|T-SPLOST: Opponents, supporters make their voices heard|
Josie Dean is an staunch opponent of the T-SPLOST referendum.
Founder of the non-partisan Rockdale County organization, Think Tank, Dean says she doesn’t trust those who are pushing for the referendum to do what they say they will do.
Her organization led a demonstration recently in Rockdale with Dean urging voters to say no to the measure.
“I don’t trust them. DeKalb paid an extra penny for 20 years and the rail line for South DeKalb still was not included on the list of projects planned,” said Dean.
The DeKalb NAACP, the Unhappy Taxpayers and Voters of DeKalb County were among the organizations that joined Dean in the protest because a MARTA
rail line for South DeKalb was not included in the projects list.
DeKalb Commissioners Larry Johnson and Lee May also have said they will not support the referendum because the list does not include that rail line.
The cost of getting rail from Indian Creek to the Mall at Stonecrest in South DeKalb is estimated at $1.8 billion.
Instead of rail, South DeKalb is slated to get $225 million to build five park-and-ride/transit centers.
The T-SPLOST is estimated to raise $8.5 billion over 10 years in the 10-county Atlanta region ad fund 157 road and transit projects.
Dean said she has a problem with the projects planned for Rockdale and she believes that black businesses will not have a fair shake at landing contracts for the transportation projects if the penny sales tax referendum is passed.
“I don’t believe Rockdale is going to really benefit. There’s not enough money in it for Rockdale projects,” said Dean. “They also need to go back and tell us how many blacks are going to get contracts, how many are going to get jobs, and when they are going to start all of the projects. None of that is spelled out. I personally believe that they’re going to give that money to their friends. To me, I just feel that it’s just a trick.”
Proponents like Richard Oden, CEO and Chairman of the Rockdale Board of Commissioners, said it’s that kind of cynicism that must change in order for Rockdale and other counties to move forward. Oden is a member of the Atlanta Regional Commission’s Executive Committee and the Arc’s Transportation and Air Quality Committee. Additionally, Oden is a member of the Transit Implementation Board.
“I’ve heard people say they don’t support the referendum because it’s going to bring MARTA, crime and break-ins to Rockdale,” Oden said. “When have you ever seen anyone carrying a big screen T.V. on MARTA?
“We have to start thinking in broader terms about transportation. Rockdale absolutely will benefit. There’s $30 million slated for a bridge to relieve congestion Highway 138 and Dogwppd Drove. Sigman Road is going to be widened. The TSPLOSt is going to spur economic development, opening up the potential for more retail in the areas twhere mobility is improved.”
Thua Barlay, president-elect of the Rockdale Chamber of Commerce, said he supports the county’s efforts to improve mobility through T-SPLOST. The Chamber is among the business organizations that have gotten behind the measure.
“Right now, we have so many Rockdale residents who commute to work. We must begin taking steps to improve traffic in our whole region,” Barlay said.
A majority of residents in the Atlanta region must pass the referendum in order for it to pass. The state’s economists have projected the sales tax will generate $8.4 billion over a 10-year period.
Four of the 10 counties in the Atlanta region have 6 percent sales tax on goods and services, while six counties have 7 percent. If the T-SPLOST referendum passes on July 31, the sales tax will go up by 1 percent in all 10 counties, effective January 2013.
Proponents say through T-SPLOST, the counties will share in paying the penny sales tax to support regional transportation projects.
Here’s a look at the current sales tax consumers are payingin the Atlanta region: