Chairman Jack Smith & mass transit plans

Steve Brown's picture

Three members of our Fayette County Board of Commissioners are up for re-election this November: Jack Smith, Eric Maxwell and Lee Hearn.

We all know about their “build the West Fayetteville Bypass at any cost” stance. We know about their intentions to close the interchange at Ga. Highway 74 and I-85 in favor of a new interchange at Ga. Highway 92 and I-85, a way to justify building the sham of a bypass, leaving Tyrone, Peachtree City and Brooks commuters in a lurch.

Likewise, we voted down their pork-barrel spending antics in the recent SPLOST referendum.

Now let me tell you what else you need to look out for related to mass transit in Fayette County. Commission Chairman Jack Smith has been actively participating in the planning and implementation processes of bringing mass transit to Fayette County.

In fact, the plans from the Transit Planning Board (TPB) actually designate Fayetteville and Peachtree City as “transit centers,” (Source: Transit Planning Board Final Technical Report, Concept 3, p. 16, figure 2.2, System Framework).

At their “Aug. 28, 2008 meeting, the TPB Board voted to adopt Concept 3 as the regional transit vision” (TBP Staff Director’s Report September, 2008). Chairman Smith made no objections to the mass transit plan, Concept 3, as it was drafted and approved.

Indeed, the plan calls for buses from Clayton County, Henry County and Coweta County to come rolling into Fayette. In fact, we are the heart of their new “cross-regional corridor” for mass transit.

The plan which Chairman Smith favored and posed no objections to, according to TPB meeting minutes, calls for a “Southwest [transit rail] line from Senoia to Downtown Atlanta through Peachtree City and Union City” (TPB press release, http://beltline.org/Portals/26/Concept%203%20Fact%20Sheet.pdf).

Just how will the mass transit assembly line of buses, constantly bustling back and forth from Newnan to McDonough with us caught in the middle, along hwys. 34/54 improve the quality of life for the citizens of Fayette County?

Sadly, the irony is it will bring more congestion to that busy highway. Think about it; there are no HOV lanes in Fayette, so the buses will add to our traffic. And how many in our local population do you think will be riding that hectic bus route?

At this point, some well-intentioned readers are thinking mass transit in Fayette County is just the right thing to do.
The part of this mass transit revelation Chairman Smith will surely never tell you about is the cost. Oh, yeah, we have to pay to shuttle the masses through our county.

The regional system will cost billions upon billions of dollars to assemble. Then there are the massive annual maintenance costs. In fact, “[t]o operate the full regional system, both existing and new expansion is estimated to be $1.2 billion annually” (TPB press release, http://beltline.org/Portals/26/Concept%203%20Fact%20Sheet.pdf).

You have heard that trains, buses and trolleys will save us time and money. Fulton County and DeKalb County have around 2 million residents and tons of business and industry, but they cannot keep their transit system afloat.

Similarly, Gwinnett County has nearly 800,000 residents along with huge amounts of industrial and retail taxes, but they are cutting six morning and eight evening express bus trips every day.

In fact, Gwinnett eliminated a significant portion of their Saturday bus service altogether, reducing frequency on the few routes that remained.

It is the same story with ultra-dense Clayton County as their bus system collapses.

Jack Smith currently serves on the regional Transit Implementation Board (TIB), “established in January 2009 to guide the implementation of Concept 3, the long-range transit vision for the Atlanta region developed by the board’s predecessor, the Transit Planning Board (TPB)” (www.transitboard.org/), assuring his regional government colleagues that Fayette County is on board when it comes to mass transit.

Considering that our county only has a projected population of 160,860 by 2030, you have to wonder how high our tax burden will become with our commission chairman not objecting to a plan causing an extensive financial burden on us.

Now our Chairman Smith contends (at least I have heard around Fayette he does) that he will never allow mass transit in Fayette County.

OK, so why did he approve the Concept 3 plan that includes Fayette County rail and buses?

Similarly, why is Smith on the board, TIB, implementing the transit plan including Fayette County?

Again, let it be said, I cannot find a single notation in the TBP or TIB meeting minutes where Smith is objecting to a plan calling for mass transit in our county.

Chairman Smith had yet a third time to object to the plans for mass transit in Fayette County when the Atlanta Regional Commission (Smith serves as a Fayette representative on ARC) approved the Concept 3 transit plan, but he did the opposite.

The Concept 3 transit plan clearly says, the “bus rapid transit regional transfer stations” are “Newnan, Peachtree City and Fayetteville,” and other projects include “GA 74 Expressway Bus, Peachtree City Commuter Rail and GA 85 Arterial Rapid Bus” reporting “service hours and frequency: All day, minimum 15-minute peak frequency, 30-minute off-peak” (Project Information Sheets for Elements of Concept 3, Project Analysis Information Sheet, p. 47, Transit Planning Board, December 18, 2008).

The GA 85 Arterial Rapid Bus service will connect Fayetteville to Riverdale and the large Southern Crescent Regional Transit Station, (Project Information Sheets for Elements of Concept 3, Project Analysis Information Sheet, p. 49, Transit Planning Board, December 18, 2008).

How in the world would we sustain mass transit with only a fraction of the population of the other counties? Even worse, as Chairman Smith will tell you, the implementation plan calls for everyone, including Fayette County, to opt into the regional mass transit system with a proposed regional sale tax funding mechanism.

Believe it or not, that means we in Fayette will be paying to cover the deficits of the larger counties.

I cannot find a single notation in the regional meetings where Smith objects to this funding methodology.

Up to this point, Fayette County has been the only county within the 10-county Atlanta Regional Commission not to opt into the failing regional mass transit system. Unfortunately, I fear our county commissioners could be silently pulling us into the mire.

I do not want to see Fayette County get blown away with Peachtree City and Fayetteville marked as mass transit centers. I am certain we could never endure the costs.

Van pooling works just fine in Fayette County, providing the ride with no cost to the county taxpayers.

Smith, Hearn and Maxwell all favored the TDK Extension and are currently working away on the bogus West Fayetteville Bypass. Are these really people we can trust when they say they oppose mass transit in our county? Their actions speak louder than their words.

We need elected officials who will fight to save what we love about Fayette County, not give it away.

[Steve Brown is the former mayor of Peachtree City. He can be reached at stevebrownptc@ureach.com.]

suggarfoot
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as always Steve Brown is on top of it

Thank you Steve. They hate your guts cause you tell the truth and know what you are talking about.

I don't know where they get off wanting to close 74/85 entrance. People bought their houses in regards to the time it would take them to get to work using this.

If they want to go up the road and build another entrance (in another county? can they do that?) then by all means, they can knock themselves out. But to close an entrance in use? NOPE. not with my tax money. They must think we are crazy.

hutch866
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suggarfoot and Steve

Maybe one of you can tell me how our commissioners are going to close the ramps at 74 and I-85 when they reside in another county. Steve is still stuck on that it all revolves around PTC thing.

Robert W. Morgan
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Good thoughts Cal, in fact I agree - you have the ethics covered

The questioned posed was serious and I'm happy with the answer.

I certainly agree about Scott Bradshaw being a voice of reason and I certainly wish more of us were like him. I would hope that he would run for office someday, although every time I tell him that he just laughs.

I don't think I can do anything regular with my travel schedule. I'm often out of town without internet access for a week or 2 at a time. Maybe when I get another laptop (last one was stolen in NY) I can consider that. Appreciate the offer. Federalist papers, wow! Are you comparing me to Ben Franklin and Thomas Paine?

hutch866
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Morgan

why not compare you to them, you're all dead ain't you?

Steve Brown
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"Save" is correct on Lee Hearn

My error, Hearn is up in 2012. This is the second time I have lumped him in with Smith and Maxwell in November. I would like to see him gone in 2011, but we will all have to wait a year.

Why is Jack Smith on all the regional boards related to mass transit? Why does Fayette County have a variety of mass transit projects in the regional plans without complaint from Smith?

Check the references in the column (marked in blue), and you will find Fayette listed. There is a nice color map depicting the transit types and hubs in Fayetteville and Peachtree City on: http://beltline.org/Portals/26/Concept%203%20Fact%20Sheet.pdf

Save Fayette
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Brown, nothing but lies!!! Go Away!!!

Ya Steve go ahead and run against Jack Smith or Eric Maxwell. No I think you have a better chance running against Lee Hearn since he is not even in this year’s election.
this is how ill informed Steve Brown is. His article is nothing but made up crap.
He talks about TDK, he was the one who wanted it in the first place, look on the documents and you will see his name on them. In 2008 Smith did not have a vote on the transportation plan. He was just a part of the ARC and one vote. Brown said Smith did not vote no however he did not vote for it. Steve Brown show me where Jack Smith has said that he wants Mass transit in Fayette County. Your article is nothing but a bunch of made up crap. Show us. I know Cal Beverly likes to sell papers, I don’t know how he can let you write lies. Your first sentence is off because you don’t know who is even up for election. How in the world can you ask me to believe anything else you wrote? You know you are catering to your WFB people they are the only ones who like what you write. They need to get a clue. The road will be built.
Fayette County is known for one thing, we have old recycled ex-elected officials that can’t learn that people are tired of them, that is why they are not in office, but we have Steve Brown, Harold Boss Hog, Greg Dunn who just will not go away.

AtHomeGym
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Well Save, I'm Trying

to discover where Greg Dunn's presence is so apparent--help me out here. Thanks.

pips1414
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Catering to WFB People

We, the WFB people are proud that Steve Brown will stand up for us. If you think that the WFB is anything but political pork, search the county records for supporting traffic justification...you won't be able to find it! Justification/public need is required in order to get the required 404 Permit approved by the Army Engineers to build the road. We found that the county is hanging its hat on an ARC Traffic Study that ARC said was never made. In fact, ARC responded that it had discussions with the county and opined that the $50 million Bypass project was NOT feasible. No wonder, when it ends up way out in the country with no connecting arteries that would support traffic to points North. The only part that made a modicum of sense was the East Bypass that would scenically funnel Highway 85 traffic around Fayetteville, but the State found the East Bypass project unjustified and would not fund it.

The West Bypass runs through more than 1000 acres of developers' land, and we haven't seen newspaper articles submitted by the public in favor of the project. We suspect this was because land developers were the only ones supporting the project, and didn't want to go on record as associating the WFB's approval with themselves. If that isn't enough for you, look what it will do to the environment, crossing eight wetland areas. Has the county ever threatened to fragmentise YOUR neighborhood? We're all for progress, but only the kind of progress that is needed and documented. The 2004 SPLOST Ballot did not include the WFB, but instead limited its language to "Road, Street and Bridge Purposes". If that deceit wasn't deliberate enough, after all the negative repercussions, the 2009 SPLOST ballot was quite specific, and went down in defeat 3 to 1. Enough said.

So if we WFB folks need to get a clue as to why the county should press on, with the project, we're all ears. Give us some hard, documented facts as to how you believe we're out of line in fighting against this colossal waste. If you were going from Highways 85 or 54 to Atlanta, tell us exactly how you would be better off by taking the bypass to get there under the approved alignment. Are you a developer?

Robert W. Morgan
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Cal's ethical dilemma

I am starting to see clear evidence on these pages that Steve Brown is positioning himself for yet another run for political office. Best guess would be against Jack Smith next year, but it could be anyone else - doesn't matter. Cal's dilemma is this, I think - how does he justify 2 or 3 years of weekly exposure for Brown and his ideas in the newspaper which in effect is the equivalent of a political platform that acts like a heat-seeking missile. Brown is given free reign to shape his platform based upon reader response and play to the crowd week after week with minimal opposition.

So, when Brown finally announces as a candidate for something - say Jack Smith's seat, will Jack be given equal space in The Citizen that comes close the free space that has been given to Brown? Not possible. Naturally the easiest way to dodge this uncomfortable question is to say something like "Brown is not an announced candidate and until he is, none of those equal space rules apply" or "They haven't reinstituted the Fairness Doctrine yet"

Those are good responses, probably on firm legal ground, but the question posed is ethical, not legal. And it is a serious question, because of Brown's posture (from the root word pose or poser) as a political sage.

Cal Beverly
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The ethics of political speech

RWM, the "dilemma" you posed is based on a false premise: the premise that Mr. Smith has no current access or platform or forum in which to express his views, including rebuttals.

That premise is false.

I would gladly give print and online space to anything Mr. Smith or any other local official sends to me. Mr. Smith (and all other Fayette County commissioners, school board members, city council members, etc.) are welcome to their own unrestricted blogs on this site at any time they so choose to avail themselves of the freedom of political speech being offered here.

Taken to a logical conclusion, your "ethics" assertion would imply that I should limit some particular individual's speech in order to protect a public official from a hypothetical political challenge in the future. Most political "sages" do not run for public office. And some who do have had their political heads handed back to them by the voters.

I can't predict the future, and local politics suffers from a dearth of even semi-knowledgeable, literate critics willing to opine publicly. I take what I can get in that category. (But note the high quality local political commentary being offered by Scott Bradshaw online here and in the print edition. I wish I could find more like him.)

On the other hand, pseudonymous pundits like yourself also serve a valuable political function. Can we forget that most of the Federalist Papers were authored in just such a way?

So, RWM, would you like to become a regular, unfettered blogger on this site, free to post whatever and whenever you like in a blog that appears on the front page of this site?

If so, send me an email. You may remain anonymous throughout.

Chris P. Bacon
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"pseudonymous pundits...serve a valuable political function"

Wow. Praise from Caesar!
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I wish your enlightened point of view regarding anonymous bloggers would filter down to some of your less-enlightened columnists, in particular Messrs. Garlock and Epps.
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Time and again the tiresome twosome have declared their political arguments to be somehow "superior" to those of us plebians who post anonymously here. Why? Because they aren't "afraid" to have their real names associated with their positions, they have nothing to "hide".
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Of course, espousing hardcore conservative opinions in a hardcore conservative publication carries very little real risk.
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It's a shame they weren't around to witness the sad spectacle last year, when on more than one occasion, certain bloggers took it upon themselves to interfere with the employment of bloggers who declined to accept a hard-right viewpoint.
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Cal, I'm truly sorry there is such a dearth of quality commentary available to the Citizen that you're offering front-page real estate to the likes of "Robert Morgan". You've got some quality bloggers capable of thoughtful commentary here: Jeff Carter, Kevin King, Nuk1 and even Git Real come to mind. Morgan's commentary typically consists of warmed-over Republican talking points, distortions and attacks on Steve Brown. You might want to consider increasing your libel liability coverage if you bring Morgan into the fold!
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As an aside, I'm slowly warming to Scott Bradshaw, his writing is a bit too smug for me but I will admit he's very good at presenting a position.
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If you really want to "go against type", bring in a token liberal columnist for the disenfranchised 35% of this county who decline to embrace the prevalent Republican orthodoxy. Heck, you could even start calling your paper "fair and balanced"! (Assuming it's not trademarked, of course).

SPQR
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Morgan-ethics

Newspapers have always been politically polarized. Does the "Citizen"have a moral obligation to be neutral? Come on,it's a business. If the reader wants to digest everything "the citizen" puts out there like its its the whole truth and nothing but the truth so be it.

ginga1414
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Rapid Transit and West Fayetteville Bypass

Thank you so much, Steve, for bringing all of this to light. Now, we know why old Jack Smith won't discuss the West Fayetteville Bypass with the WFB Coalition. It's all a part of his big picture. At one of his famous "Open House" meetings on the WFB, we were told by his consultant that we really need rapid transit because the population is going to be predominately elderly people who will need to go to doctor's appointments and the grocery store. He said they won't be able to drive so they will need buses to take them where they want to go. Give me a break. I have learned not to trust any of them. On the 2004 SPLOST Ballot for Fayette County the only thing voters saw was "Road, street, and bridge purposes." Buried in a 60 page document labeled Exhibit B of the 2004 SPLOST Resolution we found "West Fayetteville Bypass." But the voters didn't know that. We all know what happened when their feet were held to the fire about the 2004 Ballot. Their attempt at another 2009 SPLOST failed because they had to inform the voters. People who really care about what happens to this county made sure voters were informed. Run, Steve, run! I'll vote for you. And, I'll work to my dying breath to see that Jack Smith, Eric Maxwell, Lee Hearn and the rest will never hold office in this county again.

Steve Brown
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Rep. Ramsey will vote "no" on mass transit deal

I received correspondence from Rep. Matt Ramsey saying he will not favor a bill that would suck Fayette County into paying for the transportation infrastructure of others or allowing mass transit in the county.

Why Fayette Chairman Jack Smith has mass transit projects in the regional plan for Fayette County (Like his proposed Fayetteville to Riverdale bus rapid transit route, give us a break!) is a mystery to us all.

The bill the Governor and the House Speaker favors has a no opt-out provision which would leave Fayette with no choice but to go along.

doright
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Mass Transit

Steve,

You left out one of the most important pieces that this board has done and that is to allow a drug smoking board member to continue and never even ask for his resignation (except Maxwell). This alone should be enough to through these bums out ESPECIALLY JACK SMITH!!

Now you have given us so many more reasons. We need to through Jack Smith so far out that he can't find his way back to this county. He is doing so much to destroy everything we hold dear.

Did the tax payers ask for mass transit? NO! We have repeatedly and loudly said NO! We don't need the crime, we don't want the expense. Marta is broke, C-Tran is broke and yet we still push for mass transit. It's crazy talk.

Thanks Steve for bringing this to our attention. Keep up the good work!

fc1989
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What about C-Tran?

Steve, I am surprised that you only mention C-Tran in Clayton County in one sentence. Even with MARTA running operations it is unsustainable costing Clayton over $7 million a year it does not have even after all of the Federal money used for capital aquisitions. Clayton's population is almost 300,000. And don't forget how the bus system made it easier to steal cars from Southlake Mall. Fayette cannot afford public transportation and the cost to the taxpayers in dollars and quality of life!

Steve Brown
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Fayette funding mass transit - it's coming

The AJC is beta testing a new web site, but if you go to http://test.ajc.com/news/even-without-new-tax-507228.html and wander a distance downward, you will see an article entitled, "Even without new tax, road bill may aid metro; Change in allocation method in Perdue plan comes up at hearing."

If you do not think we in Fayette are going to get stuck in funding the Atlanta Region's mass transit plan, pay attention to the quote at the end of the AJC article, "There is at least one issue not up for negotiation, Cole said. When it comes to approving the new regional sales tax, no county could decide to opt out of its region and out of the region's tax referendum. 'That's a non-starter issue' for Perdue, Cole said.
Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle has strongly supported the opt-out provision in the past, but he doesn't seem set to fight to the death over it with Perdue now."

Rep. Matt Ramsey of Peachtree City carries legislation for the Governor. Surely, he has an idea of what he is about to do to his home county.

This is absolutely tragic what our elected officials are in the process of doing to us.

PTC Observer
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Mass Transit

Is there some option not to participate in regional transportation planning? You seem to imply that there is such an option. Can we simply ignore all the "planning" going on around us by the ARC? It seems to me that they have a lot of say in what Fayette is going to do or not do in the area of transportation. With us or without us.

As for Jack Smith, I simply can't wait for the election so I may vote against him. I don't have enough time to list all the reasons why.

Mr. Brown, if you are going to run against him you need to get your hat in the ring soon, I think there will be a crowd!

mudcat
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Run Steve Run

I hope you are planning on doing something about this problem as opposed to just complaining. Please run against Jack or whoever you want. Elections have consequences. Let's see what November's will bring

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