Atlanta’s Transportation Investment Act really needs St. Francis of Assisi (smile)

By Michael Mumper

My mind is grappling with the magnitude of different approaches and reactions to the Transportation Investment Act, particularly for the Atlanta region, with two of these views presented by Steve Brown, Fayette County Commissioner, and Bruce Gunter, president of Progressive Redevelopment Inc(For more information on the TIA, click here).

Yes, we’ll be voting on it on the TIA July 31.

Well, maybe.

There are serious questions related to its constitutionality, to its governance , to a pro-TIA advertising campaign being funded , to its actually passing the vote , and to its ability to “stick” if it does pass (think about the past year’s attempts to gut Obamacare even after it passed into law).

I’ve heard many “sides” champion their views on TIA: pro-transit people in South DeKalb, the traffic congestion folks in Cobb, job-creation from Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed, fiscal conservatives in Fayette County, the business climate from the Chambers of Commerce, what-about-walkability from PEDS, and countless more.

Every one of these groups has great points.  Really.  Each group brings facts to the table, historical context, passion, comparable stories from other cities, and testimonials from Atlantans who this really matters to.  Each advocates for their constituents, and for the region, in a way they think – they know – is best.

And there are a several groups who tried to hear varying viewpoints – Atlanta Regional Commission, Civic League for Regional Atlanta, and the Partnership for Southern Equity come to mind, and every county and many elected officials had their own listening sessions.

   I’m not sure that we, collectively, really listen  

But I’m not sure that we, collectively, really listened.  I’m not sure we listened to truly understand, to ask questions, to dignify, and to acknowledge others’ viewpoints as valid and right, in their own context.

It was St. Francis of Assisi who said, “Lord, let me really try to understand others first, rather than working so hard to get my own point across.”  Ok, St. Francis said it quite a bit more eloquently, in an old Latin kinda way.

But you can be certain that anyone who came across St. Francis felt heard.  And if they got their time to bend his ear, and things didn’t turn out their way in the end, they probably were not going to continue to challenge Assisi’s constitutionality, question his authority, delay his judgment, vote him down, or gut him from the inside out.

This is not to imply that any one side here is playing the role of Assisi.

Really, we all are.

It is not in my mind to alienate any of the above groups – who are all doing a fantastic job advocating for their constituents, and for the region.  But I do truly believe the Transportation Investment Act, and Lords knows virtually any other kind of controversial
legislation, could use a little Assisi.

See Michael Mumper’s bio in the About Us section above.

  1. I attended the meeting, Talking Traffic: A Public Forum on the July Transportation Referendum at Georgia Tech yesterday. It is clear from the one-sided presentation and discussions that our officials in charge want to increase the traffic flow into Atlanta, not alleviate it. For elected officials this would increase the tax base. For businessmen like Mark Toro,Managing Partner – North American Properties and MAVEN Representative, who was on the panel, it is an opportunity for personal gain through real-estate development. The pro-referendum proponents referenced New York and Chicago several times as their model for public transportation. They would like to turn Atlanta into another crowded, gridlocked, dirty northern city. I believe we should be moving traffic out of the beltway to technology parks in the surrounding areas, decreasing traffic flow into Atlanta. There are several options not being considered which would cost nothing to help the traffic problems like encouraging businesses to let employees telecommute from home, provide flexible hours or even a four day work week. Another option would be to provide green car tags for fuel efficient two-seater automobiles, or even like the Democratic Senator Doug Stoner’s foreign Mini Cooper which he bragged about last night while talking about creating American jobs. These cars would be eligible to use the green lane (renamed from the HOV lane and Express Lane). I call the Express lane, which Mark Toro subscribes to, the Elitist Lane since one must pay extra to use it even though it is paid for by all taxpayers.
    Finally, the new tax is not needed to fund the road projects we actually need. Many are already underway and are already being funded. The project list for the referendum started as a $27 Billion money grab by the counties and was whittled down to a $8.5 Billion pile of pork. If additional funds are needed they could be easily obtained by reducing the size of the Atlanta area’s governments, which on average employ twice as many government workers as other cities with comparable populations. This would also help Atlanta’s traffic problem.
    Citizens should realize that no matter what government officials and referendum supporters say, the tax increase will be permanent. After all, the toll booths are still on GA 400 even though we were told they would be removed when the project was paid for, which was long ago. Which reminds me, did the additional flow from GA 400 help or hurt Atlanta’s traffic problem?

    Nobody doubts that Atlanta has a really bad traffic problem. But you do not resolve a performance bottleneck by throwing more work at it, which is what these projects are intended to do. We should not be trying to grow Atlanta, we should be trying to stabilize it and its culture and neighborhoods. We should redirect traffic workload to the outlying areas by building new pleasant business parks outside the beltway on existing roads, reversing the flow of traffic away from Atlanta. We do not need a new tax to do this. Funding mechanisms are already in place. We can not let Atlanta become another New York as the pro-referendum panelists advocate for their selfish motives. Have you checked the cost of living in New York? It is at least 3 times the cost of living in Atlanta, and the quality of life, not to mention the air, there stinks. I can not stand New York for more than 3 days. No! I am a native Atlantan and I say No! If you want New York then go there, Delta is ready when you are.

    In order for the rail extension projects to be viable we would have to double the density of Atlanta residents. I do not think anyone wants to see our sleepy Atlanta neighborhoods bulldozed and replaced by high rise apartments. We have already seen many examples of that in the area.

    It is clear from listening to the pro-referendum advocates that they asked themselves only 2 questions. 1) How much can we get from a new 1 cent sales tax, and 2) How can we spend it all.

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