Undecided DeKalb voters hear from both sides on TSPLOST

by: Richard Elliot Updated:

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DECATUR, Ga. —

One of the biggest elections in Georgia’s history takes place Tuesday, and both sides of the issue have been making last-minute pushes.

People are heading to the polls to vote on the Transportation Referendum, which would provide more than $7 billion worth of road, rail and bus projects.

Despite a constant drizzle, voter turnout appeared steady throughout the morning at Cobb County's busiest polling precinct.  Voters lined up outside the Noonday Baptist Church precinct on Canton Road before the doors opened at 7am.

Bill Kenney was among the first to cast his ballot.  He voted against the Transportation Referendum, known as TSPLOST, and said it was because he didn't trust government with the money.
 
"We need change," said Kenney as he exited the polling place.  "But let's do it in a bit more responsible way instead of just saying, ‘Yeah, here's a bunch of money.  Let's throw more at it.’”

In DeKalb County, there were two intense rallies for those for and against the referendum, known as TSPLOST, Monday night.

Some said they were on the fence, but now plan to vote for the 1 percent sales tax after their questions were answered on exactly where their money would be spent to improve MARTA and traffic congestion.

“I trust them (local leaders) a little bit more about money being spent. I think it’s going to be tough to pass this,” Ellen O’Leary, who is a 32-year DeKalb County resident, said.

Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed told the crowd at the Untie Atlanta rally in Decatur that it would be a close vote.

“We’re going to do what we’ve always done. We are going to pull it off. Not by much, but I’m here to tell you, I’ll take it,” said Reed.

Channel 2’s Craig Lucie asked DeKalb’s CEO, Burrell Ellis, what TSPLOST opponents want to know: Why do DeKalb County residents have to pay 2 percent, when other surrounding counties have to pay 1 percent?

“DeKalb countians are going to continue to also gain by everybody else's support of the MARTA system. What we are really doing is creating jobs and reducing traffic congestion and improving the quality of life. This is absolutely what we need to do to grow ourselves out of this recession,” answered Ellis.

Residents in DeKalb and Fulton counties have paid a 1 percent MARTA tax for the past 40 years.
Opponents say not enough money is going to MARTA and too much is earmarked for road projects.

“The only way to reduce traffic is to take cars off the road. Not by widening lanes and highways,” said DeKalb business owner DeAndre’ Mathis.

State Sen. Vincent Fort said it comes down to fairness.

“This is not fair. It’s not fair because the sales tax is regressive. People in DeKalb will be paying 2 percent while outlying counties will be paying 1 percent,” explained Senator Fort.

Supporters said if TSPLOST fails, other metropolitan cities like Dallas, Charlotte and Seattle would be the winners because they would become more attractive to companies due to metro Atlanta’s traffic congestion.

Channel 2 has a team of reporters covering the vote throughout metro Atlanta. Watch Channel 2 Action News beginning at 4 p.m. for live updates.