“Someone took the political risk to build our first baseball stadium before we even had a team,” said Saba Long, press secretary of Citizens for Transportation Mobility, an organization promoting T-SPLOST through advertising and social media. “Now, we have the Atlanta Braves. Those moments that happened in our city’s history, they’ve been game-changing, and I see that as one of those moments.”
If the T-SPLOST does not pass, Long said she and other people “who have been waiting for the region to make some bold moves” will consider moving.
“And from a business standpoint, if I was a company outside of Georgia and I was considering moving here, I would reconsider seriously,” Long said. “Do I [the company] want to move into a region that is politically polarized and can’t come up with solutions to traffic congestion?”
She said she hopes to “reap the long-term benefits” of the transportation tax passing and feels frustration toward opponents of the tax, which she said are typically older people not thinking long-term. “That’s short-sighted,” Long said.
However, Barbara Payne, executive director of the Fulton County Taxpayers Foundation, said she sees the proposed 157 projects as a “wish list” composed by elected officials.
“If you’re not a professional in the area that’s under scrutiny, which is traffic, it’s important that we hear from people that would know how to make it work,” Payne said. “There’s a lot of bad traffic plans out there. These things need to be studied.”
According to Payne, a weakness of in metro Atlanta is lack of feasibility studies.
“When it comes to spending over a million dollars, we want to see a reason why,” she said.
She said T-SPLOST would not change “what happens between 3:30 and 6:30.”
“A one percent sales tax is not really going to be enough anyways to get rid of the main problem in Atlanta, which is gridlock,” she said. “Why even put it on the table for voters to choose if it’s not going to solve the problem?”
Instead of the T-SPLOST, Payne said re-vamping MARTA should be a priority since it already exists.
“There’s no point in re-inventing the wheel. We can add accessories to it, like streetcars that actually go somewhere,” Payne said. “MARTA is the only trans-portation system in the country that doesn’t get money from the state it resides in and it’s inconvenient.
“Smarter projects need to be conceived,” she said. One example, Payne said, is light rail, which she described as a “conglomeration of rails going into Cobb County and a rail going to Gwinnett, and maybe even run right through the highway.”
She said she thinks smarter projects need to be conceived” and “everyone should get involved to fund it,” including the state and federal governments.
Both Long and Payne have opposite viewpoints on the T-SPLOST but they both do agree on one thing: It is going to be a close call.
“When MARTA was voted on in ’71, it passed by 400 votes. I think we’ll see something similar to that,” Long said.
“It’s going to be close now,” Payne said. “In what direction, I don’t know. I hope whatever side wins, they win fair and square.”