It’s Steele who ends up being divisive
You will recall how Peachtree City Mayor Don Haddix was chastised as our proposed representative to Regional Transportation Roundtable (RTR), a group mandated by House Bill 277 for structuring a region-wide sale tax referendum for transportation.
Haddix simply suggested that we look into joining the Three River Region to the south instead of remaining in the ARC. Afterward, Haddix received a stinging reprisal, something akin to a smear campaign, saying he had tarnished our county’s image in our region with his talk. However, nothing could have been further from the truth.
I personally attended a legislative dinner function that included most of our region’s leadership at the county level. Most of the county chairmen did not even know who Don Haddix was, much less anything he had said.
It turned out the broker of the smear campaign against Haddix was Fayetteville Mayor Ken Steele. And, yes, in a masterful power grab, Steele managed to get Haddix removed from the RTR and installed himself.
Now, fast-forward to the Dec. 17 meeting of the Atlanta Regional Transportation Roundtable, the first meeting of the body. It was a meeting to remember.
Fayette County Chairman Jack Smith had previously proposed via a conference call the use of a caucus-type system for selecting the Executive Committee of the RTR, a mandated group responsible for laying the groundwork for road project selection (known as the “constrained” projects). Each representative of the various counties in the RTR was given Smith’s caucus-type proposal for selecting Executive Committee members.
Before anyone could vote, Steele made a motion to scrap the caucus-type voting and move forward with a straight vote of each member of the RTR to select the Executive Committee. Quite a few of the RTR members thought Smith and Steele had pulled a bait-and-switch maneuver on them at the last minute, but I think that is giving Smith far too much credit for thinking ahead.
Steele, however, had been working behind the scenes. His motion won by 12-to-9, the Executive Committee was selected and scene was described as the polarization of metropolitan Atlanta. Looking on, business leaders, including top officials with Metro Atlanta Chamber of Commerce, were furious.
It appeared our representatives, Smith and Steele, thought the best way to get road projects constructed in the counties to our north which would benefit us was to completely exclude them from Steele’s self-absorbed ruse.
For my part, all I could do at the meeting as an observer was to shake my head and laugh. Steele had managed to bump off Haddix on trumped-up charges of being divisive and it was Steele who ended up giving us a political black eye.
Both Smith and Steele removed their names from contention for the Executive Committee. Smith’s move effectively knocks out a leadership role for our new county chairman beginning in a few weeks and Steele’s move gives him a hedge (he can say he was not responsible) in case the whole RTR stunt does not work out like he says it will.
Smith made the motion to lock in the investment guidelines for the upcoming referendum in 2012. Both Smith and Steele voted in favor of the guidelines.
Those guidelines include up to $370 million for “aviation” as if that is going to solve our automotive traffic problems. In addition, the guidelines include up to $3 billion for mass transit capital and up to $1.5 billion for mass transit operations and maintenance.
Were we not told that the program would not include funding for mass transit operation and maintenance?
Let’s engage our brains and consider what will happen to us and others in our region if we add $3 billion in mass transit infrastructure and pump up operations at such a rate using special limited sales taxes? Who do you think will pay to sustain that massive increase in mass transit capacity once the sale tax expires?
Did you know that a referendum is not required to extend the regional sales tax for 10 years after the first one?
The lion’s share of Fayette’s tax proceeds from the referendum would go to fund projects that most of our citizens will never use in other parts of the region.
For the record, Fayette County still appears in the Atlanta Regional Commission’s Concept 3 mass transit plan, thanks to backing from Steele and Smith.
There are alternatives, a lot less harmful ones. Remember, the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. Perhaps we should take a serious look at some of the other proposals.
In-coming Fayette Commissioner, Post 4
Peachtree City, Ga.