July 11, 2012Like I try to do whenever they occur, I attended the Greater North Fulton Chamber of Commerce Eggs and Enterprise Breakfast June 27. These meetings are gold mines of story leads. For example, I learned about funds being allocated for a North Fulton Gwinnett Tech campus at one. This spawned several print and online stories and an opinion column.
This breakfast was no different. In addition to the appearance of former Atlanta Hawk Dikembe Mutombo — whose appearance was my main reason for being there — I managed to snag additional stories. One was a presentation by Progress Partners Executive Director Al Nash on the Transportation Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax, which will go before the voters July 31.
During his presentation, Nash touched on both the regional and local benefits that passage of the TSPLOST will bring. At the regional level, there's revamping the interchange of I-285 and Ga. 400. That's something I can get behind. I have some friends who live off I-285 in Cobb County and getting there requires using that interchange. Merging onto Ga. 400 from I-285 can be dicey, especially at night or when there's a lot of traffic. I've managed to avoid accidents by sticking to the white line on the left as closely as possible, but others may have more difficulty.
On a more local level, 15 percent of the revenues from the TSPLOST will go to local governments for their own transportation needs. Johns Creek is slated to receive $1.47 million each year, while Roswell will receive $1.95 million and Alpharetta $1.25 million. I am not familiar with the transportation needs in Roswell and Alpharetta, but in Johns Creek, repairing worn-out roads is a perennial political issue. The maintenance backlog is already enormous, and without action it will only grow worse. City staff are already discussing taking out a $4 million loan from the state. If the city got an additional $14.7 million over the next decade, that would help considerably and avoid debt.
Lest anyone object, I have skin in the game. I'm pretty sure I'll need to replace my 2005 Honda Accord during the decade the tax will be in place. Paying a few cents extra on food is a minor expenditure (although it will add up). However, MotorTrend prices used 2008 Honda Accords in North Fulton at $16,000 to $18,000 and used 2010 Honda Accords at $15,000 to $20,000. One percent of that is $150 to $200, which represents several tanks of gas or a whole bunch of movies and meals out. Even if I bought a cheaper car (or the prices of these models drop by the time I buy), I would still be coughing up a pretty penny should the tax pass.
Nash said voter turnout is expected to be 12 to 15 percent. That's a relatively small number of people making a decision for the vast metro Atlanta region.
Even if you don't support the TSPLOST, don't stay home July 31. J.B. Reed of the Fulton County Department of Registration and Elections spoke as well. Although recent efforts to make a dent in the 70,000 unregistered or inactive voters in North Fulton have had some success, she said the number of citizens not participating in their own governance has only decreased "somewhat." It's too late to register to vote for July 31, but those who are registered to vote but have not voted in a long time can still participate. A turnout of 12 to 15 percent on something this important is something we should be ashamed of.
Matthew W. Quinn is the editor of the Johns Creek Herald. Those interested in finding out more about him can follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/JCHerald or http://twitter.com/MatthewWQuinn.