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As campaign for referendum heats up, different groups are targeted

Maria Saporta

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

16. Serenbe

17. Southeast Green

18. Southern Environmental Law Center

19. Southface

20. Sustainable Atlanta

21. Trees Atlanta

22. Trust for Public Land

23. Urban Land Institute

Maria Saporta

Maria Saporta, Editor, is a longtime Atlanta business, civic and urban affairs journalist with a deep knowledge of our city, our region and state.  Since 2008, she has written a weekly column and news stories for the Atlanta Business Chronicle. Prior to that, she spent 27 years with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, becoming its business columnist in 1991. Maria received her Master’s degree in urban studies from Georgia State and her Bachelor’s degree in journalism from Boston University. Maria was born in Atlanta to European parents and has two young adult children.



  1. LI July 26, 2012 11:21 am

    Mayor Reed has done an excellent job in obtaining support for this major issue that will affect the city of Atlanta and surrounding areas for years to come.  This vote gives us the opportunity to make a commitment to the future.  The same commitment we told our elected officials to make.  We told them to set aside partisanship to forget about political differences, racial differences, and jurisdictional differences.  We told them to work together to deliver a plan for our future. They (republicans and democrats, rural leaders, urban leaders, small/big town mayors, county executives and commissioners) did that.  They delivered a plan that makes a commitment to our region.  Now I am asking you to make that same commitment with a “YES” vote. I am asking you to make a commitment that our region will lead.  I am asking you to make a commitment that lasts for generations and contributes to a cleaner, healthier community.  I am asking you to make that commitment with a “YES” vote!!!!  I am a resident of COBB COUNTY, I voted early and I voted a resounding YES to the TIA!!!! VOTE YES ON JULY 31st.  Let’s win this together.  Let’s win the future!Report

    1. The Last Democrat in Georgia July 26, 2012 11:56 am

      LI, if I might say, that is an excellent attempt at brainwashing undecided voters into voting for this thing.
      Keep up the great work!Report

    2. Burroughston Broch July 26, 2012 1:00 pm

      Shameless hucksterism, based on the premise that there’s a sucker born every minute.Report

  2. RussellCampbell July 26, 2012 4:09 pm

    This is a referendum that has projects that were carefully selected to impact the region of Atlanta in a positive way.  Once some progress is made we can begin to get funding for other projects from the federal government but we must begin to make progressive steps right now.  Its simple, we can either be progressive or regressive.  There is no middle ground. Report

  3. LI July 29, 2012 9:54 am


  4. The Last Democrat in Georgia July 29, 2012 1:23 pm

    LI says:
    July 29, 2012 at 9:54 am


    Another more-than-obvious poor attempt at brainwashing, I see.

    So by your logic of saying no to tolls and higher gas taxes, you are basically saying that the way that roads and transit are paid for should not be tied directly to usage, as would be the case with new toll roads and an increase in the gas tax, but instead are saying that the usage of the transportation network should be paid for with a sales tax on retail items that are totally unrelated to the amount of usage of the roads and transit, items like food, medicine and clothes.

    Interesting logic. Gee, I wonder why MARTA is in the death spiral that it is in, along with much of the rest of the transportation network in Metro Atlanta…Report


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