To his credit, Lee apologized on Monday for something he should never have said in the first place. It came to light on Monday that Lee, while meeting with the Georgia Community Coalition on Friday, had described county residents who oppose construction of a light rail line here as “spoiled brats.”
“Let me apologize for calling anyone a spoiled brat,” he emailed the MDJ. “Sometimes my passion for an issue gets ahead of me and I certainly wish I had chosen a better description.”
Lee added that he was referring to “those who are opposed to every new idea for bringing more jobs and prosperity to Cobb County.”
Lee’s original quote came to light via a blog entry on Tomi Johnson’s Wingcom Watchdog website, which also said Lee blamed opponents’ racism for the county’s failure to embrace light rail.
Tracked down by the MDJ following Monday evening’s town hall meeting he hosted in Mableton, Lee declined to comment on Johnson’s report that he had accused light-rail foes of racism.
Lee’s remarks came against the backdrop of the pending July 31 metro-wide referendum on whether to approve a 1 percent Transportation Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax. That tax, if approved, would include $689 million for “premium transit service” from Acworth to the MARTA Arts Center Station in Atlanta. But the project list for the tax as originally approved would have earmarked that money — the bulk of Cobb’s share, in fact — not for a new bus line but for construction of a light rail line from the Arts Center Station northward to Cumberland Mall, a mile inside of Cobb.
The rail line proposal proved so toxic to so many Cobb residents that Lee backtracked and persuaded other regional officials to substitute the “premium transit service” on the project list instead. But the widespread perception remains that if the tax is approved by voters that the rail line would quickly make its way back atop the list. Such a line is eagerly sought by the Cobb Chamber and Cumberland Improvement District insiders who are backing Lee, and by lower-income residents of south Cobb, but has found little support elsewhere in the county. Critics complain that most of Cobb’s share of the TSPLOST would be used on a project that barely even touches Cobb, point out that federal funding for the line is doubtful and worry that local taxpayers would be on the hook for eternity to pay its operating and maintenance costs.
Adding to the pressure on Lee, he’s expected to face three opponents in the July 31 Republican Primary in his race for another term.
But the bottom line is that there are many valid reasons for opposing the TSPLOST — and in the minds of many, those reasons outnumber the reasons for supporting it. Moreover, as noted above, the arguments against it have nothing to do with “racism” or with being “anti-progress” or “anti-prosperity.” And as Lee well knows — or should know — few, if any, of those opposing the TSPLOST would fall into the category of being “spoiled brats.”
We understand that the stakes are sky-high for Lee, but he should know by know that you can change peoples’ minds faster with facts, figures and flattery than you can with insults and invective.