This Jerry Butler classic was huge for me at 14 – getting past that first big heartbreak. Its timeless wisdom reminds me that disappointment is a very powerful emotion that must be overcome. It can rob us of sound reasoning and judgment, and even rush us to act unknowingly against our best interest.
Many comments and emotions bring to mind the sentiments of this song and the importance of moving past disappointment to embrace the opportunities of a new reality, such as those afforded by the T-SPLOST. While it is not all we hoped for, it is good for commuters, businesses, taxpayers, and local and regional economies.
Some are reacting to their disappointment by advocating a vote against it because it does not include a heavy rail project for I-20 East. We too believe that I-20 rail would be a tremendous asset to help boost the South DeKalb economy, and as a Lithonia-based business, we share their disappointment – but not their response.
We support the T-SPLOST and believe it will help move our local economy forward. It will create new contract opportunities for our small and midsize businesses. We believe a “yes” vote will deliver tangible results in which the entire county will benefit, including South DeKalb. In contrast, we can’t see what a “no” vote will deliver.
It threatens the $1.2 billion investment into our DeKalb economy, and hundreds of millions more in nearby neighboring communities in Fulton, Gwinnett, Henry and Rockdale counties. Ironically, it could even delay the deployment of I-20 rail service.
Much of the opposition’s justification seems to center on concerns of fairness and mistrust. Our review of facts finds the following alternative perspective:
- Two heavy rail projects were considered for DeKalb, but only one could be afforded. They approved the Clifton Corridor Project in central DeKalb costing $700 million. It connects the Lindbergh Center to Emory and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the largest job center in unincorporated DeKalb. The I-20 East rail project was the other, connecting Indian Creek to Wesley Chapel, the first phase of rail to the Mall at Stonecrest, costing $791.2 million.
It would have increased DeKalb’s share of projected T-SPLOST funds from 17 percent to 25 percent. Bus Rapid Transit and construction of three stations to support I-20 rail service are included in the T-SPLOST.
- Our comparison of the business areas surrounding the two projects indicate the Clifton rail project would impact nearly twice as many existing businesses and employees (117 percent and 72 percent more respectively) as the I-20 rail project, and 140 percent more in annual payroll, according to the 2007 Economic Census. Additionally, the Clifton corridor has 43 percent more retail, hotel, and food services establishments – prime sources of sales tax, and 36 percent more of these establishments generate $1 million in annual sales. We conclude that the Clifton Corridor Project offers DeKalb the greater current and near-term potential for economic improvement.
It is a high value, strategic asset which can be leveraged to strengthen other sectors and help close gaps in our tax base, like those resulting from Dunwoody’s incorporation.
This is not to disparage those opposing the referendum or the concerns they raise, and certainly not to diminish the importance of I-20 rail. This is simply to place their concerns and the T-SPLOST discussion into a broader context, such as how we might use it to maximize our ability to tackle larger economic issues facing DeKalb:
- The DeKalb tax register has declined an average 2 percent annually since 2008, which means reduced government services, layoffs, and potentially higher property tax rates.
- DeKalb has the fourth highest unemployment rate (8.9 percent) in the 10-county T-SPLOST region. We need the jobs and their buying power.
- DeKalb has one of the highest foreclosure rates in the country at one in 286, a major cause of declining tax revenues, with southeast DeKalb experiencing rates as high as one in 106.
A June 2012 RealtyTrac article reports Georgia has the highest state foreclosure rate at one in 300. Jobs and economic growth attract home buyers. This is also to encourage those in opposition to move past the disappointment to help leverage the T-SPLOST to develop new business sectors.
So, to paraphrase Mr. Butler’s song: “There are whole lots of opportunities depending on what we do, but we will never see them if you give up now, and not see this through.” Only the strong survive. Vote “yes” for T-SPLOST.
Thad Mayfield is a business consultant. He lives in Lithonia.