MARTA a winner in Tuesday’s election — both in Clayton and state legislature

By Maria Saporta

Just a quick “morning after” observation.

One of the winners in yesterday’s election was MARTA — in at least two ways.

The transit agency’s nemesis in the Georgia House — Jill Chambers — lost her bid for re-election. Chambers, a Republican representative from DeKalb County for District 81, lost to Democrat Elena Parent, who won with 52.2 percent versus Chamber’s 47.8 percent.

For the past five years, Chambers has served as chair of the MARTA Oversight Committee (MARTOC) in the House. She has turned that position into a platform for attacking the transit agency in every which way she could.

In many ways, Chambers used her role at MARTOC to conduct witch hunts on MARTA, even though the state does not contribute any regular operating dollars for the agency. Only two counties — Fulton and DeKalb — support MARTA through a penny sales tax.

Also MARTOC previously had served as a way for the state to provide constructive guidance for MARTA. With Chambers gone, MARTOC has the opportunity to return to that role, which will be extremely important as the Atlanta region works on creating a new regional transit governance structure.

And MARTA also won decisively in Clayton County.

Yes, it was a non-binding referendum that asked voters whether “Clayton County should become a full participant in MARTA by charging a sales tax in support of MARTA and the county’s public transportation needs.”

That referendum won in a 67 percent to 33 percent vote.

The beauty of that referendum is that it sends a clear message to the Clayton County Commission, which decided earlier this year to no longer provide funding to offer MARTA bus service to the county — despite an uproar from thousands of transit users.

When all the votes were counted, 41,144 voted “Yes” for the MARTA referendum while 19,951 voted “No.”

MARTA also can celebrate the re-election of State Sen. Doug Stoner, a Democrat from Cobb County representing District 6, who has been one of the transit agency’s strongest advocates in the legislature.

Stoner won 58.4 percent of the votes over his opponent, Frances “Beth” Pollard, who received 41.6 percent.

So as Georgians sift through all of Tuesday’s election results, at least MARTA and citizens of Fulton and DeKalb counties can be reassured that there has been some political progress for public transit.

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.

5 replies
  1. Burroughston Broch says:

    Maria, I think that you’re engaging in wishful thinking.

    If the Republican leadership in the General Assembly had wanted to make things easier for MARTA, they would have done so. Jill Chambers was the messenger, so look for a different messenger with the same message in January.

    Until MARTA deals with systemic problems such as its unions, bureaucracy and wasteful spending practices, the Republicans are not going to give it the Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval.Report

    Reply
  2. Darin says:

    I’m making a guess that the majority of Georgia voters have a bias against publicly-funded mass transit in general and MARTA specifically. The General Assembly is going to reflect that bias and carry it out in committee with or without Chambers.

    Nothing less than winning the hearts and minds of voters and state legislators in favor of MARTA will change things significantly. Beverly Scott has done a good job of pointing the agency in the right direction and I think it’s possible that, in time, the agency can have a more favorable perception statewide.

    But getting Georgians to generally view public-funded mass transit as a positive is going to take some serious work.Report

    Reply
  3. Frank says:

    Perhaps the next oversight committee chairperson will not be as rabidly anti-MARTA as Chambers. We in the Atlanta metro area also forget that other metro areas in the state have transit agencies. I’m sure they are struggling to have their services funded as well in this economic climate. Legislators from those areas could possibly be a little sympathetic toward transit issues beyond their local concerns.Report

    Reply

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