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Norcross Mayor Responds to Failure of TSPLOST

Mayor Bucky Johnson shared with Norcross Patch his opinion on the poll results for the Transportation Investment Act.

After seeing the 1-percent sales tax fail in Tuesday's primary election, Norcross Mayor Bucky Johnson, who's also a board member of the Atlanta Regional Commission and the chairman of the Transportation Roundtable, was obviously unhappy.

"I'm disappointed," said Johnson to Norcross Patch. "I think it was a great opportunity for the region that was missed."

For the Atlanta Regional District, 62.43 percent of voters were against the transportation tax while 37.57 percent voted in favor of it.

After working on the TIA for two years, Johnson and the rest of the roundtable have spent countless hours in meetings, Q&A discussions and town hall gatherings to perfect the referendum and try to gain support for the 10-year tax and its different projects to improve metro Atlanta. He also attended the transportation referendum event and press conference held at Marriott Marquis in Atlanta with the other major politicals heads in the metro region.

While he expressed disappointment, Johnson sees the positive of the situation, too.

"It was a great opportunity and collaboration from the General Assembly, local elected officials, the business community, all types of city groups and universities and so forth working on this," he said. "We certainly worked cooperatively together, so there's some regional momentum that was gained by working on something this large."

Johnson also noted that the process was difficult considering Georgia had never done a regional vote on transportation.

"I think that is really a tough task" putting something out there for the first time, said Johnson, but he called the voters' approval of 37.57 percent "a good start."

The mayor said he believes the referendum failed for a number of reasons, ranging from mistrust of the government, the economy and misinformation. He said he doesn't believe the media was necessarily negative about the TIA, but because many news outlets tried to tell both sides of the story, information that may not have been fact-checked or correct had gotten published.

"I'm not saying everything that was put out is erroneous," said Johnson. "There was enough to put a doubt in people's mind, and in this economy, which is pretty fragile, it wouldn't take much doubt."

As for the future, right now there is no plan B, said Johnson, but, "There certainly are other options that we'll look at as we move forward." If the region wanted to stick with this particular tax, the referendum cannot be voted on again for at least two years.

Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal has met with top transportation officials already for an alternative, and Johnson believes other communities have looked at other alternatives and funding mechanisms, too.

The transportation roundtable may no longer be in existence, but most of its members were from the Atlanta Regional Commission, and Johnson assured that they will be there to assist and be involved in whatever plan B may hold in the future.

"I think we've worked well together, we've got a lot of plans in place, [and] we've done a lot of research, so I think that will be helpful and put us in a good position to assess other ways to getting transportation fix," said Johnson.

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