The following was written by Keith Nabb -- a native of Gwinnett, a graduate of Greater Atlanta Christian School 1984, a 1989 graduate of UGA, father of four daughters, and 13-year Suwanee resident. He is active in his community and is involved in leadership training and senior issues. Nabb is co-owner of Advocate Financial Group, LLC, a financial planning and insurance agency in Suwanee. The following is reprinted with permission:
Why I will be voting "No" on the TSPLOST bill Tuesday:
First and foremost, there is no "Well of Trust" that the government can draw upon to make me believe their campaign. In a recent AJC article, it is apparent that the majority of Atlantans feel the same way. A majority in the AJC poll feel we cannot trust government to properly manage and implement the projects, we all were lied to about the Hwy. 400 toll ending years ago and laugh at how Gov. Deal magically decided to announce it may end by 2014 just days before this TSPLOST vote, we feel that this new super-tax will not end in 10 years but will go on forever and spending will not be limited to the projects proposed (it will become a major slush fund).
Secondly, I feel that this is a major failure of leadership that the TSPLOST was initiated in the first place. On the surface it appears that it is a way to help everyone decide what is important by vetting projects ahead of time, with major agencies and districts all coming together to agree in large part. However, it has become more apparent that this is a method to avoid the painful legislative leadership decision to raise taxes and debate in the chambers of government. We elect leaders to LEAD and make these decisions. It appears that they are very afraid to raise the gas tax to pay for road construction, to change the gas tax to allow it to be spent on transit and to change the gas tax to allow it to be indexed inversely to increases in fuel economy of vehicles. State legislators wanted to punt the undesirable tax-raising issue to the voters. Maybe these legislators know that they, as a group, are not trustworthy either. Congress itself has an approval rating of only 10 percent.
I have come to the truth that you "follow the money." How did $7 million get raised to pay for direct mail, billboards, endless TV commercials and telephone push polls? It wasn't from citizens. Citizens donated $16,000 to fight the campaign. Big business and the construction industry donated the money. If this tax raises $7 billion dollars then easily 1 percent would flow immediately back to political campaign coffers from the construction, engineering and other companies bidding on transportation projects. So $70 million would come to the party in power. That is money to further set in concrete the powerbrokers in our state. This is very dangerous and leads to further corruption and separation of the needs of voters from the desires of the powerful.
One of the most passionate transportation issues I have ever fought is the I-85 HOT lanes, which exist mostly in Gwinnett. This is the most insulting and ignorant idea ever bestowed upon an unsuspecting populace. The government literally steals a lane of traffic dedicated to high occupancy vehicles and converts it into a toll lane. They say it is not designed to raise revenue. How ignorant do they think we are? Of course it is there to raise revenue. The managers of the HOT lane flatly stated that the lane would NOT handle more traffic than the original HOV design. They argue that it will keep the lane flowing at peak times. Well, if that is the case then ONLY CHARGE during peak times. At all other times have that lane open to HOV cars at no cost. Everyone has driven I-85 on a weekend or off-peak time and seen that lane empty while all other lanes are slower and more congested than necessary. What everyone needs to absorb is that the I-85 HOT lane is a "demonstration" project and that over 150 miles of HOT lanes are planned for all of Atlanta.
Gwinnett County itself can widen Hwy. 20, Hwy. 23, extend Sugarloaf Parkway, build new bridges, build new sidewalks and all of the other proposed projects. We can decide ourselves if we want to connect to MARTA or have a set-in-stone, inflexible, expensive light rail system instead of an inexpensive, truly flexible bus-trolley dedicated-route system. We can tax ourselves and we can apply for grants ourselves. Our legislators can decide regional issues for us. That is why we elect them locally and send them downtown to work with other legislators on regional and statewide issues.
We need to fix transportation issues. Go back to the drawing board, identify the major issues and deal with each one. Don't send me an enormous litany of local things to fix with your slush. Don't expect me to pay for a sidewalk in College Park.
I am voting NO Tuesday. All of the years of lies, corruption and mismanagement by our leaders has come home to roost. They have made their bed and we will make them sleep in it.