Jay Bookman’s cool wisdom for transportation tax skeptics


One of the things I love about AJC columnist Jay Bookman’s work is that it’s insightful without being inciteful. Take it from a former opinion columnist, that’s not easy.

His post this morning on July’s transportation sales tax referendum (T-splost!) is a great example. Just as the public debate around the tax vote is heating up, in pops Jay with some cool wisdom. Jay has no interest in swaying unswayable Tea Party-types who oppose all taxes in principle (and probably oppose taxis, taxidermy and tacks because of the way they sound). Instead he directed his column at people who accept the idea of funding transportation improvements, but aren’t necessarily happy with the mix of projects this tax will fund. The crux of Jay’s argument: Calm down, look at the big picture and don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good.

Say Jay:

In most cases, the argument that somebody else will benefit more than you will simply isn’t true. Elected public officials from throughout the region voted unanimously for the project list because they studied it closely and negotiated hard, and all of them came away believing the final product was fair.

I’m Jay’s target audience for this column as I am definitely a T-splost skeptic. I resent that Georgia’s city-hatin’ state legislature refuses to do its job to address metro Atlanta’s transportation needs. I resent that the best possible option for starting to bring Atlanta’s transit network into modernity is a regressive sales tax. And, yeah, I dislike the thought of any more of my tax money financing many of the sprawl-y projects on the approved list.

I was probably going to vote yes, but Jay’s column helped me clarify my thoughts on the subject. I’m definitely in the “yes” column now.

The referendum’s passage won’t be the best thing ever ever evah, but it will be a good thing; the best available first step to improving the region’s transportation network. It will get some good projects started and could send a signal to local and state politicians that improving regional transportation is as important to metro area voters as guns, abortion and smiting Messicans are to rural voters. I think people who say the referendum’s defeat in July will force the state legislature to develop a better transportation plan 100% wrong. I’ve lived in Georgia for 15 years and the only time I can recall the state legislature showing genuine enthusiasm for urban transportation was in 2008 when it voted to allow guns on MARTA.