MARTA: Want Some “Thought Leadership” For Less?

Hey, MARTA! Maria Saporta’s column in her online newspaper, SaportaReport, attacking State Rep. Mike Jacobs (R-Brookhaven) is pretty mean! According to Saporta, Mike Jacobs (who chairs the State Committee that oversees MARTA) “acted inappropriately” in pushing to have a qualified candidate selected as MARTA’s General Manager. He’s friends with Wendy Butler! He “missed an opportunity” to become a “real statesman.” “What a big disappointment Jacobs has been in his role as MARTOC chairman.” Oooooh, BURN! Click any of those links to read the whole op-ed in all its catty, mean girl, nanny-nanny boo-boo glory. And when you’re done, click THIS LINK to read Maria Saporta’s contract to provide “thought leadership” to MARTA for $10,000 per year. (That’s a pdf).

So, MARTA, here’s my pitch, and it is shameless. I can offer you better thought leadership for less than the $10,000 you have already paid Maria Saporta to write her hit piece. Shoot, I’ll give you a 25% discount. Seriously. Here’s an example:

“Don’t pay anyone to print attacks on the person who chairs the MARTOC Committee, because it’s probably not going to help you resolve structural issues in the MARTA act and improve relations between Georgia’s largest public transit agency and the State.”

Just a thought. (Call me!)

UPDATE: You could even take it out of the $144,000 you spent on group therapy. I’ll throw in a drum circle or two.


  1. wicker says:

    Honestly, after using MARTA as a wedge issue for so many decades, Republicans haven’t earned the trust of MARTA or anyone who supports it. And Jacobs is playing right into the hands of people like Saporta by beating the privatization drum.

    At some point, the Georgia GOP is going to have to offer some constructive ideas and leadership on MARTA as opposed to:
    A) just being against public transportation and rail (ridiculous when Atlanta obviously needs both … name one large city/metro area without mass transit, and yes most have rail)
    B) simply opposing MARTA merely because it is run by and mostly serves a liberal Democratic population

    Seriously, what has endless opposition to MARTA actually gained the Georgia GOP? And if the GOP gets what it wants (or for that matter decides what it wants in the first place, whether it is taking over MARTA or dismantling it) how does it benefit the Georgia GOP or its constituency? If the state takes over MARTA, then they’ll have to fund it. And if MARTA is dismantled, it won’t benefit folks in Cobb, Gwinnett, Cherokee, Forsyth etc. in any way whatsoever.

    What is the point, the goal, the gain, the endgame of the hostility towards MARTA stance? This isn’t the 1980s and 1990s when MARTA (and Atlanta in general) baiting was useful towards building a GOP majority. The GOP has their majority now, will keep it for the foreseeable future, and it is time to really consider what actual plans they have for a transit system that they don’t pay for and is irrelevant to the people that vote for them, but is very relevant to the people that don’t.

    • Harry says:

      Wow Wicker, you really don’t understand. The Georgia that exists outside the confines of Atlanta and DeKalb is not going to subsidize the corrupt, inept, wasteful MARTA – not now nor in the foreseeable future.

        • Harry says:

          Are you saying that’s not enough? If it’s not enough, then you need to adopt the recommendations of the KPMG engagement and for example, get rid of the unions.

          But you knew that.

            • bird says:

              Harry–the point is, if you don’t live in DeKalb and Fulton Counties, then you don’t pay for MARTA, so mind your own business.

                • Lea Thrace says:

                  Then you missed the point entirely. Either the state gets out of MARTA decisions (cause they are NOT funding MARTA currently) or they get some skin in the game and justify their oversight. That’s the point being made.

                  MARTA is not being run that well now. But the state’s current involvement is NOT helping things in my opinion. Put up or get out. That way if they fail, they fail on their own and cannot blame the strings or blocks the state has put up.

                  • Harry says:

                    The state is supposed to regulate utilities that it doesn’t fund. Nothing unusual there. You better be glad they do.

                  • Stefan says:

                    But it isn’t considered a utility, in fact most under the Dome question its utility (ha).

                    The issue is the general assembly wants oversight, control, and political advantage but don’t actually give them any money and hamstring their decision making.

                    Check out the forced representation non-contributor counties on the MARTA board.

                    • bgsmallz says:

                      Wrong, wrong, wrong.

                      #1- the State DOES give them money…every year.
                      #2- the State also authorized a sales tax for Marta…prior to the Marta sales tax, there was no local sales tax. There was only a sales tax that went to the general coffers.

                      So this idea that the state should just butt out of oversight on a state created entity b/c we’ve lost sight of the history of the Marta sales tax and b/c we falsely believe the state doesn’t give any money to Marta and that “Fulton and DeKalb” pay for it is just silly.

                      And this is coming from a very pro-transit person…I believe in rail transit. I just don’t believe in most of the people that say they want to fix transit in our region. (on the same note, I’ve heard Mike Jacobs talk about transit…he doesn’t want it killed…but he does want to kill some sacred cows….thus the hit jobs)

              • bgsmallz says:

                Wait…that’s not true at all. #1-No one that lives outside of DeKalb and Fulton pay sales tax in those counties? #2-Marta receives funds from the state every year…it just isn’t ‘dedicated.’ Feel free to look it up. #3-Federal funding comes from the federal government…and last I checked, they don’t care if it comes from DeKalb/Fulton or China.

                Can we please, please, please get our facts straight on this? The tired line about ‘the state doesn’t provide any money’ is false and old. So is the line from the state on ‘they need to get their act together so we can get involved’. That seems like an easy fix to me…if we pay you X, you will do Y.

                The problem isn’t a will to do something about transit…the problem is too many sacred cows in the room.

                • Stefan says:

                  link to state aid, please.

                  and the fact that the state allowed a county to collect a penny sales tax isn’t the same as directing funding toward for its operation.

                  • bgsmallz says:



                    Page 8 of the Marta financial report…they receive over $2M every year in state capital assistance. The Marta folks like to twist this by adding ‘we don’t receive any ‘dedicated’ funding’ or ‘we don’t receive any ‘operations’ funding’…which is true. It’s also true that the funding from the state is light. HOWEVER, it is completely false that they don’t receive any state aid. It is also completely false that DeKalb and Fulton ‘pay for it’…the sales tax covers less than half of the operating/capital costs of the system each year. And you are right that the state isn’t directing funding to the system, that’s not my point. The state has a large interest in regulating entities that are creations of state law (every foreign and domestic corporation in the state is subject to state regulation and the state doesn’t directly fund them either)…the fact that the state legislature specifically created Marta by act and created a novel local funding system, in my opinion, justifies their continued involvement. That shouldn’t be the fight…the discussion should be ‘what do we have to give up in order to get more funding’…

                    Like I said…I’m pro-transit. But before that, I’m pro ‘facts.’

                    • Lea Thrace says:

                      I get what you’re saying. Yes the state contributes a bit. But it is just that. A bit. Especially when you consider that MARTA has to go beg for that 2M EVERY year. And they can be turned down for that 2M at the whim of the legislator.

                      But how does someone who gives 2M to an overall 250M – 400M budget get so much say in how things are run? If I own one share of apple stock, do I get to decide what features are included on the next Iphone? Does that make sense? Minor stakeholders should not make major decisions.

                      Become a major stakeholder or but out. Don’t dabble.


                    • bgsmallz says:

                      As I’ve said, I agree…we need more transit funding from the state and there is not ‘dedicated’ funding. I’m not sure I would call it begging…and if it is begging, then maybe you are underselling the importance of it, no?

                      Here’s the thing about your shareholder argument…once you buy your shares and you hold the majority of the shares, you aren’t also paying the operating costs every year. The state created Marta via legislation, helped Marta by creating a new sales tax, helped Marta lobby for federal funding, and has contributed to capital costs every year. That’s not a minor shareholder. What you are asking is for the State to purchase more shares for new capital….and just like any other majority investor…the state isn’t going to contribute new capital until it gets the Marta house in order. You don’t give the dog the bone and then ask him to sit….that dog will not listen to a word you say after he has the bone.

                      It’s a popular argument among pro-transit folks right now…give us $ or butt out…but it’s the wrong one. The question should be…what do pro-transit folks need to do in order to get state funding? (note that I didn’t say ‘how do we save Marta?’ or ‘How do we keep Fulton Co. from giving up their board selections to N. Fulton cities?’…no sacred cows) There is a solution somewhere in that question…b/c there are enough reasonable minded folks in the region that believe something needs to happen.

  2. What the heck is “thought leadership?” Whatever it is, I support Mike’s effort to provide it to MARTA in a more cost effective manner on one condition: his drum circle session must be live streamed.

    • Well, there’s a section on the Saporta Report called “Thought Leadership,” which is described as “a forum where experts host discussion about their respective fields.”

      Included is the disclaimer: “The opinions and views expressed on these Thought Leadership pages are solely those of the organization sponsoring this page and do not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of the editorial staff of SaportaReport.”

      Judging from the terms of the contract (found on the invoice’s second page), it reads like MARTA was going to enter into an agreement to post op-eds.

  3. Scott65 says:

    If you have a point to make…you’d do better to make it without being a smart azz. Rep Jacobs made a passive threat to the MARTA board that if they didnt pick HIS candidate he was gonna make the game harder for them to play. He better watch what he is doing. He is starting to look a lot like Jill Chambers…and we all know how well that worked out for her.

  4. Scott65 says:

    oh…and I agree, he has been a disappointment. I guess its a lot to expect leadership and statesmanship from those we elect

    • novicegirl says:

      I think it’s fine that you agree, but you do understand that you’re agreeing with a paid $10,000 advertisement for MARTA. It’s the equivalent of watching a beer commercial and announcing, “I agree, it does taste great and is less filling.”

  5. wicker says:


    It is you who doesn’t understand – or doesn’t want to. My comment had nothing to do with wanting the state to fund MARTA. (Besides, you folks outside Fulton and DeKalb need to worry about “the corrupt, inept, wasteful” issues of your own. Nathan Deal anyone? Sonny Perdue? Glenn Richardson? David Ralston? John Oxendine? Commissioners in Gwinnett, Henry and several other suburban counties? The idea that a Georgia Republican can get on his high horse and lecture anyone else about competence and ethics is hilarious.) It is about the anti-MARTA stance of the Georgia GOP (it used to be anti-MARTA and anti-Hartsfield but the latter was given up when the city informed the GOPers under the gold dome that they could only assume control over Hartsfield if they bought it from the city … after that the airport baiting dried up and blew away).

    MARTA has zero effect on your constituents. None. Zada. Zilch. The whopping $2 million from the state that MARTA gets notwithstanding, you don’t fund it. And your constituents don’t ride it. The state is supposed to regulate it? Then fine. Go use those same regulatory tactics towards Georgia Power, which is actually relevant to your constituency, especially when it is finding new ways to fleece them and hold onto their anti-free market monopoly with the state’s protection and blessing. Which means that oversight over MARTA does not mean determined opposition and demagoguery that is rooted in nothing but either A) opposition to the idea of mass transit itself and/or B) partisan politics. A) is dumb because the state authorized its building and continues to authorize its operation, and mass transit is in fact necessary in large metro areas. B) is dumb because it doesn’t get you anything. Baiting MARTA isn’t going to win you any more votes than you have already.

    If you are legitimately concerned about corruption, incompetence and waste at MARTA – and you aren’t by the way, it is just your partisan whipping boy – then the best way to address it is to have good relations between the MARTA leadership and the governments of Fulton and DeKalb (the people you despise) and MARTOC. That way, MARTA, Fulton and DeKalb will actually LISTEN to MARTOC. But as long as you guys keep using MARTA as your main get out the vote talking point, the MARTA leadership will continue to see you as the enemy – because it is how you are acting – and do exactly the opposite of everything that you recommend.

    Jacobs is angry because MARTA ignored his very reasonable recommendation for MARTA CEO. But why did MARTA do so? Oh gee, do you think that Jill Chambers had anything to do with that? Or the fact that “we don’t want our money going to MARTA!” was the main reason why T-SPLOST failed? So now, Jacobs wants to act shocked, SHOCKED that MARTA is unwilling to shake hands with the Georgia GOP while the GOP still has its dagger in MARTA’s back? Ridiculous. So exactly what was Jacobs’ recommendation for privatizing MARTA’s buses supposed to accomplish? So … if the GOP already opposes rail and wants to privatize the buses, then what will be left for MARTA to oversee, and do it in a way that actually benefits the city – you know, the people who actually need public transportation and pay the tax – instead of the suburbs, for whom neither is the case? Also, MARTA is a reflection of the people who elect the leadership of Fulton and DeKalb: liberal Democrats. If the Georgia GOP – who in other contexts claim to support local control mind you! – can’t respect that and work with them, try to find middle ground, and instead insists on imposing their ideology on people who don’t support it (neither the MARTA leaders or the voters who ultimately elect them) then that is a leadership failure on their part.

    My point was not for state (or regional) funding of MARTA, or for ending state oversight of MARTA. I was just asking what was the purpose and point of the Georgia GOP’s dogged determination to have as bad a working relationship with MARTA as possible. Who does it benefit and how? Answer: no one and in no way. The only people who want this dysfunction to continue are those who think that endless, pointless partisan wrangling with no possible positive outcome to continue. Which means people like you. You may be willing to keep playing the “hey, let’s use whatever clout we have to beat up on Fulton and DeKalb for their decision to reject the Republican Party and conservative ideology” game just fine, but adults who have no time for or interest in games (beyond the Yankee politician who spends 22 hours a week as orc hunter Santiaga on World of Warcraft I suppose) need to collect all the pieces, put them back in the box, put the box away and come up with ideas for MARTA that actually benefit the people who want it and are paying for it. Because folks outside Fulton and DeKalb aren’t the whole state either. There are plenty of tax-paying productive systems who actually support the system and want to see its problems fixed, and for those people the Georgia GOP is a problem and a barrier, not a solution.

    And right now is the time to do it. Why? Because within 4 years, Clayton County will join MARTA. As soon as they can jump the legal and bureaucratic hoops and hold an election, they’re in. If Jacobs and the GOP he represents are willing to actually work with the people who represent those Democratic Fulton and DeKalb voters, then the recommendations from KPMG will have been fully implemented by then, and there will be plenty of time left over to start working on forward-thinking solutions. But if this nonsense continues, then Clayton County joining will lead to an even bigger mess than exists now, because Clayton wants a robust express bus service at minimum for their workers to use to ride into Fulton/DeKalb, and also will want some sort of rail to try to restore some of the economic losses caused by the Delta Airlines problems. If your response to that is “great, another liberal Democratic County that we get to use our control of MARTOC to punish for their decisions not to be Republicans”, then, well you are exactly one of the very people that my original missive was aimed at.

    And since Mike Hassinger originated this thread, it would be curious to see if he has any ideas for MARTA that would actually benefit and be supported by the people who actually pay for and use it. (Case in point: privatizing bus service so that the private company can chase suburban riders who don’t pay the tax to maximize their profits at the expense of urban riders who do pay the tax is precisely an example of one of the things that I am NOT talking about.) My guess is: he doesn’t. Instead, erecting this column for the purposes of beating up someone who actually supports MARTA – meaning someone who exercises their rights under our system of government to reject his libertarianism and vote for leaders who do also – was really all he had in mind. Fine, that is his prerogative, but the problem is that a Georgia GOP that has been elected to see to the interests of the entire state – which includes residents of Fulton, DeKalb, and soon to be Clayton – doesn’t have anything more on their minds either.

  6. Harry says:

    Wicker, your comments seem a bit confrontative, but nonetheless I don’t think we (myself and the GAGOP) are that far apart from you. Here’s the problem: The state birthed MARTOC/MARTA. It said, you guys can form a rapid transit system, sell bonds to build it, and find a way to pay for operating it. The state never agreed to fund it. The regulation from the state has been very little. Other than requiring a capital reserve that is not supposed to be breached to pay for operations, and offering advice on occasion, MARTA has been pretty much left on its own. Do you have a problem with that? KPMG made some recommendations and it’s up to the residents and taxpayers of Fulton and Dekalb to insist that they be implemented or not. It didn’t sit well with many that, for race reasons, an industry-experienced candidate has once more been passed over and a lightweight with no relevant background picked for GM. Overall, MARTA many operating issues that we can’t even begin to discuss them all here, but they will affect the level of service. I’m free to tell you all this and you’re free to ignore it, but at least we apparently agree on the basic concept that MARTA should be run and paid for by the people of Fulton and DeKalb, and not the people of Gwinnett and Cobb and Georgia. Nothing else is practically or politically feasible.

    • wicker says:


      My comments were no more confrontational than yours. “The Georgia that exists outside the confines of Atlanta and DeKalb is not going to subsidize the corrupt, inept, wasteful MARTA …” excuse me, but in what universe is that confrontational?

      “It didn’t sit well with many that, for race reasons, an industry-experienced candidate has once more been passed over and a lightweight with no relevant background picked for GM.”

      In what universe is that not confrontational, in addition to injecting race into this argument?

      And Harry, you are exactly what I am talking about. Your interest in MARTA begins and ends with A) the state maintaining oversight – and incidentally, plenty of public transportation systems have no state oversight and B) being funded only by Fulton and DeKalb. This means that you have no positive agenda for the system whatsoever. Your position is determined, perpetual opposition to MARTA, not because it is corrupt or mismanaged, but because you are opposed ideologically and politically to the people who run it, and ultimately to the people who elect the ones that run it. But you refuse to come out and admit it even though it is obviously, plainly true.

      My point is that your position makes no sense. It doesn’t help you. It only hurts MARTA. Which means that it hurts the region that – whether you admit it or not – you are a part of. Like it or not, there are a lot of companies and job-creating entrepreneurs out there who are either urban liberals, or who for whatever reason want to located in an urban area. The GOP’s determination to have as bad a relationship with MARTA as possible because they can’t get past the fact that there is a single, solitary important and influential area of the state that they don’t control gives the companies, entrepreneurs, skilled/educated professionals, creative people etc. a powerful reason to choose Boston, San Francisco, Los Angeles, New York, Miami (and increasingly Dallas and Charlotte) etc. over Atlanta. These are jobs that will never locate to Cobb, Forsyth or Gwinnett just like you will never live in Kirkwood, Cascade or Bankhead. They have no interest in locating to any suburb anywhere. Instead, they want to find the best urban area to locate to. So this pointless, endless “we hate MARTA because we don’t like their leaders and constituency” nonsense only succeeds in keeping jobs away from your state and your region. And your side prefers being without those jobs to working with your fellow Georgians in Fulton and DeKalb. That is why you keep retreating to “we don’t want to fund MARTA.” You know perfectly well that there are a ton of things that can be done to aid MARTA that won’t cost you a red cent, but you are opposed to them simply because you are opposed to MARTA’s leadership and constituency. You won’t come out and admit it, so you hide behind the “they want our money!”/”they are corrupt and mismanaged!”/”public transportation is bad”/”rail is wrong!” instead. So, you have that stance and call others confrontational?

      • Harry says:

        Whoa, whoa whoa. As I’ve stated, I have no problem with MARTA so long as I’m not funding it. You voted for it, you put in the unions and the inept management…so you should find a way to make it function without coming to the gold dome asking for a subsidy. And let’s cut the crap, that’s what we’re really talking about.

        • Lea Thrace says:

          ” It didn’t sit well with many that, for race reasons, an industry-experienced candidate has once more been passed over and a lightweight with no relevant background picked for GM. ”

          This is an invalid argument if they are the same race…

          • Harry says:

            All I know is, the new Marta GM, Kenneth Parker – CEO of San Antonio Metro Transportation Authority, happens to be black. He is said to be a “diplomat”. A “diplomat” is the last thing MARTA needs. Ken Gregor – CEO of Port Authority of Pittsburgh/Allegheny County, who is white, was passed over because in the past he was said to have a “contentious relationship with labor” A “contentious relationship with labor” is exactly what MARTA needs!

            • gt7348b says:

              Actually, Mr. Gregor is a former GM/CEO of MARTA and MARTA Board member following his service. Stephan Bland is the head of Pittsburgh. It would help if you’re arguments if you used Google (TM). And since Mr. Bland was also up for the head of JTA and also has made public statements to the press about staying in Pittsburgh (plus being working many years in NY state, not city), one can only speculate that while is a candidate for top jobs, jobs in the southeast don’t appeal to him for personal or other reasons rather than attomatically assuming race is the reason for his non-selection. As a fact, MARTA has actually only had two non-white GM’s in its history – Nat Ford and Beverly Scott.

          • Harry says:

            But I’m just a resident of Gwinnett. You folks in Atlanta go ahead an do whatever floats you boat, be it racial or pro-union or otherwise. Pick a GM candidate heading a transit authority with half the budget of the candidate you dumped. I don’t care. Just don’t make me pay for it!

            • gt7348b says:

              You don’t pay for it unless you shop in DeKalb or Fulton, use it. And don’t give me the Federal BS – I’ll send you a penny in the mail if you want a refund.

            • Harry says:

              Okay wise guy, but you failed to address the main point of my post, which is that MARTA has no will to make the hard choices to de-fang the union and failure to address other cost issues. As Last Democrat points out, its a non issue anyway as MARTA will in the near future be forced by default to reduce services, the last thing you should want to see happen.

  7. The Last Democrat in Georgia says:

    These fights over who should the new MARTA GM are hilarious because it is basically the equvalent of fighting over who should be present at the wheel of the Titanic when it crashes into the iceberg and sinks into the North Atlantic.

    MARTA getting a new GM is pretty much the equivalent of rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic for the best front seat view of a disaster as the ship quickly sinks to the ocean floor.

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