Gwinnett leaders at “victory” party – watching MARTA vote returns
By Maria Saporta
An influential group of Gwinnett leaders and transit supporters showed up for a victory party in downtown Lawrenceville at the Slow Pour Brewing Co. SaportaReport will regularly update the results and reaction as the votes come in.
10:46 p.m. – It’s a done deal. The Gwinnett transit referendum has failed. More than 91,000 people voted, but it failed with 54.32 percent voting against it, and 45.68 percent voting in favor.
“It’s a marathon, not a sprint,” said Daniel Kaufman, president of the Gwinnett Chamber of Commerce.
10:30 p.m. – Gwinnett Chair Charlotte Nash welcomed former MARTA board Chair Robbie Ashe to the “victory” party. The two of them had spent the better part of four years negotiating the MARTA-Gwinnett contract.
Both Nash and Ashe said that if the measure fails, it will not stop their efforts to bring transit to Gwinnett County.
“The good news is that today was not the only opportunity we have,” Nash said.
“We are not done yet,” Ashe said. “I’ve been at this since 2011, and the one thing I’ve learned is that transit is hard At MARTA, most of our biggest victories have been built on earlier failures.”
Nash said the last time Gwinnett voted down a MARTA referendum, it was in the early 1990s.
9:51 p.m. – Fresh results are in, but it’s not looking good for the MARTA vote as the split remains about 55 percent against and 45 percent for. At this point 59 percent of the vote has been tallied – a total of 66,769 votes.
Anthony Rodriguez, the founder to the Aurora Theatre in downtown Lawrenceville, has been a transit supporter for decades.
“Forty percent of our audience comes from outside of Gwinnett,” Rodriguez explained. “Also, I have actors, artists, designers and others who would benefit by having greater access to transit options.”
Rodriguez, who has been on numerous LINK trips when a delegation of Atlanta leaders go to a different city every year, remembered a lesson he learned on the Toronto LINK trip a few years back.
“In Toronto, we learned that you are not stuck in traffic; you are traffic,” Rodriguez said. “We need to have options, whether its rail or bus rapid transit.”
9:32 p.m. – New results have just been posted showing that 38 percent of the vote is in. The results are moving in the wrong way for MARTA supporters. Of the 54,934 votes counted, 54.65 percent are no votes and 45.35 percent are yes votes. The dozens of people at the Slow Pour Brewing Co. are closely watching the returns.
9:24 p.m. – Paige Havens, a member of the Go Gwinnett effort, spoke of how the referendum’s significance.
“This vote is critical to the future success of Gwinnett,” said Havens, a marketing professional. “There’s tremendous movement on the dial in support of transit. As our community continues to diversify, we are bringing more and more people from around the world from places where transit is a way of life. We are super excited about the opportunity this presents for our community.”
9:09 p.m. New results show the Gwinnett vote getting closer. A total of 39,344 votes have been counted, and the vote is split 53.02 percent against and 46.98 in favor of the one-cent sales tax that would expand MARTA into Gwinnett County.
8:30 p.m. – Gwinnett County Chair Charlotte Nash was not concerned about the first 1,599 votes posted, which she assumed were the absentee ballots. Those results showed the transit referendum losing by more than 60 percent among that small group of voters.
“Transit is too critical to Gwinnett,” said Nash, who has become the public face on the Gwinnett Commission working to get the referendum to voters. “No matter the outcome tonight, transit will happen. It will be successful either tonight or later. I don’t think there’s another option.”
Developer Emory Morsberger, who has been pushing for transit in Gwinnett for decades, agreed.
“Gwinnett is moving forward,” he said. “People are going to get to where they need to go, and the quality of life is on the way up – whether it’s tonight or next year.
A few minutes later – at 8:40 p.m., new numbers were posted showing a closer vote: Of the 7,174 votes counted, 58.45 percent voted no and 41.55 percent had voted yes. It is estimated that the vote total could reach 80,000 – a strong showing for a special election.