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David Pendered

Advocates of transportation sales tax go on offensive against “rare coalition of conservatives and liberals”

By David Pendered

Proponents of the sales tax for transportation are pushing back against a loosely organized group of tax opponents, challenging them to present their solution to the region’s mobility challenges in lieu of the plan that will be on the July 31 ballot.

Sen. Vincent Fort

Sen. Vincent Fort (D-Atlanta) speaks against the proposed one percent sales tax for transportation. Credit: WXIA/11 Alive

The opponents were portrayed as “a rare coalition of conservatives and liberals” and represented by state Sen. Vincent Fort (D-Atlanta) in a story by reporter Jon Shirek that posted Wednesday morning on the website of WXIA/11 Alive. Sam Williams, president of the Metro Atlanta Chamber, represented the region’s business leaders who advocate for the tax.

Click here to see the WXIA/11 Alive report.

A few hours after Shirek’s report was posted on WXIA’s homepage, the following statement was released by Citizens for Transportation Mobility, which was formed in 2010 with Williams listed as one of three founding board members.

Che Watkins, the campaign chief quoted in this statement, worked most recently as the chamber’s director of external affairs:

“Transportation Campaign Challenges Opposition Groups to Discuss Alternative Plan

ATLANTA, July 11, 2012 — The campaign pushing for approval of the Regional Transportation Referendum on July 31 is calling on opposition groups to release their preferred Plan B so that voters can see what a no vote would really mean to Metro Atlanta. Various Tea Party groups have joined the DeKalb NAACP, the Sierra Club and the Green Party in expressing opposition to the referendum. But they cannot produce an alternative plan because they all disagree on what should be done to fix Metro Atlanta’s notorious traffic congestion.

“If the Tea Party, Sierra Club, DeKalb NAACP and Green Party can come up with a traffic solution that they all endorse and agree on, then maybe their opposition would be credible,” Untie Atlanta campaign manager Che Watkins said. “They cannot do that, because it is impossible to have a list that has all transit and no transit at the same time. This political posturing will only lead to more congestion, fewer jobs and less time at home with our families.”

While media attention has focused on these groups, there are many others supporting the referendum. The Georgia Conservancy, an environmental advocacy organization, and the Atlanta Business League, a leading African-American business group, have both enthusiastically endorsed the plan after votes taken by their respective boards. The disparate views of opposition groups prove the transportation plan currently in front of voters is a balanced solution that involved local leaders and tens of thousands of citizens working together.

“Too much transit vs. not enough transit. Higher gas taxes for roads vs. using gas taxes to pay for transit. More toll roads vs. toll roads are unfair to the poor. How can we ever expect the Metro Atlanta region to move forward with a plan that appeases these opposite viewpoints?” Watkins added. “If we do as these groups say and vote this plan down, citizens will continue to deal with some of the worst traffic congestion in the country that will suffocate our economic growth and quality of life. These groups are unable to provide an alternative solution they can agree on, and therefore, are stalling Metro Atlanta’s future.”

“Metro Atlanta citizens believe we have a traffic crisis and that something needs to be done about it,” Watkins concluded. “This referendum empowers the voters to take charge of our transportation future and finally get it out of the hands of politicians and no-solution opponents.”


David Pendered

David Pendered, Managing Editor, is an Atlanta journalist with more than 30 years experience reporting on the region’s urban affairs, from Atlanta City Hall to the state Capitol. Since 2008, he has written for print and digital publications, and advised on media and governmental affairs. Previously, he spent more than 26 years with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and won awards for his coverage of schools and urban development. David graduated from North Carolina State University and was a Western Knight Center Fellow.



  1. JG July 12, 2012 8:56 am

    President Lyndon Baines Johnson said it best: “Any jackass can kick down a barn, but it takes a good carpenter to build one.”Report

  2. Paul Snyder July 12, 2012 9:06 am

    Give them a year to present an acceptable solution (using the existing project list as a framework), do the same with the advocates, and vote again in 2014 as the law allows. // My take: eliminate Beltline transit funding, and eliminate the 50/50 MARTA restrictions and we’ve got a winning solution that will pass with the region’s voters.Report

    1. The Last Democrat in Georgia July 12, 2012 2:22 pm

      The Legislature will be HIGHLY-unlikely to commission another project list, especially in 2014 which a statewide election year in which Governor Deal and other leading statewide Republican politicians are sure to take a lot of political heat from an increasingly anti-tax and anti-government conservative base in the 2014 GOP Primary for backing a massive tax increase that increasingly looks as if it is going to be rejected by a pretty substantial margin in the Atlanta Region as urbanites in Fulton and DeKalb counties think that there are too many OTP road projects and not enough transit on the list while suburbanites and exurbanites object to a new tax that they think expands government, funds entirely too much transit and economic development ITP, not enough roads in some places and too many roads for well-connected developers in others.
      Governor Deal has publicly stated that it is not likely that the Legislature will want to address transportation ever again, especially after this T-SPLOST goes down in flames and is widely rebuked by Intown liberals, OTP conservatives and regionwide moderates alike.
      And even if, for the sake of argument, there was to be another (highly-improbable) project list in 2014 during a statewide election year in which statewide elections are pretty decided in a GOP Primary dominated by increasingly anti-tax and anti-government conservative interests, Intowners would likely be highly-unlikely to support a list with no Beltline because of the perception that they will have had something taken away from them at the expense of building even more roads for conservative suburbanites OTP who likely still will not support the referendum simply because it is a tax (a new tax increase that they will view as expanding government and helping developers to build more roads and create more traffic).
      Needless-to-say, the regional T-SPLOST approach is politically fatally-flawed in a region where our political leaders don’t seem to have even the slightest clue in understanding the political and social complexities of the increasingly diverse people that they supposedly represent and serve in government.Report

  3. KellyWoods July 12, 2012 11:34 am

    Although this plan is not perfect it is the best solution that we currently have to solving the transportation needs that plague Atlanta.  If this referendum is not passed other alternatives would include raising the gas tax by at least 25 cents and implementing toll lanes.  All of which we will not have the opportunity to vote on.Report

    1. The Last Democrat in Georgia July 12, 2012 2:01 pm

      “If this referendum is not passed other alternatives would include raising the gas tax by at least 25 cents and implementing toll lanes.”
      Yeah, right!…Like the Republican-dominated State Legislature, who is already taking an increasingly extreme amount of political heat from their increasingly anti-tax and anti-government Conservative base for authoring and for early-on backing a massive tax increase that expands the role of government, is really going to commit political suicide by taking a direct vote to raise the gas tax and backing an extremely-unpopular concept in more toll lanes (see the severe public backlash against the highly-flawed and poorly thought-out I-85 HOT Lanes in which GDOT and the state has had to back away from the toll lane concept ever going so far as to ensure concerned local residents at informational meetings across the Atlanta Region that each new project on the freeway system does not and will not include the construction and utilization of the wildly-unpopular HOT Lanes concept). 
      Governor Deal, who took an extreme amount of political heat for the I-85 HOT Lanes for which Sonny Perdue commissioned, has even stated that there will be no more existing lanes converted to toll lanes on his watch, which means that your fearmongering is disingenous at best!Report

  4. The Last Democrat in Georgia July 12, 2012 2:30 pm

    The Metro Atlanta T-SPLOST is to the Republican-dominated Georgia Legislature in 2012 what the Northern Arc was to the Democrat-dominated Georgia Legislature in 2002.
    Only for the Republicans that now thoroughly-dominate statewide politics in Georgia the T-SPLOST won’t be the end of their reign in state government, but it will likely be the beginning of the end for them if the rejection of this poorly thought-out and politically fatally-flawed T-SPLOST referendum concept is followed by several more years of complete inaction on the critically-pressing issue of transportation.Report


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