Cobb Rep. Ehrhart criticizes Cumberland CID for putting up $70K more for TIA ‘education’
by Jon Gillooly
jgillooly@mdjonline.com
March 30, 2012 12:00 AM | 3619 views | 44 44 comments | 24 24 recommendations | email to a friend | print
CUMBERLAND — State Rep. Earl Ehrhart (R-Powder Springs) condemned the Cumberland Community Improvement District’s Thursday decision to give another $70,000 to “educate” voters about the July 31 referendum, which would raise the sales tax by 1 percent for 10 years to fund transportation projects.

“For goodness’ sake, that’s so starkly inappropriate,” Ehrhart said. “It’s using tax money.”

Cumberland CID Chairman Tad Leithead said he recently met with the Metro Atlanta Voter Education Network, which his CID has already given $300,000 to in order to “educate” voters about the referendum by running TV ads.

“CIDs have been a big contributor to the education campaign, so the MAVEN folks had a meeting to update us on what MAVEN was doing with our money and to show us the ads before they went on TV, all of which was greatly appreciated, and at that meeting they mentioned that they were going to do as much TV as they possibly could that the budget would allow, and they said if they had more money that they could do more TV, and it would have the effect of reaching out to more people,” said Leithead, who also chairs the Atlanta Regional Commission, the transportation planning agency for the 10 county metro region that provided data to help the Atlanta Regional Roundtable come up with list of projects which will be voted on.

The CIDs in metro Atlanta had already funded MAVEN by about $1.5 million, and along with funds from other sources, had a $2.1 million pot of money to spend on “education.”

“And they just said ‘if you had another 500 grand, there’s no more production cost, there’s no more administration cost, we could spend 100 percent of that on additional educational ads on TV,’ so those of us that are associated with CIDs and all of us were in the meeting agreed that we would come back to our respective boards and see if the CID boards were of a mind to make an additional contribution,” Leithead said.

Some of MAVEN’s so-called education efforts have already raised eyebrows. For example, PolitiFact rated a statement made by MAVEN, where it claimed metro Atlantans spend “over an hour every day” or “five hours a week” commuting, for a total of “260 hours a year” as only half true.

In addition to Leithead, Cumberland CID board members John Shern, retired from Home Depot; Connie Engel, a partner with Childress Klein Properties; Barry Teague with Walton Communities; Mason Zimmerman, senior vice president of Pope and Land Enterprises, Inc.; and Trey Parrish, senior vice president with B.F. Saul Property Company, voted Thursday to give the $70,000 to MAVEN.

Board member Peter Kasian, senior director with Tishman Speyer, was absent.

Zimmerman, who also chairs the Town Center CID, said that board would consider giving MAVEN more money at its next meeting as well. The Town Center CID has already given MAVEN $200,000.

“Those of us who’ve lived here in Cobb County have had the experience of waking up on the morning after a transportation vote with a 79-vote victory, and we’ve also had the experience of waking up with a 130-vote loss,” Leithead said. “I really don’t want to wake up on August 1 and have missed it by 10 votes.”

While MAVEN, which is headed by developer Bob Voyles, CEO of Seven Oaks Company, is serving as the “education” arm of the transportation tax campaign, another group headed by David Stockert of Post Properties is running the “advocacy” arm of the campaign called Commuters for Transportation Mobility, which aims to raise $6.8 million of which $5 million has already been raised, Leithead said.

“All of those funds are coming from the business community,” Leithead said.

Leithead said there are legal restrictions when it comes to awarding tax money to certain groups.

“Advocates can be people spending their own money. In other words, the entire business community can advocate,” Leithead said. “We’re (the CID) spending tax dollars. That’s why we’re not advocating. We’re educating. That’s the difference.”

Ehrhart said Leithead is fooling no one.

“That’s disingenuous and beneath them. It’s word games,” Ehrhart said. “I love what (Samuel) Alito said: ‘We’re not stupid’ is the new catch phrase in the Obamacare hearing. To the CIDs: ‘We’re not stupid.’ These aren’t educational ads, they’re political ads.”

Ehrhart said it would take an act of the state legislature to stop the CIDs from what they are doing.

“That’s something that will have to be looked into next year,” Ehrhart said. “I thought they got the message on that. That’s a shame. It’s certainly using tax money to advocate for (an election). I’m hoping they’re not successful in buying it.”

Ehrhart said CIDs can have a positive role in society, but funneling their tax dollars to promote a referendum is not one of them.

“This is not a part of their role,” he said. “Advocacy with tax money is wrong on so many levels, and I couldn’t disagree with them more on this.”
Comments
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mmmmmm
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April 03, 2012
Of course Rep Erhart and the rest of the Delegation could have just done their job and funded transportation by raising taxes in the first place. But instead they punted it to committees and then the taxpayers for a vote. What wimps. So now we have the real leaders of business forced to push for it because they know we are doomed otherwise.

Same Earl, changed the child support laws, because he didn't want to pay his ex-wife 25% for 2 or more Children. Wah! Wah! Wah!. he wanted to go out and advertising on-line for dates and pretend he is rich. I got one of his ads sent to me.lol.

Yes, he did work for Facility Group. I guess he didn't know anything, remember he is not very bright. Just on staff for political connections. Sure. Why doesn't some "R" run against this Bubba?
The Truth2
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April 02, 2012
Did Rep Ehrhart vote for or against creating Community Improvement Districts? I really don't know but this state law was written by some of the folks still whining about it, and/or trying to understand what they voted on years ago. And much of what the people write here is taken for fact when it is not. The CIDs have been under scrutiny before, and they have been found innocent as well as very good for the areas they serve.

My business pays those taxes and I am thankful each time I drive on one of the improvements, and/or see how much nicer the areas look. I need my business to survive. Neglecting improvements is not the way to have that happen.

Traffic congestion is being addressed by the CIDs as well as aesthetics,which helps draw other businesses, which helps mine keep growing, etc, etc.

I am amazed that some of you are so caught up in the anti-side that you won't know the truth when it lands in your lap. That is sad for all of Cobb. Why not relocate yourselves?
Not Earl
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April 02, 2012
He wasn't under the dome when that bill was enacted. Smarter people were.
COBBCSI
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April 03, 2012
The CID's need to pony up $70,000.00 for opposing viewpoints or the county commissioners and county attorney need to do their job and stop this. If they don’t stop this we need to file charges with the state attorney general on this one!! We need a state legislator to step up and revamp the laws on CID’s.
CobbCountyRedneck
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April 03, 2012
@ The Truth2

So are you saying that the CID's are well within their rights to help fund the distribution of misleading propaganda about the impact of the TIA projects through MAVEN?

That's the issue here.

Not their legitimate funding of improvements within their self taxing districts.

Of course they should do that. That's the reason they were created in the first place.

However, now they have stepped beyond that and are trying to get ALL of the taxpayers in the Metro area to chip in and fund and subsidize projects that only benefit their specific districts.

Of course, since you are obviously located in one of the CID's you support that because it forces the general tax paying public to subsidize improvements that benefit your business.

I have no problem with you using the addtional taxes you voluntarily pay for whatever you want, but I do have a problem with my taxes being forcefully confiscated and being used for your benefit whether I approve or not.

The Truth2
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April 03, 2012
Mr or Ms Redneck, Don't you want to be informed? Armed with facts? Because you don't like the facts does not make those facts propaganda. Some of the candidates opposed to TSPLOST but who want to be elected to lead our county, do not have a clue what they are talking about. They continue to quote someone who said, that someone said, that someone wrote, etc. It is like the old gossip game. I am taking time to read it all. And, by the way, a state finance commission has already determined that the CIDs and the maven group are not violating any laws or ethics at all. So what makes opposition have the expertise to say otherwise.

When you say "I have no problem with you using the addtional taxes you voluntarily pay for whatever you want, but I do have a problem with my taxes being forcefully confiscated and being used for your benefit whether I approve or not " you must fail to realize that the property owners in our area who have self-taxed themselves, have leveraged $100 million of "their" money (none from you or me) into $600 million of improvements you and I and all those passing through use daily. That is what CIDs were formed to do. Read the GA law and the county laws on this.

Of course, the TSPLOST is entirely different, but since it is supported by these forward-thinkers who made the first CID happen, I have a bit more faith in them than the "just don't dare ask me for a penny for any reason" folks.

Can you see the difference?

anonymous
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April 04, 2012
Actually I am informed and that is why I am objecting to the way MAVEN is presenting the "facts" about the impact that the TIA will have on the trasportation issues in our region.

The only real facts that are being communicated are the nature and extent of our transportation problems. I don't think anyone can argue with those.

The publications, adverisements and commercials that they are distributing are holding out projections and forecasts and estimates of what approving the TIA will accomplish as fully vetted facts and that is just not the case.

I also have a problem with only hearing one side of the story.

Being informed or educated about this issue is more than just being exposed to one very narrow viewpoint.

This is not an educational campaign to fully and objectively inform the voters.

It is an advertising campaign to get the voters to "buy" the TIA.

At least the pharmaceutical companies are required to list or admit to the multitude of "risks" you face if you take buy and use their products.

In this case we are only getting exposed to the "hoped for" upside.

Kind of reminds me of the Nancy Pelosi strategy of pass the law and then we can find out what it's all about.

And we are now starting to see the downside of using that strategy as the flaws of Obamacare are being revealed on an almost daily basis.

CobbCountyRedneck
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April 04, 2012
Sorry the last anonymous comment was from me.
SG68
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April 02, 2012
@Knowledge is Good

It is not the Metro Atlanta transportation problems that MAVEN is exaggerating.

Those problems are evident and serious.

What MAVEN is grossly exaggerating is the impact that the current TIA project list is going to have on those problems.

As I stated in a previous post, the project list itself is proof that MAVEN and the Roundtable are not interested in providing meaningful solutions to our regional transportation issues.

Look at the Atlanta Beltline Trolley as prima facie evidence of that. It is a neighborhood trolley line that has no impact on regional transportation.

The same is true on many other projects on the very flawed TIA project list.

Their primary purpose is to establish a $7 BILLION slush find for the transportation robber barons ( consultants, developers, politicians etc.) in Atlanta.
THE TRUTH
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April 02, 2012
I disagree with your assessment of the Beltline. You may not agree with the concept and may never ride it yourself but it will have a positive impact on regional transportation. It will take cars off the road and give individuals another option in getting around the city. We live here and don't think of Atlanta as a touris town but it most certainly is. More options for moving those visitors easily around the city without the use of a car.

You keep using the term slush fund, when it is very easy for you or anyone else to go and look up the projects and see the real impact they will have. I-20 at I-285, I-285 at 400, I-75 at Windy Hill, all will be improved, plus many other bottle necks will be improved.
SG68
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April 03, 2012
Disagree all you want, but the fact is that the portion of the Beltline Trolley being funded in the TIA does not physically connect to MARTA (the regional transit system) at any point.

It is a neighborhood trolley that serves the intown neighborhoods in Atlanta. It is being funded to garner votes from those it does serve. A payoff if you will. No other reason.

As far as tourism is concerned, you are dreaming. Tourists aren't going to get on a neighborhood trolley just to ride it around. It's not like an amusement park ride.

There has to be some kind of desireable destination involved.



The Beltline is not necessarily a bad thing, but simply does not contribute in any meaningful way to a regional transportation system.

Granted some of the projects that impact the interstate system are regional in nature. I don't have a problem with those.

But many other projects on the TIA project list are locally focused. Not regional. Projects that are regionally meaningless and worthless. No good to anyone but those directly involved in planning, engineering and building them or living in the immediate vicinity of the project.

It flies in the face of the original intent of the TIA legislation.

THE TRUTH
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April 03, 2012
Every project on the Project list is a project that was already in the Transportation Improvement Plan (TIP) for ARC which has to coordinate with the Regional Transportation Plan (RTP) We are a region, projects, no matter how local in nature, which move traffic or provide options to taking more cars off the road ARE of regional significance. Every day, people from Cherokee are driving through Cobb to get to Atlanta and their are folks from North Fulton driving across the region to work in Cobb. Or coming from the south side of town to work in Atlanta or points north. We all are impacted by this traffic in personal, time-management, financial and quality of life meausurements. You may not like one project in a community but that is where that community wanted their finanical contribution to this regional list to go. They might feel the same way about a project near you but they are voting for this thing anyway because they don't want to let the perfect be the enemy of the good. This is a good list of projects that are worthy of support.
SG68
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April 03, 2012
The problem with the current TIA project list is that it is not even a good start in the direction of a regional transportation solution.

It wasn't the most regionally impactful projects that were put in the TIA list.

It was a list of projects that were deemed to be able to generate the most votes in favor of the tax increase.

That's why it deteriorated to a list of local pet transportation projects.

That may be a good strategy for getting the referendum passed, but it's a horrible strategy for addressing our regional transportation issues.

Think long range for a second.

When the voters see that this is not working, what is that going to mean for future referendums? They will be DOA.

But my contention is the Roundtable reps don't really care, because they are going to get their share of this one and only $7 BILLION slush fund.

Their attitude is let the "leaders" around 10 years from now figure out their own way of ripping of the taxpayers we want our payoffs now.
THE TRUTH
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April 03, 2012
@SG68 you make a lot of accusations regarding slush funds and robber barons and rip offs and the like. You claim the projects are flawed and have little regional significance or impact and are more like pet projects. I disagree with your assessment but would be interested in hearing just one of the projects that you support that was not added to the list but would be more regionally significant.
SG68
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April 04, 2012
How about this:

The City of Atlanta funds the Arts Center to Cumberland light rail.

Then Cobb County could fund the extension north to Kennesaw

and then

Fulton County/Sandy Springs could have paid for a line from Cumberland to Perimeter Center

That makes two transit projects not on the list that would make a significant impact on the traffic congestion where it actually exists.

On I-75 from I-575 to I-285 and along I-285 east to Perimeter and GA 400

It also advances regional transit system connectivity by tying existing MARTA into a complementary and supportive light rail system.

At $100 M per mile and assuming a 30 miles of light rail that would be $3 Billion or less than half the $7 Billion TIA.

It would effectively connect Dowtown Atlanta with Cobb and Cobb with Perimeter. It would connect the CID"s and major employment centers in Town Center, Cumberland, Perimeter, Buckhead, Midtown with Downtown via rail transit.

It would increase the ridership on MARTA.

It would take people where they want to go.

It would remove significant amounts of traffic from our most congested interstates.

Then

The next logical step from there would be light rail up GA. 400(another terribly congested corridor) which connects to the North Fulton CID and then along another congested portion of I-285 east to the Doraville MARTA station (Gwinnett CID) and eventually tying into a light rail system that travels up the I-85 corridor (Gwinnet Place CID).

A darn good start in establishing a regional transit system that actually makes sense if you ask me.

That I could support.

THE TRUTH
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April 04, 2012
So we are not so far apart except for the fact that what you have outlined would take up most of the budget for the projected $7.2 billion dollars expected to be raised in this effort. It take care of some needs on the northside counties but would cut out most of the other counties in the 10 county region from any projects. That woudld truly be antithetical to the intent of the legislation. It would also have been politically unfeasible within the context of the regional roundtable, or in the halls of the Georgia Legislature, if they had decided to take a diffent route. You simply want to see more transit and I certainly understand that and am sympathetic to that cause. I would simply say don't let the perfect be the enemy of the good. There is a lot of good in this project list for the ENTIRE region and that is why I am supporting it.
JR in Mableton
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March 31, 2012
Isn't the Windy Hill East/West a TIA project? Isn't it also a CCID project? Isn't part of the education process letting people know what projects are on the list and how they could improve traffic?
The truth
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April 01, 2012
Yes, JR all of that is true. But our Cobb Delegation is feeling left out and they have to keep their names in the news somehow even if it is blasting those who are spreading the truth. Heaven forbid we speak the truth.
High and Mighty
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March 31, 2012
Mr. high and mighty, also known as Earl Ehrhart is at it again, sticking his nose and other body parts where they don't belong. This coming from the same man who threatened for the State to intervene if the Cobb School Board didn't extend the new boundary for the new Hillgrove High school so his kids would attend that school. It scares the hell out of me when our Cobb Delegation gets together for 40 days each year. You never know what stupid tricks they will come up with, especially Mr. High and mighty.
Mr. history
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April 01, 2012
Wasnt he the one who used to work for Robert Multrie at Facility Group doing business development when some illegal stuff was going on? And wasn't it Mr. Ehrhart who was the first to claim I didn't know nothing? Sure Earl. You let Robert take the full hit.
anonymous
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April 02, 2012
Earl's kids do not attend Hillgrove and the courts did agree the school district lines were based on race.
common sense
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March 31, 2012
Since the CIDs are NOT funded by tax dollars -- you would think Rep. Ehrhart and the MDJ should know this but they obviously don't -- there is no conflict. This has already been reviewed and agreed upon by the courts.

So what Rep. Ehrhart and these anti-CID, anti-TIA posters are saying is that Big Government should be able to come in and tell private enterprise and businesses that they cannot exercise free speech and voluntarily spend their money on pro job creation efforts...that Big Government knows best...that Big Government can tell you what you can and can't do. That's scary.
IAgreeRarely
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March 31, 2012
I rarely agree with State Representative Earl Ehrhart, but I do agree with him on this point.
CID out of the box
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March 30, 2012
The CID's are each chartered with specific listed functions.

Spending their tax money to promote political positions is not one of them.

The CID's are not playing by their own rules.
Thomas Palmer
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March 31, 2012
After reading the Constitution for the State of Georgia: My understanding is the legislation creating the CIDs states the proceeds of fees,taxes & assessments levied by the CID are to be used within the boundaries of the CID for parks and recreation, street improvements, public transportation, sewer and garbage collection and not to be used to provide governmental services to the county as a whole. Article IX, Section VII, Paragraph III. And you say ?
SG68
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March 30, 2012
As I and many others have said previously, the MAVEN propaganda being distributed about the TIA is NOT an objective educational effort.

Far from it.

It is a one sided advocacy campaign to sway voters in the Metro area by distributing misinformation and outright falsehoods about what the TIA will do for our transportation issues in Cobb County and the Metro region.

Even the characterizations of the transportation issues we face are blatantly exaggerated.

However I have to diagree with Representative Ehrhart, because the money being awarded by the CID's is voluntarily contributed by the commercial property owners and business owners in the various CID.

But to me the real issue is the fact that the ads and information they are financing are disingenuous, misleading and self serving.

They are not an objective representation of the pros and cons of approving the TIA.

If I were a business/property owner in one of the CID's I would have some serious concerns about how my tax contributions were being used.

It's one thing to be a party to providing factual information, but it is despicable to fill the airwaves with bald faced lies.

Third Floor
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March 31, 2012
SG68, don't think you would know the truth if it hit you in the face. MAVEN facts are grounded in actual real facts. You and your tea party bagged are known to make stuff up to attempt to sell your ideas. I am glad that they are doing a "truth or fiction" section for people just like you.
Knowledge Is Good
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April 01, 2012
Transportation issues in Atlanta can hardly be exaggerated. My eyebrows are raised by the so-called reporting efforts of the MDJ. I give Politfact's half truth a half truth. MAVENS estimate was based on a 2010 GDOT "AVERAGE" one way commute time of 30.3 minutes. The Politifact report raised issues like - What if the afternoon commute was possibly shorter? - What about sick days? Huh? The 260 hours is an estimate based on averages of two year old information. Whole truth back to MAVEN. Why not quote Forbes, that rates Atlanta as the worst commute in the nation where "more people flood the roadways than the infrastructure can handle". Only 29% spend less than 40 minutes commuting per day and 13% spend more than two hours. Are reports of metro Atlanta's population growth also exaggerated? Hardly, again. If our transportation infrastructure can't handle today's needs, what happens several years from now? MAVENS efforts are spot on. This is exactly how you plan and shape the future. Voter education of the facts is critical. As Emil Faber said, "Knowledge Is Good".
SG68
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April 01, 2012
@third floor

No you are wrong.

MAVEN is making exaggerated projections and forecasts on what the positive impacts of the TIA will be. In my opinion they are wishful thinking. At the very best they are educated guesses.

They are not facts!!

And ask yourself this

Do they make any attempt whatsoever at providing the other side of the argument in order to really educate the voters? No they do not.

They are there for the single purpose of getting the TIA passed, not to educate the voters.

They are presenting their manipulated outcomes based on half baked formulas and unproven theories as proven facts.

Sounds very similar to the Obama mantra of "Hope and Change" that we have been stuck with for the last three years.

Except this 16% tax increase will be hung around our necks for far, far longer than three or four years.

Actually MAVEN doesn't really care if the results they are claiming as fact come to fruition or not, because all they want is the $7 Billion slush fund in order to line their pockets.

Do a little research and see who provided the lion's share of funding for MAVEN.

FOLLOW THE MONEY!!!

Knowledge Is Good
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April 01, 2012
Transportation issues in Atlanta can hardly be exaggerated. My eyebrows are raised by the so-called reporting efforts of the MDJ. I give Politfact's half truth a half truth. MAVENS estimate was based on a 2010 GDOT "AVERAGE" one way commute time of 30.3 minutes. The Politifact report raised issues like - What if the afternoon commute was possibly shorter? - What about sick days? Huh? The 260 hours is an estimate based on averages of two year old information. Whole truth back to MAVEN. Why not quote Forbes from three years ago, that rates Atlanta as the worst commute in the nation where "more people flood the roadways than the infrastructure can handle". Only 29% spend less than 40 minutes commuting per day and 13% spend more than two hours. Are reports of metro Atlanta's population growth also exaggerated? Hardly, again. If our transportation infrastructure can't handle yesterday's and today's needs, what happens several years from now? MAVENS efforts are spot on. This is exactly how you thoughtfuly plan and shape the future. Voter education of the facts is critical. As Emil Faber said, "Knowledge Is Good"
Disgusted withit
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March 30, 2012
More corruption running wild in Cobb County!
Mr Frugality
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March 30, 2012
The ads I've heard on the radio assert (strongly implied) that voting for the TIA would result in more family time. For this to actually happen, though, would mean that traffic congestion would be totally mitigated. Officials in charge of the TIA have repeatedly stated that their focus is on development, not traffic congestion.

Also, not a single ad mentioned the probability of a light rail technology selection and the likely (per Tim Lee) requirement for subsequent T-SPLOSTs ad infinitum to cover operating loss subsidies.

Ads which only point out the possible positives and hide the probable negatives are not educating. THEY ARE PROMOTING!

Rep Ehrhart, a judge could issue an injunction against such further ads until it can be determined whether this is a violation of their authority charter. Please take the lead on this to protect us from this insane money grab!
irked
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March 30, 2012
#THE TRUTH

Should the CIDs want to form an investment club to pool their money, they certainly are able to do that.

CIDs are a government body authorized for specific activities.

They have gone way beyond the law.
THE TRUTH
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March 30, 2012
I don't know that they can do that, maybe you have some information I don't. Please share.

quasi-government and they are operating well within their specific activities.

cite the law they have broken.

don't just level charges, back it up.
SG68
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March 31, 2012
@ THE TRUTH

Actually they are balancing on the "ragged edge" of what they are legally allowed to do.

Slick, disingenuous legal interpretation of the enabling legislation is allowing them to claim they are "operating within their specific activities."

Is it illegal? No

Is it ethical and in the best interests of their stakeholders and Cobb County?

Now that is another question entirely, isn't it?
Ehrhart
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March 30, 2012
is right...this was shameful and unethical to support this atrocious was of taxpayer money with taxpayer money...
THE TRUTH
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March 30, 2012
I believe Representative Ehrhart needs to look a little closer at just how CID funds are collected because he is dead wrong. Commercial property owners in the CID district voluntarily tax themselves over and above their regular property tax rate to fund the CID activities. Unless you are a commercial property owner within that specific district your taxes are not being used to fund any CID activities. I would be fantastic if the journalist in preparing this piece would bother to point that out either to Rep. Ehrhart and get his reaction or simply to provide context to the readers of this paper.
business owner
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March 30, 2012
Owning a business in the CID, there is nothing voluntarily about the tax after it first passed.
are you confused?
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March 30, 2012
The tax is paid by the commercial property owners within the district.
Thomas Palmer
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March 31, 2012
The CID activity presently underway is in direct violation of Article IX, Section VII, Paragraph III of the Georgia Constitution which clearly states that all activity supported by any CID is restricted to governmental services within the boundaries of the specific CID. Their taxes, fees and assessments are not to be used county wide or to educate potential voters.
anonymous
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April 02, 2012
I see that we are all in agreement that it is an tax. I know that the tax is passed on to my business, which rents space in the area. In the end it makes the price of goods I sell higher.

Surely, one can understand that concept.
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