As of Thursday, August 2, 2012
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Build trust and then build roads
Now that the T-SPLOST measure has failed at the polls, Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed asks what it will take for voters to trust the Georgia government with their tax dollars for improving roads. That's a very good question, and to paraphrase Chinua Achebe, I can't give a prescription here, but I can give a headache. Answering Reed's question will need to start with examining why government has lost the public's trust on these matters.
In the past couple of years, we've seen state and local governments make several blunders that have hurt the public's trust. They've conveniently forgotten a promise to end tolls on Ga. 400 until a few months before the T-SPLOST vote. They spent taxpayer dollars to replace the HOV lanes on I-85 with toll lanes that seem to have worsened, not eased, congestion. Worst of all, they put up redlight ticketing cameras to "make intersections safer" -- only for it to come to light later that the stoplights with these cameras had their yellow lights set shorter than the legal minimum amount, ensuring that more people would be running these redlights and paying out more ticket revenue.
It's hard to come out with a clear way the government can get back public trust after these sorts of blunders. Perhaps the first sign could be admitting the PeachPass system has failed and going back to the HOV lanes. After that? Roads are one of those things where it's easy to notice when things go horribly wrong and hard to see it when things have gone brilliantly right. But a couple of years of road management that manages to avoid scandals or incompetence would help. After that, they can try to come up with a new plan, hopefully one that looks better than the one we just voted down.-- Matt Cramer