Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Playing the blame game with GA rail woes

I'm now done with the ULI competition, but have been hit with some sort of sinus infections/cold.  I'm fairly useless right now to be honest.  I woke up around 8, ate some breakfast, and fell back asleep until 1.

I flagged some articles that came out during the competition, and so right now I'm getting a chance to address them.  First up is the dust-up between John Lewis and Sonny Perdue.  John Lewis said the reason Georgia didn't get any rail money is because of failure from the state leadership, i.e. Perdue.  Perdue responded by saying, basically, "hey, you guys sure got a lot done with all your seniority and influence.  way to go guys.  I'm totally committed to rail, btw."  Lewis responded by basically saying, "yo, I've brought home the bacon plenty, stfu."

“I have said for years that Georgia needs a comprehensive, regional transportation plan to solve our problems. That is not the responsibility of any federal authority, but it rests squarely on the shoulders of the governor.... 
“I have done my part and will continue to bring federal money home to the people of Atlanta. Now it is time for other responsible officials to do theirs.”
So.  Who to blame?
Well, obviously I think Perdue has not been much a leader on transportation issues.  I give him some credit for going after GDOT and the culture there, but he hasn't had much success with it.  Further, if he were actually committed to rail and alternative transportation, we'd have state MARTA funding, a commuter line running to Lovejoy (and probably Athens), and already be on our way to high speed lines to Chattanooga, Charlotte, or Savannah.  All these ideas have been kicked around for years, yet none have gotten as much traction in the state as that tunnel under the east side.

However, you can't let John Lewis off the hook.  Its nice that he can say he's been saying for years about this or that, but I can't say I've ever seen him as a leader on the issue of rail or transit.  Let's take the BeltLine - this is a $2.8 billion project.  So far the BeltLine has gotten about $20 million through the ARC, or less than 1% of the project costs.  There is a fair amount of funding "anticipated," or "planned" down the line, but I know from speaking to folks who have been involved that funding is always an issue with the BeltLine.  Where have you been, John?

All the commuter rail funding has been through David Scott, since it is mostly in his district.  Not entirely fair to blame John Lewis for this, but still, not an issue he can claim leadership on.  Lewis did apparently secure funding for the commuter rail hub downtown, so I'll give him that.

Overall, though, it isn't like Lewis has been an outspoken voice for rail and transit funding.  To be honest, I don't hear him speaking about much, ever.  I think it's pretty disingenuous for him to simply say, "I have done my part."

No.  You are one of the most respected voices in Congress, and you are the House Majority Senior Chief Deputy Whip, one step below the Whip position.  You are supposedly a powerful, senior legislator, who represents Atlanta.  You represent a city where the number 1 issue, year after year, is transportation.  Any time you want to raise attention on an issue, the papers will cover it.

It is not acceptable for you to simply blame Perdue, and then say, "hey, I did my part."  Your job is to beat the drum, regularly, and say, "listen, let's build this rail to Charlotte," or, "Let's expand MARTA's service structure," and follow it up with, "I can guarantee X amount of federal funding, because I'm very important up here and this is a very important issue for me."

Then, when Perdue and the GOP dither some more, you scream, "Hey, do y'all want to move this region and state forward?  What the hell are you doing down there?"  Plenty of other people do this on a regular basis, but absolutely none of them have the power and influence you do.  Consider all the legislative pressure you could put on issues important to the Georgia GOP.

I don't think John Lewis has remotely done enough to simply play the blame game.

1 comment:

  1. When it comes to transportation, especially mass transit, Georgia is a basket case. Too bad because the people in the Atlanta area missed another opportunity to develop a mass transit system (the first one was not to build out MARTA when Federal funds were available).

    The upshot is that northern Georgia will lose its competitive edge in bringing in new business.

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