Politicians from past and present were out in full force to support the Regional Transportation Referendum at a Get Out the Vote Rally at the Tuesday.
On July 31 voters will decide whether to impose on themselves a one-percent special-purpose local option sales tax over 10 years to fund a list of more than 150 regional transportation improvement projects. The project list was compiled and unanimously approved by a 10-county committee comprised of elected officials from each county.
Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed, the rally’s keynote speaker, focused his remarks on the Transportation Investment Act’s economic impact.
“We’re having the problems that we’re having with our traffic because of our success,” he said. “We grew to be a 5.5 million-person metro region 10 years ahead of time. Nobody could have planned for that (…) We’ve got special talented people and that’s why we are number three in America in terms of the number of Fortune 500 businesses that have chosen to relocate right here. That’s why we’ve got 14 Fortune 500 companies that are located in our state. It’s because of our people. But if we don’t deal with this issue of traffic, we’re not going to continue to be what we have been in the past.”
Reed praised Cobb County’s role in the region’s progress calling it “an American success story” because of its reputation for low taxes, its pro-business environment and high quality of life.
“We didn’t get to be where we are by mistake,” he said. “We had a lot of very smart people that made intentional decisions and Cobb did it better than anybody. But when you look at the history of our region, at hard moments like we’re facing right now we’ve been able to make the right decision at the right time and that’s the reason we’re not like some of these other regions.”
Roy Barnes, Cobb County resident and former Georgia governor, took the podium to remind attendees that Cobb “is an urban area now and we have to accommodate it" by investing in trasnportation.
“Is (The Transportation Investment Act) perfect?” he said. “It is not, but it is better than what we have and it is a first step to trying to bring some kind of regional transportation solution that will help us continue to grow.”
Kennesaw Mayor Mark Mathews closed out the rally by asking voters to consider the regional cooperation that went in to creating the project list.
“We’re at a time right now in this region where cooperation between local governments is at its best. We know it’s working because it’s got everybody that doesn’t believe in regionalism and doesn’t believe in working with other people—they are really upset and they don’t like it (…) The unanimous vote, not just from the executive committee, but from all 10 counties in this region—if that doesn’t speak volumes I don’t know what does.”
Other speakers included WSB-Radio Traffic Reporter Capt. Herb Emory and Smyrna Mayor Max Bacon.