Thursday, August 2nd, 2012

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

A few recent news stories caught my eye that I wanted to highlight.

Transport Tax Crushed at the Polls in Atlanta

The proposed sales tax increase in Atlanta that would have funded a large capital program for transit and highways went down to a bigtime defeat. This was interesting since capital referendums generally seem to do well.

There’s still a lot to process on this. Richard Layman had some thoughts on his blog that are worth a read. A couple things stuck out at me.

First is the unlikely anti-tax coalition of the Tea Party, the Sierra Club, and the NAACP. When I noted how the Tea Party types and the NAACP had joined forces in Cincinnati to oppose a streetcar, I was assured by locals this was not the start of a trend but came from the personalities involved. But here we see it again. I’m not sure if this is the start of a trend or not, but it’s something to watch. I’ve noted for a while now that the populist wings of the left and the right are fed up with the establishments of their respective parties. At some point could there be a left-right populist alliance against the big money interests? I’m not saying that’s the case here, but there are interesting points to ponder.

The second is where this leaves at Atlanta. As I noted in my piece “Is It Game Over for Atlanta?.” this is a troubled region that lost huge amounts of jobs, saw the worst erosion of per capita income of pretty much any big city, and even saw per capita GDP declines. And it’s choked with traffic and other assorted infrastructure ills. Meanwhile, places like Charlotte, Raleigh, and Nashville offer a lot of the Atlanta experience without the same level of problems. Atlanta is no longer the only game in town in the Southeast. Maybe a big infrastructure program isn’t what Atlanta needs, but if not, what’s the plan?

Lastly, with the federal spigot drying up and states broke, urban regions are going to have to find ways to invest in their own highway and transit infrastructure the way they’ve largely invested in their own airports. We see many cities stepping up and voting in infrastructure spending (albeit excessively skewed to transit in my view) while others vote it down. If this keeps going, we’ll get a real life test of where the choice of investment vs. disinvestment gets you.

Google’s Motorola Mobility Unit Moving to Downtown Chicago

In the wake of Google’s acquisition of Motorola Mobility, it is moving the headquarters and 3,000 employees downtown from suburban Libertyville. This is being touted as a huge coup for Chicago’s tech hub ambitions.

From a regional perspective, this is a net nothing. However, it clearly goes to show the ongoing power of the Chicago Loop not just as a tourist and quasi-public sector downtown like so many, but as a bona fide commercial powerhouse. I can’t prove this with data, but it seems to me that Chicago may have the strongest trend of any city in America of corporate relocations from the suburbs to downtown.

This is also a tribute to Rahm Emanuel’s star power. Economic development via Rahm’s Rolodex appears to be working. He started courting Google’s then CEO-Eric Schmidt for major investment in the city some time ago. This goes to show the advantage a city like Chicago has. Very few cities have mayors that can get any CEO in the country on the phone whenever they want. Chicago does.

On the other hand, I can’t agree with the schadenfreude some are feeling over the prospect of wind swept parking lots at vacant suburban office complexes. This is really no different than suburbanites who left rejoicing over the city’s ills. Ultimately, Chicagoland is a single economic region. And I hate to break it to you, but while moves like this make huge headlines, the majority of the economic and population growth will continue to be in the suburbs. At some point the burbs may get fed up with Rahm’s poaching, and that would bode ill for the type of regional cooperation that’s critical needed to move the area forward. I think Rahm should think about bringing his era of active recruitment of suburban firms to a close in the reasonably near future.

Why Detroit Deserves to Lose

Yet another saga out of Detroit illustrates why this city and region have fallen so far. The city has been hemorrhaging people and jobs for decades, has likewise been mis-managed for decades, and is flat broke. Basically, the city would go bankrupt without state financial support. Unsurprisingly, when the state gives you money, they put strings on it. This has resulted in a big tussle back and forth over the degree of state control, some of which is legitimate and natural.

But a recent debate over the future of Belle Isle, a Frederick Law Olmsted designed park on an island in the Detroit River that’s owned by the city, has shown the type of attitude that’s held Detroit back so long.

The city is broke and can’t afford the park anymore. The park also needs major repairs. The state said they’d take it over under a long term lease as a state park and make the investment to fix it up. Sounds like a win-win to me.

Apparently not to Detroit’s leadership, which has gone apoplectic. Saying “hands off our island” they are protesting state control over the park. What do they want instead? It’s pretty simple. As someone put it, “state support without state control.” In other words, give us your money and go away.

This is the exact same attitude Detroit has taken on everything. It’s why, for example, the Cobo Center sat in a decrepit state for so long with no action, for example. Detroit wanted suburbanites to pay, but wanted the city to retain control of the asset. We’ve seen where this has gotten Detroit.

Regarding Belle Isle, Mayor Dave Bing said, “I have never in my 46 years in this city seen a governor of the state of Michigan involved in city politics like this one.” Given the state of Detroit today, one can’t help but ask, what took the state so long? It should have intervened long ago.

As always, Detroit’s leaders continue to try to point the blame at outside people and forces instead of taking a cold hard look in the mirror. These guys just aren’t serious.

Louisville Aging Cluster

The New York Times has a piece on Louisville’s efforts to build an economic cluster around care for the aging. I can’t say how successful this is likely to be, but I think it illustrates good thinking. Everybody and their brother is saying their economic future is some variant of life sciences (and high tech, advanced manufacturing and logistics, and green tech). They can’t all win in those general markets. And Louisville in my view really isn’t that well positioned.

So rather than try to make some big generalized push, the idea is to look for a specialized part of the industry where you do have more leading capabilities, and try to focus on that. That’s exactly what Louisville is doing here with aging care. There are supposedly something like 500 local companies doing work related to that. It’s also right down the rails of the demographic changes happening in America and the world. We’ll see how this plays out, but this sort of more specialized thinking is how cities ought to be looking at economic development strategies.

Topics: Economic Development, Strategic Planning, Technology, Transportation
Cities: Atlanta, Chicago, Detroit, Louisville

38 Responses to “The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly”

  1. Eric says:

    I don’t know if I would call pleasure that Google’s Motoroloa division is moving downtown all schaudefreude. The suburbs truly “poached” jobs from the core for decades, by offering tax-incentives and greenfield development sites; while governments incentivized the moves with highway spending and mortgage interest deduction. Chicago is owed more than a few and its gratifying to hear, “you were right. it’s better here.” the feeling is more I-told-you so than grave dancing.

    I’m not sure it’s exactly zero-sum. The whole region benefits from a strengthened core in a way that isn’t true if a large employer is at the periphery of the region.

  2. JoeP says:

    I voted NO and here’s why…

    The state ranks near the bottom on infrastructure investment/spending. It also has a rigid conservative legislature that continues the legacy of the Southern Strategy in areas beyond the elections and into the tax code. They won’t pay for anything. A great many wealthy GA residents benefit significantly from the state – they live well in Midtown, Buckhead and many areas of the Northern portion of the city and extremely wealthy suburbs north of the city. Many companies benefit greatly from the state.

    But they won’t support that the state that supports them – that enables them. But they will gladly, happily, ask everyone else to pay a regressive sales tax.

    This is insane. You don’t start with a sales tax, particularly when you failed to even remotely pay for infrastructure to begin with. It’s not the starting point.

    Notice extreme anti tax GOP leaders were more than happy to support this tax, as were corporations.

    Address the greater taxing structure first, then if need be, down the road, perhaps fill in gaps with a temporary sales tax increase, but to go to the middle and working class people first?

    Will that happen? Will anything change? Nope. We’re screwed.

    As you noted, we (Atlanta) are not the only game in town in the South anymore. Time will tell if Nashville, Charlotte and the RTP area will learn from us, but if they do, they can benefit greatly from it.


  3. Jim says:

    Appreciated your comments about ATL TSPLOST.

    As to what will happen as a Plan B? Exactly what should have happened. Gov. Deal will take the lead in dealing with the most urgent needs in Atlanta and the Port of Savannah with the resources at hand. Those funds and this process is sufficient.

    The last thing our state pols needed was a cash cow of easy money for the next 10 years and a bone-headed list of priorities that will not ‘Untie’ Atlanta.

    Agree with JoeP in his assessment that the tax code needs addressing first.

    Another reason Georgia is loosing people and GDP isn’t just the traffic. Another factor is the hostility to immigrants who paid taxes but are now are being chased out of the state and the sad state of Georgia public schools.

    Those are issues we can’t solve at the ballot box or with more money for roads.

  4. Peter says:

    Motorola moving downtown helps the region, now a worker can live most anywhere and to a job with much less hassle using public transit as opposed to a car. Of course an urbanist would realize that, right?

  5. CJ says:

    Regarding Detroit, part of the resistance is that the State of Michigan planned to implement a $10 per car admission fee for Belle Isle, which would severely limit the number of Detroit residents using the park. I agree that the BI is in need of investment, but this has been a city park for ages, open to everyone free of charge, and should remain that way.

  6. Matthew Hall says:

    City centers need to strengthen their positions so that they can then deal with their metros from a position of greater strength. If you have something the suburbs want, you have greater leverage to pull them into a deal of mutual benefit to your metro. That may not be Emmanuel’s motivation, but it is a greater possibility if a city center is strong and valuable to its metro.

  7. @CJ, sounds nice in theory – keep giving us nice stuff for free – but how do you pay for that? The unwillingness to make tough but unpleasant choices in favor of kicking the can down the road is what brought Detroit and so many other places to where they are today. And this is hardly a one-off. As I noted, this is standard operating procedure for city of Detroit leadership.

  8. Rahm Emanuel’s economic development strategy is basically the same as Mitch Daniels: look first to poach from your neighbors. In Rahm’s case that’s both the suburbs and the greater Midwest. (Think back, for example, to his bribing a steel company to relocate from Cleveland to Chicago).

    If a company makes a move on its own for business reasons, that can be good for the economy as a whole. But it’s clear that Rahm has aggressively courted suburban firms and in many cases offered incentives (though that doesn’t yet appear to be the case with Motorola – we’ll see). I don’t buy the idea that if you pay a company to move from one place to another in the same region, that benefits everybody is not one I subscribe to. Don’t expect suburbanites who find their major employers in Rahm’s crosshairs to buy it either.

  9. I hadn’t thought to write about Belle Isle, but I have been writing about the 3 county property tax proposal for the Detroit Institute of Arts. In the past I’ve written both about the Regional Asset District in Allegheny County as a model to financially support assets that serve populations that cross jurisdictional lines.

    I’ve also written about that region’s Huron Clinton Metropolitan Authority, a multicounty parks authority that includes Wayne County.

    Probably a better course would be to shift Belle Isle “control and operation and financing” to the HCMA.

    But yep, Detroit is f*ed. For many reasons. Poverty. Race. Segregation. Failed business enterprises. The movement of big non-automotive businesses to Chicago and elsewhere (like NBD and Comerica). So much.

    But these are the kinds of happenstances that occurred 10-15 years ago in NYC (under Giuliani), Philadelphia (under Rendell), and DC (under Williams). I think _The Future Once Happened Here_ is a good book that explains the decline of cities. 2 of these cities are on an upward trajectory. Philly is not. But bankruptcies in places like Detroit are merely the next generation of this multidecade trend, which is based on the fact that cities leaked population and jobs and property tax revenues will never make up for the current footprint’s demand of an increasingly impoverished population.

  10. The other thing you did is make the point more clearly than I did that the left will oppose those big tax thingys because of the inclusion of road projects, plus some belief in some quarters that taxes generally are inequitable (the point isn’t to not impose taxes but to provide relief to the people who need it, as part of the taxation process, liked the unearned income credit), plus how some “progressives” see rail vs. bus as inequitable too, and the right will oppose it because it’s a tax, just as a matter of “principle.”

    So it makes more sense to focus on your agenda, rather than let larger forces f* it all up. (Which is DC’s problem, but I’ve written plenty about that.)

    One thought I left out of the piece is speculation that besides more time to pass such initiatives, I wonder if they should be required to be held in the general election. The primary always has lower turnouts and is more subject to zealotry. Sure, you put a tax at risk in the general election in front of more voters, but voters typically approve parks and other capital improvement projects, and usually, transit projects.

  11. Chris Barnett says:

    Richard, liberal opposition to sales taxes is simpler than you wrote. It has little or nothing to do with what they’re spent for, and almost everything to do with where they come from.

    Sales tax is regressive (as economists define the term) because low-income people typically spend a higher proportion of their income than those with higher incomes, and this proportion is inversely related to income.

    This is why some states (Indiana is one) don’t tax food and some don’t tax clothes (Minnesota and Pennsylvania), and why some jurisdictions impose extra sales taxes only on “luxuries” such as restaurant food (Central Indiana financed its football stadium with a restaurant sales tax of 2% in Indy and 1% in the donut counties).

    FMI see and

  12. Brett says:

    Aaron, you accuse Rahm of poaching Motorola jobs from the suburbs yet go on to point out that no incentives are being used. Motorola is paying for the move on their own.

    First of all, it’s not poaching if they are making the move on their own. Motorola could well have moved to California. Whatever Rahm did, he got the company to stay in Illinois, while paying for their own move.

    Which brings me to my second point. They are spending $300 million to move downtown. That’s $300 million they are spending in Illinois. $300 million that would not have been spent if they stayed in Libertyville (which they were obviously not going to do). That is a nice junk of money to be spent in the state and will generate construction jobs for the additions they are making to the Merch.

    As far as additional benefits to the regional economy, it remains to be seen if this effective. They want a tech cluster in Chicago and there is momentum in that direction. Having all those tech workers in River North (Moto and other companies) might end up creating spin off benefits. It will take years to see if this works. Clearly there is hope that there will be additional benefits from this clustering.

    Motorola has not made a decision on what to do with it’s Libertyville facility. It’s possible it will be put to other uses and we end up with a net increase in jobs in the region. The story isn’t finished.

    Lastly, while I also decry the shadenfreude (I’d prefer we all work together, for sure) I’d rather have a mayor who works to create a positive business climate in the city than one who does not. I’m not sure if the climate is better economically yet, but it seems to be better psychologically. I hope Rahm keeps it up. Especially if he can get more companies to move without financial incentives.

  13. Chris, I hate to say “whatever” but “whatever.” We have sales taxes. Yes, they are regressive. So what. Unless you are going to reform taxes across the board you work with the methods available to you. Instead of whining about sales taxes or gasoline excise taxes or congestion charges or tolls because they are regressive, besides dealing with spatial patterns to reduce the “need” to drive, just figure out how to provide a tax credit for lower income demographics.

    Otherwise nothing will ever f*ing change.

    E.g., property taxes assessment methods. You pay tax on current value. But the fact is that the value is unrealized. You don’t profit from the rise in value, until you sell your property. But increasing taxes generates displacement and in commercial instances, rising priperty values are used to displace industrial and other lower value uses.

    I hope you are working to completely fix the system because it’s really f*ed up.

    I’d like to, but because the effort would require the rest of my lifetime to maybe pull off (I am 52 years old), instead I will focus on other issues.

  14. Peter says:

    “But it’s clear that Rahm has aggressively courted suburban firms and in many cases offered incentives”

    Most of what I’ve seen included no incentives, including Motorola Mobility.

  15. JoeP says:

    Richard, I made it clear that I voted no because of the regressive sales tax, not because of road projects. You may discount that, but it’s clear where GA’s priorities are and has been for a long, long time. Until this changes, the T-SPLOST vote or similar ones are misguided.

    As I pointed out above, addressing the larger tax code, should be first, then if necessary, apply a sales tax, IF it’s necessary, but they want to do the opposite. It’s ridiculous.

    GA made it’s bed unfortunately. Atlanta has had success despite GA for the most part, but the lack of investment and in fact, the counter productive state legislature will cripple the region (and therefore the state) with its backwards mentality and policies.

  16. United Airlines got a huge amount of TIF to relocate.

  17. the urban politician says:


    This is one area where your desire to become an expert on cities across the world doesn’t serve you well.

    If you bothered to read about each and every deal in which a suburban company moved to Chicago, you will see that in Rahm’s era city incentives, while definitely employed in some cases, have been the exception rather than the rule.

    Chicago isn’t “poaching” the suburbs for jobs the way Mitch Daniels has tried to do, or in the way that the suburbs did for a long time with the city. The benefits of being downtown are self-explanatory, which is why at least a good handful of these announcements (to move downtown) have been made by companies relocating at their own accord.

    I would argue that opening up suburban office space for companies that need cheaper rents and don’t necessarily need the higher added value of a downtown location will create a new structure for the Chicago area as the region equilibrates.

    In addition, indirectly there is one benefit you failed to acknowledge: more jobs and headquarters downtown benefits the south side of the city. It is much easier to get to the Loop from 87th Street than to drive all the way up to Northbrook.

  18. Peter says:

    I believe UA was offered TIF under Daley, not Rahm.

  19. Peter says:

    “In addition, indirectly there is one benefit you failed to acknowledge: more jobs and headquarters downtown benefits the south side of the city. It is much easier to get to the Loop from 87th Street than to drive all the way up to Northbrook.”

    Which should be very clear to anyone who is an urbanist.

  20. the urban politician says:

    In addition, even if downtown Chicago were “poaching the suburbs” (a questionable assertion, at best), how is that different from Houston “poaching” the rest of the country because of its lower taxes and lower cost of living?

    I recall Aaron running a post here called “The Houston Story is Real”.

    Well hold on now, is that really true?

    If Chicago offering financial incentives to lure companies downtown (again–in most cases this has not happened) is not legitimate, then how is the “Houston Story” any more real?

  21. Peter says:

    Did downtown Chicago poach the GE Capital? Were there incentives involved?

  22. the urban politician says:


    Now if you’re going to mention GE, don’t forget this recent announcement by GE Transportation to move their headquarters from Erie, Pennsylvania (NOT a Chicago suburb last I checked) to Chicago, also without financial incentives:

  23. Peter says:

    Thanks TUP, forgot about that one.

  24. Matthew Hall says:

    GE Aviation is headquartered in suburban Cincinnati.

  25. Matthew Hall says:

    urban politican, not to speak for Aaron, but he not saying that it isn’t legitimate, he’s saying it isn’t true.

  26. JoeP — in many jurisdictions, sales taxes are used to fund transit. Do I think that’s the best way to go about it? No. Obviously. The reason that so many transit systems have been in free fall the last few years since the real estate crash is because of the fall in sales tax revenues (and real estate tax receipts too, in some jurisdictions).

    And yes it ought to be bond + property taxes + gasoline excise taxes + registration fees + other sources.

    I myself am a big fan of a transit withholding tax on income, currently assessed only in the Tri-Met and Lane transit districts in Oregon, and in the MTA zone in NY State (although there are many efforts to scuttle it).

    But to vote against a transit-transpo. initiative because of a theoretical concern about the form of taxation, given the way the world works, isn’t something that I’d do.

    I don’t know how I would have voted had I been in the position to do so. I would have been pissed because it wouldn’t do all that much for transit, in the great scheme of things. But the Beltline is important. MARTA expansion I’d have wanted more funding for, etc.

    I probably would have voted yes. But then, I am pro-transpo funding.

  27. Derek Rutherford says:

    Motorola is now part of Google. Google has in several places made an explicit policy of being in urban areas over suburban areas – their location in NY is another example. Their idea is that this makes people more “creative” and to Google’s owners, this is as much ideological as practical.

    The only odd note to Google’s policy/ideology on this is that the company was founded in Silicon Valley, a very suburban area. The lack of urban activity or “creativity” did not inhibit the company’s founders.

    In a sense, Google is a reverse-example of the older generation (pre-1970 or so) of large companies that were typically started in an urban area and, as they grew, located new operations in lower-cost, greenfield sites away from traditional cities. Google started out in the suburbs (albeit a very high cost suburb) and, as it grows, is locating new operations in old, often higher-cost, urban areas. To add to the conundrum, Google (and some other Silicon Valley companies) operates a bus service to transport workers who live in SF to their suburban campus – the reverse of the traditional commuting arrangement.

    I am not sure how to draw any conclusions from this, other than that I think the traditional urban/suburban stereotypes about work (creative/non-creative, high/low cost, etc.) are often exaggerated and/or simplistic. In Google’s case, it is in part simply a reflection of the founders preferences, and not entirely a $$ issue – when you are worth $billions, you get it your way.

  28. jbcmh81 says:

    Atlanta has fallen off its high, and it seems there’s little out there to support a resurgence to what it used to be. There are other options now, though let’s be honest, other Southern cities outside of Texas or Tennessee aren’t doing so hot economically either these days.

    Detroit may be the very last “Rust Belt” city to not be heading in the right direction, despite all the flashy Chrysler commercials. Milwaukee, Dayton, Pittsburgh, Rochester, etc are all growing now, and other cities are seeing their population losses slow significantly. Meanwhile Detroit continues to fall further and further behind.

  29. Chris Barnett says:

    Richard, I was neither whining nor complaining about sales taxes, merely explaining liberals dislike them mainly because they are regressive and are likely to oppose them for that reason without regard for the proposed spending.

    OTOH, conservatives like them better than income taxes because they tax consumption and (theoretically) promote savings and investment, though I understand that today’s good conservative NEVER votes for ANY tax increase. At least while Grover Norquist is watching. :)

    I supported Indy’s 2010 transit proposal when it had improved region-wide bus service and light rail to replace high-ridership bus through our densest (streetcar suburban) neighborhoods; its funding was to come from a sales-tax increase. It wouldn’t have mattered if the price tag had said “income tax increase” because I liked the system plan.

    The proposal has morphed and light rail is gone. The tax funding is now to be income tax. My position will still be decided on the system plan rather than funding source, as long as the cost is reasonable and in line with the benefits.

  30. Mike says:

    Hey Aaron-

    I’d rather have an aggressive Mayor than a passive Mayor. Rahm Emanuel is no different than any other aggressive Mayor in the country. Of course he’s more high-profile but aside from his popularity, he is doing what has become common business practice. And like most others have said, very little tax incentives have been offered under his administration. If he stood idol and did nothing then you’d be saying Rahm isn’t making enough moves.

    Everyone is doing whatever they can to get businesses to set roots in their communities. It’s the sign of the times. I know that’s not a story worth writing about but it’s the truth.

    By the way…did you hear Rahm cut the city budget deficit in half?

  31. Smart Voters Said "NO!" to TSPLOST says:

    What you completely ignore in the TSPLOST comments are the lousy combinations of projects that were to be funded. They would not improve traffic and some could not even be completed in the 10 year tax. Voters, in Atlanta particularly, looked beyond the rhetoric, asked whether this hodgepodge of projects made sense, and decided that they did not. Although positioned as a transportation initiative, TSPLOST, at least in the Atlanta region, was not about transportation, but development.

    Georgia’s loss of GDP during the recession was the predictable result of overinvestment in residential construction and development. As an interesting side note, many of the interests that were the cause of that mess were also the supporters of TSPLOST.

  32. Racaille says:

    “However, it clearly goes to show the ongoing power of the Chicago Loop not just as a tourist and quasi-public sector downtown like so many, but as a bona fide commercial powerhouse. I can’t prove this with data, but it seems to me that Chicago may have the strongest trend of any city in America of corporate relocations from the suburbs to downtown.”

    This is just the beginning….

  33. Danny Handelman says:

    The left-right divide does not exist, as each side is authoritarian on certain issues, libertarian on other issues. Roads, highways and bridges have a negative rate of return on the investment if one considers the external costs of the use of the automobile (air, water, soil and noise pollution, sedentary lifestyle, stress, collisions, congestion, anti-transit subsidy), opportunity cost of doing something more productive than driving. I believe the municipal government of Atlanta (or the region) heavily subsidizes the Atlanta airport (government spending in excess of airport user fees), which explains why it is a heavily used airport and underfunding of other transportation infrastructure.

    Governments would be fiscally sustainable once it is more profitable for builders to build upward rather than outward through elimination of height and minimum setback restrictions, imposing maximum automobile parking of 0 for infill, and require the ground floor(s) of infill to be used for retail and office space, decreasing impact fees for infill to 0 and increased for low-density land use and basing property taxes on the value of land alone rather than both land and building.

  34. david vartanoff says:

    building on Derek Rutherford’s comment, Google may also have figured out that they will not need to run Google Transit Authority w/CTA at the door. Many of their workers have negative interest in living near the headquarters in Mountain View thus the fleet of wi fi equipped over the road coaches from several ‘hoods in SF as well as Oakland and Berkeley all transporting workers from interesting places to live to the suburban bubble and back.

  35. Darren says:

    Motorola Mobility received/will receive $110 in tax incentives to remain in Illinois. This deal was struck before they were acquired by Google.

  36. CityBeautiful21 says:

    Aaron- I am confident that 6 months from now, there will be no Sierra Club/NAACP/Tea Party “Plan B” for mobility in the Atlanta Region and no lasting alliance on any subject. Their interests are fundamentally too divergent. On transport, two of the three groups are likely to want to invest in transit but not roads. The third group is split between those who want roads over transit and those who want no investment, period. Where’s the path forward? Didn’t a group of politicians just come up with a list of projects through horsetrading that attempted (unsuccessfully) to balance these interests?

    To those in ATL suggesting all that is needed is to reform tax codes to get less regressive sources of revenue, Richard Layman is right that it is not happening in the next few decades. The realpolitik of the situation is that the GA state legislature doesn’t contribute to funding rail service in the state because in the main, its members consider Amtrak “socialism.” Among legislative bodies where such views are common, there is no tax shift to more progressive sources coming in the foreseeable future, there is only no infrastructure funding.

    Another dimension to this story is your prior emphasis on “clout.” A conceit of the Tea Party/NAACP/Sierra troika is that while they were able to organize against the vote, a one-time event lasting over a few early voting days and a summer Tuesday with low turnout compared to a general election, they do not have the fiscal or organization infrastructure to maintain an ongoing campaign to re-position a new initiative for a substitute vote. In short, those three groups believed they have more clout than they do in Atlanta, and anybody who believed they can or will produce a “Plan B” that will go anywhere is mistaken. The Governor stating he will go his own way rather than meet with them to start on Plan B is the primary piece of evidence that they’ve had their day in the sun, and Atlanta will continue to choke on its growth.

  37. Butler Reynolds says:

    I voted NO on the Atlanta TSPLOST. I was surprised at how many people voted the same way.

    I think the Sierra Club and NAACP had little effect on the turnout. What I do suspect is that many in the metro ATL area got the sense that the politicians and the connected were using our terrible traffic woes as an excuse to generate some pork. Another case of “never let a crisis go to waste.”

    Everyone here understands that it is the roadways that can’t handle the demand. Given the wide range of places were people live and work around here, few people can fathom how an expensive and inflexible mass transit system could even begin to meet our transportation needs, much less make perceptible dent in the traffic.

  38. the urban politician says:


    Moto mobility received tax breaks to remain in Illinois.

    But that is not the same as receiving incentives to move downtown.

    They could have remained in Libertyville and still continued to receive that lucrative tax credit, but chose not to.

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