Your morning jolt: Paying more to work in Atlanta

When it comes to property taxes, the Atlanta race for mayor is a concern limited to the several hundred thousand people who call themselves residents.

Mention “commuter tax,” and suddenly your listening audience expands to several million.

Six mayoral candidates participated in an hourlong debate Sunday night, broadcast on GPTV and sponsored by the Atlanta Press Club.

If you listened carefully, you know there’s a good chance that driving into Atlanta might cost extra after this election.

The question is who — or what — will be taxed.

First up on the topic was Councilwoman Mary Norwood, who appeared to endorse an indirect commuter tax filtered through the state:

“We already subject our commuters to a tremendous amount of traffic to come into our city. So what I propose is a regional equalization plan so that any city in the state of Georgia that has a net inflow of citizens throughout the state coming in for employment, would have a different level of funding from the state.

“I think that would work well for the city of Atlanta. It would also work well for other municipalities throughout the region as well as throughout the state.”

Norwood didn’t explain how a mayor might persuade the state to voluntarily funnel more money to Atlanta.

Atlanta attorney Jesse Spikes bought into Norwood’s equalization argument, but gave priority to a parking tax:

“In 2002 the council appointed a committee to study a surcharge on parking, and it recommended a 10 percent surcharge. I would support that.

“But what we could also do to equalize the charges is to seek more funding from the state. Atlanta receives 1 percent of its funding from the state. Around the country, cities receive about 15 percent.”

Former state senator Kasim Reed is against a commuter tax, and this morning a spokesman said that his opposition includes a tax on parking:

“I would not support a commuter tax because I believe at the end of the day it would put jobs in the city of Atlanta at risk, and force new job locations to the exterior of the city. The city of Philadelphia used that model and it saw exactly that.

“But more important, it’s vital that we recognize that the biggest employer in the city of Atlanta proper is the state of Georgia. When we get into a situation where we’re taxing commuters and discussing a commuter tax, I believe the state will begin to move assets outside the city of Atlanta.”

As far as the parking tax goes, spokesman Reese McCranie quoted his candidate as saying, “The juice wouldn’t be worth the squeeze.”

Candidate Kyle Keyser expressed the only outright support for a commuter tax:

“….But I would say let it not release the responsibility of our city leaders to get our own house in order…to get ourselves leaner and more effective.”

Peter Brownlowe, the former Atlanta police officer, simply said he would not support any new taxes.

Atlanta City Council President Lisa Borders had the final word on the matter. She opposes a tax on commuters, but – like Spikes – thinks their vehicles may be fair game:

“Obviously commuter taxes have worked in New York and New Jersey up in the Northeast. They have not worked in Philadelphia.

“All of the businesses simply moved out of the urban core. So the answer is no, I would not support it. It is my understanding that parking lot owners do in fact support parking taxes for cars, which would hopefully drive more ridership on MARTA. So I would be in favor of looking at a parking tax, not a commuter tax.”

This morning’s last word on the mayoral race comes from Walter Jones of the Morris News Service, who has this measure of our fascination with the leadership of the Big City:

Do a simple Google search of the current mayor, Shirley Franklin, and Gov. Sonny Perdue, both nearing the end of their second terms. Perdue brings up 144,000 items and 18,700 images while Franklin’s dwarfs his with 222,000 mentions on the Web and 58,400 images.

While you ponder that, consider these items found while perusing this morning’s ajc.com:

  • Georgia officialdom ignores ban on gift-giving.
  • Ethics debate splits State Election Board.
  • Board

  • More than 3,000 parents and children scramble for flu shots in Cobb County.
  • Atlanta mayoral race goes down to the wire.
  • Cameras may police Atlanta’s city streets.
  • Atlanta, the engine for growth, has run out of fuel.
  • Gwinnett County crime reports go online.
  • SCLC set for change at top.
  • Some opinion:

  • Beverly Scott says a MARTA-state merger proposal deserves debate.
  • Cynthia Tucker says keeping consumers safe is one thing that government does right.
  • Kyle Wingfield thinks power needs to have limits.
  • And from beyond:

  • WP: Ideology trumps party for Palin.
  • Chicago Sun-Times: The grass ceiling: Obama finally golfs with a woman.
  • LAT: Fox News relishes Obama administration scorn.
  • For instant updates, follow me on Twitter.

    122 comments Add your comment

    What?

    October 26th, 2009
    9:49 am

    Norwood talking out of her butt with no real solutions? Big surprise!

    Krooked Kasim

    October 26th, 2009
    9:50 am

    KR

    October 26th, 2009
    9:53 am

    Kasim Reed wins the “Mr. Politician” award for this race. He is so obviously the heir to the Bill Campbell/Shirley Franklin throne that it is laughable. No limits on campaign contributions for city developers? Having a brother in charge of contract compliance? Our city will crumple under the weight of that corruption.

    AtlantaBytes

    October 26th, 2009
    9:53 am

    I completely agree with you What? We are on the verge of electing a mayor because she will work on making Atlanta safe and clean up City Hall. Unfortunately, this is the extent of Mary Norwood’s plan. For the rest of the morning I will be working on World Peace.

    General Sherman

    October 26th, 2009
    10:08 am

    Six candidates may be running,but all I saw was a much of losers.Can we have six more to choose from? The city is going to hell ,but it is better than Shirley Nagin!

    THE REAL Shin Jasher

    October 26th, 2009
    10:20 am

    No surprises here. Norwood probably couldn’t find the State Capitol with Google Maps, let alone maneuver her way through to get transportation funding and taxes. Keyser, Spikes, and Brownlowe should drop out of the race and save face.

    jd

    October 26th, 2009
    10:30 am

    Wake up and smell the coffee! The city of Atlanta has been a failure ever since Maynard took office in the 1970s. Every black mayor has caused the city to deteriorate in some fashion. Maynard falsely got credit for the airport even though he inherited it. Andy and Maynard took credit for the Olympics but were nowhere to be found when it floundered.

    A commuter tax? Maybe it will get voted in by the black folks living in Atlanta. What it will result in is a massive efflux of businesses to the suburbs and avoidance of the city by most hard-working, tax-paying citizens.

    General Sherman

    October 26th, 2009
    10:42 am

    The city of Atlanta should be paying the commuters a tax for willing to work in that thing they call a city. CRIME EVERY WHERE!

    Eric

    October 26th, 2009
    10:45 am

    Wow! Some very dignified stuff here, from some obviously very dignified and racist citizens. I think jd gets the trophy. What? is the runnerup.

    John

    October 26th, 2009
    10:45 am

    After reading about and listening to these candidates;General Sherman where are you when you’re
    needed?

    Steve

    October 26th, 2009
    10:48 am

    @jd: I would suggest that it’s not about “black folks” wanting or not wanting to force businesses to the suburbs. Maybe it’s about all of the citizens of Atlanta being fed up with the fact that despite the city’s hugely positive economic impact on Georgia our city receives less support from the state than any other major metropolis in America. Or maybe you’re right and it is all about race…one or the other.

    General Sherman

    October 26th, 2009
    10:48 am

    JOHN.My first fire did not work so I guess I need to come back and do a better job.The left overs are not doing very well!

    Atlanta is Stupid

    October 26th, 2009
    10:52 am

    Absolutely not, no taxation without representation. The crooked city can go scr*w itself, they will get no money from the people of Cobb county, ever. Read this to see why the crooked city should never be trusted with OUR money. http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=newsarchive&sid=a6Em081Rkzho

    Razor

    October 26th, 2009
    10:53 am

    @General. Given the current shooting spree in the SW part of the city, I’d start torching the northside first.

    Stu

    October 26th, 2009
    10:53 am

    It is difficult to believe that placing an additional burden on those willing to do their business inside the city limits will not have a negative effect. As the ajc reported this weekend, the last large corp to locate downtown was Georgia Pacific in the early eighties – and taxing employees who work downtown will not help this situation. The approaching commercial real estate debacle in the Metro area will leave thousands of square feet of affordable lease space available to anyone who wants it. Why choose an inside-the-city-limits site that makes commuting more expensive for your employees?

    Ryan

    October 26th, 2009
    10:55 am

    Atlanta is a hell hole. Why do the poeple insist on voting in idiot after idiot to be mayor?

    Amy

    October 26th, 2009
    10:55 am

    Maybe if Atlanta was a better city with less crime and affordable neighborhoods (that aren’t full of crime)… we wouldn’t have to buy houses outside the city limits and have to sit on the highway for over an hour every morning to get to our jobs. No one wants to live far away from where they work but the truth is… sometimes you have to to avoid living in the ghetto. I’m sorry but we can’t afford to buy a house that costs $900,000 or $800,000 or $700,000 or $600,000 or $500,000 or $400,000 or $300,000!!! And why the BLEEP do we need to spend that much just to have a decent home in a decent area!!?!!! I think the smartest thing my husband and I did was buy a home we could really afford and not try to over extend ourselves.. hopefully that means we won’t ever lose that home. Commuter tax MY A$$!!!!

    RJ

    October 26th, 2009
    10:56 am

    New motto:
    Atlanta – Soon to be the Detroit of the South!

    GoOx

    October 26th, 2009
    10:57 am

    Jim,
    Looks like you got scooped by Peach Pundit.

    The Handel campaign distributed a poll that show’s my man Ox in first place. 90% name id – my man Ox wins the primary without a run off.

    What?

    October 26th, 2009
    10:57 am

    @Eric: What about my comment was racist? I never mentioned race. I never hinted at race. I am talking about the perpetual tendency of Mrs. Norwood to offer solutions to issues without any substantive details about how to actually implement those plans. A “regional equalization plan” is jargon for “I’ll ask the state for money and hopefully they give it to us.” That hasn’t worked in the past and she offers no new approach about how it could work in the future. It’s not about race it’s about her incompetence, and it’s rather hypocritical of you to bring it up.

    Tom

    October 26th, 2009
    10:57 am

    It all comes around to too few people demanding too many services they are not willing to pay for. These ‘too many’ don’t necessarily live in Atlanta, but want the city services, city activities, city life, and a city address.
    One question: If some state offices move out of Atlanta, will the city then be able to levy property tax on the abandoned facilities? Apparently the state is one of the biggest freeloaders on the few tax paying residents of the city.

    OneChris

    October 26th, 2009
    11:00 am

    NO … That would make downtown an Ghost Town right out of the Wild Wild West with tumble weed going down Peachtree Street

    holla

    October 26th, 2009
    11:03 am

    Bring back Freaknik

    General Sherman

    October 26th, 2009
    11:05 am

    razor.Sorry I have to start with city hall,all the rats live there!

    AtlantaNative62

    October 26th, 2009
    11:10 am

    Geez, will this type of thinking ever end? More short-term solutions that have a negative long-term effect. How foolish would it be to have residents of other municipalities pay extra to get to their jobs in Atlanta. Employers have a hard enough time drawing people to work in town. What the people who support this type of plan miss is that the CEOs, Directors, etc of these in-town companies already live outside of Atlanta and this would be just one more incentive for them to move out to the ‘burbs if not out of the region altogether.

    Mayor Bozo

    October 26th, 2009
    11:11 am

    You should take the Mayor’s salary and all the nuts that it takes to run that office and pay some policemen to save the city. People getting shot 31 times etc.. in the news every day. The city of Atlanta has totally gone to the toliet and there is not tax that will save it.

    AeroNautica0909

    October 26th, 2009
    11:13 am

    I love the City of Atlanta but the city would be doing itself such a disservice by instituting a commuter tax. The city is already losing jobs to the suburbs and this is just another way to drive jobs out. What these candidates need to understand is they need to keep jobs in the city as well as create new ones, not drive the existing jobs away by taxation. Instead of more taxation, the city needs to be more efficient, cut waste and fix their politics.

    Tom

    October 26th, 2009
    11:22 am

    OK, interesting stuff.
    And so when the city of Atlanta totally dies, what’s going to keep the businesses in the ‘burbs from packing off to other locations out of state? If the core dies, the surrounding area goes with it.
    An example? See Detroit…
    The big issue is that Atlanta proper is WAY too small for the demands put upon it by the region. As the balkanization of the area continues, the city gets even smaller and less populous. Eventually, the only option will be bankruptcy. Then the city’s problems will become the state’s problems. It is much better to help the patient now, then rescue it from a terminal illness later.

    Not surprised at all

    October 26th, 2009
    11:29 am

    Thank God I don’t live in the City of Atlanta with all the mismanagement, and crazy ideas like this to tax inbound traffic into the city! We decided to purchase our home in Smyrna directly because of the mismanagement issues in the City of Atlanta. For example, on t.v. yesterday, the news showed a story about the flood damage to the Bolton Road/Atlanta Road sewage treatment facility. Back in 1997, the city was told to fix the dike facing the Chattahooche River at a cost of $300,000. Now the current estimate on damage to the sewage faiclity is $50,000,000 after the recent flooding. Not to mention, the lawsuits that the local homeowner’s will file aganist the city for dumping millions of gallon of raw sewage into their neighborhood. Add to that the federal dumping laws, and fines that are constantly being broken and accrued by the City of Atlanta. Go ahead Atlanta and add a comuter tax, and just watch your city dry up even more than it already is!

    Fed Up with Atlanta

    October 26th, 2009
    11:33 am

    I would not support another tax. We already pay more in taxes because we use more fuel. Parking is overpriced and you are more than likely to have your vehicle broken into or damaged by inconsiderate parkers next to you. Spaces have been narrowed to fit in a few extra spaces. Usually someone parks a foot off your car so that you can’t open the drivers door to get in.

    I have 10 years left to work in downtown Atlanta. Add aditional commuter tax and I will find a job in the suburbs. Once I retire or take a different job I will probably never come back to this filthy pit of a city.Unsafe filthy parking decks and sidewalks that stink of human excrement. Panhandlers in almost every block. Trash, cigarette buts all over the place and inconsiderate rude pedestrians. (Ever hear about sharing the sidewalk?)

    Traffic is bad in this city because there are no real commuter options.

    There are 6 highways leading out of the city. Remove the HOV (what a joke) lanes and run commuter rail up the center of each. Provide bus to rail stations and parking stations over the highway with feeder lines into each station. Short drive or bus ride than train into the city. The Highway system in this city is perfectly set up for this. Add a loop rail around 285 and you could get almost anywhere you want to go.

    The state needs to fix the problem. The city adding taxes will backfire and take more people and business out of the city.

    Its time for the State and Atlanta to Wake up and enter the 21st century. Cut the political and racial BS and get to work to better all of its citizens.

    Razor

    October 26th, 2009
    11:33 am

    “While trying to once again burn down the city of Atlanta, General Sherman was shot 31 times by criminals yielding a semi-automatic assault riffle on the steps of city hall. General Sherman pronounced dead at the scene. At present, fate of the city of Atlanta government rats commanding city hall remain unknown at present.” —> Today in the news.

    Amy you ROCK!!!

    October 26th, 2009
    11:39 am

    Amy you said it all… nuff said! My family is right there with you!

    Keith

    October 26th, 2009
    11:45 am

    Why are we even wasting time discussing this? It is NEVER going to happen. Yes, it would ruin the city. The state of Georgia will NEVER approve this happening. There is not a city in the country (except maybe New York) that could pull this off without hemorrhaging jobs.

    “Atlanta is Stupid”: What does an article about Birmingham have anything to do with Atlanta?

    “Fed Up with Atlanta”: What city doesn’t have smelly parking decks, cigarette butts on the sidewalks, etc… I was just in Seattle – bums everywhere (smoking pot next to Pike Place) and by 5pm, trash everywhere on the streets. And as far as parking costs, try to park in Manhattan or DC and see what their hourly rates are. Parking in Atlanta is cheap.

    And to the others making stupid comments, either say something intelligent and on topic or shut up!

    Delmar

    October 26th, 2009
    11:46 am

    wow, they censored me and took my post off when i called shirley a racist.

    Not surprised at all

    October 26th, 2009
    11:49 am

    Check out today’s business section for this story on why companies are moving to the “burds”! Here is a quote from one of Atlanta’s great business minds, “It’s this simple: If I was the CEO of a major company, I would not open a place in downtown Atlanta,” said Home Depot co-founder Bernie Marcus, who four years ago spent $250 million of his fortune to build one of downtown’s biggest attractions, the Georgia Aquarium. Go ahead Atlanta and add a comuter tax, and you will sign your own death warrant as a city. Just maybe the Atlanta City Coucil and Mayor should take a walk outside and watch the squirrels. No really, they could learn a very valuable lesson by watching the squirrels gathering nuts, and storing them for a rainy day! The City of Atlanta spent all those permit taxes on what? Like Mary Norwood suggested, maybe it’s time for an investigation into the City of Atlanta’s finance department! Next hot story topic from Atlanta City Hall, How to tax the homeless?

    Susan Adkins

    October 26th, 2009
    11:58 am

    Typical Atlanta idea…JUST STUPID like the citizens of Atl. Atlanta is a smelly fart.

    Not surprised at all

    October 26th, 2009
    12:00 pm

    Free speech is what? Better get used to it! You have the ignorant with alittle bit of power. The Mayor nows says Norwood is not qualified? But Mayor Franklin was qualified to run the city into the D-I-R-T!Same crap in Atlanta as Washington D.C.! Raising taxes has been proven time and time again to not work in stimulating economic growth! Big city, or big Washington is not the answer, folks!

    Tom

    October 26th, 2009
    12:01 pm

    Sure, I understand why folks living outside the city wouldn’t want to pay a small tax for using the city’s services – why pay for what you get for free? Maybe you ought to thank the residents for paying paying your way…
    Similarly, transit would be great, the city wants it, but nobody OTP seems to want to support it – so the city is really on its own.
    There are lots of folks that want and do live in Atlanta, because city life is incredible – traffic is not an issue, commutes are short, convenience to everything is great, great neighborhoods, wonderful parks and crime – well, it’s there, but the reports from the ‘burbs seem similarly disgusting. (not all those murders and mayhem on TV come from the city – most are not….check it out!)

    Ever wonder *why* real estate is more expensive in the city? It’s not random…

    General Sherman

    October 26th, 2009
    12:06 pm

    I was having coffee with President Lincoln this morning and he told me that we made a mistake getting involved in state rights.The people we helped are raping,killing and just being evil. OMG what did we do?

    Marcos

    October 26th, 2009
    12:07 pm

    A parking tax would also tax the city residents, so how is that a commuter tax? What a crock…

    lmno

    October 26th, 2009
    12:08 pm

    I live in the city and commute to the suburbs for work.

    The commute is very easy for me, although it is sad to watch all of those other people coming the other direction not moving at all.

    I don’t think I would like to live near my office (Middle of Gwinnett) as there doesn’t seem to be any real personality to the area. Its just strip malls, walmart, chain restaraunts, ect… but its not a bad place to work as all of the residents go downtown during the day.

    I used to commute from atlanta to Alpharetta which was long, but again, against the flow of traffic.

    Stay in the burbs!!

    October 26th, 2009
    12:10 pm

    The people outside of Atlanta HATE Atlanta and this would just give them more to hate. They do not understand that Atlanta is an engine for growth in this region and we would be no better than Mississippi without Atlanta. But those in the burbs and out in the state who HATE Atlanta still want to come here for concerts, football games, museums… they just don’t want to pay for it.

    Timus

    October 26th, 2009
    12:25 pm

    Yep. Need the commuter tax. We keep having to expand our infrastructure to accommodate thru traffic and none of the people passing through are sharing the cost! In addition Mayor Franklin cut so much the city is still in a hole. There need to be a revenue increase!!

    Crunk D

    October 26th, 2009
    12:28 pm

    Why don’t any of the candidates mention cutting wasteful government spending, instead?

    cheapman

    October 26th, 2009
    12:41 pm

    Boy, I’m really ashamed to say I was born in Atlanta. Things used to be so much different before massive, uncontrolled growth, the Olympics rage, and now the woeful crime situation. I’m glad I no longer go down there very much. For all those who want present day Atlanta-you can have it!!!

    BBro

    October 26th, 2009
    12:43 pm

    I cannot stand to go into Atlanta so I surely wouldn’t pay to go there..

    woodie

    October 26th, 2009
    12:43 pm

    I hope Norwood wins this election. As far as taxing traffic, most the traffic happens outside the city. I think a city sales tax would be appropriate. This would capture revenue from commuters. They should take all this money and hire an army to rout out all the thugs shooting and robbing residents and visitors in Atlanta. Once you solve that problem, people might actually enjoy visiting Atlanta.

    bt

    October 26th, 2009
    12:46 pm

    I have said it before and I will say again. The City of Atlanta has not a Mayor worth the title, since the late Ivan Allen and Bill Hartsfield.The garbage in office since 1974 would not qualify to shine the shoes of those mentioned above.

    wsj

    October 26th, 2009
    12:48 pm

    Would Clark Howard please reconsider and run for mayor?

    Paul A

    October 26th, 2009
    12:49 pm

    If you think this is bad just wait until there’s no water for Atlanta.

    I’m glad I sold my condo in midtown back in 2001. I live in Smyrna now. I’m happy and I don’t get robbed every other month anymore.

    Atlanta is a lost cause at this point. No amount of race baiting or finger pointing can fix the situation. The analogy to Detroit is sad but true. It’s too bad… Atlanta used to be a great place to live and work.