It is the shout being heard around the State. As of this writing, the returns are mostly in, with T-SPLOST failing by wide margins around the state. It's squeaking by in only in three middle Georgia regions. Where the big money was on the table, Metro Atlanta's Region 3, voters rejected the tax hike by a whopping 65%. The regions containing Atlanta's outer suburbs wound up with the most lopsided tallies, with the "No's" ringing in at or around 75%.
So, now the predictable question from those who wanted this to pass is "Now what?" That's a legitimate question, too. One might think it's a compound question, but I think the answer they seek has been in front of them this entire time.
About 10 years ago, I was among a group of volunteer firefighters from Walton County that saw a need for a heavy rescue truck. The area was growing, and there was a lack of specialized equipment to use in the event of unusual emergencies in the area.
So we drew up a plan and went to work. A used truck was aquired. We set to raising money the old fashioned way. We involved the community. We educated the people and businesses in the area. We held a yard sale, a chicken BBQ, a car wash and a boot drive. We solicited area businesses, many of whom willingly provided substancial funding to the project.
We created a detailed list of equipment they wanted to buy, including how much each item would cost. Then we used the raised funds to purchase it. We had the truck painted, lettered and wired, some of which we did ourselves, other services were donated by companies and individuals. Sometimes we worked into the wee hours to get it done. When money got tight, we simply cut a few frills. In the end, the community met a need, got the truck. The truck and much of the equipment is still in service today, and not a dime of tax money was ever used to purchase the truck or to pay for it's modifications or equipment. The people of Walton County were better served and got a good deal.
So...what's the point, you ask? It's pretty simple, actually. The proponents need to think like volunteer firefighters, only on a much bigger scale. They see a need for better transportation and seek to do something about it. They make a prioritized list of what they need, how much it will cost, and then begin to raise funds. Not TAXES, mind you, but funds. Solicit your business community for financial support first. Have a big golf tournament, a $500 plate dinner, sell some raffle tickets, whatever. Sell your idea to those who stand to benefit the most from it, and see if they want to support it.
It's not that simple, right? Oh, but it is! Ponder this: UntieAtlanta.com and other T-SPLOST support groups raised well over $8,000,000.00 in the first six months of this year to promote T-SPLOST. That's over one million dollars a month, wasted it on billboards, yard signs and TV spots. Are you reading between the lines here? They were very good at raising funds!
So...do you think maybe they could fund a few of those projects if they can raise a million plus bucks a month? What if they used that EIGHT MILLION DOLLARS to start fixing the I-285/Ga 400 interchange instead of pissing it away trying to convince you and I to pay for it?
Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed said of the failed referendum "Tonight I respect the voters' desision, but tomorrow I will begin to try to change their minds." All good and fine, but perhaps there's a better way. It's pretty simple; You want it? Fine. You pay for it. Set your goals and find the funds some other way besides from the taxpayers' wallets. You've proven that you can raise money...so go do it! That way, you fund your projects with your proponents financially backing you. You might even accidently relieve some traffic conjestion around here while you're at it. You save the taxpayers a boatload of money, build your transportaion projects and get thanked for it. That's a win/win if you ask me.
Meanwhile, my suggestion is to do what the rest of us do, everyday to make our checkbooks balance: Set a budget and live within the means of the existing coffiers. Earn the trust of your constituents back...keep that promise to remove the toll booths from Georgia 400. Do something about those ridiculous H.O.T. lanes on I-85. They weren't broke when you tried to fix them; simply reverting to the HOV system will suffice.
As for the outer counties, my suggestion is along the "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" lines as well. Let's be honest here, shall we? The real money was on Atlanta all along, while the other regions of the state were really just pork, right? Plan B out in the 'burbs is to simply make no attempt at plan B. Just leave well enough alone.
That's it, proponents. My humble suggestion for "Plan B". Cut the fluff, find financial backing from those who stand to benefit the most and get to work. Don't break your budgets in the meantime. Stay out of our collective wallets.
That's it. Good luck.