Spring 2001, p.2

Suburbanator

The Korean War Veteran stares out from the television screen, an American flag waving behind him. "Environmentalists are telling us how to live our lives...preventing us from driving cars, and forcing us to live downtown," he says. "In America, these are still personal choices. "Tyranny didn't win in South Korea," he concludes. "Don't let it get a foothold here."

The message, brought to you by the Georgia Highway Contractors Association, began airing on metro Atlanta television stations last week. Similar messages have been airing for months across the country, as cities turn their attention to building mass transit to comply with the federal Clean Air Act, frustrating road builders, who have seen a decline in demand for their services. In metro Atlanta, as in other cities, the focus of the attacks is environmental groups, such as the Sierra Club, which have sued to prevent road-building plans from moving forward.

"We just want to try to wake up the citizens of Georgia to let them know certain groups are influencing public policy that affects their lives," said Therol Brown, executive director of the Georgia Highway Contractors Association. "If people don't want to drive automobiles, fine - but that's a people choice. Don't let it be forced on people by public policy."

The situation is not unique to Georgia. The American Road & Transportation Builders Association has formed a legal advocacy group, the Advocates for Safe & Efficient Transportation, to address the proliferation of lawsuits filed by environmental groups against cities and states over air quality issues. The role of the group is to present the views of the road builders to the courts when the cases are heard. The demand for advertisements like those that are running in Atlanta has soared, said David Finley, executive vice president of TRIAD Inc., the Columbus, Ohio, company that produced them.

TRIAD Inc. has also created a cartoon character that it sells to organizations to use in their ads. "America's Lifestyle Police," the Suburbanator, goes into suburban communities taking away residents' cars and making them move into the city. An ad for the Tennessee Smart Growth Alliance shows the Suburbanator, in his state police-style hat, holding a tiny car and pointing. "I want YOU out of your car," the ad reads. In one cartoon strip, he confiscates a family's car, forces them to move into a downtown high-rise and converts their former suburban home into a goat farm.
"We have an industry that has never done much at all to promote itself," Finley said. "Now there are forces out there that are forcing the industry to (advertise)." It is the first time in Georgia that the contractors - idled in metro Atlanta when the worsening state of the city's air prompted a ban on federal roadbuilding money three years ago - have publicly denounced the environmental groups' action. Brown said it's something the group talked about doing - and should have done - more than a year ago, when regional planners were putting together a transportation plan that got the federal money flowing again by focusing heavily on transit instead of roads. "We think very, very strongly that additional highways are a part of congestion mitigation," Brown said. "Additional cars on the road dictate you have additional capacity."
The heavy emphasis on mass transit was prompted in part by the environmental groups, which twice filed suits against federal and state government officials to stop road projects from moving forward. They still believe the transportation plan puts too much emphasis on roads, and filed a third suit in February.

By Kelly Simmons, Atlanta Journal-Constitution Staff Writer
Article "Pro-road TV ads tar environmentalists as tyrants" from
www.accessatlanta.com/partners/ajc/newsatlanta/ads0318.html
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, March 18th, 2001

Provocateur is an exploration of ideas related to cycling, walking, or the impact of car culture on how we live. It is intended to provoke indignation, reflection and just plain thought. Provocateur does not reflect the official position of transportation alternatives.

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