Hispanic leaders joined Mayor Kasim Reed at an Atlanta City Hall news conference to endorse the transportation tax plan.
By Nicole Chavez
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Saying it would create jobs for their community, Hispanic leaders joined Mayor Kasim Reed at an Atlanta City Hall on Thursday to announce their official endorsement for the 1 percent transportation sales tax.
Leaders explained that if the T-SPLOST passes in a July 31 referendum, it would benefit many Latinos in the region. Historically, most metro-area Hispanics have worked in construction, and many rely public transportation, the leaders said.
"Most Hispanic organizations in Atlanta are supporting it because we know it would have a positive impact. It would create jobs," Alejandro Coss, president of the Latin American Chamber of Commerce, told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution after the news conference.
"We haven't heard any opposing voices. Many of us have hosted panels to educate the community, and it seems like everyone has understand the positive impact it would create on the region," Coss said.
To be sure, there's plenty of opposition elsewhere. Critics of the initiative -- ranging from local Tea Party affiliates to the Sierra Club and the DeKalb County Chapter of the NAACP -- say it is too heavily skewed to either road building or transit, would raise taxes without producing effective congestion relief and does not provide for continuing project operating funds beyond the 10-year lifespan of the tax.
The Hispanic leaders' endorsement came after John Evans, president of the DeKalb NAACP, expressed his disapproval of the transportation referendum on a radio show.
Efforts from the Georgia Hispanic Chamber of Commerce to pass the referendum started eight months ago. Through seminars, messages to members, and approaches to other groups like the Georgia Chamber of Commerce and Metro Atlanta Chamber, the Hispanic chamber has spread the word about the transportation referendum.
"For us, it was a process of educating the Hispanic businesses. It was a process of helping them understand what it could mean for them. If we don't get this past, this could be detrimental for the region and for their businesses," Santiago Marquez, vice president and CFO of the Georgia Hispanic Chamber of Commerce said in an interview with the AJC.
Leaders agreed that passing the referendum will pump the economy and help those involved in construction as business owners or employees.
"For us this referendum is very important because many of our members are involved in the industries of construction and they have been hit really hard by the recession," Marquez said.
State Rep. Pedro Marin, D-Duluth, members of the Latinos in Information Sciences and Technology Association, Effective Media Company and the Georgia Association of Latino Elected Officials were some of the leaders appearing at the news conference.
After the event, Reed told the Hispanic leaders that he wanted to meet with them in August to discuss Latino issues further. "What you see today is an unbroken chain of Latino leadership coming together to support this referendum," the mayor said.