The transformation of MARTA into ‘The ATL’

Over on our editorial page at myAJC.com, Tom Sabulis has an interview with state Sen. Brandon Beach, R-Alpharetta, on the topic of mass transit. The article closes with this hint of a future transformation:

MARTA would have a better chance to expand, [Beach] says, if it spelled out in clear detail what voters would get for their money. “If we laid this out, maybe we could sell it.” That strategy worked for a recent bond package on roads in Forsyth County. “But, I will tell you, it’s going to be a tough sell, just because of the history of MARTA.”

AJC file

AJC file

This brings Beach to a favorite topic: a regional transit system covering metro’s five core counties. He’s for establishing a truly regional transit authority, which would include MARTA, but under a different name. He calls it “The ATL.” The Atlanta Transit Line. But getting Cobb and Gwinnett to join the system is key.

With a rebranding, maybe real regional transportation could work. Certainly, public sentiment has shifted in transit’s favor recently. Clayton County voted overwhelmingly to join MARTA in November. Poll results released last week showed a majority of Gwinnett residents in favor of joining, too, though county leaders said residents won’t get a chance to vote on it any time soon. Too bad.

Your daily jolt on politics from the AJC's Political insider blogTimes are changing rapidly for transit in metro Atlanta — albeit not fast enough for us to keep up with competing cities like Dallas. Still, it’s much better since the days when Beach was an Alpharetta city councilman, and just mentioning MARTA, he says, might have gotten him thrown out of office.

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As you’ve probably heard, former state representative and current State Transportation Board member Jay Shaw, of Lakeland, died Monday of heart failure.

Shaw, 67, had been awaiting a heart transplant. He was elected to the DOT board in 2010 and served as chairman from 2012 to 2013. He served in the state House of Representatives from 1994 to 2010 and was a staunch supporter of increased transportation funding.

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The hack of Sony Pictures Entertainment’s emails in November has revealed Ben Affleck’s slave-holding roots, Bruce Springsteen’s contract renewal and high-level intrigue between Hollywood executives. That’s why it made it all the more surprising when Democrat Jason Carter also popped up in the documents unleashed this week by WikiLeaks.

A September 3 email from film producer John Davis to Sony Pictures chief executive Michael Lynton includes an invite to a Hollywood fundraiser a week later for Carter, who had turned to the film industry to raise cash for his bid to unseat Republican Gov. Nathan Deal.Jason Carter hollywood fundraiser

From Davis’ email:

Michael,
I’m doing a small event on Sept 10th for Jason Carter, who is Jimmy Carter’s grandson. He is the Democratic nominee for governor in Georgia and seems to have a lead in the polls.  He is very pro- film tax credit.  Don’t know if you guys shoot much there, but he’s a really great young voice.
John

Davis wound up giving Carter’s campaign $4,000 in October. We couldn’t find any contributions from Lynton.

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The people at CARE USA have been mum about a salary figure for Michelle Nunn, who will take the helm of the relief agency on July 1. But Lori Geary of Channel 2 Action News says CARE’s past tax returns show that the current president and CEO, Helene Gayle, has an annual pay package that tops $440,000.

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The election to replace state Rep. Tyrone Brooks has been set for June 16.

The lawmaker stepped down this month ahead of his guilty plea on tax fraud charges. His son, Tyrone Brooks Jr., is among the contenders considering a run for the Atlanta Democrat’s seat.

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Over at GeorgiaPundit.com, Todd Rehm reports on Larry Walker III’s announcement that he’ll be a candidate to replace House Majority Leader Larry O’Neal, R-Bonaire, who will vacate his seat on April 30.

Walker describes himself as a lifelong resident of Perry and CEO of Walker Insurance Agency. He never mentions that he’s the son of former House majority leader Larry Walker, who served as a Democrat.

A date for that special election has not been set.

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An anonymous donor has given Emory University Law School $1.5 million to fund a professorship named for Atlanta congressman and civil rights legend John Lewis.

The university is conducting a nationwide search for its first John Lewis Chair in Civil Rights and Social Justice, and plans to raise another $500,000 to fully fund the position.

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The Daily Report says that Attorney General Sam Olens has turned down a former DeKalb County superior court judge’s request for legal representation on ethics charges filed by the state’s judicial disciplinary agency:

In an April 10 letter, AG Sam Olens rejected former judge Cynthia J. Becker’s request for counsel, saying his authority to represent government officials and agencies “is generally limited to the executive branch of state government.”

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Keep an eye on Baltimore as the possible successor to Ferguson, Cleveland, Staten Island and North Charleston. From the Baltimore Sun:

Baltimore police said Monday that Freddie Gray asked for medical attention repeatedly while officers shuttled him in the back of a prisoner transport van, but they didn’t call for paramedics until they found him critically injured and unresponsive at the end of the ride.

On Sunday, one week after Gray’s arrest, the Baltimore man died of injuries that included damage to his spinal cord and a crushed voice box. …

The demonstration [of about 40 people] included tense face-offs between activists, police and even a lone counter-demonstrator. Later in the day, a police commander was surrounded by angry residents as he tried to express sympathy to residents at the public housing complex where Gray was arrested.

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Don’t look now, but Congress is actually doing stuff, the New York Times reports:

Partisan peevishness is alive and well on Capitol Hill. But increasingly, Congress, under Republican control, is pressing forward on broad aspects of President Obama’s end-of-term agenda.

On a huge trade agreement, Republicans are pursuing legislation with virtually no Democratic support. Lawmakers from both parties are also considering a major bill to improve the nation’s cybersecurity, rewriting an education law that will affect almost every public school in the country, and overhauling government surveillance to incorporate new protections the president has demanded. Within a month or two, lawmakers in both parties hope to begin negotiating higher spending levels to accommodate White House demands.

These efforts come on the heels of bipartisan bills to change the Medicare payment system and to give Congress a voice on any deal with Iran over its nuclear program.

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Jeb Bush’s presidential campaign could be taking the next step of the Super PAC era — farming out far more than just television ads to the committee. From Thomas Beaumont at the Associated Press:

The architects of the plan believe the super PAC’s ability to legally raise unlimited amounts of money outweighs its primary disadvantage, that it cannot legally coordinate its actions with Bush or his would-be campaign staff. …

The exact design of the strategy remains fluid as Bush approaches an announcement of his intention to run for the Republican nomination in 2016. But at its center is the idea of placing Right to Rise in charge of the brunt of the biggest expense of electing Bush: television advertising and direct mail.

Right to Rise could also break into new areas for a candidate-specific super PAC, such as data gathering, highly individualized online advertising and running phone banks. Also on the table is tasking the super PAC with crucial campaign endgame strategies: the operation to get out the vote and efforts to maximize absentee and early voting on Bush’s behalf.

The campaign itself would still handle those things that require Bush’s direct involvement, such as candidate travel. It also would still pay for advertising, conduct polling and collect voter data. But the goal is for the campaign to be a streamlined operation that frees Bush to spend less time than in past campaigns raising money, and as much time as possible meeting voters.

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In a late blog post on Monday, the New York Times reported that the influential and big-spending Koch brothers have named Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker as their favorite in the 2016 GOP race for president:

On Monday, at a fund-raising event in Manhattan for the New York State Republican Party, David Koch told donors that he and his brother, who oversee one of the biggest private political organizations in the country, believed that Mr. Walker would be the Republican nominee.

“When the primaries are over and Scott Walker gets the nomination,” Mr. Koch told the crowd, the billionaire brothers would support him, according to a spokeswoman. The remark drew laughter and applause from the audience of fellow donors and Republican activists, who had come to hear Mr. Walker speak earlier at the event, held at the Union League Club.


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