Steele: Too early to be be limiting Fayette’s options

Ken Steele's picture

There has been a great deal of discussion around the region and within our county concerning the Transportation Investment Act of 2010, often referred to as House Bill 277.

The state of Georgia, particularly in our area of the state, faces a number of critical issues relating to its transportation system and ever-increasing congestion.

As a state, our per capita expenditures for transportation rank us near the bottom nationally. The reason might be varied, but we fund highway costs primarily from motor fuel taxes. This funding has been trending down for quite some time. With more efficient vehicles, higher priced fuel and the recession, motor fuel taxes have been negatively impacted.

Our state legislature has been trying to develop alternate funding sources for transportation for three years. Their desire was to develop new funding sources that were the least onerous on the taxpayer and where the taxpayer would have the final decision.

During the 2010 legislative session they did just that with the passage of HB 277. Many would say it is not perfect law and many people would like to amend one section or another. However, it is the law that we have to deal with and now the ball is in our court.

HB 277 is enabling legislation. There is nothing in the bill to be voted on by the people. It provides a blueprint or process by which the 12 districts of our state may each develop a transportation project list that would address some of their more pressing needs.

The process has about 15 steps that must be followed in order. We are between step four and five at this time, and there is no meat on the bone.

Thus, people commenting on whether they are for or against the proposal are offering personal opinions without any basis of facts.

They either have a bias for or against a 1-percent tax, which is certainly their right, but it has zero to do with addressing our transportation needs.

It is particularly troubling and of great concern when some of the folks sharing their personal opinions are charged and duty-bound to help develop a meaningful plan for the voters to consider.

In the interest of brevity, we can step through the process, skipping those steps which are administrative and of little interest to the voters.

Step two directed the state Department of Transportation’s director of planning to develop a draft criteria document outlining what type of projects might be considered.

Step four required the state fiscal economist to develop an estimation of the total amount of funds that might reasonably be expected to be collected over the 10-year period.

By Nov. 10, 2010 the 21 members of the Regional Transportation Roundtable are to be selected. These 21 members consist of the county commission chairperson from each of the 10 counties and a mayoral selection from each county plus the mayor of Atlanta.

Tentative appointments have been made for these positions, but any can be replaced if they prove to be unwilling, unable or incapable of fulfilling their responsibilities.

Sometime after Nov. 15, 2010, the first meeting of the RTR will be held. In our district that meeting will be Nov. 17. At that time the RTR will accomplish their first two tasks, approve the criteria determining the type of projects that will be considered and elect a five-member executive board.

Finally, we can then start to talk about or submit transportation projects that conform to the criteria for consideration of the RTR.

These first submissions can best be described as a “wish list” as they are not fiscally constrained.

Going forward, the RTR in consultation with the planning director and the state fiscal economist must pare the list down to one that can be paid for with the 1-percent sales tax receipts, i.e., fiscally constrained.

When local representatives say, “There is nothing in the plan for us,” they are abrogating their responsibility and duty to ensure that there is something in the plan for our voters to consider.

The voters of Fayette County are the ultimate decision-makers, and they are entitled to have options and not be limited by one person’s personal bias.

The draft project list will be submitted by Aug. 15, 2011. After several months of review and comments the final project list will be completed by Oct. 15, 2011.

Thus it is readily apparent that the voters will not have something to hang their hats on until then and will have months to reflect on what they think is best for them and our region. The ballot question voters will see at the 2012 primary election will read:

“Shall Fayette County’s transportation system and the transportation network in this region and the state be improved by providing for a 1 percent special district transportation sales and use tax for the purpose of transportation projects and programs for a period of ten years?”

The project list will be available after Oct. 15, 2011.

The city of Fayetteville will be developing a list of potential projects, taken from approved transportation plans, that might be considered by our voters and ask people to prioritize their desires and offer other projects they think would benefit our area. This survey will be on line in the near future.

All information in this article has been taken from HB 277. The quotation marks reflect sections that were lifted verbatim from the law. For those individuals that might have trouble sleeping at night, you may go to www.legis.state.ga.us/legis and download the entire 39 pages of the bill.

[Ken Steele is the mayor of Fayetteville. He has served on the Fayetteville City Council since July 1994. He also was elected this year to head the Georgia Municipal Association, the lobbying group for Georgia’s cities.]

Courthouserules
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Mr. Steele's transportation blog

This is a good example of why it was that the Interstate Highways were finally built!
If it were left up to Fayette County alone as to whether or not to build sufficient roads, we would still be riding wagons on ditched dirt roads!
At the same time more intelligent and future thinkers in other areas would have enough paved roads approved but could not build them into Fayette County since they had no decent roads---just dirt and some gravel.

It is not understandable as to why some complain about "the government" building roads from general tax funds when they say we should do it locally if we want them!
Isn't the state of Georgia local? Do you want Washington to build the WBP for instance, instead of Georgia?
Isn't that what republicans have been fighting over forever?

Or is it that Fayette County wants to vote as to whether to build their own roads with our own tax----if we could just get all other counties to agree where we should start and end the roads! Stupid.

There have always been individuals who want the President of the United states to come to their house and stay a day or two and beg them for land to build a road! Sorta time-consuming.

grassroots
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Steele Agenda Driven

Right Ginga. You can sum him up in one sentence from Ben Nelms article.
“But there has to be something in (the plan) for every county for folks to vote on it,” Steele said, adding that, “I think it’s going to be a tough sell...
When I was a car salesman many years ago they used to tell me to " sell the sizzle." Steele is just a car salesman trying to find a project that everybody would love to have. Mmmm...smell that interior, look at those lines, isn't she a beauty? What a con. He and Smith love Atlanta so much why don't they move there and run that car lot. We're not buying it in Fayette County.

Could somebody please tell me what other nine counties we are involved? It's never mentioned.

Don Haddix
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Haddix: Counties

In population order:
Fulton ...... 1,033,756
Gwinnett ..... 808,147
DeKalb ....... 749,850
Cobb .......... 714,617
Clayton ....... 277,540
Cherokee .... 215,098
Henry ......... 195,370
Douglas ...... 129,788
Fayette ....... 106,788
Rockdale ...... 84,569

ginga1414
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Mayor Rehwaldt and Mayor Haddix - Excellent Presentation

I attended the Republican Women's Dinner last night at Broadway Diner. Mayor Rehwaldt from Tyrone and Mayor Haddix from Peachtree City presented a very detailed and intelligent explanation of HB 277. Their explanation included facts and figures. It was a far more extensive explanation than I have seen anywhere else. Contrary to the personal opinion Mr. Steele has given here, Mr. Rehwaldt and Mr. Haddix presented unbiased numerical facts that could be compared and judged by their own merits. Contrary to Mr. Steele's personal opinion last night, Mr. Haddix and Mr. Rehwaldt have a far more thorough understanding of HB 277 than any other I have seen or heard to date.

Mr. Haddix and Mr. Rehwaldt presented attendees with facts, numerical figures, their personal assessments of those facts and figures, and concluded by saying that it was up to each of us to decide for ourselves. Mr. Haddix and Mr. Rehwaldt also presented options to our county's further participation in the Atlanta Regional Commission. They provided comparative options to the ARC and Three Rivers Commission. They gave us far more than the personal opinions Mr. Steele has given here.

I don't appreciate the condescending personal opinions Mr. Steele presented in this article nor the condescending personal opinion he presented last night. It seems that Mr. Steele, Jack Smith and Eric Maxwell are all cut from the same cloth. That's my personal opinion.

conditon55
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Unpaved roads in FC

How about the unpaved roads in FC? Will they qualify for upgrade?

The idea here seems to be more open minded and optimistic than the spate of recent articles by other folks claiming that many of the transportations inititives are short sighted, ill concieved and the "road to ruin" for the county.

I think that it is imortant to keep positive options open, dialog at all times, better to be a part of a system and have the opportunity to influence the system than to throw up the fences and bar the doors.

Selling fear for transportation in the county seems to me to be misplaced energy.

If the situation is disadvantageous for the county then the elected folks need to find a way to make it advantageous for us by working within the system.

PTC Observer
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Mayor Steele

It is not necessary to read a bill that does nothing more than create yet another way to get government into the citizens' pocketbook. The fact is that a bill allowing for a regional SPLOST was passed. It was passed with support from our local representatives, Senator Chance and Representative Ramsey. This says loads about the disconnect between citizens and their representatives. It certainly does not protect our interests.

In Georgia, as you point out, we have a fair tax on funding and maintaining roads, it is a road use tax that is tied to gasoline consumption. As you use the roads more you pay more in taxes. This is a fair way to fund roads. The Georgia legislature could have simply budgeted the amount that the DOT thinks it needs to fund roads in and around Atlanta Region, then the State wide gasoline tax would then be adjusted to acheive this target. People that use these roads would be taxed based on their use of gasoline. It would also have the beneficial effect of reducing driving and promoting car pooling.

Why is it that Fayette county should be put at the mercy the "majority" of surrounding counties that have larger populations? This is a bad bill and it needs to be repealed, if our representatives supported it then they should explain their support. Then the citizens can decide at the next election.

ginga1414
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Atlanta Regional Commission's SPLOST

So, Fayette County voters have the right to vote "NO" to a 10 year SPLOST but if the regional vote is "YES" we have no choice but to pay the tax for 10 years. Fayette County citizens will be paying for road projects in other counties as well as road projects in our own county and vice-versa.

I, previously, did read the entire law and wasn't one bit more impressed after reading it than I was before reading it.

When I first started reading your piece, I said to myself, "Ah, an informational piece." However, that thought deteriorated. By the time I reached the last paragraph, your intentions became crystal clear. Your last paragraph said, "All information in this article has been taken from HB 277. The quotation marks reflect sections that were lifted verbatim from the law. For those individuals that might have trouble sleeping at night, you may go to www.legis.state.ga.us/legis and download the entire 39 pages of the bill."

If there had been a question, in my mind, of your intentions, your very last sentence said it all. "For those individuals that might have trouble sleeping at night, you may go to www.legis.state.ga.us/legis and download the entire 39 pages of the bill."