.

PLAN B

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.

"NO!!!!!!"

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.

kevin barrelle August 01, 2012 at 11:41 AM
I totally agree!!! Obviously the rest of GA does too.
Rick August 01, 2012 at 01:52 PM
That's your plan - hold a freaking bake sale?! No wonder Atlanta's headed towards becoming another Birmingham. News flash, genius: taxes pay for things that are needed but which CAN'T be paid for with bake sales and other means. If they could, those things would be paid for. Students can't pay for their own school, the crime victim can't pay for a cop to rescue them, the homeowner can't pay for a fireman to put out their house fire, and people who need to drive and take transit can't pay for those things completely out of pocket either. Must be nice to live in dream world where everything is fixed by "cut the fluff" fairy dust.
Susan Burns August 01, 2012 at 01:56 PM
Best article I have read lately!! Totally agree with writer .. Plan B is not to have a Plan B!
Jeffrey Allen August 01, 2012 at 02:11 PM
Way to cut and paste the entire point, completely out of context. The proponents raised $8,000,000.00+ in a very short period of time, my friend. That's no bake sale...that's heavy duty, major league fundraising on an impressive scale. You're telling me that a cool 8 million wouldn't have gotten the ball rolling on at least one of those projects? Try to see the forest through the EIGHT MILLION trees, man.
Lane Wells August 01, 2012 at 03:13 PM
Hooray~! Written by someone whose principles stay out of my wallet~!
Jeffrey Allen August 01, 2012 at 03:35 PM
It's a novel idea, government seeking funding alternatives to taxes. Spread the word...we don't want a gas tax increase, or more toll roads. This was not a rejection of transportation improvements, per se. It was a notice to the government that we will reject tax increases, pork barrel lists and dishonest bilking of taxpayers via toll and/or tax. This bears repeating: Over $8,000,000.00 was raised in a very short period of time by proponents to promote the idea that the taxpayers should foot this puie-in-the-sky list of projects. All that money was wasted. The proponents have proven themselves very capable of raising a lot of cash in a very short period of time. So much was raised, then wasted on billboards when it could have just as easily gone to kick start a few of those projects on the golden ticket. Yeah, there's irony there. They could have simply put that $8 million to good use, instead they scratched their collective heads on figuring out how to best spend it on convincing us to pitch our tax dollars into the bottomless pit.
Jeff Clayton August 01, 2012 at 04:33 PM
$8 million in 6 months is nothing. If the proponents raised money at that rate for 10 years it would come to $160 million. TSPLOST would've raised $8.3 billion in that span. Mr. Allen, you may want to go back to the drawing board. The 1% sales tax increase is going to seem like small potatoes once we're paying through the nose at the pump and on toll roads.
GregRodgers August 01, 2012 at 05:09 PM
Jeff... What you say is the whole problem with the system. They pitch a vote for a tax that we say know to.. but then turn around and force a tax on us anyway. Why even have us vote on the tax if they have the ability to simply impose a tax anyway? Is it so we have a coom-by yah feeling that we are all in this together or what? Its plain an simple....how any politician can think of raising taxes in a down economy is just plain stupid to me. They should be thinking of ways to cut spending, increase the tax base by creating incentives to create jobs. Bam....then there will be money for these projects. They can't keep soaking the people who have jobs and those living within their means for pet projects. Whatever happened with: http://www.ajc.com/news/georgia-politics-elections/georgia-leaves-more-transit-555157.html or how about this: http://www.ajc.com/news/georgia-politics-elections/more-federal-transit-money-290434.html We have had access to money to help with transportation, but our great leaders either pee it away or stubbornly say we do not need rail systems. But then try to soak Georgians for transportation funds... It makes no sense!!!
David August 01, 2012 at 06:15 PM
Toll roads are actually a great plan. Use the road, pay for it. Don't use the road, don't pay for it. Want to guess how much money I've spent at 400 toll booths in my life? It's been a great bargain for me. I don't use 400 so haven't had to pay a dime for it. I use the FL turnpike a lot and my SunPass bill is high sometimes, proportionate to my use.
Brokaw August 01, 2012 at 08:07 PM
Jeffry's plan works well in predominately conservative Walton county. For an identifiable goal, that makes financial sense, conservatives will reach into their own pockets and "make it happen". Given the same circumstances in predominately liberal Atlanta, they don't want to spend their own money but would instead reach into the pockets of neighboring conservatives via taxes which would in turn be squandered on everything but the stated goal. That's why T--splost went down with a resounding thud.
Jeffrey Allen August 01, 2012 at 08:31 PM
Jeff C, Part of the reason this plan was rejected was it's size. This behemoth of a "plan" was far too broad and expensive. So, with that in mind, why would I, an ardent opponent, be expected to come up with some way to fund exactly the same project? It's not MY project...I was among the wide majority of people who rejected it. Don't expect me to support any sort of replacement tax or toll to fund some fantasy wish list for developers and politicians. I already see what's coming down the pipe...the threat of some kind of punitive tax/toll plan to fund the same mess that just got nixed. How DARE they reject our taxation plan! Foolish voters! Take THAT! I mean, that's what the vanquished proponents are quietly doing, right? As Zell Miller once said..."That dog just ain't gonna hunt" The voters have spoken, and are watching for the next move. Some kind of tax or toll that somebody tries to sneak through under the gold dome in coming years will be a death sentence for any lawmaker's career. Officeholders, take note. But I didn't write this to get into it with those who disagree with me. I mean this as a real suggestion. Any you're right, $160,000,000.00 is not going to fund the 157 project porkfest of your dreams...but I say you're looking at it entirely wrong. What CAN that much money buy you? A new exchange at 285 and 400, perhaps? Whittle down that list a tad, take it one project at a time and look at what you CAN do with the funds you CAN raise.
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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