Don McKee: Spare us tax-funded ‘education’ on tax transportation plan
April 02, 2012 12:52 AM | 1430 views | 6 6 comments | 6 6 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Don McKee
Don McKee
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Our “education” on the one-cent sales tax for transportation has begun, paid by tax funds.

A “Transform Metro Atlanta” folder arrived in the mail. Paid for by Metro Atlanta Voter Education Network, Inc., the ad pictures a clogged expressway with this heading: “Atlanta commuters spend over an hour a day in traffic. One of the worst commute times in America.” In the bottom left corner: “Learn about one possible solution.”

Inside the folder, it says: “We need to fix our traffic problem because less traffic means more time at home.” Then: “Learn about one possible solution, the July 31st regional Transportation Referendum.”

“It’s up to you to decide if this is a good plan or not,” MAVEN says, and lists some facts including “100% of the money raised by the 1% sales tax will be spent on transportation projects in our 10-county region,” there will be audits tracking the projects, and the tax will last for 10 years or until “the funding level is reached, whichever comes first.”

There’s no argument with the facts. But let’s face it, MAVEN, the transparent purpose of this mail piece is to influence voters in favor of the regional transportation tax.

If the full-color folder presented only the facts about the referendum and the proposed projects, that would be clearly educational. But after describing the traffic problem, the piece suggests “one possible solution,” that being the regional sales tax. Is there any other possible solution? The folder gives none.

State Rep. Earl Ehrhart read this one right. He said this was “starkly inappropriate” use of tax money by the Cumberland Community Improvement District to contribute an additional $70,000 to MAVEN after already giving $300,000 to help swell the group’s war chest to more than $2.1 million for a voter “education” campaign about the regional sales tax. CIDs raise money by a self-imposed tax on real estate in the districts.

Ehrhart is not buying the “education” label for the campaign that presents the case for the transportation sales tax. “That’s disingenuous,” he said, as the Journal’s Jon Gillooly reported. “To the CIDs: ‘We’re not stupid.’ These aren’t educational ads. They’re political ads.” He went on to say, “This is not a part of their role. Advocacy with tax money is wrong on so many levels and I couldn’t disagree with them more on this.”

Meanwhile, complaints from some constituents of Cobb Commissioner Bob Ott resulted in the county pulling a 30-minute infomercial about the transportation tax plan from the county TV23 channel. “They felt like it was biased,” having a “significant gleam towards approval of the (tax),” Ott said.

After the complaints, the county attorney’s office checked the program. “They had concerns and thought that it could be perceived as advocating,” county spokesman Robert Quigley said.

This is a case where the tax plan proponents — who include a huge array of well-heeled folks — should pony up the money for an honest campaign in favor of the Transportation Investment Act instead of misusing CID tax funds for that purpose.

dmckee9613@aol.com
Comments
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Be Responsible
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April 02, 2012
Mr. McKee, you appear to be a relatively intelligent man and you are most certainly entitled to your opinion but not your own version of the facts. That is exactly what you are doing here with your feeble attempt to prop up the equally wrong ravings of a Represenatative who consistently shoots his mouth off, without having all of the facts clear. Or is this an orchestrated attempt to intentionally mislead the public by you and others who continue to say or pen falshoods? You have a duty to explain to readers exactly how the CID's operate and how they are funded if you are going to write in the paper of record for this county that they are "using tax money" to fund these and other activites of the CID's. That leads the general public and average reader to believe that their tax dollars are somehow being used to fund the CID. This is not the case and I know this because I have spent time doing the research so I will be an informed citizen. You should consider doing the same or perhaps choose a different profession.
SG68
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April 02, 2012
@ Be Responsible

I re-read Mr. McKee's column and nowhere did I see where he said that the CID funding of MAVEN was generated from Cobb County tax dollars.

Neither did Rep. Ehrhart.

In fact, Mr.McKee plainly states "CIDs raise money by a self-imposed tax on real estate in the districts."

He is correct.

The funding that is being used is, in fact, tax money. It flows into the Cobb County tax coffers and then is redistributed to the CID's.

What they (McKee and Ehrhart) seem to be saying and the point of their objections is that the CID's are funding a one sided misinformation campaign conducted by MAVEN.

An organization that holds it self out as providing a fair and balanced education of the voters about the TIA.

What is happening here is that, with the help of their slick lawyers and some clever slight of hand, the funding from the CID's is being "laundered" so that it can be used or should I say abused, by MAVEN.

Is it illegal? Probably not.

Is it unethical and reprehensible?

Yep it is!!
THE TRUTH
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April 03, 2012
Don McKee:

"Our “education” on the one-cent sales tax for transportation has begun, paid by tax funds."

Rep Ehrhart:

“This is not a part of their role. Advocacy with tax money is wrong on so many levels and I couldn’t disagree with them more on this.”

These are not general tax dollars these are dollars over and above what is paid in property taxes to the county by these property ownners. That is not clearly pointed out by either gentlemen. The use of "tax dollars" is misleading to the general public and could be leading them to believe that their property taxes are going to fund these efforts, which they are not.

It is journalistic laziness on Mr. McKee's part and it is downright deception on the part of Representative Ehrhart.

B.S. Group Leader
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April 02, 2012
Where and how does my group apply for a $7 million "fund" to promote our "truths and information" ?
SG68
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April 02, 2012
Couldn't agree more Mr McKee!!

MAVEN is a one sided, developer funded propaganda machine that is so far removed from "educating" the voters it is a joke.

First the TIA Roundtable uses the TIA legislation for their own selfish interests and now MAVEN is misleading the voters about what the TIA will accomplish if it passes.

Disgusting and despicable.

As one previous letter writer suggested

The acronym should be MAVIN

Metro Atalnta Voter INDOCTRINATION Network

The misinformation, half truths and outright falsehoods being spread by MAVEN about the supposed benefits of the TIA are aimed at one goal and one goal only.

To create a $7 Billion slush fund for the transportation robber barons in Metro Atlanta.
COBBCSI
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April 02, 2012
If MAVEN is a 5013C how can they spew all this pro TSPLOST garbage? The light rail system will waste massive amounts of money and only caters to the rich people. What about South Cobb county and west going toward Austell. The only thing that makes any sense is express bus service; buses can move with changing traffic trends, rail is designed to build it and we will make them come and we can dictate where all the high rises will be on the land that the rich people already own. Due to the bad economy traffic has gone down in the Metro Atlanta area. This is just a contractors, ARC and chamber boondoggle to mug the tax payers of the Metro Atlanta area. They will take all county governance away for the taxpayer because they know what’s best for you sounds like Washington in your back yard brought to you by so-called conservative Republicans they are in big business pocket.
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