State Rep. Mike Jacobs acts inappropriately during MARTA’s search for new general manager

By Maria Saporta

State Rep. Mike Jacobs (R-DeKalb) has been quick to critique MARTA in just about any way he can.

He has been using his position as chairman of the legislative MARTA Oversight Committee (MARTOC) as a political platform for a host of unrelated agendas such as the creation of a City of Brookhaven.

But now it’s time to turn the table on Jacobs. During the search for a new general manager for MARTA, Jacobs acted in a most inappropriate manner by inserting himself into the process.

With no apparent hesitation, Jacobs told the press who he thought MARTA should pick as its new leader. He even went on to threaten that if MARTA did not choose his pick — Dwight Ferrell, MARTA’s deputy general manager — then there would be consequences in the transit agency’s relations with the state.

Consider these comments that he gave to the Atlanta Journal Constitution in early September.

“It’s my understanding that MARTA has a very good internal candidate,” Jacobs told the AJC, referring to Ferrell. “The decision the MARTA board makes … may well determine in the very near term the direction of its relationship with the General Assembly. An internal candidate who is committed to doing the work that needs to be done to get MARTA’s fiscal ship righted could go a long way to shoring up and bolstering the relationship with the General Assembly.”

Just to make sure he was making his point, Jacobs went on to say:

“This discussion about MARTA’s fiscal situation, from this point forward, will be established by its choice of a general manager,” Jacobs said. “There are legislators who view the MARTA board’s choice of a general manager as a very serious matter. MARTA has a very serious fiscal situation that it needs to address very quickly. But if it doesn’t, the General Assembly may have to step in to require MARTA to do what needs to be done.”

Now consider this.

Jacobs was not part of the search committee process so he had no idea what choices MARTA had in selecting a new general manager. He is not a member of the MARTA board, and he does not know what would be best for the transit agency going forward.

So why would Jacobs insert himself into MARTA’s search process when he had no appropriate role to do so?

The possible answers are disturbing. Did Jacobs and Ferrell have some kind of deal to help the state gain control over MARTA? Would Ferrell have viewed Jacobs as his true boss rather than the MARTA board? In other words, was Jacobs hoping to insert Ferrell as his puppet at MARTA?

Remember, the State of Georgia provides virtually no financial support for MARTA, and as such, it has no right to try to call the shots.

Fortunately, MARTA’s board members did not cave in to Jacobs’ demands.

They knew that Ferrell, who had alienated many people both inside and outside of MARTA, was the wrong person to lead the transit agency during its next chapter.

More importantly, MARTA’s board members saw great leadership potential in at least two external candidates — Keith Parker of San Antonio and Stephen Bland from Pittsburgh — and the committee selected them as the finalists.

On Thursday, Oct. 4, nine MARTA board members voted in favor of Parker. One member was absent, and one member — Wendy Butler — abstained.

Not only did that show strong support for Parker as MARTA’s new general manager. It also raised all sorts of questions about Butler’s role on the MARTA board and her relationship with Jacobs.

Butler served as campaign manager of Jacob’s re-election campaign from August 2010 to November 2010, helping him win that race. (Unfortunately, he is running unopposed this year).

So has Butler been the pipeline of information to Jacobs about MARTA’s internal operations and search process? If so, that brings into question her own loyalties. Is she using her role on MARTA’s board to support Jacobs’ political agenda rather than serving as a responsible board member?

So when Jacobs didn’t get his way on picking Ferrell as a new general manager, he started complaining about the legitimacy of the process, claiming to Attorney General Sam Olens that MARTA violated open meetings rules.

Since then, the attorney general’s office has told MARTA that its vote for Parker stands. So once again, Jacobs’ efforts to undercut the agency from his MARTOC post have failed.

Now MARTA has an opportunity to start fresh. It has just completed a thorough audit of the organization to seek possible productivity improvements and cost savings. It has a new strategic plan to help set its course for the future.

And in Parker, it will have a new general manager, who can try (as so many other general managers have tried before) to build a constructive relationship with the state.

Now the question will be whether the state will act responsibly to work with MARTA to make it as strong as it can be. Or will Jacobs become even more vindictive and work at cross purposes against the interests of his own district and against MARTA?

What a big disappointment Jacobs has been in his role as MARTOC chairman. He had the opportunity to become a real statesman — helping resolve several structural issues in the MARTA Act and improving relations between Georgia’s largest public transit agency and the state.

And by playing politics with his important role as MARTOC’s chair, Jacobs has missed an excellent opportunity to emerge as a respected leader in our region and our state.

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116 comments
inatl
inatl

Keep in mind the state also has 2 board members on the MARTA board - the GDOT chair and the GRTA chair.

YellowJacketsFan
YellowJacketsFan

To ScottNAtlanta and everyone else who obviously misreads, or does not read, MARTA's statements closely: MARTA gets no "significant, dedicated" money from the state. Which means they DO get money from the state every year, but it's not "significant". Of course, what they call "insignificant" is in the eye of the beholder. It's $2M or $5M on any given year. And it's not dedicated, meaning it's not guaranteed from year to year, like sales taxes. Also, MARTA reports to GA-DOT, a state agency. So, again - why can't MARTOC, created by the state and chaired by an elected representative, not get involved in the affairs of the grossly mismanaged, money-losing transit system? Do you think they may need help?

YellowJacketsFan
YellowJacketsFan

To ScottNAtlanta and everyone else who obviously misreads, or does not read, MARTA's statements closely: MARTA gets no "significant, dedicated" money from the state. Which means they DO get money from the state every year, but it's not "significant". Of course, what they call "insignificant" is in the eye of the beholder. It's $2M or $5M on any given year. And it's not dedicated, meaning it's not guaranteed from year to year, like sales taxes. Also, MARTA reports to GA-DOT, a state agency. So, again - why can't MARTOC, created by the state and chaired by an elected representative, not get involved in the affairs of the grossly mismanaged, money-losing transit system? Do you think they may need help?

ScottNAtlanta
ScottNAtlanta

Maria...have you noticed that whenever you write about transportation, those pieces get the most comments?  Must mean people care about that issue.

ScottNAtlanta
ScottNAtlanta

Maria...have you noticed that whenever you write about transportation, those pieces get the most comments?  Must mean people care about that issue.

Harold
Harold

For the ignorant aboard this hack job of an editorial, MARTA is a state agency and always has been since created almost 50 years ago.  So tell me why they the General Assembly of GEORGIA not oversee a GEORGIA agency?  And if paying into a system is the justification for participating in the system, are we not to stop allowing the "47%" opportunities to vote in federal elections merely because they are no longer paying federal income taxes?  My retired grandfather would probably not like having his right to vote taken away merely because he's no longer liable for federal taxes after his 30 years of air force service defending our constitution.  

 

STOP BEING THE IGNORANT MASSES!

Harold
Harold

For the ignorant aboard this hack job of an editorial, MARTA is a state agency and always has been since created almost 50 years ago.  So tell me why they the General Assembly of GEORGIA not oversee a GEORGIA agency?  And if paying into a system is the justification for participating in the system, are we not to stop allowing the "47%" opportunities to vote in federal elections merely because they are no longer paying federal income taxes?  My retired grandfather would probably not like having his right to vote taken away merely because he's no longer liable for federal taxes after his 30 years of air force service defending our constitution.     STOP BEING THE IGNORANT MASSES!

maplover2
maplover2

From colleagues in San Antonio: Parker is a good guy, works well with bipartisan leaders, and is a catalyst for light rail in San Antonio which is in the works. I like the clean slate approach combined with an experienced transit leader. Sunlight is the best disinfectant Butler and Jacobs. Get ready for a squeaky clean house, we could all use it.

maplover2
maplover2

From colleagues in San Antonio: Parker is a good guy, works well with bipartisan leaders, and is a catalyst for light rail in San Antonio which is in the works. I like the clean slate approach combined with an experienced transit leader. Sunlight is the best disinfectant Butler and Jacobs. Get ready for a squeaky clean house, we could all use it.

writes_of_weigh
writes_of_weigh

Rep. Jacobs should be forgiven(helping form new cities can be so taxing), as he is apparently no better at helping oversee Marta as a member of the House Transportation Committee than that committee's chair(Hon. Jay Roberts R-Ocilla) is at  viably leasing your railroad(as a Georgia citizen)(not only do you own the Western and Atlantic line from downtown Atlanta to the state line near Chattanooga, but too, a line of railroad from Midville, Ga to Vidalia thence westward to the state line near Omaha, Ga)and protecting the motoring public from the dangers of fast moving intermodal trains linking thr Port of Savannah to the new Inland Port at Cordele,,which traverse a portion of the later line in the heart of  Georgia). The dangers (in Chairman Roberts District(H-154) are all too real, and are extant at various rail-highway grade crossings between Alamo, Ga (State route 126) and Higgston, GA(State route 29)  including, but not limited to U.S. 221/GA 56 in Mount Vernon, Ga., where as the line only in the last 10 months having been returned to "service" as an operational rail route(the occasional Sam Shortline train visiting Vidalia's Annual Onion Festival or River Street jaunts to Savannah on your passenger train aside)save for those non functional crossing protection systems.(Don't worry - all concerned governmental officials have been made aware, from the Governor's office, to D.O.T. Board Member Shaw', to D.O.T.Commissioner Golden, to administrator Comer, to program manager Ware.)Ms. Comer advised that her office had learned that the project to protect the motoring public from this on-going DANGER would be complete NEXT JULY. It seems that while the former Governor and his associates were doing a bum's rush to sell  the T-SPLOST plan to unsuspecting Georgians, it was far more important from an intermodality standpoint to link the Port of Savannah to the new inland Port in Cordele. Even with relative's on the State Ports Authority board, it for some strange reason(money and influence, perchance), was highly critical to link these Ports with this rail route, as so much of your tax dollars had been spent repeatedly rebuilding portions of it (bridges included, but not public grade crossing protection)that to even the most disconnected observer, something would have to seem amiss. Unfortunately, even Operation Lifesaver, Inc., a federally/(rail)industry funded entity with a mission of educating the public(quite often by hauling law enforcement officers/officials around on "special" passenger trains(though they can't seem to figure out how to run them to serve average Joe Public who might want to travel around the state aboard such a mode)about the DANGERS of transgressing upon rail right s-of-way without first stopping.looking/listening, and only at marked(if non-functioning?)crossings, dropped the ball. Their state representative just could not believe that an intractable problem ,at rail-highway crossings , of this magnitude, could exist in Georgia. Meanwhile.....about that Ga 400 toll money and the HOT lanes and ICE on Atlanta's PORT connected highway network.....well  the "herd of turtles" at your state highway department are all over it. Unfortunately for them, the feds who carry the little Gold and Silver badges are too. Just remember to prove who you are, register and vote. Then celebrate. Remember.....it's just bidness.

YellowJacketsFan
YellowJacketsFan

 @inatl I don't think it's the latest board listing...in any case, GaDOT rep and GRTA rep are non-voting members....

YellowJacketsFan
YellowJacketsFan

@inatl I don't think it's the latest board listing...in any case, GaDOT rep and GRTA rep are non-voting members....

inatl
inatl

 @YellowJacketsFan 2 million is less than 1% of the capital budget so million so I think its fair to say its not significant and its not dedicated funding.    The State gives GRTA more money than that for less riders.   

ScottNAtlanta
ScottNAtlanta

 @YellowJacketsFan from politifact:

 

"But the data didn't back up MARTA's claim. Instead, the federal data it sent show that MARTA is a very large agency that receives no operating funds from the state. That, however, is not the same thing as being the only major transit system that receives no dedicated state funding, as Tyler said."

 

I dont know about you, but thats simply politifact playing on exact words of the statement which is not what you are claiming. They say right there that MARTA gets no operating funds from the state

inatl
inatl

@YellowJacketsFan 2 million is less than 1% of the capital budget so million so I think its fair to say its not significant and its not dedicated funding.    The State gives GRTA more money than that for less riders.

ScottNAtlanta
ScottNAtlanta

@YellowJacketsFan from politifact:   "But the data didn't back up MARTA's claim. Instead, the federal data it sent show that MARTA is a very large agency that receives no operating funds from the state. That, however, is not the same thing as being the only major transit system that receives no dedicated state funding, as Tyler said."   I dont know about you, but thats simply politifact playing on exact words of the statement which is not what you are claiming. They say right there that MARTA gets no operating funds from the state

inatl
inatl

Federal Income taxes are a just a portion of the taxes people pay.   Sales taxes, property taxes (directly or through rent), excise taxes, social security (which is over 12% when you include the employer match), franchise fees paid on your phone and utility bills,  the list goes on and on.

 

Fulton and DeKalb pays the 1% sales tax, we could use that money for other things, but instead the citizens responsibly provide almost all of the local aid for MARTA.    So yes the State Legislature, the vast majority of whom are not accountable to the voters in Fulton and DeKalb should act accordingly.

ScottNAtlanta
ScottNAtlanta

oh please...spare us the red herring of being denied the right to vote.  MARTA gets no funding from the state, is micromanaged and threatened by MARTOC, which has been ambivalent at best.  Yes, I think the interests of the people funding the system should be taken into account...they are not.  Yes those outside the MARTA counties pay part of the tax, but they did not vote to include themselves.  The state also makes it increasingly harder for those counties to be part of the solution (TSPLOST...designed to fail).  Then there is Jan Jones who held MARTA hostage in the last session to twist the arms of the Fulton delegation to bring Milton county to a vote (thats why there was no solution to the 50/50 rule).  How does that promote the interests of the region.  It doesn't.  So spare me the ignorant rant about your grandfather voting...it has nothing to do with anything other than you not having a better argument.  The only ignorance is of the facts

inatl
inatl

Federal Income taxes are a just a portion of the taxes people pay.   Sales taxes, property taxes (directly or through rent), excise taxes, social security (which is over 12% when you include the employer match), franchise fees paid on your phone and utility bills,  the list goes on and on.   Fulton and DeKalb pays the 1% sales tax, we could use that money for other things, but instead the citizens responsibly provide almost all of the local aid for MARTA.    So yes the State Legislature, the vast majority of whom are not accountable to the voters in Fulton and DeKalb should act accordingly.

ScottNAtlanta
ScottNAtlanta

oh please...spare us the red herring of being denied the right to vote.  MARTA gets no funding from the state, is micromanaged and threatened by MARTOC, which has been ambivalent at best.  Yes, I think the interests of the people funding the system should be taken into account...they are not.  Yes those outside the MARTA counties pay part of the tax, but they did not vote to include themselves.  The state also makes it increasingly harder for those counties to be part of the solution (TSPLOST...designed to fail).  Then there is Jan Jones who held MARTA hostage in the last session to twist the arms of the Fulton delegation to bring Milton county to a vote (thats why there was no solution to the 50/50 rule).  How does that promote the interests of the region.  It doesn't.  So spare me the ignorant rant about your grandfather voting...it has nothing to do with anything other than you not having a better argument.  The only ignorance is of the facts

ScottNAtlanta
ScottNAtlanta

 @writes_of_weigh which brings up the most glaring point.  A person with no transportation planning experience is trying to bully those with that experience to do something they know is wrong...hows that good for the region???

inatl
inatl

 @YellowJacketsFan you are probably right.   there are some missing.  

I forgot about the last change to the board that was passed by the legislature.  Mike's bill apears to have made the GDOT member a non voting member but the GRTA member a voting member.   Though I'm getting that from an article, not from the final bill.

The executive director of the Georgia Regional Transportation Authority would serve as a voting member and the planning director for the Georgia Department of Transportation would be a nonvoting member as long as they held their state positions.  Read more: CrossRoadsNews - More changes afoot for MARTA’s board of directors

inatl
inatl

@YellowJacketsFan you are probably right.   there are some missing.   I forgot about the last change to the board that was passed by the legislature.  Mike's bill apears to have made the GDOT member a non voting member but the GRTA member a voting member.   Though I'm getting that from an article, not from the final bill. The executive director of the Georgia Regional Transportation Authority would serve as a voting member and the planning director for the Georgia Department of Transportation would be a nonvoting member as long as they held their state positions.  Read more: CrossRoadsNews - More changes afoot for MARTA’s board of directors

YellowJacketsFan
YellowJacketsFan

 @inatl You're right, it's a relatively small amount. But as I said before, if you want to see how much they need and use it, try taking it away...I am sure you'll hear a lot hollering and protests...

YellowJacketsFan
YellowJacketsFan

 @ScottNAtlanta  No, you are. You added "operating funds" now. The statement you made was very clear: poor MARTA gets NO money from the state. Period. Then come all kinds of qualifiers, "dedicated", "operational", etc. Please answer the following question as asked: Did MARTA get any state money in the past?

YellowJacketsFan
YellowJacketsFan

@inatl You're right, it's a relatively small amount. But as I said before, if you want to see how much they need and use it, try taking it away...I am sure you'll hear a lot hollering and protests...

YellowJacketsFan
YellowJacketsFan

@ScottNAtlanta Your actual quote was: "MARTA gets no funding from the state".

YellowJacketsFan
YellowJacketsFan

@ScottNAtlanta  No, you are. You added "operating funds" now. The statement you made was very clear: poor MARTA gets NO money from the state. Period. Then come all kinds of qualifiers, "dedicated", "operational", etc. Please answer the following question as asked: Did MARTA get any state money in the past?

Harold
Harold

 @ScottNAtlanta Can't deny facts are missing from the article.  You're right on that one (and only) point.  But your devotion to this hack is abundantly clear.

Harold
Harold

@ScottNAtlanta Can't deny facts are missing from the article.  You're right on that one (and only) point.  But your devotion to this hack is abundantly clear.

YellowJacketsFan
YellowJacketsFan

 @ScottNAtlanta That's a completely different discussion. And I do think that 50/50 split requirement for the system which has not added a station in 12 yrs and is not planning to add one any time soon is stupid. If MARTA and its CEO were more adept politically, and worked better with GA Legislature, they would have it removed a long time ago. Instead, Scott failed to get it in her first year, was surprised she failed, got $160K PR consultants, and still failed (well, succeeded partially, for 3 yrs)

ScottNAtlanta
ScottNAtlanta

 @YellowJacketsFan I checked and I stand corrected.  They have received capitol funds over the years...not any for operations.  I need to say dedicated funding.  That would be correct.  The amount they have received is less than .5% of their annual budget.  Of course what we haven't mentioned is that if the 50/50 rule was abolished a lot of this mess would be nonexistent

YellowJacketsFan
YellowJacketsFan

 @ScottNAtlanta I am sure the $2M MARTA does get from the state, for whatever purpose, like buying new vehicles, is very much needed. Otherwise, MARTA can just decline the $$$ and then have a very good case for denying MARTOC and Rep. Jacobs any interference.

ScottNAtlanta
ScottNAtlanta

 @YellowJacketsFan those qualifiers are important though.  Since MARTA has been restricted by the 50/50 rule, those qualifiers are even more pertinent. 

inatl
inatl

@YellowJacketsFan true.

YellowJacketsFan
YellowJacketsFan

@ScottNAtlanta That's a completely different discussion. And I do think that 50/50 split requirement for the system which has not added a station in 12 yrs and is not planning to add one any time soon is stupid. If MARTA and its CEO were more adept politically, and worked better with GA Legislature, they would have it removed a long time ago. Instead, Scott failed to get it in her first year, was surprised she failed, got $160K PR consultants, and still failed (well, succeeded partially, for 3 yrs)

ScottNAtlanta
ScottNAtlanta

@YellowJacketsFan I checked and I stand corrected.  They have received capitol funds over the years...not any for operations.  I need to say dedicated funding.  That would be correct.  The amount they have received is less than .5% of their annual budget.  Of course what we haven't mentioned is that if the 50/50 rule was abolished a lot of this mess would be nonexistent

YellowJacketsFan
YellowJacketsFan

@ScottNAtlanta I am sure the $2M MARTA does get from the state, for whatever purpose, like buying new vehicles, is very much needed. Otherwise, MARTA can just decline the $$$ and then have a very good case for denying MARTOC and Rep. Jacobs any interference.

ScottNAtlanta
ScottNAtlanta

@YellowJacketsFan those qualifiers are important though.  Since MARTA has been restricted by the 50/50 rule, those qualifiers are even more pertinent.

Trackbacks

  1. […] Saporta accuses Jacobs of a bizarre conspiracy to takeover MARTA. State Rep. Mike Jacobs (R-DeKalb) has been quick to critique MARTA in just about any way he […]

  2. […] Mike Hassinger · 0 comments TweetHey, MARTA! Maria Saporta’s column in her online newspaper, SaportaReport, attacking State Rep. Mike Jacobs (R-Brookhaven) is pretty […]

  3. […] MARTA! Maria Saporta’s column in her online newspaper, SaportaReport, attacking State Rep. Mike Jacobs (R-Brookhaven) is pretty […]

  4. […] Saporta Report is defending Maria Saporta’s column inveighing against Rep. Jacobs by claiming with a straight face that MARTA’s $10,000 payment did not influence her opinion. […]