Archive for the ‘Local’ Category

On T-SPLOST, vote your interests — not what you think others’ are

In recent weeks, a few friends have asked me for advice: How should they vote in July’s T-SPLOST referendum?

I asked them where they do most of their driving. Then I rattled off the nearby projects I could remember — and advised them to check the official map in case I had forgotten others. But one guy replied that he wanted to know what’s best for the region, not just himself.

What’s best for the region, I told him, is for everyone to decide what’s best for themselves, and vote accordingly.

Advocates of the 10-year, $7.2 billion sales tax say many of our transportation problems are regional in nature. One of their favorite illustrations is that the project most desired by elected officials in Douglas County was the interchange of I-285 and I-20 west, which sits in Fulton.

They’re right about the regional nature of many of our problems. And it might well be true that the best way to improve commutes for the people of Douglas County is to spend money on projects elsewhere.

But …

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T-SPLOST vote comes down to time vs. money

“The tyranny of the urgent” is how Charles Hummel described the way other people’s demands can get in the way of one’s own priorities. He was talking about personal time management, but the concept also applies to those frequent calls for government to “do something … now!” Kind of like the T-SPLOST.

The latest argument from advocates of the tax, which would raise $7.2 billion over 10 years to fund 157 transportation projects, is about urgency:

“The metro Atlanta region adds one person every seven minutes to its population,” pro-tax Untie Atlanta claims in a recent email. “By 2040, we are expected to add 3 million people — three times the population of Fulton County. Now is the time to invest in our transportation infrastructure.”

The fear factor may be the campaign’s most persuasive argument. Forecasts of how much congestion will ease if the projects are built are fine, but it’s hard to know how reliable they are. Or how much congestion will improve where any given …

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The truth about how long T-SPLOST will tax us

The T-SPLOST faces a challenging road to passage as it is. Imagine if supporters had to drum up votes for it either without the two segments of the Beltline; or without a bus/light rail line into Cobb County; or without any of the interchange improvements at I-285 and Ga. 400, I-285 and I-20 west, and I-285 and I-85 north. All while no other projects were added to the list.

Or, instead, imagine if they were asking voters to approve the same project list, with the same 1 percent sales tax for the same 10 years — while, at the same time, they were asking for another tax increase of $600 million to $850 million during the same decade.

Say hello to the T-SPLOST renewal campaign, circa 2022.

One of the hottest — and most disingenuous — aspects of the T-SPLOST debate has been the back and forth about whether the tax being put to a regional referendum in July would last only 10 years.

On the anti-tax side, some people suggest politicians will double-cross the voters and keep the tax …

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T-SPLOST backers identify future transit users

I was reading through the Untie Atlanta pro-T-SPLOST website yesterday for the umpteenth time, when I noticed this in the “Myths and Facts” section of the “Crisis” page:

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Untie Atlanta screen shot

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Read that again, with an added emphasis on certain words: “Building transit has the potential of taking the cars in front of you off the road.”

Hmmm.

I could’ve sworn I’d read something like this before…

Oh, yes. This was it:

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Onion Transit headline

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And in which publication did that headline appear?

Onion logo

– By Kyle Wingfield

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T-SPLOST: Is traffic really a problem in Atlanta?

The problem the proposed transportation sales tax, or T-SPLOST, purports to solve would seem obvious. Here’s how the first advertisement by a group pushing the tax framed the issue:

“Metro Atlanta, we have a problem: one of the longest average commutes in America, over an hour a day. Five hours a week you don’t spend with your family; 260 hours a year.”

But what if the length of our commutes isn’t a problem we can solve? At least, that is, not by building new infrastructure to relieve congestion.

That’s the implication of new data from INRIX, a private company that tracks traffic information.

The latest INRIX Traffic Scorecard, updated this week with data through April, shows traffic congestion increases the average commute in metro Atlanta by only about 10 percent — less than six minutes a day.

Let me repeat that: Congestion adds less than six minutes to the average metro Atlanta commute. And to reduce — not eliminate — that six-minute problem, we are asked to tax ourselves …

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What’s Plan B if T-SPLOST fails here, passes elsewhere?

The claim by proponents of the T-SPLOST that there is “no Plan B” — no alternative to the proposed 1 percent increase in the sales tax and the $6.1 billion in regional transportation projects it would build — has always struck me as silly.

Is there another plan already prepared and waiting in the wings should voters reject the tax in July? Probably not. In that sense, the “no Plan B” talk rings true. But surely no one believes local and state officials would just quit trying to speed up the construction of new roads and mass transit. A second option would emerge, probably sooner than later.

That said, there is one real nightmare scenario for those who would have to create a Plan B: The tax fails in metro Atlanta, but passes elsewhere.

We in metro Atlanta tend not to think about the tax referendum outside our 10-county region. But the rest of the state is divided into 11 other T-SPLOST regions, and the tax might very well pass in some of them.

Legislators discussed the reverse …

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Oh, Fulton County: A jail with locks that don’t work (Updated)

Stories like this one from today’s AJC are infuriating to me:

For all the tens of millions of dollars that taxpayers pour into the Fulton County jail every year, the lockup can’t perform the basic function of keeping inmates locked up in cells.

The 23-year-old jail has such shoddy door locks that inmates can jam them with soap, toilet paper, shards of cloth or other trash and leave their cells at will. Motor-operated sliding doors on the maximum security levels can be jimmied open with pieces of cardboard.

This year’s Fulton County budget includes $68.1 million for the jail. Since a 2006 federal court order to improve security at the overcrowded jail, the county has spent more than $50 million to house inmates elsewhere and an estimated $86 million more, including interest, to renovate the facility.

And yet, the locks on the $@^*@&! cells don’t even work properly.

Consider stories like this one as you read about Georgia Republicans’ plans to shrink Fulton County’s impact on …

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Falcons stadium proposal begs a look at football’s future

Before spending a few hundred million taxpayer dollars — for example, on a new stadium for the Falcons — it is worth mulling worst-case scenarios. The worst of the worst cases for the stadium is that, within a few decades, football as we know it is extinct.

Get this straight: I’m not predicting football’s death. The NFL and college football have never been bigger. Projecting the sport’s demise would seem to put one in the company of Harold Camping, the nonagenarian preacher who (twice!) last year forecast Doomsday, not among UGA football’s season-ticket holders.

That said, there are some dark clouds on the sport’s horizon. What better time to pause and consider those clouds than before a deal is signed and the bonds — for which Atlanta’s hotel tax revenues would be committed until 2050 — are sold.

The place to start is with the dominant story this NFL offseason, which concerns player safety. The NFL faces 70 lawsuits covering more than 1,800 ex-players who claim the league …

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The voters who just might decide the T-SPLOST’s fate

In any election, you’ll hear a lot about each side’s efforts to woo the woo-able. You’ve heard the names before: “soccer moms” and “NASCAR dads.” With that in mind, here’s a label for the group that might settle July’s T-SPLOST referendum: QuikTrip parents.

They live in the suburbs and have the area’s longest daily commutes. This costs them increasing amounts of gas money and family time. If you’ve seen or heard some of the advertisements about the T-SPLOST, the QuikTrip parents are the target audience.

This group may have become even more important this week when the Sierra Club said it was opposing the tax because, among other things, the project list devoted “only” 40 percent of the revenues to mass transit. In a region where only about 5 percent of commuters use transit, the Sierra Club’s stance displays a realism I’d expect from Don Quixote managing Buddy Roemer’s presidential campaign. Yet, I’ve heard the same concern from other pro-transit people.

And then there are …

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Here we go: Cynthia McKinney is running for Congress again

A tough slog for Democrats in Georgia may be getting even tougher, thanks to one of their old friends: Cynthia McKinney has filed paperwork to run for Congress in Georgia’s 4th District as a member of the Green Party.

The incumbent, Hank “capsized Guam” Johnson, has made more than his fair share of gaffes since defeating McKinney in 2006 and entering Congress. But compared to her, he’s a statesman of the highest order.

Still, it took a runoff for Johnson to beat her in that year’s primary, and even then she won 41 percent of the vote. This will be a general election, and 41 percent of the Democratic vote would be enough to keep Johnson from winning a majority. The GOP candidate last time out, Liz Carter, won 25 percent against Johnson. Neither she nor any other Republican will win this heavily Democratic district. But the GOP candidate will get enough votes to make it tough for Johnson to beat McKinney — or (shudder) vice-versa — without a runoff. McKinney would need just a …

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