ARC chairman: 80,000 votes key to pass TSPLOST
by Jon Gillooly
June 02, 2012 12:29 AM | 4536 views | 15 15 comments | 14 14 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Atlanta Regional Commission Chairman Tad Leithead expects 400,000 people in the 10-county metro Atlanta area to vote in the July 31 transportation referendum.<br>Staff/File
Atlanta Regional Commission Chairman Tad Leithead expects 400,000 people in the 10-county metro Atlanta area to vote in the July 31 transportation referendum.
CUMBERLAND — Atlanta Regional Commission Chairman Tad Leithead expects 400,000 people in the 10-county metro Atlanta area to vote in the July 31 transportation referendum.

“So 400,000 people are going to vote, 160,000 of them are going to vote ‘yes,’ 160,000 of them are going to vote ‘no’ — that’s a given,” Leithead said. “So it’s the rest, and the rest is about 80,000 people, and finding out who those people are and making sure they’re informed as to the choice they’re making is what we’re working to do.”

Leithead spoke with the Journal about the proposed 10-year, 1 percent sales tax increase following the Thursday meeting of the Cumberland Community Improvement District’s board of directors, which he also chairs.

He gave an update on the two-pronged campaign to pass the referendum, saying the Metro Atlanta Voter Education Network led by developer Bob Voyles and lobbyist Michael Paris has committed to spending $2.1 million to educate the public about the referendum. That money has largely come from CIDs in metro Atlanta.

The advocacy arm of the campaign — Citizens for Transportation Mobility, chaired by Post Proprieties CEO Dave Stockert — has targeted raising $6.1 million.

“Last time I heard, they were at about $5.5 (million),” Leithead said. “They’re well on their way. ... They’ve developed the TV spots. They’ve budgeted for the salaries of the consultants. All that’s done. The more they can raise, the more you’re going to see them on TV.”

Leithead cited a recent Metro Atlanta Chamber poll that revealed that out of 650 likely voters, 51 percent favored and 33 percent opposed the tax increase.

“The opposition is very vocal,” Leithead said. “Clearly, it’s become a campaign issue. In the public meetings, recently one in Cherokee, we’re seeing around the region, the opposition tends to turn out in force and be very vocal in their opposition.”

At the same time, Leithead said the challenge he’s run into is that many people aren’t even aware of the referendum.

“It’s totally anecdotal, but I’m finding that if people are at a cocktail party or playing bridge, when you say, ‘what do you think about the upcoming transportation referendum,’ the No. 1 question is ‘what’s that?’ There’s some extraordinary percentage of the population that is simply not informed about the issue.”

Leithead addressed the argument that some, like Cobb County Board of Commissioners Chairman candidate Bill Byrne have made, which is that the proposed tax is unconstitutional.

While there is clear constitutional law regarding statewide and local elections, this is the first time the Georgia Legislature has called for regional elections. In statewide elections, everyone knows that the governor is in charge, just as in county elections, everyone knows the commission is in charge, but who is in charge of the $8.5 billion project list for the region if the tax is approved, Leithead asked.

“It’s going to be the Citizens Oversight Committee is going to be responsible for being the voice of the region,” he said, answering his question.

That will be a five-member group made up of two appointments by Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle and three appointments by Speaker David Ralston, appointments that have not been made yet.

“If there is a constitutional challenge to the referendum, it will be on the basis that I just said that there’s no precedent for regional binding elections where 10 counties agree to be bound by the majority in that region,” Leithead said. “On the other hand, up or down, pass or fail, it is a referendum that’s going to the people of the region, so you’re not talking about a challenge to overturn the legislation, you’re talking about a challenge to overturn the vote of the majority of the people and … all of us recognize that the will of the people is what really is most important to this country.”

He also addressed a suggestion made by people like state Rep. Ed Setzler (R-Acworth), chairman of the Cobb Legislative Delegation), who believes the current project list should be voted down and a new list be prepared and voted on two years hence.

“I’ll tell you from an ARC perspective now, if we were asked in two years to develop a list, we would develop the same list,” Leithead said. “Now politics might be different, a different list might be selected based on whatever the process was in the new law, but in ARC’s professional opinion, the projects that were selected are the projects that needed to be selected.”
Comments-icon Post a Comment
Kennesaw Resident
June 04, 2012
Vote "NO" on TSPLOST!
Bill W
June 04, 2012
Anybody with at least a half of a brain should vote "NO" to TSPLOST. I just hope there are enough people in Cobb with at least a half of a brain....
June 03, 2012
Just follow the big contributors giving to the multi million dollar pro TSPLOST advertising blitz if you want to see the motivation and villians behind this $7 Billion scam.

The developers have run out of fuel because lenders, who they have burned before are wise to their schemes have cut off the funding faucet for their projects.

Now they are trying to rip off the taxpayers of metro Atlanta to fund projects that only provide value to them.

June 02, 2012
I like the way all these "lobbyist"(crooks)"educate"(lie)to the public as to way we should give them billions of $$....let us not fall for this again...
June 02, 2012
Cobb taxpayers will get hosed if this tsplost passes-vote no!
Tapped Out
June 02, 2012
This thing is the worst boondoggle in the history of the universe. The only group in Cobb who could possibly see any potential benefit are the merchants and hotel owners at Cumberland Mall. All you have to do to know you shouldn't vote for this money grab is look at the list of the people and companies who WANT you to, and are pouring money into the "education"(read: brainwashing) of the electorate. All stand to profit personally from it. Holding the referendum in the middle of the summer costs these ten cash-strapped counties several million,and guarantees a low turnout--the same stealth approach used by the Cobb Board of Education and County Commission to cram the last two SPLOST proposals down our throats. This thing needs to be DOA at the ballot box, and some of our politicians need to be given walking papers next election!
Registered Voter
June 02, 2012
Guaranteed to show up at the polls and a guaranteed NO vote.
June 02, 2012
I think what he means by 'Citizens Oversight Committee" is a group of connected insiders that are appointed to make sure that the citizens don't interfere with their plans to funnel as much TSPLOST money as possible directly into their pockets.

Once this $7 Billion slush fund is created they don't want anyone getting in their way.

Kennesaw Voter
June 02, 2012
And there you have it...BULLHEADED and arrogant to the very end. Cobb got the shaft when the project list was developed thanks to Tim Lee and Mark Mathews. Vote NO on TSPLOST or TIA (which ever name you want to call still stinks).
June 02, 2012
What he really means is that he and the other pro TSPLOST groups will do their best to misinform and mislead the voters in hopes that they will cast their vote for the TSPLOST.

With the amount of money being thrown at this propaganda campaign I find it hard to see it failing.

The referendum is being bought. Pure and simple.
mk-let them eat cake
June 02, 2012
We're about to go into a global resession!

These charlatans and swindlers know this. They are trying to 'lock in' as much tax revenue as possible,... to keep their paychecks solvent,... whilst the peasants beg for govenment assistance and stand in bread lines!

Welcome the New World Order!!
Blind Oversight !
June 02, 2012
Tad - You have to be kidding.

You want the two most politically active officials in the state to select their cronies to provide "citizens oversight" for billions of dollars in TSPLOST money?

You want us to believe that the successors to Ralston and Cagle won't be just as partisan and political as these two?

Georgia has a sorry history of politicians and transportation projects. We should know better than to trust the biggest tax pot in our history to such a combination.

One more reason to vote NO July 31st. Wait for a better set of rules in Plan B.

East Cobb voter
June 02, 2012
So the "vote yes" campaign is being led by a developer and a lobbyist, both of whom stand to personally gain from the passage of the TSPLOST.

That speaks to motive. It's just a big government redistribution scheme in disguise, designed to take money from the poor and middle class and line the pockets of the wealthy and well-connected.

Vote NO!
CID Insider
June 02, 2012

“I’ll tell you from an ARC perspective now, if we were asked in two years to develop a list, we would develop the same list,”

Not true Tad, the ARC staff and all planners know the CID and the Cobb Chamber rammed the rail project down Chairman Tim's throat. It will provide no traffic relief, just am expensive photo op. Charlotte, who you guys think hung the moon, has a system that will rely on never ending taxpayer subsidies. just like MARTA. Get a dose of reality, vote no to the T-SPLOST boondoggle.
Last GA Democrat
June 02, 2012
While I like state Rep. Ed Setzler's views on using the CSX-Western & Atlantic for SELF-FUNDED rail transit, turning US 41/Cobb Parkway into a super-arterial and voting down the TIA/T-SPLOST list, I strongly disagree with him that there should be a new list prepared.

The current list, which is such a travesty that it should not have even been written, much less be up for a vote, should be voted down and this process of putting together a list of political favors for all of the roadbuilders, railbuilders and, especially, the real estate developers and land spectulators who are backing this thing needs to be abandoned and never again revisited.

There is no need for what is basically a "list" of giveaways of public tax money because transit, if properly placed and administered, is capable of funding itself through user fees, public-private partnerships and Tax Increment Financing (property tax revenues from future development that pops up along a transit route).

In addition, improvements to surface roads and current freeway lanes can be funded by redirecting the portion of the gas tax that currently goes to the state's general fund while new expressway lanes can be self-funded with tolls making the need for steep tax increases totally unneccessary and nothing but a scam for crooked politicians and their cronies to get their grubby little hands on even more of the public's money.
*We welcome your comments on the stories and issues of the day and seek to provide a forum for the community to voice opinions. All comments are subject to moderator approval before being made visible on the website but are not edited. The use of profanity, obscene and vulgar language, hate speech, and racial slurs is strictly prohibited. Advertisements, promotions, and spam will also be rejected. Please read our terms of service for full guides