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TSPLOST—Bringing a Knife to a Gunfight

There needs to be a more balanced discussion regarding the regional transportation referendum.

Politics is not about having a fair fight. We might editorialize about wanting a fair and balanced discussion on an issue but we seldom find the ideal. What is usually the norm is the selective use of facts to argue a point and/or control the discourse to filter the information that gets out. The whole brouhaha about the TSPLOST is a case in point. 

The first point is represented by still yet another mailing I received from advocates for the TSPLOST. (As a grassroots candidate, I can only dream about the kind of money they are spending.) The brochure paints an apocalyptic picture of the region if the TSPLOST is not approved. 

Clearly both the Caterpillar and Baxter Corporations are either not buying into this gloom—and—doom scenario with their recent $1 billion stakes in the North Georgia and Atlanta metro area or they have not received the word about how "bad" the traffic is here. 

Moreover, of the five projects listed in the brochure for Cobb County, one of them is not the $689 million Enhanced Premium Transit Service which the Cobb Chairman, as recently as , said was essentially a rapid bus system. 

Despite his specificity, there remains significant doubt about the real nature of this project due to language in the project list providing for, if additional funding is available, a fixed guideway rail between Cumberland and the MARTA Arts Center. Consequently, until there is absolute clarity about the scope of the project, it would seem prudent to wait until we can make an informed opinion on the proposal.  

The TSPLOST legislation allows for this option by revisiting the project list in 2 years if the measure is defeated—the famous Plan B. This delay would also permit the completion of the Alternative Analysis which, among other considerations, is examining the light rail option.

While acknowledging that traffic congestion will worsen in many areas, in the end some advocates of the TSPLOST may find it surprising that I would choose to spend one hour a day in my car (with my air conditioner and CD player listening to my audio book) as the price to pay for living in a county that has traditionally low taxes, low land use density, and low crime rates. 

We are the beneficiaries of visionaries who saw the future and built the foundation for our great County by keeping in mind the principles of fiscal responsibility and lean government. All these new taxes will dilute that legacy if not reverse it.

With regard to the second point of controlling the microphone in this debate, the Chairman by his unfortunate comments this week about opponents of the TSPLOST, finally confirmed what many had suspected—that he in fact is an advocate of the legislation.

In all fairness to him, it would be hard to imagine his position otherwise since he was a member of the Atlanta Regional Roundtable that proposed and approved the project list. 

What seems to be lost amidst the name calling in the Cobb contest is that both sides have valid arguments to buttress their views. The pro-TSPLOST forces rightfully point to the need to address the increasing traffic congestion, the badly needed jobs that will accompany the projects, and the potential business development associated with the regional approach. 

The anti-TSPLOST folks have equally legitimate concerns about a large portion of the tax being used to service the transportation needs of a small segment of the population, the unanswered question about the source of funding to sustain the rapid bus roadway after the TSPLOST sunsets, and the impact that the tax will have on the County’s ability to ask the voters for additional funds to maintain existing traffic infrastructure. 

Both sides have the responsibility of answering two essential questions. If you are for the TSPLOST, how do you plan to fund the operations and maintenance of projects in the Act after the 10 years?  If you are opposed to the legislation, what are your solutions for traffic congestion—both known and predicted? 

There are consequences for both views and they should be carefully considered in what is certainly a difficult choice because of the high stakes involved.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Bob B May 18, 2012 at 07:46 PM
I have have a few questions about the TSPLOST, but the biggest one is simple. Why can't we live within our budgets and make the really needed transit improvements with current taxes. I'm really tired of our tax dollars going to fund the pet projects of a limited few. Increase the taxes on everyone to help the land values of the investors in a small corner of Cobb and we will still be sitting in traffic wondering what happened to the money. Remember the GA-400 toll would pay for 400 and then end. Government still doesn't know that they work for you and me.
Greg T May 19, 2012 at 01:21 PM
Pro-TSPLOST not sincere: 1. Everyone acknowledges the need to reduce traffic congestion, to say otherwise is insulting and arrogant. 2. The badly needed jobs will come with a plan B or C, so that is a non-issue. 3. A regional approach should be a priority for the Governor and state officials as well, considering the vast majority of state revenue is generated in this region. Questions not answered, 1. How is congestion in the "region" going to be reduced according to this plan? Using detailed reporting, designs and maps. 2. How will doing a plan B or C not create a better climate for businesses and jobs that only plan A can? Since it is a main argument for it. 3. Why can't a private rail line company not fill the need for congestion relief with governing authority approval and use of eminent domain? The region could also receive land use income from the rail company. $4. Even if the plan works as described, will you spend 5 minutes less in traffic after paying the bill?
JACQUE May 19, 2012 at 03:10 PM
The cobb county politicians want us to approve a plan which includes nearly $700 million for transportation improvments that they can't tell us yet what the planned use is. They want us to vote yes and wait for the study and "trust" them to do the right thing. I for one don't trust any politician that far. I think we need to wait for a better plan and have the answers before a vote on anything. This isn't a transpotation vote anyway, it's a business developement vote so the fat cat developers and special interests can line their pockets at the expense of the taxpayers. How is a rail line from Cumberland to Atlanta going to help traffic congestion in Cobb? The project list is full of special interest influenced things that will benefit business developement much more than help traffic congestion. I think we need a do over before the vote on this over in my opinion.
Lissa K. May 19, 2012 at 03:14 PM
You don't need to bring a knife to this gunfight. You need to bring accountability and oversight. And answers to questions like where's the millions of missing dollars.
Bob R June 13, 2012 at 07:59 PM
I don't understand why Cobb is considering almost $700 million for bus or a min of $2 billion for light rail, when maglev will cost us taxpayers NOTHING to build. It is privately financed. It will go from Kennesaw to Perimeter Mall and had a completion date of 2015. If we ever do get funding for light rail it will not be before then. The older I get the more items i put in the category of "What am I missing". If we structure a couple of items, such as - in the event of maglev system failure how do we extricate ourselves so that the taxpayer will not have any cost? If addressed, believe that we have everything to gain and nothing to lose!

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