The campaign for the transportation sales tax is going into high gear with Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed in the driver’s seat.
After several radio interviews, Reed went to the Eco-Office at Southface to stand with representatives of more than 20 environmental organizations in solid support for the regional transportation sales tax. (See below for complete list).
But the elephant in the room was the Sierra Club, the high profile environmental organization that has come out against the tax — arguing that the roads on the project list will continue to encourage sprawl. The Sierra Club is opposing the tax because it believes there should be a new project list with more transit.
Asked to comment about the group’s absence and its policy position, Reed’s response was as follows:
“The Sierra Club should realize that they are not in California. They are in Georgia.”
And although the organization would like more transit, Reed said that most of the people against the tax is anti-transit, and that any new plan likely will lead to “a more conservative result with more roads” than the current list.
“I’ve just been stunned,” Reed said of the Sierra Club’s position.
Several environmental leaders used the opportunity to pledge their strong support for the referendum — Allison Kelly of the Georgia Conservancy; Brian Gist of the Southern Environmental Law Center; Jim Stokes of the Livable Communities Coalition; Debra Edelson of the Trust for Public Land; Jamie Smith of the Atlanta Bicycle Coalition; and Jennette Gayer of Environment Georgia.
“Atlanta is synonymous with sprawl,” Gist said. “I’m here today to tell you what’s going to happen if this passes. These are projects that will change the way we view Atlanta.”
Gist said that unfortunately much of the rhetoric around the referendum has divided the region but actually “transportation is something that holds us together.”
A couple of hours later, at the regular board meeting of the Atlanta Regional Commission the significance of Tuesday’s vote overshadowed the topics of the day. Chairman Tad Leithead outlined several events that are planned for the next few days.
Mayor Reed will host a rally for elected officials and the public at Centennial Olympic Park on Saturday from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. Also, at 10:30 a.m. on Monday, Gov. Nathan Deal, Reed and “dozens of elected leaders” will hold a press conference on the north steps of the Georgia State Capitol building to show “bi-partisan support” for the referendum.
The campaign also is targeting specific communities to sell its message. On Tuesday, Reed and former Gov. Roy Barnes convened a group of Cobb County leaders at the Smyrna Community Center.
And on Thursday morning, Mayor Reed will host a half dozen Hispanic leaders at City Hall at 10 a.m. when they will pledge their support for the referendum. It is expected that there will be several other similar events between now and Tuesday.
Leithead said that on Tuesday evening, there will be a “Watch Party” at the Marriott Marquis where people can watch the returns as they come in.
And win or lose, plans are being made for an event with top leaders on Aug. 1 to talk about the election results. More to come.
Environmental organizations supporting the July 31 Regional Transportation Referendum:
1. Atlanta BeltLine
2. Atlanta Bicycle Coalition
3. Bike Emory
4. The Center for Working Families, Inc.
5. Central Atlanta Progress
6. Citizens for Progressive Transit
7. Environment Georgia
8. Georgia Conservancy
9. Georgia Recycling Coaltion
10. Green Chamber of the South
11. Livable Communities Coalition
12. Midtown Alliance
13. Mothers & Others for Clean Air
14. The Nature Conservancy
15. Park Pride
17. Southeast Green
18. Southern Environmental Law Center
20. Sustainable Atlanta
21. Trees Atlanta
22. Trust for Public Land
23. Urban Land Institute