Sandy Springs Mayor Eva Galambos and 12 other Fulton mayors are taking a stand against a new transportation tax — with or without the support of their city councils.
On Sept. 15, the mayors held a press conference at the state Capitol to express just how much they dislike statutes set forth in House Bill 277, the new state transportation bill.
“I think the population is solidly behind us,” Galambos said after the conference.
The new law calls for people to vote on a 1 percent sales tax that would fund transportation projects for 10 years. The referendum will be on the ballot in November 2012.
But the thought of paying two 1 percent sales taxes to fund transit in Fulton County, which would bring sales tax up to eight percent in Fulton, has upset local mayors. Fulton and DeKalb counties already pay a 1 percent sales tax to foot the bill for MARTA.
The mayors would like counties such as Cobb, Gwinnett and Cherokee to help pay for a regional transit system.
“Now is the time we must bridge the gaps between the systems,” said Union City Mayor Ralph Moore, who led the press conference.
Galambos in August and September asked Sandy Springs City Council to approve a resolution that opposes the additional 1 percent sales tax. The resolution states that Galambos and the council oppose the additional sales tax for transportation in Fulton and DeKalb counties unless surrounding counties form and fund a regional transit system.
But some council members were reluctant to approve the resolution. Dist. 4 Councilwoman Ashley Jenkins said Sept. 7 she would like to defer action on the resolution.
“I see absolutely no rush to do anything,” she said.
Jenkins later said she would vote against the resolution.
“If we don’t use this leverage now, it will be too late,” Galambos said in response.
Galambos said Roswell Mayor Jere Wood would be invited to speak to the Sandy Springs City Council at its Oct. 5 meeting.
Other cities including Roswell have brought a similar resolution to their councils. Only Mountain Park City Council has approved the resolution.
“We’ve all tabled,” Alpharetta Mayor Arthur Letchas said at a Sept. 16 meeting of the North Fulton Mayors’ Association.
That day the mayors decided to move forward with their opposition, with or without the support of their councils.
“We have transcended the council,” Galambos said, referring to the mayors’ press conference. “It’s out there now … the train has left.”
The mayors decided to have all the mayors sign a resolution in opposition.
Galambos said the next step is to meet with Dist. 54 Rep. Ed Lindsey, who represents Buckhead and Sandy Springs. “We need to get our delegation on board,” she said.
Lindsey is heading a transportation study committee that recently has been selected to take a look at metro Atlanta’s transit system. The committee, Lindsey said, would release its findings and suggest necessary legislative changes before people vote on the referendum in November 2012.
Galambos and the other mayors also are approaching mayors in DeKalb County and will meet with the Fulton County Commission to discuss their concerns.
“This shouldn’t be about cities and counties,” said Johns Creek Mayor Mike Bodker at the press conference. “It should be about citizens. … In the ideal world, you would have everybody on board.”