However, Home Depot CFO Carol Tomé, chamber Senior Vice President Renay Blumenthal and speakers Tom Bell, Lisa Borders, David Hill and Ché Watkins were not stumping for a candidate.
Their sole topic — and the reason for busy executives to mail in the applications — was the ballot’s 1-cent transportation special purpose local option sales tax, calculated to raise $8.5 billion for 157 projects in 10 counties.
The list of projects, including $10 million for U.S. 41 in Cobb County, $10 million for Hammond Drive in Sandy Springs and $3.6 million for Piedmont Avenue beginning at Cheshire Bridge Road in Buckhead, was compiled after input from 200,000 voters and unanimously approved by 21 elected officials.
However, with only a 51 percent approval rating from a 600-sample telephone poll conducted by Auburn, Ala.-based Hill Research Consultants, supporters are not guaranteed a victory.
“Our goal is 50,000 voters who don’t normally vote in primaries,” said pollster Hill. “Women are going to be the key factor.”
Watkins, campaign manager for advocacy group Untie Atlanta, said the metro Atlanta primary turnout is estimated at 350,000, which she said attendees can reach out to through their individual networks.
“You are the leaders. We want you to be knowledgeable about what this is so you can tell people how you feel about it,” she said.
Victory will mean less traffic, more jobs and more time at home, said Borders, former Atlanta City Council president and current president of the Grady Health Foundation, but failure will put the brakes on economic development.
“If it passes, we thrive. If it fails, we die,” she said.
Chamber Vice President of Public Policy Renay Blumenthal said the opponents of the T-SPLOST are cities like Denver, Houston and Charlotte against which Atlanta competes for relocating major businesses and their employees.
“[City leaders] said ‘Atlanta, no offense, but we hope you fail,’” she said.
Bell, chairman of Buckhead-based investment firm Mesa Capital Partners, said the return on investment will be positive.
“The average commuter wastes $1,000 a year because of the traffic situation,” he said about fuel and time. “It’s unlikely a penny sales tax will equal $1,000 per commuter.”