Atlanta mayor questions diversity of team leading campaign for 2012 transportation sales tax

By David Pendered

Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed issued two strong challenges today to the group of elected officials overseeing the 2012 referendum for a penny sales tax to pay for transportation improvements.

Reed questioned the decision to hire a team to run the voter education and sales tax campaign that includes no women or persons of color. Reed also called for polls of voters to be scientific rather, than the informal polls conducted in recent months.

The team that oversees the public education and campaign for the 2012 sales tax referendum includes (left to right) Paul Bennecke, principal of Marietta-based Red Clay Strategies; Earl Bender, president of Alexandria, Va. -based Totten Communications; David Hill, of Auburn-based Hill Research Consultants; and Glenn Totten, of Totten Communications.

The team that oversees the public education and campaign for the 2012 sales tax referendum includes (left to right) Paul Bennecke, principal of Marietta-based Red Clay Strategies; Earl Bender, president of Alexandria, Va. -based Totten Communications; David Hill, of Auburn-based Hill Research Consultants; and Glenn Totten, of Totten Communications.

Tad Leithead, chairman of the Atlanta Regional Commission, responded to Reed’s remarks. Leithead said the team’s leadership will hire local women and minorities and that future polls will be scientific.

The venue was the last meeting of the Atlanta Transportation Roundtable before an unconstrained list of projects is released.

The elected officials heard reports about focus groups and a polls by Kennesaw State University that showed participants think they have a general idea of the purpose of the sales tax program and have a general idea of the kinds of transportations they want in their neighborhoods.

Check back later today for an update.

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. David was born in Pennsylvania, grew up in North Carolina and is married to a fifth-generation Atlantan.

15 replies
  1. Burroughston Broch says:

    You can get something worthwhile accomplished or you can be politically correct, but not both simultaneously. Pick one only.

    As an example, look no farther than the Atlanta City Council and the Atlanta Public Schools Board. Both are politically correct to the Mayor’s point and both accomplish nothing worthwhile.Report

    Reply
  2. S. Dekalb Voter says:

    Are you suggesting that women and minorties can’t help lead the team to pass the transportation referendum? Don’t both groups make up a large portion of the voters in this region? It would be wise to include them on the team if this thing has any chance of passing.Report

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  3. Burroughston Broch says:

    I’m suggesting that competence and accomplishments mean more than political correctness. Suitable women and minorities should not be excluded, but women and minorities (regardless of suitability) should not be mandated. Which women and minorities do you suggest to lead the team? Kasim Reed is suggesting hinself, of course.

    Both women and minorities make up the majority of voters in this region, but that doesn’t automatically make them suitable for this group.

    Are you telling me that, in South DeKalb, this referendum won’t pass unless it is advocated by African Americans? Isn’t that politically incorrect?Report

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  4. S. Dekalb Voter says:

    I think it would be wise to include campaign professionals that know the community that will likely be the base for this referendum. With the black vote the whole thing is doomed. Any politico will tell you the same. I would presume that a white guy from Marietta and two white guys from DC don’t know the difference between the voters of Collier Heights and Cascade Heights and Candler Rd and Smoke Rise.Report

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  5. Dan Deacon says:

    The word Kasim is similar to Racism without a few letters. Simply because the team of consultants is comprised of four white men doesn’t mean that those individuals are or would make racist recommendation, which is all the team are hired to do. Kasim wants to take that position though by reportedly saying the consultants should not be all white men – a racist comment. It was determined that these are the best of the best and that’s who should have the job. Not inserting a black, as Kasim would have, just because their black. This is one issue (affirmative action) that’s ruined the quality of services and cost billions of USA tax dollars – due to incompetency of many blacks that were not qualified for a job that was given one just because they’re black. This kind of behavior by people like Kasim must come to an end. The commission will and should hold its ground. If one of the consultants is taken off the assignement and a black is put in his place, he should sue on the grounds of discrimination (being denied a job due to his race….clearly discrimination).

    He cries and whines racism and discrimination because Atlanta is predominantly black and a qualified all white consultant group of men were hired. Ask Kasim if the area was a city or county or area that was 90% white, would he then be making a strong issue that because it was predominantly white that an all white group of consultants be hired. Not no, but h** no he wouldn’t and hasn’t……. that would maks this incompetent amateur a racist at that point, would it not?

    Follow this rookies moves and policies and you may find very unsatisfying actions. This is the kind of person Atlanta votes in as their mayor. They deserve whatever results comes from his rookiness. When will they ever learn….just look at the mess with the Atlanta Public Schools, their high crime rate, terrible roads and infrastructure and the list goes on after the last rookie (Shirley) and now their new little rookie Kasim.Report

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  6. Atlanta/Marietta says:

    As a native Atlantan who now has lived– way out– in Marietta for several years, the attitude of “presuming” that “a white guy from Marietta” couldn’t possibly know the the region is offensive, biased and condescending. Just because someone lives in Atlanta does not mean they know anymore about the city and the general area.
    And are you saying that without a black person on the panel the black voters are so biased that they could not see beyond the color, therefore the referendum would be doomed? That is insulting to blacks and all others.
    This is in reply to S. Dekalb Voter.Report

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  7. S. Dekalb says:

    If I’m in charge of a campaign in South Fulton, South Dekalb, and Clayton I would want politicos who know those areas and know how to win a campaign there. Those areas are going to have to carry this referendum – make no mistake about that. Voters in Marietta, Gwinnett, and Cherokee are not voting yes for this. Sorry, but it’s the truth. I’m sure these Marietta and DC folks are great, but politics in the South is not for the faint hearted. Now whether the consultants to target the black vote are actually black is debatable. Based on what I know about Georgia politics I would presume these politicos would be black.Report

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  8. Will the last Democrat in Georgia please turn off the lights?.... says:

    This thing seems to be doomed from the start despite the fact that (much-needed) road improvements take presidence over (much-needed) transit improvements in the project list. With the fierce Tea Party anti-tax opposition popping up in suburban counties like Cherokee and Fayette, a fatal flaw in the fact that residents of Fulton and DeKalb will be asked to pay an extra one cent on top of the one cent tax that they already pay for MARTA that will most likely end up funding suburban road improvements instead of urban transit projects in those two counties and a persistent continuing anti-transit attitude even in the face of near-record gas prices and super-long commutes, the handwriting is on the wall that the transportation tax referendum is pretty much dead on arrival. Enjoy your rush-hour “ride” in traffic, folks.Report

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  9. Will the last Democrat in Georgia please turn off the lights?.... says:

    Sorry. I meant to say to enjoy your rush-hour ride in “park” while Texas, Florida and North Carolina “ride” right on past us (on both automobile AND rail). My bad. What was that comment about once influential metro areas slipping into irrelevance and obscurity again?Report

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  10. Burroughston Broch says:

    @ S. DeKalb
    “If I’m in charge of a campaign in South Fulton, South Dekalb, and Clayton I would want politicos who know those areas and know how to win a campaign there. Those areas are going to have to carry this referendum – make no mistake about that.”
    Those areas couldn’t carry the last gubernatorial election for Roy Barnes and will not carry this one. The vote is on a county-by-county basis, not a collective basis.
    Better come up with another talking point.Report

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  11. Will the last Democrat in Georgia please turn off the lights?.... says:

    The vote on the transportation sales tax will NOT be done on a county-by-county basis but on a REGIONAL basis, meaning that a simple majority (50% plus one) of the vote of the ENTIRE 10 county Atlanta Region designated to decide on this referendum as a whole is needed to pass it. That means that the votes of a particular community, town, city, county, or in this case, DeKalb and Fulton Counties, will hold alot more weight than in an election that decides statewide offices, like Governor, etc, that includes all 159 counties in the state in the state. The fact that taxpayers in any particular community will have to pay the tax and go along with the results of the vote if it passes whether much of that particular community wants it or not is a strong reason why there is so much opposition popping up in very conservative suburban areas like Fayette, Cherokee and Henry and urban areas like the aforementioned Fulton and DeKalb Counties. For example, even if a majority of voters in a Fayette County vote against the sales tax but the majority of voters in the 10-county area vote for it, Fayette County voters and taxpayers still have to pay that penny sales tax along with the rest of the 10-county region. The opposition to this concept and the possibility of mass transit eventually operating within the county has been so fierce in many quarters in the county that there is a movement afoot in the county to get Fayette officially removed from and declassified as part of Metro Atlanta, which is impossible at this point as a very large and more-than-noticeable portion of Fayette residents commute into the Metro Atlanta five-county core for work every weekday so like it or not Fayette County is pretty much married to the Greater Atlanta Metropolitan area and region for better and worse.Report

    Reply
  12. Burroughston Broch says:

    @ S. Dekalb Voter and Will the last Democrat in Georgia please turn off the lights?….

    Thanks for setting me straight on how this vote will be counted.

    Since it will be counted on a regional basis, then I believe even more strongly that the voters in South Fulton, South Dekalb, and Clayton will not determine whether it passes or fails. To be frank, when you deduct Atlanta and North Fulton from the population of Fulton, there aren’t that many people living in South Fulton.Report

    Reply

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