A relation between stadium deal and stalled MARTA bill? Who’s to say
By David Pendered
There may be no relation whatsoever, but the plan to build a new Falcons stadium is moving forward and the proposed legislation to restructure MARTA and privatize some of its operations appears to be fading for the 2013 session.
Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed’s administration delivered a final deal within two months of receiving a troubled proposal from Gov. Nathan Deal. Reed’s team provided the $200 million in construction financing, plus somewhere around $100 million in public/private funds to fix up the area around the future stadium.
Rep. Mike Jacobs (R-Brookhaven) indicated Tuesday that he’s done about all he can to sweeten his team’s proposal to reorganize MARTA. Jacobs has offered to eliminate the privatization provision in House Bill 264 and to resolve in MARTA’s favor all but one concern MARTA has raised. Still, the bill is stalled in the Senate.
There may be no relation at all. At least not directly.
That said, Gov. Nathan Deal clearly supported construction of a new stadium and had enough doubts about the influence of anti-tax lawmakers to hand the matter to Reed. The city’s hotel tax and other funds will help pay for the stadium and neighborhood upgrades.
Reed, in turn, may have no direct interest in MARTA’s governance. But Atlanta does have an interest in the Atlanta Streetcar, and reportedly has made overtures to take over the streetcar from its handlers at MARTA.
Reed does have political relations to consider with his elected colleagues in DeKalb and Fulton counties. Their ox would be gored if the legislation is approved.
The Fulton and DeKalb commissions would have diminished influence over MARTA’s board if the reorganization bill were approved. The DeKalb commission would lose one appointee and Fulton would lose three appointees to the MARTA board, under the current proposal.
Jacobs revealed at a meeting of MARTOC, the House/Senate commitee that oversees MARTA, that he offered a number of concessions to MARTA on Friday. All the changes would affect House Bill 264, which flew through the House and has languished in the Senate with barely a mention in the Senate Transportation Committee.
The sticking point is the appointment provision. MARTA GM Keith Parker testified that the MARTA board has not taken a position on governance. But the board’s allies are on different sides of the proposal, which places the transit board in a delicate posture, Parker said.
Jacobs did not offer to budge on the appointment issue, which would shift some appointments to the mayors of recently formed cities in each county.
Jacobs did offer these concessions:
- Privatization – remove the proposal from the bill;
- Pension – suggest, but not require, that MARTA’s pension program be closed to new hires;
- 1 percent sales tax – extend an existing provision that gives MARTA more control over how it spends the 1 percent MARTA sales tax collected in Atlanta, and Fulton and DeKalb counties;
- Provide the MARTA GM with purchasing authority of up to $200,000 without board approval, up from the current $100,000 limit but lower than the $250,000 limit requested by MARTA.
As Jacobs observed during Tuesday’s meeting:
“We may or may not have HB 264 in this year’s session. If we don’t, we’ll be here in 2014.”