Monday, July 30, 2012

Growing pains – Atlanta’s Transportation Decision

For decades now, I’ve likened metro Atlanta’s posture to that of a beautiful adolescent -- preening, insecure and cocky all at the same time; looking mature yet still wet behind the ears.

I stick by it. We’re a region that has boasted the best of the best in our development, leaders, creativity and brand, yet we still can’t commit to guarantee a quality public hospital; we move poverty around the region like kids do the peas on their plate at dinner time; and even now that we’ve stopped debating the value of more and better transportation options, we don’t want to make the hard decisions to make it happen. We’re brilliant yet we often don’t have a clue.

There is huge debate as to whether or not the Transportation referendum will pass…if it’s good for us…who it’s really good for…what it will yield. Let’s see:

·         We know it will cost and yield an extra penny for an extra ten years.

·         We know that every county in the ten-county region will receive some payback; some more than others and some sooner than later.

·         We know – and this to my African American brothers and sisters – that we’ll have to remain diligent and firm to ensure that both the pain and benefit accrues to our neighborhoods, businesses, and  institutions as they do others. It will take more than a TSPLOST to level this playing field.

I dig it. A penny may not seem like much but one percent on every dollar I will spend for the next ten years seems like much more.

Yet here’s what I believe, and it’s not on billboards and fliers and the dozen emails I’ve received since last week.

The TSPLOST will be an opportunity for us to finally affirm our connectedness as a contiguous family of counties and cities, sharing roads and rules and people and lives. We try to deny this and often rail against it; as a lifelong Cobb resident, I confess that I brag about my county and my tax base and the quality of my public services. My attitude has been typically parochial: I don’t mind if you can figure it out in your county but leave me alone if I have to give up something in mine.

But I also realize that the region we love is not beloved by all. That the major airport and beautiful facilities and innovative, entrepreneurial spirit we enjoy is distrusted and often derided in other parts of the state. So tapping into what means more to me—the spirit of Atlanta--I am ready to pay into a system and process that can help us out of our current transportation hell.  

Just as when we turned 18 and gained “grownup” designation, this vote is one way for the region to plant a mature stake in the ground and take responsibility for the outcome. We get to diss the haters and take the power into our hands.

What we get to do tomorrow is to decide that the independence the TSPOLST provides through self funding (ironically another milestone of growth) are worth it. And that we get to hold ourselves accountable. There are lots more technical and practical reasons to vote yes. That all public funding for transportation is decreasing. That laws on the books are stifling. For a good Q & A, click on

The list and process is messy, as messy as the traffic we seek to avoid. Yet it’s the next step in our growth, as we mature to the status of the great cities we admire, here and abroad. Yet I really want my grandson to go after the job he wants and not just the one he can be assured reliable transportation to. I want my nephews to receive relief from their asthma pain. I want to be connected.

Remember the pimples, aching joints, fluttering hearts and new explorations of your teen years? That’s the growing edge on which we find ourselves, Atlanta. Let’s take a baby step to claim our future.

Vote yes.