Transit enthusiasts in Cobb County: you’ve got a “generational opportunity” on your hands.
At its inaugural Y’All Aboard virtual meeting this week, Cobb 4 Transit founder Matt Stigall told the dozen-plus attendees that an upcoming referendum on a sales tax dedicated solely to funding transit and transportation projects could free Cobbers sick of having to drive everywhere.
The county’s governing board is considering putting that referendum before voters in 2022 or 2024. Waiting until 2024 would be a mistake, Stigall advised.
“2022, just because of who’s likely on the ticket, there will be electoral advantages here in Cobb County that make it much more likely for a transit referendum to pass,” he said, presumably referring to Democrat Stacey Abrams, who is widely expected to again challenge Brian Kemp for the governorship. While insisting that transit should have bipartisan appeal, Stigall acknowledged that it has been more of a Democratic priority of late.
Republicans do enjoy their cars.
Last November, Gwinnett voters narrowly rejected transit expansion in their county for the second time in two years despite voting overwhelmingly for Joe Biden. That means Cobb’s governing board will have to get the details right if the transit tax is to pass, Stigall said.
Transit needs to meet the following criteria to succeed, according to Stigall: coverage, frequency, speed, reliability, convenience, comfort and safety and affordability. The Gwinnett proposal failed on the coverage front, having offered little to no benefit to too many of the county’s residents, he said.
Of course, there’s only so much Cobb commissioners can do with the 1% sales tax they’re allowed to raise for transit. Consultants the county has retained to help move the referendum forward have suggested that makes the construction of rail, the most expensive of options, inadvisable. Expanding MARTA’s green line to Cumberland would eat up almost two-thirds of a 1%, 30-year tax, they say.
As Stigall has argued before, he thinks their estimates as to what rail would cost and what that 1% could raise are too conservative. And besides, freight rail lines run through Cobb cities — if we could only use those.
Stigall isn't alone in suggesting we repurpose one of those lines, which is owned by the state.
A few years ago, when the state was renegotiating its 50-year lease with CSX, the freight company that's been using the Western and Atlantic Railroad, state Sen. Lindsey Tippins, R-west Cobb, convinced then-Gov. Nathan Deal to add a stipulation allowing the state to run passenger trains there as well.
The line runs from Atlanta to Chattanooga, passing through four of Cobb’s six cities and behind Cumberland Mall.
At the time, Tippins said any passenger rail in Cobb should run along the Western and Atlantic.
“The quickest route to get there, the most economical route to get there, is to use existing rail line,” he said at the time. “If that’s feasible — I’m not saying it is, I’m not saying Cobb would want to do that — if you wanted to do that, it makes more sense to use an existing rail line. ... An existing right-of-way, you might have to do some modifications, it may take a couple or three years to do that."
Added state Rep. Ed Setzler, R-Acworth, the year before the amendment was added:
“I just think the idea that we would close the shared use of the line for 50 years, that just would be a terrible decision,” Setzler said. “Not that we’re going to use it any time soon in particular, I wouldn’t want to suggest there’s an existing plan in place, but I think it would be important to our existing historic downtowns to have rail access sometime in the future.”
Others at Wednesday’s meeting lamented the state of affairs in Cobb. One woman, venting her frustration at critics who point out existing CobbLinc buses often appear empty, said it was to be expected when those buses are slow and their coverage, skimpy.
Of course, the bipartisan infrastructure bill recently agreed to by U.S. senators came up. That bill will provide billions for transit, although Cobb may lose out on some of that money, not having committed to any specific projects or funding streams just yet, Stigall said.
Another attendee put it in rather stark terms. Gwinnett’s rejection of a 2019 transit referendum has likely cost it $200 million to $1 billion in federal matching dollars.
ON THE RIGHT: Cobb GOP Chair Salleigh Grubbs says in her newsletter this week that party membership has grown by 30% since the April 17 county convention.
“This growth is so exciting and speaks volumes for the people who are willing and ready to stand up for Cobb County and our Party," she writes.
Due to the additional members and sold out crowds at the GOP's monthly breakfast, the August 14 breakfast will be at Roswell Street Baptist Church.
"We are honored to present our special guest speaker, a true Patriot and Congresswoman, Marjorie Taylor Greene, who is hard at work not only for the 14th District, but for all conservatives across America. We appreciate her unwavering dedication and commitment to preserving and protecting our Constitutional Rights and our Freedom," Grubbs writes.
In related news, Grubbs said she was recently privileged to speak alongside state Sen. Kay Kirkpatrick and 6th Congressional candidate Suzi Voyles at the Art of When Shan Ren, International Art Exhibition in Atlanta. Grubbs says the artist's work commemorates an inner spiritual life and human rights tragedy committed against the Falun Gong practitioners.
The Falun Gong, Grubbs says, “are rooted in Buddhist principles, and they practice Truth, Compassion and Forbearance; these people are imprisoned, persecuted, and often killed by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). They are being abused in the most horrific ways. It is believed that Practitioners from Falun Gong are possibly being used for involuntary organ harvesting, and at times, live organ harvesting. It is inconceivable that these human atrocities still exist in the year 2021. As a Christian, and as an American, I am terrified that any group could be targeted by their own government today, specifically for their spiritual beliefs and practices. It is not inconceivable that this could happen in America if we don't stand up and speak out about our religious rights!”
She has therefore agreed to host the art exhibit at the Cobb GOP headquarters. Doors open at 10:30 a.m. August 14 after Greene's fire-breathing commentary will have undoubtedly seared the paint from the church walls.
PASSING THE TORCH: Among those who attended the swearing-in ceremony of newly elected state Rep. Devan Seabaugh at the Gold Dome this week was his predecessor, Bert Reeves.
Reeves resigned his post in the 34th District, which represents parts of Marietta and Kennesaw, to take an executive position at the Georgia Institute of Technology.
“I think it’s safe to say that Devan Seabaugh will be a significant upgrade from the previous guy who held that seat!” Reeves posted on social media.
Reeves is being gracious. While in office, he was one of Cobb County's most influential and successful lawmakers, involved in all manner of legislative wins while also serving as Gov. Brian Kemp's floor leader. But back to his post:
“Seriously, I’ve known Devan for a long time. I’m thrilled for him and for Dist. 34. He’s gonna do great. He has the experience, the understanding, the drive, the wisdom, and the ability to listen to make well informed decisions, many of which are much more complex and difficult than many realize. I am proud to be represented by Devan and look forward to helping in whatever way I can," Reeves wrote.
Seabaugh had a first swearing-in ceremony last month, but it was a quick affair with just his wife and Chief Superior Court Judge Rob Leonard present, so he could get on with the business of representing the 34th District in an official capacity.
RECOGNITION: Former Marietta High School Principal Leigh Colburn and her co-author Linda Beggs were recently named winners of the 2021 Independent Publisher Book Awards. Their book, “The Wraparound Guide,” received the Gold Medal in the Education workbook and resource category.
“The Wraparound Guide,” published by Solution Tree, offers schools the knowledge and process for establishing “wraparound centers,” complete with funding and community support, and to design programming to meet the needs of students and families.
The genesis of “The Wraparound Guide: How to Gather Student Voice, Build Community Partnerships, and Cultivate Hope,” began when Colburn was the popular principal of Marietta High School.
In 2013, Colburn began having conversations with students that dug into what barriers they believed interfered with their academic and life success.
Those conversations led to the founding of the Graduate Marietta Student Success Center, now the Student Life Center, in 2015 with Colburn as director. In the first two years, the “wraparound center” delivered $1.9 million worth of community services including mental health counseling, mentoring and others.
Colburn retired in 2017 and co-founded The Centergy Project with Beggs, a corporate consultant, and together they expanded the processes Colburn used in Marietta to many other school districts.
Colburn and Beggs are frequent speakers at state and national conferences focused on leadership, education and community improvement.
SPEAKER CIRCUIT: Marietta Daily Journal Sports Editor John Bednarowski is the speaker at Monday's Metro Marietta Kiwanis Club. The event, which begins at noon, takes place at the Roswell Street Baptist Church.
Bednarowski will be speaking on Cobb County High School Football for the 2021 season and college prospects of our local high school athletes. For more information or to make a reservation for the event, please email Metromariettakiwanis1957@gmail.com. ...
The Cobb County Republican Women's Club is hosting "An Evening With Randy Evans" from 7 to 8:30 p.m. Tuesday at The Atrium at Vinings, 4125 Atlanta Road, Smyrna. To RSVP: email firstname.lastname@example.org. Evans served as ambassador to Luxembourg under President Donald Trump.
TWEETING THIS & THAT: “I shouldn’t click this, should I?”
So mused KSU economics professor JC Bradbury, sharing a link to a column in the MDJ by former Congressman Bob Barr titled “Are American Athletes Morphing into Snowflakes?”
Of course, the column took aim at Simone Biles, the most decorated gymnast of all time. Biles withdrew from the gymnastics team final at the Olympics, citing her mental health.
Wrote Barr: “For America, a country built on hard work, sacrifice, and a ‘never quit’ attitude, Biles’ exit was a slap in the face to the quintessential 'grit' that pioneered the very country she represented.”
As he so often has before, Bradbury had thoughts:
“Nothing like having a little p---ant weigh in on what it means to be an elite athlete. Lost track of Simon Biles’s medal count, but pretty sure Bob Barr has zero.”