However, a recent Atlanta Regional Commission traffic study predicts the transportation projects would mean an 18 percent improvement in traffic congestion for drivers heading toward the Cumberland district, with 117,000 more drivers being able to reach jobs in that area within 45 minutes, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution has reported.
Lee, one of Cobb's leaders on the roundtable, maintains that by changing the project, it made the list stronger for the region and county. Some of the money from the $1.2 billion rail plan was reallocated to road projects, leaving $689 million for the bus line. A Cobb rail line still could be built if other funding, such as federal grants, becomes available.
Still, the backlash against Lee has been nonstop. He has been dinged on one side by all three announced candidates for his seat — which is on the same July 31 ballot — who have come out against the tax plan. His most formidable opponent, former Chairman Bill Byrne, has made Lee's support a key part of his campaign strategy. And on the other side, the Sierra Club, a proponent of transit and rail, has been critical of Cobb's change of plans on the rail line, putting it on the same side as tea party groups and other conservatives in this fight.
"I think you hear more from Cobb because of the arguments that have gone on between Lee and the activists," said Gwinnett resident Julianne Thompson, state coordinator of the Tea Party Patriots and co-organizer of the Atlanta Tea Party.
For example, in a meeting with a resident advocacy group, Lee called residents who didn't want light rail in the county "spoiled brats." Lee later apologized, and refused to talk further about the comment, but the damage was done.
Despite the opposition, Lee thinks the referendum still has a chance of passing.
"Since we have high voter turnout, overall it will play an important part of the overall vote," he said. Cobb's registered active voters are 17.3 percent of the region's 2.26 million. County turnout for the March presidential primary was 25 percent; last year's local SPLOST vote netted 11 percent turnout. "But, I believe that if it's strong in other counties, it can overcome a possible Cobb defeat."
A Rosetta Stone Communications poll conducted this week for Channel 2 Action News sampled 850 people likely to vote in the July 31 primary. The poll found voters in DeKalb and Fulton counties supported the tax 52 percent to 33 percent. But in the other eight counties, including Cobb, it was opposed by a 20-point margin. The poll, which had a 3-point margin of error, did not break out Cobb data.
A separate poll of 600 likely voters conducted for a pro-referendum group this month found that the support in the suburbs was about 52 percent.
The opponents in Cobb know that their fight isn't just about the votes of one county, but those of a region.