Sunday, April 17, 2005

Terrific Tom, Leaves No Stone Unturned


I just got off the phone after chatting with one of this blog's readers, Tom Marney. He was so kind as to send a url which was written by a friend of his, Doug Monroe, freelance reporter and writer in Atlanta, GA.

Faith Based Commuting

I saw in the paper the other day that Gov. Sonny Perdue has signed a resolution forming a "task force" that will "try to reduce traffic congestion" in metro Atlanta.

What a great idea!

I had just noticed that traffic was getting really bad, so I was relieved that some of our most visionary leaders, including a golf course developer, are going to "develop standards for selecting transportation projects" for the region.

Right on, dudes! Just in the nick of time! Who knows, without this kind of timely intervention by our transportation brain trust, traffic here might get so bad that we'd rank in the nation's top five most congested cities!

Oh, wait. We're already there.

This article is very funny and a good read, here is a little more:

After I stopped laughing about the formation of another traffic task force, I called the one guy in town who could share my mirth: Tom Marney, a citizen savant from Lawrenceville.Marney was just an average guy who worked in the mud in the construction industry until 4 p.m. on April 14, 1994, when he was looking at the DOT's plans for widening I-85 for the Sugarloaf development. He had an epiphany. He realized the state had run amok with its plans to build highways beside highways, roads beyond roads, 14-lane freeways, bridges and ramps, forever and ever.

Marney went to war. He haunted meetings of the ARC, the Gwinnett County Commission or any other agency at which officials planned roads. He helped defeat a road sales tax in Gwinnett in 1995. He joined the successful fight against the Northern Arc. He served on two task forces at the ARC.

In 2002, he wrote a monster report - 5,367 words long - that explained how the lack of land-use planning and impact fees has condemned Gwinnett County to "eternally worsening traffic congestion."

Here is a man after my own heart! Give him a word processor and off he goes! To the moon, Alice!

"Marney," I said. "They're doing it again." We had a good laugh. Marney and I are both burned out about traffic - it's kind of sad, really. He now contributes comments to blogs about America's impending economic train wreck. He dropped by CL for a visit and we chatted about the congestion mitigation task force, for old times' sake.

"They're not studying the right thing," Marney said. He read the story in the paper about the new task force. He looked up and said, "Gradually it hits you. It's not going to change, is it?"

After a decade of activism in Atlanta's transportation world, Marney has this to say: "The biggest thing that's changed is that so little is getting done."

A few minutes after he left, he called on his cell phone. The DOT was running a ramp meter test on the Downtown Connector. Traffic was stopped cold. Marney was trapped.

"Karma fairy, please kick my ass!" he shouted into the phone.

Indeed, Tom is a fun person in person. He has an enchanting background, too. His wife's grannie is one of the people who the Firefox project talked to, being a treasure trove all to herself of how to live, pre oil era. She came from classic "mountain people" stock, the sturdy folk who made America what it is today.

I asked Tom if his 5000+ opus caused any stir.

"Seems like I stepped on some toes," he said somewhat sardonically. He explained that the study wasn't a statistical study of how sprawl happens, it was a political document that explained the process and who benefitted from it and other money matters, this is really dangerous rock turning.

I grew up in Arizona. You turn over a rock and you can get bitten by something nasty and poisonous!

"They did try to get me fired," he admitted. "My boss is an ex cop and the told them where to go". Heh. With choice colorful words, too, I bet!

This report was supposed to be secret, not for public consumption but evidently after a rather public blow-out, it wasn't so secret anymore. Maybe Tom should go to the IMF and get them to hire him, they claim they are seeking "openess".

(Added this in the morning) One of the nice things about a blog is the "edit" option. Since I am the editor, I can correct myself. After interviewing Tom, as a courtesy as well as for clarity, I told him to email me any corrections. Here is his email:

The report wasn't secret, though. Far from it; I actually wrote it at the
request of an activist group to submit to Governor Perdue. What the bad guys
tried to get me fired over might have been on general principles or might
have been over one or more specific instances (the most likely being my work
toward filing an amicus brief explaining that the chair of my local county
commission had sworn a false affadavit to a federal court, which is a
no-no). Anyway, the almost-got-fired incident happened in 2000; the big
report wasn't written until 2002.

One thing that steams most people who are interviewed by reporters is the ability to correct things. I know it always annoyed me!---back to the interview....

Tom is a very interesting person, a man with strong opinions and a strong mind. He feels we are not at the Hubbert Oil Peak just yet but he also understands, working for tomorrow means working today. No time to shilly shally, shall we? He is very modest, being "but" a builder and a craftsman.

I would say, he is our hope for the future. And I hope to hear more from him in the future.

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