Will Cobb Tip TSPLOST Vote?
A new poll shows some softening in metro Atlanta areas long known for resistance to increasing public transit options.
Given the hostility at a recent public hearing in East Cobb to the proposed metro Atlanta regional transportation SPLOST, the results of a new poll suggesting changing attitudes in key suburban areas may be surprising.
As The Atlanta Journal-Constitution detailed the poll results Monday, the passage of the TSPLOST next summer could hinge on how the vote goes down in Cobb and Gwinnett.
Voters in the 10-county TSPLOST area will either approve or reject the penny sales tax across the board, regardless of the results in individual counties.
The Mason-Dixon results showed support for TSPLOST from 51 percent of voters polled, with slightly less than half in favor in Cobb.
Both Cobb and Gwinnett famously refused to join MARTA when the public transit system was created in the early 1970s. Much of the current TSPLOST opposition in Cobb is over a proposed light-rail line between the Cumberland area and the MARTA Arts Station that would eat up most of Cobb's nearly $900 million share of the anticipated $6.1 billion in regional sales tax revenues over 10 years.
But rapid growth the past 40 years, coupled with changing demographics, might also affect the vote.
Most political leaders in Cobb who have spoken publicly on the TSPLOST have expressed some form of opposition, including all the candidates who recently qualified for the open state House District 43 seat in Northeast Cobb.
Cobb legislative delegation chairman Rep. Ed Setzler (R-Acworth) is proposing an alternative to the Cumberland station plan. Only state Sen. Doug Stoner of Smyrna, a Democrat whose district includes the Cumberland area, has come out in favor of light rail.
While debates abound about whether light rail would alleviate vehicle traffic and whether it would have the ridership to justify the expense, longstanding suburban concerns about crime don't appear to engender as much emotion as they once did.
At the East Cobb hearing at Walton High School, the only question raised about crime and public transit was asked by a Boy Scout.
But others attending the hearing said it's long overdue for Cobb to join the rest of metro Atlanta in linking up to light rail.
The other line of opposition has come from Tea Party organizations, which are deeply critical even of the public proceedings leading up to the mid-October deadline for finalizing the draft list of projects to be included in the referendum.
Tom Maloy, a board member of the Georgia Tea Party, wrote on Powder Springs-Lithia Springs Patch on Monday that last week's Atlanta Regional Roundtable public hearing was "contrived" and that Cobb residents are being "railroaded" (some pun intended) into approving TSPLOST.
Like many Cobb light-rail opponents who spoke up at Walton and elsewhere, Maloy called the Cumberland plan a boondoggle.
Whether that station is ever built may depend on how many people agree with Maloy.