Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Vote YES

This is an e-mail I will be sending out to everyone I can think of that I know in metro Atlanta... I wanted to post here to reach out to any other Atlanta area voters who may be on the fence.

(the Dumb & Dumber clip was enough to get my vote) ;)

Hi Atlanta area friends,

I am sure many of you are aware of the upcoming election, with one of the major issues on the ballot being "T-SPLOST" or the one cent sales tax to support LOCAL transportation improvements. I want to encourage you to get out and vote YES on July 31. I know this e-mail will rub some of you the wrong way, and I am okay with that. :) I am going to tell you why this otherwise fiscally conservative voter will proudly cast a YES vote next Tuesday. If you're already voting yes (or no and I can't sway you), save some time and go ahead and hit delete. :) If you're on the fence, please read on and feel free to ask me questions. I am fairly educated on this subject and will be happy to help answer (and honestly) anything I can.

As many of you know, my incredibly smart and good looking husband (hi babe!) works in the highway construction industry building major roads and bridges. The last project he worked on in the Metro Atlanta area was the widening of I-75 in Cobb/Bartow/Cherokee Counties which wrapped up in late 2008/early 2009. From January 2009 through November 2010, Matt was sent down to Tifton, GA to work on I-75 because there were so few projects going on in the Metro area. He came back to Atlanta (yay!) to work in the corporate office on what would have/could have/maybe will be a MAJOR project in Atlanta, known as North by Northwest. This would add a dedicated toll lane to I-75 (please note, add not "take" a lane like they did on 85) to help alleviate the major traffic congestion on this artery. Unfortunately, the governor decided to pull the plug on this project as it was nearing its bid date, because it was a Public-Private Partnership and he decided that it could be done differently without the state turning over ownership for a period of time to a private entity. It may still happen (not part of T-SPLOST, to be clear). Point being, since then, he has been in the office, not on a project where he should be, bidding work in Florida, North Carolina, Virginia, Alabama, Tennessee, etc. and very occasionally, a project in Georgia... not even sure of the last one in Atlanta... it's been awhile.

Meanwhile, we are the 9th most populous state and the Atlanta MSA is the 9th most populous MSA in the country, but the state of Georgia ranks 48th in transportation spending per capita. Little wonder why there's not much work going on. On top of that, although the Atlanta region is the economic driver for the state and accounts for over half of the state population, funds are not distributed in such a way that Atlanta gets back what it puts in. It is certainly an advantage for the entire state to have good infrastructure, but the fact is we are failing on all accounts. This is not an issue of wasteful spending (though I certainly won't say the government doesn't do plenty of that), this is truly an issue of there just flat out not being enough funds to put a major dent in our failing infrastructure. The system is underfunded, and the improvements have to be paid for one way or another, or we all lose. And, I know an argument is that the bill is too heavily swayed toward transit (or not enough for some), but I think it's a good mix and a good start. If you look at the successful major metro areas, they all have a robust and viable system of public transportation. My hope is that at some point, Atlanta will be able to provide that same, convenient form of mass transit locally. I would LOVE to be able to hop onto a train or street car to get where I need to be, and this is one way to make that a reality. Even if YOU never use it, other people will and it will help the overall traffic and transportation situation (not to mention air quality).

Transportation improvements are funded largely through the gas tax. This tax is not indexed to inflation and has not gone up in years. Revenues from the gas tax have actually fallen as vehicles have become more efficient, even with a growing population. And, politically, the gas tax is just not ever going to be raised in the near future. And, even if it were, we still have the issue of the Atlanta area putting in most of the money but arguably not getting a fair chunk back out. The awesome thing about T-SPLOST is it creates a "tax region" where every one penny generated from every dollar spent within the 12-county region funds projects ONLY IN THE SAME 12 COUNTY REGION. So, we will see the projects our funds generate right here, not in Tifton or Valdosta or Albany. Additionally, federal funding on top of the $8.5B revenue is expected to be a reality if the vote passes.

Don't think that this doesn't affect you. Whether you bike, walk, drive, commute via transit, telecommute, or are a hermit and never leave your house, you will be affected by this. We already lose out on business relocating to Atlanta because of our traffic woes. I've seen it first hand when I worked for a developer. If traffic continues to worsen (and it will), not only will businesses not come to Atlanta, but they will leave. This will halt growth, which in turn will affect property values, so if you too end up without good employment opportunities in the area, you might end up stuck with a house that isn't worth what you've paid for it. I'm not implying that all businesses are going to jump ship or that this will happen quickly, but if we don't fix our transportation issues, it will happen. And everyone will lose way more than a one penny sales tax will cost you in the first place.

This vote has been a long time coming, and I am personally excited (and anxious) for the vote. I hope that the people of the region see this as the major turning point that it is... for better or worse. I hope to have a long future in Atlanta and unless this passes, I don't know if we'll even be here next year, because the DOT's declining budget doesn't provide for many projects at the moment. That's how dire this is.... all of our neighboring states are spending the money they need to on transportation infrastructure (because they are properly funded, not the archaic system we've got going here in Georgia), so maybe we'll be back in Florida or make a move to Charlotte, Raleigh, or one of the many other areas that are trying to compete with Atlanta (and successfully, I might add), while Atlanta sits around with worsening traffic, failing infrastructure, and passed up on a great solution when we had our chance.

I encourage you to visit http://transformmetroatlanta.com/ and http://www.metroatlantatransportationreferendum.com/ to learn more. You can find your polling location here and early voting is already underway if you can't make it next Tuesday. Don't forget there are other elections on the ballot, so be informed! If you finished reading all of this, congratulations. One thing I've never claimed to be is concise with words. :) And, however you choose to vote, I respect your opinion, so I hope you can respect mine as well. Peace and love. :)

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