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David Pendered

Global magazine cites region’s “notoriously dreadful traffic” in report on voters’ rejection of sales tax

By David Pendered

It didn’t take long for the message of metro Atlanta’s rejection of the proposed sales tax for transportation to reach an international audience.

Economist, cover

The Aug. 4 print edition of “The Economist” paints a dreary picture of metro Atlanta’s traffic following voters’ rejection of the proposed transportation sales tax.

This week’s print edition of “The Economist” magazine features a full-length story titled: “A Penny Saved: Georgia’s ambitious infrastructure plans go down in flames.”

While other major publications have reported on the July 31 sales tax referenda, this story stings. The Economist’s worldwide circulation is almost 1.5 million, counting print and digital, according to the magazine’s website account of figures by the Audit Bureau of Circulations.

All the world can now read some pungent paragraphs about Georgia in general and metro Atlanta, in particular:

  • “Both supporters and opponents predicted a close race. Both were wrong: 63 percent of votes in the metro Atlanta area said no, despite the strong support of Atlanta’s Democratic mayor, Kasim Reed, and Georgia’s Republican governor, Nathan Deal, and the region’s powerful business folk, who fear that the notoriously dreadful traffic is hurting the city’s competitiveness.”
  • “Atlantans have the country’s most time-consuming rush-hour commute, and the region’s growth is outstripping its transportation infrastructure. Georgia spends less per head on transport than any state except Tennessee, and what it does spend goes overwhelmingly towards maintenance rather than the expansion that is needed.”
  • “The SPLOST’s failure will probably mean more centralized government transport planning with less oversight and greater reliance on federal funds. Regions that rejected the SPLOST will also have to match 30 percent of state transportation funds while those three that approved it will only have to match 10 percent. Something for opponents to ponder as they sit in traffic jams.”

Click here to read the complete report.

And all of this is not to mention the snub some Atlantans already say was inflicted by London, the city where the Economist is edited and where some think Olympic organizers disrespected Atlanta in a pre-Games video.

Of all the Olympic host cities heralded in the video, just two were omitted: Atlanta and Berlin. The 1936 Berlin Games were marred by Hitler’s refusal to shake hands with Jesse Owens, in the era leading up to Germany’s aggression that led to World War II.

London organizers told “The Atlanta Journal-Constitution” that the omission of Atlanta in the pre-Games video was a pure oversight. There was no mention of the reason for Berlin’s omission.


The Economist’s story cites several possible reasons the tax was rejected. Metro Atlanta voters may have listened to pundits including:

1)   Tea Party opponents, who thought there was too much transit;

2)   The Sierra Club, which thought there was too little transit;

3)   Sen. Vincent Fort (D-Atlanta), who thought the tax was regressive and unfair;

4)   Sen. Chip Rogers (R-Woodstock), who thought the tax was a “Trojan horse” for longer-lived taxes, and would not ease traffic congestion;

5)   Themselves, and thinking that the $3.2 billion in sales taxes they voted for in November, to benefit public schools, was as far as they were willing to go.


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 Comment

  1. The Last Democrat in Georgia August 7, 2012 8:28 pm

    It wasn’t the voters who sent a negative message to the world with their overwhelming rejection of a highly and fatally-flawed so-called transportation initiative in the T-SPLOST.
    It was the backers and of the T-SPLOST who repeated loudly over and over again at the top of their lungs that Atlanta would finished if the voters didn’t vote for the fatally-flawed tax that they were pushing that sent a negative message to the world.
    You don’t solve a major problem by proclaiming loudly to the world that your town is finished if the voters don’t willingly back a flawed initiative.
    You solve a major problem a little more quietly, deliberately and delicately and by only loudly playing up positive results.
    It was the backers of the T-SPLOST that played up Atlanta’s already negative image on transportation to see, not the voters who understandably rejected a flawed T-SPLOST.Report


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