Atlanta Journal Constitution
June 2, 2013

By Field Searcy

With trust in government in short supply, finding a way to handle critical road projects that actually relieve traffic congestion in metro Atlanta is desperately needed.

We at the Transportation Leadership Coalition (TLC) are glad to see our state government finally addressing credible projects like the Interstate 285 and Georgia 400 interchange instead of chasing billions of dollars’ worth of low-impact transit projects as were found in the Transportation Investment Act referendum.

Yes, indeed, the Interstate 285 and Georgia400 interchange project should proceed, but we have little to cheer about. The enormous cost of the interchange improvement will inhale the lion’s share of our state transportation funds. The commute for a majority of the metro population who do not use Georgia 400 will remain a congested drag on their lives.

The Atlanta region now finds itself in a situation where many of the counties will not have an opportunity to make any significant congestion relief progress at all due to a lack of funds. Our opportunities were squandered. The self-indulgent special interests kept trying to convince us that overly expensive commuter rail and non-effective light rail are substitutes for major road improvements. We were told the Beltline, nothing more than a local Atlanta economic development project, was worth nearly $2 billion of our tax dollars.

We can blame the incredibly poor project selections in the regional governance-driven transportation referendum, which led to its failure. We can also blame the total lack of activity in the 2013 General Assembly pertaining to all things transportation.

The state needs to develop more sophisticated ways to address problems like the Interstate 285 and Georgia 400 interchange improvement. Why not create a way for the affected counties in the area to help pay for it locally?

State Rep. Ed Setzler, R-Acworth, introduced House Bill 195 in 2013 that would have allowed counties to create their own special district, set their own list of projects and have their own referendum. The legislation was viewed as a positive way to maintain local control and solve problems. Unfortunately, the bill never made it out of committee.

It is interesting that government can always justify building a new football stadium costing over $1 billion, but they cannot be motivated to produce more than one significant highway project out of the many we truly need.

To commuters across metro Atlanta, the Interstate 285 and Georgia Highway 400 interchange project will stand as a symbol of how little control our citizens have over our state government and how low our expectations should be.

This type of situation will continue as long as we choose the wrong priorities and chase massive multi-billion dollar projects. Some say regional governance is the answer. We believe regionalism leads to less local control, more unaccountability and poorer results; not to mention, it’s unconstitutional!

Source: http://www.myajc.com/news/news/opinion/low-expectations-for-congestion-relief/nX8LX/

Atlanta Journal Constitution
May 2, 2013  By Kyle Wingfield

One of the biggest hindrances to last summer’s T-SPLOST referendum existed before a single project was added to the list or vote was cast.

That flaw was the very concept of regionalism, an element at the heart of the law authorizing the 1 percent sales tax for transportation infrastructure. Along with public distrust of the political class, a flawed notion of how — or even whether — area residents think about our region was central to sinking the tax vote.

Since last July’s vote, momentum for the trend of residents seeking more localized, decentralized government has only grown. Far from thinking of themselves as citizens of a multi-county “metro Atlanta,” it’s becoming ever clearer that many of them no longer want to claim even the county they live in.

Fulton, especially the part of the county north of Atlanta, already has been largely carved up into cities. The hope is that, eventually, the county government will acknowledge the changed reality and trim itself to a more appropriate size in both taxes levied and services provided. It appears DeKalb is moving inexorably in the same direction.

This is particularly true in northern DeKalb. Dunwoody and Brookhaven already have joined the like of Chamblee and Doraville. In this year’s legislative session, the initial steps toward adding cities in the Lakeside, Druid Hills and Tucker areas were taken. Stonecrest in the southern part of the county is also being mulled. Other unincorporated areas in the middle and south of the county might be ripe for annexation by existing cities such as Decatur, Lithonia and Stone Mountain.

In short, those people in metro Atlanta’s core counties who haven’t already left for the suburbs and exurbs are taking one last shot at forcing more responsiveness from the governments where they live now.

Meanwhile, their former neighbors who have already packed up and moved are moving further and further away. As I’ve written about a couple of times recently, IRS data show Georgia is gaining income from higher-tax states — but within our state, people and their incomes are moving away from the urban core.

Here’s what that looks like within the 10-county region that voted down last summer’s T-SPLOST almost 2-to-1:

The five “core” counties — Clayton, Cobb, DeKalb, Fulton and Gwinnett — lost a combined $4.1 billion in adjusted gross income (AGI) between 1995 and 2010, according to IRS data compiled by Travis H. Brown in his recent book, “How Money Walks.”

The other five counties — Cherokee, Douglas, Fayette, Henry and Rockdale — gained a combined $4.3 billion in AGI during those years, Brown found. Much of it came directly from the five core counties.

There are different ways to respond to these trends regarding transportation funding. One, following the T-SPLOST model, is to cut directly against the grain of these trends by making decisions at a regional level, essentially forcing people back toward the central counties they chose to leave behind.

An alternative is to work with these trends. The state, which wields great control over counties’ taxing powers, could give county governments more flexibility to team up to levy taxes for transportation, for instance by allowing counties to band together voluntarily for a future T-SPLOST vote.

Or the state could change the law to allow individual counties to use a different special local-option sales tax, for instance the E-SPLOST, for multiple purposes including transportation. As the Georgia Public Policy Foundation has reported, Georgia ranks eighth nationally in k-12 infrastructure spending and 22nd for all infrastructure — but just 41st in transportation infrastructure. It just might be time for counties to re-prioritize their existing spending, which could include working jointly with other counties on road or transit projects.

The latter approaches have their limitations, but they seem more likely to work than forcing people to support the counties they’ve tried to leave behind with either incorporation or moving trucks.

(Note: This is my Thursday column from the print edition of the AJC. It already has been posted at myajc.com, but it doesn’t appear that most of you made it there. So I’m cross-posting it here. Thanks for your patience as I try to figure out where it’s best to post columns now that they can appear in more than one spot.

And one more thing: I’m working on a follow-up column that addresses the role the state should play in truly regional projects. Hint: a large one. – KW)

Source:  http://www.ajc.com/weblogs/kyle-wingfield/2013/may/02/people-are-thinking-more-local-less-centralized/

Last month, grassroots volunteers attended a forum on regionalism sponsored by the AJC and PNC Bank.  The panel featured Steve Brown, Eva Galambos, Tad Leithead, and Ellen Mayer.  A number of you attended, wore Repeal Regionalism buttons and handed out information flyers which directed people to the www.RepealRegionalism.com website.  Our presence and website got a brief mention in the next day’s AJC paper.

Last Sunday, the AJC ran an editorial that featured a summary of the panels comments.  You can read that here: http://www.repealregionalism.com/index.php/close-enough-or-too-far-apart/

We were contacted Wednesday to write an op-ed for today’s AJC Atlanta Forward opinion page.  The following was our contribution.  There’s a link at the bottom to read the other opinions in favor and join the debate on the AJC blog.  We need to keep informing citizens about the dangers of regionalism.  If we stand on principle and continue to be persistent, we can win the debate.

Thanks for your involvement and support.  Stay engaged…

Regional control isn’t local

April 25, 2013

By Field Searcy

The nice thing about local government is that citizen voters can control it. People know who their local city councilmen and county commissioners are because they live nearby, and they were elected. If citizens do not like local government decisions, they simple elect someone who will serve them better. Now, try asking your neighbor, “Who serves on the board of our Regional Commission?” and watch the puzzled look on their face. Most citizen voters are unaware who is serving in these positions of authority because the members are either appointed or don’t run for the position.

Regionalism as implemented in Georgia is an unelected and unaccountable form of government that dilutes the power people have over government decision-making. The U.S. Constitution guarantees each state a republican form of government, which means sovereignty rests with the people, and representatives are “chosen by the people.”

Regional governance lacks these checks and balances because regional commissions are in essence appointed by an operation of law. For example, 15 of the 38 members of the Atlanta Regional Commission are appointed citizen members who have absolutely no accountability to voters. Also, most of the elected officials on regional entities have no accountability to your county or city. You can’t control the actions of regional governments, because you can’t control most of the regional board members.

Many of the appointed members have their own agendas.

The rise of regionalism, like what we get from the Transportation Investment Act (TIA), comprises another layer of government between the local city-county and state government. This new layer of bureaucracy diminishes the local control and authority of city and county governments for self-government through “home rule” as provided for in the Georgia Constitution. Local control is further buttressed by the founders’ belief, “That government closest to the people governs best!”

Creating a regional tax base or regional equity is a form of central planning. The problems created in one county are paid for by taxpayers from another. The Georgia Constitution requires that state-level taxation be uniform and equal across the state. Citizens across the state will be furious when they discover their tax dollars — $8.6 million so far — are being used to subsidize bus fares for Georgia Regional Transportation Authority Xpress service that serves metro Atlanta commuters.

Regional cooperation is necessary, and flexible solutions need to be developed to allow counties to work together to solve problems of mutual interest. However, regional governance and taxation as implemented in Georgia means more bureaucracy, more taxes and less accountability. The majority of metro Atlantans and voters across the state said they don’t like regional power grabs or mandated regionalism. Regional taxation and governance needs to be repealed.

Field Searcy, a Cobb County resident, represents www.RepealRegionalism.com, an education campaign by the Transportation Leadership Coalition. The coalition led the grassroots effort against the Regional Transportation Tax (T-SPLOST) in 2012.

http://blogs.ajc.com/atlanta-forward/2013/04/25/is-regionalism-the-way-forward/

4:24 pm April 25, 2013, by tsabulis

Atlanta Journal Constitution, Moderated by Tom Sabulis

Last summer’s transportation sales tax defeat and a series of divisive political feuds has set back the idea of effective regional solutions for metro Atlanta. Yet proponents say regionalism is an appropriate and necessary approach to solving big problems that local jurisdictions cannot. Opponents remain suspicious of appointed — that is, unelected — regional commission leaders making important decisions for so many.

There are three columns today. Commenting is open below.

Join together, tackle problems

By Mike Bodker

For me, regionalism is the recognition that problems do not respect jurisdictional boundaries.

A healthy and growing metro Atlanta is hinged on a reputation for excellent quality of life. That reputation will ultimately depend on our ability to work together to support the reality.

A great example here in Johns Creek is the Ga. 141 corridor. This road is the primary gateway between our residents and those north of our border to metro Atlanta. It is plagued daily with stop-and-go traffic. Unless we work with the five other jurisdictions that road traverses, the problem will only worsen.

The same is true on State Bridge Road, which touches on Ga. 120 in Alpharetta and becomes Pleasant Hill in Gwinnett.

Without the proper coordination, our moving traffic more swiftly through Johns Creek will only get it to the next traffic jam faster. We need a regionally coordinated traffic plan, or we are all just spinning our wheels.

Like our Northside neighbors, Johns Creek believes in innovation. By working together with Sandy Springs and Dunwoody, we launched Chatcomm, a regional 911 service that has resulted in reduced response times in those municipalities.

When appropriate, Northside police and fire departments coordinate and pool resources.

Johns Creek shares significant borders with Gwinnett and Forsyth counties, including joint safety responsibilities along the Chattahoochee River. When a person needs to be rescued and the swift water team is called in, no one is checking residency.

Finally, a successful regional transit plan is imperative.

While a one-size solution will not suit each individual in metropolitan Atlanta, we all must realize the issue is collective. Citizens simply will not use public transportation until it becomes convenient, safe and cost effective.

Without a reasonable way to get more workers out of their cars and into some form of transit, we will continue to be the traffic capital of the South. Failure to act regionally on this issue has put a stranglehold on jobs growth.

While we continue to attract businesses, we could do far better if we could all come to the table and work together to hone and implement a coordinated solution.

Regionalism is essential. We should and must come together to solve great problems with even greater solutions.

Mike Bodker is mayor of Johns Creek.

Rethink government, increase prosperity

By Catherine Ross

The Atlanta region is a crosscutting confluence of economic, social and environmental challenges and opportunities.

Depending upon how “region” is defined (that is, by the Environmental Protection Agency, Atlanta Regional Commission or U.S. Census Bureau), the area may contain as many as 28 counties, 140 municipal governments and 5.5 million residents.

This complexity, alongside the mounting fiscal crisis and increasing global competition, means we must rethink our governance structure if the region is to remain competitive.

Regionalism focuses on the mutual interests of geographic areas that may include multiple towns, cities, country subdivisions or subnational entities. The objective of regionalism is to increase the collective prosperity, influence and political power of not just one, but multiple locations.

Metro Atlanta contains multiple political jurisdictions and as such, is well-suited for a regional approach to governance. David Kocieniewski pointed out in The New York Times, “The crazy quilt of municipal governments that ring the metropolitan area (usually) grew for an assortment of personal, cultural, economic and political reasons, most having little to do with the best use of tax dollars or the reality of services.”

Political fragmentation has made it difficult, if not impossible, to address multi-jurisdictional economic development, service provision, infrastructure needs and finance. This is not uncommon in locations where a regional voice and institutional foundations are weak or nonexistent when considered more broadly.

In recent times, areas have responded to this fragmentation by creating inter-municipal cooperation or functional consolidation agreements. These regional pacts are often focused on the delivery of a specific service.

While these more restricted solutions have proven helpful, they often lack the ability to engender “broader multi-functional coordination.”

As such, regionalism is now being considered as an effective and evolving platform. It has the potential to achieve seamless transportation and greater connectivity between people, places and economic activity.

For metro Atlanta, this approach to regionalism is not only possible, it is desirable.

Catherine Ross is a professor at the School of City and Regional Planning, and deputy director of the National Center for Transportation Productivity and Management, at Georgia Tech.

Regional control isn’t local

By Field Searcy

The nice thing about local government is that citizen voters can control it. People know who their local city councilmen and county commissioners are because they live nearby, and they were elected. If citizens do not like local government decisions, they simple elect someone who will serve them better. Now, try asking your neighbor, “Who serves on the board of our Regional Commission?” and watch the puzzled look on their face. Most citizen voters are unaware who is serving in these positions of authority because the members are either appointed or don’t run for the position.

Regionalism as implemented in Georgia is an unelected and unaccountable form of government that dilutes the power people have over government decision-making. The U.S. Constitution guarantees each state a republican form of government, which means sovereignty rests with the people, and representatives are “chosen by the people.”

Regional governance lacks these checks and balances because regional commissions are in essence appointed by an operation of law. For example, 15 of the 38 members of the Atlanta Regional Commission are appointed citizen members who have absolutely no accountability to voters. Also, most of the elected officials on regional entities have no accountability to your county or city. You can’t control the actions of regional governments, because you can’t control most of the regional board members.

Many of the appointed members have their own agendas.

The rise of regionalism, like what we get from the Transportation Investment Act (TIA), comprises another layer of government between the local city-county and state government. This new layer of bureaucracy diminishes the local control and authority of city and county governments for self-government through “home rule” as provided for in the Georgia Constitution. Local control is further buttressed by the founders’ belief, “That government closest to the people governs best!”

Creating a regional tax base or regional equity is a form of central planning. The problems created in one county are paid for by taxpayers from another. The Georgia Constitution requires that state-level taxation be uniform and equal across the state. Citizens across the state will be furious when they discover their tax dollars — $8.6 million so far — are being used to subsidize bus fares for Georgia Regional Transportation Authority Xpress service that serves metro Atlanta commuters.

Regional cooperation is necessary, and flexible solutions need to be developed to allow counties to work together to solve problems of mutual interest. However, regional governance and taxation as implemented in Georgia means more bureaucracy, more taxes and less accountability. The majority of metro Atlantans and voters across the state said they don’t like regional power grabs or mandated regionalism. Regional taxation and governance needs to be repealed.

Field Searcy, a Cobb County resident, represents RepealRegionalism.com, an education campaign by the Transportation Leadership Coalition. The coalition led the grassroots effort against the Regional Transportation Tax (T-SPLOST) in 2012.

Source: http://blogs.ajc.com/atlanta-forward/2013/04/25/is-regionalism-the-way-forward/

11:27 am April 22, 2013, by Andre Jackson, Editorial Editor

By Tom  Sabulis – The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Regionalism. The word has almost taken on a pejorative meaning in metro  Atlanta. A lot of people have come to dislike it, or at least, what it implies.  It was all but tarred and feathered during the bitter fight last year over the  proposed transportation sales tax, which aimed to fund regionalized solutions to  our traffic mess.

Even the chairman of the Atlanta Regional Commission, says he’d like to move  away from using the term because “it carries so much baggage.”

No doubt, he’d find some agreement among those behind the Georgia website  www.repealregionalism.com, which criticizes regionalism as a “4th layer of  government” and “an unconstitutional taxing authority,” among other things.

What’s next, then, for metro Atlanta and its problems if not regional  solutions? Sub-regionalism? Additional cities? Or more of the go-it-alone  approach that got us where we are in the first place?

At a recent Atlanta Journal-Constitution community forum, sponsored by PNC  Bank, we asked a panel of area leaders if true regionalism – or whatever it  should be called — is possible within such a diverse archipelago of interests as  metro Atlanta. Here’s some of what they said. (Comments have been edited for  clarity and space.)

Eva Galambos, mayor of Sandy Springs

On regionalism: I think regionalism is an abstract term. To  me, it makes sense for governments to work together when there are economies of  scale that you can garner by working together. That may be two or three  counties. It may be a watershed. It depends on what you’re talking about. It’s  not always the same thing. Regionalism, to me, is working together if it makes a  difference in getting more efficiency at lower cost.

Priority issues: The most important issue is water. There is  no way that any jurisdiction in the Atlanta area can prosper if we don’t have a  water supply. But in terms of transportation needs, the differences are so  tremendous, especially in densities. And transportation infrastructure has to be  related to density. If you don’t take density into account, you are going to end  up with product that is not used and you can’t afford.

Suggested fix: Fulton, DeKalb, Cobb, Gwinnett, Clayton –  that’s the region that needs to talk about transportation (collaboration). We  have four different bus systems — that’s ridiculous. The buses ought to be under  one central management. We need to think of the region in a different shape than  we have in the past, and make it more relevant to what the real problem is,  which is to meld MARTA and the other systems into one.

Cityhood trend: Since we (Sandy Springs) have come become a  city, we’ve paved 110 miles of road. We never saw a paving truck under Fulton  County. We put in a brand new park, 20 miles of sidewalks, street lamps up and  down the roads, all under the same millage rate. That says to me that people are  better off than they were before.

Positive regionalism: There’s a huge amount of collaboration  that goes on that the public does not realize. We have inter-governmental  relations with other jurisdictions on so many services. We make new  relationships where we see they are needed. My need to collaborate with other  local governments comes because I can see the benefit of lower costs if we do  things together.

Tad Leithead, chairman of the 10-county Atlanta Regional Commission  (ARC)

On regionalism: We don’t take up an issue and define it as  regional unless the board of the ARC agrees collectively that it is a regional  issue, and one around which collaboration is desirable. We have 39 board members  at the ARC — 10 are the county commission chairs for the 10 counties; 13 are  mayors. These are local elected officials who come together around issues where  we agree collaboration creates a synergy.

Priority issues: At the ARC, we very specifically have  identified what we believe are the top three regional issues. The top regional  priority is water. If people think we are running out of water, we simply cannot  be competitive in this national or international (business) environment. Second  is aging services. We need a public infrastructure that provides transportation  services, that provides facilities and programs for those who are aging who  don’t have the wherewithal financially to access those types of services on a  private basis. We have 750,000 people over the age of 65 in our region today. In  20 years that’s going to double to 1.5 million. The third issue is  transportation. We have right now $58 billion to spend on transportation over  the next 30 years. Our aspiration plan says that our needs total about $160  billion.

Suggested fix: We at the ARC developed several years ago a  number of principles for a regional transit entity that would bring all of the  various transit entities together under a single umbrella. But so far we have  not been successful in passing a transit governance bill. We have to recognize  that sprawl creates a burden and a cost on our infrastructure that is simply not  affordable any more.

Need for regional approach: In this region, 67 percent of  the people who get up in the morning and get in their cars to go to work, leave  their county and wind up in some other county. So it is truly regional in  nature. We are going to double in size over the next 30 years and we’ll have  double the number of cars.

Steve Brown, chairman, Fayette County Commission

On regionalism: One thing that doesn’t work necessarily is  mandated regionalism, and I think we’ve experienced a taste of that with the  state legislature. That’s one thing that we need to be careful of, where you’re  forcing the issue. The Transportation Investment Act (TIA) is one example of  where you had to participate in that (T-SPLOST) referendum. You need to have a  (regional) conversation. But a mandated policy where you have to fit into a  particular mold, I don’t think is necessarily productive.

Priority issues: When you’re talking about transportation  and water and a lot of things that we consider regional issues, the unfortunate  thing is that most of it is controlled by the state legislature. They are the  ones that pull the trigger. The decisions have to come from on high. The state  tried to do the transportation solution and it was just a very awkward  proposition. A lot of times the legislatures don’t have the knowledge to wrap  themselves around the issue. A lot of times they’re very parochial. A lot of  times it’s very, very slow.

Suggested fix: Flexibility is the key to planning in this  regional context, allowing core urban counties to collaborate with one another.  One thing I espouse is looking at sub-regions. It’s easy for me to get together  with Coweta County, south Fulton county, Clayton County and Henry County and  say, ‘We see you all the time, we drive on all your roads, what’s important to  us and what do we need to solve?’ You have to come up with a mutual solution  that’s going to benefit everyone.

Cityhood trend: I think the new municipalities have added  some vitality to those areas. It’s given them a sense of ownership. Allowing  people to decide their own fate and their own destiny, I think is a good thing.  Sandy Springs is an entirely different place since it became a city.

Ellen Mayer, executive director, Civic League for Regional  Atlanta

On regionalism: We often talk about regionalism in the  context of fixing problems. Regionalism also presents opportunities to achieve  shared goals, things we’re excited about. There are a lot of positive things  that can be achieved through collaboration and that’s being done on a 10-county  basis. It’s not just about the problems.

Priority issue: There is a disconnect. We elect our  officials locally and then a part of their time is allocated to regional  policymaking. It puts local elected officials in a very precarious position  sometimes because they’re elected to represent the interests of their  constituents. In campaign rhetoric, that turns into defending their constituents  against everybody else’s constituents and that does not set the tone for  collaboration. It’s very difficult for local elected officials to balance that.  I think it’s something that can’t be solved by any one thing and it will take  time, but we need to as elected officials and constituents (recognize) that  there are times … when we need to collaborate and there are times we don’t.

Suggested fix: At the Civic League, we would like to see  citizens and residents involved early and often in regional planning processes,  and in all planning processes. Since you don’t have regional elected officials,  you don’t relate to the people making regional policy decisions in the same way  you do your county commissioner or your mayor. With the transportation  referendum, I think that was a large part of the problem – the distrust, the  feeling that there was a lack of transparency. The legislation was written in  such a way that we didn’t have a year or two to involve citizens in these  conversations about transportation, and we should have. Going forward, any  attempts we make at collaboration, whether it’s a on a regional or sub-regional  basis, should involve citizens at the very beginning. Citizens should be  informing policymaking.

Cityhood trend: These new cities are born out of genuine  discontent with county governments, and distrust of government, and that’s a  problem.

Media Contact

Field Searcy

678-525-7072

T-SPLOST proponents kick off a new strategy, Transportation Leadership Coalition responds.

March, 28, 2013, Roswell, GA – Last night, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and PNC Bank hosted a community forum on Regionalism.  According to the event marketing, the forum was a direct response to the failure of the transportation sales tax referendum last summer.   The companies claim that T-SPLOST was actually a “failure of metro Atlanta’s fragmented communities to work together as a region.”   Transportation Leadership Coalition (TLC) disagrees with this assumption and launches website RepealRegionalism.com in response.

“It isn’t a failure of metro Atlanta’s ‘fragmented communities to work together,’” said Jack Staver, Chairman of the Transportation Leadership Coalition.  “The issue is dysfunctional county governments who are not willing to do the hard work to protect their counties and come up with mutually beneficial solutions with their neighboring counties.  This is highly concerning,” Staver continues, “because regionalism is the fastest growing issue in Georgia that most citizens do not know exists.”

Regionalism was first introduced to Georgians in 2008 when the Georgia General Assembly passed HB 1216 and was signed into law by Governor Sonny Purdue.  HB 1216 reorganized the Georgia Department of Community Affairs.  It established 12 regions and created the governing structure for those who would serve on these regional councils creating regional commissions.

“The biggest concern with this approach is that the regions are ‘ruled’ by governing councils who were not elected to serve,” said Field Searcy, a key member of the TLC team.  “We citizens have no recourse with regional councils like we have with an elected county commissioner or city council.  If you think about it, appointed officials are not accountable to us, the people.  They are accountable to whoever appointed them.”  Searcy continues, “The United States Constitution ‘guarantee[s] to every State in this Union a Republican form of Government.’  That means elected officials, not appointed ones, represent us.  Our own state Constitution provides for Home Rule.  Home Rule protects our individual rights, prevents state government from interfering in city and county operations, and protects the principle of one person, one vote.”

RepealRegionalism.com aims to help educate the people of Georgia on the dangers of Regionalism and stop the growth of an unelected and unaccountable form of government.

###

About Transportation Leadership Coalition, LLC

Transportation Leadership Coalition, LLC, is a grassroots, all-volunteer organization that has come together in the belief that the State of Georgia can do a much better job of transportation planning than passing the largest tax increase in Georgia history and encourage the citizens of Georgia to become involved in their local governments to avoid the trappings of appointed government bureaus.  We believe that if Georgians understand the facts about regionalism, they will overwhelmingly reject it.

Web: www.RepealRegionalism.com

Facebook: Facebook.com/RepealRegionalism

Twitter: @RepealRegionali

Regional transportation plan fit into a larger agenda of regional governance that strips local control, home rule.

March 14, 2013, Roswell, GA – Fayette County, Georgia, will be the first county in Atlanta’s ten-county metropolitan planning organization requesting to be officially removed from the Concept 3 regional transit plan. Concept 3 is a Regional Transportation Plan approved by the Atlanta Regional Commission (ARC) that would cost $50+ Billion to build and operate through 2030. The plan consists of new heavy rail, light rail, commuter rail, bus rapid transit, other modes and transportation infrastructure for the 10 county ARC Region.

“If mass transit loses money and ridership in metro Atlanta’s dense urban areas, then it certainly has no place in Fayette County where the population is much less intense,” said Fayette County Commission Chairman Steve Brown. “The one-size-fits-all approach to transit in the Concept 3 regional transit plan is an ultra-expensive proposal that delivers no bang for the buck.”

The vote by the Fayette County Board of Commissioners will take place at their March 14 meeting. Brown expects an easy 5 – 0 vote on the issue. Brown, a leading voice on land planning and transportation issues, has demanded that top government officials tell the public how the region is going to sustain the future operations and maintenance of any expansions to current metro transit systems as outlined in Concept 3.

“During the T-SPLOST debate, I was opposed to the heavy emphasis on mass transit,” Brown said. “My stance has not changed. I continue to question the relevance of being locked into a mass transit plan with heavyweight counties like Fulton, DeKalb, Gwinnett and Cobb and I ask my colleagues throughout the metro area to do the same given most of the perimeter counties followed Fayette County’s lead and voted down the referendum by large margins.”

Brown was a lead spokesman as a member of the Transportation Leadership Coalition (TLC) which played a major role in defeating the TIA/TSPLOST last year. TLC is in full support of the Fayette County Commission’s plan to withdraw from the Concept 3 Regional Transportation Plan. The TLC was instrumental in getting the grassroots engaged in the T-SPLOST debate. Even though the referendum was defeated, the law is still on the books and can be reintroduced for a vote.

TLC is ramping up a statewide campaign to expose the more insidious agenda of regionalism. TLC chairman Jack Staver said, “More and more regular citizens are becoming aware of the dangers of regional governance and what it will mean for local control”. Regional governance as currently structured under the Department of Community Affairs and the enabling legislation for the Transportation Investment Act of 2010 is a fourth level of government that in many respects is unaccountable to the people. We believe that regional governance and the taxation scheme of TIA is unconstitutional under Georgia law.”

Brown will be part of an upcoming Atlanta Journal-Constitution panel discussion on regionalism held at the Georgia Public Broadcasting. Other panel members include Atlanta Regional Commission Chairman Tad Leithead and Director of Georgia Tech’s Center for Quality Growth and Regional Development Catherine Ross.

About Transportation Leadership Coalition, LLC
Transportation Leadership Coalition, LLC, is a grassroots, all-volunteer organization that came together in the spring of 2012 to oppose the Regional Transportation sales tax. Through its website www.traffictruth.net , the group seeks to inform citizens of issues related to transportation and good government.

By John Anthony

Planning is not a one-size-fits-all exercise. Yet, that is exactly what regional plans attempt, while gradually silencing local officials and the public.

Here are 10 reasons to avoid implementing regional plans and councils. Cleaner Greener NY [1], also called the Capital Region Sustainability Plan [2], is a model of why community members and local public officials must work together and say “NO” to regionalization and regional planning.

See how many apply to your region’s proposal.

1. Planners gain miniscule community participation when forming the regions, the plans or the councils

There over 1 million residents in the proposed Capital Region Sustainability Plan (CRSP). Despite claims of “stakeholder engagement” (CRSP p26), less than 300 participated in planners’ workshops. In CRSP surveys, only 96 people, or less than .0001 percent of residents participated. (CRSP Appendix 16, p11)

2. Plans are prepackaged and do not represent unique community needs.

In spite of claims to the contrary, most plans encompass the same government sponsored top-down “livability” control features. CRSP includes the same “livable communities” (p99), fewer vehicle miles traveled (p128), and increased compact living (p105) as most regional plans. Cleaner Greener NY (CGNY) further promises the government and non-governmental organization pushed (NGO) standbys of virtually every plan: confiscation of open spaces (p75), forced environmental justice (p58), hi-speed rails (p63), and dilution of privately controlled farmland interests through conservation easements (p90).

3. Plans do not protect individual property rights.

Few regional plans mention the potential individual property rights infringements, tax increases or loss of potential wealth accumulation inherent in most proposals. None offers any method for protection against such losses. The CRSP contains no enforceable landowner protections.

4. Plans fail to protect communities against onerous regulations passed by regional councils.

Once installed, regional councils or consortiums, have immense power to pass regulations with minimal or no local input. The CRSP offers a seat for council representatives. However, having a community representative sitting on a larger multi-county consortium is not the same as making planning decisions with local citizens and local public officials working together in your hometown. (CRSP p8)

5. Plans rely on questionable “experts” for critical advice.

The CRSP relies on the Apollo Alliance for assurances there will be green jobs, which are fundamental to the plan’s success. Yet, Apollo advised on the ‘stimulus program’ assuring there would be shovel ready and green jobs if passed. A year later, we learned Apollo exaggerated the job potential. (CGNY p40, p44)

6. Plans release questionable or incomplete statistics, which create false impressions.

In the case of Cleaner, Greener NY, the plan optimistically depends on green jobs, stating the US had a 9.1% increase in these between 1998 and 2007. The authors omitted that NY actually lost 1.9% of their green jobs during that same period. They also failed to notify community members that Congressional hearings cast serious doubt on the permanency, quality or even existence of the green jobs claimed. (CGNY p37)

7. Promotes community solutions without explaining the potential negative effects.

The CRSP promotes conservation easements to protect farmland from development without addressing the loss of dominant estate status, potential for plan changes, the downsides of ‘best practices’ and a host of ways in which landowners can lose their property and its value while still technically being the owner. (CGNY p90, p100)

8. Councils open the door for government grants, which often contain restrictive policies to reduce vehicle use while forcing low-income housing and social justice.

The CRSP states that future grant monies will be necessary, but not their source nor stipulations that will be attached. (CRSP p8)

9. Regional councils confiscate much of local officials’ power, leaving the community with less representation.

In the CRSP, 25 local leaders have already diminished their oversight by agreeing to allow Albany to take the lead in all grant processing. To protect constituents, public officials must carefully study all grants and report the implications to their constituents before approval. Grants are the doorway to regulatory control of community members’ lifestyles, activities and residential opportunities. (CRSP p8) In NY, communities are already beginning to pay the price for regionalization before the plan is even approved.

10. Once formed, regional councils are virtually irreversible.

Once officials agree to form a region and council, if community members discover they dislike its regulations, how can they disband the entity and roll back the dictates? There is no provision in the CRSP for its break up or regulatory rollback

Source:  http://sustainablefreedomlab.org/2013/02/06/10-reasons-to-dump-regional-plans/#more-381

By John Anthony

President Obama promised to “spread the wealth” during his 2008 candidacy.  Few are aware of the network he has established to accomplish that goal.  Two of the president’s most effective tools to create this massive transfer are ‘tax base sharing’ and ‘regionalization’.

Mr. Obama’s reason for wanting to transfer wealth is to create “social equity” for the less privileged.  It is his belief that the poor live in urban slums, primarily because the rich “white” people moved to the wealthy suburbs leaving the less fortunate behind.  Therefore, to correct the injustice, he plans to stop urban sprawl and send the middle class, or at least their money, back to the cities.  This may sound a bit far-fetched, but he is actually doing it.

One of the easiest ways to move money from one area to another is through a simple method called ‘tax base sharing’.  Instead of using local taxes to pay for local schools and services, tax base sharing, is a process of combining all or a portion of the tax revenues from various localities into a common pool.  Then elected or even non-elected bureaucrats divide the money according to a predetermined formula.  By altering the formula, it is easy to take money from the rich suburbs and transfer it to less well-off urban areas.

Proponents of tax base sharing argue that the program creates more equity in paying for services and allows people of modest means to have better schools and public services.  It is sold to communities on the assumption that it will imoporve living conditions and everyone gets something.

This is a weak argument as the shift moves your money out of your control and your community. Meanwhile, the cost of rural public services skyrockets with less tax money to offset them.  In fact, it so unpopular that, to date, very few regions are using the scheme.  Among them is the Minneapolis-St. Paul 7 County Region. In the Twin Cities, proponents tend to be academics and the recipients of the greatest tax benefits while the opponents are the community members who are funding others. What neither side can deny is that, in Minneapolis-St. Paul, the government is redistributing wealth and picking the winners and losers.

Still, that has not deterred the president.  He has taken a backdoor approach, called ‘regionalization’ to accomplish the very same results of stopping suburban sprawl while transferring middle class wealth toward urban communities.  He supports his program with a persuasive “golden hammer” called grant money.

In 2012, President Obama began his Sustainable Communities Initiative.  This program sends grant money to develop plans covering housing, land use, transportation, economic integration and other community services.  Developing ‘energy efficiency’ and ‘sustainability’, may sound like good goals to protect the planet. But, like so much emerging from the steps of the White House, there is a catch.

The SCI money is only granted to regional plans that are managed by regional authorities or governing boards.  In other words, other than in name only, the local planning boards are squeezed out of the planning process.  One could argue, the entire purpose of the regional planning groups is to override the authority of those local officials who tend to disrupt the smooth transfers of economic re-distribution.

The final goal of the new regional governments is then to vote in ‘tax base sharing’.

One example of the Sustainable Communities Initiative at work is the Capital Area Regional Planning Commission of Madison, Wisconsin and Dane County.  They received a $2 million grant to create a regional master plan.  According to Stanley Kurtz, in his book “Spreading the Wealth,” the region received the grant in part because they agreed to place progressive grassroots members on the planning commission to assure their interests were in ideological alignment with those of the president.  Sure enough, Lisa Alexander, a leftist supporter of the regional social equity movement drew up the plan.  Her summary clearly states, plans “cannot be resolved by individual municipalities or organizations acting alone or through single-focus methods.”  She further laments that it will take coercive mandates to force local communities to make certain they spread the wealth.

The Wisconsin Capital Area Regional Plan is not completed and President Obama promises to finish the job and move on to other regions in his second term.  Together North New Jersey is just one region in the cross-hairs of the administration’s Sustainable Communities Initiative.  Under the funding terms, grant recipients are “required” to support the Regional Plan for Sustainable Development.

If you are a public official and hear the term, ‘tax base sharing’ or ‘regionalization’, think twice.  The free-flowing Sustainable Communities’ grant money may glitter like gold, but once the accompanying regulations are imposed, that Golden Hammer will leave you with little authority and your community with even less representation.

Downloadable Documents

Promise and Perils of “New Regionalist” Approaches to Sustainable Communities.

This report analyzes the workings of regionalism from the point of view of a pro-regionalist. You will notice the author, Lisa Alexander, suggests that regionalization will be more effective if states “coerce” local communities into redistributing their citizens’ wealth.

Summary of Madison Capital Region Sustainable Communities Initiative.

Madison has been a trial ground for Pres. Obama’s Sustainable Communities Initiative.  The goal of the SCI is to move suburban dwellers into the city while redistributing the taxes from the suburbs into urban and inner ring suburban areas.  Notice the 6 livability principles that accompany almost all grants from HUD, DOT and the EPA.  Though many public officials don’t realize it yet, these ultimately become binding agreements enforced through federal regulations that reduce local authority and force redistribution on the participants.

Together New Jersey NGO Micro Grant NOFA

This grant is provided through HUD’s Sustainable Communities Initiative. (Page 2) It requires the creation of a region and is only for the purpose of implementing the Regional Plan for Sustainable Development. (Page 2) It complies with UN Agenda 21 as the three elements of the Brundtland Commission’s definition of sustainability are found on page 4. (Managing of the Environment, the Economy and Society)

Notice in the “Required Activities” under activity 2:, (page 6) meetings are focused on attracting the so-called, “under represented” typically consisting of low information constituents and delivered in their own language. This means there may be two or three separate “Discovery” meetings taking place all in different languages. The only people who fully understand what is happening are the facilitators who can easily push through their own ideas with little awareness of outcomes and long term consequences by the public. Rather than helping minorities, this plan “uses” them to further the interests of HUD and the groups that developed this plan. This includes, Sustainable Jersey and the NJ Office of Planning Advocacy. (Sidebar Page 2)

Source:  http://sustainablefreedomlab.org/regionalization/

Written by Stanley Kurtz

Note: This article is adapted from Spreading the Wealth: How Obama is Robbing the Suburbs to Pay for the Cities, by Stanley Kurtz, from Sentinel HC.

President Obama is not a fan of America’s suburbs. Indeed, he intends to abolish them. With suburban voters set to be the swing constituency of the 2012 election, the administration’s plans for this segment of the electorate deserve scrutiny. Obama is a longtime supporter of “regionalism,” the idea that the suburbs should be folded into the cities, merging schools, housing, transportation, and above all taxation. To this end, the president has already put programs in place designed to push the country toward a sweeping social transformation in a possible second term. The goal: income equalization via a massive redistribution of suburban tax money to the cities.

Obama’s plans to undercut the political and economic independence of America’s suburbs reach back decades. The community organizers who trained him in the mid-1980s blamed the plight of cities on taxpayer “flight” to suburbia. Beginning in the mid-1990s, Obama’s mentors at the Gamaliel Foundation (a community-organizing network Obama helped found) formally dedicated their efforts to the budding fight against suburban “sprawl.” From his positions on the boards of a couple of left-leaning Chicago foundations, Obama channeled substantial financial support to these efforts. On entering politics, he served as a dedicated ally of his mentors’ anti-suburban activism.

The alliance endures. One of Obama’s original trainers, Mike Kruglik, has hived off a new organization called Building One America, which continues Gamaliel’s anti-suburban crusade under another name. Kruglik and his close allies, David Rusk and Myron Orfield, intellectual leaders of the “anti-sprawl” movement, have been quietly working with the Obama administration for years on an ambitious program of social reform.

In July of 2011, Kruglik’s Building One America held a conference at the White House. Orfield and Rusk made presentations, and afterwards Kruglik personally met with the president in the Oval Office. The ultimate goal of the movement led by Kruglik, Rusk, and Orfield is quite literally to abolish the suburbs. Knowing that this could never happen through outright annexation by nearby cities, they’ve developed ways to coax suburbs to slowly forfeit their independence.

One approach is to force suburban residents into densely packed cities by blocking development on the outskirts of metropolitan areas, and by discouraging driving with a blizzard of taxes, fees, and regulations. Step two is to move the poor out of cities by imposing low-income-housing quotas on development in middle-class suburbs. Step three is to export the controversial “regional tax-base sharing” scheme currently in place in the Minneapolis–St. Paul area to the rest of the country. Under this program, a portion of suburban tax money flows into a common regional pot, which is then effectively redistributed to urban, and a few less well-off “inner-ring” suburban, municipalities.

The Obama administration, stocked with “regionalist” appointees, has been advancing this ambitious plan quietly for the past four years. Efforts to discourage driving and to press development into densely packed cities are justified by reference to fears of global warming. Leaders of the crusade against “sprawl” very consciously use environmental concerns as a cover for their redistributive schemes.

The centerpiece of the Obama administration’s anti-suburban plans is a little-known and seemingly modest program called the Sustainable Communities Initiative. The “regional planning grants” funded under this initiative — many of them in battleground states like Florida, Virginia, and Ohio — are set to recommend redistributive policies, as well as transportation and development plans, designed to undercut America’s suburbs. Few have noticed this because the program’s goals are muffled in the impenetrable jargon of “sustainability,” while its recommendations are to be unveiled only in a possible second Obama term.

Obama’s former community-organizing mentors and colleagues want the administration to condition future federal aid on state adherence to the recommendations served up by these anti-suburban planning commissions. That would quickly turn an apparently modest set of regional-planning grants into a lever for sweeping social change.

In light of Obama’s unbroken history of collaboration with his organizing mentors on this anti-suburban project, and his proven willingness to impose ambitious policy agendas on the country through heavy-handed regulation, this project seems likely to advance.

A second and equally ambitious facet of Obama’s anti-suburban blueprint involves the work of Kruglik’s Building One America. Traditionally, Alinskyite community organizers mobilize leftist church groups. Kruglik’s group goes a step further by organizing not only the religious left but politicians from relatively less-well-off inner-ring suburbs. The goal is to build coalitions between urban and inner-ring suburban state legislators, in a bid to force regional tax-base sharing on middle-class suburbanites. That is how the practice came to Minnesota.

The July 2011 White House conference, gathering inner-ring suburban politicians for presentations by Rusk and Orfield, was an effort to place the prestige of the Obama administration behind Kruglik’s organizing efforts. A multi-state battle over regional tax-base “sharing,” abetted by the president, would usher in divisive class warfare on a scale likely to dwarf the puny efforts of Occupy Wall Street.

Obama’s little-known plans to undermine the political and economic autonomy of America’s suburbs constitute a policy initiative similar in ambition to health-care reform, the stimulus, or “cap-and-trade.” Obama’s anti-suburban plans also supply the missing link that explains his administration’s overall policy architecture.

Since the failure of Lyndon Johnson’s War on Poverty and the collapse of federal urban policy, leftist theorists of community organizing have advocated a series of moves designed to quietly redistribute tax money to the cities. Health-care reform and federal infrastructure spending (as in the stimulus) are backed by organizers as the best ways to reconstitute an urban policy without directly calling it that. A campaign against suburban “sprawl” under the guise of environmentalism is the next move. Open calls for suburban tax-base “sharing” are the final and most controversial link in the chain of a reconstituted and redistributive urban policy. President Obama is following this plan.

Middle-class suburban supporters of the president take note. It isn’t just the pocketbooks of the “1 percent” he’s after; it’s yours.

Stanley Kurtz is a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center. This piece is adapted from his new book, Spreading the Wealth: How Obama Is Robbing the Suburbs to Pay for the Cities.

Source:  http://www.nationalreview.com/articles/312807/burn-down-suburbs-stanley-kurtz