Georgia Unfiltered

Search This Site

30 April 2013

Clayton County Legislators Say More Community Involvement Needed Before MARTA Can Expand South

"Cobb has buses. Gwinnett has buses. Clayton has buses. Those three and Fulton and DeKalb, that needs to be the regional agency."

Those are the words of Sandy Springs Mayor Eva Galambos, a Republican living in Fulton County.

Across town, thirty-three miles away, state Representative Keisha Waites (D - Atlanta) received loud applause when she spoke favorably of expanding MARTA at a town hall meeting in Clayton County -- a solidly Democrat community.

Mass transit is an issue where there's agreement between the two parties. With metro Atlanta traffic worsening; with fuel prices increasing, it is generally agreed upon by both Democrats and Republicans that something must be done to get more people out of their cars and onto mass transit.

In Clayton County, a county that had mass transit before budget constraints forced termination of the service in 2010, one solution to increasing mass transit access is MARTA buses and trains operating within Clayton County's borders. The devil, as they say, is in the details though.

Clayton County currently has a cap on its sales tax. Sales taxes cannot, by law, exceed 7% in Clayton County. In 2010, the cap was lifted, giving Clayton County an opportunity to approve a 1% sales tax for MARTA. House Bill 1393, signed into law by Governor Perdue, removed the sales tax limit for two years. Unfortunately, within those two years, the Clayton County Commission took no action on submitting a binding MARTA referendum to the voters. That inaction from Clayton County Commissioners caused some pause from members of the legislative delegation.

State Representative Darryl Jordan (D - Riverdale) said he supports MARTA in Clayton County, but he wants to see some movement from the county commission. Jordan co-sponsored the bill temporarily removing the sales tax cap in 2010. He said he'd be willing to re-introduce House Bill 1393, but not before Clayton County Commissioners pass a resolution calling for a binding MARTA referendum.

One of Jordan's colleagues in the House, Representative Mike Glanton (D - Jonesboro), also said he'd be willing to reconsider local options for transportation funding including revisiting the provisions stipulated under House Bill 1393.

"I support a well thought out/funded transportation plan for Clayton County," Glanton wrote in an email exchange with Georgia Unfiltered. "However, in order for the process to work, county leaders including the Legislative Delegation, Commission, Cities, business community, and residents must work together to develop a sustainable solution to our transportation needs."

Freshman legislator Ronnie Mabra (D - Fayetteville) agreed.

"I do support the expansion of MARTA into Clayton County," Mabra said. "It needs to be done the right way with Clayton County (citizens, elected officials, business and community leaders) having a say as to how MARTA will operate within the county.

"The transportation system in Clayton needs to be efficient to have the right impact the citizens are looking for."

Representative Glanton noted that, in 2010, Clayton County voters overwhelmingly approved a nonbinding MARTA referendum, 70% to 30%. This proves the people of Clayton County want mass transit in their community. And it will take the people leaning on their legislators and county commissioners to make mass transit happen south of Atlanta.