At Issue: Should Fayette County settle its voting lawsuit?

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At Issue: Should Fayette County settle its voting lawsuit?

Last week: Is it time for MARTA to come to Gwinnett?

Surveys show traffic is a big concern in Gwinnett, yet voters have turned down efforts to extend MARTA into the county. The last time voters had a chance to weigh in on the issue was in 2008. The vote was a close split with 53.04 percent of Gwinnett residents against a one percent sales tax to bring in MARTA, 46.96 percent supported the idea.

Some feel Gwinnett’s increasing diversity may finally tip the scales in favor of the commuter rail system. With a population of 20 percent Hispanic, 26 percent Black and 11 percent Asian, many feel acceptance of more mass transit options is inevitable.

Voters truly interested in seeing a referendum on the ballot, perhaps in 2016, will need to convince the Gwinnett County Board of Commissioners to put the issue before voters once again.

Readers had lots to say on the matter:

It is time for MARTA. We have reached the point where widening I-85 is not a long term solution. Adding road capacity lasts only a few years until the road is congested gain. The cost to widen I-85 from I-285 to the I-985 split would be over a billion dollars for temporary relief. For similar money a light rail line could be built from the Doraville MARTA station to the Arena at Sugarloaf Parkway. When the rail line gets crowded all we have to do is add more rail cars or another train on the same line. Eventually this light rail line will be extended across the top end perimeter giving commuters the option to take the rail line not only inside the perimeter but to jobs in the Perimeter Center area, near Cumberland Mall and to Braves games. — Art Sheldon, former chair Gwinnett County Transit Advisory Board

No, not yet. Investing tax dollars in a heavy rail system that provides only a bi-directional solution does not address the transportation challenges of commuting across the county. The bus routes provided by Gwinnett County Transit need to be expanded and existing routes improved before we look at other alternatives. Transportation to Atlanta is already available through Gwinnett County Transit via direct bus service and bus service to MARTA stations. — Stephen Hayes

Yes, indeed! Business owners need reliable employees who will be on time, something not currently available throughout the county. We will have over one million residents by 2020. Why are we offering a third rate system to these new residents? Why are we allowing seniors to use taxis to get to appointments and pharmacies? — John Snyder

Yes, it’s time we bring mass transit of some sort to Gwinnett. The county has become traffic choked and in order to continue to grow, transit needs to be part of the solution. — Chuck Paul

Yes, absolutely! It is LONG OVERDUE. Extend the Doraville train line through Norcross and the south end of Duluth, then over to Lawrenceville. Use the stations as hubs for offering local bus service. — Eric Allen

Marta equals more crime in Gwinnett! No thank you!! Criminals live in rural areas as well as cities, drive cars as well as ride MARTA. Criminals are white as well as black, no discrimination just facts. There is more crime committed in areas where there is MARTA. — ‪Christine White‪

MARTA would do nothing to alleviate traffic for Gwinnett, but would saddle its residents with higher taxes forever. Ditto for Cobb. Both counties should continue to reject MARTA. — John Galt

MARTA, completed in Gwinnett, in 1995 was a solution. It’s not a transportation solution for Gwinnett 2020 or 2025 because the cost to extend MARTA and complete it now. It is simply too expensive for the benefit that it would bring. — RogerOne

Gwinnettians can’t claim MARTA will “bring crime and poverty with it” anymore. It’s already there! What will there next lame excuse be? — RetiredParamedic

MARTA would be fantastic here. What is all this crime I hear about? Are the thieves and murderers taking the train now? It’d make having a job in downtown Atlanta a real option for those of us in North Gwinnett. I’ve read a lot about businesses opening near train links, the old GM plant development for one. I don’t see much of a downside, other than the funding aspect, which is a real concern. — Mark Lup‪

There are a lot of people who have disabilities that will not be drivers, but if they had a way to work, via a train or bus, they would love the opportunity to go to work! Please bring good, public transportation to Gwinnett! — Wendy Pearce

No, not in northern Gwinnett. Keep all that closer to the perimeter. — Angie Foster Ragon‪

‪Think of all the students who go to GSU, Emory and Tech that this will help! — Tristan D. Fernandes

Yes it is definitely time for the voters to bring MARTA to Gwinnett. I live in Gwinnett County and use public transportation as my mode of transportation. Having MARTA would give better access to Gwinnett. Currently, the Gwinnett Transit provides limited service that is inadequate for the people in Gwinnett. People that live in the Atlanta area and commute to work in Gwinnett will have an easier commute with MARTA. — Rev. Harriet Bradley

‪If the red line train stretched to Peachtree Corners, I would ride it everyday to work — Katrina Taylor‪

‪NO!!!! It’s a waste of taxpayers money. They are under used, poorly managed and a bad investment. — Penny McCoy Lewis

Karen Huppertz for the AJC

Word of a possible settlement in the lawsuit regarding district voting in Fayette County heated up the Oct. 6 Board of Commissioners meeting, but county officials have denied a deal is imminent. Lawyers for the commission and the Board of Education are due in federal court Nov. 16 opposite the NAACP over whether Fayette’s longstanding at-large voting system disfranchises the county’s minority population, which is primarily concentrated in the northern District 5.

The court case was scheduled after the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in January that U.S. District Court Judge Timothy Batten, who issued an initial ruling overturning at-large voting, had to conduct a full trial.

However, based on the more than $1 million taxpayer cost of litigation and the fact that 125 of Georgia’s 159 counties already use district voting, pressure to settle has been been building.

Peachtree City co-founder Joel Cowan and real estate developer Jim Pace placed a large ad in a Fayette newspaper, stating, “We believe it is time for the parties to this lawsuit to sit down and work on implementing a district-based solution … to bring an end to this divisive and expensive issue.”

Peachtree City Council member Kim Learnard and Board of Education member Leonard Presberg have also publicly supported a settlement for fiscal, political and/or public relations reasons, and the chamber of commerce has expressed its concerns also.

However, many residents who want to keep at-large voting are pressuring the county to continue the court fight, so all residents can vote for all county posts.

So, Fayette County readers, do you think the county should settle or continue the lawsuit over district voting? Send comments to communitynews@ajc.com.

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