Alternatives to our paying for Atlanta traffic
Last week, I asked you to contemplate whether you could depend on the viewpoints of Fayette County’s current regional government representatives: Fayetteville Mayor Ken Steele and County Commission Chairman Jack Smith. Both men have consistently supported issues which are counter to the will of our citizenry.
Their West Fayetteville Bypass is essentially a developer welfare project and will not relieve traffic congestion, causing a future bottleneck in the northern part of the county in later years. Likewise, their 2009 SPLOST was a pork-barrel wish list at a time when people were suffering in a poor economy.
Their mass transit votes are even further off the logic charts with both men saying they oppose mass transit in Fayette County, something we could never sustain with our low population, but they vote in favor of it every time. “I always vote in favor of things I oppose.” Logical?
We are now entering an era where the state legislature is giving unprecedented authority and power to regional governmental entities. This means the usual local governmental autonomy (known as “home rule”) that we have grown accustomed to over the generations is beginning to diminish.
Regional governments are comprised of groups of contiguous counties. Our particular region is the Atlanta Regional Commission (ARC), comprising Fulton, DeKalb, Clayton, Henry, Cobb, Gwinnett, Douglas, Cherokee and Rockdale counties.
The new regional system is set up to reward the counties who have created the worst congestion problems and have the largest population. This means Fayette County is doomed to fail as we are at the bottom of the list in both categories.
In the ARC, counties like Gwinnett, Fulton and Clayton, who created land planning disasters resulting in extreme traffic counts and have large populations, will reap a tax revenue windfall. However, Fayette County will become a “donor county,” shipping truckloads of our hard-earned tax dollars north.
Steele and Smith were our representatives in the process of creating this new regional government structure. We did not get much from their lackluster efforts. Steele even admitted at the Association of Fayette County Governments meeting that his regional process is “flawed.”
There is a local contingent studying the situation and looking at viable alternatives to our current plight of giving our tax dollars away and submitting to regional mass transit plans that do not fit our lifestyle.
One commonsense solution is leaving the ARC and joining the Three Rivers Regional Commission at our southern border, gaining more funding and escaping the ARC’s mass transit plans.
Mayor Steele, pro-mass transit, pro-West Fayetteville Bypass and pro-2009 SPLOST, has done a masterful job spreading propaganda around the county trying scare key leaders into staying in the ARC.
Illogical assertions are made by distorting real numbers. The Steele crowd always throws out numbers like 40 percent of our population leaves the county to work, so we are obligated to pay for all the other counties’ road problems.
First of all, 40 percent of our population is only 42,000 people with a good deal of them car- or van-pooling and working short distances across the county line. We do not begin to even come close to putting a dent in the traffic volume numbers on the regional roadways.
To put it in perspective, the number of people we put into the regional road system is about the equivalent of the amount of traffic that runs through Ga. Highway 54 West every day.
Steele insists the technical expertise we receive with traffic planning from the ARC and their large staff is a key reason to stay put. However, according to the Texas Transportation Institute at Texas A&M, who tracks national traffic congestion, the Atlanta region has consistently placed in the top ten most traffic congested places across the nation. The more the plans fail, the more the ARC planners plan.
Of course the reason the Three Rivers Regional Commission does not have as many staffers is their member counties are slower growth, less dense and their roads are not continuously clogged, much like Fayette County.
Steele also insists Fayette County would receive less funding if we joined Three Rivers and their transportation referendum, an irrational conclusion. Steele and those throwing out the half-hearted figures are only looking at the minimum, discretionary money we would receive.
Now I can understand why Steele would use the minimum discretionary funds each county would receive for comparison because that is all Fayette County would expect to receive in the ARC referendum because our congestion problems, population and representation are not comparable to the other nine counties (Thus, we throw $20-30 million annually to the other counties).
However, under Three Rivers, Fayette County would receive $1.2 million less in discretionary money, but we will be the third largest county in the that region and always be in the running for funding of high dollar road projects, an equitable stake, more than making up for the decrease in the smaller discretionary pool.
Instead of giving other metro Atlanta counties $20-30 million annually as they create more and more transportation problems, we could use the funds we receive for transportation projects from Three Rivers to offset such expenditures in our current budget and buttress our senior services programming and keep our public safety sector strong.
Should we join forces with counties that more resemble our rural planning sensibilities or continue to submit to Gwinnett, Fulton, DeKalb, Clayton and Cobb?
Should we allow the large traffic-laden counties to use our tax dollars to offset their transportation expenses to cover their senior services and public safety needs or use those funds for our own programs?
Should we trust Mayor Steele and Chairman Smith since they seem to run counter to public opinion on most of the major issues?
Peachtree City, Ga.