Sunday, July 24, 2011

Transit: Spend More for Less

The case for privatatizing transit:

Federal Transit Programs: Spending More and More for Less and Less
Published on March 2, 2011 by Wendell Cox WEBMEMO #3176

Both the majority in the new Congress and the members of the Republican Study Committee recognize that federal transit programs have become a costly extravagance that provides minimal benefits in comparison to costs incurred. In turn, both have proposed that federal transit spending and government subsidies be cut back substantially in the last seven months of the fiscal year 2011 budget that must be enacted this month.

Members of the new Congress are to be commended for this effort. The federal transit program and the transit systems that it subsidizes are among the most wasteful enterprises in the American economy, and reforming them should be among Congress’s top priorities.

A System Full of Waste
Just how bad America’s transit program is has been the focus of a stinging indictment by Brookings Institution economist Clifford Winston. Winston’s new book, Last Exit: Privatization and Deregulation of the U.S. Transportation System, published by the Brookings Institution Press,[1] suggests that transit subsidies are largely the result of labor productivity losses, inefficient operations, and counterproductive federal regulations.

Winston finds that transit service is so underutilized that load factors (occupancy rates) were at 18 percent for rail and 14 percent for buses in the 1990s before the Federal Transit Administration stopped requiring transit agencies to report that information. A car carrying a single driver has as high a load factor as the average American transit system.

Rail Systems: Extravagance Extraordinaire
Winston singles out the nation’s urban rail systems, which have consumed so much of transit tax funding in recent decades, for special criticism.

Winston reminds readers of the considerable literature showing that “the cost of building rail systems are notorious for exceeding expectations, while ridership levels tend to be much lower than anticipated” and that “continuing capital investments are swelling the deficit.” At the same time, he questions high subsidy levels for rail transit, noting, for example, that the average income of rail transit riders is approximately double that of bus transit riders.

Winston criticizes in particular the now-under-construction Dulles Airport rail line that will become a part of the Washington, D.C.–area transit system, noting that the route is not cost-effective. He characterizes cost overruns on the Dulles rail line and the soon-to-be-under-construction Honolulu rail line as “inevitable” (this despite the fact that both lines have already experienced substantial cost escalation). Indeed, he notes that government subsidies exceed the benefits on all U.S. rail systems except for San Francisco’s BART system.

Winston’s analysis can be supplemented by information from the latest Federal Transit Administration “New Starts Report.”[2] The annual capital and operating cost per new round trip weekday rider on the Dulles Airport rail line will be at least $40,000. That is about as much as the annual cost to lease each new rider a Rolls Royce—though only a bottom-of-the-line $245,000 “Ghost” model.

The reality is that virtually every federally funded new rail system costs as much as leasing a car for every new rider on an annual basis, and, of course the rider would be able to use that car 24/7, in contrast to transit’s limited availability. Admittedly, sometimes it is only an economy car that equates to the cost per new rider, but just as often it has been a much more expensive car. Added to transit’s financial woes is the nearly $80 billion in deferred maintenance to restore transit systems to a state of “good repair,” according to Federal Transit Administrator Peter Rogoff.[3]

Paying Hundreds of Billions and Losing Ground
The problems with transit extend well beyond costly rail projects. Since 1982 (the last year before the nation’s motorists began paying for transit with their gasoline taxes), federal, state, and local taxpayers spent more than $750 billion (in 2009 dollars) in subsidies.[4] Yet transit’s market share dropped by more than one-third during that period.

Part of the problem is a labor cost structure driven by perverse incentives for cost maximization rather than cost effectiveness. Winston cites the fact that dismissed transit employees may be eligible for up to six years of severance pay under requirements of federal law. Transferring services to less costly private contractors could trigger these six-year severance payments for the displaced public employees. Besides the fact that virtually no other workers in the nation have such benefits, the prospect of such payments is enough to discourage even the most courageous transit manager from seeking operating efficiencies.

Winston offers an ominous conclusion: “Social desirability is hardly a demanding standard for a public enterprise to meet.” He indicates that it is rare to find a public service that does not meet that vague standard. However, with respect to transit, Winston concludes that “the fact that transit’s performance is questionable … is indicative of the extent that transit and bus rail services have been mismanaged in the public sector and been compromised by public policy.”

None of this is to suggest that transit does not have a valuable role to play in urban transportation. Transit costs should be no higher than necessary, and transit improvements should cost no more than necessary. Yet the record over at least the past 40 years has been one of expenditures rising much faster than ridership.

Competition as an Answer
Last Exit indicates that transit can produce beneficial results, but it makes a compelling case for reform. Winston suggests that transit could be improved by greater involvement of the private sector, following models such as the competitive tendering (i.e., competitive contracting) that now accounts for approximately one-half of Denver’s bus system.

The international evidence, which Winston does not cite, is even more substantial. This includes London, the world’s largest bus transit system, the entire Copenhagen bus system, and the entire subway, commuter rail, and bus systems of Stockholm.[5] However, the ultimate in privatization is Tokyo, the world’s largest urban area, where transit ridership is 1.5 times that of the entire United States. More than two-thirds of all transit ridership in Tokyo–Yokohama is carried by unsubsidized private rail and bus operators.[6]

The Need for Reform
As the nation faces the imperative need to reduce spending and borrowing, attention must be focused on the programs that have been more effective in spending money than in delivering service. It is no longer enough to spend more and more to get less and less.

Wendell Cox, Principal of the Wendell Cox Consultancy in the St. Louis metropolitan area, is a Visiting Fellow in the Thomas A. Roe Institute for Economic Policy Studies at The Heritage Foundation.

Norb Leahy, Dunwoody GA Tea Party NTL Conservative Blog

Federal Debt Ceiling Fix

Dick Morris says:

The House Republicans can checkmate President Obama by passing two one-house bills in the coming week:

1) Allow a conditional increase in the debt limit of up to $200 billion for use only to avoid default. The money could be borrowed only if the treasury secretary certifies that the funds will be used only for debt service and that there is no other source of funds available for the purpose. Take away the default argument from the president

2) Prioritize the use of tax revenue in the event of no increase in borrowing authority so that military pay and Social Security checks would not be affected.
Obama’s entire political position on the debt limit is based on a giant bluff: that default looms and “I cannot guarantee that Social Security checks will go out” if the limit is not raised. It’s a bluff, and he knows it.

The 60 cents of every dollar that the government spends that come from tax revenue — not from debt — will continue to flow into the Treasury. These funds are more than adequate to pay for the really vital expenses. But they are not adequate to pay for the entire federal bureaucracy. Amtrak, EPA, Interior, State, Justice, Energy, Education, Medicaid, the NLRB, NASA, the FTC, HUD and myriad other bureaucratic alphabet-soup agencies will have to take a backseat and wait for the debt limit to be raised.

But Obama can hardly go to the ramparts demanding funds for Amtrak or the FTC, so he hides behind the so-called risk of default and a shutoff of Social Security and military pay to make his case for an increased debt limit. He trots out expert after expert to warn of “catastrophe” or “Armageddon” if the limit is not raised.
But if the additional borrowing is not authorized, Obama will himself have to make the choice as to what to fund. If he chooses to pay for Amtrak, not Social Security, that’s his decision — and he will have to live with it politically.

In an ideal world, this point would be obvious. But trying to get the liberal media to cover it is beyond the realm of possibility. The major news outlets will still predict disaster, and the markets will get nervous. The ratings agencies will chant their warnings, and the Dow will begin to teeter.

But if the House makes it clear that there will be no default by passing a small, conditional debt-limit increase earmarked exclusively for debt service, it will call Obama’s bluff, reassure the markets and totally cut his bargaining position out from under his feet.

Even the liberal media will see his predictions of disaster as unduly alarmist, and his crying wolf will be increasingly seen as spooking the markets and postponing recovery.

Obviously, the Senate will not pass the conditional debt-limit increase or the prioritization of the expenditure of tax revenues. But no matter. Once the House votes it, the ball is in the president’s court. It will then be up to him whether a failure to raise the debt limit will cause default.

Remember that President Clinton only won the government shutdown battles of 1995 and 1996 by first laying out his plan for a balanced federal budget. Once the president showed that the Republican spending cuts were not necessary to eradicate the deficit, the GOP had no leg to stand on.

The mainstream media wouldn’t cover that there was a path to balance the budget without the Republican cuts. So, in frustration, the Clinton White House began to buy TV ads to explain its view to the American people, and the president addressed the nation to lay out his plan.

For the Republicans to win the coming debt-limit fight, they must take similar prophylactic steps to ensure that they win it. (this Article by Dick Morris)

Norb Leahy, Dunwoody GA Tea Party NTL Conservative Blog

Monday, July 18, 2011

Dunwoody Parks II

Vote No on Bonds
The Tea Party wants the City of Dunwoody to live within its means. Assuming a minimum of $120 million in Bond debt isn’t living within its means. We believe the city should prioritize spending based on utilization (we all drive on the roads, but very few of us play baseball on the fields). Assuming we need more parks is crazy. We have acre lots, full of trees with our houses sitting in the middle. We play ball in our cul de sacs, close enough to be called in for supper. Our current parks are used very little.

Buying land for parks doesn’t qualify as an emergency or a priority. All the cities in the U.S. collect $1.5 trillion in taxes and have $1.5 trillion in bond debt. Dunwoody would have $20 million in taxes and a minimum of $120 million in bond debt for parks we really don’t need.

The City Council has adopted an arbitrary 10 acres of parks for every 1000 residents standard. This is not a law. It’s the brainchild of some liberal dreamer who peddles very expensive stuff for government to do.

Dunwoody Parks Battles
Homeowner riots occurred the minute they saw the Master Parks Plan. Homeowners next to the power lines stopped the City from building a park there. Brook Run residents showed up with pitchforks objecting to the city’s plan to cut down their trees to build 3 ballfields for the Senior Baseball League. Wyntercreek residents preferred keeping the ball parks next to them, because they are seldom used. The City Council heard that those who live close to these Parks didn’t want anything to change except to improve maintenance. So, the Council approved the Park Plan anyway. Just when you thought it was dead, the Council announced $66 million in Bond issues for parks. Bonds are not a good deal for tax payers; you pay double for what you get. What you get for this is fluff and $120 million in unnecessary debt. Spending $33 million to buy land for more parks and another $33 million to fix them isn’t a priority; it’s fluff. These are low use areas.

It’s clear the current City Council cheered on by the 501c3 Non-Profits and the Perimeter Community Improvement District (PCID) are keeping this beast alive. The Non-Profits want the city to build them new buildings and the PCID wants the city to build parks for them.

Other Tax Threats
We are facing the real possibility of an additional $11 million for the Dunwoody Transportation Plan expense, a 4.5 mil increase to bail out DeKalb County and a $126 billion Atlanta Regional Transportation Plan 2040 MARTA bail-out and expansion. MARTA wants more Transit Oriented Development (TOD) and will push passage of the Plan. They want Dunwoody to buy more park space, because they are planning more high density apartment buildings, so MARTA can increase its ridership. That leaves the DeKalb school district to scramble for PCID proximate classrooms and the City of Dunwoody to scramble to meet an arbitrary 10 acres of parks for every 1000 residents; that would be 400 acres they think we need based on 40,000 residents. We have 188 acres of city land used for parks and venues. In addition we have an equal number of acres that are subdivision or church owned properties.

Dunwoody occupies a mere 13.2 square miles, compared to Sandy Springs with 37.7 square miles. We have 8000 homes and 4000 apartment units with 3000 more apartment or condo units planned at the High Street Project on Hammond Drive on MARTA owned land .

Park Land
We paid over $300,000 per acre for the PVC park to keep it from becoming another apartment complex. We didn’t really need it as a park and we don’t know what to do with it. Dunwoody was established long before we were incorporated as a city. Our residents have primarily been home owners in subdivisions with swim and tennis clubs. Local parks and ball fields are low use venues.

Apartment Zoned Land Owner Bail-outs
There may be other land owners who bought their Dunwoody properties and had DeKalb zone them for apartments and condos. They believe if they can unload their land to the naïve City Council, so they can get out before the next big asset value crash.

Apartment Market
Apartment vacancies should be rising as our 300,000 illegal aliens quietly leave the area. I think this exodus mitigates the threat of more apartment building in Dunwoody for a while.

Dunwoody Park Management
The majority of City Park properties are managed by 501c3 Non-Profit Corporations now operating on city land. The City provides the land, rent free. The Non-Profit budget pays for the management of the venue. These Non-Profit groups raise their own operating funds. It’s a good deal for both if nothing is needed and the city doesn’t need the land for parks. If the properties need expensive maintenance or improvements, the City makes the decisions. The current City Council is inclined to pay for maintenance and improvements or partners with the Non-Profit to share the costs. It’s not clean; it’s a slippery slope.

We like having these non-profit organizations, but the cost for implementing $33 million in upgrades is too high for low use venues. That leaves them to raise their own funds and fix up these buildings, but these buildings are on City land. If the City wants to sell the land, it should be able to, but that leaves the non-profit evicted after they paid for City building upgrades. It’s messy. These non-profits do raise their own money and some have purchased their own land. All of these non-profits should raise enough money to buy their own land and buildings. We believe that the Non-Profits should pay their own way without tax subsidies or city property to occupy.

Dunwoody Parks Explained
Brook Run Park is a 102 acre park with a skate park, playground, walking and picnic areas. A private company operates the skate park. Perimeter Center Park is a 3 acre park on Perimeter Center East. There are 3 “neighborhood parks”, Windwood Hollow with 11 acres, Vernon Oaks with 5 acres and the new “PVC farm” on 16 acres. That’s 137 acres of parks.

Other neighborhood parks are owned by the subdivisions. Most of us belong to swim & tennis clubs. Many of these have a small park area with playground equipment. These clubs are operated and maintained by homeowners associations and paid for with member annual user fees. The land was usually donated by the developer as atonement for building crawl spaces, un-compacted driveways and basement water problems. Most apartment complexes have pools. All the churches have ball fields and playgrounds. All of these facilities are underutilized.

The rest of the city properties housing 501c3 entities are more like venues than parks, like the Arts and Nature Centers.

The 501c3 Non-Profit organizations now operating on 51 acres of City land include:

Dunwoody Nature Center 501c3 operates the Dunwoody Nature Center on 35 acres of city land and offers classes in nature, mostly plants and insects. Utilization is low.

Senior Baseball League 501c3 operates Dunwoody Park’s 2 baseball fields on 4 acres of city land. Utilization is very low, only when games or practices are scheduled.

Dunwoody Preservation Trust 501c3 owns and operates the “Farmhouse” at Chamblee Dunwoody and Mt Vernon: The Farmhouse It is not on city land, but it is Dunwoody’s trademark.

Dunwoody Preservation Trust 501c3 operates the following:
• Donaldson Banister House on 5 acres of city land at Chamblee Dunwoody Road and Vermack Road.
• Spruill Center for the Arts on 7 acres of city land, next to the Library on Chamblee Dunwoody Road offers art classes
• Spruill Art Gallery on Ashford Dunwoody Road displays art work.

The Stage Door Players, a private non-profit, operates the theater next to the Library on Chamblee Dunwoody Road. It is funded by sponsors, but the city owns the theater.

Agreements between these Non-Profits and DeKalb County were made and are being continued by the City of Dunwoody. These are not high use centers, but do have loyal volunteers offering programs.

The existing parks may need maintenance that may include planting grass, road and parking lot resurfacing and preparation for specific uses. That could come from general revenue.

Few citizens mentioned the fact that the only folks who might benefit from implementing the original Parks Plan are the 501c3 Non-Profit Corporations who saw a chance to upgrade their facilities with City funds.

Send me an email to join and read my blog at NTL Conservative Blog, the Dunwoody GA Tea Party blog. It was great to see you at the Dunwoody July 4th Parade. Norb Leahy, Dunwoody GA Tea Party, NTL Conservative Blog 770-394-1284

City Council Problems

When the City Council was elected, most ran on their track record as “community activists”. They carried that roll into the City Council making it almost unnecessary for special interest groups to lobby for giveaways. They were well familiar with these groups and active in their promotion and fund raising.

The City Council hired consultants to develop plans. The consultants were familiar with current liberal government fads, goals, tactics and buzz-words. They were also well schooled on UN Agenda 21 implementation of transit villages, land use plans and destroying the private economy. That aside, on their face these plans make no economic sense. These plans included loads of expensive improvements in privately owned strip malls and on non-profit occupied city properties. All of these plans are far too costly to implement. The Council presented the consultant’s expensive plans to the voters. The voters didn’t object to the strip mall plan, because they weren’t paying for it. The citizens did soundly reject the Park Plan and they are in the process of rejecting the Transportation Plan. It would have been smarter to renovate the streets and intersections in front of these strip malls within the operating budget; then give Georgetown a plan to bring their building facades into compliance with our current Williamsburg architectural standards.

It showed that, as a group, the City Council was incapable of discerning what was expected, appropriate, prudent, affordable, wise and possible. Instead, they got caught up in the federal government giveaway scheme to implement UN Agenda 21. They did not establish priorities based on utilization (everybody drives on roads, relatively few play baseball). They did not consider the future replacement cost of roads and sewers. They did not consider the financial entanglements associated with housing 501c3 entities on city land. They assumed responsibility for non-city organizations and spent city funds to develop plans for strip malls and non-profit entities. They failed to realize that although we like these non-profit groups, we did not create the City to bail them out. These non-profits entered these agreements with DeKalb County, knowing the properties would be minimally maintained. The Council was naïve to rush to their rescue without thinking it through. Now, non-profit supporters are rallying to support the Bond Issue. Their voices are loud, but their numbers are few.

Budget Cuts – The New Normal
We all grew up in cities with municipal recreation resources. When recessions and depressions hit, local governments cut budgets to live within their current revenue. It’s happening now. Cash-strapped cities are trying to close recreational facilities and are facing petitions from small user groups to fix them up and keep paying for them. In the meantime, private businesses have flourished offering recreational venues for a reasonable fee. Privatization of recreation is here to stay. Cities must cut spending and are targeting these facilities because they are low use, low priority items. I don’t expect to see cities and counties expanding their footprint beyond their core responsibilities. We’ve seen cities under fire for sponsoring the Arts, when the display or performance was viewed as offensive. Cities with these non-core entanglements should add moral support, promotion and endorsement to the fundraising campaigns of these non-profits; they should strive to become totally independent.

Zoning Problems
We have approximately 8000 owners and 4000 renters in Dunwoody. We have 10 Apartment Complexes. The City bought the 16 acre PVC Farm for $5 million (a little high at $312,500 per acre). They did it to keep a developer from buying it and building an eleventh apartment complex. The property was zoned for apartments and the seller had the legal right to sell it “as zoned”. Now we have another small park and we really don’t know what to do with it. The best we can do is remove the PVC pipes and turn it into another small neighborhood park.

Bad Economy
Most of my emails tell me to buy gold and can goods, sell all my stock immediately and get out of U.S. dollar denominated assets. The Obama administration has, so far, doubled government spending and is printing money to keep the government cash infusion bubble going. If investors pull out of the U.S., we will have another crash. If spending cuts are actually ever made, federal payments to states, counties and cities would likely be the first to go. We need to be cautious and avoid assuming any debt at this time, until this is resolved.

Home and Land values are taking another hit. The money printing and continued double-spending by the Federal government is creating the current inflation, which will worsen. We will have another downturn. If the Federal government runs out of lenders, the Fed will buy the Bonds. When local and international investors pull out, the dollar will crash. The Fed will monetize the debt and hyper-inflation will begin. . If the dollar becomes worthless and crashes, hyper-inflation and plummeting real estate values will occur.

In the late 1970s to early 1980s, a lot less money printing caused double digit inflation, unemployment and interest rates. Stocks crashed, Bonds became worthless and the mortgage interest rate was 13%. A replay of the 1970s is our best-case scenario. Assuming that our economy will simply remain weak but stable is not likely.
The fundamentals have changed since the 1970s. Our debt monetization caused the high inflation of the 1970s. In 1982, the Federal Debt was $1 trillion, our economy was very strong and able to pull out of the recession. Now, our debt is $14.3 trillion and unfunded liabilities are $80 trillion. Our entire country is worth $100 trillion in private hands. The electronics manufacturing renaissance that pulled us out of the 1980s has been given to China.

A Sinister Plan
The federal government is broke. Anybody who thinks they can continue to funnel money to local governments is crazy. Why would Ray LaHood try to bribe us with billions of dollars in federal funding to get us to pay $100 billion for a public transit bailout if it were not to begin to build the infrastructure outlined by U.N Agenda 21 ? This is a sinister plan to establish a global government, revoke property rights and reduce the planet’s population by 80%. Those left will live as slaves in transit villages of small stacked apartments close to rail lines. The global government, environmental, population control crazies hand picked Obama to implement this plan. Nobody on the Council even knew this. Even so, the absurdity of taking on a $130 million debt for non-essential parks didn’t occur to most of them either. Like the terrorists, the UN Agenda 21 crowd uses civilians as shields. They add parks, ball fields, green space and lots of expensive construction, just for a little more government borrowing.

Tea Party Thoughts
The Tea Party is opposed to government spending more than it collects and spending large chunks of tax revenue on items that are not core government responsibilities. Obviously, all those who benefit from government’s sloppy thinking would disagree. Ordinary citizens who believe government should be more careful spending tax dollars and live within its means would agree.

Economic Impact
In the long term, our plan saves the economy. Demand drives our private economy. As the Fed’s money printing makes the dollar worth less, prices rise and demand falls. Government stimulus just creates bubbles that eventually break and turn into recessions. The economy will really not recover until all of the bubbles break. Our best hope is to reduce government spending, freeze the “Debt Ceiling” and not increase taxes. It will result in a contraction of public employee headcount, but government can’t afford them anyway and what most of them are doing is actually harmful. The debt ceiling freeze is irrelevant to the economy, because the private economy is only driven by demand, Be prepared for the stock market to take a hit, because government spending is figured in to stock market prices Continued government spending is critical to those in the government who want to implement UN Agenda 21. After subtracting the government stimulus and adding in the government hiring freeze and layoffs, the market will look for private market demand and will factor in the fact that the debt ceiling freeze will work. Then, as private demand replaces government demand, the market will take off to celebrate the wicked witch is dead. The day traders will go to the starting gate. The rest of us will see our 401k accounts go down and then go back up.

Atlanta Regional Transportation Plan 2040

The Plan
This is a plan to spend $126 billion to rebuilding MARTA with new trains and buses, build light rail, a rail hub, toll lanes, bike lanes, trolley cars and consulting fees with a little for roads and bridges from 2012 to 2040. We recommend a NO VOTE.

The Vote
An additional 1% sales tax will be on our ballot in 2012. The Atlanta Regional Commission has enlisted everyone to talk us into this. We urge a NO vote for lots of reasons. It seeks to extort tax dollars from the adjoining counties to bail out a MARTA it won’t use. It is inflationary. It relies on federal tax dollars fresh off the printing press. Most of the spending in this plan is totally unnecessary and misdirected. It holds our roads hostage to the expensive, underutilized train craze. It’s wise to wait until after the 2012 Presidential election. A Republican President would not force us to pay the $100 million per mile installation cost of light rail or force us to pay $70 billion to buy MARTA new trains and buses and expand to the exurbs. It forces us to double our subsidies to the failed public transit system.

It’s Obama’s Plan
GE and Siemens told Obama they wanted to sell more light rail and heavy rail trains and buses to public transit in the States. Obama told Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood to find a way to force states to support light rail and public transit. Ray told the Georgia Legislature that no federal money would be coming their way unless they adopted regional planning with plenty of money for public transit and light rail. Obama wants to “fundamentally transform” the U.S.; this is part of that plan.

The problem is that he wants to transform it into a third world socialist country with government of the government, for the government and by the government. The Federal Government is currently in debt for $120 trillion. It’s broke. It’s a failed state. The Plan assumes that the Federal Government will continue to keep inflation at 2.2% and continue to fund State spending. It’s naive. Even the phony CPI number is running at 3.6%.

It’s U.N. Agenda 21 Implementation
George Soros hired Obama to implement U.N. Agenda 21. This is the plan that wants open borders, global governance, an 80% reduction in global population (starting with us), no sovereignty for the USA and no private property rights, Their excuse is man-made global warming and seeks to reduce carbon dioxide with cap & trade. Agenda 21 has us all living in high density transit villages in large metro areas with no cars, powered by wind and solar. It’s their version of global communism. Their plan is to ruin the U.S. economy with government spending, debt and national bankruptcy. Google for the best video presentation on UN Agenda 21.

The Federal Government is insolvent and is printing the dollars they want to give us out of thin air. We are already experiencing inflation due to the expectation that the trillions of dollars printed are entering the economy causing what will be a colossal bout of hyper-inflation. The dollar and all of our assets will be worth very little, very soon.

Planned Cost
The Transportation Plan is presented in two pieces. Phase I will cost $61 billion; Inflation adjustments take this to $83 billion, a 36% increase. Phase II will cost an additional $66 billion. Inflation should take this to $90 billion. Inflation should take the total cost of both to $173 billion.

Phase I funding assumes that the federal government will still exist and will give us $21.7 billion, the state will contribute $8.4 billion, local counties and cities will contribute $27 billion, if we vote for this boondoggle, new toll roads will deliver $3 billion for a total of $61 billion.

Phase I spending includes $23 billion for road maintenance and expansion, $36.1 billion for MARTA bus and train replacement and expansion and other transit, $7.1 billion to convert failed HOV lanes to toll lanes and $2.1 billion for bike lanes and sidewalks. The TOLL LANES will be funded by Bonds. Whatever Bonds the Region sells will cost double after we pay interest.

Phase II and the additional $66 billion will be transit heavy. It will include light rail. The cost to install light rail in Seattle WA was $176 million per mile. I can’t imagine we would step into this hole, but it’s in the Plan.

The Georgia Legislature passed the Transportation Investment Act of 2010. Georgia was sliced into 12 Regions. The Atlanta Regional Commission has 10 counties in and surrounding Atlanta included in the MARTA expansion. We will get to vote as a region to increase our sales taxes by 1%, (think grocery store). It would have been nice if the out-lying counties would have had the opportunity to opt out of this MARTA scheme. Cities and Counties keep 15% of this tax revenue for their own transportation projects. The bulk of the other 85% goes to the Region for light rail and MARTA, etc.

Tax Facts
Georgia’s motor fuels tax revenue is $858 million a year and auto license tag revenue is $310 million a year. But only $675 million is spent on roads and bridges. The Georgia Department of Transportation receives less than $7 million in General Revenue Funds,

The State of Georgia budget is $18.2 billion. It spends $10.8 billion, 59% of its revenue on public schools; that’s in addition to your property tax. Another $3 billion or 17% is spent on healthcare. The Georgia State sales tax rate is 4%. The County sales tax rate in Georgia is usually 3%.

The 10 counties in the Atlanta Region will be able to vote on this Transportation Plan. The votes will be counted on a Region basis rather than county by county, so if your county votes NO, it could still pass if the majority of votes in the Region are YES.

MARTA Problems
MARTA collects $121.5 million a year in revenue from riders, and leases but costs $725.16 million a year to operate. 83% of its operation comes from tax subsidies. That’s an atrocious amount to expect in subsidies going forward. If sales tax revenues and federal and state grants dwindle, MARTA will need to retrench and raise fees or go out-of-business.

MARTA reports that riders used MARTA 116 million times in 2010. This is typically split in half with 58 million bus rides and 58 million train rides. MARTA is leveraged to the hilt with $1.8 billion in bond debt from selling bonds to pay for capital improvements and pays $133 million in debt service on these bonds.

MARTA ridership is limited for most of the day; not many people in the big buses or long trains. Only 3.6% of the population uses it to go to work. This system continues to require tax subsidies to support expansion, operations and maintenance.

If MARTA was a private business, it would need to cut 83% of its costs to survive. It has limited ridership and doesn’t charge enough to pay its bills. They have proposed a rider fee increase from $2.00 to $2.50 in 2012. This is a failed business model and getting bigger is not going to fix it. Tax payer subsidized public transportation is not a good deal for drivers or tax payers.

Transit Villages
MARTA, in its quest for customers, has co-opted large malls to add multi-unit, high density apartment and condo units to MARTA properties. This creates transit oriented development (TOD), a Transit Village. This is a high tax European socialist model, surprise, surprise.

The High Street Project by Perimeter Mall is scheduled to resume in 2012 next to the MARTA station with 3000 rental units. That will move our already lopsided ratio of homeowners 8000 to renters 7000. They don’t want us to drive cars; they want us to use MARTA for everything. These mega-developments will arise next to MARTA stations at all malls with close by office buildings. Parking will be limited.

Rents will be high at first, but after the apartment ages a bit, rents will go down all the way to section 8 housing units with rent subsidies from HUD. This disperses low income housing everywhere MARTA goes. The Federal DOT, HUD, Perimeter Community Improvement District (PCID) and the Atlanta Regional Transportation Commission are working closely with developers and MARTA to create train-riding ghettos among the subdivisions. HUD low income housing project building has failed; this is their new model.

This is a game-changer for home owners in the suburbs. Many now have their children home-schooled or are enrolled in private schools. They can no longer assume that their home values can be tied to the quality of the public schools. These high density developments will also trump local zoning. The creation of the Atlanta Regional Commission responsible for regional planning has trumped city councils. The sovereignty of the City of Dunwoody is a myth. Ceding our mobility to unionized transit workers is crazy. One bomb on a train or bus will bring hoards of TSA employees to grope and take nude photos of us. I’ll keep my cars, thank you.

Tough Vote
The first problem will be public transit vs. roads & highways. MARTA only goes where it goes. If you only drive your car, you only care about roads. The second problem is close-in counties vs. out-lying counties who don’t have MARTA and wouldn’t use it. A third problem is resistance to any tax increase during this, destined to be long, economic depression. A fourth problem is the very real threat of a dollar and asset value crash, due to excessive government debt. If the federal government cuts its overspending, this federal money would go away. A yes vote on this plan would raise the county sales tax by 1% to get a lot of things we don’t want.

Bond Scams
Part of the “private / public partnerships” touted by politicians, besides toll road operators, includes Bond brokers looking for customers and apartment developers looking for projects. This seems an unlikely time for local governments to be borrowing money, but it is so pervasive I still think it’s a virus.

Road Problems
Most folks in Metro Atlanta are required to drive their cars to work and shop, drive their kids to and from school and get around. Public transit only goes where it goes; this is not necessarily where you need to go.

If highway I-285 was built to be an interstate bypass, it should have been built way out in the boondocks rather than tightly squeezed around the city of Atlanta. It is now incorporated into the Atlanta work commuter grid, with no room for both local and interstate traffic.

Nashville TN has a similar problem with I-24 except there, the interstate highway only ruins part of Nashville’s commuter routes. Nashville can still build commuter roads in its boondocks to offer optional routes.

For Metro Atlanta, there is nowhere to go except to widen I-285 or begin to build a real bypass over time, linking GA highways to intersect I-75 and I-85 further out. There is an effort to make US-27 a link coming from Chattanooga TN to I-75 and I-85 South, below Atlanta. Most of Georgia’s budget has gone to education and healthcare for decades, with not much being spent on roads or highways for Metro Atlanta.

Georgia DOT has refused to add lanes or widen roads, because “we drivers will just fill these lanes up again”. The Federal government including the DOT and EPA are equally at fault for this obstructionism. Other large cities continued to widen and add roads and highways for the last 3 decades. Metro Atlanta Transportation has been held hostage for decades by MARTA politics and now the light rail crazies have joined in. GDOT instead wanted HOV lanes nobody uses, so now they want them to be Toll lanes nobody will use. We are a nation of suburbs and commuters. We have no alternative but to expand our road systems to continually abate the gridlock. Smart governments get ahead of this. Not so bright governments react after the fact. Really dumb, suicidal governments refuse to do anything effective. Most of the GDOT budget goes to debt service. Paying for projects with Bonds makes them twice as expensive and now GDOT is broke. They are implementing their population decrease plan.

This Regional Transportation Plan is right out of the Obama playbook. He wants us to vote for this to create VERY EXPENSIVE Transit Villages to prop up MARTA based on their Transit Oriented Development Plan (TOD). Obama will force Georgia Power to put up VERY EXPENSIVE wind and solar power units to drive up the cost of our energy to 5 times what we pay now. The directive by the Secretary of Transportation to submit Regional Plans is what started the creation of the Regional Commissions and this Transportation Plan.

Send me an email to join and read my blog at NTL Conservative Blog, the Dunwoody GA Tea Party blog. It was great to see you at the Dunwoody July 4th Parade. Norb Leahy, Dunwoody GA Tea Party, NTL Conservative Blog 770-394-1284

Friday, July 15, 2011

UN Agenda 21

I got an email from a Tea Party in Arkansas ( urging me to look up the UN Agenda 21 aka, the Venus Project video, ICLEI and Project 60 Idaho. I did and it looks like the Atlanta Regional Transportation Plan 2040 is part of the implementation of UN Agenda 21.

I was shocked, but it did answer my question as to why anybody would pour so much money into MARTA, when is has been such a money loser for decades. The answer is, it’s a bigger deal to those elected officials who support global governance or just wanted to get federal transportation money this year. It’s a Trojan Horse.

This set to be voted on by the 10 county region in 2012. PCID is implementing the Perimeter portion of this transit village plan. The Plan gives MARTA all new trains and buses to get more MARTA riders by extending out to other counties, where they will build more transit villages. This made no sense to me because MARTA is a heavily subsidized, low ridership public transit organization. This would just make it a more heavily subsidized, low ridership public transit organization.

Apparently George H. Bush haplessly approved UN Agenda 21 in 1992 and Bill Clinton took it further. George W. Bush ignored it, but didn’t kill it and Barack Obama embraced it and has been spending trillions of dollars on it. Those are the trillions we want him to stop spending that he refuses to stop spending. If we could get him to drop his UN Agenda 21 spending, we could balance the budget, but nobody has suggested that so far. This Plan trades our liberty, property rights, families and very existence for more than environmentally sustainable collective global governance. How’s that for hope and change comrade ?

Project 60 in Idaho is a deal where China is being offered 500 square miles south of Boise to bring jobs to the area. They get tax breaks U.S. companies can’t get because they are foreign. They all come in on special EB-5 visas as Investors. The question in Idaho is whether this land will be sovereign Chinese land and whether they will buy it or just take it off their bill. Most believe they want to get rid of their dollars now and we’re the only ones who will take them. That is also consistent with the UN Project 60 plan to dissolve the sovereignty of all nations starting with ours. I bet Georgia has some Project 60 plans in the works.

The ICLEI is the International Council for Local Environmental Initiatives. The mission of the ICLEI USA is to drive local governments to drastically reduce carbon dioxide, they believe is a greenhouse gas that is causing global warming, or climate change, or a little ice age, or something. They want us to stop exhaling and pay 5 times more for wind and solar.

I encourage you to Google these sites yourselves.

Cut Government Down to Size

Privatize Everything
Our economy will never recover until government reduces its boot print. Everything government does that can be privatized should be privatized. Government does a lousy job managing because they expanded into activities that should have been done by the private economy. The looming examples are Education, Healthcare, Insurance, The Federal Reserve, HUD, Lending, Foreign Aid, Transportation, Labor and EPA. Costs are too high and outcomes are not good. The Federal Government is bankrupt and it’s time for them to freeze hiring, sell the land they own and withdraw from funding the unconstitutional activities they have accumulated and screwed up over the past 100 years. It’s time for the Federal Government to comply with the limits imposed by the 10th Amendment and restrict their activities to those cited in the Constitution.

Cutting the $90 billion a year spent by the Department of Education and closing it is a good start. Responsibility for Education would fall to the States. Public education has been turned into left wing political indoctrination camps and has failed to teach the basics. It’s time for internet-based home schooling and flexible private schools to take over.

Closing all federal departments and agencies not authorized by the original wording of the Constitution is a good second step. This must be done on January 2, 2013 to balance the federal budget. The only way to cut costs is to cut functions.
The Federal Government needs to get out of the loan business. This could take some time, but Fannie, Freddie and Sallie need to begin to sell its loans to private lending companies. Mortgage-backed securities should be outlawed. Lenders should be ready to own these mortgages until they are paid.

States will inherit responsibility for State and Interstate highways, roads and bridges, Labor, EPA and Medicaid without federal grants or subsidies. The States would also need to freeze hiring sell the land they own; Georgia owns 210,000 acres of “wildlife” preserves and state parks. Commissions and Boards should be closed.

Counties and Cities
Counties will continue to handle county roads, bridges, sewers and water without federal and state subsidies and grants. Cities will continue to handle city roads, bridges and sewer maintenance and replacement. Cities will need to remove environmental, green initiatives, privatize recreation and end overreach in planning and economic development. Cities can drop garbage collection. It can be done by a private firm dealing directly with customers. Cities should drop public transit and leave it to private companies dealing directly with their customers. police, 911, dispatch, EMT and fire departments should be merged and officers cross trained.

End the U.N.
The entire “green” scam has been supported through the U.N. Their objective is Global Government. The globalists and their socialist minions in our government have been willing participants in squandering billions of dollars on this assault on our sovereignty. They want to destroy our economy. We are funding our own demise and it must stop. International relations should be conducted by the private businesses who trade with and have operations in foreign countries. Foreign aid should be done by legitimate non-government-connected charities. The U.N. hired Hamas as “peacekeepers” on Israeli borders. Most of our foreign aid goes straight into the bank accounts of the world’s brutal dictators, whose countries occupy most of the seats in the U.N.

End the IMF
The International Monetary Fund receives most of its money from U.S. taxpayers, who get nothing in return. If other countries want to continue to support the IMF, fine. The U.S. should withdraw.

End the Fed
The Federal Reserve exists to allow our federal government to spend whatever it wants. The Fed simply prints the money. This newly printed money dilutes the value of our dollars. The Fed also controls interest rates. Interest rates should be controlled by the market. Congress is responsible for maintaining a stable dollar. They must close the Fed and begin to do their job, pass a balanced budget amendment, and leave banks, financial institutions and insurance companies to sink or swim on their own with no loans, subsidies or government backing.

End Globalist Organizations
There are many organizations supporting a one world government. We should not participate or support them or allow them to interfere with us. Their plan has been tried before and it resulted in tyranny, poverty and slavery. Our country is founded on liberty and free enterprise.

End Corporate Influence
End all subsidies to all industries, including wind, solar, GE, etc. End all subsidies to entities that should be in the private sector like NPR, PBS, the arts, etc. Let them go to the “foundations” for support, or make it on their own. End all tax breaks including ethanol, wind, solar, etc. End all reasons for lobbyists to visit Washington D.C. Remove bribery and extortion from government. End estate taxes. Protect private property from government seizure. Repeal regulations that discourage competition. End regulations and tax breaks that give big corporation monopoly advantages in the marketplace. Ensure that private citizens are free to grow their own food and provide their own water without interference.

Fix the Judicial System
All judges should be elected every two years. Their websites should include all of their decisions and opinions. It should include their entire resume, world-view, associations and influences. Too many judges hide out and wreak havoc on our Constitution. Pass Tort Reform. Pass “looser pays” and malpractice caps. Repeal laws protecting us from ourselves. Allow Judges to stop frivolous law suits when they are filed. Stop releasing prisoners because of overcrowding. Have prisoners work 10 hour days to support themselves. Have them grow their own food. Have them replace migrant workers to harvest foods that cannot be harvested with machinery. Take away their televisions, internet and phones.

Repeal Bad Laws
End abortion. Close Planned Parenthood. Off-shore abortions to Mexico and Canada. End separation of church and state laws. Repeal laws that limit our freedom. Repeal laws that limit free enterprise. Repeal laws that do not support our property rights. Repeal the estate tax. Declare victory over discrimination and repeal affirmative action and all discrimination laws. We are a meritocracy and that works for everybody and doesn’t cause law suits. Whoever tells you that minorities are not capable really is a racist. Close the EEOC and OFCCP. Close the Department of Labor, the NLRB and OSHA. Close the EPA and sell all federal lands. Close the Parks Service. Close the Corp of Engineers. Remove unnecessary environmental restrictions, Repeal the endangered species act. Don’t allow foreign governments or companies to purchase land in the U.S. Tax tobacco and alcohol the same as food.

Restrict Immigration
Move military bases to the border and close it. Deport illegal immigrants. Suspend legal immigration. End the visa lottery. Restrict foreign student entry. Deport militant Muslims. Restrict visitor visas from Muslim countries. Close the TSA.

End Government Involvement in Healthcare
Repeal all government healthcare involvement. Allow healthcare providers to figure out how to cost reduce and restart a patient pays system of healthcare. Be prepared to see expensive, ineffective treatments disappear.

The 10th Amendment

The Tea Party asserts that the Federal Government is not compliant with the 10th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution as worded and is violating the 10th Amendment limits. We urge the Congress to pare back Federal Government functions and return them to the “States and the People”.

If the Federal government had followed the 10th Amendment, its budget would be under $1 trillion a year instead of $4 trillion a year. We would not have any debt or any unfunded liabilities. There would have been no inflation. We would not have ruined our economy. The States and the People would have concocted their own versions of retirement savings and health care. Business would be providing us all the energy, goods and services we need at a lot lower prices. Jobs would be available and the poor would be a very small group. The States and the People would have figured out how to help the poor.

We want to reduce the Federal Government to a few simple functions and have them give all other responsibilities to the States and the People. We want the People to begin to work on removing all non-essential expenditures from the States, Counties and Cities. We want government out of everything that their involvement has caused to be ineffective or too expensive to tolerate. We want government to stop paying for things that are not their legal responsibility. We don’t want to wait until our economy collapses and we are forced to live in the woods. We want to return to a workable system now.

Government has a track record of damaging everything it regulates and ruining everything it funds. They know this, so they spend a fortune telling us that things are not that bad, or things are improving, or that these things are really important, or if we complain we will be despised by everyone. What happens is that we stop using these industries and their “ridership” declines. This makes these monstrosities even more expensive, because they raise their fees to off-set our lack of participation. Government has ruined education, health care, energy, insurance, banking, airlines and border security. It wants to ruin the military, food, communication, transportation, Christianity and private property. The press has ruined itself.

The government passes regulations that ruin industries. They then declare them ruined and pass more regulations to finish the job. Once they are totally ruined, the government takes them over. Government subsidizes these industries, which feels good at first, but this makes them more expensive and customers start to drop off and stop showing up. When these industries are terminal, government takes over and turns them into a government entity and continues to subsidize them, forever. So, we started this Tea Party group to begin to reverse the damage, now.

Send me an email to host a candidate meeting or join the Dunwoody GA Tea Party. Go to NTL Conservative Blog – the Dunwoody GA Tea Party blog. Norb Leahy Dunwoody GA Tea Party, NTL Conservative Blog 770-394-1284

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Light Rail - Too Expensive

Last year, we were offered Federal Government money to begin plans to build a light rail line from Atlanta to Macon. There was also talk about money for a light rail line from Atlanta to Charlotte NC. We didn’t’ take the offer; we took a pass. It was either a good decision or just dumb luck. I had heard that light rail was too expensive, so I did a little financial analysis.

The Greyhound Bus from Atlanta GA to Macon GA costs $25 one way, 89 miles, 1 hour 30 minutes. The Greyhound Bus to Charlotte NC costs $50 one way, 288 miles, 6 hours. The cost for gas, to drive a Prius from Atlanta GA to Macon GA is $6 to $8, depending on gas prices. The cost for gas, to drive a Prius from Atlanta GA to Charlotte NC is $19 to $25. The cost of building the light rail system in Seattle was $176 million per mile. The cost of finishing and building a light passenger rail system from Atlanta to Macon would be over $1 billion.

The number of Greyhound Bus tickets from Atlanta GA to Macon GA we could buy with $1 billion is 40 million tickets. If two bus-loads, 80 passengers, bought tickets to go to and from Macon and Atlanta every day, their round-trip cost would be $4000. The $1 billion cost of building a passenger rail service would buy tickets for these 80 passengers for 500,000 trips, or daily round- trips for these 80 passengers for the next 685 years

Shipping freight pods on regular heavy rail is very cost-effective. Cost for light passenger rail is not cost-effective. It requires federal or state subsidies to operate to the tune of $200 per ticket. These 500,000 trips would then cost the state $190 million a year to operate. It’s a Trojan Horse

Camping with Bears

In December 2010, two years into the 2nd Great Depression, the State of Georgia purchased 10,000 acres of Oaky Woods in Houston County for $28.7 million ($2,875 per acre). Georgia had already purchased 200,000 acres of uninhabitable land and this will bring our total holdings of uninhabitable land to 210,000 acres of land for wildlife. This has been brought to us by the lobbying of 8,400 Georgians working in behalf of the other 9,820,811 Georgians and the haplessness of the Board of Natural Resources that should be abolished. So the State is going to pay $2,875 per acre for uninhabitable land we will “all enjoy visiting”, so we can camp and hike and run from the wild bears ? I don’t think so.

We could have had the 8400 Sierra Club members in Georgia and 100 bear and wild boar hunters buy the land. It would only cost them $3,376 each and after all, it’s for the bears. If you Georgians can’t wait to camp there, I urge you to bring your running shoes and extra food to lob at the bears when they chase you. The bears can run faster than you and they also climb and swim, so if they chase you, you’re in trouble. It might be good to bring paper bags full of salad to lob at them. They also like fish, but the fish should be alive and moving, so this might not work out so well. Wild hogs will eat anything, so make sure you have plenty of anything to lob at them.

Was the original argument for buying this uninhabitable land to promise that if we gave wild animals their own land, they would not visit our homes ? I realize the black bears and wild hogs the pest control people remove from our homes need to go someplace, but we are not likely to pack up the kids to go camping with bears. Don’t we first need to recruit hunters to become interested in hunting wild hogs and bears before this gets out of hand ? The folks in the Florida Keys are having a hell-of-a time finding hunters interested in eradicating the 9 pound African Gambian pouch rats inhabiting their wildlife preserves to keep them from heading north.

Dunwoody Parks I

Look at Section 7 of the Dunwoody Park Master Plan on the website. It is the section on funding park improvements. It will give you some idea of what the city plans to spend your $33 million. It includes:

$3.5 million for the Dunwoody Nature Center, including a new $1.2 million building.

$3 million for Donaldson Farm including a $1 million in renovations.

$1.5 million for Perimeter Park

$2 million for Windwood Hollow. It would be cheaper to build them a swimming pool and give the park to the homeowners’ association. The same goes for Vernon Oaks and the PVC Farm.

$16 million for Brooke Run. It still include $6 million the three baseball fields for the Senior Baseball League. Four tennis courts will cost $4.5 million. The picnic, roads and trails portion will cost $6 million.

At $1000 each, all the signs, picnic tables and trash cans look too expensive.

It would be cheaper for the city to donate the land to the Nature Center and the Preservation Trust and let them pay for the improvements. Dunwoody would be the first city to privatize its parks and get that expense off the books. That leaves Brook Run for Spring and Fall concerts.

If the city chose to give parks away, I would really object to the city buying any more land for parks. There are only so many parks a city can afford to give away. Anybody else who wants to donate land for parks would see the Preservation Trust and leave the city alone.

Light Rail ?

The Perimeter Community Improvement District (PCID) is planning to double its density. It occupies 4 square miles and runs from Perimeter Mall to the Sandy Springs MARTA station. It is downtown Dunwoody. It has large apartment and condo complexes and office buildings and wants to double both. The problem is traffic.

Installing an East - West light rail line over the top of I-285 is crazy and too expensive. The answer to diverting traffic from the top of I-285 is to Make US-27 the interstate traffic outer by-pass around Atlanta. Handling commuter traffic from Norcross to Perimeter will require widening Mount Vernon.

Trains only go where they go. This is rarely where you need to go, so you drive your car. Trains work if everybody works downtown; for Atlanta, those days are long gone.

Light rail costs $100 million per mile to install; roads cost $100 thousand per mile to install. Trains and buses are low use and require large tax subsidies to operate. The tax subsidy for the $750 million a year MARTA budget is 83%.

The Light rail fantasy comes from Obama. Any hope of receiving federal tax dollars for this boondoggle requires that we buy new trains and buses and install light rail. Seattle WA is doing this and will be saddled with a $37 billion, 50 year bond issue to pay off. PCID needs a Plan B; I don’t think the Atlanta Regional Transportation Plan 2040 will pass in 2012.