The following remarks were made before the Cobb County Board of Commissioners monthly meeting held last night. While it was a foregone conclusion that the agenda items authorizing the expenditure of over a half a million dollars for consultants to draw up a Transit Tax projects list (and use the money to “sell us” on the idea that this will be a great thing for Cobb taxpayers), passed in a 3 to 2 party line vote, it is nonetheless important that CTA be out there on the front lines advocating for the taxpayer whenever and wherever the opportunity presents itself. Last night’s meeting was such an opportunity.
Good Evening. My name is Lance Lamberton and I am here to speak on behalf of the Cobb Taxpayers Association, and more specifically on whether the County should pay over a half million dollars to outside consultants to draw up a project list for a 30 year multi-billion dollar transit tax.
First of all, I believe that County staff has the knowledge, expertise and talent to draw up a projects list on its own without using expensive outside consultants. Moreover, I am of the belief that much of the funds to be paid to these consultants will be used to not only draw up a list of projects, but to also develop a communications strategy to sell the tax to Cobb County voters, and that purpose, I maintain, is an illegitimate use of taxpayer money. What it basically does is tax us for the purpose of convincing us that we should pass another tax.
Anyway, that is the main point I wanted to make this evening, but since I have your undivided attention, I’d like to use my time to make some points on why I think the 30 year multi-billion dollar tax is a really bad idea. One of the arguments made for the tax is that the County’s population is growing, so the demand for public transit will grow accordingly. However, a disproportionate amount of that growth will come from seniors, who are the least likely to use mass transit.
Let’s say, just for argument’s sake, that the new tax will make it possible to have a bus stop within a half mile of every resident in the County. A half mile walk may not be a big deal for some, but for many, even most seniors, that is a real challenge. Based upon my own personal experience, when I first moved to Cobb County in 2001, I used to commute by bicycle whenever feasible by riding the 4 or five miles to a county bus stop, take the bus to the Marietta Transfer station, and then take my bike to my final destination.
Now, thanks to a serious heart condition and severe, chronic arthritis, I haven’t been able to use my bike for years. Even walking around the block poses a real challenge.
The point is, as we get older, we become more and more dependent on our own personal vehicles, especially in a suburban county like ours. So to ask a large portion of our population to underwrite a service they may never use is unfair, especially when so many seniors are on fixed incomes during these inflationary times.
Also, a more robust bus transit network will actually make congestion worse, and will increase trip times to unacceptable lengths, leading to underutilization. The bottom line is that the there is a huge gap between how much a 30 year transit tax will cost vs. potential benefits. It also doesn’t take into account how transportation technology will in all likelihood make the mass transit option obsolete over such a long stretch of time.
In its totality, the need for mass transit simply does not make sense in a suburban environment, and my fear is that the real driver for it is to advance an urbanization agenda for County, and in so doing, diminish the quality of life we have come to expect here in Cobb.
My bottom line is that if mass transit is so dad gum important to you, then move to a place where it makes sense. That place is not Cobb County. Thank you.