By Burrell Ellis
Traditionally, cities and counties have individually invested local tax revenues in infrastructure and then leveraged those investments with matching contributions from the state and federal governments.
As the federal government grapples with the deficit and the state government deals with its own revenue reduction, the competition for matching funds has become fierce. It is no longer Atlanta versus Cobb County, or DeKalb versus Gwinnett.
With fewer federal funds available to disburse, our key competitors are other metropolitan communities such as Charlotte, Dallas-Fort Worth, Phoenix and Seattle. It is those regions that address their needs collaboratively and smartly that are the most competitive, both in securing federal funds as well as new industry.
That’s why a smart regional transportation plan … one that addresses the transportation patterns of the people within the region irrespective of which city or county they may reside in … is a necessity. A smart regional plan is vital to our growth, economic prosperity and quality of life.
The most vibrant and sustainable metropolitan areas throughout the world have regional transit systems. While a 1-cent sales tax cannot fund all of our region’s transportation needs, a smart plan should prioritize a transit system that is regionally funded … if that plan is expected to reasonably reduce traffic congestion and gain the trust of the people it is designed to serve.
Over the past several months, the Atlanta Regional Roundtable has put together the framework for such a plan.
Over the next two months, there will be more opportunities for public input before a final plan is put before the roundtable members for a vote. Ultimately, the voters within the 10-county region will decide whether they like the plan and are willing to fund it.
We have a tremendous opportunity to show that Atlanta has grown, not only in size but also in progress. That will require shared sacrifice and regional thinking.
Burrell Ellis is DeKalb County CEO.