Sierra-Tea Party Alliance Shoots Down Traffic Tax in Atlanta

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By Paul Mindus, The Saint Consulting Group

A Saint Index survey about Tea Party activism in land use sheds light on this week’s stunning defeat of a $7.2 billion tax referendum to fund traffic projects in Atlanta.

An unusual alliance of Tea Party activists, the Sierra Club and NAACP officials in Georgia led the defeat of a $7.2 billion referendum that would have raised taxes to pay for traffic-improvement projects in the Atlanta metro area for the next 10 years.

The vote confirms a Saint Index survey that found Tea Party members are very opposed to using taxpayer funds on large land use projects, and that they strongly oppose increased taxpayer funding for highway, bridge and road projects.

The Saint Index found in 2011 that Tea Party members are 33 percent more likely than the national average to get involved in actively supporting or opposing a land use development proposal, and they also are 10 percent more likely to believe local government is going a poor job on planning and zoning.

The Tea Party joined together with the Sierra Club and NAACP officials to oppose the  one-cent-on-the-dollar tax. On Tuesday, as The Christian Science Monitor reported, the “Sierra Tea” nexcus claimed giant-killer status: Voters shot down the Transportation Investment Act by a margin of 63 percent, despite warnings from supporters of imminent urban decline and worsening traffic woes.

The Saint Index is conducted annually by The Saint Consulting Group to track and quantify the politics of land use, including those who actively oppose and support real estate projects and why.

The defeat of the anti-gridlock tax in Atlanta warrants review of some of the other Saint Index findings about Tea Party members and land use politics. One of five of the 1,000 adults interviewed nationwide identified themselves as members of the Tea Party. Given the current economic situation, 77 percent of those identifying Tea Party members said they were more willing to support development projects in their home community (eight percent above the national average).

Job creation and increased tax revenue were strong reasons for Tea Party members to support a local development project. Tea Party members are 13 percent more likely than the national average to support a local development project because it would create new jobs, and 11 percent more likely to give support because a project would add to the local tax base.

Tea Party members are much more likely than the national average to support local drilling for oil and natural gas, a nuclear power plant project or a natural gas pipeline, the Saint Index found. They are more likely than the national average to oppose local apartments and condominiums, airport expansion, a rail line with local station, and wind farms.

One in three of those who identified themselves in the Saint Index survey as conservative politically claimed Tea Party affiliation, and 36 percwent of those who said they are leaning or mostly Republican identified themselves as Tea Party.

Click here for the Christian Science Monitor story and click here for the Saint Index Special Report on the Tea Party. Alex Roman, managing editor of Metro Magazine, has added an article on the Atlanta referendum.

Paul Mindus has reported for East Coast dailies and Reuters and is part of the business development team at Saint Consulting, email 

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