Should have posted about this yesterday and didn’t get to it. Of course, the advantage to waiting is that I can save myself a lot of typing by quoting from the news stories. From Columbia Regional Business Report:
Supporters of a one-penny increase in the sales tax in Richland County kicked off a campaign this week to win voter approval of a plan they said would raise $1 billion over 22 years, address critical transportation needs and create an estimated 17,000 new jobs.
The issue will be on the Nov. 6 general election ballot for all Richland County voters.
The transportation penny, according to the county’s proposal, would increase sales tax in Richland County to 8 cents on the dollar on proceeds of sales, with the funds going to improve roads, support the bus system and increase bike and pedestrian greenways. The transportation penny would increase the sales tax to 2 cents on the dollar on groceries, except for purchases made with food stamps, which are exempt from the transportation penny.
The transportation plan that would be funded by the penny sales tax has a major economic development component, supporters say. One of the projects that it would fund is the Shop Road extension, a new section of road in southern Richland County that could open up large new industrial sites that are attractive to manufacturers and allow water and sewer utilities to be extended into the area…
And from The State:
Touting “more jobs, safer roads, local control,” about 80 people gathered Wednesday to roll out a campaign for a Richland County sales tax for transportation.
Citizens for a Greater Midlands, organized by business leaders making a second effort to pass the penny-on-the-dollar tax, were countered by a dozen sign-carrying protesters on the sidewalk along Gervais Street, outside the Clarion Hotel Downtown. Voters rejected the referendum by about 2,200 votes two years ago.
Richland County Councilman Paul Livingston said the tax to fund roads, buses, sidewalks and bike lanes was the single most important issue to arise in his 22-year tenure in county government.
“Some say we can wait on the state and federal governments,” Livingston said. “Folks, we’ve got to do it ourselves.”
He said there were “no viable alternatives” to a local sales tax to address what he characterized as a crisis in the county’s transportation system. Major roads are congested and in poor repair, funding for the bus system is tenuous and pedestrian and bicycle accidents are common, he said later…
I’m going to take Dawn’s word for it that there were a dozen protesters outside, although when I walked through them on my way in and out — the kickoff was conveniently right around the corner from my ADCO office — it didn’t seem like that many. Of course, I would imagine that relatively few people who will vote “no” are so passionate about it that they want to stand on a curb with a sign. One of them who did was longtime antitax activist Don Weaver, who greeted me pleasantly when he saw me come out.
What I do know is that the room with the supporters inside was fairly packed, and consisted largely of people who devote themselves to working for the advancement of the community, from business leaders to elected officials.
Aside from Councilman Livingston (who, like other elected officials, stressed he was there as a private citizen), we heard from a Midlands Tech student who depends on the bus to get her to school so that someday she can have a job that will enable her to afford a car, two or three other bus riders, my good friend Jennifer Harding (former ad director for The State, now in real estate), Steve Benjamin, Brian DeQuincey Newman, and Cameron Runyan. Rival adman Lee Bussell spoke for the Chamber — he was the one who stressed how the Shop Road extension would help open up prime locations for industrial recruitment.
The most compelling argument for this plan came from Mr. Livingston. He charted the path of this process, from the 39-member citizens group six years ago that drafted the plan that has changed little since then, and made the salient point — this is it, the only viable vehicle for both saving our bus system and funding other transportation priorities.
People who don’t want these things for our community will of course vote against it, which is their right. But people who do want any of these things, and vote against this plan because everything about it isn’t perfect, are fooling themselves and doing their community a disservice. Because this is it. It took a long time to get to this point with a lot of people working hard to do so, and there has been NO effort by anyone I’ve seen to put an alternative plan on the tracks.