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The fallen banner of Regionalism

Cal Beverly's picture

After incumbents get beat unexpectedly — at least unexpected by the incumbents — pundits usually feel compelled to pundificate on “what it all means.”

I will resist that temptation since I have no idea what “it all means.” I do have a few ideas about what some of it means. (You are free to assign whatever weight you believe appropriate to my pundificating — or my bloviating, as one soon-to-be ex-mayor dubbed my editorial efforts.)

A tip of the hat to old Tip O’Neill, who immortalized the truism, “All politics is local.”

Local. Not regional.

Let me repeat that for the benefit of some other local office-holders who are ready to pick up that fallen regional banner from the last two champions of that new Georgia religion: Regionalism. It’s local, not regional.

If Ken Steele had minded his own business — meaning Fayetteville’s business, defined as contained within the existing city limits of Fayetteville — he would still be mayor in 2012.

But Steele got caught with both hands and feet and his whole heart in the regional cookie jar — defined as influencing decisions in the Atlanta Regional Commission, that hotbed of dead Democrat ideas about imposing across 10 counties experts’ notions of what’s good for us all.

In order to have influence at those exalted levels, a regionally ambitious mayor (and county commission chairman) has to “go along to get along” — defined as voting for stuff on the ARC board that would never fly within the provincial borders of old Fayetteville and unsophisticated Fayette County.

That go-along-get-along play is supposed to buy “influence” — defined as government grants of some of our own tax money mixed with involuntary tax grabs from Waycross, Georgia and Minot, North Dakota to pay for sidewalks in Fayetteville, Georgia.

Ken Steele knew how to play that game: Keep city taxes low and services modest inside Fayetteville and count on regional, state and federal government “grants” to pay for goodies that local taxpayers are unwilling (and unable, in many cases) to be billed for.

For Steele, that preceding sentence is the essence of smart government, since that is how the game is played.

I agree with Steele that is precisely how the game is played — and that is the underlying problem of our dysfunctional federal and state governments. Steele loved that game, and it’s that game that is killing us. We don’t need to just change the rules of the game. We need to change to another game entirely.

Steele’s biggest mistake was this: He considered — and publicly stated in these very pages — that those who disagreed with his governing philosophy were more than wrong; they were stupid.

Voters don’t like for their elected officials to treat them as stupid.

The voters told Steele so last week.

That same fate awaits the three elder members of the Fayette County Commission, should they be so, uh, unwise, as to seek another term in 2012.

Now the big question remains: Who will step forward to raise up that fallen banner of Regionalism? Who will champion passage of the one-cent regional transportation special local option sales tax? Who wants to be the next big local player in that regional game?

I suggest you keep your eye on the Peachtree City Council. And watch two local legislators in January: Matt Ramsey and Ronnie Chance. Do they think their future will be determined by the governor and the ARC princes, or by local voters, who don’t like to be played for fools?


[Cal Beverly has been the editor and publisher of The Citizen since 1993.]


BHH's picture

It will be interesting to see if this momentum will continued.


ptctaxpayer's picture

Ramsey---- don't know...As for Chance, that's a no-brainer. Being a degree holding grad of the Velvet Jones School of Technology, Ronnie will certainly jump on board, support it and then come back and tell us in speeches he really didn't. Ramsey is tottering but Chance is definitely on board the ARC train. See ya, Ken, with Dell and the Three Stooges on deck.

DBarlow's picture

Thank you Cal for your comments regarding the recent defeat of mayor Ken Steele. Many years ago I read that coach Bear Bryant told Joe Namath, "I can't hear what your saying because I see what you do". Joe was lackadaisical during football practice and was complaining to coach Bryant that he wasn't getting enough playing time. Joe Namath got the message and went on to become a successful NFL quarterback. I'm also reminded of God's word, "Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap". Our "actions do speak louder than words" and Fayette County citizens are watching. God Bless the USA!

Proud Citizen of Fayette County, Tyrone, Georgia. "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life..John 3:16

ginga1414's picture


efdrakejr's picture

I'm not here to defend Ken Steele but I hope to add some perspective to this debate. Aside from whatever other issues people had with Ken Steele, he was painted with the "Regionalism" brush in large part because he was a member of the 21 person regional roundtable. But there was only a regional roundtable to begin with because the legislature was unwilling to address our transportation infrastructure funding needs themselves. Instead, they passed the somewhat convoluted Transportation Investment Act that REQUIRED the county commissioner and one mayor from each county to be on the roundtable and select projects. Thrust into that position, Steele and Frady did what almost nobody thought they could and got back as much money in projects for Fayette County as we will pay in taxes. I don't know that Steele asked for or wanted a regional transportation bill but that was what was handed to him and he made the best of it.

Secondly, if you are going to rail against regional planning, you need to start way above Steele's pay grade. Metropolitan Planning Organizations, like the ARC, were mandated by the U.S. Congress in 1962 to foster cooperation and coordination of transportation projects on a regional basis (U.S. Code, Title 23, Chapter 1, Section 134). They are comprised of representatives from local government and government transportation authorities. That's the law so if you are angry about it and want it to be changed so that our local officials don't have to cooperate and coordinate, you need to contact Rep. Lynn Westmoreland, not vote against your local mayor. Like it or not, our new mayor will be part of the ARC process when he takes office.

Gene Drake

ginga1414's picture

Mayor Steele, Commission Chairman Smith, and Commission Chairman Frady voted against what the people of Fayette County told them they wanted.

Steele, Smith, and Frady were our representatives on the Atlanta Regional Commission and the Regional Transportation Roundtable.

They were told by the people of Fayette County that we did not want mass transit here.

Steele, Smith, and Frady said there wouldn't be any mass transit in Fayette County. However, public records revealed that they voted in favor of mass transit in Fayette County in their capacity as our representatives.

Because Steele and Smith misrepresented the people of Fayette County, and because they misrepresented their actions to the people, they were voted out of office.

I guess if we tried hard enough we could "pass the buck" all the way back to Adam and Eve. Frady, Chance, Ramsey, and Westmoreland will have their day.

efdrakejr's picture

Mass transit in Fayette County is a red herring advanced by Steve Brown and others to frighten and stir up Fayette voters. There were TENS OF BILLIONS of dollars in transit projects that other counties wanted but weren't affordable cut from the Regional Roundtable's list. There is ZERO chance that we're going to get unwanted mass transit in Fayette County when so many other counties want it. It is dishonest to continue to advance the mass transit argument.

Gene Drake

NUK_1's picture

[quote=efdrakejr]Mass transit in Fayette County is a red herring advanced by Steve Brown and others to frighten and stir up Fayette voters. There were TENS OF BILLIONS of dollars in transit projects that other counties wanted but weren't affordable cut from the Regional Roundtable's list. There is ZERO chance that we're going to get unwanted mass transit in Fayette County when so many other counties want it. It is dishonest to continue to advance the mass transit argument.[/quote]

glad to see someone else realizes what total BS the whole "mass transit and MARTA is coming to FC!!!" sham really is: putrid politics and completely disconnected from any semblance of reality. That argument frankly caters to the ignorant and ill-informed.

The FRAP (Fayetteville-Riverdale Adulterated Picture) pseudo-scandal shows what many have known for centuries--all politics is savage! Here in the FC, we have one group vs. another group vying to win positions of power! Why would anyone go to all this trouble--setting up a PAC, fiddling with picture captions, contributing money, etc?

Isn't it easier to just stay home and watch football and The X-Factor? I guess not, for some! Why is anyone surprised that a certain group set up a PAC to help defeat the other group? I am not! But, what are they fighting for exactly? One says its preventing the entry of mass transit into the FC. The other says its....alleviating traffic congestion or something like that, I guess.... What it is really all about is getting power! And why exactly? Because its good to be the king, and not the Mike variety, although it might be good to be him too given the amount of free time and weapons he has!

There are no real issues here in the FC, are there? Zoning is first and foremost, but that goes for most everywhere else in the nation! Saggy pants is No. 2, or so it seems! So, the competing groups have to come up faux issues that push peoples' psychological buttons!

In the end, the most savy group wins--at least until the other group out savys them in the next election!

Long Live the King, the Old King is Dead!

Thank you Chris Martin!

Can Tebow win on Thursday night? Will Stacy Francis go home? I say yes on both!

Mike King's picture

Free time and weapons? One maybe, but not both. You must realize that the King's priorities are set by the Queen and SWMBO is every bit as proficient as yours truly.

Who would have thought six weeks ago that the Cowboys would have a better chance at making the playoffs than the Falcons.

With the open TV time made possible by the NBA, will TNT, TBS and Fox Sports South go 'all in' televising poker?

hutch866's picture

When he comes up for election, he'll claim he stopped Mass Transit and MARTA cold. Now when little Stevie Brown comes up for election, I nominate the Cyclist for County Commission, after all, by then he'll have stopped the invasion of the Canadians. The Canadians are worse then the Mexicans, because you can't tell a Canadian until they try to skate on a small frozen puddle of water.

I yam what I yam

HOOK, LINE and SINKER. For the first election to a particular office at least. :)

NUK_1's picture


NUK_1's picture

It's much easier to campaign as an "outsider" than have to govern as an "insider." Instead of just griping all the time, voters expect you to actually DO something constructive or at least not do anything destructive and not embarrass yourself or turn the govt into a big joke.

Glad to see the SB/Haddix strategy didn't pay off for Allen in PTC as that would be a sign of more to come in every election.

This is how the new mayor and city councilmen got elected, frightening the voters going around the city yelling "mass transit is coming to Fayetteville" when ITS NOT. As I stated in my editorial this week, be an educated voter. Stop relying on information given to you by others.

Robert W. Morgan's picture

How about ignorant, ill-informed and un-involed?
Good God, we have a 19% turnout and some are bragging about how good that is.

9% when the brownclown was elected in PTC

Get involved people. Please help rid us of these fools!

Live free or die!

I'm with you, why are we bragging that we had 19% turnout for a local eletion; that is a disgrace. I wrote about the low turnout in my editorial, there is no reason for the other 81% not to vote. People just don't care about what happens at the local level.

Steve Brown's picture

I suggest you go read the 2010 Citizen article entitled, "Commission Chairman Smith explains his vote for mass transit in Fayette."

Or you can go read the Atlanta Regional Commission's TAQC minutes dated 11-13-08.

Or you can go read the 04-21-10 Atlanta Regional Commission minutes and look at the vote on regional transit governance.

If you have some facts, please list them on this page and do not forget to cite your references.

efdrakejr's picture

That's all interesting information, which I already knew, but it doesn't really respond to my position that there are billions of dollars of transit projects that other counties WANT that we don't have money for so there is zero chance that we are going to have mass transit FORCED upon us. I stand by my contention that you are trying to scare the voters for political gain.

For reference, here is the unconstrained draft list of projects submitted for the Transportation Investment Act. The transit projects are on pages 33-38.

Gene Drake

jpopeye's picture

This well done post regarding regional transportation is a logical and reasoned progressive policy postion. Thanks for taking the time to write your post. However, as Cal is pointing out the reality of politics is that you have to work with what you've got. Frady and Steele saw the need for regional improvement but they went beyond the level that locals could accept. Smarter politicians would explain and move public opinion, then take action up to the level of acceptable change.

Dondol's picture

"Like it or not, our new mayor will be part of the ARC process when he takes office."
This is exactly why we wanted out of the ARC, they will take our money and laugh
all the way to the Bank. Then they will give a third of it to prop up MARTA! And contacting Rep. Westmoreland is like peeing into the wind, you can do it, but you won't like the results.

efdrakejr's picture

Reasonable people can and do disagree whether Fayette is best suited for ARC or Three Rivers. Since more than 50% of working Fayette residents work in Atlanta, I think ARC makes the most sense but I can see the pros and cons on both sides. Having said that, if we were in Three Rivers and not ARC, I think it is clear that the 74/85 interchange would not be on the ARC list. Why would it be since the vast majority of Fulton residents never pass through that interchange? A large percentage of Fayette residents do pass through there, a lot of them daily, so I think it is clearly beneficial for that project to be on the ARC's list.

Gene Drake

Mike King's picture

Great point there, now explain the fairness when you include those commuters from Coweta County with nearly the same percentage.

The whole SPLOST idea could have easily been settled with a one cent per gallon increase in gasoline. Please don't tell me it couldn't be done by county. GADOT is ultimately responsible, so why add yet another contract awarding bureaucracy when there are ample enough thieves in government now?

Gas tax is going to have to be raised to collect the same $$$. It's just the way it is. I'm all for it instead of this SPLOST idea.

Steve Brown's picture

The minutes of the regional Transit Planning Board, the Transit Implementation Board and the Regional Transit Committee all show the ultimate "regional" solution is a permanent regional sales tax, including Fayette's funding of MARTA and the northern congestion mess that we did not create.

Even the AJC, an avid supporter of the TIA referendum, had to admit the final list has some choice slices of pork spending in it.

We could have created another local SPLOST and gotten everything we get out of the TIA without an added layer of bureaucracy.

Roswell Mayor Wood, a friend of mine, clearly told the AJC that the transit counties want everyone in the entire region to start paying for MARTA. It's not a secret as his quote appeared in the newspaper.

efdrakejr's picture

First, let me state again that a regional tax is not my preferred method for generating our much needed transportation infrastructure funds. Probably a combination of a local SPLOST and some increase in the fuel tax would be a good mix. However, I disagree with your statement that we would have gotten everything we get out of the TIA from a local SPLOST. We most certainly would not have gotten the 74/85 interchange improvements since that is not in our county and that project is a huge benefit to our citizens.

Gene Drake

Mike King's picture

Now you're beginning to sound like a politician or, heaven forbid, a lobbyist. You know as well as I that the fix for the 74/85 interchange includes upgrades to the intersections to the north and south of Exit 61 and upgrades to the feeder routes that lead to them. Your preferred method is receipt of the funds, regardless of how. Admit it

efdrakejr's picture

It seems like every time someone disagrees with my position, they feel the need to play the lobbyist card. I've come to expect it from Ginga and her supporters but I thought you were better than that Mike.

There will have to be other upgrades but the list of projects on the TIA aren't the only things that will get done over the 10 year period. They are just the ones funded through the sales tax.

I am not in favor of generating the funds through any means possible and I have put a lot of effort, not just words, into better alternatives. As I stated, I prefer a gas tax increase but the legislature is scared to death of the Tea Party and their "no new taxes" commitment. I do believe that some things, like roads and bridges, are worth paying for through taxes and since I'm not king (no pun intended), I'm left to compromise on how we go about that.

Here is a report by the McKinsey Group detailing the enormous economic development Georgia could expect from an investment in transportation infrastructure. The Cliff's Notes version is they expect it would pay off 10 to 1. That's a pretty god return so I'm "lobbying" that we work towards something like that.

Gene Drake

The Wedge's picture

More money for infrastructure improvements is good for the concrete business. Georgia Concrete Paving Association: Gene Drake, P.E., Executive Director

Good for you :) Happy Thanksgiving

efdrakejr's picture

I'll accept the description of stakeholder. We all are but clearly my business will benefit and I have not hidden that nor my title in many postings over the months. I have tried to bring facts to the debate though, like the McKinsey study or calculation of the necessary fuel tax increase, so people can be informed and make their decisions based on facts, not scare tactics.

Happy Thanksgiving to you as well.

Gene Drake

The Wedge's picture

I agree. You have been very upfront with this and your documents have been pertinent. No issue whatsoever with anything you have said on this, I am not sure where I fall in the debate but I will read on.

Mike King's picture

My apology for the implication. Just my way of making a point, as I knew of your ties to the concrete association. My headache with the whole mess is that in lieu of a SPLOST, a direct tax on the consumption of gasoline over a period of time directly going to the upgrade of road, bridges, etc and not dispersed to blanket transportation projects is a much better approach. My opinion. Weak kneed politicians (Legislature) believe they have freed themselves of this responsibility since they have a fall back position of "you voted for it", but as organizations such as the TEA Party will eventually call them on it.

efdrakejr's picture

I share your opinion and maybe I shouldn't be so willing to compromise but I have tried over and over to convince legislators that a fuel tax is the best way but I just haven't gotten anywhere. Meanwhile, I really do believe we need to invest in our infrastructure.

I hope it doesn't seem that I am trying to hide my association to the concrete industry because I am not. I'm trying to be as above board as possible and just have an open debate and free exchange of ideas. I always enjoy reading yours.

Gene Drake

Mike King's picture

I share the concern regarding infrastructure, and agree that more revenue should be explicitly directed towards that end and the sooner, the better. By setting a tax increase on gasoline consumption strictly for infrastructure prioritized by GADOT is likely the cheapest way to get it done. Leaving the prioritization to regional authorities is a sure means for a substantial portion to be wasted. Again, my opinion.

You have never hidden your association, and I appreciate your position.

efdrakejr's picture

Reasonable people can and do disagree whether Fayette is best suited for ARC or Three Rivers. Since more than 50% of working Fayette residents work in Atlanta, I think ARC makes the most sense but I can see the pros and cons on both sides. Having said that, if we were in Three Rivers and not ARC, I think it is clear that the 74/85 interchange would not be on the ARC list. Why would it be since the vast majority of Fulton residents never pass through that interchange? A large percentage of Fayette residents do pass through there, a lot of them daily, so I think it is clearly beneficial for that project to be on the ARC's list.

Gene Drake

efdrakejr's picture

I am for raising the gas tax instead of a sales tax because it would be required to go to roads and bridges, not transit, and because it pays directly for the resource being utilized. The legislature is not interested in raising taxes, mostly for political reasons, so they passed the sales tax referendum to pass the issue off to the voters and keep their hands clean, so to speak.

As for the amount of gas tax increase, this year GDOT will take in just over $700M on a state fuel tax of about 16 cents per gallon. The sales tax, if passed statewide, will generate about $1.5B per year which would triple GDOT's revenue. So, if you raised the fuel tax instead of passing a sales tax, you would have to triple the fuel tax to 48 cents which is a 32 cent increase, not a one cent increase.

See page 2 of this link for info on the fuel tax revenue:

Gene Drake

Mike King's picture

Sure, it will cost much more than one cents per gallon, but please don't neglect to mention a portion of the federal tax on gasoline which is substantially more than sixteen cents per gallon. Like you say, it would be directed solely on the resource being utilized, and not wasted on pet projects prioritized by someone not answerable to the people of Fayette County.

Are you implying that GADOT needs another $1.5B annually? I think not.

efdrakejr's picture

To be fair, I guess if you deleted the transit projects, the increase would probably only be a quarter and the revenue would be $1.2B. I do think they need that much as that is how much it will cost to fund just the road and bridge projects on the statewide combined roundtable lists. Goergia has the second lowest fuel tax in the nation which has caused GDOT to be almost entirely in "maintenance" mode. They have very little money for what I believe is much needed new capacity.

Nobody, including me, wants their taxes raised but roads and bridges are a legitimate function of government and they don't come cheaply. You get what you pay for.

Gene Drake

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