Cobb Board of Commissioners approves resolutions on 30-year mobility MSPLOST referendum

Cobb County government building sign, a vertical rectangular sign with the words "Board of Commissioners," "County Clerk," "County Manager," "County Office," "Employment," and a wheelchair entrance icon

by Caleb Groves

On Tuesday, Dec. 12, 2023, the Cobb County Board of Commissioners approved two agenda items moving toward the referendum on a 30-year mobility SPLOST (MSPLOST).

This 30-year transit referendum, which is estimated to raise over $10 billion if passed, would authorize a one percent sales tax in Cobb to increase mobility across the county.

If approved by voters, the over 30-year plan would take on many projects, including the construction of seven bus rapid transit routes and three arterial rapid transit routes. The plan would also increase the number of bus stops, commuter routes, and transfer centers and expand micro and paratransit options across the county.

In total, the proposed plan will add 106 miles of transit routes across Cobb and connect CobbLinc.

Commissioner Joann Birrell and Commissioner Kelli Gambrill opposed the MSPLOST.

Birrell said the plan is far too long and exclusively focuses on transit.

“I cannot support this, as I’ve said many times; a 30-year tax is too intense and it’s not needed,” Birrell said. “And thats one of the reasons is the burden that it will put on our grandchildren and maybe our great-grandchildren.”

“I can’t support a 30-year tax, but it’ll be up to voters to decide and that’s the bottom line,” Birrell said.

However, Commissioner Monique Sheffield said that if it were not for public transit growing up in New York City, she would likely not have been able to attend college and understood the kind of impact a project like this could have for Cobb residents.

Chairwoman Lisa Cupid said she is supportive of the project’s transformative potential for the growing county.

Alongside the MSPLOST plan, the BOC approved a 2024 educational campaign totaling $187,000 for the MSPLOST projects.

The Board voted 3-2 for both the MSPLOST resolution and the educational campaign, with Gambrill and Birrell in opposition.

The Cumberland Community Improvement District and the Town Center Community Improvement District donated $100,000 in total to help fund the campaign that would provide town hall meetings, literature and other educational outlets.

After the votes for both MSPLOST items, the public spoke of their thoughts on the project.

Matthew Stigall of the Cobb County Transit Advisory Board thanked the BOC for getting the MSPLOST project approved.

“It is very clear that this county wants better transit and they want it now,” Stigall said.

He said this plan is an opportunity to help create a better and more comprehensive transit system across Cobb.

Gabriel Sanchez, a State House of Representative candidate for District 42 who supports the project, sees the project as a benefit for minorities who use the buses on a daily basis to get to and from work.

“I know that some people, some commissioners here, say that no one uses transit and that, you know, it won’t benefit anyone because no one uses it, but my community uses it,” Sanchez said. “And maybe they’re invisible to you, but I see them every day on Spring Road walking and riding the buses every day.”

Other residents, such as Tracy Stevenson, raised concerns over $10 billion project and want new solutions to public transit rather than using old systems like buses.

“A one percent sales tax, one percent for 30 years on every dollar you spend, does that make sense?” Stevenson said.

Caleb Groves is a Journalism student at Kennesaw State University, where he is a junior.

Originally from Minnesota, Caleb moved to Georgia with his family, where he now lives in Woodstock with his Father, Stepmom and numerous pets.

When he is not in writing, in class or coaching rock climbing, he spends his time listening to music and rock climbing both indoors and out