Pinch Hitting At A T-SPLOST Debate Tonight – Gwinnett

I’ll be filling in as a moderator for a public forum/debate/discussion tonight at the Gwinnett Justice Center.  I’ll post additional details here when I get them.

There will be those for and against T-SPLOST on the panel.  I don’t have a list of all those attending but it will include representatives of the TEA Party, Sierra Club, CTM, and Senator Renee Unterman.

Opening statements will begin about 6:30 (assuming I can get there through afternoon traffic – oh the irony!) and we’ll wrap up somewhere around 8:30 or so.

What I would like from you are “QUESTIONS” that are still unanswered about T-SPLOST. (Hint: that doesn’t mean twelve paragraph statements or conclusions you have already made punctuated with one of these —> ?  I’m looking at you LDIG.)

I intend this to be more of a discussion than each side taking 2 minutes at a time to talk past each other with talking points.  While I’ve already made my vote known, I hope to challenge each side to defend their positions.  I’m anxious to hear how the Sierra club that wants more transit and the TEA Party that wants less plan to move forward together if T-SPLOST is defeated.

To help, post your QUESTIONS below.  Any comment more than 3 sentences long will likely be deleted.


  1. Baker says:

    “I’m anxious to hear how the Sierra club that wants more transit and the TEA Party that wants less plan to move forward together if T-SPLOST is defeated.”

    There’s no way they move forward together.

    My question would be something along the lines of: Should the legislature, whom we elect to do such things, have passed this project themselves rather than pass a buck? (you could add on:…with an increase in the gas tax?)

  2. Bridget says:

    Charlie, I would be more amenable to voting for TSPLOST if it wasn’t 10 years. The TSPLOST is trying to make Atlanta more transient (easy to get in and out of). I’ll still be here in 10 years paying the same damn tax – will most of the Pro-TSPLOSTers? No, thank you – I’m not signing up for that.

    Question: Would the supporters consider a smaller project list of the most impactful projects for five years?

    • smvaughn says:

      “I’ll still be here in 10 years paying the same damn tax – will most of the Pro-TSPLOSTers? No, thank you – I’m not signing up for that.”

      So either: 1) you’ve conducted or seen a poll asking pro-TSPLOTers how long they intend to stay here before moving away; or, 2) you’re making a silly argument as to what you think hundreds of thousands of people will do over the next 10 years based on some anecdotal evidence from your personal life.

      If anything, it’s the people who aren’t voting at all who are likely to move away, since not voting would suggest apathy. But even that is a pretty tenuous conclusion to draw based on no data whatsoever.

  3. griftdrift says:

    For the “Plan B” coalition.

    If TSPLOST fails in the Atlanta region but passes in other regions how do you gain the support of legislators in the regions where it passed for your do over?

    • Engineer says:

      I’m also curious about this, furthermore, if the T-SPLOST fails in Atlanta, and passes in other regions, are they going to attempt to raise statewide fuel taxes (which would be an unfair penalty on regions where it might pass)?

  4. Rambler1414 says:

    Question: Assuming the legislation itself is not modified, how can we expect a different project list in 2 years if the same people as 2012 (Mayors and County Commissioners) are going to be responsible for creating the List again?

    • greencracker says:

      +1 to Rambler — How far can the legislation be modified without another referendum?

      And, to what extent does this push multi-region projects off the table for a decade? Say, a Fall Line Freeway or, if you’re a dreamer, an Athens-Atlanta-Macon-Savannah train?

    • …and is it reasonable to assume that it will be in 2 years? (Heard Kasim Reed say at a press conference yesterday morning that it would not be wise politically to hold the T-SPLOST vote in 2 years with all the other elections going on. That he didn’t think there was any way they’d let it on the ballot, just looking at it realistically.

      • Rambler1414 says:

        It’s reasonable assumption but by no means a certainty.
        The legislation states that another can not be held for a minimum of 2 years.

  5. Rambler1414 says:

    Question: As another Plan B option,

    is there enough support in the State Legislature to remove the Congressional Balancing requirement from GDOT? Let’s base it on something simple like Population or Economy instead of arbitrary boundaries designed to keep $$ funneling from Metro Atlanta to Rural GA.

  6. eburke says:

    Will DOT’s funding that was designated for projects in the rest of Georgia be redirected to Atlanta when those regions pass T-SPLOSH and the Metro Counties reject the T-SPLOST? Just a concern that rural Georgians will be penalized for taking responsibility for their own transportation needs.

      • seekingtounderstand says:

        Common sense tell us that the best thing for the state is to put a hold on Congressional Balancing until Atlanta region catches up with its needs for transportation fixes.
        I have heard several comments expressing a desire to get the power from the DOT board and into their power to control hence TSLPOST.
        Others want access to real estate deals and the power that comes with transportation funds.
        THAT is why the Pro-SPLOST cry of “we have got to do this to help GA” is so disgusting.

        • Engineer says:

          So in other words, put all your eggs in one basket and hope they don’t break. Great thinking *eyeroll*

  7. GTKay says:

    This is an extension of your question above, Charlie. Considering how lengthy the process is, have the anti-TIA groups shown good faith and been proactive in meeting and finding common ground (besides their opposition to TIA) as a starting point for their recommendations to the legislature should the bill not pass?

  8. Jackster says:

    For Renee Unterman – You voted for the TSPLOST – what input did you have into the project list for your district? If none, whose input was used for Buford for the ACTUAL project list.

    Also, if TSPLOST fails, is this issue urgent enough to support a call for a special session of the legislature to change the TIA bill and the funding mechanism, and what would your recommendations for changing it be?

  9. eburke says:

    If T-SPLOST passes in some regions and not in others, will the General Assembly allow those regions that passed it a do over as well with the new set of rules?

    Since there are penalties for Counties that do not vote in favor of the T-SPLOST, will there be penalties for members of the General Assembly who campaign against the T-SPLOST?

    • seekingtounderstand says:

      When those penalties kick in you are going to hear alot of angry folks out there.
      Most of the public is unaware of this. Many people will not be re-elected.
      Maybe they planned that to happen from the beginning as it certainly does seem the right thing to do to taxpayers.

  10. Calypso says:

    Charlie, here’s what I would ask:

    Given the complex nature of this initiative, why did the legislature decide it was wise to abdicate their responsibility as representatives of the people and throw such a referendum back to a by and large, ignorant electorate?

    • Jackster says:

      Charlie – I’ve already voted, but if you tell us know you’ll ask this question, I’ll come out to the forum AND (and this is a big and) not heckle you.

      • Calypso says:

        Glad you approve of my query. I hope Charlie does as well, though I imagine the legislators might not.

  11. Stefan says:

    Everyone in this region is concerned about jobs, why is it preferable to ignore the advice of every economic development person in the region that says to attract more large employers we need more infrastructure in favor of paying $1.61 for your gas station coke instead of $1.62?

          • Actually, there is a scenario where I figured out that Stefan could be correct. If the coke price is $1.50 before tax and a 7% tax is added to it, the price is 1.605. The price would then round up to 1.61. If an 8% tax is added, it’s 1.62. I hadn’t run the math, but had figured that at around the 1.50 mark there should start being more than a penny difference.

            • However, if you’re grocery shopping, I’m assuming that the TSPLOST is added to your grocery bill like normal SPLOSTs are. So assuming a normal $100 grocery bill before taxes, we could alter the statement to:

              “we need more infrastructure in favor of paying $107 for necessities like food instead of $108?” 🙂

              Along those same lines, why should we not pay $3.50 for a gallon of fuel instead of $3.25 if we need infrastructure? Isn’t taxing fuel more of a user fee than taxing groceries?

  12. Georgia Power has made a few donations to the pro-TSPLOST campaigns… two of those donations totaling $350,000 alone. Since they are a regulated monopoly, how do you feel about ratepayers being forced to contribute to a pro-TSPLOST campaign that they may be opposed to?

  13. Progressive Dem says:

    For the opponents, what is an acceptable revenue source to fund bottleneck improvements for existing highways and what is an acceptable revenue source for transit? Please remember that 70% of our current transportation funds are spent maintaining existing highways.

  14. SallyForth says:

    Charlie, question I’d like answered: If the tax measure fails next Tuesday, will Senator Unterman and other legislators commit to shoulder their responsibility and address the state’s traffic problem legislatively, e.g. add a 2-year surtax at the pump on those of us who have to drive the roads?

    As Calypso so ably pointed out above, they abdicated their responsibility to this p/r nightmare. These last ten years of Republican control have seen Georgia’s traffic get worse and worse statewide, not just Atlanta (as anybody who drives to Athens, Savannah, Macon, Brunswick, etc., can attest). We gave them the reins to our state, but this is a glaring example of do-nothing “leadership.”

    • Calypso says:

      “…will Senator Unterman and other legislators commit to shoulder their responsibility and address the state’s traffic problem legislatively, e.g. add a 2-year surtax at the pump on those of us who have to drive the roads? ”

      Good one, SallyForth.

  15. The Last Democrat in Georgia says:

    I’ve got a question for the proponents of the T-SPLOST:

    Why was the Sugarloaf Parkway Extension, which will be built in the preserved right-of-way of the abandoned Northern Arc, included for funding for partial completion on the project list, when the project was originally slated to be fully-completed as a toll road, especially given the extremely contentious political history of the controversial Northern Arc?

    Was any consideration given to the possible widespread objections that might arise amongst potential voters if a project in such a politically-sensitive corridor was given T-SPLOST funding before it was placed on the list?

    • The Last Democrat in Georgia says:

      Colleen Kiernan, director of the Georgia chapter of the Sierra Club, a key Intown voting constituency that the backers of the T-SPLOST were depending on to support, vote for and help push through the tax to victory, further expounded and gave a somewhat stern warning on the (seemingly unnecessary) controversy that was more than likely to result after the inclusion of that particular project on the list before the list was complete:

      “But the most troubling element of the TIA draft list is that a segment of the Northern Arc expressway, an intensely controversial road that was repeatedly contested finally defeated by a diverse coalition of organizations (including Sierra Club) nearly a decade ago, was quietly slipped onto the list as project TIA-GW-060 with little public discussion regarding the true impact and ramifications of this decision….
      ……The connection between TIA-GW-060 and the historical Outer Perimeter / Northern Arc concept is undeniable when properly articulated (click here for a visual explanation), and we are concerned that once voters fully appreciate the magnitude of the decision to resurrect a divisive proposal that was resoundingly rejected by the public years ago, this project will become a poison pill that could endanger passage of the tax next year.”

        • The Last Democrat in Georgia says:

          Sorry, I wasn’t trying to make a speech, I was just trying to expound on my reasoning for offering that up as a question.

          My sincerest apologies.

  16. Three Jack says:

    Q. If/when TSPLOST fails in Metro Atlanta, will the legislature consider at least a temporary end to HOV/HOT lanes until they can get their sh*t together on transportation? My opinion this would add more capacity immediately at a very minimal cost.

    • seekingtounderstand says:

      Three Jack: Good question. And did Gena Evans have the right not to get DOT board approval before she committed us to getting those grants that will be putting HOV?HOT
      everywhere. Been to Orlando lately?
      States are desperate for revenue. Desperate people do desperate things.

    • The Last Democrat in Georgia says:

      As great as a suggestion as getting rid of the HOV and (especially) the HOT lanes sounds, unfortunately it would likely be impossible at this point as the HOV lanes are part of the deal that was made during the Maynard Jackson years in the late 1970’s to get the funding for the then-massive “Freeing-the-Freeways” reconstruction project of the 1980’s.

      Also, the I-85 HOT Lanes were installed as part of a $110 million grant from the Feds that for a 5-year demonstration of the HOT Lane concept in Georgia (why they thought that a concept that increases in price and makes traffic worse when traffic is heaviest would be popular is beyond me), meaning that the earliest that the I-85 HOT Lane could end is October 1, 2016.

  17. seekingtounderstand says:

    Charlie, with the utmost respect the question I want answered is how do they expect the people to get behind tsplost when it goes against what many folks claim to value.
    Treat your neighbor as you would yourself.
    This bill is devisive and pits counties against each other.
    It takes from some and gives to others.
    And it hurts the poorest among us while giving to the rich.
    Its hard to image a folks not voting this down based what it stands for.
    Thank you

  18. Stefan says:

    Given that we are 49th in transportation spending and have no statewide transportation plan unlike almost every other state, why is the issue whether the transportation initiative will pass and not why has the legislature and governor not already fixed the problem using the powers they do have?

  19. Charlie says:

    I’m now diving into northside, West to East, rush hour traffic.

    I hae about 90 minutes to think about how many intersections I’ll go thru to get from Roswell to Lawrenceville, and how many will and won’t be affected by T-SPLOST.

    Probably won’t be taking many notes tonight, so if any of you want a report on what happened, better show up and post it here later.

    • SallyForth says:

      Good thinking re how much hassle you’ll have, just getting to the debate/forum. Give ’em heck, Charlie – and represent us well! 🙂

    • Rambler1414 says:

      If you took Holcomb Bridge Road (at GA 400), you drove through a large group of intersections that will be affected by T-SPLOST.

    • greencracker says:

      Ugh, drive Roswell to Lawrenceville? I am not kidding, you know I am self-employed, and the pay would have to be very, very, very good to get me to make that drive.

      That being said, given e-working, 2 working days out of 3, I don’t have to leave my house.

      Answer: pass TSPLOST, use the money on telework infrastructure. All of it! 😉

  20. SabrinaWorks247 says:

    For those who live in Gwinnett, please tell your elected officials that you do not want your tax money being given to the Gwinnett Chamber to lobby on transportation issues. After filing open records requests, we learned that the contract between the county and the Chamber requires the Chamber to “enhance mobility in Gwinnett and throughout the region” and “lobby for better transit options and transportation infrastructure needs”. Should taxpayers be paying the Chamber to lobby for issues such as this? The Gwinnett Chamber provided a written statement saying, “Public dollars are not utilized to advocate for passage of a tax measure.” The Chamber’s attorney denied our open records request, saying that they are not subject to the open records law.

  21. Charlie says:

    I am now home. Despite Baker trying to call in an air strike against me from the local Taco Bell parking lot as I drove by, I was allowed to leave Gwinnett.

    T-SPLOST vs. T-SPLOSH was verified as a below the gnat line anomaly, though no explanation was able to be given by the panel.

    We had a generally pleasant discussion with the panelists for about 90 minutes, followed by 30 minutes of the crowd beating up on Michael Sullivan from CTM/Untie Atlanta.

    All but three folks in the crowd who raised hands started out against T-SPLOST. (Hey, there I am on Fox5…) One was for it (Baker!) and two were undecided.

    I’ll have more to say on it tomorrow. Probably. Then again…

    • Baker says:

      Ha. I thought fruit and beef jerky would satisfy me for dinner but alas, Taco Bell just seemed too good to ignore. You busted me.

      I was probably in the middle of a phone convo ranting about my frustrations with a friend as you drove by.

      I’ve given up trying to write up a full something on this tonight but will finish up tomorrow in just enough time for it to disappear into the weekend.

      Brief thoughts: Gwinnett is not separate from Atlanta. Without Atlanta, Gwinnett doesn’t exist. To oppose this only because you think you’re bailing out them corrupt city folk is totally short-sighted.

      Our state govt., specifically thinking Senate leadership here, is super corrupt. Although I am for the TSPLOST, who could blame anyone for distrusting anything that comes out of the mouth of a Gold Domer. My solution? Pass the TSPLOST and then vote out the bums out.

      • Baker says:

        Maybe the words “super corrupt” are too strong, I apologize.

        But my mantra of “vote the bums out” remains the same.

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