The people of Atlanta are yet to be convinced, but many business leaders are stressing the importance of improving transportation infrastructure, according to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution:
Less than two weeks before metro Atlanta residents decide whether to approve a 1 percent sales tax to pay for a host of transportation improvements, local business leaders acknowledged they must do more to make their case to voters.
A recent poll suggests a majority of voters aren’t sold on the 10-year sales tax that would raise billions of dollars for road and transit projects. But at what amounted to a pep rally in Duluth on Thursday, business leaders said they’re not giving up on what Gwinnett Chamber of Commerce President Jim Maran called “the most important vote in the history of metro Atlanta.”
“Voting ‘yes’ will show we are willing to invest in ourselves so investors around the world will continue to invest in us,” Maran told more than 100 people who attended a transportation forum at Gwinnett Center.
If voters approve it, the sales tax measure would generate about $6.14 billion for 157 transportation projects in the 10-county Atlanta region, plus another $1 billion for smaller local projects.
Earlier this month, a Rosetta Stone Communications poll conducted for Channel 2 Action News found 56 percent of voters in the metro area oppose the proposed tax, while 33 percent support it. But this week, Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed, who supports the referendum, touted a poll of 800 metro Atlantans commissioned by the pro-tax “Untie Atlanta” campaign that showed 41 percent opposed and 38 percent in support —- a statistical tie, given the 3-point margin of error.
Much of the opposition boils down to disagreement over the project list, which is divided about evenly between road and transit projects. Some opponents want to see more roads; others want more transit. Some residents also object to higher taxes.
Sabrina Smith of Gwinnett Citizens for Responsible Government, a citizens group focused on government spending and accountability, called the measure a “cesspool of special interest money.”
“At a time when we should be looking at every dime we’re spending, it seems like everybody threw in every special project they could think of,” Smith said. “It’s a terrible, terrible list.”
Business leaders at the Duluth event acknowledged opponents seem to have the upper hand, and two informational forums later Thursday in Dacula drew few citizens.
“We’re losing,” Dave Stockert, president of Post Properties, said at the Duluth forum.
But business leaders said they haven’t given up, and they asked for help with voter turnout. They said the projects would help commuters and businesses, and approving it is vital if metro Atlanta is to remain competitive to attract jobs.
“We will not have more Caterpillars [which recently announced a new plant near Athens] if we don’t pass this referendum,” said Todd Bell of Mesa Capital Partners, a real estate investment firm.