A recent news report details a new scheme to carve up the BRT project into numerous pieces, and then put $100 million of separate BRT component projects back into the SPLOST list.
These projects were not included on the projects list that Cobb previously disclosed. The description of these new projects makes them sound like intersection improvements, but the actual projects are components of the BRT project.
Please note that Commissioner Bob Ott’s recently published projects list for District 2 does not include any of the BRT component projects. I have not yet seen the final SPLOST projects lists from the other district commissioners.
Commission Chairman Tim Lee has reportedly said that including these (BRT component) projects in the SPLOST will qualify Cobb to receive funding from Washington for the BRT project. Obviously, if these projects were not implementing components of the BRT project, they would not qualify to be part of Cobb’s matching investment in the BRT project.
Perhaps all of the district commissioners were blind-sided by this Grand Deception. If so, they should not sit back and passively let this happen. District commissioners should step up and say NO to the Grand Deception.
Trapping voters into saying yes or no to a SPLOST that contains the BRT is not the same as giving voters a straight yes or no on the BRT itself. Including BRT on the SPLOST means voters have a choice between accepting BRT that they oppose, versus rejecting other projects they support. Commissioners should not put voters in that trap.
In addition, the SPLOST ends in six years, but taxpayers will still be on the hook for millions of dollars every year forever to subsidize the BRT operating and maintenance costs just to enhance already existing transit along just this one route.
Cobb is also telling taxpayers this SPLOST will raise $125 million per year for six years, and will therefore raise $750 million. But the current SPLOST is already raising more than $130 million per year, and that is likely to increase every year as the economy continues to recover. In reality, this proposed SPLOST is likely to raise well over $800 million. What is Cobb going to do with the extra money? Is there wording in the SPLOST that would allow Cobb to allocate the extra money to unspecified transportation purposes, and therefore be used to pay for BRT?
Government has been losing the trust of its citizens for several years. Most of that erosion of trust has been focused on Washington, where both parties clearly value partisanship above the best interests of the American people.
Cobb’s numerous missteps on the Braves are seriously undermining trust in Cobb government. This SPLOST Grand Deception would be another major step toward putting Cobb County on a par with Washington.
Cobb clearly did not benefit from the May 27 “silencing” of the Braves opposition. By the way, the “tactics” of the Braves supporters also “silenced” citizens who wanted to speak on topics other than the Braves.
The attorneys for Cobb and the Braves have probably figured out how to make the bonds not illegal. However, the parks bond tax was supposed to end in 2017. Cobb says they can extend that tax for 30 years without taxpayer approval. Perhaps that is not illegal, but it does not inspire trust in government. At some point, it becomes understandable that some citizens would question whether they are being represented or abused.
On July 15 the BoC will consider the Braves zoning case. If Cobb doesn’t insist on an adequate number of parking spaces, and a viable pedestrian plan between the parking and the Braves, the result could be a disaster for both Cobb and the Braves. The BoC should not cede control of parking decisions to the Braves in the upcoming zoning case.
One week later, will Cobb perpetrate the Grand Deception by slipping $100 million of BRT component projects into the SPLOST list, while not mentioning BRT, and describing these projects to be intersection improvements?
District commissioners can take an important step toward regaining the trust of Cobb citizens by saying NO to The Grand Deception. District commissioners should also require that the SPLOST include language that prohibits tax dollars raised in this SPLOST from being used to pay for the BRT project or for any BRT component projects.
Ron Sifen of Vinings is president of the Cobb County Civic Coalition