More than 100 people crowded into City Hall chambers for a TSPLOST forum hosted by the Lilburn Woman's Club on Monday, July 16.
Not only was it a time for residents to hear arguments for and against the July 31 referendum, but also about a dozen judicial candidates came for a meet-and-greet with the public.
The moderator for the night's activities was Mike Smith, a resident of Lilburn. The two debaters were: Colleen Kiernan, director of the Georgia chapter of the Sierra Club, and Dave Williams, former Suwanee mayor and vice president of transportation public policy at the Metro Atlanta Chamber.
The Argument Against
Kiernan, who's offices are near the Avondale Marta Station, complained that she'd use it if only it worked better. More should be done to make Marta, and other solutions like it, more usable.
As it stands now, what's mostly in the TSPLOST list are projects dedicated to increasing roadway capacity, she said, the likes of which the Sierra Club faults for the city's "traffic mess."
Alternative options that are included, like rail and bus service, are things the Sierra Club supports in theory, however transit projects "aren't fully funded, they're vaguely defined, and they don't solve the problem," Kiernan said.
The Argument For
On the other hand, Williams said there is no perfect solution, nor illusion that the July 31 referendum will solve everything. And, on more than occasion, Williams admonished: "Do not let the search for perfect be the enemy of good."
With Atlanta being one of the fastest growing metropolitan areas in the nation -- bringing in an estimated 1 billion people between 2000-2010 -- and dollars spent on transportation not keeping pace, a traffic problem is inherent.
"We all pay a price for congestion," he added, relaying a story about the cost dilemma of big-name package transporters to get around the city, and that those costs are passed on the consumers.
Citizen Speak Out
Citizens who spoke up at the meeting during a special question-and-answer session seemed to think the plan wasn't good enough, and that it would cost taxpayers a lot.
Steve Seblink, a Lilburn resident since 1984, stood up and said Marta can handle more people, and should. The problem sits in the city, and "nobody is addressing that," he said.
"Don't get us downtown and dump us; you're not going to gain a thing," Seblink added. "You really aren't, and what this whole plan does is dump everybody downtown."
Everyone has to step and work together, he added. So, it's not so much about the one cent tax, but what it will be invested in.
"It took them four years to put this all together," he added, "And, I don't know how much input we really all had."
Final Forum Word
On July 31, citizens could authorize some $7.2 billion over 10 years, and that's just smidgen of what would really be needed; Kiernan and Williams agree on that.
Still, Kiernan said it's not the best option, and that voters should say no, forcing leaders to go back to the drawing board to come up with something else.
"This isn't a problem that you can just throw money at and think that it's a good enough," she said. "It's important that we make smart investments.
However, Williams said, at least it's a step.
"Is this the only thing that we should do? Absolutely not. We've never characterized it as such," he said. "Are we going to declare victory and hang up a mission accomplished banner, and say we're done. Absolutely not."
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