by Bob Geary
It's been three years since the General Assembly passed the bill allowing voters in Wake, Durham and Orange counties to decide whether they want to build a public transit system, i.e., add a 1/2-cent sales tax for transit in their respective counties.
Durham voters approved the 1/2-cent tax last year. The vote in the referendum was lopsided in favor.
Orange hasn't voted yet, but the Orange commissioners are expected to put the question on the ballot this year.
And then there's Wake.
Wake hasn't voted, and unless the solid bloc of Republicans (Chairman Paul Coble & Co.) opposed to letting us vote cracks a little, we're not going to be allowed to vote this year ...
... and we probably won't be allowed to vote next year either, because next year is ticketed for a much-needed Wake schools bond referendum.
This is, quite simply, not acceptable. The Republicans who control the Wake Board of Commissioners don't have to be in favor of transit. They can put the question on the ballot this year and urge everyone to vote no if they like. (They had no trouble urging everybody to vote yes on the Amendment One question; fortunately, 57 percent of Wake voters disagreed with them.) But by blocking a vote, they're thwarting the public will — and the law.
And by the way, Durham's tax isn't effective until a second county OK's it too. (That's the law.) But if Durham and Orange approve the tax and Wake doesn't, stay tuned for progress on a light-rail line from Chapel Hill to Durham, and a modern bus system in the western part of the Triangle, leaving CAry, Raleigh and points east to choke on our cars and overpriced gasoline fumes.
So today, WakeUP Wake County, the good government group, is out with a poll showing strong support in the electorate for transit and for a transit tax — and WakeUP is calling on the Wake Commissioners to get out of the way and let the voters decide. Here's their piece:
Poll Shows Strong Support for Wake Transit Plan and Half Cent Sales Tax
Wake voters would support the Wake transit plan and a half cent sales tax to pay for an expanded transit system of bus and rail, according to a recent poll commissioned by WakeUP Wake County. Of those polled, 66% support a proposed plan to double bus service, add bus shelters, create commuter rail between Wake and Durham Counties, and initiate steps for light rail. Sixty percent said they would be willing to pay a half cent sales tax increase to pay for this new transit system.
What’s more, Wake voters appear ready to vote on this sales tax for transit this November with 59% strongly supporting having the opportunity to vote this November on a ballot question of dedicating the half-cent sale tax to transit and an additional 19% would somewhat support this action. Durham County voters approved this transit tax by 60% last November, and Orange County Commissioners are strongly considering putting this same measure on their ballot this November. Approval by Orange and Wake County would have a very positive impact on moving the Triangle forward in efforts to improve transportation options.
“What this poll demonstrates is that once people learn what’s in the transit proposal, they are willing to pay for it,” said Ross Massey, engineer and WakeUP Wake County Board Member and Transportation & Land Use Team Leader. “The poll tells us that support for transit is strong and that Wake citizens understand transit is good for economic development and growth planning. This is especially true for our younger citizens; 76% of those aged 18-29 supported the sales tax for transit. With gas prices high and population due to double, now is the time to move forward. Because 2012 is a presidential election year, voter turnout will be higher than usual allowing a strong and vibrant view of the true will of Wake County citizens," Massey added.
The poll was a survey of 644 Wake voters contacted between May 18-20. Public Policy Polling (PPP) conducted the poll. PPP’s polls on the Wake school board elections last year proved to be accurate assessments of the voters’ actions.