Saturday, May 7, 2011

Dunwoody Arts Festival Today

Here is a link to last year's opening day review of the Dunwoody Arts Festival. HERE

Walk or bike over to Dunwoody's Main Street for food, fun, and art.  Event is today and tomorrow.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Georgia Anti Illegal Immigration Legislation

State lawmakers were successful in passing anti-illegal immigration legislation last month.  Locally, House Bill 87 was supported by local representatives Mike Jacobs, Tom Taylor (House) and Fran Millar (Senate).  The bill was much stronger in Jacobs and Taylor’s House of Representatives, but Millar’s Senate watered down the bill before passing it. But will the new law have an effect on DeKalb residents?

When it comes to new legislation being approved by lawmakers, whether it is on the local or federal level, the new laws either focus on safety or financial issues.  The new anti-illegal immigration law in Georgia hits on both safety and financial issues.  Does the new law make DeKalb County and its cities like Chamblee or Dunwoody safer?  Not much, if any, in the short term.  I could not find any statistics for local cities (or DeKalb) that tell us how many crimes are committed by illegal immigrants.  But if a person of such status does commit a crime, their lack of legal residence in the USA is not going to keep them from being back on the streets in DeKalb County.  

Like most other cities in DeKalb, Dunwoody’s police department uses the DeKalb County jail for prisoners.  DeKalb County does not participate in a Federal program called 287(g). In brief, 287(g) is a program funded by the federal government that allows local jailers to check immigration status of persons arrested and jailed for breaking other laws.  A person found to be illegally in our country can then be transferred to ICE (Immigration) for deportation.  Fulton County does not participate either. Gwinnett and Cobb both participate in 287(g).  In summary, if you are an illegal immigrant in Cobb or Gwinnett and arrested for a crime, there is a good chance you will rightfully be deported.  Not the same story for DeKalb County. If you want illegal immigrants deported after committing another crime (the first crime is being here illegally), then contact your county commissioner and suggest they support the county signing up for the 287(g) program.  But I doubt you’ll see DeKalb County take the necessary steps for participating in 287(g).  There are many illegal immigrants in DeKalb.  They pay sales tax, they own homes, and they rent apartments while the apartment complex owners pay property taxes.  DeKalb does not want to lose that revenue, nor do they want their population to decrease.  

The main focus of Georgia’s new anti-illegal immigration legislation is E-verify, a federal program that makes it difficult to hire illegal labor.  Companies with ten or more employees will now have to use E-verify when screening new employees. The fact that Georgia companies must use E-verify will hopefully deter illegal immigrants from taking up residency in Georgia. But the watered down version of this new law does nothing to rid Georgia of illegals already on Georgia payrolls, nor does it deal with day laborer centers.
The Hispanic population has dramatically increased in DeKalb the past ten years (I know, not all Hispanics in DeKalb are illegal aliens) and increased 96% in Georgia overall.  The financial impact to cities and unincorporated DeKalb regarding this new law is minimal, if anything, in the short term.  But if the law acts as a deterrent to new growth of illegal immigrants in DeKalb County and statewide, there are benefits.  Schools are a good place to start. Schools are required to provide classroom instruction for ELL’s (English Language Learners) via the ESOL program.  The funds used to teach kids to speak English are funds not being used to teach English-speaking kids math, science, and reading.  There are some positive reasons for the ESOL program and not all non-English speaking kids are illegal. But in general, illegal immigrants of school age (and the children of illegal immigrants) cause the cost of education in DeKalb and in Georgia to be higher.  One national group estimates Georgia has over 133,000 students in public schools who are either here illegally or born here from illegal immigrant parents, costing nearly $1.3 billion a year to house in public schools.  DeKalb Schools, with a budget of $1 billion and 100,000 students, is approximately 11% Hispanic and growing.

Although a good start, House Bill 87 is not strict enough.  Hopefully next year a few Republican senators will act more like conservatives and do what’s best for Georgia and its legal residents.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

School Choice (for teachers)

Imagine you are sales manager for Acme Widget Co.  You are responsible to produce and sell an excellent product while providing profits to your shareholders.  You are constantly on the lookout for talented people to help you.  See a top-notch performer working in another industry?  See if you can bring him/her to Acme.

Of course you have competition for those top-notch salespeople.  The next county over is home to General Widget Co.  The sales manager at General is also on the lookout for talent.  He too wants the best salespeople in the Atlanta area.  General is a well-respected company, recognized by the local Chamber of Commerce, mentioned by the Governor as a top-notch company, and admired throughout the widget industry. General meets all federal requirements for widget manufacturers, and takes action in areas that need improvement.  When General builds new schools factories, they quickly reassign employees and productions, using professionals to handle such a task.  General is also quick to rid itself of employees not contributing to making General (and its products) the best widget manufacturer.

The top graduates from Widget State University are eager to be employed by General.  They know General has great leadership and looks after their employees.  General even pays for continued education for their employees.  General does its best to seek not only the best salespeople, they also promote within the best employees to positions of leadership. Many of the best professionals in the widget industry across the area often transfer to General, leaving behind other widget companies.  Overall, the top widget folks in Atlanta want to work for General Widget.

But what about Acme?  They make widgets too.  But see, Acme does not support its employees.  Acme does not promote continued education (by covering costs).  Acme is recognized by government officials, but not in the way General is recognized.  The top graduates at Widget State do not even consider Acme as a future employer.  They will apply to nearly all other local widget companies, but not Acme.

So what's left for Acme?  Of course Widget State University has a bottom third of its graduates.  And lots of Acme employees have friends and relatives that need a job, so they recruit them to come to Acme.  Acme also does do a decent job of bringing in recruits from far off locales like Michigan and Ohio and Pennsylvania. Those cold-weather folks see the warm weather here and make tracks to Acme.  But soon ofter arrival, they realize there is more to Atlanta than Acme Widget.  They take notice of General Widget.  They see Cobb Widget, Cherokee Widget, Forsyth Widget, St Martin's Widget, Marist Widget, even Bartow Widget.

What can Acme do to retain their best employees from fleeing to the competition?  For starters, they can conduct business more like General Widget, Cobb Widget, and Forsyth Widget.  They can treat employees better and be open and transparent going about their business.  Hire based on ability, not based on friendships, relationships, color of skin, or nepotism.

I am still in touch with a few friends in the widget industry (from my days at Cobb Widget Company). They share with me the lack of consideration top performing teachers widget makers give Acme Widget Company when considering where to work.  They don't refer friends new to the widget industry to Acme, nor do they encourage friends to apply to Acme.

If Acme is to improve its product, it needs to get on par with General Widget and the other widget companies.