Don’t Ask, Demand Transit Funding From GA General Assembly

 

Billions in transit funding needed to build and connect MARTA as additional counties “get with the program”. Billions found for toll lanes.  And, former Gov. Deal even kicked on $400 million for Bus Rapid Transit (BRT).  @AJC article explains it well. Read & demand more funds for all More MARTA projects to connect to future regional projects as the other 19 counties complete their transportation plans later this year.

If the state can find hundreds of millions for the GA 400 BRT Transit project, then they can also find hundreds of billions the rest of the region for much needed Light Rail (LRT) & Heavy Rail transit projects. OUR legislators always find funding for their pet projects!

c424e6f0-5e48-4c12-8511-8d57e9f175bf.jpeg

Our voices and our votes matter!  We can no longer simply allow state elected officials to vote as they please. ‘Democracy is not a spectator sport’.  Democracy is a representative system of government.  Those elected are paid with our tax dollars. So, they work for us!  Do not get it twisted!!  What happens in the halls and chambers of the Georgia State Capitol determines our quality of life both now and in the future. Traffic gridlock is at an all time high and getting worst as  tens of thousands of new residents annually moving to Georgia…especially the metro Atlanta region.

And, we all know, as proven by research done by the Atlanta Regional Commission (ARC) and numerous other organizations, the solution to Atlanta’s growing traffic nightmares is to heavily invest in a regional transportation plan. So far, we see that toll lanes around I-285, except the southern (Airport) section has been funded.  Anything wrong with that plan?? 

And, MARTA is struggling to find local and federal matching funds for its long list of worthy transit expansion projects. The state can no longer dance around their fiscal responsibility to correct the fact that they controlled, yet did not fund MARTA during its’ first 45 years.  Yet, these same state officials love to brag, Georgia is the #1 state to do business!  Really??  How many more companies are being told the dirty secret about why Georgia chose to “starve” its only commuter transit system…to reveal the real reason why Georgia was the only state to not fund its’ transit system until January of 2018. The AJC, the Saporta Report (in the Atlanta Business Chronicle)!and many others have revealed these dirty little racist decisions.

It has been 47 years of injustice and outright sabotage to the regional and state transportation plans. Are we as taxpayers going to sit back and let this current 30-40 year transportation plan suffer the same fate?  Or, are we going to stand up, speak out, and demand state lawmakers right this wrong with by finding hundreds of billions to expand and build a “real” transportation system as our northern, Midwestern, and western states; and countries overseas that includes:  Germany, European countries, Rio de Janero, Japan, China, etc. that allow residents and tourists to avoid the traffic and take public transit. It is smart, efficient, and expensive. Yet so worth it if Atlanta really wants to be a world class city.

Georgia State Legislators are elected every two years.  There are 180+ state reps and 56 state senators.  That means they are all up for re-election in 2020.  So, do we tell them they must change their views and votes to fully support transportation funding?  Do we find and fund opposition for those who refuse our demand?  This is a chance we can make next year, if we start right now!  We can no longer ask or beg. We have the power of our vote to make sure our 2020 votes send a message all the way down our presidential year ballots!!

Are you in?  Will you commit now to make sure everyone who voted against HB 930 and those against fully funding and securing additional P3 (public private partnerships) transit expansion funds?

This is a huge opportunity for us to draw a line in the sand and make sure our state lawmakers know to support our transit expansion NOW, or to spruce up their resumes for their next job.

What are your thoughts??

https://www.ajc.com/news/state–regional-govt–politics/are-toll-lanes-really-the-answer-atlanta-traffic-mess/IH4lSj3oA6u6OIhXH4MLCI/?utm_source=newspaper&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=8628667&ecmp=newspaper_email&

Happy Birthday Wishes

1E8F38CF-232E-4B3B-8D88-DC1A12BCD38F

Thanks to all my friends who sent me Happy Birthday wishes today. 

Yep!  I am 40 again!

I spent most the day at City Hall at the Transportation Committee Meeting (it was much longer than usual) doing what I love:  advocating on behalf of residents for equity in local public projects.

After that, I reminded people in my path to early vote or vote on Tuesday, December 4 in the Georgia runoff elections.  The two items on the ballot, Secretary of State and Public Service Commission are very important offices.

For dinner, I ate at one of my favorite vegan restaurants (healthy meals and healthy living can translate into more birthdays!).

I also thanked The Lord for another awesome day and birthday.

 

MLK Medians, A Safety Hazard??

If you drive down MLKing Jr. Drive, you will see medians, that most of the community did not want, are being installed and lanes are being reduced from 4 to 2 with bike lanes.  Emergency vehicles, especially fire trucks may not be able to go around a MARTA bus, garbage truck, GA Power truck (working on power lines), etc. as MLKJr Drive between I-20 and Northside Drive.  This could be a huge public safety disaster. Yet, everyone is passing the buck.
Here are the facts:
MLKing Jr. Drive, a major thoroughfare and state highway, will now have medians that are “cute” yet dysfunctional.  They may actually impede the ability of emergency vehicles (especially fire trucks and ambulances) to navigate and will grossly impede traffic for delivery trucks (including UPS & FedEx), tractor trailers, utility service trucks (including GA Power, as power outages are on the rise), stalled vehicles, accident vehicles, police traffic stops, etc.
After I spoke to ReNew/TSPLOST spokesperson, Joshua Williams (newly appointed ATL Deputy COO) and Public Works Commissioner James Jackson, neither are not sure of the lane measurements.  Neither could assure me or the fire department if the lanes are wide enough….Are you kidding me?
Besides, there was a huge community meeting held at the Adamsville Rec Center to discuss this massive ReNew/TSPLOST expenditure about 2-3 years ago.  It was hosted by “then” City Councilman C.T. Martin.  It was jam packed with residents against the MLKJr Drive medians and reduction of lanes.  Other elected officials attended.  Outcome was: Since residents did not want the MLK medians, between I-20 (at Westview Cemetery) and Fulton Industrial Blvd, Martin said he would keep all four lanes.  Residents asked for sidewalks, street resurfacing, grass cutting & cleaning of highway entrance and exit ramps, etc.
Now it is truly evident this median project has major flaws and is WASTING OUR TAX DOLLARS:
1)  Median UNDER the I-20 overpass at MLK & Bolton Road.  Why is it there??
2) Median in front of Fire Station #5 had to be cut back after being installed because the fire engine could not clear it to turn left out of the station (fire department warned before it was done).
3) Median at shopping center at Lynhurst no longer allows left turn from MLK to this popular shopping center
4) NPU-H and others were against medians for reasons including City not having funds to keep the grass cut in the medians. They were right!  Often the grass gets knee high before the City cuts it.
BEFORE more money is wasted, this project needs a public safety check.  Both ReNew and Public Works say, “It should have been done.”  However, they are not sure if it was done.
Upon speaking in public comments at the City of Atlanta Public Safety meeting on Nov. 13 and the Transportation meeting on Nov. 14, I was told to contact Public Works & ReNew (PW&R). Unfortunately, it is clear that PW&R DO NOT KNOW WHAT IS GOING ON!  ReNew is blaming their woes on increased construction costs. They:
1) are over budget
2) have pushed project dates on most south and southwest side projects forward by 2-4 years or they have no date at all.
In the meantime Campbellton Road between Dobson Drive and Bent Creek cannot get half a mile of sidewalks so the local kids can walk to the Adams Park Library and Young YMCA without walking in the treacherous street.
Also, Council President Moore, at the Nov. 14 Transportation Committee Meeting asked for a full accounting by District of all ReNew/TSPLOST funds spent, cost of projects currently underway, cost of projects pending on the list.
What are your thoughts??

MARTA Releases New Funding Plan

AC372F29-A27D-44B6-BA2B-4C3A1BDF4E86

The MARTA Board of Directors will vote on Thursday, October 4 on how the Atlanta half-penny sales tax will be used over the next 40 years.  See the full plan overview in the 9/27/18 AJC.

Here are my thoughts on this updated thoughts on MARTA’s updated funding plan:

1)  The Campbellton Rd Light Rail Transit (LRT) & Greenbriar Transit Center can be a win for transit dependent riders and will draw “choice riders” from that corridor, City of South Fulton, Camp Creek and beyond. However, it needs to be the #1 project on that list for implementation and use an accelerated schedule (remember The I-85 bridge?). Since the #83 Campbellton Rd/Greenbriar bus Route is #1, it should be prioritized as #1 in project scheduling and completion. That
would be the start of unprecedented equity in this major project.
2)  Emory will always secure funding for what it wants. Bravo MARTA for realizing they could reallocate some of their originally designated funding. Perhaps this is a move toward equity.
3)  BeltLine. I agree with Councilmen Dickens and Hillis who said in Wednesday’s Transportation Committee meeting that the south end of the Beltline needs to be done before other BeltLine areas to insure it gets done. They discussed how south side projects are always done last and if funding run out, those areas suffer most. That would be a real equity move!  Besides, the folks who live on the BeltLine are mostly choice riders, they won’t suffer any loss other than pride. They will get other funding including from their own financial portfolios, if they choose.
4) I still believe the Fulton Industrial Blvd. (FIB) MARTA Station should be added. The extra funding that went to the BeltLine should go here. This is a key regional job corridor as well as the gateway to Cobb County. Cobb residents overwhelmingly used the H.E.Holmes MARTA station when originally opened (as the Hightower station). Today, on Falcons and other game days, Cobb residents fill that station to capacity.
5) The FIB station would be the gateway to the future Cobb County MARTA connection and take thousands of cars off the I-20 FIB corridor daily as well as help Six Flags employees and visitors; both UPS distribution centers and more. The #73 FIB bus route, out of the Holmes station, ranks #6 in MARTA ridership.  Another reason to add this station.  Cobb County’s Planning and Division Manager, Eric Meyer, said after a recent ARC meeting that he is all for the FIB station and would be happy to work with stakeholders to make it happen.
6) If we can’t get FIB right now, “At least give us the Holmes heavy rail extension to I-285 at MLKing. That way, drivers would exit there and take MARTA into the city” says Councilman Dickens. That extension was supposed to be done about eight years ago. According to MARTA, ‘There was a glitch in funding for that project.’ Yet another prime example of why south and west side projects need to be done first!

7) The state of Georgia needs to step up their game. They benefit from everything that happens in metro Atlanta.  They use all that Metro Atlanta has to offer to sell prospective companies on why they need to expand or relocate here.  Yet, other than $100 million for a transit funding along GA 400, on the north side, no other funding has been allocated.  Shame on you!  Metro Atlantans pay state taxes.  A portion of that should go to MARTA expansion to give is any chance of decreasing our ridiculous traffic woes.

And, perhaps in 2019, our legislators will introduce and pass legislation to allow for a portion of Georgia’s fuel tax to be used for MARTA… something other than expanding our roads by adding more lanes.  We are among very few states who do not fund public transit from the fuel tax because this state was controlled by the auto industry for so long (they wanted people to buy cars, not take public transit.).  With Ford and GM assembly plants long gone, Georgia is still operating as if those plants are still here.  What’s up with that??  Being 18 years into the new millennium, what are our legislators waiting for??

Here is an updated article with thoughts from a GSU researcher, Chris Wyczalkowski on MARTA’s current funding challenges (click on the MARTA article if it does not automatically load.):

https://epaper.ajc.com/html5/reader/production/default.aspx?pubname=Atlanta%20Journal-Constitution&pubid=8e0858ee-1443-484d-9e94-f8b8a1eaaaff

 

BeltLine Group, “The Haves” Are Claiming Victory

If the BeltLine Group, “the haves”, that is well-organized wins; that means south and southwest Atlanta loses. That includes transit dependent riders, who do not own or have access to a car, lose.  We are Atlanta!  We are the home of Civil Rights!  How can this be allowed to happen??

Please read the info below and contact MARTA Board members AND all Atlanta City Council members via email, phone, social media AND snail mail. Contact them ASAP, and definitely before September 28 since the MARTA Board is scheduled to vote on October 4.  “The have nots” need a modified plan of the first proposed project list that connects 126 neighborhoods and adds the Fulton Industrial MARTA Station.

Remember:  “It ain’t over until the fat lady sings!!  So we still have time to get what we want, need, and have paid for; yet we still being denied equity…equal distribution of the $2.5 Billion available through the Atlanta half penny sales tax.

 

BeltLine Rail lands front page in the AJC

We’re heartened to see that the public’s views are being heard. The AJC articletoday states the More MARTA project list is being revised in talks between Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms and the MARTA board. Some remaining funding may go to to the BeltLine as a result of these discussions. BeltLine Rail Now! is optimistic about this development. However, it’s not clear how much funding would remain, or how that funding would be applied. We look forward to learning those details.

We encourage you to keep making your voices heard! Sign our petition and contact your City Council representatives, Mayor Bottoms’ office and MARTA before the board votes on October 4th. Let them know you want transit that connects all 45 neighborhoods along the BeltLine to jobs, destinations and opportunity.

70 Atlanta Residents Say Bad Gulch Deal

0D3CC051-D9E3-4394-B1B7-728600525C21

Yesterday’s Atlants City Council meeting heard over three hours of public hearing from residents on a variety of topics. However, over 80% were appealing to the Council to either slow down or scrap the Gulch Project being proposed by the “Armani suit wearing” development team, CIM Group, from California.

After receiving the 600 page proposal document, myselfnand others have more questions than answers.  As I put on my banker hat to review this complex deal with Georgia Stand Up, the nonprofit for which I am the Public Policy Coordinator, a researcher from Georgia Tech and independent attorneys; I am shocked and embarrassed that this 30 year deal gives away prime Atlanta property with no ownership or financial gain for residents other than inflated projections of jobs and benefits. It reveals $1.7 Billion in tax payer funds being diverted from our schools and desperately needed neighborhood infrastructure projects that includes sidewalks so our kids do not have to walk in the street to get to the library in places like Campbellton Road on the southwest side.

AB0EE8D6-8211-4530-A23D-EA9AFD69F12C

Senator Vincent Fort warned, “Someone one is going to jail from decisions made three years ago involving the Airport contracts, the BeltLine and the Emory annexation deal so they could get a MARTA station.  And, someone will go to jail three years from now if you approve this deal…which one if you will it be?  Or do you have the guts to represent the people who elected you?

As the Work Session questions by Councilman Amir Farokhi revealed, there are 1,500 construction workers per year. The document as taken 1,500 and multiplied it by some factor of 20 (years) to derive the false number of 35,000 construction jobs. Questions by Council member Matt Westmoreland also sought to get to shed light on what is contained in these 600 pages.  I am both sadden and disappointed that our mayor is pushing a deal by a developer who has a history of bad deals.

You see, the Mayor needs eight votes to pass legislation.  Word on the street is she had six firm votes, possibly seven.  When it was confirmed that Councilman Ivory Young would not be able to attend or vote by phone in yesterday’s meeting due to his stem cell medical treatments, the vote was removed from the agenda.

The diverse group of speakers were clear in their call to not rush this deal through the legisltive process and be more transparent.  The call was so strong that yesterday’s scheduled vote on this deal was cancelled.  And, Mayor Bottoms has called a meeting on Wednesday, September 26, at City Hall at 6pm.

Georgia Stand Up Executive Director Deborah Scott reminded City Council when they ran for Office, none of them, not even the Mayor mentioned the Gulch as an area of importance at any of their debates or in their platform issues.  She went on to say all of them mentioned community development, transparency, and affordable housing and she has tapes of those forums to prove what they said.  “So why is it that this project is all of a sudden so important, …slow this process down!  Give everyone a chance to see what this is all about and be transparent.”

In the words of Sean King, “When we organize we win.”  So thanks the organizations that include Georgia Stand Up and the Housing Justice League.  Thanks also to community leaders who also came to speak against this plan that includes:  Former City Councilman & WAOK Radio Host, Derrick Boazman; Former GA State Senator Vincent Fort; Internation Human Rights Advocate, Joe Beasley; APAB Officer James “Jim” Martin, and NPU-R member Edith Ladipo.

356A2370-9DB6-4129-9F0B-50B81B89D369.jpeg

Joe Beasley warned that this is a volatile situation and residents are tired of their elected officials not representing their best interest.  He went on to warn that it is going to blow up if you do not change who you represent when you vote on issues harm residents.

226DC75E-9727-496B-B97F-F999AC1F79DC

Despite this challenging day, City Council President Felicia Moore did a great job to move the speakers along several hours of passionate public comments.

My comments included that as the Jewel of the south, Home of Civil Rights, we have to get the Gulch deal right . Atlanta has an opportunity to set the standard across the state, region, and nation on how to do an economic development deal that is in the best interest of the residents.  If we get this right, even more people will want to move, do business and visit Atlanta. We do not have to do business with the devil, the CIM Group because there are more ethical developers.  And, we definitely do not have to give away the bank!

As Atlanta residents come together to demand that their council members represent their interests and not the interest of the developers, we/they will get a different result than had we remained silent.  This is democracy at its’ finest!!  So, start and continue conversations on your social media and within your circle of friends about The Gulch Project, More MARTA, Fort McPherson, and recent eminent domain issues.  Today’s action or inaction today has massive consequences tomorrow, next year and decades from now, so “stay woke”, stay informed and show up to shape the future.

For more details on this “bad deal”, read today’s (9/18/18) page one story in the AJC:  “Mayor Delays Council Vote on Gulch Deal” by Stephen Deere (sdeere@ajc.com) and J. Scott Trubey (strubey@ajc.com).  In this article, Deere and Trubey outline each aspect of this complicated 600 page proposal in laymen’s terms.