Atlanta's sports teams go to bat for transportation tax vote

8:00 AM, Jul 3, 2012   |    comments
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Metro Atlanta Chamber of Commerce President Sam Williams, surrounded by mascots (L-R) for the Atlanta Hawks, Atlanta Dream, (Williams), Atlanta Braves and Atlanta Falcons.

ATLANTA -- The Metro Atlanta Chamber of Commerce called in some heavy hitters Monday to try and get the July 31st transportation sales tax vote across home plate.

Mascots for the Braves, Falcons, Hawks, and Atlanta Dream frolicked with tourists and locals outside the chamber's downtown headquarters near Centennial Olympic Park.

Then they joined top honchos from those sports organizations as well as the Atlanta Motor Speedway to push the T-SPLOST transportation tax referendum.

They claimed a "yes" vote would benefit nearly all citizens of metro Atlanta, especially the majority of their fans who drive from outside the city to attend sporting events.

"The number one reason, year in and year out, that people tell us they don't come to more games is because of the traffic," said Braves Executive Vice-President Mark Plant.

But sales tax critics saw the high profile sports support as an underdog play.

"I really believe it's a sign of desperation on the pro-tax side of the issue," insisted James Bell of the Georgia Taxpayers Alliance.

His group is one of several, including Tea Parties and the Sierra Club, that have formed a loose knit coalition against the penny sales tax for transportation.

Even though some might approve of a sales tax to improve getting around Georgia, they're opposed to the specific list of regional projects drawn up by local politicians, which they claim favor some citizens over others.

"People that live outside the Perimeter are objecting to the fact that most of our money is going to Atlanta and Fulton County," Bell told 11Alive News.

Supporters, including the top level professional sports executives, realize that's the biggest handicap they face.

"You may not have a project that affects you directly day in and day out, but it's going to affect you at some point when you travel from point A to point B," said Ed Clark, President of the Atlanta Motor Speedway.

"It's always second guessing that I didn't get the project that I wanted," said Chamber President Sam Williams.

"It is a perfect list? No. It's not a perfect list, but it's a practical list that I think can be passed," he added.

One reason the pro T-SPLOST team emptied their sports bench Monday could be that many recent polls show Georgians who oppose the tax are ahead on the scoreboard.

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