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T-SPLOST stirs skeptics in Buckhead
by Caroline Young
July 12, 2012 10:28 PM | 1961 views | 1 1 comments | 24 24 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Just 19 days before the T-SPLOST vote, Renay Blumenthal, senior vice president of Public Policy at Metro Atlanta Chamber of Commerce, said it was in the works for six years.

“Traffic issues began to be the determining factor on whether or not companies decide to come to Atlanta,” Blumenthal, of Buckhead, said Thursday night at the Buckhead Council of Neighborhoods meeting at Peachtree Presbyterian Church.

“This major Fortune 500 company would have brought 1,500 jobs and ultimately grown to 5,000 but we lost it to Northern Virginia. It was kind of a wakeup call,” Blumenthal said. “Basically when it came down to it, there’s no money coming from the federal government. The state was not going to come through with any significant transportation funding.”

While other fast-growing places considered Atlanta’s competitors — Dallas, Denver, Salt Lake City and now Charlotte — have traffic as well, Blumenthal said Atlanta is perceived nationally and globally as a city with no plan to address transportation issues.

“We looked at regions that leapfrogged transportation infrastructure that we were losing jobs to,” she said.

T-SPLOST “sunsets” in 10 years and will cost citizens $10.00 a month every year, according to Blumenthal, then the same public voting process would have to occur again.

“Bottom line for [the] city of Atlanta, 93 percent of Atlanta residents will be within a half a mile of some project somewhere,” she said. “The main Buckhead opposing points just really fall into, ‘I don’t want to pay anymore taxes’ or ‘I just don’t like the project list’ or ‘I don’t trust the government spending money.’”

But Blumenthal said she believes there will be a new “public pressure” if T-SPLOST passes.

“I think elected officials and people who have responsibilities who are building will know people are watching,” she said. “Think about how transparent it is. Is it perfect? No.”

If T-SPLOST passes, 85 percent of the money will go to funding the “big picture regional project,” according to Blumenthal, and 15 percent will go back to the local governments of each city to use for local infrastructure projects.

If the referendum does not pass, more and more toll roads will be the main solution because that is “all the state knows how to do,” Blumenthal said.

However, no comparison methods have been conducted to show the difference between annual toll fees and the T-SPLOST.

“It seems to me it really is an economic development plan and maybe it should have been promoted as that instead of transportation plan,” said council chair Jim King.

He said the 9 percent Atlanta sales tax, which will be in place if T-SPLOST passes, would still make the competition with other cities rough.

“You’re trying to choose the lesser of all these evils,” King said.

Now, the poll is split between opponents and supporters of the referendum, according to Blumenthal, who said 83 percent of metro Atlantans agree traffic in the city is out of hand but people are still unsure and have yet to “wrap their heads around whether it is the right thing or not.”

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