A resounding "NO!" vote sends T-SPLOST proponents back to the drawing board. Or does it? Perhaps the solution to the problem has been right in front of them all along.


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? 

What if?

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.

Dave Ballard August 01, 2012 at 08:34 PM
Jeff, that's part of the problem: what we need to raise for these projects more closely resembles the $160 million than it does the $8.3 billion. The whole point of the post is that those people could have taken the $8 million they raised and done something useful with it, instead of trying to finegal their way into our collective wallets. Although, it IS hard for me to fault them for trying. Spending $1 for every $1,000 they might have raised from other people's taxes is a pretty reasonable start-up investment, really.
Jeffrey Allen August 01, 2012 at 08:35 PM
Exactly right, Brokaw. I say it CAN work in Atlanta. The proponents proved, without a doubt, that they can raise a hefty amount of money in a short frame of time...they just wasted it. That's unfortunate, if you look at it as I do, that doesn't put them back on square one...that puts them $8,000,000.00 in the hole.
David August 01, 2012 at 08:42 PM
Maybe if we could figure out a way to tax the drug dealers we could pay this thing off in a month. Has anyone ridden MARTA late at night, close to midnight? I did that recently (dinner downtown on my way to a red-eye flight) and certainly will not do it again. Scary. But there seemed to be enough hookers in the stations downtown so that taxing them could contribute to the cost as well.
Jeffrey Allen August 01, 2012 at 08:51 PM
@ Dave Ballard, Yes, you are exactly right. I would take it two steps further than that: 1. Whittle down that list of 157 down to something more doable, say, your top 50 or so. 2. handle each project one at a time. We don't need ten years of regional gridlock induced by every single project going on at once! One at a time allows for the focus to remain on the proper financing and completion of that project, and limits the unavoidable gridlock caused by the construction itself to just that area. Not the massive pipe dream that the proponents wanted. But, in case you didn't notice, the voters did NOT want that big pipe dream. How bout we tome it down to bite size nuggets? Plan. Prioritize. Seek Funds...but no tolls/taxes! Go to the same people who ponied up the $8 mill you just wasted! You just PROVED it can be done! Do it! You'll be thanked for it
Baird McCullough August 02, 2012 at 07:35 PM
The results in the city of Decatur, a liberal bastion in Georgia is the exact opposite of the Loganville vote. The city of Decatur was recently named the most walkable city in Georgia. They also have a large transportation hub that includes a MARTA train station that adjoins the city square. The square is a vibrant place for young and old alike with many family festival througout the year. Most of the city residents are middle to upper middle class while Loganville is more lower middle to middle class. Why do I point this out? There is a common misconception that the educated upper middle class vote Republican. We left Loganville in early 2011 and would hear the constant cry that only the poor and minorites vote Democrat. Folks, look at well-EDUCATED urban areas, and these places are overwhelmingly progressive. Loganiville, PLEASE stop voting against your own self-interest. The one percent tax is nothing compared to failing schools (Yes, compare City of Decatur to Loganville), falling home prices, and wasted hours on Highway 78. It is pay me now or pay me later.


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