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Conference focusing on Georgia issues
0824GEORGIASrikanth Yamala
Srikanth Yamala

 A group of Georgia leaders plans to meet Wednesday in Macon for a conference on issues facing the state and possible solutions to pressing challenges.

Among those attending the first GeorgiaForward Forum will be Srikanth Yamala, transportation planning manager for the Gainesville-Hall Metropolitan Planning Organization.

He will participate in a five-member panel discussion of the state’s new 1-cent sales tax for transportation.

A new state law allows voters within established districts throughout Georgia to decide whether to add the sales tax to pay for transportation and transit improvements, from new roads to maintenance and operation.

Two representatives from each of the 13 counties, including Hall, in the Georgia Mountains Regional Commission now must form a regional transportation roundtable.

To proceed toward a 2012 vote on the tax, that group must hold its first meeting after Nov. 15 and decide on a final project list by Oct. 15, 2011.

Yamala has spoken to several groups, including the Joint Municipal Association in Hall County, on the matter.

“I think it’s a wonderful opportunity to be a part of (GeorgiaForward) and ... to share and learn from statewide leaders and professionals on several emerging issues, including transportation,” he said Monday.

Amir Farokhi, the forum’s coordinator, said, “This is an initiative that could have come out of a cross-section of Georgia.

“We’ll have folks from all around the state, from a variety of backgrounds and political stripes, who really see a need for a common vision for the state.”

A group known as Central Atlanta Progress was the forum’s brainchild, “but we’ve built a statewide steering committee and ... have traveled to seven Georgia cities to meet with leaders to get their input on what the state should look like,” Farokhi said.

On its website, GeorgiaForward gives examples of communities that “have crafted their own plans for the future,” citing Gainesville-Hall County’s Vision 2030 and Dahlonega’s downtown master plan.

Regional events