Rep. Jill Chambers will be giving up her job as MARTA’s top watchdog after losing in Tuesday’s election by about 275 votes. As chair of the MARTA Oversight Committee, Chambers had questioned the transit agency’s spending on lobbyists, pay raises, consultants, fitness equipment for employees, intricate bond deals and much more. And that was all before lunchtime.
MARTA’s risky venture into complicated leaseback transactions with insurance giant AIG and others has turned a $15 million profit, at least so far, state auditors said today. Dozens of U.S. transit agencies took part in the leaseback deals, which offered a profit for MARTA and a tax shelter for the investors. The deals seemed safe until AIG lost its AAA credit rating a year ago, leaving MARTA on the line to pay termination fees that could have totaled hundreds of millions of dollars.
Ever wonder why MARTA’s rail line doesn’t run near the Atlanta baseball stadium where tens of thousands of fans gather 81 times a year? Me too. Now, as my pals at Atlanta Unsheltered reported yesterday, MARTA is in early discussions with a private firm about using magnetic levitation trains to shuttle Braves fans to home games.
MARTA’s general manager and its chief legislative overseer locked horns today over the transit agency’s plan to spend up to $400,000 on outside lobbyists. Then, state Rep. Jill Chambers butted heads with a member of her MARTA Oversight Committee. Chambers grilled MARTA officials this morning about several million dollars in spending that she regarded as unnecessary. When Sen. Doug Stoner objected to her tone, Chambers cut off his microphone. “I’m very disappointed in us as a committee,” Stoner said. “We’re playing games.”