A couple of days ago, 11Alive did a story on the new rainbow crosswalks at 10th and Piedmont, asking Atlanta taxpayers if they thought the changes were worth the $196,000 price tag.
Since then, we've gotten a lot of feedback on the story. At 11Alive, we hold the powerful accountable. But we also hold ourselves accountable.
On Wednesday, 11Alive asked in a poll on our Facebook page whether taxpayers thought the crosswalks, located in the heart of Midtown, were worth the price. As of 11 p.m. on the same night the story aired, about 4,100 people had cast a vote, with 77 percent of voters responding with a "no" verses 23 percent saying "yes."
As of 9:30 p.m. Friday, almost 14,000 people had cast a vote. The gap closed some, with 67 percent of viewers still voting "no" and 33 percent voting "yes."
Rainbow crosswalks | Was it worth the price tag?
Our report about the latest addition to what's considered the heart of the gay community sparked a debate among our viewers, and after the story we received several viewer emails. One of those was from Richard who called our report "intentionally inflammatory and biased." In another, Greg wrote, "You turned something Mayor Reed should be commended for into a tainted, ugly scandal."
So we're setting the record straight. From the beginning, our story was always intended to follow the money -- was the hundreds-of-thousands in taxpayer money spent wisely? So, we're following up our other reports by taking a deeper look at the cost.
The total for the improvements this time around was $196,000.
Some viewers thought the July 1 job was simply paint rolled down on top of the street, as was the case for a temporary installation two years ago for Atlanta Pride Week. In that instance, the crosswalk was paid for by private donations from the community and cost between $5,000 to $7,000, according to a 2015 letter shared from the Department of Public Works. That's well short of the almost 200 grand this time around.
With this latest, permanent installation, taxpayer money was used to lay down thermoplastic panels that are supposed to last 10 years before requiring any heavy maintenance. Those details were reported in all of our stories. Further, as part of the deal, which was wrapped into a previous deal with repaving contractors, the city got one year of free maintenance.
And while the crosswalks did cost $196,000 to install, it included the milling and resurfacing of the intersection (but not sidewalks). Overall, that total cost actually equates to three-tenths of 1 percent of the city's transportation budget.
Viewer Greg also wanted to hear from Mayor Kasim Reed, who wasn't in our original story, so we spoke to him Friday afternoon.
"So much of the noise around this issue really makes the point of exactly why we needed to do it, because we need to acknowledge this community and embrace this community," Reed said during the interview. "We do so many things for so many other constituencies, and I felt that this was the right thing to do."
As for viewers questioning whether the money could have gone toward other services, like education, Mayor Reed pointed out that the two budgets -- education and transportation -- are totally different and it would be impossible to use money allocated for transportation towards education.
PHOTOS | Rainbow crosswalk in Midtown Atlanta
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