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The Mega Millions jackpot, which has rolled over 26 times since July 27, jumped from $900 million to a record $1 billion ahead of Friday night’s historic drawing. RELATED: Mega Millions jackpot grows again, hitting $970 million Officials announced the news just before noon at a Mega Millions billboard on Central Avenue in southwest Atlanta. The hefty jackpot is luring all types of people to stores, kiosks and online to buy lottery tickets. “I want to take my chances winning this billion dollars like everybody else,” Jerry Floyd of Fayetteville said as he waited in line at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport to purchase his ticket. Atlanta resident Delaine Ross said she “never” plays the lottery, but decided to take the plunge Friday before flying out of the airport. If she wins the big prize, she said she would invest the money and “live off the interest.” Floyd has extensive plans, including setting up a college fund for young relatives. “I’m going to pay off my house that I live in now and buy another house,” he said. “I have a lot of nephews and nieces, six sisters, and I’ll make sure everybody has a secure future.” But most of all, Floyd said, “I want to live the life like other millionaires, billionaires.” Friday’s drawing can be viewed at 11 p.m. right before Channel 2 Action News Nightbeat.
A new poll suggests that, a few months before the county’s historic transit referendum, an important percentage of Gwinnett voters may still be undecided about MARTA. The poll conducted by Rosetta Stone Communications spoke with 450 Gwinnett residents who “traditionally vote in off-year elections” and would be likely to vote during the county’s stand-alone MARTA referendum in March, president John Garst said. About 44 percent of those polled said they would vote no on the referendum, while 40 percent said they would vote yes — a spread within the poll’s 4.6-point margin of error. Another 15 percent of voters said they were undecided. “It was not surprising to me,” Garst, who maintained that the poll was not commissioned by an outside party, told Channel 2 Action News. “People that are traditionally against something are a little more fervent than people that are for something. There’s definitely room for the campaign that will push the MARTA referendum to be able to get a lion’s share of that 15 percent of the vote that’s currently undecided.” Read the full results of Rosetta Stone Communications’ poll below. Gwinnett’s Board of Commissioners voted in August to approve a contract with MARTA that would, among other things, allow for the transit agency to stretch heavy rail into the county for the first time. An extension would likely be built from the existing Doraville station into the Jimmy Carter Boulevard/I-85 area. Plans suggest rail could eventually stretch from that new stop all the way to Gwinnett Place Mall. Other potential offerings include greatly expanded local bus service; more direct bus connections to the Atlanta, Emory University and Perimeter areas; and several bus rapid transit lines. It’s all dependent on voters approving the March referendum, which, if approved, would ratify the contract and allow the county to collect a new 1 percent sales tax to fund the projects over the next several decades. Other recent polls and surveys have suggested that a majority of Gwinnett — which has greatly diversified since the county’s last MARTA vote in 1990, and has also grown increasingly Democratic — could be in favor of transit expansion. Transit advocates, though, expressed new concerns after the Gwinnett commission voted to hold the referendum as a stand-alone referendum rather than during November’s general election. They fear it could stymie turnout. “My main take away from this poll is that we need to ensure that all voters have access to the facts about Gwinnett's transit plan and the contract that we have negotiated with MARTA,” said Gwinnett Commission Chairman Charlotte Nash, who was instrumental in the creation of state legislation that cleared the way for her county’s vote. “Many of the concerns expressed by respondents are addressed by the plan and the contract.” The largest concern expressed by voters polled by Rosetta Stone was perhaps unsurprising: increased crime. Such fears — which were expressed by 30 percent of the Gwinnett voters polled — have existed since the Atlanta area’s original MARTA discussions of the 1960s and ‘70s. Academic studies have generally found little or no correlation between public transit and crime, especially in suburban areas. Read the full results of Rosetta Stone Communications’ poll below.
The CEO of Norfolk Southern told employees Thursday the company is looking to consolidate its headquarters in Atlanta, “but only if many aspects can be resolved,” the Virginian-Pilot newspaper reported. Though the company had previously discussed a potential consolidation of its operations, the comments by CEO James Squires were the first formal acknowledgement of the railroad’s interest in a potential headquarters move from Norfolk, Va., to Atlanta. The remarks came the same day Atlanta City Council announced a special called meeting next week to consider a public financing package for the $5 billion redevelopment of downtown’s Gulch. Squires’ remarks and the scheduling of a Wednesday special council meeting added to the sense among some observers at Atlanta City Hall that a Gulch financing package, originally valued by the city at up to $1.75 billion, will ultimately receive City Council support. A deal for taxpayer-funded Gulch incentives is a crucial step in the complicated courtship of Norfolk Southern by state leaders and the city of Atlanta. Norfolk Southern owns key Gulch property that’s part of a complicated deal by developer CIM Group, which wants to build a mix of office towers, apartments, hotels and retail on 40 acres of lonely parking lots and railroad tracks between Mercedes-Benz Stadium and the Five Points MARTA station. Norfolk Southern wants to sell its land to help finance a new headquarters. The company is said to be interested in a parcel known as 3rd and Ponce in Midtown, where it would locate in a headquarters to be developed by Atlanta-based Cousins Properties. Tom Bell, a Norfolk Southern director, is the former CEO of Cousins. A unit of Cousins reportedly has the land near Bank of America Plaza under contract. Bert Brantley, a top economic development officer for the state of Georgia, said in recent weeks that the Norfolk Southern headquarters could create or relocate about 1,000 jobs to the city. Squires told employees the situation for Norfolk Southern goes beyond a possible sale of Gulch land, and also involves navigating the process to develop a new Atlanta headquarters. Squires said in a video address that a move to Atlanta “would involve construction of a new headquarters building, which would take about three years,” The Virginian-Pilot reported. Most of the Norfolk Southern employees who might be moved wouldn’t relocate to Atlanta until summer 2021, the paper reported Squires as saying, but some could start the transition next summer. Squires told employees that he hoped to have a resolution in 30 to 45 days, the newspaper reported. 'We will be better as a team if we are together in one place,' Squires told employees according to the Virginian-Pilot. 'I've believed that for a long time.' In an interview this month, Norfolk Mayor Kenny Alexander said his city won’t get into a bidding war for the railroad company, and he said Atlanta’s City Council should not feel pressured to make a deal because of any fear of a Norfolk counter-offer. The Fortune 500 railroad has deep ties to Atlanta and has more jobs in Georgia than in its home state of Virginia. The company recently expanded its operations center in Midtown. CIM, meanwhile, bought the former Norfolk Southern office complex on the southern end of the Gulch and is currently converting the buildings into loft apartments. City Council President Felicia Moore on Thursday OK’d the special council meeting for Wednesday, but wrote in a memo that she has “great concern” about including such important legislation on the agenda when the council hasn’t seen the new proposal. Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms is pushing for a Wednesday vote, but several council members said this week they want time to review any future deal terms before making a final decision. If council isn’t ready to vote Wednesday, the matter could come before the body at its next regularly scheduled meeting on Nov. 5. Parts of the Gulch deal were believed to still be under negotiation late Thursday, but the call for a special meeting signals the core pieces of the proposal are set. The city and California-based CIM originally proposed a public financing package of up to $1.75 billion in bonds backed by two future tax revenue streams. One would come from a portion of future sales taxes created on the Gulch property, while the other would involve future property tax revenue created by the development. The proposal also contains commitments for affordable housing, job training and an economic development fund. But critics say the public benefits aren’t commensurate with the taxpayer support. The council twice balked at the original deal, sending Bottoms and CIM back to the drawing board. On Monday, the city and CIM scrapped a controversial provision that would have extended property tax collections in a special taxing district through 2048. The Westside Tax Allocation District, instead, will help fund the project through 2038. The TAD extension had been fiercely opposed by some council members and by Atlanta Public Schools, which also would have had to approve the extension. The proposal also will rely on bonds supported by five cents of the local 8.9-cent sales tax created in the Gulch area for the next 30 years.