Cobb County has a complicated relationship with transit.
Having voted to reject joining MARTA several times, the county is not part of that system. But rather than stage another MARTA referendum, be part of a regional transit plan, or introduce rail to the county, the county is trying a lower-cost approach. County commissioners recently gave their approval to a 30-year, $11 billion bus-based plan that adds 108 miles of fixed-route service. Political leaders and transit advocacy groups will now spend most of 2024 persuading voters to approve a one-cent sales tax to expand Cobb’s transit network.
The county is not exactly a transit desert. Currently, local transit agency CobbLinc operates 11 local bus routes (buses operating on fixed-route with stops every 1/8 mile or less) and one limited-stop route (buses operating on a fixed-route with stops placed one mile or more) within the county. The Georgia Regional Transit Authority operates seven express bus routes between suburban locations in the county and Midtown and Downtown Atlanta. However, for a county with more than 700,000 residents and three major employment centers, transit service is relatively limited.
In the commentary this week, Reason Foundation’s Director of Transportation Policy, Baruch Feigenbaum, thoroughly examines what types of projects are in the referendum and evaluates their strengths and weaknesses before providing some overall analysis.
We hope you will check it out. We also have the latest news and analysis from the last week, including:
- Gov. Brian Kemp signs legislation defining antisemitism and incorporating it into Georgia’s hate crimes law
- Senate leadership reaffirms their support for school choice
- Port of Brunswick handles record number of automobiles in 2023
- A $400 million monkey-breeding facility may be coming to Southwest Georgia
Have a great weekend,
– Kyle Wingfield
You’ve heard the arguments against creating Promise Scholarships in Georgia. Three of the most stubborn are these: Only the “rich” will benefit; public schools will suffer; and rural students don’t have options. Never mind the internal contradictions here. For example, if rural students don’t have options beyond their traditional public schools, then how will those schools suffer? There’s nowhere else for those students to go … right? Unfortunately, logic holds no sway over opponents of empowering families.
In Atlanta and Athens, residents stress how much compassion they have for those who are homeless. But what matters more? Good intentions or good results? If it’s the latter, then how does one obtain those results most efficiently? Public safety is at stake, as are millions of taxpayer dollars.
One cruel irony of our current housing market is that rising home mortgage interest rates has made even the prospect of downsizing more costly, as potential homebuyers contemplate a higher monthly payment for a smaller home – that is, even if they wish to move. In a time of inflation, property valuations are one inflationary measure that needs to be limited.
Georgia Public Broadcasting still cannot locate some of its most expensive missing equipment. This is according to a report that the Georgia Department of Audits and Accounts published in December regarding a review of the organization’s capital assets. This story is part of our monthly compilation of alleged or documented stories about waste, fraud or abuse of taxpayer money or taxpayer-funded resources throughout Georgia.
In Washington, Congress passed another short-term appropriations bill to keep the government open until March. It was even considered a victory that the measure passed with a day or two to spare. In Atlanta, legislators began reviewing budgets for 2024 and 2025 that not only would balance spending against available revenues, but would pay cash for $1.8 billion in new infrastructure rather than issuing bonds as in most years.
At the Capitol: Week of January 29
There was a somber mood at the State Capitol this week with the passing of Rep. Richard Smith, R-Columbus, early Tuesday morning. The Rules Chairman passed away unexpectedly after a short battle with the flu. Memorial services will be held on Monday.
Here are some other updates from the past week:
- Gov. Brian Kemp signed legislation defining antisemitism and incorporating it into Georgia’s hate crimes law. “There is no place for hate in this great state,” Kemp said. “In Georgia, we stand with our Jewish brothers and sisters, today and every day.”
- Senate Republicans held a press conference to outline their priorities for 2024. These include tax relief, tort reform, workforce development and public safety.
- The Senate majority caucus also reaffirmed their support for Senate Bill 233, the Georgia Promise Scholarship Act, which passed the Senate last year and awaits action by the House. “We urge lawmakers to pass legislation that prioritizes the best interests of students by empowering all of them to choose the educational setting that best fits their needs,” Kyle Wingfield of the Georgia Public Policy Foundation said.
- Legislation to exempt the professions of shampooing and blow-dry styling for licensure requirements passed the Senate 38-15. Senate Bill 354 is authored by Sen. Larry Walker, R-Perry.
- Legislation requiring companies that receive economic incentives to hold secret ballot elections for union representation passed the Senate Insurance & Labor Committee. Senate Bill 362 is authored by Sen. Mike Hodges, R-Brunswick.
- The Senate adopted legislation to legalize sports betting in Georgia, but only after approving a major change in the bill that would require a statewide referendum on the measure. Under Senate Bill 386, authored by Sen. Clint Dixon, R-Buford, the Georgia Lottery Corp. would oversee sports betting, awarding licenses to 16 online sports betting providers.
The Georgia Ports Authority said that it moved a record number of automobiles across its docks in Brunswick last year, while goods shipped to Savannah in cargo containers declined 16%. The Port of Brunswick rolled more than 775,000 autos and heavy machinery units on and off ships in the 2023 calendar year.
The Federal Reserve held interest rates steady for the fourth straight time, and cracked open the door to reducing rates later this year if inflation continues to subside. The widely expected decision left interest rates unchanged at a range of 5.25% to 5.5%, the highest level in 22 years.
Atlanta-based UPS announced Tuesday that it plans to cut 12,000 jobs after its revenue forecast missed analysts’ estimates. UPS said that it’s right-sizing its global workforce after having lower volume and seeing a more than $9 billion decline in revenue year over year. The company blamed these issues on the “dynamic external and economic conditions” in 2023.
Hays State Prison in Chattooga County recently became one of the first maximum security prisons in the country to offer a four-year undergraduate degree to people who are incarcerated. Through a partnership with the University of West Georgia and the U.S. Department of Education, HSP started with an initial cohort of 16 students studying to earn their Bachelor of Interdisciplinary Studies degree.
2024 Georgia Teacher of the Year Christy Todd, a music technology teacher at Rising Starr Middle School in Fayette County Public Schools, is one of four finalists for the 2024 National Teacher of the Year, the Council of Chief State School Officers announced. Todd will compete for the national honor along with three other teachers from Alaska, New Jersey and Tennessee.
In a split vote, the Cherokee County school board voted Wednesday to select a sole finalist for the superintendent position to consider at their meeting next month. At a called meeting Wednesday, the board voted 4-3 to name Mary Elizabeth Davis as the sole finalist. The school board is set to vote on whether to confirm her appointment as superintendent on Feb. 15.
The First Lady of Georgia said she had no idea how big of a problem human trafficking was across the state until just a few weeks before her husband was sworn into office in January 2019. First Lady Marty Kemp said she, along with her husband and their three daughters, attended an anti-human trafficking news conference at Atlantic Station. The event, #StopTraffick, got her attention.
Rep. Chuck Efstration, R-Auburn, says about 41,000 people would fall inside the proposed city limits. It would border Braselton to the north and east. Ridge and Hamilton Mill roads, Braselton Highway, Auburn and Bailey roads to the south and west. And he says it would generate more than $9 million in annual revenue from ad valorem taxes, insurance premiums and business licenses.
The Augusta-Richmond County Coliseum Authority voted to approve an important agreement that impacts the future of the Augusta Entertainment Complex. It’s an intergovernmental agreement between the authority and the city of Augusta. The bonds to fund the new James Brown Arena would go straight to the city, which would in turn give them to the authority.
Georgia motorists looking for a faster way to get across the state between Columbus and Augusta will have to wait a long time – if ever – for a solution. A newly released study of options for moving freight through Georgia by the state Department of Transportation (DOT) has concluded that a plan to build the Peach State’s first interstate highway since the 1960s would not be a good return on investment.
The Georgia Department of Transportation has awarded $118 million for road work projects around the state, and many of the big planned improvements will be in metro Atlanta. The largest single investment, $62 million, will go toward widening over 3 miles of State Route 9 in Fulton County from Windward Parkway to the Forsyth County line.
The Georgia Ports Authority approved a $29 million contract for an overpass over Louisville Road that aims to curb neighborhood traffic and aid truck flow exiting Ocean Terminal. Although the bridge will connect from port-owned land to a state right of way, the GPA is footing the bill.
The Forsyth County Board of Commissioners voted to move forward on the progress of “The Gathering” — a more than $1 billion complex that would include housing, shops, office buildings and an arena space with over 18,000 seats in south Forsyth County. The only contingency to the completion of the project is the return of a National Hockey League team to Georgia that would make the arena at the massive proposed development their new home.
Some local residents and an animal-rights group are protesting plans for a monkey-breeding facility in southwest Georgia. Opponents urged the Bainbridge City Council to block plans by a company called Safer Human Medicine to build a $396 million complex that would eventually hold up to 30,000 long-tailed macaques that would be sold to universities and pharmaceutical companies for medical research.
Workers called it quits less frequently in 2023, a sign confidence in the labor market is falling as the U.S. economy is expected to slow and Americans are taking longer to find new jobs. That is a turnaround from the years just after the pandemic took hold, when resignations surged and companies faced labor shortages.
Quotes of the Week
“The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.” – George Bernard Shaw
“The price of anything is the amount of life you exchange for it.” – Henry David Thoreau
“Time is a created thing. To say ‘I don’t have time,’ is like saying, ‘I don’t want to’.” – Lao Tzu