By Collin Kelley and Joe Earle
Atlanta voters head to the polls next Tuesday, March 17, to decide whether the city should issue $250 million in bonds to pay for repairs to its bridges, roads, sidewalks and public buildings.
City officials want the Renew Atlanta 2015 Infrastructure Bond issue to be the first of a series of bond issues to be used to address nearly $1 billion in needed infrastructure repairs. They say the $250 million in 20-year bonds on the March 17 ballot will be financed through cost savings by the city and will not require a tax increase.
The city says the bonds represent “the single-largest investment in the city’s infrastructure in more than a decade and will result in clear and measureable improvements in the look, feel and experience of Atlanta.”
A recent poll, conducted by 20/20 Insight LLC, found 63 percent of Atlanta residents support the bond referendum, while 21 percent opposed it and 15 percent weren’t sure or had no opinion. The poll has a 4.9 percent margin of error.
“I assume this will pass and I do believe the note will be paid off with savings. I’d be shocked if there is a tax increase to pay for this,” City Councilman Howard Shook, who represents a portion of Buckhead, recently told members of the board of directors of the Buckhead Community Improvement District.
The city has held three rounds of meetings throughout the city to inform residents about the bonds, but, overall, public debate has been muted. “In my 13 years, I’ve never seen a situation where people are holding their cards as closely as they are now,” Shook said.
Voters will see two items on the ballot. One calls for $187 million in bonds for transportation projects. The second seeks bonds to pay for $64 million to upgrade municipal facilities.
Administrators have said the full list will be approved by members of Atlanta City Council in April.
Shook and others have questioned why city administrators did not complete a list of the projects they intended to finance with the bond money long before the public vote. “I find it extremely frustrating we did not get a project list worked out half a year ago,” Shook said.
A map showing projects is available on the city’s website at infrastructuremap.org. A draft list showing 20 pages of projects and listing local projects is available on the Atlanta Public Works Department’s website. To find it, go to atlantaga.gov, click on “Government,” “Departments” and then on “Public Works.”
“Registered voters should verify their voting precinct and poll location before election day,” said Richard Barron, Director of Fulton County Registration and Elections. “They should check their registration card to make sure they know where to vote on March 17th.”
One polling place has had to be changed because of a construction project: Those who usually vote at Druid Hills Baptist Church will vote at Druid Hills Presbyterian Church, 1026 Ponce de Leon Ave.
Precinct polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. on March 17. To assist residents with identifying their precinct and poll locations, the department has posted District and Poll Locator maps on the Fulton County website at fultonelections.com.
Mayor Kasim Reed has written a guest column encouraging passage of the referendum for our sister publications, Reporter Newspapers. You can read his column at this link.