Readers will recall that last month, Leinberger, a consultant, spoke to the Cumberland Community Improvement District and chided suburban residents for “racializing” MARTA.
“It’s not the Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit,” Leinberger told the CID board. “It is ‘Moving African Americans Rapidly Through Atlanta.’ You’ve racialized it. The white suburban neighborhoods and places have completely ignored the economic development potential that MARTA could have been and will be in the future.”
Leinberger went on to insist in that talk that the goal of a rail system is not for traffic relief, but for economic development despite the fact that TSPLOST was sold to the public as a traffic-relieving measure.
In her Friday column in The Saporta Report, Atlanta columnist Maria Saporta recounts what Leinberger thinks about the TSPLOST defeat.
“Obviously you are going to go backwards,” Saporta reports Leinberger as saying.
“By rejecting this, the Atlanta region has shown that it is firmly committed to the 1980s economy. Atlanta has soundly voted for driving 30-40 miles a day and to living in large, single-family lots. It’s the same-old, same-old. Atlanta has shown that it firmly wants to be in the 1980s.”
As a result, Leinberger said the region would lose jobs as the creative class locates to those cities that promote “walkable-urban” communities. (CID Chairman Tad Leithead has been trying to convince the CID board to help fund a $190,000 study Leinberger would do of “walkable urban” communities in metro Atlanta.)
In Saporta’s column, Leinberger suggested that the City of Atlanta, and Fulton and DeKalb counties could come up with a plan to build their own “walkable infrastructure.”
“If the fringe is wedded to a vision of the future that is wedded in the past, they are just going to have to be cut loose,” Leinberger told her.
State Sen. Lindsey Tippins (R-west Cobb), a critic of the TSPLOST, sees things differently.
“A lot of people are tired of having social engineering crammed down their throats,” Tippins said. “There may be in fact a group of people who want to live in high-density situations where everything’s within walking distance, and that’s their choice. But the development pattern in Atlanta in the past has been people who desired more space and a suburban lifestyle versus an urban lifestyle. If somebody wants to come from outside and say that’s wrong, I guess that’s their right to say that, but I don’t believe somebody from Washington, D.C., needs to come down here and mandate what the housing patterns in Atlanta need to be.”
The first mistake of the TSPLOST initiative was failing to select projects that would relieve traffic congestion, Tippins said.
“Job one, I think if you’re going to have a transportation initiative it’s to make transportation flow better,” Tippins said. “Secondly, they needed to circle back to the public and find out the public’s take on it before they mandated a program that was going to be crammed down people’s throats and supported by $8 million worth of a PR blitz that quite frankly did not scratch people where they were itching.”
Tim Lee, who is fighting for his political life in an Aug. 21 runoff for county chairman against Bill Byrne, has refused to participate in not one but two debates with Byrne.
On Sunday, Jill Flamm, president of the East Cobb Civic Association, emailed Byrne, telling him that she had cancelled a chairman candidate forum because Lee had refused to participate.
“Unfortunately, the response was not positive from the other candidate in the runoff, Mr. Lee,” Flamm wrote to Byrne. “We regret having to take the step of canceling the event. However, it has long been the aim of the ECCA to offer voters a balanced view of the candidates offering themselves and to minimize any appearance of bias on the part of the organization.”
Flamm told Around Town that Lee did not cite a reason for refusing to participate in her forum.
Byrne said that forum was to be held in Walton High School’s auditorium because they were expecting a large crowd.
In addition, in a Monday afternoon email to MDJ editorial page editor Joe Kirby, Lee declined to participate in an MDJ-sponsored debate with Byrne next week, which would have been carried live by TV 23.
“My schedule will not allow me to participate in this debate,” Lee wrote to Kirby. “We have begun an aggressive grassroots outreach program to directly speak to voters. This effort requires the majority of my time through the runoff election.”
Lee ended by saying he would gladly answer any questions “that are submitted to me in writing or through email.”
Around Town spoke with Byrne on Monday morning about Lee’s refusal to East Cobb Civic Association before learning about his refusal to the MDJ debate. Byrne explained why he thought Lee refused to show.
“We’ve had six forums so far,” Byrne said. “At all six of them I eat his lunch. I talk about his record. I don’t talk about him as a person. The TSPLOST I’ve hung around his neck. The six tax increases I’ve hung around his neck. It’s about his record, not his personality, and he doesn’t have answers for them. As I’ve said, he’s the Barack Obama of Cobb County. He can’t defend his record, and so he’s trying to deflect the discussions. It hasn’t worked, and his consultant realizes that. And I’m sure he has told Tim, ‘that’s enough. We aren’t going to do this anymore,’” Byrne said.
Lee denied that he was afraid to debate Byrne.
“No, of course not,” Lee said. “I’m not afraid to debate with him. There’s just nothing to be gained from my campaign to debate him, so I’m not going to.”
Byrne correctly predicted Monday morning that Lee would turn down the MDJ-sponsored debate as well.
“I will be shocked if he accepts the invitation to participate in the MDJ format and forum next week which would be live on TV 23 and allows candidates to ask each other questions,” Byrne said. “I am shocked if he accepts that invitation if he won’t get to a forum just in east Cobb. This is something I’ve been pushing for a year for the Republican Party to do. I’ve asked three or four different groups to do it and none of them would, the key being let the candidates ask each other questions, but Tim would have the opportunity just like I do. When you’re live on TV you’re getting to a far larger audience than just 100 people that you may be speaking to at a forum, and if he wants to come after me with whatever strategy he has, that’s the best way to do it.”
So what’s Lee’s real reason for failing to show?
“He’s terrified of me,” Byrne said. “And he realizes — or his consultant does— that he has no defense for his track record. Let’s say the MDJ forum lasted two hours. What is he going to say in two hours that wouldn’t be devastating to his campaign?”
Some Cobb voters took the chance to have some tomfoolery with the electoral process, coming up with 207 pages of write-in names to put on ballots of non-partisan judicial races in the July 31 primaries.
Among those getting write-in support were kid favorites like Mickey Mouse, who gained more than 130 votes in various races — though some were simply written in as “M. Mouse,” which leaves open the possibility the voter could have been casting the ballot for Mickey’s girlfriend, Minnie, who picked up a few votes of her own.
Other voters wrote-in the names of sports stars like Tim Tebow, Dale Murphy or Chipper Jones, with some even getting in the Olympic spirit and voting for swimmers Michael Phelps and Ryan Lochte.
Neal Boortz was one of more popular choices, with 14 people voting for him, along with some others who misspelled the radio host’s name. The retiring Boortz’s replacement, Herman Cain, picked up one vote.
Former Gov. Roy Barnes and country music singer Travis Tritt, both Cobb natives, also picked up votes, as did former House Speaker Newt Gingrich.
Some figures who are no longer with us also got votes, including George Washington, John F. Kennedy, Mr. Ed and William T. Sherman, who would certainly finish last in a race between the four chairman’s candidates in Cobb County.
Among the candidates who received write-in votes in other contests were Lee, Superior Court Clerk candidates Rebecca Keaton and Joan Davis, and District Attorney candidate Vic Reynolds.
All the votes are unofficial because no one filed as a write-in candidate before the election. Voters were only able to fill in write-in spaces on non-partisan races. So if you want to vote for Daffy Duck for county chairman, you’ll have to wait until November.