An almost constant drumbeat of negative opinion regarding a proposal to alleviate transportation congestion in metro Atlanta, while enhancing much-needed economic progress for the area, continues to be disappointing to those in favor of marching forward to take advantage of this opportunity, sooner than later. Advocates of a “YES” vote on the TSPLOST referendum in July understand there may not be a “later” opportunity of this scale. It took years for the Georgia General Assembly and other leaders to even put the issue on the table. And the admittedly imperfect resulting legislation seems to have happened only after Georgia’s transportation problems were obviously proving a detriment to the quality of life and growth of the state.
Now we learn that the “drumbeat” that had characterized the efforts of the “nay-sayers” to defeat this proposition for months needs more “grass roots” support, more community organizing, more letters to the editor, more activists, etc., to overcome the investments of business, along with some forward-thinking political leaders throughout metro Atlanta, to tell the story of the need for passage of TSPLOST or TIA. It’s not as though the opponents of a favorable vote have not had their voices and opinions front and center. That is a tribute to Cobb County’s influential daily newspaper, which has given plentiful news coverage to these “anti” views of some elected legislators and would-be officials — most backed by editorials, columnists and letter writers, several of whom are respected friends.
As has been advanced previously by some of us who applaud the action called for by the TSPLOST referendum, presentation of the facts regarding the transportation problem facing the metro community, including Cobb, is the best way to achieve success. Taking advantage of voter lack of knowledge, conveying misinformation, name-calling, opposition to any taxpayer support of transit — a necessary public service to thoughtful moderate conservatives — are among some of opposition reasons set forth to win over the “undecided.“ And some may work, but expression of contrary views — and facts — should not be out of order in this debate.
Such issues as the TSPLOST proposal often lead to citizen involvement in the affairs of the “republic” that many folks prefer to keep to themselves until they enter the voting booth. This letter writer generally is in the “private” category, except with family and close friends. He regrets the fact that often the U.S., as a “republic” (a democratic republic), is not well understood by many citizens, including school children, politicians, news media staff members and educators. Too many think most changes in government policy and leadership should be made “on the streets,“ frequently egged on by “community organizers” and populated by ill-informed “activists.“ More often than not, this lack of understanding by those who should know better can lead to “mobocracy” taking the place of “democracy” which seems to have replaced the understanding of “representative” government. This situation prompts questions about the quoted plan to create a “grass roots” campaign to sink TSPLOST. However, it’s obvious most anything goes these days.
In concluding this commentary, this writer would point out that a recent survey by the leading organizational proponent of automobile travel in the U.S. shows that due to various factors, the average cost of driving in the U.S. has risen to nearly 60 cents a mile. As one who has had advocacy roles, professionally and avocationally, for more than half a century involving automobiles, airlines, passenger rail, ship building, and ports, my ecumenical transportation experience these days is focused on passenger rail, the least politically and financially supported transportation mode in the U.S. Light rail transit may or may not be appropriate for Cobb now, but to decry it, as many do, is evidence of not being well informed. The Cobb antipathy for MARTA, which contributed much to this metro area’s world ranking, is also hard to understand, but that matter is for another time.
A parting thought: Most, if not all, opponents of TSPLOST are obviously “bright” individuals. But history has shown on more than one occasion that being “bright” does not necessarily lead to being “right.”