Atlanta mayor added to regional transportation committee
At the behest of Georgia House Speaker David Ralston, the five-member executive committee of the metro Atlanta Regional Transportation Roundtable was tweaked a bit at a hastily-called meeting today.
The change added Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed to the executive committee, which is charged with preparing a list of recommended projects to be funded by a potential 10-year 1 percent region-wide sales tax referendum that would include Fayette County.
Reed was one of several voices critical of the initial executive committee because it did not contain representation from either Fulton or DeKalb counties, the two largest counties in the region population-wise.
While the executive committee will compile the list of projects, its power is limited because the full 21-member roundtable can add and remove projects before voting on the final list, which would be published to voters and publicized in advance of the referendum.
Representing Fayette County on the 21-member roundtable are County Commission Chairman Herb Frady and Fayetteville Mayor Ken Steele.
To make room for Reed, the roundtable accepted the resignation of Norcross Mayor Bucky Johnson, who was appointed to be a non-voting chair of the executive committee.
The motion to add Reed, accept Johnson’s resignation and also appoint Johnson as the non-voting chair of the executive committee passed on a 14-5 vote. Those voting against were Fulton County Commission Chairman John Eaves, Rockdale County Commission Chairman Richard Oden, Union City Mayor Ralph Moore, Clayton County Commission Chairman Eldrin Bell and DeKalb County CEO Burrell Ellis.
Ellis, Oden and Bell in particular said they felt adding Reed to the committee did not go far enough in improving the diversity on the committee and also adding representation from the most populous counties, whose votes will certainly be needed to pass the referendum.
The referendum is expected to raise $7 billion over 10 years in the 10-county metro Atlanta region. Because the referendum is being counted on an aggregate vote across the region, Fayette County nor any of the other nine counties can “opt out” of the tax, meaning that if it passes the regional vote, the tax will be assessed in all 10 counties, even if any of them on a per-county basis voted against the referendum.
Several roundtable members expressed concern that the executive committee met with House Speaker Ralston without notifying all 21 members of the roundtable. Reed explained that Ralston asked the executive committee to meet with him, and “it was not a formal process intended for action” to be taken.
“During the meeting in the speaker’s office, it was determined that every single member of the roundtable should be called and that no action should be taken by the executive committee,” Reed said.
Reed said Ralston’s concern was about the ability to successfully pass the referendum. He also said making Johnson a non-voting chair of the executive committee was seen as important to help coordinate the significant number of meetings that will be required by the executive committee over the upcoming months.