Tuesday, July 3, 2012

T-SPLOST - Vote No.


INTRODUCTION: Former Georgia Governor Lester Maddox is dead. His race-based impact on the state of public transportation in metropolitan Atlanta, however, continues to live on after him. In 1971 then Mayor of Atlanta Sam Massell and many others wanted a system of free ridership on MARTA. Their issue was mobility—and they wanted it for as many people as desired it.

(However,) there were powerful forces in the (Georgia) Legislature—most notably then-Lt. Gov. Lester Maddox—who wanted anything BUT a free transit system. If ridership was free, he believed, the system would be overrun with “winos.”

Maddox had a way to ensure there would be no free ride on MARTA: Simply deny the system a huge chunk of its sales tax revenues for operations. In a 1971 amendment to the Georgia Sales Tax Law authorizing a tax levy for transit in metro Atlanta, Maddox insisted that half the sales tax revenue be set aside for capital expenses, forcing MARTA to make up the operations shortfall at the fare box.

(Former Mayor Sam Massell in an interview with Jim Galloway.03/17/2009/AJC)

Keep in mind that in 1971 the State of Georgia contributed no money to the operation of MARTA, yet the State put limits on how MARTA could spend its own revenue. Now, 41 years later the State of Georgia still does not contribute any money to MARTA’s operations and has rebuked every request from MARTA for State assistance. Yet, the citizens of Atlanta and DeKalb and Fulton counties are being asked to believe that the State has genuine concern about public transportation in the metro area, and we are being asked to trust the State to address our horrendous traffic congestion—a condition the State of Georgia has consistently and unapologetically ignored for more than a generation.

On July 31, 2012 we are asked to vote to approve the so-called Transportation Investment Act (T-SPLOST Referendum) proposed by the so-called Regional Transportation Roundtable. The DeKalb Branch NAACP is opposed to this ACT and is urging voters to vote “NO” on this referendum. The DeKalb NAACP opposes this referendum because it is: a. Unfair; b. Short-sighted; c. Racist; and d. Deceitful.

A. The TIA is unfair because

1. It calls for the citizens of Atlanta and DeKalb and Fulton counties to pay a two-cent sales tax while citizens in other jurisdictions will only have to pay a one-cent sales tax.

2. Citizens of Atlanta and DeKalb and Fulton counties must still pay a one-cent sales tax to support MARTA while this referendum indirectly does away with MARTA.

3. The referendum prohibits any TIA revenue from going to MARTA operations.

4. DeKalb County will suffer a 45% loss on the Return on Investment.

B. The TIA is short-sighted in that

1. It is not a comprehensive plan to address traffic congestion in the metro area but a hodge-podge of projects to benefit various jurisdictions.

2. It does not address all of the traffic bottle-necks and lack of adequate right-turn lanes to facilitate traffic flow.

3. It does not call for the synchronization of traffic lights on major surface streets.

4. It does not call for a change in State law to enable gasoline tax revenue to be used for transportation purposes other than for roads.

5. It ignores the fact that MARTA is the oldest and most established transit entity in the metro area and should be supported and considered the hub of any metro Atlanta traffic solution.

6. It ignores how the role of an expanded rail line to more points of interest and throughout the metro area would help to relieve traffic congestion.

7. It makes no plans for future transportation corridors outside the metro area to other metropolitan areas in the state.

C. The TIA has a racist component in that

1. The Regional Transportation Roundtable, which selected the T-SPLOST projects, is made up of 21 members. The tax-paying counties, which have a sizable African America population, have only four voting members and the non-tax paying counties have 17 voting members.

2. An I-20 east rail line would greatly benefit predominately African American South DeKalb, but it was voted down by the Roundtable.

3. South DeKalb is practically neglected in the list of appreciable T-SPLOST projects.

4. South DeKalb will see no appreciable reduction in traffic congestion.

5. Rather than supporting MARTA and having a comprehensive metro-wide public transportation system, the out-lying jurisdictions are allowed to pick and choose a hodge-podge of transportation systems which may come into Atlanta, but MARTA is not allowed to go into those jurisdictions.

6. The TIA’s covert intent to eliminate MARTA will result in the privatization of a new transit system and the loss of jobs for MARTA’s employees, many of whom are African American.

D. The proposed TIA is deceitful in that

1. It lists the amount of money the one-cent sales tax will generate from all of the ten counties, but it does not list the amount of money which will be generated by the additional one-cent sales tax which will continue to be paid by the citizens of Atlanta and DeKalb and Fulton counties.

2. The TIA funding of a beltline to Emory University and a beltline around the City of Atlanta, while although attractive, will do nothing to facilitate the ingress-egress traffic for downtown Atlanta.

3. The State has a strong desire to takes over MARTA and privatize the transit system. The system will then become a for-profit entity and the union employees will be fired or hired for lower wages. The ripple effect of this action will have a negative impact on other wage earners throughout the region.

4. A privatized transit system will focus more on profit and less on providing a good service.

5. The TIA is being promoted as the solution to metro Atlanta’s traffic problem, but it is rather a continuation of the government neglect and indifference the State has rendered to metro Atlanta.

6. The TIA project list included projected federal funds with no guarantee that any federal funds are forthcoming.