TSPLOST hurt, not helped, by consultant’s ‘race’ talk

By Ron Sifen

TSPLOST supporters have brought in a Washington, D.C. developer, Chris Leinberger, who is also a consultant on urbanism and smart growth, to race-bait the TSPLOST.

Leinberger told the Cumberland Area Community Improvement District board last week that “MARTA really stands for ‘Moving African Americans Rapidly Through Atlanta.’ You’ve racialized it. The white suburban neighborhoods and places have completely ignored the economic development potential that MARTA could have been and will be in the future.”

He also said “Ultimately, real estate developers are building for middle-class and upper-class folks.”

He also said “the goal of having a rail system is not for traffic relief, but for economic development.” He also said “You do not build it to move people.”

Wow. Where do I start?

I ride MARTA, and I’m white. Lots of white people ride MARTA. Atlanta has not racialized MARTA. The only person in this discussion who has racialized MARTA is the paid consultant who does not live in Georgia, but who apparently will be paid to propagandize against the taxpayers who want fiscal responsibility.

And listen closely, Atlantans. Leinberger says that

* Rail transit is not about moving people.

* Rail transit is not about reducing traffic congestion on our roads.

* Rail transit is entirely about economic development.

Even the Atlanta Regional Commission has admitted that the TSPLOST projects list will do little to reduce commute times. It will not reduce traffic congestion on our roads. Using TSPLOST proponents’ numbers, the optimistic projection is that on average, you might save about one minute each way. And this is based on some extremely dubious assumptions.

The purpose of the TSPLOST is to extract billions of dollars from taxpayers to incentivize development “for middle class and upper class folks” so that rich, predominantly white developers and consultants can become richer.

One of Leinberger’s most bizarre and reprehensible comments was his accusation that white suburban neighborhoods ignored the development potential that MARTA could have provided.

Putting aside his false and reprehensible attempts to manufacture an alleged issue about “white suburban neighborhoods”;

* Suburban neighborhoods do not facilitate any kind of development anywhere. We aren’t developers. We are neighborhoods.

* Leinberger made the claim himself, that developers “are building for middle class and upper class folks.” Developers made the decisions of whether they wanted to develop near some MARTA stations. And developers made the decisions not to develop near other MARTA stations. Any attempt to distort that into an accusation of racism against suburban neighborhoods is just outright false and reprehensible.

In 2004, the State of Georgia produced the Regional Transit Action Plan. The RTAP would have implemented an affordable regional transit network that could have provided outstanding connectivity throughout the region. The RTAP would have provided superior transit service, serving far more people, and far more destinations, at a tiny fraction of the cost of the ultra-expensive boondoggles that are on the TSPLOST projects list.

The RTAP was rejected by rich, powerful special interests because the only thing it would have done was to move people affordably and efficiently. The RTAP did not provide rich powerful special interests an opportunity to turn taxpayer dollars into their profits. The RTAP was unacceptable to the rich powerful special interests because it was a cost-effective, good deal for taxpayers.

If the TSPLOST is approved, it will consume all available transit dollars. Therefore, the TSPLOST will actually doom any hope for future expanded transit service for south Cobb.

Why should taxpayers cough up billions of dollars for transit whose only purpose is to incentivize new development targeted for “middle class and upper class folks” in north Cobb and in the City of Atlanta? And the only real beneficiaries of the TSPLOST are the rich and powerful special interests who will profit from these ultra-expensive boondoggles.

Light rail has nothing to do with moving people. Light rail is about making powerful, rich people richer.

I see that the Cumberland CID is proposing to pay Leinberger $190,000 to do a study regarding urbanization. The CID usually prefers to “leverage” its money by getting other governmental agencies to pay part of the cost. I guess the CID can spend its money however it wants. Cobb County should not contribute any tax dollars toward a study tainted by last week’s race-baiting.

Ron Sifen of Vinings is president of the Cobb County Civic Coalition. His views do not necessarily reflect the views of the CCCC. All articles are posted with the author’s permission.

Article Printed in the Marietta Daily Journal on July 19, 2012

Note that this article was in response the the MDJ article on July 14th.  If you missed that, you can find it here.

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