New SaportaReport columnist to explore what’s next for the region

Just a month before, we had all been in the same room at the top of the Marriott Marquis in the war room suite on the night of the July 31 primary. We were constantly hitting refresh on our laptops and iPads as the election results of the regional transportation sales tax referendum trickled in. There was a nervous energy in the room as we mentally prepared for the outcome of one of Georgia’s most important elections.

Thirty odd days later, we were comparing notes on our new projects and positions and sharing our concerns about the future of the region. As I sat back and observed the leaders in the room — the campaign’s chair, consultants and Metro Atlanta Chamber officials, I was sure that we were all still going over the “what-if” scenarios that could have led to passing the largest transportation infrastructure spending project metro Atlanta had ever seen.

At the dinner, those present included Sam Williams, president of the Metro Atlanta Chamber, and the two campaign strategists — Kevin Ross and Paul Bennecke. After the dessert plates were cleared, we presented Dave Stockert, who chaired the fund-raising for the campaign and who is CEO of Post Properties, with a commissioned Mike Lukovich political cartoon featuring his façade carved into a mountain along with that of Atlanta giants such as Mayor Ivan Allen and Ambassador Andrew Young.

As a young Atlantan, I was moved that this was not just the loss of a campaign but a deep realization of the fissures in our legislative process and the distrust among the electorate. Most importantly, I wondered what it would mean for the future of our region and the state.

While transportation funding has long been a hydra for our business and political leaders, there are numerous challenges to give attention to.

Just this past weekend, I had the opportunity to listen to the Alan Essig, executive director of the Georgia Budget and Policy Institute, provide an analysis of the state budget.

With just more than 51 percent of the budget funding education, Georgia consistently ranks in the bottom percentile for education achievement results. College students are burdened by the cost of rising student fees as the university system seeks to cover the difference from repeated budget cuts. Rebuilding the reserves is a priority and yet state departments are having to do more with less, year over year.

In downtown Atlanta, where I reside, the businesses and civic leaders are seeking to revitalize the core of the city while searching for solutions to the human services needs of the homeless community and the poor.

The success stories of the region and the state must also be shared — the advances in technology, the realized dreams of entrepreneurs, the times when we get it right. This is just a glimpse of what I hope to cover at SaportaReport.

Inevitably leaders in metro Atlanta will come back together to figure out “what’s next” — something I hope happens sooner rather than later. In my own way, I will keep pushing to transition from the “what if” to the “we did.”

Note to readers: Before joining SaportaReport, Saba Long was the press secretary for MAVEN and Untie Atlanta — the Metro Atlanta Chamber’s education and advocacy campaigns in supportive of the Atlanta Regional Transportation Referendum.

Saba Long is a communications and political professional who lives in downtown Atlanta. She serves as the senior council aide and communications liaison for Post 2 At-Large Atlanta City Councilman Aaron Watson. Most recently, Saba was the press secretary for MAVEN and Untie Atlanta -- the Metro Chamber’s education and advocacy campaigns in supportive of the Atlanta Regional Transportation Referendum. She has consulted with H.E.G. an analytics and evaluation firm where she lent strategic marketing and social media expertise to numerous political campaigns, including that of Fulton County Chairman John Eaves and the 2010 Clayton County transportation referendum. In 2009, Saba served as the deputy campaign manager for the campaign of City Council President Ceasar Mitchell. Previously, Saba was a Junior Account Executive at iFusion Marketing, where she lent fractional marketing strategy to various ATDC technology startups operating out of the Georgia Tech incubator, ATDC. For the past two years, Saba has presented on online marketing and politics to the incoming fellows of the Atlanta chapter of the New Leaders Council.

9 replies
  1. The Last Democrat in Georgia says:

    Ms. Long, your continued misplaced optimism towards the failed and highly-flawed T-SPLOST referendum reflects a great deal of naivete regarding Georgia politics as Jesus Christ himself could have given his endorsement to the T-SPLOST and it still would have been defeated overwhelmingly by an understandably angry and distrustful electorate.
     
    Otherwise, Welcome to Saporta Report!!!Report

    Reply
  2. Katerina Taylor says:

    Very thoughtful article, considering both sides of the vote.  I supported Untie Atlanta and like Saba am concerned about what the future holds for the region. However, what is evident is the distrust the citizens of the region have for our constitutes. I don’t believe there is an immediate answer that would change the feelings a majority of Georgians have.  How I can contribute is just by staying connected to the issues, and advocate for what I believe to be right.  I’m looking forward to future articles. Report

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    • The Last Democrat in Georgia says:

       @Katerina Taylor
       There’s possibly one immediate answer that could change the angry and distrustful feelings that most Georgians have towards their political leaders, which would be for the Legislature to its job in finding new ways to fund the obvious overwhelming needs of the transportation network instead of punting major decisions off onto the electorate to decide in the form of voter referendums on half-baked, half-a**ed convoluted crony-enriching “transportation funding” schemes.Report

      Reply
    • The Last Democrat in Georgia says:

       @Katerina Taylor
      There’s possibly one immediate answer that could change the angry and distrustful feelings that most Georgians have towards their political leaders, which would be for the Legislature to do its constitutionally-mandated job of finding new ways to fund the obvious increasingly overwhelming needs of the transportation network instead of punting major decisions off onto the electorate to decide in the form of voter referendums on half-baked, half-a**ed convoluted crony-enriching “transportation funding” schemes.
       
      But then again, with this bunch of “Legislators” (a term that I use lightly with this bunch), that might be entirely way too much to ask from a group of intellectually-challenged individuals who are considered by the public to be a smashing success if they have not burned the place down by the end of each legislative session.
       Report

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  3. Burroughston Broch says:

    Ms. Long, if you really want to deal with issues on a regional basis, I encourage you to become more knowledgeable on a first hand basis about the people and region outside the City of Atlanta and Fulton County. Fulton County’s population was only 19% of the metro population in 2010 and Atlanta’s is only 8%, and these percentages shrink every year.
    Leave your laptop and iPad at home.
    And don’t bother taking Sam Williams and the Metro Atlanta Chamber’s advice and attitudes with you, as they don’t carry much weight OTP.
    Welcome aboard Maria’s bus!Report

    Reply

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