"Mayor Reed was very instrumental in getting the legislation passed and worked closely with the Speaker to get it passed, and he had a vested interest and a lot of clout. And the Speaker was concerned not having him on there could create a problem," said Kennesaw Mayor Mark Mathews, one of the five members of the Executive Committee. "I think it was a good solution."
On Dec. 17, the 21 members of the Roundtable elected Mathews; Decatur Mayor Bill Floyd; Douglas County Chairman Tom Worthan; Norcross Mayor Bucky Johnson; and Henry County Chairman BJ Mathis to the executive committee.
It's not clear how many votes Reed got during that first vote, which was by secret ballot.
After the Speaker's intervention, Johnson automatically volunteered his resignation, Mathews said, and that was accepted Thursday. But Johnson will stay on as the non-voting chairman of the executive committee, charged with coordinating the panel's logistics.
ARC Chairman Tad Leithead said many members of the metro Atlanta region's business community were "concerned about fund-raising for the campaign, and the Speaker felt strongly the City of Atlanta should be represented."
So when the Speaker - one of the most powerful leaders in state government - called the five executive committee members, plus Leithead, Georgia Department of Transportation Planning Director Todd Long, and Reed into his capitol office last week, he made it clear "we just had to find a way to get Reed on there," Mathews said.
Mathews said last Thursday's meeting at the capitol lasted about 45 minutes, with the Speaker spending only a few minutes speaking to the group. The rest of the time was spent coming up with a solution that appeased everyone.
On Thursday, the Roundtable voted, 14-5, and both Cobb Chairman Tim Lee and Mathews voted for the changes. Those opposed included Eldrin Bell; DeKalb County CEO Burrell Ellis; Atlanta Councilman John Eaves; Union City Mayor Ralph Moore; and Rockdale County Chairman Richard Oden, most of whom said there needed to be even more changes to the Executive Committee and did not agree with Johnson's appointment as chairman.
Conyers Mayor Randy Mills and Douglasville Mayor Mickey Thompson were absent Thursday.
Ellis continuously argued Thursday that there was not enough representation on the Committee of the region's largest populated counties, and that therefore, voters would not pass any project list those members created.
But Mathews disagreed.
"It's kind of frustrating because I feel when I was appointed, I was appointed as a representative for Cobb County and some on the roundtable continue to get hung up on the population size the committee members represent. But there is nothing in the legislation that says one committee member has more power than another, or even that this can get passed without everyone on the roundtable voting on it," Mathews said. "So they're taking the population of Kennesaw and saying I only represent 30,000 people, but I was chosen to represent 700,000 people in Cobb. And we actually have a good and varied representation on the committee. It's just their way of manipulating the numbers to try to get a point across."
Some, such as Bell and Holly Springs Mayor Tim Downing, took opposition to the Executive Committee members meeting with the Speaker without first speaking with the roundtable. But Reed basically argued that if the Speaker of the House wants to meet with them, it is appropriate.
Mathews said the Executive Committee had the authority to make the changes on its own, but wanted to bring the issue before the full roundtable to vote on "as soon as possible."
The TSPLOST is designed to pay for major transportation improvements and potentially new transit systems throughout metro Atlanta. Atlanta Regional Commission executives have predicted the tax, if approved by voters, could generate between $7 billion and $8 billion in revenue over the 10 years of collections. Eighty-five percent of the collections would go toward regional projects voted on by the roundtable, and 15 percent will be allocated to the counties and cities for their own transportation projects.
The Executive Committee will draft a list of potential projects that will go to voters in July 2012, if the full Roundtable consents.
The public vote would be counted region wide, and there is no opt-out provision for any single county. So if an overall majority approves the tax, it takes effect in all 10 counties.