As Thomas "gluten-free" Wheatley and others noted earlier, Democrat Roy Barnes is running for governor.
Metro Atlantans have some good reasons to be excited about Barnes.
He's smart. He's experienced. He's won statewide office already.
And perhaps most importantly, he's more likely than anyone seeking the governorship to break the militant, city-hatin' Georgia GOP's chokehold on metro Atlanta.
But before we get our hopes up too much, let's remember: Barnes four-year governorship wasn't just bad. It was tragic.
Barnes began his governorship with astonishing promise.
From consumer-friendly healthcare reform, tax cuts, open-government rules, Roy had it goin' on.
The most impressive of his early accomplishments was the creation of the Georgia Regional Transportation Authority, a metro-wide agency that promised to at last impose sanity on Georgia's unsustainable, sprawling growth.
Here's what the Economist said in July 1999:
No other governor in the country has anything approaching [GRTA]but then few cities have built new roads with anything approaching Atlantas abandon.
Under the GRTA (widely translated as Give Roy Total Authority), Mr Barnes can exercise complete control over transport and development in the 20 counties that make up the Atlanta metropolitan area, as well as in any other part of the state that falls out of compliance with anti-pollution requirements. This bill also contains a political masterstroke: it gives the governor the right to veto actions by the state Department of Transportation, which has been a law unto itself for much of this century.
So what happened?
Like in any good tragedy, it was Barnes' strength that did him in. He over-reached.
He alienated Confederate fetishists by changing the state's slavery-glorifying flag. He alienated teachers' unions (an important part of the Democratic base) by fiddling with teacher tenure. His reputation for arrogance prompted opponents to plant sarcastic "King Roy" signs next to roads all over the state.
And he ended up blowing most of his transit-themed political capital on a mythical river of asphalt called the Northern Arc a proposed 55ish-mile highway that would have connected I-75 and I-85 between Cartersville and Buford.
Among the highway's many flaws: its final path was to be decided by government officials who secretly and semi-secretly owned land along the highway's proposed route.
The conflict of interest was so blatant and icky, it effectively killed the project. For their efforts, the two reporters for Atlanta Business Chronicle who revealed the filth to the public, Walter Woods and Sarah Rubenstein, earned the Atlanta Press Club's 2003 Journalist of Year award (beating out some jerk called Mara Shalhoup in the process).
In the end, the man who began his first term with more power to control state transit than any governor in the U.S. left office with his state every bit as congested and dysfunctional as he found it.
Barnes had the legal authority to wrench metro Atlanta's transit into shape. He had an electoral mandate to do it, a legislative coalition, and the money. He might as well have had a magic wand and fairy dust. He still blew it.
Adding injury to, well, injury, Barnes' political tone-deafness handed Sonny Perdue a winning political coalition.
Barnes says he's learned the importance of humility since his defeat. For the state's sake, I hope he has. It was his hubris that did so much damage to him, and us, the first time around.
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