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.