Strange Bedfellows: Sierra Club, TEA Party Oppose Transportation Tax Increase

We’ve known for months that the TEA Party (via the largest Georgia group with that name, the TEA Party Patriots) will oppose the Metro Atlanta T-SPLOST and it’s 17% increase on sales taxes received.  One of their main issues is that they see this as a transit tax.

Now via Jim Galloway we have the official statement from the Sierra Club.  They’re going to oppose the tax because it doesn’t have enough transit.

While much discussion has focused on the transit component of the project list, the T-SPLOST is first and foremost a road building initiative. Claims by pro-transit supporters that 52 percent of revenues would go to transit do not account for the 15 percent local set-aside, which is expected to go primarily to roads; the final total for transit would be closer to 40 percent.  Given that existing transportation funding already overwhelmingly favors roads, passage of the T-SPLOST would only further entrench that divide.

Even the transit expansion projects that Sierra Club supports in concept, including the Northwest corridor, are vaguely defined and underfunded. Other transit projects, like the continuation of GRTA bus service, reward the state for not coming to the table to continue commuter bus service, instead electing to rely on the region step in and assume responsibility.

To some, this may appear to be a huge problem for passage of the T-SPLOST, as there are now two groups with both grassroots activists and nominal money to counter the multi-million dollar PR campaign being waged by those who favor the massive tax increase.  Yet in the new opposition one can now see the roots of a new message emerging from the pro T-SPLOST advocates -and those roots are blond.

Consider it a Goldilocks campaign.  With the Sierra club saying there’s not enough transit and the TEA Party saying there’s too much, expect those supporting the measure to claim it’s just right.  Now eat your porridge.


  1. Dave Bearse says:

    There’s the argument that the motor fuel tax should be increased to fund highways. The Chamber, for its measly $6M PR campaign, gets a 10-year 100% transportation subsidy. It’s the GOP’s idea of a “free” market.

    • Steve Brown says:

      The Chamber is going to see if they can buy a sale tax referendum.

      With ultra-expensive pork projects like the Beltline and the Cumberland-CID rail, there’s not much $$ left for the decent projects. The whole thing turned into a special interest feeding frenzy.

  2. Harry says:

    In this shell game the leg is passing it’s responsibility to raise new taxes to the counties and voters. If T-SPLOST is approved there is no real guarantee how the bonding capacity will be used, but if approved they will award contracts for billions in the next year to the lobbyists. Shifts will be made at the last minute on priorities. All of a sudden the unnecessary $2 billion stadium will be funded.

    • GTKay says:

      DOT isn’t doing bonds. It’s pay as you go. The projects are staggered, and as the money comes in, it goes to pay for the projects which are BY LAW tob e funded by this dedicated tax. Have you even read the bill?

  3. bgsmallz says:

    So the NAACP of DeKalb is against it, the TEA Party is against it, the Sierra Club is against it…all we need is a rally in the park led by Al Sharpton and Neil Boortz and the circle will be complete.

    It’s too bad that none of our founding fathers thought of a way to put people into decision making roles so that laws like this wouldn’t be left to mob rule. You know…someone to represent the common person rather than the ideological fringe. Someone that could negotiate and find common ground and make the tough decisions from a macro view that so many self-absorbed groups seem to lack. Selfless men and women that would rather find solutions to transportation issues than to pass the buck to the citizens and the businesses in a region to shoulder the tough decisions and burdens. (sarcasm font needed)

    Hopefully normal and rational people will ask the question to these groups: “What’s the end game here?” Because that is the issue…the TEA Party, NAACP, Sierra Club…whoever…they are all coming out against the T-Splost for one reason or another. Put them in a room and let them come up with a plan for transportation going forward….guess what?….they couldn’t agree on what to get for lunch let alone how transportation and funding in this region should look like going forward. These groups have no answers. They don’t even have educated guesses. They have only objections.

    We’ve seen that the legislature is spineless/gridlocked on this issue…they have been for over 30 years… It’s a 10 year tax…it goes away if we don’t vote it back in 10 years. I’m willing to give it a try if only as an experiment to make all of these folks on the fringes realize that they don’t run this state, they don’t run this region, and that their political sway only extends as far as their myopic vision of how government should worship their ideologies.

    But maybe that’s just me…

    • Harry says:

      Do you really think that supporting a badly conceived, lobbyist-driven, unaccountable referendum is a good plan, merely because don’t like the “fringes” who oppose?

      • bgsmallz says:

        How is there no accountability in a plan that automatically sunsets after 10 years?

        There is more accountability and better calculation of the risk to me as a taxpayer in just that portion of the bill than there could ever be in leaving open the discussion for ‘someone’ to come up with a better plan. Can you imagine if the TEA Party, the DeKalb NAACP, or the Sierra Club actually gets their way on transportation what it might look like? Look…I know how much it costs me, I’ve got a reasonable idea of what I’m getting out of it…I’m just not sure why I shouldn’t look at it as anything more than is it worth 1% to prime the pump for the next 10 years? I think it is. I want my children to be able to work and live here and not have to move to Dallas for a job…I think passing the T-Splost might help with that. Thus, I’m for it.

      • GTKay says:

        It’s not unaccountable. There will be a panel of citizens who monitor the schedule and budget of the projects and report to the General Assembly every year. Again, info contained in the bill.

    • seekingtounderstand says:

      Do you think the numbers that they put out there as to what the projects costs is the truth…..
      Its all one big lie.
      By all means continue the tradition of filling the pockets of those good’o boys!

  4. Jimmie says:

    bg-e This is throwing good money after bad. Marta is a mess. While I thoroughly agree something needs to be done, I don’t like the smell of this one. I’m told it involves eminent domain. Is your property in the building line? There is Railway (doraville) and busing now and here in Gwinnett barely anyone uses it. So if it is extended further, people will now use it? Then there is the HOT lanes debacle that is very much connected with this in the future. Giving our crooked politicians a 10 year cash cow is a dangerous thing imo. It will get so big, it will never go away. The best thing is to go back to the drawing board. Look at more studies of major cities and find a better way.

    • bgsmallz says:

      Ok…so here is my short answer. It’s hard to throw good money after bad when you haven’t even thrown in the bad money. You live in Gwinnett…what money have you thrown at Marta, period?

      I’ll give you a quick clue about other major cites and how they do it…they get funding from the state and they don’t have state governments scared of making counties that clearly should have skin in the game like Cobb and Gwinnett ante up or shut up. Maybe if Gwinnett had joined Marta either time they had a chance, they wouldn’t be dealing with HOT lanes.

      • The Last Democrat in Georgia says:

        “I’ll give you a quick clue about other major cites and how they do it…they get funding from the state and they don’t have state governments scared of making counties that clearly should have skin in the game like Cobb and Gwinnett ante up or shut up.”

        The only thing is that former exurbs Cobb and Gwinnett Counties have grown so politically powerful that they now control state government.

        You can’t get elected to statewide office in this state that is now totally dominated by Republicans if you don’t have the support of the voters and the political community in mega-suburbs Cobb and Gwinnett.

        • The Last Democrat in Georgia says:

          Just ask Governor Deal how much control over the political process both Cobb and Gwinnett Counties have over the statewide political scene as Deal lost Cobb and the I-75 Northwest Metro Atlanta corridor and North Fulton and Forsyth in the GA 400 North Metro Atlanta corridor, but won Gwinnett and the I-85 Northeast Metro Atlanta corridor in a tough 2010 GOP Gubernatorial Primary runoff against Karen Handel.

          Mega-suburb Gwinnett proved to be the slight difference in a close race in which Deal beat Handel by just under 2,000 votes.

    • seekingtounderstand says:

      Marta has always depended on Federal dollars……………which is about to end.
      Atlanta needs a bail out.

  5. debbie0040 says:

    Something needed to be done about our healthcare crisis but ObamaCare was not the answer.

    How does spending 600 million on the Belt-Line relieve traffic congestion? Denver passed a .4% transportation tax in 2004 that was supposed to maintain a project list with funding for 12 years. Guess what? They are now back seeking to double the tax because the original tax increase did not raise the projected revenue and the projects costs were over projections.

    They need to pass Rep. Setzler’s bills that contained a resolution for a Constitutional Ammendment to allow county commissions to decide who that what county they want to partner with for transportion projects. The county commissions need to go on record and vote on projects their counties need and also be responsibile for funding maintenance.

    This Metro Atlanta project list is a hodge podge of projects put together to get the tax passed – not the transportation projects that are needed. There are many projects that are not fully funded and many voters have a big lack of trust in the GADOT. Why would we want to give elected officials more money to dole out to their political cronies? We want to turn over billions of dollars to elected officials that have shown a serious lack of leadership by saying there is no Plan B?

    Another solution is to take the hotel tax and spend it on transportation projects and not build a new stadium for the Falcons. Elected officials have not been responsible with our tax dollars and until they learn to prioritize responsibly, then why give them more? After gas prices come down to a reasonable level, increase the gas tax and have people that actully use the road pay for them..

    The Metro Atlanta T-SPLOST is an economic development project for engineer and developer’s check books…Many of the people that are strong supporters out front, also stand to profit financially from TIA..

    I have news flash for you guys-the tea party is not the only conservative group opposed to T-SPLOST and there are also other left leaning groups opposed other than the ones mentioned. Just stay tuned-we are just getting started…

    Only 5% of the commuters in the Metro are use mass transit at a time where gas prices are almost 4.00 per gallon. Yet, 52% of the project list is for mass transit.

    • bgsmallz says:

      “Something needed to be done about our healthcare crisis but ObamaCare was not the answer.”

      As long as we are painting similarities, let’s complete the analogy. Healthcare has been on the desk of Congress as an issue going back to the 70s. No one did anything about it…including conservatives…for 40 years. We ended up with Obamacare.

      Using your analogy…if we don’t act now, we might end up with Obamacare transportation later. So…I guess I think your argument cuts against the point you are trying to make.

      • bgsmallz says:

        Oh…and as long as we are bringing up Denver, you should also be pointing out that

        -all the transit projects on the T-Splost list have 30% (!) built in as unforseen costs. (30%!!!) I assume that is on your talking points list, right?

        -Or that unlike Denver, the T-Splost in GA sunsets after 10 years or when the projects are built, whichever is earlier, so that there is no way the tax can go longer than 10 years without voter approval?

        -If there is money left in the budget after a project is completed (so…for example, one of those transit projects doesn’t cost 30% more than projected) the revenue rolls back into the local government that it was collected from for projects there.

        -And show me the math that results in 52% for transit. Seriously. Just show it to me. 52% of the project list goes to transit…but that doesn’t include the local portion of 15%. It makes transit more like 40%. If you and the Sierra Club are going to be working together on this, you should at least get your facts straight.

        In 2011, Atlanta was the only region with heavy rail that saw a decrease in ridership (5%).
        Dallas saw a 31% increase in ridership in 2011 of their light rail system. Austin had ridership of its commuter rail increase by 169%. Nashville had an increase of 33%. The difference is that while these regions are funding expansion of service and routes, Atlanta is cutting services and routes.

        Fuel costs and transit ridership are interconnected. It’s been proven statistically that there is correlation b/w the two. This whole ‘only 4%’ use transit is just a way to continue to set policy matters in terms of cars and roads rather than a broad based transportation network that will be able to withstand the 21st century pressures of growth and prices that are sure to come.

        • Rambler1414 says:

          “-If there is money left in the budget after a project is completed (so…for example, one of those transit projects doesn’t cost 30% more than projected) the revenue rolls back into the local government that it was collected from for projects there.”


            • Rambler1414 says:

              Try to find that in the bill… I haven’t been able to yet.
              I have no source.

              And even if it’s true, how would you even do that? Would you return the tax to ALL of the local governments under the 15% distribution, or only the project sponsor & affected area?

              • bgsmallz says:

                No source and the AJC are actually pretty similar…but I digress.

                It’s a good question. My assumption is that you could distribute unused money using a proportion based upon actual receipts, but whether it would go to counties, municipalities, etc. is a really good question.

                Obviously it assumes that there will be projects that come in under budget…and despite my support for the measure, I’m not even sure how many of those there will really be. However, with 30% excess built into each transit project, I’m assuming there may be some and this may be relevant.

    • GTKay says:

      First of all, the projects contained on the list were submitted by county officials. They knew not everything would end up on the final list, so they submitted the projects that they felt they needed the most, whether you think they needed them or not.

      The DOT has no choice but to apply this money to the projects on the list. No one is turning this money over to any elected official. It comes in, in goes out to pay for the work that’s currently being done. I don’t know what’s so hard to understand about that. The tax is dedicated.

      The hotel tax you’re talking about is for Fulton County. Why should they pay for metro Atlanta roads?

      And the gas tax will have to go up if this referendum doesn’t pass. Do you remember the palpatations people experienced when the tax was going to be adjusted through an automatic adjustment process written into the tax code? It was going to be raised about 1 cent a gallon. And people howled so much, the governor suspended the increase. With the cafe standards Obama has mandated for future years that will practically double the fuel efficiency of new cars from what the average driver uses today, the gas tax will have to be raised significantly – like more than a penny- to pay for just maintenance. I’m glad to see that we’ve got your endorsement for the gas tax hike on record.

      And as far as this being economic development for engingeers, well when you’ve located the interior designers and butchers that can survey, or the psychologists and language arts teachers who can design and build roads, bridges and interchanges, I’m sure GDOT will welcome them into the bidding process.

      • debbie0040 says:

        The hotel tax could go to fund Mass Transit projects in Atlanta and more could have gone for road projects. Tell me, how does the 600 million for the Atlanta Belt-Line alleviate traffic during the rush hour commute?

        T-SPLOST Likened to Bernie Madoff Scam

        It appears on close inspection that Georgia Department of Transportation (GDOT) may have engineered a financial coup with the T-SPLOST vote.

        Most supporters of T-SPLOST think we will get both T-SPLOST funds and
        our regular state and federal tax funds for road projects. But there is a
        not-very-visible term in the bill that may cost our area to lose hundreds of
        millions of dollars of funds that taxpayers have paid and should be returned to
        our region.

        The ugly little secret is that the state (that’s GDOT) is also listed as a benefactor of the regional funds. This will be a legislative scam on a bigger scale than Bernie Madoff. This is much more than giving the people an opportunity to vote themselves a tax. This is “theft by taking.” If any elected official voted for this knowing that the regions would lose money through “redirection” of funds, they need to be held accountable for their actions.

        The result of this little redirection could produce a gigantic GDOT slush fund to subsidize MARTA (500 million/year) and the other Atlanta area rail projects that are not fully funded by the “final list” that we are voting on.

        After several conversations with local chamber of commerce representatives and both city council members and some state representatives it is clear that few understood how regional tax funds will be “redirected” by the GDOT to other projects both inside and outside the region.

        After review of four GDOT presentations and reading their presentation on their website I thought I understood the program. However, looking at the FAQ on their website they explain in no uncertain terms how state and federal tax funds going into the region will be “redirected.”

        Here are some quotes from the GDOT website under FAQ:

        Why is Georgia building additional projects when we are having difficulty maintaining the current system?

        …. In regions that pass the referendum, the revenues generated will supplement funding already appropriated for projects and allow Georgia DOT to redirect federal funding on maintaining our existing roadway.

        Can the revenue raised from the regional sales tax be used to match federal funds?

        Yes. There are many projects in the federal-aid pipeline that are good candidates for the regional sales tax. Helping fund the required match with regional sales tax dollars will allow state and local funds to be redirected to other projects.

        What happens if a project chosen for the region’s project list is already programmed with federal, state or local funding?

        If federal funds are replaced by the regional sales tax funds this will allow other projects to advance in the Statewide Transportation Improvement Program (STIP)….

        The following interpretation comes from Nolan Cox of Valdosta, he says:

        These quotes make it clear that regional funds will be used and state and federal funds “redirected” to other state projects. Since money is fungible, this means they will use our T-SPLOST dollars to “free up” already-committed state and federal funds to use as they wish. This can affect as much as 60 percent of the

        I do not believe the mayors and county commissioners working on the Roundtable and the Executive Committee realized this. In fact, I suspect many legislators and the general public may not understand the shifting or redirection of funds.

        Under GA Code 32-5-30 Congressional District Balancing our federal and state fuel tax funds are returned in equal amounts to each district over a five-year period.

        Since Congressional districts and Transportation Investment Act (TIA) regions are different, the legal and most convenient way to “redirect” funds is from the TIA regions. That is why “the state” is listed as a benefactor of TIA funds on the ballot question.

        If “money raised in the region stays in the region” as GDOT says, why does “the state” need to be listed as a recipient of regional tax funds? They do not, but they are.

        By listing “the state” as a benefactor of regional funds, this makes it legal to “redirect” regional funds instead of federal and state funds as the FAQ explains. This means the regions lose a huge portion of the state and federal tax moneys they have paid in in fuel taxes. This makes a “bad deal” a “worse deal” for taxpayers, cities and counties. Stop the scam, vote NO on T-SPLOST.

          • The Last Democrat in Georgia says:

            The money for continued maintenance and operations on transit (MARTA and the like or whatever..) would come from increased user fees in the form of higher adequately-priced fares and zone pricing (the farther you ride, the more you pay) if the powers-that-be had the wherewithal to recover those costs from the farebox instead of pushing these politically-unpopular and unviable tax increases that people don’t like or want.

        • GTKay says:

          With all due respect to Mr. Lowry, he is misinformed. I know this because he mentions conversations with members of the local chamber of commerce, city officials and state reps. He mentions reading 4 presentations on the GDOT website and delving deeper by reading the FAQ’s. But he never mentions actually speaking, emailing, texting etc. a representative of the GDOT. It’s more tantalizing to use words like “may” and “could” and “I suspect” than to go directly to the source for an explanation. To quote him without yourself going that extra step for an explanation is irresponsible and silly.

          Tea party Debbie Dooly says it’a a scam quoting tea party Mike Lowry, who says it’s a scam, who cites Nolen Cox who is pretty much convinced, based on “quotes” from tea party Mike Lowry, that it’s a scam.

          GDOT is responsible to build the projects. Doesn’t that seem like a likely reason that the funds go to the state ie: GDOT so they can pay for the projects? (Besides, why would they reveal such nefarious plans in such an accessible location as an FAQ? Bernie Madoff would be horrified) Since you pasted the article, I’ll paste the comments:

          “This article is complete bull. This vote does not supercede district balancing. Redirection in this sense means instead of using current funds to build these projects, the money can now be redirected to maintaining the current system. Mike Lowry should be ashamed of himself.”

          “Thank you, Richard – you are absolutely correct. In addition, by federal law, federal funds spent on transportation in the Atlanta metropolitan area must be approved in a Transportation Improvement Program (TIP) adopted by the Atlanta Regional Commission, which is comprised of our local elected city and county officials. So, our local officials still have substantial control over the use of federal funds on transportation projects.”

          From GDOT’s FAQ’s

          ” TIA legislation goes into further detail by describing that if a special district constructs a project on the final investment list using funding from the TIA that the state funding will not be diverted to priority projects in other special districts. ”

          As disappointing as this is for you to hear, this is not a scam. This is a list of projects for the Atlanta regional area that was culled from thousands of projects submitted by locals from cities and counties throughout the region. A roundtable of 5 individuals whittled down that list into a smaller list that was approved unanimously by the larger, and very diverse, regional commission.. This list is evidence that the counties that make up our region have very different priorities from each other, but this group worked together to come up with something that would be beneficial to our region as a whole. If you don’t like all the projects, you don’t like all the projects. Vote no . But deal in facts, not inflamatory words like “scam,” “cronies,” “slush fund,” “Bernie Madoff,” and “Obamacare.”

          • debbie0040 says:

            I disagree with you about Mike’s article and we are dealing in facts. I think it is a tax scam.

            Excuse me, but who are you to accuse anyone of mis-leading? Don’t you think that the MAVEN is strictly educational and not advocating on behalf of T-SPLOST? MAVEN is mis-leading by posing as a 501c3 non-profit when in fact their function is that of a 501c4 – except contributions are not tax deductible for 501c4s now are they?

            Get used to the rhetoric-it is not going away..

            You still have failed to answer my question about maintenance costs. Where will it come from? Why do you and other transportation tax supporters keep avoiding that question?

            Also, don’t you think the hotel tax Atlanta collects would be put to better use to go to MARTA and other transportation projects instead of helping build a billion dollar stadium for a billionaire that can afford to build it himself?

            • bgsmallz says:

              “Why do you and other transportation tax supporters keep avoiding that question?”

              Are you serious? You can’t be serious. Let me put it this way…I don’t know. No one knows. You are asking us to answer a hypothetical that is premised on a hypothetical. What if increasing access to transit creates demand? What if? What if? Good gracious.

              But here are some questions, Debbie. In the interest of ‘not dodging questions’, I’d like you to answer each one.

              1) What is the TEA Party’s vision on transportation in the region for 2020 and beyond?
              2) What is the TEA Party’s plan to effectively fund needed infrastructure improvements?
              3) Or alternatively does the TEA Party believe that the status quo will be a good plan to continue into the future?

              I’d love to hear the answers to those questions…or you could copy and paste a letter to the editor from the Patch…you know…whatever floats your boat.

              • debbie0040 says:

                “Are you serious? You can’t be serious. Let me put it this way…I don’t know. No one knows. You are asking us to answer a hypothetical that is premised on a hypothetical”

                You don’t know where the money for maintenance will come from ? Isn’t that pretty irresponsible considering the magnitude of the projects? Do you think if you build it the maintenance will just come? You know this whole TIA Project list does remind me of a Field of Dreams… Shouldn’t that be addressed or is it you don’t want to admit that you will have to ask for another tax increase to fund maintenance costs?

            • Rambler1414 says:

              Does the TEA Party support the T-SPLOST in the 12 other regions in the state that have 0% transit investment?

              • debbie0040 says:

                No, because it creates a regional taxing authority that many believe is un-Constitutional. Tea party activists supported Rep. Setzler’s bill/resolution.

                Mass Transit is not the only issue with the Metro Atlanta T-SPLOST. There are many other issues..

                Elected officials are not spending the tax dollars they have now wisely. Why are we going to give them more ?

                • The Last Democrat in Georgia says:

                  “Elected officials are no spending the tax dollars they have now wisely. Why are we going to give them more ?”

                  Because they’ll always spend wisely, NEXT time? Promise…

                  • Jimmie says:

                    Same can be said for the Republican Party on a National Level. We swear this time we will be frugal. lol. Anytime a politician says trust me, you know it’s trouble in the making.

                • bgsmallz says:

                  Translation- “No, because we do not support anything, we don’t provide any sort of real ideas or solutions and we only answer questions with questions”

                  I answered your question, Debbie. I’m still waiting for answers for mine.

                  • debbie0040 says:

                    BGSMALLZ, you have not answered my question about maintenance costs and where the money is coming from.

                    The tea party has offered positive solutions this past legislative session and previous sessions. We supported and advocated for: Tough Ethics Reform, Sunset Bill, Free Market Healthcare Reform, Charter Schools, Zero Based Budgeting, Legislation that mandated if you collect a fee for a service, it had to go to the service and not put in the general fund, we supported Rep. Ed Setzler’s bills that would repeal TIA and replace it with a more county commission controlled Constitutional Amendment that would allow county commission to vote and decide which counties to partner with in regional transportation plans and would allow the monies collected in the counties to stay in projects in the counties. We also support smart flow control for traffic congestion, smart red lights, tax incentives for companies that allow their workers to telecommute, gas tax increase when gas prices came down to a reasonable level, toll roads, etc. I also think that the sales tax money collected by Fulton and DeKalb shoud be used for MARTA in the way they see fit. They are the ones responsible for MARTA, not the state. On the other hand, they should not look to the state to bail them out if they get in a financial bind.

                    Another question I have is if T-SPLOST is so great, then why add provisions in TIA that punishes counties that don’t pass T-SPLOST and coerces elected officials in counties to support it? GTKAY, as far as the hotel tax, the regional government created by T-SPLOST will tell counties how to spend tax dollars collected in their counties, so what is the difference?

                    • bgsmallz says:

                      So the meat of actual solutions that you are proposing minus the procedural limitations is “smart flow control for traffic congestion, smart red lights, tax incentives for companies that allow their workers to telecommute, gas tax increase when gas prices came down to a reasonable level, toll roads, etc.”

                      So…the cornerstones of the TEA Party’s platform for keeping the region competitive by reducing gridlock and keeping our infrastructure competitive is:
                      1) waiting for the price of gas to come down
                      2) toll roads
                      3) incentives for telecommuting (are those going to be done at the state or local level?)
                      4) ‘smart’ lights and flows
                      5) etc.

                      Truly? Ok. Thanks for the input. I disagree with you, the DeKalb NACCP, and the Sierra Club when you say that the alternatives would be better than passing the T-Splost.

            • GTKay says:

              Sorry, I don’t know anything about MAVEN. You’re smart and you’ve done your homework, but you’ve missed a big piece of the puzzle if you’re relying on Mr. Lowry for an interpretation of this issue. He once announced in a public meeting that he heard that county commissioners would get kickbacks if the tax were passed. That is completely false, and I have no repect for someone who will say anything just to sway public opinion. So yes, I will accuse him of misleading the public.

              If your talking about road projects, then they are maintained out of the current DOT budget like all other road projects. In fact, some of the work that will be done will decrease maintenance costs through use of better materials. If you’re talking about MARTA, then MARTA will have to figure that out. The MARTA projects that were submitted to the TIA list and that were ultimately included on the final list involve many repairs and replacements that will solve or lower maintenance costs. The new line will have to be maintained with their sales tax. I’m there are many ways they can bring their costs under control.

              But nothing I say will make you like the MARTA projects. I don’t like everything on the list either, but I’m able to back up and see the big-picture regional importance.

              Sure the hotel tax could go toward MARTA, but should the state tell Fulton County or City of Atlanta how to spend their tax revenue? So we’re going to wait for a very liberal local Atlanta government to act conservatively before we agree to a regional sales tax?

              At any given time, you or Mike Lowry can call someone at GDOT and answer your question about whether funds can be redirected to other regions. (Or you could read the bill!) Have you ever spoken with anyone over there? I doubt he has.

          • mlowry says:

            Sorry, GTKay, but I have talked with a number of GDOT officials, or at least those that have represented themselves as GDOT officials at the various “public input” events around N. Fulton.

            To a person, they are not interested in alternative ideas to their current plans, are not interested in discussing any details of cost estimates, and are not interested in discussing any of the project management details. Amazingly, they freely admit that congestion relief is not a priority for them. Instead they are focused on trying to get Atlanta’s drivers off of the roads, which is not rational given the lack of density of the metro area.

            To say “In addition, by federal law, federal funds spent on transportation in the Atlanta metropolitan area must be approved in a Transportation Improvement Program (TIP) adopted by the Atlanta Regional Commission” is like saying we are safe leaving our hens in the cage with the fox. There is no trust of ARC or GDOT where these funds and the project definitions are concerned. And yes, they WILL move the money around, perhaps within our congressional district, perhaps not.

            • GTKay says:

              I’m talking about the blog that you wrote calling the referendum a scam. You said you went on the GDOT website and read the presentation, you read the FAQ’s, you pulled out four and posted them on your blog post, then you said based on what your read, it “may” be a scam. The state “could” move the money around. Who did you speak to at GDOT to get their input about their answers to those four FAQ’s before you went around and announced that this “not very visible term” in the bill equated to the illegal activites of a convicted criminal. You are accusing individuals of criminal activity, and the only authority with which you are accusing these individuals is your uninformed interpretation of four questions on a public, state sponsered website.

          • seekingtounderstand says:

            Let’s all take the Plan B 2 year time out and talk, then as they planeed the tax will be put on the ballot again. By then we will know if the economy will survive the next election.

        • NoTeabagging says:

          @debbie0040. I appreciate your thoughts in these discussions. I would like to answer your recurring question about the beltline. The beltline could reduce congestion IF (big IF) commuters buy in to certain lifestyles and MARTA also connects to the beltline. Part of the success comes with mixed use developments within the city. These redevelopments of existing land and buildings reduce sprawl by offering high density development inside existing metro areas. Attracting residents means ATL and developments must create environments that have the classic live-work-play amenities within a pedestrian friendly zone. This is the BIG IF…
          To make this scenario work pedestrian oriented residents must be attracted to the area for close desirable jobs. Basic services must be available (grocery, medical, retail, dry cleaning, pharmacy, auto repair, etc.) within the mixed use zone. The zone must be safe for pedestrians, meaning no fear of mugging. For those wishing to have a reverse commute, live intown work outer perimeter, then MARTA must connect to the beltline at enough points for pedestrian residents to get around beyond the beltline.

          Looking back at Denver, they have a very successful 16th street ‘mall’. This pedestrian only street has a mix of retail, business and restaurants all accessible by a free trolley that connects two major bus stations on each end. (Note: this was my recollection from living there 89-93 not sure if it remains). The street was vibrant day and night thanks to the trolley and pedestrian corridor. Part of the original Beltline concept was to have a similar slow moving ‘free’ trolley option that connects to paid transportation options.

          The big question for the beltline is what comes first, transportation or development? THere are arguments for both. If the infratructure is built it may attract development. If the plan is to attract jobs, residents, businesses first, then the beltline transportation structure must be accessible and ready for completion when the demand is there.

          There must be enough people willing to live this urban lifetstyle to make it worthwhile.

          final note. The beltline is useful currently as an alternative walk, bike recreation path. This is being done with major volunteer efforts and minimal investment (relatively speaking), which justifies the beltline existence, with or without transit. Perhaps enough residents will be attracted to the area for the recreational aspect, eventually justifying more economic growth and transportation alternatives.

          • debbie0040 says:

            You mean like the “liveablity agenda/smart growth agenda” that Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood and others on the left are pushing? You want to create a utopia that people want to live in and includes a central planner? What makes you think that would be attractive to the masses? Just look at how much the donut area around Atlanta has grown. People rebel against this central/utopia strategy. Tax dollars from the suburbs should not be subsidizing this type of strategy either.


            “Since 1982 government mass-transit subsidies have totaled $750 billion (in today’s dollars), yet the share of travelers using transit has fallen by nearly one-third, according to Heritage Foundation transportation expert Wendell Cox. Federal data indicate that in 2010 in most major cities more people walked to work or telecommuted than used public transit.

            Brookings Institution economist Cliff Winston finds that “the cost of building rail systems is notorious for exceeding expectations, while ridership levels tend to be much lower than anticipated.” He calculates that the only major U.S. rail system in which the benefits outweigh the government subsidies is San Francisco’s BART, and no others are close to break-even.

            One reason roads are shortchanged is that liberals believe too many Americans drive cars. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood has been pushing a strange “livability” agenda, which he defines as “being able to take your kids to school, go to work, see a doctor, drop by the grocery or post office, go out to dinner and a movie, and play with your kids in a park, all without having to get in your car.” This is the mind of the central planner at work, imagining that Americans all want to live in his little utopia.”

            The Livable Communities Coalition

            • Rambler1414 says:


              America’s young people are decreasing
              the amount they drive and increasing
              their use of transportation alternatives.
              • According to the National Household
              Travel Survey, from 2001 to
              2009, the annual number of vehiclemiles
              traveled by young people (16 to
              34-year-olds) decreased from 10,300
              miles to 7,900 miles per capita—a
              drop of 23 percent.
              • In 2009, 16 to 34-year-olds as a
              whole took 24 percent more bike
              trips than they took in 2001, despite
              the age group actually shrinking in
              size by 2 percent.
              • In 2009, 16 to 34-year-olds walked
              to destinations 16 percent more
              frequently than did 16 to 34-yearolds
              living in 2001.
              • From 2001 to 2009, the number
              of passenger-miles traveled by 16
              to 34-year-olds on public transit
              increased by 40 percent.
              • According to Federal Highway
              Administration, from 2000 to 2010,
              the share of 14 to 34-year-olds
              without a driver’s license increased
              from 21 percent to 26 percent.

              Young people’s transportation priorities
              and preferences differ from those
              of older generations.
              • Many young people choose to replace
              driving with alternative transportation.
              According to a recent survey
              by KRC Research and Zipcar, 45
              percent of young people (18-34 years
              old) polled said they have consciously
              made an effort to replace driving
              with transportation alternatives—this
              is compared with approximately 32
              percent of all older populations.
              • Many of America’s youth prefer to
              live places where they can easily walk,
              bike, and take public transportation.
              According to a recent study by the
              National Association for Realtors,
              young people are the generation
              most likely to prefer to live in an area
              characterized by nearby shopping,
              restaurants, schools, and public transportation
              as opposed to sprawl.
              • Some young people purposely reduce
              their driving in an effort to curb their
              environmental impact. In the KRC
              Zipcar survey, 16 percent of 18 to
              34-year-olds polled said they strongly
              agreed with the statement, “I want to
              protect the environment, so I drive
              less.” This is compared to approximately
              9 percent of older generations.
              • From 2001 to 2009, young people
              (16 to 34-years-old) who lived in
              households with annual incomes of
              over $70,000 increased their use of
              public transit by 100 percent, biking
              by 122 percent, and walking by 37

              • Citizen Bob says:

                I have no problem with their choices, as long as they don’t impose their financial consequences on others. Personal transportation is a household expense like rent,, water, and cable TV.

            • bgsmallz says:


              Here’s what I’ve figured out…our boat has leaks and there are folks getting into the water…trying to repair the leak, trying to bail the water, calling for another boat…you are in the back of the boat, standing on a table so you don’t get your feet wet, yelling at everyone that the buckets they are using are too small, that there is no way the radio works, we shouldn’t call for a new boat b/c what if it leaks too, you can’t patch the hole until you get the water out of the boat, etc. etc. etc.

              It’s self destructive and divisive….and by all means, it isn’t leadership.

              • debbie0040 says:

                And leadership is having no plan B and no plans on providing maintenance for the massive mass transit infrastructure? That is a lack of leadership.

                T-SPLOST is a Titantic that hit an iceberg and the supporters are Captains that keep denying that point and did not provide for enough life boats..

                • bgsmallz says:

                  I actually think you proved my point with your response.

                  I guess it’s easier to complain about not having a Plan B when you don’t have a Plan A, right?

                  I’ll reserve all other comments until you either claim that there isn’t a transportation problem in the Atlanta region or admit that there is a problem and you have zero plan for how to fix it.


                  1) What is the TEA Party’s vision on transportation in the region for 2020 and beyond?
                  2) What is the TEA Party’s plan to effectively fund needed infrastructure improvements?
                  3) Or alternatively does the TEA Party believe that the status quo will be a good plan to continue into the future?

                  • mlowry says:

                    A Plan B should exist that includes:
                    1. Reform of GDOT, making the board elected and the leadership transportation professionals,
                    2. A legislated priority on congestion relief,
                    3. A statewide origin-destination study as the basis for transportation planning,
                    4. A real transportation plan instead of the Fed-speak nonsense that is currently called our state plan,
                    5. Innovative technologies such as MetroTech for managing traffic flow system-wide,
                    6. Innovative roadway design so that east-west arteries have continuous flow lanes intead of stoplights every 1/3 mile,
                    7. High-capacity entrances and exits throughout the metro interstates, including (most particularly) downtown,
                    8. Inclusion of transportation spending within the regular budget process, so that massive spending doesn’t go on autopilot.

                    Just a small start on a rational Plan B.

                    • The Last Democrat in Georgia says:

                      Numbers 1, 2, 3, 4 and 8 sound as if they should be apart of “Plan A” instead of Plan B.

                      Numbers 5, 6 and 7 don’t sound bad, either, though 6 would have to be targeted for selected roadways, it could also work with selected north-south arteries (like, for example, the severely rush-hour congested and stoplight-littered Cobb Parkway between the Bartow County line, I-285 through Cobb and US Hwy 19-41/Tara Boulevard south of I-75 in Clayton and Henry Counties and GA Hwy 6/Camp Creek Parkway/Thornton Rd/C H James Pkwy between the Atlanta Airport and Dallas).

            • NoTeabagging says:

              Debbie, I agree with your comments, although I take exception to using the terms “Left” and “Liberal” as necessary to the discussion. I appreciate your other comments in this thread and will consider them as I decide this referendum issue for myself.
              I think your comments, and Ramblers below, are valid and add to my thoughts about the beltline. On one side we do have young people willing to walk, bike and use alternative transportation in urban settings. Do we have enough users in the demographic to make expensive investments for long term transit solutions? Is the economy ready to invest in jobs that will create income for these communities to grow and support all the desired services?

              • The Last Democrat in Georgia says:

                “Do we have enough users in the demographic to make expensive investments for long term transit solutions?”

                The Atlanta Region has six million people, population that makes it the largest metropolitan region east of the Mississippi River without regional commuter rail service so of course we have enough users in the demographic to make expensive investments for long-term transit solutions.

                Just one look at one of our many miserably gridlocked freeways during rush hour signals that we have the demographics to make long-overdue transit investments.

                It’s just that it is important that we make the right long-term transportation investments.

                It is also important that we make these investments the correct way.

                The question is whether or not this T-SPLOST is the right way to make those very necessary transportation investments?

                • NoTeabagging says:

                  Agreed, but in context of the above discussion I was referring to people that want to live the urban/pedestrian/mixed use/high density lifestyle.

                  Can we achieve an efficient, get-anywhere-reliably-fast transit system?
                  It has to be cheaper than parking, and get you there on time, to draw the current non-users into supporting the system on a regular basis.

                  • The Last Democrat in Georgia says:

                    Good points.

                    But while I agree that it helps if a transit system is cheaper than parking, the cost of parking isn’t necessarily as much of a motivation for tens-of-thousands and maybe even hundreds-of-thousands of Atlanta Region motorists to use transit as much as the lengthy and unpredictably long and delay-ridden commutes that they may face enroute to and from the workplace where the parking is likely very cheap or even free in most cases.

                    • NoTeabagging says:

                      You are so right! I am lucky not to be one of those folks, but I do try to avoid the peak gridlock routes when possible.

          • seekingtounderstand says:

            Why didn’t they use street cars on wheels powered by clean natural gas energy instead
            of the street car boondoggle? The City could have leased those street cars on wheels and used the rest of the money for redevelopment or homes for the homeless.

    • Rambler1414 says:

      “This Metro Atlanta project list is a hodge podge of projects put together to get the tax passed – not the transportation projects that are needed”

      Please give us a list of the transportation projects that are not on this list, and that ARE needed in your opinion, in order to gain your support.

      • seekingtounderstand says:

        You just made the arguement that the public is ill informed to make this vote. And that makes this whole thing a scam.

  6. Harry says:

    I’m just waiting to see what sleight of hand they come up with to close the gap between $300 million that could possibly be raised by way of a hotel tax, and the $2 billion needed to build Blank’s stadium. Problem is, that nothing’s really on the table so that we can clearly understand what’s going on.

  7. The Last Democrat in Georgia says:

    Along with the vaguely-worded proposals for “Enhanced Premium Bus Transit Service” in the I-75 Northwest Corridor and the “I-85 North Transit Corridor” which many think is vaguely-worded intentionally so that the money designated for those projects can be spent on HOT lane expansions on those stretches of roadway, the proposed project on the TIA/T-SPLOST list that most upsets the Sierra Club is the extension of Sugarloaf Parkway from GA 316 in Dacula up to GA 20 just above the Mall of Georgia.

    The Sierra Club thinks that since the Sugarloaf Parkway extension will utilize the right-of-way of the old Outer Perimeter/Northern Arc that the entire Northern Arc will make a return between I-85 Northeast in Gwinnett and I-75 Northwest in Bartow County.

    But even though I agree with the Sierra Club that the project should not be funded with money from the T-SPLOST (the Sugarloaf Pkwy extension should be funded, built and operated as a TOLL ROAD so that those funds can towards improving existing surface roads where there are infinitely more pressing needs), they are mistaken about T-SPLOST funds being to fund the construction of a resurrected Northern Arc.

    Gwinnett is only utilizing the right-of-way of the erstwhile Northern Arc because the county never permitted any residential development to be built in the right-of-way after the state abandoned its plans to build the road back in the early 2000’s, knowing that they would need the right-of-way to build a road to facilitate access between I-85 southbound and I-985 northbound and vice versa and to relieve GA 20 between I-85 and I-985 through the Mall of Georgia area which is often gridlocked during evening rush hours and, of course, during the Christmas shopping season.

    The extension of Sugarloaf Parkway from GA 316 to the Mall of Georgia is NOT is not any way apart of the the old Northern Arc as the right-of-way of that road has since been filled-in with residential development in Forsyth and Cherokee Counties where there was staunch opposition to the road.

    Heck, Forsyth and Cherokee Counties basically danced a jig all over the grave of the road and IMMEDIATELY proceeded to issue permits for homes to be built directly in the right-of-way of the wildly-unpopular road when Governor Perdue killed it back in 2003 shortly after taking office.

    With all of the residential development that now exists within the right-of-way of the old Northern Arc in Forsyth and Cherokee Counties there is no way on God’s green Earth that road is ever coming back as a serious proposal.

    The Northern Arc is about as dead as a road could ever be and to suggest that the road is coming back through a part of the metro area and state that does not want it and will never permit it to be built is just simply irrational at this point.

    • The Last Democrat in Georgia says:

      Depends on how the tolls are used.

      Placing tolls on existing lanes: NOT a good idea (BAD).

      Using tolls to complete a badly-needed road project that would not get completed otherwise: okay, WITH LIMITS.

      The state should have never promised to take the tolls off of Georgia 400 before the road was built over 20 years ago.

      Granted, hindsight is 20-20 and there is no way that the state could have foreseen the exceptional post-Olympics population growth spurt that hit the Atlanta Region with extreme fury from 1996 until about 2007.

      But the state knew when they made that promise for the tolls to come off of GA 400 after the bonds were paid that the 400 interchange at I-85 was missing two very important transition ramps.

      The state also knew that the population of North Metro Atlanta had still been growing very rapidly at the time, which meant that their ill-conceived setup of forcing heavy traffic to exit onto and travel on what were already three very busy surface streets to transition between GA 400 and I-85 and vice-versa was definitely NOT a solution that could be sustained over the long-term.

    • seekingtounderstand says:

      Perdue signed the deal to put toll roads all over our town. Revenue enhancement.

  8. Jimmie says:

    Cash Cow tolls never go away. I challenge you to find an instance where any level of Gov. has taken down a toll after the road it was erected on was paid for. I used to live in the Toll Capital of the Country. Tolls also make gridlock worse. Just like the HOT lanes will never go away. Gov loves Cash Cows.

    • The Last Democrat in Georgia says:

      Well, the bonds that paid for the construction of the road may be paid for, but the continuing maintenance (road resurfacing and replacement of pavement, road restriping, signage replacement, safety railing replacement structural integrity and upkeep of bridges, upgrading of access to and from road like the addition of the ramps at I-85, etc) of the road is never paid for.

      Tolls are supposed to be a way for a particular road to pay for its own construction and maintenance without dipping into the general road maintenance fund that takes care of the roads that cannot collect tolls to pay for their own upkeep, which in the case of the Georgia Department of Transportation is every other state-maintained road in Georgia besides Hwy 400.

      The state should have been straight up in telling Georgians that the tolls are never going to come off of Highway 400 instead of lying about, especially when they knew that population growth was likely to outpace transportation revenues and that those two ramps between 400 and 85 would need to be constructed to take pressure off of the surface streets that were being used to transition between those two major expressways.

    • The Last Democrat in Georgia says:

      In most cases I know of these days, most toll roads are built with the express understanding that the tolls put on the road will be permanent so that the road can be built much sooner than it would be without tolls as transportation funds are in short supply in most states.

      “Tolls also make gridlock worse.”

      That’s not necessarily true. In the case of Georgia 400, the toll road has made peak-hour traffic congestion on parallel surface streets much more manageable than it was before 400 opened through Buckhead and North Atlanta.

      The rush-hour traffic on Peachtree, Piedmont, Roswell, Lenox and Peachtree-Dunwoody Roads, while still very substantial, was much worse as there was no direct expressway link between Downtown (via I-85) and where 400 originally terminated at I-285 in Sandy Springs before 400 opened through Buckhead.

      Granted traffic backs up really bad on the newer section of 400 where 400 southbound merges into 85 southbound and where 400 northbound interchanges with 285, but most of that is due to the continued explosive population growth on the Northside in the two decades since the extension of the road opened in 1993, continued explosive population growth which has necessitated the need for the missing ramps to be built between 85 and 400 all that much more.

      • Harry says:

        The 85-400-85 improvement funds have not been earmarked in T-SPLOST, and have not be budgeted from 400 tolls. I predict that, because this is an improvement that everybody in the area wants, the transportation Madoffs in this state will hold these improvements out as bait for future money while spending more readily available funds on various lobbyist and special interest driven – albeit not widely popular – porker projects.

        • The Last Democrat in Georgia says:

          The ramps between 85 & 400 should have been built when the 400 extension was built back in the early ’90’s, it should have been apart of the original project instead of waiting two decades for traffic on the surface streets (Cheshire Bridge Road, Buford Hwy, Sidney Marcus Blvd.) between the two expressways to grow exponentially worse.

          “I predict that, because this is an improvement that everybody in the area wants, the transportation Madoffs in this state will hold these improvements out as bait for future money while spending more readily available funds on various lobbyist and special interest driven – albeit not widely popular – porker projects.”

          You mean projects like the vaguely-defined $95 million “I-85 North Transit Corridor” (more HOT lanes on I-85 Northeast), the $689 million “Enhanced Premium Bus Transit Service” in the Hwy 41/I-75 Northwest corridor (new HOT lanes on Interstates 75 & 575 in Cobb and Cherokee Counties) and, of course, the monster of all monster porker projects (it’s so big that it blocks out the sun and sends mere mortal taxpayers running for their lives), the $600 million ATLANTA BELTLINE!

          I’m not saying that Beltline is a bad project. I’m just saying that, at this point, the Beltline is a purely developmental project that would be better funded either as a referendum for the City of Atlanta only or through the use of a combination of Tax Increment Funding (where the property tax revenues from all of the future development along the corridor is used to pay for the construction of the project) and user fees in the form of zone-priced fares on the streetcar/light rail line that is proposed to run the length of the line as that line does not necessarily belong on the list of projects for a referendum that should be geared towards alleviating some of the continents worst traffic congestion first and foremost.

          Limited public funds should not be used to pay for projects that can pay for themselves, especially (properly-placed) rail transit expansions, which are capable of paying for themselves many times over with property tax revenues (TIF-Tax Increment Financing) and user fees (zone-priced fares).

        • Dave Bearse says:

          Harry, the 85S-400N and 400S-85N ramps can’t be bait because they are already under construction. They’ll be completed in 2013. The cost is about $40M, two years worth of GA400 toll revenue (not saying that’s where the $40M funding is coming from).

          • Harry says:

            OK, I stand corrected. I negotiate the surface streets between 85 and 400 fairly frequently and didn’t notice anything…but maybe that’s just me.

            • Dave Bearse says:

              Take a gander to your right the next time you’re heading south on 85 south of Cheshire Bridge/Lenox Road. It appears rhe ramp from 85S to 400N is going to share the same 85S off ramp as the 85S to Buford Highway connector flyover. I imagine you might see construction underway on the south side of Sidney Marcus between Buford Hwy and 400.

    • The Last Democrat in Georgia says:

      “Just like the HOT lanes will never go away.”

      The HOT lanes on I-85 should have never been converted from the existing HOV-2 lanes.

      If those idiots were going to put HOT lanes on that stretch of I-85 they should have added them to the road in the form of new lanes elevated over the right-of-way of the road instead of taking away the existing HOV-2 lanes in each direction.

    • bgsmallz says:


      The toll bridge to St. Simons and the toll bridge to St. George Island. Both tolls. Both taken down by governments.

      What do I win for solving the challenge?

  9. Jimmie says:

    What about a tax to build a reservoir in N. GA that GA can actually control? I’d pay a small tax to fund that.

  10. seekingtounderstand says:

    This is all so stupid. Its not like we don’t have land to expand. Move Ga TECH and other state colleges out of Atlanta. Move government workers out.
    That would be cheaper and solve the problem quicker.

    • The Last Democrat in Georgia says:

      Yeah, like that’ll ever happen.

      For one, how could state employees and politicians ever be expected to do their jobs without the release of the type of good high-quality escort services and adult nightclubs that can only be found in Atlanta?

      On top of that, where would lobbyists be able to take state legislators to shower them with tickets to sporting events, meals at five-star restaurants and overnight stays with their favorite extramartial companions at five-star hotels if the State Capitol was not in Atlanta?

      Getting away from the wife, family and community on corporate lobbyists’ (and the taxpayers’) dime in Macon, Milledgeville or Warner Robins just doesn’t have the same ring to it as there is SOOOOOOO much more dirt to get into here in Atlanta then there is in other parts of the state.

      Just think about that before you so heartlessly deprive our highly esteemed state legislators and bureaucrats of the nightly opportunities to be legally bribed by being treated to a night out on the town at their favorite sporting events, five-star restaurants and five-star hotels.

    • The Last Democrat in Georgia says:

      How dare you try and take away the rightfully-earned “entertainment” options from our state legislators and bureaucrats, who by the way if I may say, are doing an EXCELLENT job (worth every last penny of that corporate lobbyist money they’re getting!…Keep up the good work, fellas!)….What kind of monster are you?

      Also, if Georgia Tech, Georgia State and other colleges were to move out of Atlanta, who would the stick-up kids have to rob at gunpoint?

      Everyone knows that criminal slime has to be able to pick on somebody and that somebody should and will always be unarmed college students…It’s just the natural order of things.

Comments are closed.