Archive for the ‘Local’ Category

Taxpayers lose in gas-tax ‘match’ game

One word I could go the rest of my life without hearing again, in relation to transportation spending, is “match.”

“Federal match” — as in the money we won’t get if we don’t increase state and local spending. “Local match” — as in the additional local funds required in regions that didn’t approve the T-SPLOST.

I’d like to strike a match and make this entire concept go up in smoke. It’s nothing but a symptom of our broken division of labor among levels of government.

After all, it’s all our money. Most of it is raised by the same levy on the same purchase. But it’s been divided among different agencies, leading us to believe some of it’s “free money” we can have — if we agree to someone else’s priorities.

Take the federal gas tax. That tax is commonly thought to have begun during Dwight Eisenhower’s presidency to pay for the interstate highway system. That’s not true, according to a history of the tax on the federal Department of …

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T-SPLOST vote reiterates: We’re more ‘metro’ than ‘Atlanta’

On Tuesday’s ballots, perhaps no question was more opposite the T-SPLOST in scope and spirit than the cityhood initiative for Brookhaven. Their opposite results — voters soundly defeated the T-SPLOST but approved Brookhaven’s incorporation — create a congruity that helps explain why the tax proposal was ill-designed from the start.

In short: Our region is not becoming more centralized, but less. The popular and political momentum is not toward bigger, but smaller.

Counting Brookhaven, which becomes a city of some 49,000 residents, four of Georgia’s 20 most-populous cities didn’t exist just seven years ago. All four — the others are Dunwoody, Johns Creek and Sandy Springs — are in Fulton and DeKalb counties. So are two smaller new cities, Chattahoochee Hills and Milton.

The biggest reason these areas incorporated was to insulate themselves as much as possible from costly, ineffective county governments. But it’s instructive that, while both Brookhaven and Sandy …

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Poll Position: Will today’s Chick-fil-A ‘kiss-in’ be successful?

The “buycott” of Chick-fil-A on Wednesday produced what the company will only describe as an “unprecedented day” for business. Today, we get the counter-protest (it was announced first, but arrives second) in the form of a “kiss-in” by gay couples angry about remarks made by company president Dan Cathy.

Will it be as successful?

Boycotts have a revered place in American history as an effective form of protest, in large part because of the role they played in the civil rights movement. Lately, however, the tactic’s record is much more spotty. Looking at one list of current boycotts, I don’t see many, if any, that I’d count as successful.

Will today’s “kiss-in” by gay couples at Chick-fil-A restaurants be successful?

  • No (3,059 Votes)
  • Yes (210 Votes)
  • I don’t know (159 Votes)

Total Voters: 3,428

Loading ... Loading …

Now, a “kiss-in” isn’t exactly the same thing as a boycott; I have no idea how many of the reported 15,000 people nationwide who say they’re participating in …

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The L-O-S-T in T-SPLOST refers to public trust

There’s a saying for politicians and for those of us who cover them: The voters are always right. While we’re bound to be subjected to a round or two of recriminations about who’s to blame for the absolute debacle that was the metro Atlanta T-SPLOST campaign, pay attention to those who show signs of understanding and accepting that saying. They’re the ones who will be most likely to find the way forward from here.

For my part, here’s what I think the voters were saying in their 63-37 defeat of the $7.2 billion tax.

The political class has lost our trust.

If that sounds obvious, consider that it’s also a puzzling situation, given that many of the same people who voted overwhelmingly against the T-SPLOST have been voting in large numbers to elect the same Republican politicians who gave us the T-SPLOST. I think there’s a pretty clear explanation: This is the consequence of having a one-party state.

Georgia has been a one-party state for pretty much 140 years now. The first 130 …

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T-SPLOST falls in metro Atlanta; several incumbents unseated

UPDATE at 12:16 p.m.: My colleagues on the news side have now called the referendum as well, declaring T-SPLOST defeated in metro Atlanta. It’s on to Plan B. The one thing I can say with certainty: There will be a Plan B.

That’s it for tonight. More to come Wednesday.

UPDATE at 11:55 p.m.: At least four incumbent House members were defeated Tuesday by challengers:

  • Charlice Byrd, R-Woodstock, lost 53-47 to Michael Caldwell;
  • Steve Davis, R-McDonough, lost 65-35 to Dale Rutledge;
  • Doug McKillip, an Athenian who went from being a member of the House Democratic leadership to a Republican who this year sponsored the so-called fetal pain anti-abortion bill, lost 50.4-49.6 to Regina Quick;
  • Keith Heard, D-Athens, lost 55-45 to Spencer Frye.

In addition, there are two districts where House Democratic incumbents were paired against each other. Pat Gardner had a 63-37 lead over Rashad Taylor, while Simone Bell led Ralph Long 57-43.

And another six House incumbents were in real trouble: …

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Build public trust by using taxes for transportation, not stadium

The AJC’s polling ahead of tomorrow’s T-SPLOST referendum shows pretty much what I expected: A little over half of the voters in metro Atlanta reject the 10-year, $7.2 billion sales tax, with enough folks still undecided that the final margin will probably be in single digits. (I started to write it’s what “most people” would expect. But, given that we still are getting vastly divergent reports of the decisions of even those voters who have already cast their ballots, I’m not sure there is a prevailing view here.)

That said, there was a somewhat surprising result for one of the questions asked with the main queries about the transportation tax: Two-thirds of metro Atlanta residents also reject the idea of using hotel/motel tax revenues to build a new Falcons stadium downtown.

That’s a stout show of disapproval for spending $300 million of public money to replace the Georgia Dome. Unfortunately, there are no geographic splits for this question. Those would have been useful …

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The disturbing attacks on Chick-fil-A

There’s one part of Chick-fil-A President Dan Cathy’s recent remarks that the left seems especially intent on disproving: the part where he said,

… we live in a country where we can share our values and operate on biblical principles.

The rest of Cathy’s comments, if you haven’t already heard, concerned his opinion of the propriety of gay marriage from a biblical perspective. As retribution for his voicing this opinion, some liberals in Chicago and Boston want to deny Cathy and his company the right to operate in their cities.

This is disturbing on a number of levels, two in particular.

The first is the idea that local governments might deny a business license to a company because of the beliefs of its owners. In Chicago, Alderman Proco “Joe” Moreno threatened to do just that in his ward. (The city’s mayor, former Obama aide Rahm Emanuel, was more oblique, voicing sympathy with Moreno’s perspective but saying only that a Chick-fil-A restaurant in Chicago “would be a bad …

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2012 Tuesday: Millions of dollars might not buy a T-SPLOST

Each month, Barack Obama and Mitt Romney — and their respective parties and PACs — report their fund-raising totals. One result is a monthly debate about the propriety of big money in politics, and many participants in that debate begin with the apparent assumption that money is everything in an election.

On the local level, however, we are watching the final days of a campaign in which a gilt Goliath appears mortally wounded by a dollar-poor David. Yes, I’m talking about the T-SPLOST.

The pro-tax campaign yesterday finally released its financial statements (on the last day of its past-due grace period), and it shows pretty much what we all expected: a campaign that has had millions of dollars to persuade voters to tax themselves $7.2 billion during the next 10 years to fund transportation. Here’s how the AJC summarized the standing of the pro- and anti-tax groups:

Citizens for Transportation Mobility — the political action committee pushing the July 31 transportation …

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2012 Tuesday: Polls show clear decline for T-SPLOST support (Updated)

Opinion polls for the presidential race, even when broken down by state, are too far out from Election Day to tell us very much. But the T-SPLOST referendum, which is just two weeks away? That’s different — and a few new polls show us where the momentum lies.

First, a Rosetta Stone Communications poll for Channel 2 Action News released last Friday showed the $7.2 billion tax for transportation projects trails 33 percent to 56 percent. That’s minus-23 percentage points, with just 12 percent saying they’re undecided. Here’s the trend for that poll, with the undecided share of the vote remaining constant:

MAY: minus-3 points (42 for, 45 against, 13 undecided)

JUNE: minus-11 points (38-49-13)

JULY: minus-23 points (33-56-12)

Net Change: minus-20 points

Next, internal polling for Untie Atlanta, the pro-tax campaign. The day after Channel 2 reported its May results, Untie Atlanta released an internal poll showing the measure was winning by 15 percentage points. Today, the campaign’s …

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Taking a look at some T-SPLOST claims

The closer we get to the July 31 T-SPLOST referendum, it seems, the more claims we hear from the pro-tax campaign about its supposed benefits. Here’s the low-down on four common claims made about the $7.2 billion tax and the 157 projects it would fund.

1. Metro Atlanta commuters already pay a “congestion tax” of $924 a year.

This figure, taken from a study by the Texas Transportation Institute, accounts for the cost of wasting fuel and time in traffic. T-SPLOST supporters argue this is an indirect “tax” on commuters, and that the 1 percent sales tax will mitigate it.

Perhaps. But they don’t acknowledge the average household stands to pay more if the T-SPLOST passes.

Commuters aren’t the only people who would pay the sales tax, so let’s look at households. Based on Census data about commuters (see page 29) and household size in the 10-county region, the household “congestion tax” would be $986 a year. A study by the Atlanta Regional Commission found the projects …

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