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T-SPLOST: How We Really Voted and Three Things I Took Away

The T-SPLOST was just as popular ITP as it was unpopular OTP.

Last week, Metro Atlanta’s voters overwhelmingly rejected the T-SPLOST referendum. In most participating counties, the referendum failed broadly.  Ninety-seven percent of Cobb County’s precincts voted no, and 99% of Gwinnett County’s precincts voted no.

Results from Fulton and DeKalb were far more complicated. In these counties, the vast majority of intown residents supported the measure while the vast majority of suburban residents turned it down (see attached heat map and table). The split did not fall on traditional lines of class or race.

  • Wealthy residents voted for and against T-SPLOST, depending on where they lived. The average household income in Milton (North Fulton) is $99,402. Seventy-one percent of Milton’s residents rejected T-SPLOST. The average household income in Virginia-Highland is $104,958. Seventy-two percent of Virginia-Highland residents supported T-SPLOST.
  • Black residents were also split on T-SPLOST, depending on where they lived. Atlanta’s District 3, which is a predominantly black intown district, approved the measure by 14%. Fairburn, a predominantly black suburb, rejected the measure by 14%.

Here are three things I took away from the way the vote went down:

The Beltline is Wildly Popular Intown – For City of Atlanta residents, the T-SPLOST vote was really about the Beltline, by far the largest project falling under the Atlanta jurisdiction. The question was this: were we willing to contribute about $100-$150 each for the next 10 years if that meant the Beltline would arrive sooner than planned. Over fifty-nine percent of us answered yes, and in some neighborhoods closest to the Beltline that percentage approached 80. 

If the T-SPLOST was indeed a referendum on transit, intown residents answered clearly. We want more. Now. 

“Metro-Atlanta” (Still) Doesn’t Exist – The hodgepodge of municipalities and unincorporated towns that make up the area demographers call Metro Atlanta is at best diverse and at worst a group of disparate, isolated communities living in close proximity. 

Do some Cobb residents drive 45 minutes to reach their downtown office?  Sure. But many live, work, and play in Cobb County. There are 3 million square feet of office space by Cumberland Mall. 

Similarly, as a City of Atlanta resident, I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve visited Metro OTP in the past year. 

With a few exceptions (i.e. Cumberland to Arts Center transit), the T-SPLOST was really more a collection of local projects than it was regional. I struggle to see how many Cherokee County residents would have directly benefited from the Beltline. I also struggle to see how many intown residents would have directly benefited from the widening of State Road 140. Both have value for some constituents, but they largely aren’t shared resources.

In a metro area still dominated by “us” and “them” thinking, is it really surprising that many voters rejected a plan where 9 out of 10 projects only benefited “them”?

We Need More Local Spending Control – One of the most interesting things to come from the pre-vote debate was a list of demands presented jointly by the Sierra Club and the Tea Party. The two seemingly incompatible groups’ primary agreement is that more power & funding should be given to local governments.

The T-SPLOST vote has made it clear that even regionally, we don’t agree on how best to invest in transportation. Atlanta and intown DeKalb residents clearly want more transit. However, Cobb and North Fulton both rejected the T-SPLOST, which would have expanded transit north and northwest.

Showing that the 600,000+ residents of Atlanta and intown DeKalb will be completely ignored, Governor Deal stated that the T-SPLOST vote “slams the door on further expansion of our rail network anytime soon.” Instead, the T-SPLOST project Governor Deal will make a priority is a $400M rehab of the 285/400 interchange. 

According to Shirley Franklin, City of Atlanta residents pay more in taxes to the state (through levies, income taxes, and gas tax) than we do locally (through sales and property taxes). Yet, Governor Deal and state agencies like GDOT do not seem to share our transportation priorities. Even after we clearly vote in support of transit projects, state leaders insist that the taxes they collect from us only fund roads.

If the Tea Party is a “no-tax-at-any-cost” party, I can’t support their mission. However, if their goal is to localize power over spending, I think they may have found some common ground with many intown residents. Atlanta wants the Beltline. In order to make that happen, we need more local control over spending, and “local” must be defined much more narrowly than a 10-county region comprised of wildly different constituents. 

- Jarod Apperson is a Midtown resident

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Jarod Apperson August 07, 2012 at 06:18 PM
Since some of the T-SPLOST debate seems to have reflected a Georgia vs. Atlanta mentality, I looked closer at the financial relationship between the two. You may find this article interesting. http://midtown.patch.com/blog_posts/why-does-georgia-seem-to-disdain-atlanta
Caroline Brock August 07, 2012 at 07:03 PM
Well, Jeffrey...i dont feel that anything I stated was racist. I have a black husband and a mixed child and we both agree on this. We moved to the so-called country to stay out of traffic and to stay isolated from the fast paced city. So, its sad that u want to assume its "racist" when someone uses the word "riff-raff". Maybe thats how YOU view things! Hmmmmmn?
Bryan Farley August 10, 2012 at 03:21 PM
FYI, it has already been proposed to allow local communities tax themselves and have the ability to work with other local governments that they feel will all have the same interest. So Fulton and Dekalb working together to support something they already are and to actually have it funded in a way that can allow the system to thrive and grow is definitely something that could one day get some real attention. As far as the outer counties helping fund core Atlanta transit/road projects they should. ATL has been helping fund suburban and rural roads for years with no return other than the outsiders coming in and destroying intown roads. But either way we are doomed to now have projects FORCED on us (ITP or OTP) because of the short sightedness of the burbs.
Will October 14, 2012 at 02:22 AM
Ms. Brock, As well intended your statement, your leaving out the facts would leave anyone to "assume" you're racist. You never mentioned "fast paced city" or "stay out of traffic" or interracial marriage sooo next time, include the facts. If you think the facts are nobody's business then, next time, have your husband edit before you submit. Just saying!
Caroline Brock October 15, 2012 at 08:03 PM
I have an opinion as everyone does and whether or not I say things so that you better understand them isn't my problem! There is racism on both sides, im not racist but I do like living away from the traffic, road rage, and all the city holds! And my husband feels the same way! He also enjoys living with predominately white area as well! So, if you want to say we are racist so be it! We r happy as such! Gooooo ROMNEY!! lol

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