Problems remain with 911, trouble ahead in transit

After reading eight pages of allegations regarding the 911 Call Center Director provided by numerous former employees at all levels, the Board of Commissioners voted 3-2 to not to have an independent investigation. Obviously, I was disappointed.

There were comments that what happened was in the past and we should let it go. The Human Resources Director claims the 911 Director has “changed.”

Commissioner Charles Rousseau valiantly attended the meeting while he was quite ill just so he could vote in favor of the independent investigation.

Insuring a decent workplace environment should be a priority of the elected officials.

With this disillusionment came a minor victory in that Chairman Eric Maxwell, Commissioner Rousseau and I demanded that county staff always turn over government documentation requested by all commissioners. I am hoping the days of hiding things from elected officials are over.

I will make pertinent documents related to the situation in the 911 Call Center available to the public as I promised.

Another issue of concern is fast approaching.

For two decades, Fayette County has been ranked as the top performing county in metro Atlanta and Georgia based upon the statistics. While other metro counties have ascended and declined, Fayette County has remained rock solid.

Other counties and cities in the region were practicing an uncontrolled growth strategy that showed promise early on, but later resulted in significant drawbacks. Many of us moved from the other metro counties because we appreciate what makes Fayette County so much better.

With overdevelopment in the northern suburbs came traffic gridlock. Regional leaders spurred on by the development community have been looking for a way to solve the gridlock and improve the quality of life in order to keep the high density development going.

In their mind, the magic answer is more mass transit, even though ridership has been chronically low and the MARTA system has been plagued with poor administration. Additionally, MARTA has racked up significant financial losses and the ongoing maintenance costs for the system is a massive problem.

Elected officials in MARTA districts have made no secret that they want all metro counties funding their rail and bus system. In 2010, the legislature created the first ever regional T-SPLOST, a tax that would have forced all metro counties to pay for regional mass transit costs. For Fayette County, it’s absurd since we do not have mass transit and we do not have the population nor the budget to justify having it.

The first regional T-SPLOST referendum was in 2012 and it was so poorly orchestrated that it did not win in a single metro county. The people behind the regional mass transit push learned two lessons. First, the name “MARTA” created a negative connotation in the voters’ minds, deservedly so, and they needed to rebrand the system. Second, they needed a regional authority to govern all the metro mass transit systems to get buy-in from voters outside Fulton and DeKalb counties.

In the legislature this year, under the leadership of regional transit promoter Senator Brandon Beach, the MARTA name will be rebranded, and the new regional governing body will be created.

The final version of the legislative action will have some sort of initial revenue source like a tax on Uber, Lyft and taxi rides. However, the ultimate goal is solving the financial difficulties of the rebranded MARTA system. That effort will require a lot of money, beyond Fulton and DeKalb counties.

Once the regional transit body is in place, there will be cheers of a new found cooperation in the region, saying how we could solve our gridlock issues if we only had more money. They will ask for another regional T-SPLOST or some other tax from us and the entity that was formerly named “MARTA” will control the expanded rail and buses.

Unfortunately, even if a majority of Fayette citizens vote against the next regional tax referendum, it could pass regionally and Fayette County taxpayers would be paying into a transit system with little benefit for our citizens.

The worst-case scenario for Fayette County would be getting sucked into a homogenized development scheme and paying outrageous sums for a losing mass transit system that only a tiny fraction of commuters will ride.

I appreciate the opposition to these regional transit efforts from Rep. Josh Bonner and Sen. Marty Harbin.

Next, look at the traffic pipeline that GDOT is building from I-75 South to Fayetteville (McDonough Road), increased commuter cut-through traffic, increased freight traffic on I-85 and the county’s inability to get the I-85 and State Route 74 interchange project going, and it is easy to see our quality of life appears to be dissolving. We are squandering away a lifestyle that has managed to stay on top of the quality of life statistics for decades when the others have failed.

We are literally being eaten by the region around us and we do not have the wherewithal to put up a proper fight to protect what we have here. Some of our elected officials are embracing the changes behind the scenes.

Steve Brown, Commissioner
District 3, Fayette County Board of Commissioners
Peachtree City, Ga.