JONESBORO — A metro Atlanta measure to add a 1-cent sales tax to finance transit projects did better in Clayton County than most other counties — but it still went down in flames across the region by a 2 to 1 margin.
With almost 18,000 ballots counted late Tuesday, the T-SPLOST failed in Clayton with only about 45 percent of the vote in favor. Only DeKalb and Fulton counties, each with about 48 percent in favor, did better.
More typical results were in other Southern Crescent counties like Henry, where the T-SPLOST carried only 29 percent of the vote, and Fayette, where it received the worst drubbing in the region with only 24 percent of the vote.
“That was pretty much to be expected,” said Lake City Mayor Willie Oswalt, who helped craft the project list as a member of the Atlanta Regional Commission.
Clayton County GOP Chair Carl Swensson, who organized a debate in June headlined by an anti-T-SPLOST activist, wasn’t surprised either.
“I expected it to be close [in Clayton County] but didn’t expect it to win,” Swensson said.
Clayton County Chairman Eldrin Bell, who also worked on the project list with the Atlanta Regional Commission, said he was disappointed that voters didn’t understand the benefits but promised to work with T-SPLOST opponents to help move Georgia forward.
“Even though I knew it was not perfect, I stood on the side of ‘yes,’ ” Bell said.
“I would figure the majority of the older generation would vote against it simply because it was a tax,” Oswalt said. “They looked at it as a T-A-X, and that’s all they understood.”
Oswalt said he wished that Clayton County had done a better job of selling the tax, saying that misinformation abounded and that the tax would have cost no more than “a Coca-Cola a week.”
Voter distrust of government in general and the Georgia Department of Transportation in particular also helped scuttle the tax, Oswalt said.
Swensson said that he at least gave credit to Bell for honesty about the T-SPLOST. “He knew this wasn’t a well laid-out plan but thought they could fix it,” he said.
So what should voters expect next?
“Sit in traffic,” Oswalt said. “Sit in backups. You know it’s not going to get any better.”