Around Town: Washington consultant criticizes TSPLOST's implosion
by Otis Brumby, Bill Kinney, Joe Kirby
Around Town columnists
August 07, 2012 01:09 AM | 6747 views | 36 36 comments | 9 9 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Chris Leinberger of the liberal Washington, D.C.-based Brookings Institution is again passing judgment on the failure of residents to approve the $8.5 billion tax increase known as TSPLOST.

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.

Comments
(36)
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Joan Davis for Mayor
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August 16, 2012
Are you going to run, Joan?
Suburbanite Driver
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August 13, 2012
No two regions or cities in the U.S. are the same. Each city in America evolved for different reasons --- as a transportation hub, as a manufacturing hub, etc.

We are sick of these "urban dwellers" and "smart-growth" proponents from other regions of the U.S. coming here, telling us what we need. They don't understand and don't bother to understand the intricacies of our lives -- where we work, where we live, shop, etc. Perhaps people live in the Atlanta suburbs because: 1) We can afford it -- cheaper in the suburbs than downtown Atlanta; and 2) we don't want to live in a narrow, three-story townhome with no back yard; and 3) we don't want the crime that comes with having higher density areas.

Atlanta is not a Houston, a Seattle, a D.C. Quit making it out to be. Our jobs are spread out all over 13 counties, as are our homes. Stop telling us what we need and start providing a connection between counties -- not into Altanta, where few people live!!! I remember reading an AJC article about 10 years ago that said that 5 of 6 communters drive from one suburb/county to another, never touching the city of Altanta. The remaining 1 of 6 drives into OR THROUGH Atlanta to get to work. So, why are suburban residents forced to pay for the Atlanta Beltway project -- which doesn't alleviate our commute problems???
TIC
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August 13, 2012
The intent of the local "smart growth" proponents is to funnel, even force, people back into downtown Atlanta.

Our metro area is an example of urban sprawl, but a lot of that was caused by the dysfunctional and corrupt City of Atlanta.

They have driven (no pun intended) people into the suburbs and now they want to pull them back into the city.

Ain't going to happen!!
Gringo Bandito
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August 08, 2012
Tim "The Taxman" Lee is right about one thing. He stands nothing to gain by debating Byrne. Bill Byrne would crush him just as he did in the other debates.
nosplost
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August 07, 2012
the tsplost--crooked to the core, designed only to enrich connected parties, businesses, developers, etc. It had nothing to do with traffic.
JR in Mableton
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August 07, 2012
When was the last time an incumbent chairman debated a challenger? I don't recall Bill Byrne or even Sam Olens agreeing to debate.

No one watches TV 23 anyways. This is just a set up for more hack journalism from the MDJ.

Mr. Lee is doing the right thing with a grassroots campaign. It will be interesting to see which campaign takes the time to knock on my front door and talk about my issues......I am betting that I will see Mr. Lee first.
Go back to Dallas JR
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August 09, 2012
Let's everybody drop everything and run to JR's door to see what his "issues" are. I'm sure you do have plenty of "issues" JR...but those might be better suited for your shrink than the Cobb County Commission. I just love these self-important fools who criticize everything from the lazy comfort of their Barco-lounger instead of getting off their duffs to help their community.
FuzzyLogic
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August 07, 2012
It seems to me that Mr. Leinberger came into town and with his now infamous rant about the suburbs in the Atlanta metro area racializing MARTA he drove the final nail in the coffin of the TSPLOST.

Just what we needed. Someone to drive an even more divisive wedge between the City of Atlanta and it's suburbs by yelling racism.

I certainly hope the geniuses that invited him here don't turn around and hire him.

That would be really, really stupid and a waste of money.

There is no telling what he might say next.

Chairman????
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August 07, 2012


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.”

Mr. Lee, Why should you be afraid? Show us that you are the tough one to match up with Bill Byrne (the former marine).

Read more: The Marietta Daily Journal - Around Town Washington consultant criticizes TSPLOST s implosion
THE TRUTH
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August 07, 2012
You should consider running the Moodys story or the one in The Economist regarding the TSPLOST loss and what it means to Atlanta and our region.

The world was watching.
anonymous
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August 07, 2012
@ THE "TARNISHED" TRUTH

So you back again with your inane, worthless comments.

I thought we were rid of you.

At least until the next tax scam came along.

Actually I kind of missed you.

You were such an vulnerable target.

Move
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August 08, 2012


To the sneering writer “The Truth”:

Let the world watch. If it followed The Cobb Way it would be vastly improved. But since you’re a bleedin' heart desperate to please the social engineering bureaucrats on the ARC/CIDS – how much are they paying you? -- move. Europe would love to have you. Take Lighthead’s D.C. nut with you. I’ll buy your plane tickets.

SG68
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August 08, 2012
@Move

If the TSPLOST proponents were paying THE TRUTH as you indicate it was a huge waste of money.

If course that was the nature of the entire TSPLOST project list. A huge waste of money.

THE TRUTH did no favors for TSPLOST effort with his inarticulate and erroneous posts and comments in this forum.

He just set the table for the informed TSPLOST opponents who knew what they were talking about and countered his half truths and misinformation with well reasoned arguments and facts.

And now he is back with more of his "brilliant" comments!!!

What fun!!!
I Say
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August 07, 2012
Locked in the 1980's? Not a bad idea. Moved to West Cobb in the mid '80's because of the open spaces, 2 lane Dallas hwy/120 and it was 5 miles to the nearest grocery store. I could drive west of Dallas Hwy from Marietta square to my home and see only a few cars. No traffic signals. I chose that kind of life style and would again. Yes, those were good years for me.
buzz off
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August 07, 2012
JUST WHAT WE ALL NEED. ANOTHER WASHINGTON, DC CONSULTING LEECH (AS IN BLOOD SUCKING WORM) TELLING US HOW STUPID THE VOTING CITIZEN IS NOT TO BUY INTO THE SNAKE OIL HE AND HIS ILK WERE TRYING TO PUT OVER ON US. SAY GOOD BYE TO YOUR FRIEND TIM LEE. HE IS TOAST ALSO. WHAT A CROCK.
anonymous
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August 07, 2012
Sen.Lindsey Tippins is on the money. I am glad he represents me. A bas to social engineering and the same to the liberal definition of social justice.

Oh, yeah, social justice is when the government dictates your personal taste and life style, who you must support with your tax dollars and who gets to stay home and live on your largesse.
dustoff
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August 07, 2012
Bill Byrne is back to his old self, trying to bait Lee or anyone else he thinks he can intimidate.

He stated a few months ago he was a changed man. He latest actions show otherwise.

Tim Lee may not be the best but if you want to see Cobb County become the laughing stock of the US then elect the man who thinks rapid transit is an amusement ride.

His great research on rapid transit was done at Disney World on their monorail.
URKiddingRight?
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August 07, 2012
At least Bill Byrne did some research.

Tim Lee just does what the Cobb Chamber and the City of Atlanta want him to do.

Not only is Tim Lee not the best, he may very well be the worst Commission Chairman we have ever had to endure.

And if we had voted for the TSPLOST as Tim Lee suggested, we would have been the laughing stock of America, because we would have followed Tim Lee's lead and spent $859 million of our allocation to build a project in Atlanta.

Brilliant!!!
Miss Joe
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August 08, 2012
Lee is intimated if he has to walk and chew gum at the same time. You must be one of the free bus riders are want a free train ride at everyone’s else’s expense!!
The Knower
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August 07, 2012
As someone who was born in Atlanta, raised in Smyrna, and up until recent years has been a confirmed suburbanite, I must say that lately I am more attracted to intown "stuff", whether it's business-related things, recreation, dining, etc. I also notice lately that political winds are blowing more toward aligning my area of Cobb (Smyrna/South Cobb) with Atlanta (e.g., we are now in Horacena Tate's 38th Senate District).

HOWEVER, even though I like the "walkable/livable" urban community vibe, and see lots of opportunity, both personal and business, in that arrangement, I do so freely, and have absolutely no desire to see it forced on anyone else. That's the difference between someone like me, and Mr. Leinberger.

I also opposed TSPLOST because I can live without yet another tax, plus anyone who belives it would have been implemented exactly as advertised, well, I have a bridge I'd like to sell ya . . .
Boot Tim Lee
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August 07, 2012
Tim Lee raised your taxes... Boot Tim Lee out on election day! 'nuff said!
FantasyWorld
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August 07, 2012
“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.

I think Mr Leinberger is the one who needs to be cut loose!!!!

And now the Chairman of the ARC , Tad Lighthead, is suggesting that Leinberger should be brought in to distribute his brand of New Urbanism?

Not only is that undermining what his ARC organization has been doing for the last decade (the very succesful LCI program) it's just downright DUMB!!!!

Of course what do you expect. Lighthead was one of the main authors and supporters of the ill fated TSPLOST.

He needs to be "cut loose" along with Mr Leinberger!!!

URKiddingRight?
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August 07, 2012
I'll bet if Tim Lee could have some people from the Chamber sitting beside him and whispering responses in his ear he would agree to debate Byrne.

I doubt that it would help him much, but at least he could mutter something in response.

His supporters have to be a little disheartened to have such a buffoon in their corner.

Now they are finding out he is a coward as well.

Just Sayin....
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August 07, 2012
We are not a land-locked city like NYC, Boston, Philly.....we have the advantage of being able to spread out. We also have the advantage of having many outlying areas that can be developed for business and industry. We also have the advantage of being here by choice. Obviously Mr. Leinberger has an agenda with his "one size fits all" thought process.

MARTA cannot survive on it's own without mountains of financial help from the taxpayers, so to expand it is even more laughable. The problem with SPLOST projects is that it allows us to build but makes no provision for anything past the building stage. The maintenance of these projects would then be dumped into our already empty general funds.
FROM TEXAS
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August 07, 2012
Timmy is just doing the Obama bob and weave he’s can’t run on that tax and spend broken record and the chamber knows that. Bill is without a doubt the best choice and will lead the county not the special interest groups. If Timmy gets back in watch out the credit cards will be flying the chamber, the CID’s and the ARC will run up a huge debt for the Cobb taxpayers to foot.
okpeople
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August 07, 2012
Another Washington DC liberal telling me how I should live my life. If I wanted to live squashed in an apartment traversing a concrete jungle everyday - I would live in the city. But I don't. Besides, if disaster comes to Atlanta I will have a CAR so I can leave. Not going to count on MARTA to come and save me, or the Government.
Kennesaw Resident
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August 07, 2012
I do not want to live in an Agenda 21 world - it won't work for me I believe in private property. The Brookings Institution is just another arm for the UN to push this program down the throats of people who don't want it! Build your 250 square foot apartments and use your public transit somewhere else - I want land!!!
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