GreenRoom: March 2008
• Voters in Forsyth County approved a $100 million bond for greenspace, parks and recreation on Super Tuesday. Cumming Mayor H. Ford Gravitt had opposed both the greenspace bond and the continuation of a one-cent SPLOST tax for road improvements, but both passed by a two-to-one margin. Gravitt disputes Cumming’s $11 million allocation from the previous SPLOST referendum. The greenspace bond came out of recommendations from Envision 2030, a local planning group of 1,200 residents that found a need for more greenspace in the form of parks, recreation areas and trails, and a 2007 survey by the Trust for Public Land.
“Every acre of land in our county that is acquired for this purpose is one more acre that won’t have a strip mall or yet another convenience store on the corner, and that suits me just fine,” Charles I. Smith of Suwanee wrote to the Forsyth Herald. Forsyth joins Cobb, De-Kalb, Gwinnett, Paulding and Ful-ton counties, all of which have passed greenspace bonds since 2000; Clayton and Morgan counties use a portion of their SPLOST tax to buy greenspace and wetlands.
• A transportation penny sales tax, or T-SPLOST, for Georgia regions has gained support in the legislature. A study committee recommended both the T-SPLOST and a statewide penny sales tax increase to tackle a $7.7 billion shortage in transportation funding; and state leaders are confident that one of the two measures will be put before voters this year. Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle told the Savannah Morning News the T-SPLOST is a “very viable option that gives our citizens the accountability they want.”
While the committee’s 18 recommendations included everything from a levitating train to Chat-tanooga to building more roads to Savannah, the private slant to the recommendations – such as converting High Occupancy Vehicle lanes to toll lanes – may actually increase support for transit. “That will make commuter rail even more attractive as an alternative,” predicts Georgia Association of Rail Passengers President Steve Vogel.
• Gov. Sonny Perdue has called for a Transportation Infrastructure Bank to provide $50 million in revolving loans to local governments, public transit agencies and community improvement districts. Funds would be administered by the State Road & Tollway Authority, which Perdue recommends be headed by GDOT Commissioner Gena Abraham. If successful, Georgia will join 32 other states with similar banks that have disbursed $3.7 billion to 450 projects, the governor’s office reports. – Ben Young