Lee Should Pay Heed to Cobb First
The commission chairman's leadership on TSPLOST and light rail runs counter to the prevailing sentiment in his home county.
Cobb Commission Chairman Tim Lee must be getting the feeling that I don’t like him. Really, nothing could be further from the truth. I’ve met Mr. Lee and have found him to be a genuinely nice guy.
Having said that, though, I’ve also come to know that he either doesn’t understand Cobb County or prefers it to be something it is not.
To his credit, Tim Lee has a monumental job as Chairman of the Cobb Board of Commissioners. Cobb County is (or has been) one of the most economically vibrant communities in all of Georgia if not the entire country for decades.
It is fiercely independent and generally skeptical of government solutions to community challenges. It is a product of suburban sprawl afflicted with urban creep. It was once claimed that the Chattahoochee River was a moat designed as much to keep Cobb Countians out of Atlanta. In my opinion, that attitude STILL persists in many ways and among many groups.
Much of the negative sentiment toward Cobb County stems from our refusal to join the MARTA system at its inception. Many labeled that as racism. Those who really know understand that it had more to do with subsidizing a rapid transit system that was destined to fail from the beginning.
Those early Cobb voters understood that if fares alone could not justify the system, it could NEVER be a successful means of transporting folks on a regular basis over a long period of time. And, time has borne out that truth.
A significant portion of the monies to be raised from the Atlanta regional TSPLOST referendum next summer would go to propping up MARTA and extending that failed system into suburban counties. The resistance to mass transit in Cobb and other suburban counties is strong. Strong enough, in fact, to make passage of the TSPLOST very likely.
Until just this last week, almost a BILLION dollars was proposed to extend the MARTA rail system ONE MILE into Cobb County to the Cumberland Mall area. I may not be a rocket scientist, but asking ALL of Cobb County to vote for that seems kind of naïve.
Most of Cobb’s commuters to Atlanta have completed most of their drive by the time they get to Cumberland Mall. The only folks to benefit from that one mile of rail into Cobb County might be some of the retailers and employers in that area AND residents of Atlanta who can’t drive their own car to the mall.
Personally, I don’t think the TSPLOST has a snowball’s chance in Hell of getting passed in Cobb County EVEN with some of the changes proposed by Mr. Lee. Having seen how the county has handled our own SPLOST programs and how things just never seem to work out according to SPLOST promoters’ promises, I just don’t see Cobb voters willing to go there again for a while.
Besides, will there even be any federal matching funds available when/if our share of the program gets started? Given what needs to be done in Washington, DC, I strongly doubt it. Hence, ANOTHER tax increase down the line.
In short, Tim Lee should get reacquainted with his constituency in Cobb County and realize this IS a commuter community. The ONLY form of mass transit that makes sense at this time are buses that provide flexibility in adding or removing routes according to current needs and usage. There’s simply too much to be done ALL OVER the county to be committing so much to fixed rail of any type.
Regarding economic development, we need to quit playing games with simplistic measures like giveaways to companies contemplating a move here OR thinking mass transit will attract good business to this area. If Mr. Lee and the County Commission are serious about economic development, they would simply find a way to be the best deal for ANYONE considering living or doing business in Cobb County.
That simply means having the lowest property tax rates, reasonable regulatory environment and a pro-business environment of any other county in the Metro Atlanta area or even the state. That means cutting government spending on non-essential services that could be provided cheaper and more effectively through non-government entities.
It means, making it simple and EASY for folks to start a company, grow a company Cobb County or relocate a company to the county.
Having been involved in economic development for several, I know the importance of recruiting business to the area. However, it is much MORE important to create an environment that is a “no brainer” for a business when considering doing business here or elsewhere.
Which would move YOU to come here, a bribe of lower taxes or waived license fees? Or a community whose taxes are lower than any other in the area, a better environment than any other, quality education AND a stable government at all levels? I can assure that a quality business is moved less by bribes and more by quality of life and stable governance.
My advice to Mr. Lee is that he turn his ear more to this side of the Chattahoochee than the other. Let’s create an environment where we create jobs WITHIN our borders and keep folks in their own community instead of building massively expensive rail lines designed to take people AWAY from their community. Mr. Lee, let’s keep our jobs here, our taxes low and our government as SMALL and effective as possible.