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Metro Atlanta is putting a winning team of transportation projects on the field

By Guest Columnist TERRY LAWLER, executive director of the Regional Business Coalition of Metro Atlanta

In Colleen Kiernan’s recent article in the SaportaReport: “Turning Winning Transit Season into Loosing One,” she likened the development of metro Atlanta’s Transportation Investment Act (TIA) project investment list to the unfortunate ending of the 2011 Braves season.

Her supposition is that without the inclusion and/or removal of certain transportation projects in the metro Atlanta project investment list, metro Atlanta residents will be like the Braves and have to “wait until next year.”

To continue with Ms. Kiernan’s baseball analogy, let’s consider the region’s project list as our “team.”

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Sandy Springs/Perimeter area fosters international business

By Guest Columnist DEBBIE GOLDMAN, past chair of the Sandy Springs/Perimeter Chamber of Commerce and chair of Global Gateway

As metro Atlanta makes strides towards becoming a major international city, one of the leading centers of that movement is Sandy Springs.

In 2010, the City of Sandy Springs had a record year of international business activity, with companies like TransGaming making its North American headquarters there and AJC International expanding its headquarter operations.

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Metro Atlanta turning winning transit season into losing one

By Guest Columnist COLLEEN KIERNAN, director of the Georgia chapter of the Sierra Club

The way the Transportation Investment Act (TIA) is playing out in the Metro Atlanta Region feels a lot like the 2011 Braves season. It started out with a lot of hope and promise, primed with new leaders at the helm who would be able to undo years of disappointment.

In the early stages, it stumbled a bit, but by mid-season, it was in good shape. After the All-Star Break, aka the August 15 deadline for a draft project list, boosters claimed the list was about 55 percent transit, 45 percent roads.

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Transportation Investment Act — are we spending money on yesterday’s problems?

By Guest Columnist MIKE DOBBINS, professor of planning at Georgia Tech’s College of Architecture and a former commissioner of planning and community development for the City of Atlanta.

Citizens in the metro area face a vote next year to tax themselves a penny on every dollar spent to build transportation projects aimed at improving the ability for citizens to get where they need to go more effectively than is now the case.

To make progress toward that goal, the state Transportation Investment Act calls for the vote to be tied to a list of projects developed by a “Roundtable” of regional

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Federal cutbacks could hurt land conservation in Georgia

By Guest Columnist DAVID MARTIN, chair of the Trust For Public Land’s Georgia council

Each of us has our favorite spot outdoors. For some, it’s our backyard or a park in the neighborhood, and for others, it’s a place in the mountains or at the beach. For me and a lot of other people, it’s the Chattahoochee River.

Many of us know that most of Atlanta’s drinking water comes from the Chattahoochee, but the river is also one of America’s greatest places for recreation.

On Saturday, Sept. 24, we had a chance to celebrate yet another piece of protected land on the river, when The Trust for Public Land (TPL) donated 22 acres in Johns Creek to the Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area. The land, worth about $1.45 million,

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As Atlanta wrestles with awarding airport concessions, it’s time to revisit an idea

By Guest Columnist GEORGE BERRY, former aviation commissioner for the City of Atlanta, former commissioner of the Georgia Department of Industry, Trade and Tourism and retired executive of Cousins Properties

It is my guess that shortly after signing a lease/purchase agreement for the Candler Field property in l925, the Mayor of Atlanta or a member of the Board of Alderman was approached by a constituent hoping to establish a hot dog stand at the new facility.

In the decades since, airport concessions have been the bane of airport managers and have been tainted by corruption both real and implied.

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Solar energy already works in Georgia, but it can do so much more for our state’s economy

By Guest Columnist DOUG BEEBE, board chairman of the Georgia Solar Energy Association

On Saturday, Oct. 1, Georgians all over the state will have an opportunity to experience and learn more about how solar energy, America’s fastest-growing industry, is bringing jobs, investment and advanced technology to our state.

During the annual Georgia Solar Tour, commercial, agricultural and residential solar installations in every part of the state will open to the public for display with docents on site to explain the technology and describe its benefits. This event is part of the National Solar Tour, which this year will open some 5,500 installations in 3,200 communities nationwide.

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Best in Class: Georgia’s Weatherization Assistance Program ranks in Top 10

By Guest Columnist KEVIN CLARK, executive director of the Georgia Environmental Finance Authority, the state’s lead agency for energy programs

Joyce Bozeman’s three-bedroom home, built in 1953 in Atlanta’s Sylvan Hills neighborhood, is still standing strong, a testament to the quality and workmanship often found in older homes.

But she found that her 58-year-old home wasn’t energy efficient enough to keep a comfortable temperature year-round, which is an important factor in maintaining her health.

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Metro Atlanta may be missing opportunity to invest wisely in bicycle and ped projects

By Guest Columnist REBECCA SERNA, executive director of the Atlanta Bicycle Coalition

Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death among Americans from 1 to 34 years old. So it seems reasonable to assume that major public investments in transportation systems such as that proposed by the Transportation Investment Act, would place some value on preventing travel-related deaths.

Reasonable assumptions would be wrong – safety hasn’t made a single appearance in discussions as to what we should and shouldn’t build with the proposed penny sales tax for transportation.

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Hartsfield-Jackson Airport concessions: improving, but full potential yet unrealized

By Guest Columnist BRUCE SEAMAN, an associate professor of economics at Georgia State University’s Andrew Young School of Policy Studies

American airports have generally lagged behind many of their prominent international counterparts in the generation of concession revenues and hence overall earnings per total passenger.

Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport (ATL) has historically lagged behind other American airports.

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America and Georgia need smarter, not less, government

By Guest Columnist DAVID KYLER, executive director of the Center for a Sustainable Coast in Saint Simons Island

In recent years we’ve witnessed increasing failures in political institutions brought by a reckless trend in the devotion to absolute positions that have little, if any, factual basis.

Moreover, these positions often work to undermine the well-being of the same people who promote them. Voters elect candidates who serve the special interests of groups that few belong to, and long-disproven claims about economic remedies continue to motivate political decisions, with disastrous results.

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Georgia can leverage its tech industry and plan for its future

By Guest Columnist TINO MANTELLA, president and CEO of the Technology Association of Georgia

Georgia is home to more than 250,000 technologists and 13,000 technology companies (both producers of technology and tech-enabled businesses). Fourteen Fortune 500 companies are headquartered in our state. And we were recently ranked by the Kaufman Foundation as the top state in the nation for new businesses (tied for first with Nevada).

But our prowess in technology is still, unfortunately, one of Georgia’s best kept secrets.

In the late 90’s, Georgia—along with the rest of the nation—felt the excitement of the tech boom. New businesses began

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Metro Atlanta falls short on New Starts transit funding — for the fifth year in a row

By Guest Columnist WYATT KENDALL, an attorney with the Southern Environmental Law Center who specializes in land use and transportation

Earlier this month, the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) awarded $1.6 billion worth of New Starts Program grants to 27 transit projects nationwide.

The program is the primary federal source of capital funds for big-ticket transit projects like subways, light rail lines, and bus rapid transit systems. Dallas, Denver, Houston, Minneapolis, and Salt Lake City were all among the cities who cashed in.

Atlanta stood on the sidelines for the fifth year in a row.

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Georgia would benefit if it offered better incentives to the music and recording industry

By Guest Columnist TAMMY HURT, co-president of Georgia Music Partners

Georgia’s internationally-known music industry is big business, and our creative community is unmatched. Based on 2009 data, there were 19,955 jobs in the state because of the music business. “Economic and Fiscal Impact Analysis of the Music Industry in Georgia,” recently published by noted Ph.D. in Economics, B. William Riall, also put state and local government tax receipts at $314 million.

Sounds like a nice contribution to the state’s overall economy, so what is the problem?

1. Other states, such as Louisiana, are doing a far better job attracting and growing music businesses. For example, Louisiana’s music credit incented our own R.E.M. to record in New Orleans,

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Taxes for infrastructure should be seen as investments

By Guest Columnist PHILIP CHENG, a graduate of the 2011 class of Emory University, wants to devote his career to helping remedy the world’s agricultural problems

People do not normally get thrilled when they hear the term “infrastructure.”

But fans of “infrastructure” — meeting at the recent Urban Land Institute Infrastructure Summit held at the Georgia World Congress Center — seemed to jump with excitement at the mention of the word.

Jeff DrFresne, executive director of the ULI-Atlanta District Council, believes that a better infrastructure means a better planet. Various speakers at the summit talked about the importance of having strong transportation, education and water resources.

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Georgia gets more time to work on water conservation; but water wars are not over

By Guest Columnist STEVE O’DAY, section head of environmental and sustainability practice group for Smith Gambrell & Russell

If you are sitting back thinking the most recent decision in the Water Wars means Atlanta’s worries are over, turn off that faucet and think again.

Last Tuesday, a three-judge panel for the U.S. Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals overturned a lower court’s 2009 decision that it was illegal for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (“Corps”) to draw water from Lake Lanier to benefit the metro Atlanta area and otherwise relieved Georgia from the “draconian” obligation to work out water issues with Alabama and Florida by July 2012 or be cut off from the reservoir.

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Metro Atlanta’s transportation efforts to show whether we’re still a city ‘too busy to hate’

By Guest Columnist REV. JOSEPH LOWERY, a Civil Rights leader and former president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference

We have come so far in this country in our efforts to bring forth harmony among all people – black and white, conservative and liberal, Democrat and Republican.

We have made great strides on so many issues when we have worked together for the common good.

In the South, and in our own city of Atlanta, we have emerged from the dark days of racial division that preceded the Civil Rights movement. Here, in Atlanta, we collectively made a conscious decision to usher in a movement of progress and prosperity for all in building a global mega- region.

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Creating safe links between transit and walking a vital part of our transportation future

By Guest Columnist SALLY FLOCKS, founder, president and CEO of PEDS, an Atlanta-based advocacy group for pedestrians

The decades-long neglect of pedestrian safety in the design of state roads exacts a heavy toll. Each year in metro Atlanta, some 1,400 pedestrians are hit by motor vehicles, resulting in 1,000 pedestrian injuries and 70 pedestrian deaths.

While the region has made dramatic progress during the past five years in reducing overall traffic fatalities, the number of pedestrian deaths remains constant. In 2009, pedestrians accounted for one out of five traffic fatalities in the 10-county region.

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Longleaf pine key to Georgia’s handling of climate change

By Guest Columnist STACY SHELTON, public affairs specialist for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Southeast Region

Development, dams, pollution, invasive species and water scarcity are a few of the challenges facing the survival of many fish and wildlife species today.

Climate change is expected to exacerbate them all.

In recent years, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service began taking a hard look at how the changing climate – marked by warming temperatures, rising sea levels and new precipitation patterns – is and will impact the species we are charged with protecting.

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Young people learn about the complexities of homelessness

By Guest Columnist JACK HARDIN, co-chair of the Regional Commission on Homelessness and co-founder of the Atlanta-based Rogers & Hardin law firm

As the co-chair of the Regional Commission on Homelessness, I heartily approve of teaching our young people to look beyond stereotypes and to get involved in making our community stronger.

The week of May 23, with only the clothes on their backs, $4 and discarded shoes, middle school students at Paideia School spent one week as homelessness individuals. They actually lived on the streets for one week and tried to survive without shelter, money or any basic necessities.

In an innovative program created and led by Elizabeth Hearn these students meet, serve and get to know homeless individuals. They learn that while much homelessness is caused or exacerbated by poor decisions, the realities of homelessness are compelling human conditions.