Senator Beach Proposes 50% MARTA Tax Hike

Every man, woman and child in Fulton county has to pay a 7% sales tax which means a hundred dollar pair of shoes really costs them $107. Of that $7 tax one dollar goes to subsidize MARTA. It may not sound like much but over the course of a year it adds up to about $265 million dollars.

Now two hundred and sixty five million dollars is a lot of money no matter how you look at it but in a county with a million residents it might be justified if the taxes were going to something everyone uses, needs or wants. Unfortunately in a county plagued by congestion only a tiny percentage of Fulton County residents use MARTA trains during rush hour.  The census charts below demonstrate only 2% of the county’s population ride MARTA trains to work.

Fulton commute chartFulton commute stats

More people work from home or even walk to work than ride MARTA trains but we pay hundreds of millions of dollars to subsidize the trains. It is a perfect example of why Fulton County already has transportation issues. Politicians allocate transportation money based on politics rather than sound fiscal policy.

Which brings us  to this news story from 11 Alive News about Alpharetta’s own State Senator Brandon Beach who is proposing a 50% MARTA sales tax hike to expand trains into North Fulton. While I couldn’t disagree more with Senator Beach on this issue I do appreciate his consistency. He was pushing for heavy rail in his dual role as CEO of the Greater North Fulton Chamber of Commerce and President of the North Fulton CID long before he was elected to the state legislature.

But there is absolutely no objective justification for a massive tax increase to expand the least used, least efficient, least flexible and most expensive transit option available in Fulton County. Over the past few decades billions of dollars have been spent to subsidize a rail system which serves a tiny  portion of our population while the roads that support 100% of residents have been sorely neglected. Any further diversion of transportation money to MARTA trains will only make the problem worse.

A transportation tax increase of hundreds of millions of dollars on Alpharetta residents dedicated to trains that would make traffic here worse would be unconscionable so as an elected representative for 63,000 residents I will not support this effort. Instead I will vigorously oppose any legislation which would permit a 50% MARTA tax increase and encourage my fellow elected officials in Fulton County to do the same.


Alpharetta, from “Solid Gold” to “Bunch of Old White Guys” in 30 seconds

Recently I attended the “North Fulton Opportunity Outlook” event held in the city of Alpharetta. The forum was hosted by the Council for Quality Growth, a not-for-profit trade association comprised of developers, contractors, engineers, architects, planners, law firms and bankers–anyone with an interest in growth and development.

The event was promoted as an economic development forum to provide an update on development opportunities in North Fulton county. It was co-hosted by the Progress Partners initiative which is partially funded with Alpharetta taxpayer money so I attended in support of the effort.

It was expected it to be an upbeat, informative discussion about the many exciting opportunities in our region. For the most part that was the case. Nearly all of the participants were professional and positive as they discussed the unique quality of life, business climate and cooperative local governments that attracted their businesses and continue to help them thrive.

The lone exception was Mark Toro, managing partner for North American Properties, who chose to insert racially charged comments about the people of North Fulton into his own personal diatribes. It was disturbing to hear someone who has benefited so much from the support of this community use the occasion to insult the people who live here.

Mr. Toro introduced himself by saying,” I am the self appointed president of the Keith Parker (MARTA CEO) fan club, frequent MARTA rider… advocate… messiah” and spent most of his time pleading for billions of dollars in higher taxes that could bring MARTA trains to Avalon’s doorstep. While Mr. Toro’s introductory spiel was conspicuously self serving in a forum designed to be about investing in North Fulton it was the way he framed the remainder of his comments that was most disturbing.

In response to a question about why companies should invest in Alpharetta Mr. Toro spoke of our excellent demographics and said, “this is a solid gold community, strong… financially strong, stable and forward thinking”. He even added that collaboration with the city of Alpharetta had been “phenomenal”.

Yet just seconds after saying Alpharetta was “solid gold” Mr. Toro turned around and used racially charged comments to explain resistance to his eight billion dollar tax increase. Speaking about MARTA expansion once again he said, “I’ve heard it said. You’ve all heard it said. Some of us have even said it ourselves. The train goes both ways and we don’t want those people out here.”

This was a public forum where developers, investors, elected officials and economic development professionals had been invited to hear about opportunities for investing in this community. For Mr. Toro to falsely insinuate that opposition to his tax increase and his “urban-burb” vision of their city’s future is caused by racism was disgusting and inappropriate. But he didn’t even stop there.

Mr. Toro went on to attack the community leaders he had just praised in his comments moments earlier. “And the fact that the leadership of this community is all a bunch of old white guys like me is a problem!“, he continued.

Bunch of old white guys. So in a matter of seconds this community went from “solid gold”, “forward thinking” and “collaborative” to a place where “we don’t want those people out here” led by “a bunch of old white guys” who are the “problem”.

How could that be? What could have possibly changed Alpharetta from “solid gold” in one breath to “a bunch of old white guys” in the next? Actually the only thing that changed was that in one breath Mr. Toro spoke about everything this community has done to make his investment successful and in the next he lashed out at those very same people because they don’t embrace Mr. Toro’s self serving goal of turning Alpharetta into an urban mass transit hub.

Over the last four years the people and leadership of North Fulton county have bent over backwards to support Mr. Toro and the investment North American Properties has made here. Alpharetta revised municipal codes and gave them competitive advantages over every other commercial property owner in town. The city hired new staff and paid thousands of dollars in overtime to facilitate their extremely aggressive construction schedule.

When North American went to the Fulton County Development authority for a tax abatement that cost Alpharetta taxpayers millions of dollars without even letting us know we absorbed that loss. When North American failed to live up to their promise to build hotels in the second phase of Avalon it was the City of Alpharetta who committed $42 million of taxpayer money to support a convention center and hotel within their development .

Yet despite everything the people of North Fulton have done for Mr. Toro it hasn’t been enough. Mr. Toro still seized the opportunity to insult his hosts in front of a large group of investors, economic development professionals and elected officials who were invited to hear about opportunities here. How disappointing.

But the good news is that Mr. Toro’s comments at the North Fulton Opportunity Outlook were informative. They told the people of North Fulton everything we needed to know about the kind of man he is.

Editor’s note:

Despite Mr. Toro’s comments North Fulton remains a diverse community. People from all over the world call Alpharetta home because of our unique blend of incredible business environment combined with an exceptional quality of life and great schools.

Statistically Alpharetta is every bit as racially diverse as the Atlantic Station development Mr. Toro recently sold in downtown Atlanta and even more diverse than that of Decatur, GA. The supporting census data is available online at

United Nations applauds the Georgia Transportation Tax increase!

The United Nations is excited about Georgia’s proposed transportation tax increase. In fact they are so excited that they devote several pages in their publication Urban World: Ten Years into the millenium to the idea.

First the Atlanta Chamber of Commerce came up with the idea:

The traffic impasse became a cause celebre for the Metro Atlanta Chamber of Commerce and its president, Sam Williams. He recounted

how “we beat the drum for four years” to get permission for a regional transport sales tax add-on, enlisting the aid of the Georgia

State Chamber, top Atlanta corporations, county officials and mayors, plus Chamber allies in such regions as Savannah and Macon.

Then all of the state’s Chambers of Commerce threatened to cut off the money spigot to any politician that didn’t support their tax increase:

A pointed message was also telegraphed to would-be candidates for state office: their position on transport funding would be a

‘litmus test’ of whether they could expect campaign support from the business community.

And once the governor and state legislature were sufficiently motivated they could work together in a bipartisan way to overcome the objections of those rascally ole Tea Partiers:

…bipartisanship can be developed, ‘Tea Party’-like nihilism averted, if a governor and legislative leaders work hard to

make it happen.

Finally the article concludes by thanking Georgia for setting an example for third world countries:

That’s a fascinating model for these times, ideal for transport, maybe fresh water supply systems and other major issues.

Thanks Georgia.

Isn’t that special. You can find the publication on the United Nations website here.

No wonder Jim Galloway of the AJC reports that the entire tax is now in jeopardy:

So in January, we’ll have a full-fledged donnybrook between the two most powerful entities now existing in the Republican party: The state chambers of commerce, and the tea party.


Chamber of Commerce vs. Tea Party?

Last week I got several emails and comments from Tea Party members that were upset with comments made by the President of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Tom Donohue, when he spoke to the Rotary Club of Atlanta recently. The emailers were outraged that Mr. Donohue was threatening congress members that dared to listen to their constituents in the Tea Party. At the time there was very little coverage of the incident and I failed to investigate it further.

But now I see that former Congressman Bob Barr has addressed Mr. Donohue’s comments in a column titled Chamber’s “Threats” Are Counterproductive on his blog The Barr Code over at I suggest you read the whole thing but below are some of the highlights:

During a recent visit to the Rotary Club of Atlanta, U.S. Chamber of Commerce President Tom Donohue fired a warning shot across the bow of recently elected House Republicans. Donohue explained that if they continue to oppose an increase in the debt limit, “We’ll get rid of you.”

To be clear, many Republicans in Congress do not necessarily oppose an increase in the debt ceiling. They oppose an increase without much needed reforms in spending and corresponding spending cuts to match the increase in the debt ceiling. This is hardly an unreasonable demand. In fact, Republicans seem to have a public opinion in their corner as most polls show opposition to allowing the government to keep borrowing more and more money.


Many Republicans operate under the belief that whatever the Chamber of Commerce wants is good policy. But what is seen as being “good for business” is not always good for taxpayers. After all, the Chamber supported fiscally irresponsible spending like the TARP bailout and the so-called “stimulus” package, that has proved less than successful at achieving its touted objectives. The Chamber is also backing an increase in the federal gas tax even though fuel prices are already extremely high and volatile; one of the factors that have economists say could continue the slow pace of economic growth.

Would Chamber members rather elect more Democrats to the Congress — Representatives who favor raising the debt ceiling so government can spend more, which reduces value of the dollar, sops up credit in the marketplace that otherwise could be used for productive, private sector uses?  Perhaps they should decide also then to support President Obama’s reelection; I’m sure he would welcome the endorsement.

I never joined my local chamber, the Greater North Fulton Chamber of Commerce. The group is pushing for MARTA trains in my neighborhood and it administers the North Fulton CID which is spending a quarter of a million dollars to raise my sales taxes. But even though I have serious concerns about my local Chamber of Commerce, I was astounded to find out the national organization has gone so far as to attack the Tea Party and conservative principles.

Over the years I believe the U.S. Chamber of Commerce has done a great deal of good. I hope that just because times are tough the organization is not going to forsake the conservative principles that make this nation the greatest success story in the history of the world. But when the president of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce is arrogant enough to run around threatening to “get rid of” the only congressmen willing to rein in our nation’s catastrophic spending binge the organization has a problem.

If you are a member of the Chamber of Commerce I encourage you to pay close attention to the people running it and the agenda they are pushing. If they share your goals and you approve of their tactics you should let them know. If on the other hand you see that they aren’t representing you appropriately then I encourage you to make that known as well.

I don’t always agree with Bob Barr but he nailed this one right on the head.

Transit advocate boots taxpayer advocate from train pep rally

I saw this article from the Marietta Daily Journal referenced by Lee over at and want to pass it along here as well. The article is about a pep rally for business leaders that want to leverage higher taxes on the public into higher profits for themselves. Nothing surprising there but the section below is just too perfect to let slide:

Lance Lamberton, president of the Cobb County Taxpayers Association, attended Wednesday and tried to distribute copies of a letter to the editor he wrote that was published in the Journal last month. But he was asked to leave by an unidentified person.

So transit advocates and business leaders that want higher taxes to pay for their pet projects don’t appreciate taxpayers criticizing their expensive and grandiose plans? I sure am glad that would never happen around here…