by Democratic voters.

Jay, either the referendum was bad and the Democrats were smart to reject it, or they were stupid and played politics as usual. It just goes to shows ya, the libs aren’t always smart and could care less about the public & poor people who would use the rail system.

Thanks for bringing it to our attention.

Greg

May 27th, 2011
9:34 am

The sad thing about this issue is that the whole issue with light rail and commuter rail could and should have been settled years ago when the pricetag was much less.

It never got traction because to many stupid and ignorant people said rail service to the suburbs would increase crime.

Well I am originally from the NorthEast. I lived in a small sleepy town of 16 thousand people. We had a commuter rail system that began back in the early 80’s. Guess what…we had about 2 serious crimes every couple of years and those crimes were domestic disputes and not scary criminals coming in from the city.

As for taxing folks in a bad economy..this too is questionable. Many people do not have jobs so its the few with jobs that will pay for this. We are already paying more for food, gas, and water. Many communities have already raised property taxes to offset the loss from forclosures. Most businesses have raised prices on goods across the board because of high gas prices and then add in that banks are now gouging us with higher than ever fee’s all while pay has been stagnant for YEARS!!!

The rail system is a good idea, but it should have happened years ago.

Taxing people in this economy will only lead to more forclosures.

No rail system from ignorance and terrible GA Leadership.

poison pen

May 27th, 2011
9:41 am

Look how well Amtrack has done, snark, snark.

Laurie

May 27th, 2011
9:44 am

I don’t care what the make up of any team they put together to push the tax, I’m still voting no. I’ll continue to vote no on any tansportation tax until they clean house at the GDOT and bring in a crew of people who can address our needs within the budget they’ve been given. Try not wasting the money you have before asking for more.

@@

May 27th, 2011
9:49 am

Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed found himself playing the skunk at a dinner party Wednesday, raising an unwelcome stink in an otherwise congenial, cooperative meeting of the Atlanta region’s transportation roundtable.

Although not a resident of Atlanta, I’ve, thus far, been impressed with Mayor Reed.

As to the skunk and the stink? One could’a/would’a/should’a viewed Paul Ryan of the same stripe, but he’s a Republican so jay thinks his stink smells while Reed’s doesn’t.

Granny Godzilla

May 27th, 2011
9:58 am

Let me point out that the discussion is on black and white….

Why aren’t we dicussing the fact that there are no women on the
messaging team?

Joe Mama

May 27th, 2011
9:58 am

poison pen — “Look how well Amtrack has done, snark, snark.”

Don’t know if you’ve ridden Amtrak lately (or ever), but their service has improved and ridership has increased.

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/43024446/ns/travel-news

For those who think that passenger rail shouldn’t be supported by the Federal government, ask yourself why roads, air travel and domestic waterways should be if rail isn’t afforded the same support.

In the words of some posters here, ‘the government shouldn’t be in the business of picking winners and losers.’

Momania Hyperbole

May 27th, 2011
10:01 am

OMG! Won’t someone think of the children? Or our SUV’s? Our or false sense of a pristine neighborhood?

DebbieDoRight

May 27th, 2011
10:16 am

PDawg: Oh snap! We got us a hard core feminist in da house @ 8:59!!! So, b/c of 1 bad experience by your sister-in-law, you think female professionals are more professional than their male counterpart? Got it. Take your feminist views and and, as you say, blot out another square on YOUR bingo card, Debbie.

So in other words, you didn’t understand my analogy at all correct? gotcha!

“Can you people get past race for 2 minutes?” – I would LOVE to ask Reed and Debbie that very question!!!

Oh please! You, Dawgie Dawg, are the one who jumped at the racial “bait” like a gator at a Georgia fan.

poison pen

May 27th, 2011
10:17 am

Joe Mama

May 27th, 2011
9:58 am
poison pen — “Look how well Amtrack has done, snark, snark.”

Don’t know if you’ve ridden Amtrak lately (or ever), but their service has improved and ridership has increased.

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/43024446/ns/travel-news

For those who think that passenger rail shouldn’t be supported by the Federal government, ask yourself why roads, air travel and domestic waterways should be if rail isn’t afforded the same support.

In the words of some posters here, ‘the government shouldn’t be in the business of picking winners and losers.’

Joe, according to the Huff. post, we the taxpayers subsidize Amtrack to the tune of $32.00 per person that rides it.
I guess being from Detroit and the Detroit area I haven’t seen a decent public trans system yet that paid for itself.

Hillbilly D

May 27th, 2011
10:17 am

Since I don’t live in Atlanta, what their 10 county region votes for is up to them. I will, however, vote against the transportation tax in my area (which is more than 10 counties). In our area, two counties can outvote the rest of the region due to their population. What I see happening is that they’ll vote this in, they’ll get all the projects, and the rest of the region will be paying the extra 1 cent for them. My area doesn’t really need any more roads, in my opinion. Of course, there are some bigwigs on the DOT board who own a good bit of land here, so I imagine we’ll get a road, whether we need it or not.

gunga din

May 27th, 2011
10:19 am

anyone ever seen a white Marta bus driver or train operator. why isn’t Kasim working on inclusion for white employees at Marta ???

Hillbilly D

May 27th, 2011
10:22 am

And Atl’s problem is and always has been the convergence of 2 major interstates in the middle of the city……..

I’d agree but back in the 1960’s, when they were building the Downtown Connector, as it was called, it was going to be the be-all and end-all of Atlanta’s traffic problems. Looking back, there really weren’t any traffic problems then but hindsight is 20/20.

Joe Mama

May 27th, 2011
10:24 am

Poison Pen — “Joe, according to the Huff. post, we the taxpayers subsidize Amtrack to the tune of $32.00 per person that rides it.”

And how much goes towards Federal road subsidies? Subsidies that support air travel (including air cargo)? Or inland waterways? When’s the last time you took a *ferry,* for crying out loud? (May 2008 for me).

“I guess being from Detroit and the Detroit area I haven’t seen a decent public trans system yet that paid for itself.”

Amtrak is not a public transportation system any more than I-75 is.

DebbieDoRight

May 27th, 2011
10:26 am

PDawg: Just difference of opinions between those who see everyone according to their color and always wanting to make color an issue, and those who don’t.

Like you?

RogersParkRob

May 27th, 2011
10:38 am

How bout fix the sewer system… then move on to other projects.

Hindu Elvis Pimp

May 27th, 2011
10:41 am

gunga din
May 27th, 2011
10:19 am

anyone ever seen a white Marta bus driver or train operator. why isn’t Kasim working on inclusion for white employees at Marta ???

So, if given the opportunity, you as a white person would take that job?

Mary Elizabeth

May 27th, 2011
11:23 am

Beautifully written column – in structure and in message.

With the mature understanding that Reed delivered to the transportation roundtable, it is no surprise that “the session as a whole was marked by a spirit of cooperation and a commitment to a regional vision.”
—————————
Generally speaking, when we, as individuals, become large enough in vision to advance a common vision with others, instead of advancing simply our own narrow one, all are served well. The example of what occurred in Gwinnett County, in attempting to serve only its narrow interests at a given point in time, gives witness to that fact.

Logical Dude

May 27th, 2011
11:23 am

Jay: his larger point is not diversity for diversity’s sake, but diversity as a strategy to reach a diverse audience

Unfortunately, it came across as diversity for diversity’s sake. What will these 4 white men actually DO to sell this to the diverse group? Shouldn’t it be the ELECTED OFFICIALS who try to sell this to their constituents? And I”m sure there are more than the 4 white guys doing the actual hard lifting of going through all of the regional proposals. As reported, Reed comes off looking like he just wants to throw a wrench in the works because of racial makeup of a few people.

I agree that the penny sales tax is needed NO MATTER WHICH ITEMS ARE CHOSEN. Which voters are going to change their vote FOR or AGAINST the penny tax based on the ethnic/gender makeup of the consultants presenting the work of dozens of people? THAT’s why it looks ridiculous to ME.

We can’t get past race until ALL people look at the actual ideas and not the skin color of those presenting the ideas.

Logical Dude

May 27th, 2011
11:24 am

(just checking, my 11:23 is first on page 4! will it stay first?)

markei mark

May 27th, 2011
11:37 am

As on who leans conservatively, I am very impressed so far with the job that Mayor Reed has done; I dont agree with the streetcar, which I think will be a waste of dollars, but everything else I can think of has been thoughtful and measured in tone. I think his criticism of an all white male advisory group was dead right on. For better or worse, there are always going to be people who are going to reject a non diverse group. We can argue the wherefores and/or the whys, but that sidetracks the issues. This nipped a potential argument in the bud, was done wisely and correctly, and now we can move on. I hope the rest of the process can be as rancor free.

markei mark

May 27th, 2011
11:37 am

thats “as one”

Mary Elizabeth

May 27th, 2011
11:46 am

Logical Dude @ 11:23

The dominant issue may be the penny increase in sales tax.

However, I believe that you are minimizing in importance the fact that a regional transporation plan will serve a diverse metropolitan community. Therefore, the PR marketing group, to be most effective in selling the point of the sales tax, should be representative of that diversity. One cannot deny the racial dichotomies that have existed in this area for generations.

That is why, in 1954, the U.S. Supreme Court, under Justice Earl Warren, knew that the Supreme Court’s decision to desegregate schools must be a unanimous decision, or hardliners for racial separation at that time in history, would use dissenting voices on the Supreme Court to give value to their narrow views. Likewise, a diverse PR group on this regional transportation issue today, would deny legitimate voice to those of narrow vision, who might declare – if the PR group were not diverse in composition – that the regional transportation plan would serve one constituency better than another. All would be well served; and the diversity on the PR group would underscore that point.

Ralph

May 27th, 2011
12:00 pm

Wow, such angst from so many corners. I am deeply disappointed by Mayor Reed’s statement. This issue needs the support of all concerned and it wasn’t Atlanta that concerned me, it was the smaller outlying counties. Now, we have balkanized the entire process and for all intents and purposes it is now dead. Reed’s proper response should have been to mention the subject in private but not give life to it in public. I am sick over this but it was a natural reaction by the ‘me-first’ generation.

To Debbie and Jay and the other defenders of Mayor Reed, give it up! From here on out it is a dead subject!

By the way I think Reed is the best mayor of Atlanta since Sam Massell. I am really disappointed in his actions in this instance.

I

Jay

May 27th, 2011
12:07 pm

jm, that is indeed the pattern. Unfortunately, we’ve already squandered our chance to let the first vote fail and get it passed the second time. We cannot afford an additional five-year delay after all this. The economic and quality of life consequences would be severe.

Logical Dude

May 27th, 2011
1:07 pm

Mary Elizabeth: Therefore, the PR marketing group, to be most effective in selling the point of the sales tax, should be representative of that diversity.

And I’m sure they are quite diverse once you look at the company as a whole. It’s Reed who brought up the racial makeup of JUST THE FOUR PEOPLE in the room at the time.

Mary Elizabeth: One cannot deny the racial dichotomies that have existed in this area for generations.

However, we can at least work toward the unification of the different races. Reed lost a huge opportunity here. He could have said “Just a few years ago this WOULD have been a huge problem, but today, we are unified for the best work of the community, and I, as a leader, will look past the racial makeup and make a decision on the merits alone.”

THAT is something I would have applauded.

Cardinal

May 27th, 2011
1:32 pm

“…Reed interjected, pointing out that Bender and the other three leaders of the messaging team hired to sell the referendum to voters were white males…”

That’s pure racism. If that same statement had been uttered by a white person you can bet the tone of Jay Bookman’s blog would have been entirely different. What a hypocrite.

Mary Elizabeth

May 27th, 2011
3:31 pm

Logical Dude @ 1:07

“And I’m sure they are quite diverse once you look at the company as a whole. It’s Reed who brought up the racial makeup of JUST THE FOUR PEOPLE in the room at the time.”
——————————————————-
Logical Dude, what you are “sure of” may not be the case at all. These are the words from the article. One cannot assume anything. Read again the facts of the composition as it stands:

“After Bender finished, Reed interjected, pointing out that Bender and the other three leaders of the messaging team hired to sell the referendum to voters were white males. No women. No minorities. Not the best way to build ‘the widest possible coalition.’ ”

———————————————————
Also, from my 11:23 a.m. post, I wish to share my thoughts with you:

“With the mature understanding that Reed delivered to the transportation roundtable, it is no surprise that ‘the session as a whole was marked by a spirit of cooperation and a commitment to a regional vision.’ ”

—————————–

I believe you are quibbling, Logical Dude. I am glad that you would applaud the fact “of the unification of the races.” In that, I think you and Reed would be in harmony.

Logical Dude

May 27th, 2011
3:45 pm

Mary Elizabeth: what you are “sure of” may not be the case at all. These are the words from the article. One cannot assume anything.

You are absolutely correct. I see this as a failure of the article to fully explain anything. (which is why I said “as reported” in a previous post.) I’m sure there is a lot more to what Reed said, and I am sure there is a lot more on the side of the group he was criticizing. Unfortunately, as reported, they leave a lot of stuff out of the article. When I first read the article in the AJC.com site, it seemed more sensationalistic since it ONLY focused on Reed’s criticism, and not on any substance of the meeting.

So yes, I am making some assumptions based on little evidence, since little evidence is given in the article. But Jay writes a blog about it defending Reed’s action while also not mentioning much else about the substance of the rest of the meeting.