Georgia Tea Party opposes TSPLOST
by Jon Gillooly
September 14, 2011 12:26 AM | 10398 views | 20 20 comments | 28 28 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Georgia Tea Party Chairman J.D. Van Brink says the planned  TSPLOST tax referendum is ‘fundamentally flawed.’<br>Staff/File
Georgia Tea Party Chairman J.D. Van Brink says the planned TSPLOST tax referendum is ‘fundamentally flawed.’
MARIETTA — The Marietta-based Georgia Tea Party has announced it is opposing the 10-year sales tax referendum that will come before voters next year.

“We are opposed to the TSPLOST in principle because we don’t believe that nine other counties and the city of Atlanta have the right to impose a tax increase on the citizens of Cobb County,” said J.D. Van Brink, who chairs the group’s board. “We believe that the law itself is fundamentally flawed and needs to be repealed.”

There are many other good reasons to oppose the tax, he said, including the fact that the vast majority of Cobb’s portion of the tax’s proceeds is earmarked for a Midtown-to-Cumberland light rail line.

“It’s very heavily weighted to the light rail, to the detriment of much better ways of resolving our transportation issues,” Van Brink said. “Also, Cobb County gets back only 83 cents for every dollar we put in. Why on earth would we want to subsidize transportation in the other counties and the city of Atlanta?”

Cobb transportation director Faye DiMassimo said the light rail line can be built in 10 years, a time frame Van Brink believes is optimistic. Even so, “We have transportation issues now,” he said. “Also, the light rail will need to be heavily subsidized by the taxpayer. There’s not a single light rail system in the country — in fact, I’ve been told in the world — that is self-sustaining. They all end up being subsidized to some degree by the taxpayers, and most often to a very high degree.”

Georgia Tea Party board member Tom Maloy said his group would actively work with other metro Atlanta organizations in campaigning against the proposed tax.

“Looking at Cobb County, first of all the project list just seems ludicrous to spend two thirds of the money on a transit system most of which exists in Fulton County,” Maloy said. “So what we’re doing is, we’re building a railroad for Fulton County to transport the people who live in the outskirts of Atlanta in Fulton County into Atlanta so they can go to work.”

Maloy believes the push for the proposed rail line is coming from the Atlanta Regional Commission, which is chaired by Tad Leithead, who also chairs the Cumberland Community Improvement District.

“I think some folks have been compromised by the ARC,” Maloy said.

Van Brink said while the tax at minimum is supposed to end after 10 years time, “we’re more likely mortgaging our future.”

“You know the origin of the word ‘mortgage’?” Van Brink said. “‘Mort’ meaning ‘death’ and ‘gage’ meaning an obligation or a payment. You know, this is probably going to go on a lot longer than 10 years if it does pass.”

There is also the matter of rail being a tempting terrorist target to consider, he said.

“If anyone doesn’t believe me — England and Spain,” Van Brink said. “Now, if we have a more decentralized mass transit system using buses, if the terrorists blow up a single bus, we can work around that. When they blow up a rail, that just brings the system to a grinding halt. So how much security are we going to have on this rail system, and how much will it cost?”

Commission Chairman Tim Lee said he was expecting opposition from the group based on his conversations with Van Brink.

“Their primary concern was county sovereignty in terms of not having an opt-out, and secondly, they thought transit should not be a part of it,” Lee said.

Lee said the group’s opposition didn’t bother him.

“The Georgia Tea Party are good folks, and they have a valued opinion, which I appreciate hearing from, and we’ll take that into consideration along with everybody else’s opinion before we’ll make our decision,” he said.

Lee said the Atlanta Roundtable he serves on would vote on finalizing the proposed TSPLOST project list Oct. 13.

If voters approve the 10-year transportation tax, Cobb is expected to receive $1.18 billion in funding for projects. The largest line item is an $856.5 million earmark for the Midtown-to-Cumberland light rail line.
Comments-icon Post a Comment
September 24, 2011
Let's get real and stop the drama. Let's stop talk about one county and focus on the bigger picture..

1)Is a tax, approved by voters in one county, constitutional if that money is indented to be spend in another county as an aspecxt of their annual operating budget?

2) Almost all transit agencies are NOT self supportng, relying heavily on federal grants or internal tax revenue -- MARTA is a perfoect example. So we build all this light rail,then who pays to maintain it. MARTA already has a $600 Million backlog in maintenance and we saw in the Washngton DC areas seveal years ago the danger of ignoring maintenance.

3) Finally we need a good looking (male or female) to intelligently and with a depth of knowldge articulate the issues -- real long term benefits, long term maintenance impliction, impact on county operating budgets -- Clayton County ended its bus system because it could not afford it. So new we are now thinking about spending $100 million to do it again.
Bob Short
September 19, 2011
Gee, I think he is right!! Maybe we should find a large cave to hid in. No!! That won't work, they might blow up the entrance and we will all be trapped. What to do?

Oh, look, the sky is falling, we're all doomed!
September 17, 2011
Mr. thinks if a railroad line was blown up - it hasn't happened here - that it couldn't possibly ever be repaired.

Van Brink thinks we should let terrorists dictate what the United States of America should and shouldn't build in the quite unlikely event of a terrorist attack.

He thinks we should just let the terrorists win.

Either that or he's lying through his teeth about the real reason he opposes this.
September 15, 2011
Lee must have taken the same passive attitude when Atlanta and MARTA said: "We want to build a transit line from the Arts Center to Cumberland and we want your people to pay for it Commissioner Lee."

I can hear it now.

"Oh sure, no problem. You are good folks and I value your opinion and I appreciate hearing from you. Now how many hundreds of millions do you want my constituency to cough up? Oh about a billion dollars. We can do that as long as we get one station."

When people say stupid things or suggest stupid things you need to have the cahunas to say: "Are you nuts or something!!!!"
David Staples
September 15, 2011
George Washington - ""gosh darnit, I had to pay an extra penny for my Toby Keith CD, hell no I dont want no taxes!"

While I'm not a Tea Party member, I can't help but wonder where you buy your CDs for a dollar? (You know, since it was only one extra penny for that CD.) Personally, I don't hardly ever buy CDs, Blu-Rays or spend much on entertainment. Most of my purchases for at least the last year have been construction materials fixing up a foreclosure I purchased here in Cobb. Home Depot loves me. But if I spend $10k on lumber, concrete, roofing materials, whatever... that's an extra $100 that I could have spent on a bathroom faucet, shower head, replacement locks, or any number of other items required to finish renovating the house. (Or taking my wife out to dinner or filling up the fuel tank on my truck.)

But of course, you know how to spend my money better than I do, right? So tell me, just how much of my money do you feel that you're entitled to?
September 15, 2011
Terrorist Attacks!!

It is fools like Mr. Van Brink that give the Tea Party a bad name and expose anybody that supports the basic tenets of the movement to derision and ridicule.

Get a shave, look presentable, keep your ridiculous fringe conspiracy comments to yourself and stick to the subject.

Lower taxes and smaller, more fiscally responsible government at all levels.

No more no less!!!
Bush Era Fear
September 15, 2011
OMG!!! Really!!! Terrorism!!! - GET REAL!

I remember the time after 9/11 being like no other time before. As we were prepping to enter Iraq my thoughts were that it was a mistake to launch a large military invasion to find one man. And what made us think we'd find him in Iraq??? But what really marked that phase in our history like none other was the fact that most people actually felt disallowed to vocally contradict the action. A dissenting opinion was labeled as 'unpatriotic', no matter how lame brained the war really was.

Now here the Tea Party is with the same fear mongering. It seems to me that the term 'terrorist' fits them well.

An really alot of the arguments against light rail are paper thin scan tactics.

1-) We have to pay for upkeep on roads and rail.

2-) The criminals are not going to take over Cobb County because or rail. Other factors will allow for that!

3-) Construction is usually built around ease of transportation. Building more/bigger road will draw more density, which will then clog the same roads and create a need for even more/bigger roads.

Of all of the arguments I've heard agains rail, the most valid one is the time it will take for it to become operational. We have traffic issues today and they will only be worse 10 years from now, but I don't see how TSPLOST would preclude road expenditures similar to the ones we have today. I thought of this as a regional project, not a replacement for our local county projects.

The real tragedy will be if people continue to make decisions based on the 'fears' other people put in their heads.
September 14, 2011
Did the Chairman of the Georgia Tea Party really just say one of the reasons they do not support a transit rail line is because they are afraid that a centralized mass transit system would be too effectively destroyed by terrorists?

Does Mr. Van Brink really think that we should allow the fear what terrorists might do prevent us from building common sense transit solutions for Cobb County?(not that I support this particular rail line)

Commissioner Lee was far too kind in his words for this group. I find it outrageous that the Georgia Tea Party is using the fear of terrorism just to try and convince people to oppose a 1 penny tax.

George Washington
September 14, 2011
Exactly Tom. People, especially idiot Tea Party people, ONLY pay attention to the blantantly obvious factors "gosh darnit, I had to pay an extra penny for my Toby Keith CD, hell no I dont want no taxes!" and do not consider ALL the costs that you mentioned.
George Washington
September 14, 2011
David, obviously I was talking about the entire metro area, you know since I said "Atlanta area" and all...

"Don't feel like sitting in traffic? Hop on a bus." ah yes, I forgot we had floating buses now that dont have to sit in traffic. How silly of me.
Tom Jefferson
September 14, 2011
Mr. Maloy dislikes transit because it is not "self-sustaining." Nor are roads. Cobb DOT spends 41 percent of its annual budget on upkeep, maintenance and otherwise fixing roads. The Federal Highway Administration, which is hardly pro-transit, estimates that gas taxes pay only 52 percent of highway costs. But that's just the beginning. Gas taxes also don't pay for cleaning up dirty air, for health problems due to dirty air, for traffic and pedestrian deaths and injuries, for fire and police response to accidents, for traffic enforcement, for the parking lots retailers must build and maintain to store cars (parking = overhead = markups on the items we buy), for the purchase price of a car, for car upkeep and repairs, or for the premiums we all pay to insurance companies so that we can drive legally. Road subsidies are huge and unending. And they come out of the same pockets - yours and mine.
Connie Mack Jr
September 14, 2011
“The Georgia Tea Party are good folks, and they have a valued opinion, which I appreciate hearing from, and we’ll take that into consideration along with everybody else’s opinion before we’ll make our decision,” he said.* Story Commiss Lee

No they are not! They are Republican Religious luntics on a Sack, Plunder Corporate Control mission to destroy anything that looks like a modern 21st century civilzation that protects it citizens from harm, along with their life, liberty and property..
David Staples
September 14, 2011
George Washington - NYC is tiny in terms of land mass compared to Atlanta?

New York City - 468.9 sq mi

- Land - 304.8 sq mi

- Water - 165.6 sq mi

Atlanta - 132.4 sq mi

- Land - 131.8 sq mi

- Water - 0.6 sq mi

Looks to me like NYC is more than twice the size of Atlanta. (Strictly talking about the city and not the entire metro area here...)
David Staples
September 14, 2011
People keep saying we need mass transit to connect Town Center to downtown Atlanta during the weekdays to alleviate traffic congestion. Guess what? We already have it. There are Xpress buses that run from Town Center to Midtown and from Acworth to Midtown / Arts Center MARTA station. Don't feel like sitting in traffic? Hop on a bus. Don't spend $1B building a light rail line when there is already an alternative solution out there.
George Washington
September 14, 2011
And cities arent going anywhere... Atlanta will only get bigger and bigger and bigger. We will HAVE to have transit at some point. The longer you wait, the more $ it will be as the region continues to grow in a carcentric fashion. Just imagine what NYC would look like today if they never built the subway. Was it fully developed immediately? Nope, it took years and years, but they knew that the sooner you start on it, the sooner it will be efficient and help alleviate traffic. NYC is surrounded by water on all sides, Atlanta has one tiny river; NYC is TINY in terms of land mass compared to the Atlanta area, but handles 5 times the population so much more efficiently
George Washington
September 14, 2011
First off, no roadway project has ever "made money" either, so thats a stupid argument. Just like the military doesnt "make money". Its an expense for the greater good of the country.

"“So what we’re doing is, we’re building a railroad for Fulton County to transport the people who live in the outskirts of Atlanta in Fulton County into Atlanta so they can go to work.” - and the people in Cobb Co. that do the same thing... if you work in downtown Atlanta and choose to live far out, and then you complain about it taking a long time to get to work, duh, of course it does, you live 30 miles away. Thats your problem.
George Washington
September 14, 2011
Wow, I am sad at the level of stupidity in this article. The man does not make one single point that is logical or makes any sense whatsoever.
Just Wait
September 14, 2011
Finally, something sound and reasonable coming out of the mouth of a tea partier.
September 14, 2011
I want to say first, I am very conservative and I generally agree and support Tea Party positions. However, I think this stand is very short-sighted and, for the terrorist argument, quite a bit of a reach to justify their opposition.

Do I think we should support the TSPLOST? I am not sure. But that is because I do strongly feel we need a regionwide comprehensive plan for transportation. In the last few months, I have travelled to Dallas and Minneapolis, cities of a similar scale to Atlanta. While Atlanta used to be on par with any city of its size, in the 10 years since I had last visited Dallas, Atlanta is being left behind in terms of transportation infrastructure. This is both in terms of highways and transit. My biggest concern with the TSPLOST is that Atlanta as a region is missing an opportunity to positively address our transportation, an area, I would note, that is a proper function of a limited government. However, the TSPLOST project list is not sufficiently regional in scope. Yes, there are some transit initiative with regionwide impact - light rail, GA400/I-285 interchange, etc. However, there are a large number of projects that are better characterized as local maintenance such as corridor improvements, intersection upgrades, etc. While these projects may well be warranted, they do not have a regionwide impact and are more appropriately handled by local jurisdictions.

It is the scope and the project list that causes me to pause as to whether to support the TSPLOST. I think they need to scrap the list and start over with a more regional focus. Once we commit to these projects, we will run the risk of being further left behind other metropolitan areas in the coming decade.

The Tea Party is a great organization and the majority of the time is dead-on with their position on the issues. But, I am concerned that their zeal in opposing taxation, a position I generally share, is blinding them to a reasonable tax for a reasonable function of a limited government. I would hope they step back and gain a little practical perspective and recognize that for Atlanta to remain competitive, we must begin to think of our transportation oversight regionally and not as a city and county level only. For a metro area as integrated as Atlanta, to balkanize our transportation oversight into separate fiefdoms does a grave disservice to our city and state.
Jim S.
September 14, 2011
C'mon J.D., be honest. You would oppose it regardless of the reason. Just say we hate a tax regarless of the reason. Besides terrorists could attack Cumberland Mall and blow up the rail system. Just how would we get around then? Like you said if we commit the money somewhere else and they just blow up a bus we can live with that.

When are the short sighted folks going to wake up and figure out we cannot make the roads big enough. It will never matter how much we build. I-75, I-285, I-20 and Johnson Ferry Rd are where the majority of commuters are at? Guess where they are headed? Yep, Fulton Co. and the City of Atlanta.

Its actually okay with me if we vote down the tax and don't expand any roads. Why pay good money when we are going to be stopped in traffic anyway.
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