Saturday, December 31, 2011

DeKalb vs Brookhaven vs PCID vs Dunwoody

A recent article in the Dunwoody Crier discussed the issue of the expansion of Dunwoody.  In question is some land InsideThePerimeter (ITP).  Imagine driving past the Perimeter Mall (where valet parking for any spot within 100 yards of an entrance is the norm) and continuing south, over '285' toward Marist and Murphy Candler Park.  Once you cross 285 you are no longer in Dunwoody city limits, but still in DeKalb County. Once across 285 on your right is Perimeter Summit, part of an area some people want Dunwoody to claim as its own.

This area is what is now referred to as unincorporated DeKalb, aka Brookhaven, to some.

Like their neighbors to the north, many in this area want a city of their own - a city to be called Brookhaven.  Like Dunwoody and other cities, Brookhaven needs a decent commercial tax base to exist.  A study has been conducted for Brookhaven, and it indicates it's possible for Brookhaven to exist as a city, without a huge tax increase for its homeowners (city studies rarely mention the financial impact of businesses because businesses don't vote with the traditional ballot in a voting booth).

The northern border for the proposed City of Brookhaven would mate with Dunwoody's southern border ('285').  Back to the article in the Dunwoody Crier - the article says a Dunwoody resident was attempting to convince city leaders that Dunwoody should expand south, picking up parts of the potential new Brookhaven.  Although no official lines or plans were floated about, the main area for acquisition would be Lake Hearn / Perimeter Summit area. If Dunwoody were to annex the business district just inside 285, it would change the financial viability of a City of Brookhaven.

The way something like this (annexation) should take place is the owner(s) of Lake Hearn / Perimeter Summit should approach the City of Dunwoody.  No surrogate should be used.  If you own property bordering Dunwoody and you are in unincorporated DeKalb, step forward and meet with our council, mayor, and city staff.  But on your way to city hall, speak to your State reps (Taylor and Jacobs and Millar).

An important part of the Brookhaven / Dunwoody discussion is our PCID  (Perimeter Community Improvement District).  the PCID is a very successful business district.  It currently resides partly in Sandy Springs, Dunwoody, and unincorporated DeKalb County.  If things play out as some expect, the PCID will be partly in the City of Brookhaven in a year or two (still part of DeKalb County, but following the rules of Brookhaven). The PCID spokesperson makes it very clear in The Crier article that they are neutral on the Brookhaven issue. The PCID was also allegedly neutral when Dunwoody was created.  But this is not the first time we've heard discussions on the non-Dunwoody part of the PCID being discussed as an annexation target for Dunwoody.  Did any council managers or city staff have discussions with the PCID prior to our recent elections?  I think there may have been some off-the-record discussions on this issue, but I doubt you'll find anyone willing to admit it now.

Why would Lake Hearn / Perimeter Summit owners want to be part of Dunwoody instead of Brookhaven or unincorporated DeKalb?  Dunwoody is an established, proven government body, one that has its own police department, and has not increased taxes (like DeKalb has done). Being part of Dunwoody makes joint ventures with other PCID companies easier as the PCID would be coordinating efforts with two governments (Dunwoody and Sandy Springs only). 

Is being part of Dunwoody more prestigious than being part of a future City of Brookhaven?  I don't think so (we're not talking about an issue like the Smyrna/Vinings/Atlanta address issue). The only thing that separates Dunwoody from Brookhaven is ten lanes of asphalt, nothing more, nothing less.

So I don't think property owners have a big issue with being in Brookhaven or Dunwoody, as long as Brookhaven would keep taxes at a current or lower rate than today's rates.

So who wants Dunwoody to annex the businesses inside 285 (the PCID area)?  DeKalb County is your answer.  What, DeKalb?  But DeKalb fought tooth and nail to stop a City of Dunwoody.  Why would they want Dunwoody to expand?  It's because DeKalb lost that Dunwoody fight; now they want to win the Brookhaven fight.  By convincing Dunwoody to annex some high-end commercial properties, it makes the City of Brookhaven less viable financially.  DeKalb County does not want a City of Brookhaven and would rather see its northern most City of Dunwoody expand than allow residents of 'Brookhaven' become a city.

How does Dunwoody benefit from annexing?  Well, that depends on how big of a bite you take.  If you simply cherry-pick the businesses just inside 285 and ignore the residential, it would be a financial boost to the city.  We could bring in close to $1 million in taxes yet provide far less than $1 million in services.  As long as the city stayed clear of the Nancy Creek infrastructure (our storm-water infrastructure in Dunwoody is a huge, hidden expense waiting to suck tax payer funds into the water basin, something we should have let DeKalb maintain, but that's another story) an annexation of select areas could be a wise financial move.  But politically, it would be an unwise decision.

There is a strong movement underway for a City of Brookhaven and Dunwoody should stay out of the way.  Let the process run its course. If voters reject the idea soundly, with no chance of a second effort, then maybe Dunwoody does an analysis (if that is the desire of the property owners in the PCID not currently in Dunwoody).

What about Dunwoody expanding all the way to Murphy Candler Park, picking up all the neighborhoods all the way to Chamblee?  What about Dunwoody going all the way to Blackburn Park?  I don't see this in Dunwoody' future.  The storm-water liability and the additional expense of servicing that entire area would most likely be revenue neutral (after adding their tax dollars).  Looking at annexation from the business viewpoint, it does not make sense to annex (bring on additional "customers") unless it is profitable.

So how will this all play out?  I expect the Brookhaven movement to be successful.  I think a homeowner in Brookhaven will pay more in taxes (percentage) than a Dunwoody homeowner, but homeowners will look deeper than the costs.  If the Brookhaven movement does fail, then having Dunwoody annex the unincorporated part of the PCID (without residential tagging along) may make sense for Dunwoody.  I don't see voters in Dunwoody wanting to add more residents to our city.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Dunwoody Mayor and City Council Changes

Many thanks to outgoing Mayor Ken Wright, Councilman Danny Ross, and Councilman Robert Wittenstein.  These three gentlemen have put in a lot of time and effort into our city the past three years.  If you see one of them out and about be sure to give them your thanks.

How will those who have regularly followed local politics remember these three?

Danny Ross:  I'll always remember Danny for his creative videos.  He had one final video at his last meeting.  Danny will also be remembered for his fight to stay with DeKalb 911 and for his efforts to bring the GA Music Hall of Fame to Dunwoody. I recall Danny first discussing the need for an economic development position in the city, something we now have thanks to his efforts. Danny is very dedicated to preserving the history of Dunwoody.  Perhaps he'll be named as an honorary historian of Dunwoody.

Robert Wittenstein:  Of all the council members I'd say Robert, in most cases, did the most thorough job of researching an issue.  He'd look at something from all angles and out loud, talk things through to make sure his fellow council members and the residents understood something.

Ken Wright:  Ken always attempted to get a consensus on council, bringing together east and west, and north and south.  He was always fair and up-front on every issue.  No sneaky agendas, no groups he was trying to please.  He was a great first mayor of Dunwoody.  With two young children and a business to manage, Ken wore three or four hats the past several years.  He remained dedicated to the city until the very end and deserves the appreciation of Dunwoody residents.

Three new faces take positions in January and I expect little change in day to day city operations at first.  As the new members get comfortable in their new roles and acclimate themselves to being a public figure I think we'll see some good things being done in Dunwoody.  I hope the three new members do a great job on council - they have some tough acts to follow.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Dunwoody CVB Budget 2012

The council will vote tonight on the new CVB (Convention and Visitors Bureau) budget.  In summary, our city chose to have a CVB, so we have a CVB.  A hotel tax  is in place for every hotel room booked in Dunwoody (five hotels).  That tax money is split between the city's bank account (approx $1 million a year) and the Dunwoody Convention and Visitors Bureau.  A goal of the tax (and of the CVB) is to promote Dunwoody attractions so more people visit Dunwoody. 

Advertising is one known way to promote a product.  most companies advertise their products (Coca Cola, UPS, Mellow Mushroom, Chia pet, etc.)  Cities also promote themselves.  New York, Las Vegas, Orlando, San Francisco, Dunwoody, Chamblee, Smyrna, all of them.  Most cities have a CVB.  In summary, a CVB is an extension of a local government, trying to attract more tax dollars so it can remain in existence, and even grow its footprint.  Tax dollars and politicians created the CVB, and it needs both to continue.

Prior to a City of Dunwoody CVB, who did the promotion (and who received the tax dollars) for Dunwoody?  It was the DeKalb County DCVB. Our hotels no longer pay the room tax to the DeKalb DCVB, thus when you look at that site's suggestions for hotels in north DeKalb and Perimeter Mall area, they neglect to mention Dunwoody's five hotels.  Perhaps our CVB should replace the rotating image of Stone Mountain with a photo of something here in Dunwoody.

Private business are ultimately responsible for promoting themselves - it's not the role of government to promote privately owned hotels and restaurants.   The State of Georgia has specific language on how a CVB has to operate.  I think many are of the opinion that we have a CVB because we can. If do not have a CVB, then the hotel tax goes to DeKalb instead of Dunwoody. 

Major changes for the CVB include a move to a new location at the fancy address of Two Ravinia Drive.  Rent increases from $1,629 a month to $3,258 a month.  Should the CVB be down in the business district or in da' Vill or Georgetown?

The largest monthly expenses for the CVB include $15,000 a month for advertising, $40,000 a year in graphic design, and $5,000 a month for their web site.  I think the goal of the web site is to promote local shopping, hotels, and events.

Using Mozilla Firefox browser and Google search engine, a Dunwoody Talk intern did a Smart search on some local things.  Each search was prefaced with "Dunwoody GA" or "Dunwoody"
Items marked with * indicate is was first listing on page 1 of search.  The number in each column indicates how many first page hits were displayed. I'm sure results vary daily.  Different browsers, different search engines, etc.

The newspapers are listed for reference only.  The papers lead when searching local news for Dunwoody.  I suggest the CVB get a Blogger account and have a blog -  a blog that is updated at least three times a week.  Blogs create a lot more front page hits than does Facebook.

Our CVB is here to stay.  I hope they do an excellent job in promoting Dunwoody and its businesses.  I'd rather have a Dunwoody CVB than a much a larger DeKalb CVB promoting our locale.

Monday, December 5, 2011

New Track for Peachtree, Water Pump Station for Dunwoody

Hey kids and parents, no need to text Clorox for a new track.  This summer a new track will be built at Peachtree Charter Middle School, thanks to our local school board representative Nancy Jester and the school board. Many people have been working to get this done for years, and it looks like it's a done deal.  The first time I met our new superintendent, at one of her fire-side chats at Dunwoody High School, I asked her when PCMS would get a new track.  I also asked that question of Barbara Coleman (former DeKalb Schools construction chief who left suddenly) last month at last month's DHA meeting.  And many others have been pushing for this to take place. I suggest you send a note of thanks to our new superintendent and school board members.

In other local news related to DeKalb schools, the school system sold a chunk of their property on Chamblee Dunwoody Road.  The .33 acre chunk will be home to a soccer field owner-occupied condo single family home DeKalb County water pump station.  This property is zoned for residential (not multi family) so I am not sure what this does to the value of the property.  I doubt it increases the value, but any home built there should have excellent water pressure.

Vanderlyn Art Club at Village Burger

The Vanderlyn art teacher, quite a talent, brought the school's art club to Village Burger on Saturday to do some window painting.  Stop by for a burger (or salad) and view the paintings.

Vote Tuesday

New Year's Eve 2011 2012

Ring in the New Year with the Bad Neighbors band at the Dunwoody Tavern

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Light Up Dunwoody 2011

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

AirTran Go Magazine

The Friday before the election I caught a red-eye flight from Phoenix, AZ to Atlanta, GA.  Prior to nodding off for a couple of hours I flipped through the inflight magazine. You can see an online version HERE and there is a place to download the issue.
Dunwoody CVB advertisement

This month's issue has a special advertising section on Atlanta.  Our own CVB has a 1/4 page ad and the PCID has a full page ad plus two pages of text.  Pick up the free electronic issue and check it out. If you want my hard copy let me know before the men in the yellow and white truck show up to take away the contents of my blue tub.

There is an informative piece on page 30 by a guy named Frank Ski.  He informs readers of the ATL's "hottest hip-hop haunts to show you where to ball with the best of them".  Spoiler Alert:  The Dunwoody Tavern did not make the list.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Atlantis Natural Foods

A Message From: 

Atlantis Natural Foods

My Uncle was a pioneer in the health food industry and brought health foods to Dunwoody in the early 70's.I grew up in Dunwoody, went to college and lo and behold came back to Dunwoody to live my dream and run the family business.. I started working at Atlantis in the 80's and purchased the family business in 1997.
After being in the Mt Vernon Center for 22 years,  Atlantis has recently relocated to the Williamsburg at Dunwoody shopping center at the intersection  of Jett Ferrry and Mt Vernon Rd.
Atlantis Natural Foods is still in business and ready to assist Dunwoody in staying healthy and fit.
Atlantis offers the largest Gluten -Free and allergy food selection on the north end of town, plus loving aspects to the best of one's health.
Jeanine EB Winbvorn,  proud owner of Atlantis Natural Foods- Dunwoody,Ga    

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Election Results 2011

Thanks for the support during the 2011 Dunwoody campaign.  Looks like I will be able to stay home and watch Monday Night Football the next four years.  Running for office was a special experience.  Hopefully I was able to bring a few issues to the table that would not have been discussed had I not entered the race.

I wish much success to the new mayor and council, whomever they shall be.

Rick Callihan

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Where is Dunwoody's $7 Million for Brook Run?

DeKalb spends $40M in bond money on green space

WSB TV has an interesting story on the use of parks money. Dunwoody should have had 'our' parks a year earlier than we did, but that's another story.

Channel 2 Action News has learned Dekalb County's cash shortage was so severe last year that county officials spent $40 million in money designated for green space projects.
Dekalb's chief financial officer told Channel 2's Richard Belcher it was a mistake that won't be repeated, but county commissioners aren't happy.
Nothing was stolen, but there is no disputing that bond money should not have been spent on county operations. One county commissioner even calls it illegal. Either way, it's a clear measure of just how cash-strapped the county had gotten.
Dekalb County produced a video about its parks and green space program paid for by bond money voters approved in 2001 and in 2006 -- nearly a quarter of a billion dollars borrowed for those specific purposes -- and nothing else.
But last year, the county said it discovered that $40 million in bond money had been improperly spent. DeKalb CFO Joel Gottlieb said he stopped the improper spending as soon as he discovered it.
“It was an inadvertent mistake and unavoidable, but now, it will be corrected and not repeated,” Gottlieb told Belcher.
Gottlieb said the problem arose because DeKalb County pooled all of its funds in a single, state-managed account. When the county's cash flow problems went from bad to worse last year, bond money that should been kept entirely separate was mistakenly used for salaries and other routine operating expenses.
Critics said the mistake is not trivial.
“The administration has been working on it, but we don't believe it's sufficient,” said County Commissioner Lee May.
May is chair of the county commission's finance committee and a regular critic of CEO Burrell Ellis.
“We've got to have segregated accounts so that when the public says, ‘How much is in the parks bond fund?’ or whatever fund we're looking at, that we can tell them exactly what the dollar amount is,” May said.
It isn't clear exactly who authorized the series of decisions that resulted in DeKalb spending $40 million in bond money on county operations. But Gottlieb said accounts are now set up in such a way that it will not happen again.

Friday, October 28, 2011

DeKalb's Superintendent Dr Atkinson Visits Dunwoody

As advertised, new DeKalb Schools superintendent showed up at Dunwoody High School and listened to questions and comments from the audience.  To be fair, she has only been on the job for a month or so, so she's not really equipped to answer all questions.  Overall she came across as a pleasant person. I hope she is a person who can improve our school system. I've seen lots of PR type things lately from the school board, but actions speak louder than words.  Let's see her on the job performance for a year prior to approving a SPLOST.

I'd say about 125 people showed up, maybe half were from Dunwoody.  The crowd was a mix from many areas of the county, and brought up a wide range of issues from cell towers to bus routes to magnet schools.  Attend enough school meetings and you will always find parents of kids in the magnet program (Kittredge and Chamblee) hanging around.

I was second to the microphone and asked a very direct question:

Cedar Grove recently received funding for an ‘emergency’ track replacement, costing nearly $400,000 dollars.  The Peachtree Middle track was damaged by contractors during its rebuild several years ago, and I consider it a bigger emergency than Cedar Grove.  When can Dunwoody residents expect an emergency replacement? 
That's right, while we are having our kids text or click links for Clorox ( Dunwoody School Daze ) to try and get a track, someone at the school system sneaks in funding for "emergency' repairs at Cedar Grove.  How about the Peachtree Middle School track?  The track at Peachtree is just as much an emergency as Cedar Grove, right? Yet another reason to vote NO on SPLOST.

See the link HERE:  Go to page 35 (last page)
Notification of Emergency Purchases
752.00469                   Hellas Construction, Inc.
The current PE track has aged and deteriorated to the point of being potentially dangerous to the health and safety of the students. Remove the existing asphalt PE track and replace with new rubberized track surfacing on manufacturers' approved base.

Total $ 380,188.00

Coralwood, serving about 200 kids, is receiving a new $10 million dollar wing.  That $10 million was originally set to replace and repair tracks across the county.  But some power broker pushed the Coralwood project.  Yet another reason to vote NO on SPLOST.

All in all, there were about 20 speakers tonight.  Here's a brief summary on some of the comments:

1.  Speaker wants more stringent checks on residency when students enroll.  Said many out-of-county tags dropping off kids every day.

2.  Speaker complained about lottery system for Kittredge.  Said Kittredge not all magnet kids, and some kids winning the lottery should not be there.

3.  Speaker complained about cell towers going up on school properties.  Asked superintendent if she agreed with the program.  Atkinson dodged the question and said she was not focusing on past decisions, but focusing on unmade decisions.  Speaker was not pleased with that answer and rephrased, "Do you think it is a good idea to put cell towers on school properties?" (or something pretty close to that was asked, but it was a direct 'yes' or 'no' question).  Atkinson did not answer directly  and said she was putting her energy elsewhere. Maybe she can sit under a 4G cell tower for an hour a day and recharge her inner energy. I suspect the anti cell tower posse will follow Atkinson to all of her upcoming speaking engagements.

4. Speaker (candidate Lynn D. of Dunwoody).  "The system (DeKalb) is broken from the bottom to the top" (or something close to that).  "We are in dire need of quality school leadership".  Lynn told Atkinson that she feels the county suffers from bad principals.  Note:  As a former teacher, Lynn is right on this issue.  A school principal sets the tone for staff.  A good principal recruits and maintain the best teachers they can find.  A bad principal (as Lynn noted) will fear strong teachers and run them off.  I know it's not possible, but if DeKalb could swap out every principal for principals from Cherokee and Cobb, we'd see an immediate change in our school system.

5.  Speaker praised the Lord a few times, spoke about some (allegedly) corrupt school board members, thanked the Lord a couple more times, then said, "It's all about the money, not the children."

6.  Speaker complained about block scheduling. Said she moved to Dunwoody middle of school year, and block schedule is horrible for new students.  She is 100% right.  I think block scheduling is one of the worst ideas since Outcome Based education,'new' math and spiral math.

7.  Speaker talked about the north south divide.  Said schools on south side not as good as north side.  Drives 300 miles a week to bring kid north.  I give the mom credit for doing all that, but her blame is misplaced.  A school is nothing more than stacked bricks.  The community can make a school good, and a community can make a school bad. For a school to be successful, you need strong parental involvement  disciplined children, a strong principal, and decent teachers.

8.  Speaker (my opponent, Robert W.) spoke on how DeKalb is a huge district, with many dynamics.  Said the district should have inner 'clusters', like a Dunwoody cluster.  Said this would encourage more community involvement.  I'll agree.  Of course, I'd like to take it a step further (and so would 95% of Dunwoody) and have our own school district.  But that's not in our immediate future.

9.  Speaker ( a local celeb named Lisa V) asked a very pointed question to Atkinson:

Super Clusters 1 and 2 show impressive growth over the next decades, based on the county’s projections.  Yet SPLOST IV many new buildings outside of Clusters 1 and 2, where population is dwindling.  This makes no sense.  The school system wants to build $20 million schools were people are fleeing.  We need not a replacement school in Dunwoody, but rather an additional elementary school in Dunwoody, and will need an additional middle school soon, based on projections. Why should Dunwoody vote for SPLOST when we will deal with trailers for another ten years while shrinking parts of the county get new schools?
Atkinson answered, "I don't have an answer for that."

The event lasted about an hour.  One item to note is that attendees were greeted by four DeKalb School System police officers.  The four officers remained on site, positioned at the auditorium's points of ingress/egress (doors).  They then escorted her out of the building.  Very comforting for her, but a bit Vernon Jones like.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Vote NO on DeKalb e-SPLOST

Dear Dunwoody Voters,

What's to our benefit, and what's to our detriment in the upcoming e-SPLOST vote?

First, a background on SPLOST.  Every time you make a taxable purchase in DeKalb County, including Dunwoody, 1% of the 7% tax you pay goes to the DeKalb School System.  This 1% generates approximately $90 million a year.  The SPLOST is on your ballot every five years, with that five year date being in two weeks (Nov 8, 2012).  The DeKalb school board comes up with a list of how the SPLOST funds will be spent.  For example, last SPLOST the Board spent $33 million for a new central office.  Dubbed "The Palace" by critics, the central office is home to what I feel is the most bloated central office staff in the State of Georgia.  Imagine what good that $33 million could have done at your local school. 
Millions of dollars were wasted and spent improperly by the school system.  Ongoing legal actions from the current SPLOST (it expires this year) continue to cost students millions of dollars. It’s no secret that DeKalb has not handled our money well.  With the exception of a few individuals, many of the people who mishandled SPLOST funds the past few years still work for DeKalb. We have a new superintendent, but I’d like to see she does on the job for a year before handing over half a BILLION dollars.  Let’s see the new superintendent clean house at the central office and rid the system of bad teachers and principals before handing over half a BILLION dollars.

What does SPLOST mean to the Dunwoody resident?  First off, it means you will continue to pay 1% on taxable purchases in DeKalb County to "benefit" the DeKalb School System if SPLOST passes this November.  If SPLOST fails, you will pay 1% less sales tax in DeKalb.  More specifically, the next SPLOST calls for a new Austin Elementary school to be built.  Why Austin?  Although our school board representative Nancy Jester insisted on neutral language calling simply for "a new elementary school" in Dunwoody, other members of the Board insisted on specifying a school.  They chose Austin as that specific school due to Austin having the lowest rating in a recent site inspection.  Make no mistake, the Austin facility is not perfect, but it is not the worst elementary school in Dunwoody.  Why did Austin receive the lowest score then?  It's a complicated formula, but in summary, Austin 'earned' the lowest score because it does not have doors on the classrooms and it has a small library.  The school was built using an open classroom design.  Has this design affected student performance at Austin?  The answer to that is obviously 'no'.  By comparison, the Chesnut Elementary school is in much more need to be replaced. 

What about the Chamblee High School / Magnet school?  The SPLOST lists Chamblee as a project, but this is not entirely true.  Chamblee High School will be built if SPLOST fails or passes.  The school system borrowed funds from a Federal program to build a new Chamblee.  The SPLOST funds would be used to repay the Federal loan. 

What about the new state law that reduces the DeKalb board from 9 to 7 members?  It is true that as currently written, the Board would not be reduced to 7 members if SPLOST fails (due to the current language in that Bill).  Our legislators who successfully passed that piece of legislation are fully prepared to amend the language to make sure the Board is reduced to 7 members should SPLOST fail on the November 2012 ballot.

What if SPLOST passes?  If SPLOST passes, a new Austin elementary school will be built within five years, most likely within two years.

Where would it be built?  That is a tough question to answer, with a few moving parts.  First, we in Dunwoody are voting on a land acquisition bond.  If that land bond passes, the City of Dunwoody may acquire a 19 acre tract of land off N Shallowford Road; referred to as the Emory hospital site (it has a pending contract on the land, contingent upon the passing of said bond).  This piece of land is about 2.5 miles south of Austin, near '285'.  If that land bond fails, then there is a chance the school system would acquire this 19 acre tract of land for the 'new' Austin.  The land is vacant and easy to build on without disrupting classes at the current Austin.  There are obvious concerns moving a school out of the current neighborhoods.  The entire Dunwoody cluster would go through another redistricting.  If the city's bond passes, there are very few other tracts of land available large enough for a new school.

How much land is needed for a new school?  Based on the 900-student model, the State of Georgia requires 14 acres.  The State has granted waivers in the past, but no guarantees. You will hear from some people that “a State official” says Austin can be rebuilt on site.  Okay, sounds good, but the DeKalb School Board makes that decision, not a State employee.

Why 900 students?  DeKalb has decided to build 900-student sized elementary schools to maximize student funding. Until the State's funding method changes, don't expect DeKalb to change its mind.  Our current governor has said he will review the funding formula, and local State Senator Fran Millar has said he will work to change the funding. But this takes time.  I don't see anything changing at the state level for at least two years.

How big is the current Austin campus?  10.4 acres
How big is the Chesnut campus?  12.4 acres

If SPLOST passes, could Austin be rebuilt at its current location?  Yes, but two, perhaps three things need to happen.  One, the State needs to grant a waiver to build a new school close to the GA Power electric lines.  Two, the State needs to grant a waiver for the school to be built on a smaller site (DeKalb received a waiver for the Chamblee High School rebuild).  Three, keeping Austin may require the acquisition of four homes on Holly Bank Circle.  Read HERE from something posted back in June on this topic.

If SPLOST passes and the school system can find 14 acres for $200,000 an acre, look for Austin to be relocated.  This will set the wheels in motion for redistricting, for everyone in the cluster.

What happens if SPLOST is voted down?  I would expect a revised SPLOST plan to be on the ballot for 2012.  In 2012 a SPLOST passes easily since it is a Presidential election year, bringing out more voters across DeKalb.  This year, Dunwoody voters will be out in big numbers to elect a new mayor and council, vote on bonds, Sunday alcohol sales, and the creation of a TAD.  In summary, if Dunwoody turns out in big numbers to oppose SPLOST, it may fail.  But it will pass in 2012.  Would Austin be named specifically in a 2012 SPLOST?  I doubt it.  If SPLOST fails, the school board will examine why it failed (Austin is but a small part of the SPLOST pie, there are many other areas opposed to SPLOST for various reasons) and make changes for the 2012 version.

If a new 900-seat Austin is rebuilt at its current site, would we still have redistricting?  Yes.  Most likely you would see some students currently zoned at DES and even Vanderlyn moved to Austin, but it would not likely affect Chesnut or Kingsley.

What can you do to vote down SPLOST?  The obvious is to vote 'No'. The next step is to encourage friends and neighbors to vote no. 

Does voting for the city's land acquisition bond help keep Austin where it is now? I've been asked that question a few times. I would say ‘maybe’.  If the 'land' bond passes, the 19 acre tract the city has under contract is no longer available to the school system.  By no means do I suggest voters vote 'yes' for the bonds simply for this reason.  The city will not be able to buy every property in Dunwoody that could be home to a school, nor should it attempt to do so.  The school system still owns unused property in Dunwoody and that property becomes trade bait with the city and other interested parties.

Will our property taxes go up if we vote 'no' to SPLOST? Yes, you will see a $57 increase.  That $57 goes to pay for Chamblee's rebuild and for other general fund expenses.  If SPLOST passes in 2012, your taxes would be reduced by the $57.  What does 1% sales tax mean to the average Dunwoody resident?  That answer depends upon how much money you spend in DeKalb County.  How much do you spend a month at Costco?  At Wal-Mart?  Are you buying a new car?  $57 is one percent of $5,700.  Do you spend $5,700 a year on taxable goods in DeKalb County?

I am running for city council.  Why would I even bring up this issue while running a campaign to win a seat on Dunwoody City Council?  Should I not be focused only on city issues?  After all, a councilman has no control over school decisions.  I bring up this issue because school issues are as important as city council.  I will not sit back and avoid sensitive issues.  Our schools are very important to Dunwoody, and I will voice my opinion on important school issues like this SPLOST vote.

If SPLOST does pass, I plan to be very vocal and fight to keep Austin at its current location.  I don’t have a vote on the school board, but I do feel it is important to voice my concerns.  With a large amount of kids living on the north side of Dunwoody, we need to keep a school on the north side of our city.  Building another school anywhere near Womack is not what is needed for Dunwoody. 
If SPLOST fails, I will work to make sure the school most urgently needing replacement is replaced, using a sensible rating system.  We will need seats in Dunwoody soon as our schools are overcrowded now.  There may be a need to keep Austin at its location, build a new Chesnut, and then plan now for another elementary school and another middle school.

Vote NO on the e-SPLOST

·       $33 million from last SPLOST wasted on central office

·       Funding for improvements to county tracks removed and replaced with $10 million addition to a school that serves less than 300 students

·       Millions of dollars wasted on legal fees and poor construction 

·       Proposed SPLOST is pork project, building more schools in areas where student population is in drastic decline, neglecting high growth areas

·       Dunwoody’s new school location not determined, and we are not replacing the worst-condition elementary school in Dunwoody

·       New superintendent needs to show signs of fiscal responsibility by reducing bloated central office staff and putting more dollars into classrooms

·       Most of the people involved inappropriately allocating funds from the last SPLOST are still employed by DeKalb – nothing has changed!

Dunwoody High School
In other school related news, I expect to hear that Dunwoody High School, after re-tests last summer, passed the No Child Left Behind benchmark and will be eligible to be a receiving school next year for students in failing DeKalb high schools. But there is a sliver of hope the State of Georgia will be exempt from all or part of the NCLB rules soon as Georgia filed with the US Dept. of Education for a waiver.  Don't look for the Feds to act soon on this.  I expect the waiver issue to drag into next fall, becoming campaign material for the Presidential candidates.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Dunwoody City Council Recap

Public Comment
Bill Grant, Chamber of Commerce:  Attendance at Dunwoody Music Festival was a disappointment.  Plan to go ahead again with the event next year - three weeks earlier.  Mr. Grant is soliciting input on why attendance was off.  He is a dedicated volunteer in our city and the Dunwoody Music Festival is one of the many events he is passionate about.

Thanks for asking, Mr. Grant. A few reasons why attendance was low this year:

1.  No Chili cook-off.  Nearly all chili cookers last year were Dunwoody residents.  Each tent had, on average, four people.  These chili cookers invited their friends and neighbors.  I estimate the chilli event brought in 400 people, easy.  These people ate food, drank beer, and listened to music (not necessarily in that order).  This year the event organizer opted not to have this fund raising event.  Look for a chilli cook-off in 2012 during the music festival.

2.  No Dunwoody food vendors

3.  No Bad Neighbors band (Redfield), but The Branches band, Family Trucksters, was there

4.  Soccer games, baseball games, other festivals, tennis matches.  Lots of kid events this time of year keep parents busy.  I have two kids, and both had some sporting event (or two, or three) last weekend.  With a fall festival, this may be unavoidable.

5.  Were there any Dunwoody or Chamblee high school student bands asked to play?  Teenagers like to hang out with teenagers.  Teenagers spend money.

6.  Arts and Crafts vendors were inside the fenced area, had to pay $5 to get in to shop.

I want to cover the council meeting so I'll stop here.  I attended the event and enjoyed the music.  Hopefully next year the event date will be better attended.

Mr. Chimney:  The debate over the chimney by Ravina continues.  Mr. Chimney demands that Starbucks and the city show the 1850  1899 1950  1980? circa chimney its due respect.

The Chairman:  Opposed spending $10,000 for new chairs for the courtroom/city council chambers.  Unfortunately the Chairman won his battle over seating. 

SignMan:  A frequent visitor to council meetings spoke against the proposed ice  plastic skating venture. SignMan had a prop (a scaled rendering of the plastic 'ice' skating rink compared to a regulation ice rink) and got his point across to council.  SignMan said no way could city sell enough sponsorships and fit 33 kids an hour on the small rink.

CVB Report
Convention and Visitors Bureau gave a presentation.  I did not take many notes, but recall they are promoting a Girlfriend Getaway campaign.  The idea is for all Dunwoody (and metro Atlanta) girlfriends to go spend money at the mall, at local spas, and eat at local restaurants.  The CVB is looking for  a new home, and hope to move into the lobby of Two Ravinia Place.  How about the old train station house (former home to the Chamber of Commerce and a cell phone store) or the FarmHouse?  Not swanky enough, most likely.  I think they want to be in the PCID area so they can get to Cafe Intermezzo easily for lunch and Cheesecake Factory for dinner. Best of luck to the CVB in putting heads in beds. Focus on our 2500 businesses - they have clients and employees coming to town every week.

Unfinished Business:
2012 Budget - the discussion at times resembled an Abbott and Costello routine, or was it a Laurel and Hardy routine? Either way, no one could really explain the ChatComm funds for 2011 and 2012. After someone asked "Who's on first?", I quit listening.

New Starbucks for Ravinia
The Hines Group (Ravinia complex) wants to put in a new Starbucks.  There is a stand-alone chimney at the proposed site for the new Starbucks.  No one is sure if the chimney was built by Hernando De Soto, Ponce de Leon, Georgia Governor George R. Gilmore, or Grandpa Elias Redfield Spruill Donaldson Chestnut. The story of the chimney varies, but here is my take:  A chimney stood on the grassy knoll near '285' and Ashford Dunwoody Road.  The chimney, at some time, was attached to a structure of some sort.  At some point in time, the structure was destroyed but the chimney remained. Hines, when developing Ravina, decided the chimney was a decent item to keep around, so they took it upon themselves to move it, restore it, and place it across from Perimeter Mall.  Were it not for Hines, that chimney would have been nothing more than firm footing for the asphalt now known as Ashford Dunwoody Road. (they probably now regret saving the chimney).

According to local legend, a revealing conversation took place in a kitchen in 1980.  Whose kitchen? I'm not sure.  But I am fairly sure Great Grandma Donaldson Chestnut Peeler Spruill had a couple jugs of Dunwoody moonshine, some fried apple pies, and a bag of Kaolin on the kitchen table.  So a story was told about the now once-again famous chimney - how it was part of some sharecropper shack or something to that affect.

So here we are in 2011 and Starbucks wants to sell some coffee.  They decided to incorporate the chimney into its design.  Enter Mr. Chimney and the Dunwoody Preservation Trust.  They want to preserve the chimney.  Well, that is understandable.  Were it not for old stuff around Dunwoody, there would be no Dunwoody Preservation Trust - they need stuff to Preserve, it's part of their name.  Like Pizza Hut will always need to sell pizza.

I thought the Starbucks design looked great.  A guy named Art Vandelay, an architect, gave a nice presentation. Starbucks is not new to designing stores and drive-thrus. and Hines is not going to allow coffee sellers to ruin Dunwoody's premium office/hotel location. But the council at times came off as very anti business.  The tension between the Hines representative and some on council was quite obvious.  When the PCID folks come to chat up some new store the tone is much more pleasant. This stack of rocks, aka the most famous Dunwoody chimney ever, has become a hot topic in some small (very very small) circles.  At this same meeting council approves a huge zoning change on public private roads, to make happy a new business for Perimeter, then hassle the heck out of a developer over a drive-thru lane that will hold 12 cars.  If council spends nearly an hour on a small Starbucks, I hate to see what happens when some real development gets going.  If elected to council, I promise to keep the community's best interest in mind, but I will also listen carefully to expert opinion.

So Art talked of how this Starbucks would have a 'FarmHouse' feel to it and promised a nice 2' x 2' bronze plaque on the chimney.  For good measure he tossed in a History Wall, another Starbucks first.  I was waiting to see what this guy pulled out next of his bag of tricks, but he stopped there.  Rule #1 of sales is stop talking once you seal the deal.  I was expecting a stack of gift cards to accidentally 'fall out' of his pocket, into council members' laps, but it did not happen.

Proposed ideas for the Chimney Plaque (Dunwoody Patch has an online poll, vote now)

Dunwoody Village Parkway
Somehow this road project came up for discussion. This project was set to break ground in 2012, now it is 2013.  This is the road by Ace and Village Burger, connecting Mt Vernon and Chamblee Dunwoody Rd Main Street. The new plan calls for extra wide sidewalks, bike lanes, and reducing traffic from four lanes to two.  Dr. Bonser said she was opposed to reducing the lanes here.  No one else commented.

Add Four More Police?
At the last meeting the addition of a special crime unit (four new officers, about $500,000) was removed from the 2012 budget.  King John (Mr. Heneghan) brought this item back to life.  It suffered the same fate as it did at last meeting, a defeat.  The specialized unit focus on crime prevention and is supposed to pinpoint hot spots for traffic and crime.  I can do that for a lot less than $500,000.

#1 Perimeter Mall.  50% of crimes in Dunwoody in this area.  We could add 16 officers to the force and people will still attempt to steal two handbags and a pair of wedge heels from Nine West. Malls attract shoplifters. Until we employ Paul Blart, that will never change.  The Perimeter business district may supply 25% of all tax revenue to the city, but that area requires more than 50% of our police coverage.  Next time you don't see a police officer in front of your kid's school, it is because they are down by Perimeter Mall cuffing a shoplifter or writing an accident report.  The area attracts people, and with people comes the need for police.  No way to avoid it.

I think if Chief came to council and asked for two officers, two officers dedicated to working the school zones during the day shift, it would have passed 5-2.

I recall mention that the ChatComm E-911 center will supply us with data in regards to crime and accident frequency.  Perhaps Chief can use that data.

Signs and Monuments
This item was discussed again, with Robert and Mr. Shortal wanting it removed from budget. It stays in the budget.

Ice (Plastic) Skating Rink Attraction for Dunwoody Village
The cost jumped from $70,000 to $92,000.  This thing melted quicker than Frosty the Snowman locked in the Brook Run greenhouse. If you want to skate this winter, head to the Cooler in Alpharetta.

Game Changer for Parks Bond?

There are two issues people have with one or both of the proposed bonds on the November ballot.  One is taking on debt.  Naysayers are concerned that council would spend the $33 million on land acquisition quickly.  Those naysayers had their suspicions confirmed at Monday night's city council meeting as Council and city manager revealed a tentative agreement to spend $19 million on 42 acres in southeast Dunwoody.  The $19 million, in addition to the potential 'hospital' tract purchase, puts 75% of the $33 million of the land bond in the 'spoken for' column.

The other issue some people have had with the bonds is the lack of specificity in the bonds.  Those wanting to see and hear more got what they wanted - 42 acres for sports fields.

Will this new plan be the boost pro-parks folks were looking for to get that 50% (plus one) of voters? or will it fuel the anti-debt crowd?  Which side will get their folks to the polls?

Here is the official press release:

Dunwoody Moves Forward with New Sports Field Complex
Purchase of 42 acre parcel contingent on parks bond passage

Dunwoody, Ga. - October 24, 2011 - The City of Dunwoody has concluded negotiations with Cortland Partners, LLC and plans to acquire 42 acres of land for $19,000,000 on Peachtree Industrial Boulevard for the development of a consolidated sports complex. The new sports complex would replace the existing 519 unit Dunwoody Glen apartment complex. In addition to the new sports complex, in the Letter of Intent, Cortland Partners agrees to demolish and redevelop the adjacent 266 unit Lacota Apartments Complex into owner occupied housing in concert with the development of the sports complex. The total site includes 63 acres and over 785 existing apartment units.

"This purchase sets in motion the accomplishment of many of the goals in our adopted Parks, Recreation and Open Space Master Plan," said Mayor Ken Wright. "It provides us with adequate space for a much needed sports complex to meet the needs of our youth as well as freeing up Dunwoody Park for the expansion of the Dunwoody Nature Center."

Mayor Wright continued, saying, "The City regrets the need to displace residents (785 apartment units), however, in a built out environment like Dunwoody, we have found it challenging to locate a sufficient amount of vacant land for the athletic facilities desired by the community. The City will work with Cortland Partners on a transition plan for the current residents, which includes 560 school age children who are in the Dunwoody cluster; all current leases will be honored without the threat of early cancellation."

This purchase is contingent upon the passage of the Parks Bond for Acquisition (Nov. 2011).
If the referendum fails, the City will drop the contract without financial penalty.

City Manager Warren Hutmacher explained, "Combined with the 19 acres under contract on
North Shallowford Road, with this purchase the City has identified for the voters 61 acres of property that will be purchased if the Parks Bond Acquisition referendum passes. This deal provides an assurance to the voters for how over 75% of the bond funds ($25,000,000 out of $33,000,000) will be spent."

Mr. Hutmacher continued, saying, "The remaining bond funds will likely be spent on some smaller neighborhood parks and the acquisition of land for a Town Green' in Dunwoody Village. This purchase provides transparency for the citizens of Dunwoody; when the voters go to the polls, they will now know what properties will be purchased if they approve the Parks Bond Acquisition referendum."
an active park is planned for the 42 acre site, if the land bond passes

This is a simple rendering of a possible layout.  This is very early on to speculate what would be built (your next city council would decide that, should the bond(s) pass. But the intent is clear - a sports complex offering a variety of active uses.  This plan sends a signal that Brook Run would most likely remain a passive park.  It also sends the message that the ball fields on Roberts would be moved, and the newly proposed Nature Center expansion / playground plans move forward.
new Dunwoody Nature Center with new amenities and playground

What impact would this have on schools?  The city's press release indicates 560 school age kids reside in the apartments in the area the city wants to convert to a sports complex park.  Hightower Elementary would lose about 240 kids.  Peachtree Charter Middle School would lose close to 160 kids, and Dunwoody High School would lose perhaps 165 students, maybe.  Students could relocate with their families into vacant apartments in other areas of Dunwoody, or their families could purchase homes in Dunwoody.  Or, the students and families could relocate in Doraville, Chamblee, Brookhaven, who knows where. Some people will see this as a positive move to help relieve overcrowding at Peachtree Middle School and Dunwoody High School. 
Elem/Middle/High # enrolled 2009

The '193' area shows elementary school kids going to Hightower living in the apartments planned for a park
affected apartments feed into Peachtree Middle and Dunwoody High School

This press release, coming just two weeks before the November 8 election, is sure to increase the discussion of the land acquisition bond especially.  However, the 'improvements' bond could possibly be used to fund this purchase.  Both sides of the bonds issue have fresh information to spread among their supporters. 

Some people will be pleased to see nearly all the $33 million spent before a vote is cast.  They can identify with the projects and now know the intent of the $33 million.  Others will see this as a spending spree.

According to DunwoodyTalk sources, this property has been eyed for a long time.  A deal was reportedly in the works the past few months.  As the election approaches, the property owner was most likely motivated to ink a deal prior to November 8th. 

The Dunwoody Patch has a piece up on this already as does the Dunwoody Reporter.  Look for the Dunwoody Crier story here sometime today.

Rick Callihan

Friday, October 21, 2011

Dunwoody Music Festival

Looks like a nice weekend for the Dunwoody Music Festival.  I wish the Chili Cook-Off event could have stayed in the program, but it was not meant to be this year.  Maybe the event will be re-born next year.

The official web site for the event is HERE.

Looks like they "Sold Out" of the Chastain-style seating for Saturday night's concert, but general admisson tickets still available. The event seems to have activities and music for all ages.

Here are a few pics from last year, but this year's event has a new layout.
Occupy Brook Run Chilli Cookers
main stage being prepped for an act

Thursday, October 20, 2011

What is a TOD, and does it make Dunwoody Sustainable?

I wrote a couple days ago about my opposition to the TOD for Dunwoody.  Some people have asked for more details on the TOD, and some suggest I am incorrectly representing the TOD.  All I can do is direct you to the MARTA web site on the topic, and have your read the PCID LCI plan. 

A TOD is a Transit Oriented Development.  The TOD comes in many sizes and colors.  TODs have been built around the world, some successful, some not. To those of us in Dunwoody, the specific TOD being discussed is high-density, mixed use development built surrounding the Dunwoody MARTA station.  Is this in the best interest of Dunwoody?  Does it make us 'sustainable'?  Regular visitors recall the term 'sustainable' is defined as 'enduring'  So, does adding a TOD to the MARTA station by Perimeter Mall make our city more enduring?  I don't think it makes our city enduring.  But I won't throw the project under the MARTA bus just yet.  A mixed use project with 100% owner-occupied housing, sustainable enduring construction materials (not pine 2 x 4 stick construction), Class A office space, and destination retail could be acceptable and enduring to our city.

But that is not the TOD of today.  Today's TOD was born from the United Nations Agenda 21.

Here's a little taste of that UN chatter:
Agenda 21 is a comprehensive plan of action to be taken globally, nationally and locally by organizations of the United Nations System, Governments, and Major Groups in every area in which human impacts on the environment.
Our very own MARTA is eager to implement the TOD in Dunwoody.  After all, with the TOD encouraging people to not own a car, they are dependent upon MARTA. Look HERE. When developing a TOD in metro Atlanta, one of the largest stakeholders is MARTA.  When you play with MARTA, you play by MARTA's rules:
As stated on page 48 of the TOD Guidelines, MARTA believes that residential and mixed-use TOD projects should include a significant component of affordable housing. Achieving this will require a collaborative effort among multiple stakeholders—the municipal and county zoning jurisdictions in the MARTA service area, their housing authorities, the state of Georgia, the Department of Housing and Urban Development, for-profit and non-profit developers, lenders, community groups, and MARTA itself. Together, these stakeholders must be prepared to apply a diverse affordable housing “toolbox”, including land availability, zoning, housing finance subsidy programs, and infrastructure improvements. MARTA intends to be an active participant in this process.

To that end, MARTA will apply a policy goal of 20% affordability, on average, to joint development projects undertaken subsequent to the adoption of the TOD Guidelines. As defined by MARTA, affordable housing includes workforce housing, as well as housing affordable to seniors with low, moderate, or fixed incomes and persons with disabilities. Workforce housing, in turn, is defined as rental housing affordable to households earning 60% to 80% percent of the Atlanta Metropolitan Statistical Area Median Income (“AMI”); or for-sale housing affordable to households earning 80% to 100% percent of AMI.
Within the density allowed by zoning (including any zoning relief or modification which may be associated with a project), MARTA will use both higher densities and reduced parking requirements as financial incentives for the inclusion of workforce units. MARTA will encourage zoning jurisdictions to adopt reduced parking requirements for TOD housing in general and affordable housing in particular, reflecting lower average car ownership among transit-dependent households.

The MARTA document states "Workforce housing, in turn, is defined as rental housing affordable to households earning 60% to 80% percent of the Atlanta Metropolitan Statistical Area Median Income"

From the HUD web site
Section 8 rental subsidies are provided to project owners on behalf of families that are eligible low-income families at the time of their admission by the project owners to the program. Under the Housing Act, "low income families" are defined as those families whose annual incomes do not exceed eighty percent (80%) of the median income for the area in which the project is located, adjusted for family size, as determined by HUD at least annually
 Zoning approvals, relief, or modification. MARTA joint development projects, like all development in Metro Atlanta, are subject to zoning and land use controls at the county or municipal level. MARTA will support zoning approvals for its joint development projects, and may at its discretion advocate for zoning relief or modifications which are needed to facilitate specific joint development projects, or project objectives such as mixed uses, affordable housing, or sustainability. MARTA may advocate for such outcomes on its own initiative or in support of a designated developer, as appropriate in a given circumstance.
As a city we need business growth in the PCID, but that growth needs to be in the form of Class A office space and jobs.  The past decade we have seen  excessive permitting for apartments in the Dunwoody part of the Perimeter business district.  The official PCID area (including Sandy Springs) has inventory to fulfill future needs.  Adding in the huge number of rental units on the outskirts of the PCID, the area has plenty of inventory.  I would be in favor of owner-occupied condos, built using stringent guidelines and premium construction materials.

Partnering with MARTA (and the other Federal stakeholders interested in creating mass transit villages), whose goal is to simply increase ridership, is not how I envision Dunwoody growing.

As a Dunwoody Councilman, I will work to discourage the development of an unsuitable TOD.  The developer's 'sustainable village' is the Dunwoody homeowner's 'unsustainable city'.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Proudly Not Endorsed by the Atlanta Board of Realtors II

Yes, this is not an original title of a Dunwoody blog post.  Before continuing, go read a post from three years ago by our very own King John - HERE.

John spoke on how he had some fun interviewing with the Atlanta Board of Developers Realtors.  I like to have some fun as well, but the Atlanta Board of Realtors never even contacted me or Terry Nall (Terry is the other candidate working to unseat the District 1 incumbent Robert Wittenstein) regarding a possible endorsement of our campaigns for the Dunwoody City Council.

The Atlanta Board of Realtors sent out an email to all the mayor and District 2 candidates in Dunwoody, inviting them to interview for the 'endorsement' and possibly to receive funds from their PAC (Political Action Committee).  But they completely ignored the two candidates running against Robert Wittenstein (Rick Callihan and Terry Nall). When questioned about why Terry and I were not contacted (but everyone else running for Dunwoody City Council and mayor was contacted), here is the response received:
Thanks for writing. We are aware of the other contested seat. ABR and ACBR are supporting the incumbent, Robert Wittenstein. 
Robert Broome
Governmental Affairs Director
Atlanta Board of REALTORS
Atlanta Commercial Board of REALTORS

Well, at least the guy is honest and not beating around the bush. So it is official; I have not received the endorsement of the Atlanta Board of Realtors, and they won't be contributing money to my campaign.  That's fine by me.  I choose wisely from whom I accept endorsements. Not sure I'd want an endorsement from a Board that is so closed-minded that they rule out two people without even speaking to them.  Perhaps they ruled me out ahead of time due to my suggestion that Dunwoody needs to be wary of approving more apartments ahead of adding more Class A office space and jobs.  Or maybe they did not contact me because I am the only candidate opposing high-density MARTA cities for Dunwoody

From the Atlanta Board of Realtors web site:
Impact Fees
POSITION: REALTORS® oppose any changes to current law regarding the collection and use of funds. REALTORS® also oppose any increase in existing fee structures that would negatively impact development.
During the two debates I have suggested the use of impact fees for building a large park in the Perimeter area.  The impact fee could be assessed on new developments.  Would the impact fee "negatively impact development" of apartments?  Here's another question on that topic: Would the construction of 10,000 apartments negatively impact our schools, our traffic, our police department, and our quality of life?

Does the political endorsement by the Realtor group of my opponent (Robert Wittenstein) and the fact that impact fees have twice been pulled from discussions at city council have anything in common?
I'm sure there are good things that come out of the Atlanta Board of Realtors, but the way they handled this issue is not one of them.  Sour grapes on my part?  No.  Some endorsements carry too much baggage.  My received endorsements and campaign contributions do not bind me to any political action committee (PAC) and I owe no group any favors.  As a side note, I have not been out asking people or businesses for money for my campaign.  I have received unsolicited funds from friends and I appreciate those donations.  The Atlanta Board of Realtors has supported many good causes for real estate agents and for homeowners, but endorsing candidates and contributing money to people whom will have a vote when it comes time saying 'yes' to the urbanization of Dunwoody is not one of them.

Please forward this blog post to other voters in Dunwoody.  Thanks for your support.

Rick Callihan
Not Endorsed by the Atlanta Board of Realtors

Rotary Club Event SUNDAY

RunDunwoody 2011 is SUNDAY, OCTOBER 23. The race is on SUNDAY and is a MUST for runners, families, and community-minded Dunwoody citizens! Information about how to sign up for the 5K qualifier for the Peachtree Road Race, the 1 Mile Fun Run and the ever-popular Tot Trot may be found at  There will be substantial fun to be had at the Family Festival after the race, including "celebrity" appearances by "Q" and First Responders...
Before the run, a pre-race warm-up will be presented by Operation Boot Camp. Presenting Sponsor Saint Joseph’s Hospital will provide cardiovascular screenings.  Ruby Sponsor Georgia Perimeter College will be onsite offering dental health education and screenings.  Another Ruby Sponsor, The Medicine Shoppe Pharmacy, will offer flu shots as the flu season begins in earnest.
During the post-race Family Festival,  members of DeKalb Fire Rescue and Dunwoody Police Department will present opportunities to learn more about what they do for the community and will give kids of all ages an up-close-and-personal look at the trucks, cars, people and equipment used to protect our community.  Top it all off with music, games, awards, prizes and great “tastes” of Dunwoody.  And Fire Dog "Q" will make a special guest appearance. With her handler, “Q” visits local schools and demonstrates proper fire safety skills to help young and old in case of a fire. 
Registration is just $25 until race day and entitles the registrant to an official race shirt.  Registration day of the event is $30.  Register as a "phantom" runner to get a shirt without lifting a foot!  Go to for all the details! 

Friday, October 14, 2011

Parks Bonds Meetings


Please come learn about the Parks Bonds
at one of the following general community meetings.

Sunday, October 16 at 1:30 p.m.
Perimeter College Auditorium
(prior to the 3:00 p.m. DHA candidates forum)

Tuesday, October 25 at 7:00 p.m.
City Hall

Hosted by Citizens for Dunwoody