Saturday, February 11, 2012

Back to Nine Member Board in DeKalb?

Look for a Senate Bill to be filed that will keep the DeKalb School Board at nine (9) members.  Not sure if SB79 needs repealed or simply replaced.  Stay Tuned.

I can only imagine what the rest of the state legislators think of all this.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

School Board in DeKalb

Many here in Dunwoody get involved politically in several areas.  You volunteer with city council campaigns, work with Tom and Fran, and perhaps even more at the state and federal level.  Nothing is more important to Dunwoody than quality leadership for our school system.  Please take the time to read the message below from Nancy Jester, then do some emailing!

News from Nancy Jester:

2/8/2012 - Reapportionment Update
Tomorrow the DeKalb Delegation will meet to discuss the redistricting of the DeKalb Board of Education. 

As you may have read, the sub-committee of the delegation approved a 5 member board district that would eliminate the 4 members up for election this year.  I do not support this approach.  You can read about it on the new website for DeKalb School Watch - DeKalb School Watch Two.  Click here to view their latest post on this subject.  Thank you DeKalb School Watch for your continued dedication to the children and taxpayers of DeKalb!

A new map has been proposed that unites and keeps intact, communities of interest.  It's the best map I've seen to date.  I, along with Don McChesney and Pam Speaks endorse this map as the one we believe the delegation should approve.  I've posted a new blog entry on my website (click here to view it) with this map and it's statistics.  This is the only map that I have seen that keeps the district population deviations within the acceptable limits (<1%).

If you agree with Don, Pam and me, please email the DeKalb Delegation (their emails are listed below) and tell them to support this map tomorrow. 

If you have time and want to be present at the DeKalb Delegation meeting, please join the meeting tomorrow, Thursday, February 9th at Noon; 605 Coverdell Building (across from the Capitol).  Please note that the meeting may be delayed depending on the time that the Session ends. 

Parking for the meeting:  You can park for $5 in the deck on Jesse Hill.      

As always, I am available if you have any questions or concerns.   

DeKalb Delegation Email List:   

NOTE: Simply click on Gloria Butler's email address and it will open window in email to send to all delegates in one email

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Three People to Control $1.2 Billion in DeKalb?

UPDATE:  DeKalb Sub-Committee Approves 5-Member School Board Map

Read about it HERE at CrossroadsNews.  Although not on many people's radar this week, this is a huge issue.  We can create wonderful cities all day long and save a few hundred bucks a year on taxes, but in the end it is the quality of SCHOOLS and the LOCAL SCHOOL SYSTEM that determines your home value, not the name of your city. 

Nearly a year ago some folks in DeKalb were discussing an idea to reduce the number of school board members from 9 to 7 was a great idea.  I disagreed in a column here.  I was not the only one concerned of unforeseen consequences. Our local school board representative Nancy Jester also opposed the reduction of the school board.

Well-intended legislation was passed, requiring the school board in DeKalb to be reduced from its current size of 9 members.  The unwritten intent of this legislation was to force out at least one, perhaps two, school board members whom many people consider not concerned about the children of DeKalb, but more concerned with getting a paycheck, providing friends and family with jobs, and injecting their personal politics into our school system.

Aesop's Fable: The Fox and the Stork
The Fox one day thought of a plan to amuse himself at the expense of the Stork, at whose odd appearance he was always laughing.
"You must come and dine with me today," he said to the Stork, smiling to himself at the trick he was going to play. The Stork gladly accepted the invitation and arrived in good time and with a very good appetite.
For dinner the Fox served soup. But it was set out in a very shallow dish, and all the Stork could do was to wet the very tip of his bill. Not a drop of soup could he get. But the Fox lapped it up easily, and, to increase the disappointment of the Stork, made a great show of enjoyment.
The hungry Stork was much displeased at the trick, but he was a calm, even-tempered fellow and saw no good in flying into a rage. Instead, not long afterward, he invited the Fox to dine with him in turn. The Fox arrived promptly at the time that had been set, and the Stork served a fish dinner that had a very appetizing smell. But it was served in a tall jar with a very narrow neck. The Stork could easily get at the food with his long bill, but all the Fox could do was to lick the outside of the jar, and sniff at the delicious odor. And when the Fox lost his temper, the Stork said calmly:
Do not play tricks on your neighbors unless you can stand the same treatment yourself.

Fast forward ten months from when the legislation passed to reduce the school board.  It is time to draw new districts for school board members (every ten years), and in conjunction, the number of districts is being reduced from nine to not seven, but possibly only five members. And guess what - those school board members some were so anxious to replace - THEY are drawing the map!

What's wrong with five spots on the board?  If we had a completely comprehensive school board, nothing would be wrong with five board members.  But that's not the hand dealt to DeKalb students and parents.  One big concern is three of five members of a new school board could vote out the new superintendent - a superintendent who appears to be doing what many in DeKalb want her to do; clean house. Here's an editorial from a person in DeKalb, complaining that the new superintendent is doing a great  poor job so far - of ridding the school system of the friends and family program.  Many on the current school board now want to get rid of our new superintendent because it seems they can't control and manipulate her.  These board members want to keep things as they are now.  I don't know all that new superintendent Atkinson is doing, but I do know that if Steen Miles disagrees with the super's actions, then I most likely agree.

from The Champion News (Jan 27, 2012 e-edition)

Here's a proposed map of a five-member school board:
Fernbank and Druid Hills parents rejoicing over new representative Sarah?
NOTE: The white section of map on western edge is Decatur City Schools, not part of DeKalb School System

The two images above propose not seven but five (5) board members.  The idea of a three people (a majority) having control over $1 BILLION and 100,000 students is very scary.  I sure wish the State legislators could save us from this mess by reducing the size of school systems and/or allowing all cities to create their own districts. 

Here is a proposal created by the school board a few months ago:

So what should a DeKalb resident do if they are opposed to a five member board?  Email the following people.  Those of you in Dunwoody need to get in touch with Tom Taylor and Fran, and those of you in the City of Ashford need to contact Mike Jacobs.

Word is another map is in the works.  I'll keep you posted on any new maps as they are created.
Soon $1 BILLION and 100,000 students will be in the hands of Jay Cunningham, Gene Walker, and Sarah Copelin Woods. These three will quickly rid themselves of Superintendent Atkinson if she does not do as Steen Miles suggests and "take the time to learn the culture of the school system".  Steen, many of us know the culture of the school system - and it continues to fail the children and taxpayers of DeKalb.
What can the current school board do for the remaining of 2012 (the changes are not in place until Jan 2013)? It depends on how the ousted Board members feel about being drawn out of office.  The four ousted can join with one remaining member and re-write the Superintendent's contract, making it not possible for here to be fired (for three years) unless she commits a crime.  This will allow her to continue to do some house cleaning by hiring new department heads.

If this five-person map is approved, look for lots of action between now and December.,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,

PVC Sale and Zoning

Will the city really sell the recently acquired 'PVC' land?  If so, do we have any control over what the new owner does with it?  Currently the land is zoned for apartments, and if the city sells the property there is a good chance you will see apartments there in the near future.

What needs to happen is a zoning change on the property, but can it be done under the current financing of the property?  The city does not technically own this property.  As explained on Farmer Bob's blog in a comment by by KDV: 
"The loan is actually a lease. It is a bit convoluted but here's the money trail....RBC loaned the money to the Georgia Municipal Association. The Georgia Municipal Association then leased the land to the City with the lease payments equal to the loan payments due to RBC Bank. The term of the lease (7 years) is equal to the term of the loan. And at the end of the lease/loan, the property is deeded over to the City. The lease has 14 payments due every six months for the next seven years. Each payment is around $400k."
I have received a couple of comments on when and how the city can change the zoning, so I'll wait to hear official word from someone on all this before digging deeper.  Who knows, this land sale may be a dead deal already.  But, if we do sell, I think zoning or a strongly worded purchase agreement needs put in place that keeps high-density out of this area. 

A reader also sent me a note about a big issue on this topic the Comprehensive Land Use Plan - the plan that calls for a 5-6 acre park on this site.  Is it possible for a developer to incorporate a park on five acres and develop the other 11 acres?  I suppose so.  You folks in the Georgetown area and those concerned about more housing bringing more kids to overcrowded schools need to pay attention and reach out to your council.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Thanks Channel 2

I want to thank Channel 2 for not allowing me to hear negative comments about a young man's alleged sexual preference.  Instead, I am allowed to view a few dozen punches and kicks by three people at an apparently defenseless person.  Listen to the audio at the 54 second mark where the reporter tells us how Channel 2 bleeps out the derogatory words uttered during the attack "so we would not be disturbed" by the words. Yep, I was not at all disturbed by any language in the video. 

Dunwoody Council 1.2

We've all seen the "Dunwoody 2.0" references to the new city council, but is it really version 2.0?  Take a read here then come on back.  So, the original Council was version 1.0.  Thompson added to make it 1.1, now we have version 1.2, right?

It's been a while since I posted, and I am not typing to simply plug T.O.D.  I need also to call your attention to Farmer Bob's blog, seen HERE. Farmer Bob brings out the latest rumor of adding high density cluster homes to an area now vacant of residential housing, on land many in Dunwoody thought was going to be green space (at least partially).

For those of you too lazy to click over to Farmer Bob's blog, the rumor is that the city's mayor, staff, and council is considering an offer from a developer that would have the city sell the city's recently acquired PVC land (Council 1.1) and add townhouses.  Townhouses?  But I thought people turned out to vote against adding housing to certain areas of Dunwoody?  But wait, the rumor is these townhouses would sell for $350,000.  Really?  You can buy a 4,000 sq foot  ranch in Mill Glenn for $350,000.  Will people really buy a townhouse in Dunwoody for that amount?  Ask BloggerBob, he knows real estate.

And how do you ensure the developer does not tell you "yes, we will build $350,000+ homes", then turn around and say the market does not support that, and "we're going to offer slightly less expensive housing" in that location? New single family homes in that location?  John Wieland has built many homes and should know the market, so maybe I am wrong in thinking it will be a tough sell for a few more years.  But then again, maybe the developer wants to buy the land now, promise single family homes later, but build the high-density cluster homes now. Or maybe the city sells the land to Developer A, with a promise of finely built brick homes, but then Developer A flips the property to Developer B, who then decides to build the apartments that Council 1.1 saved us from witnessing.

Is it a good idea for the city to unload this property? I think the city paid around $5 million.  Are we selling ten acres for $5 million and getting a 'free' park on the other six acres? Are we selling then entire chunk for $6 million?  What will the city do with the $6 million?  I'm just guessing here as I was not contacted by the ethically challenged person who leaked the information.  Will the property become mixed use with a promise of cluster homes, a park, a Chick Fil A, a steam car wash, a Goodwill, and a Starbucks?

We've seen that mixed use scenario play out all around the country in "mixed use" plans.  In a mixed use development, the apartments ALWAYS go in first, then the developer may get around to all those other amenities like office space and retail space.  (This is what will happen at High Street if the city drags its feet on the zoning re-write.  Are there people among us wanting the zoning process to drag out until AFTER High Street begins building 3,000 new apartments? ).

Headed into last November's election we were told the city needs lots of green space, more parks.  Now the city is considering selling off the land many thought was bought for green space?  Did we buy this land with the intent to resell it, to build a park on part of it, to hold for a future city hall/city admin building? 

All this "PVC land for sale" rumor stuff came from an executive session meeting held last week.  As FarmerBob noted, this information was leaked, big time.  This is not good.  So why the leak on the possible sale of the PVC farm for allegedly building high-density cluster homes?  What is the motivation to leak the information?

1.  The leaker(s) wanted to gain favor with local media, and told a member of the media about the deal first, gaining the support (for future use perhaps) of said media member.

2.  The leaker(s) do not want this deal to go through, but feel they will be out voted on it.  In an attempt to gain opposition to the sale, someone leaked the information, hoping it would then make it to the local blogs, newspapers, and/or other media (Patch).

3.  The leaker(s) wanted to impress a friend or two of their powerful position on council.

4.  The leaker(s) feel the public will be behind the sale of this property and they want to gain support for the sale of a piece of property many thought the city should not have purchased (making a wrong into a right?).

No matter the reason, discussing things talked about in executive session is a violation of ethics (as Farmer Bob points out).  But if rules are not enforced, then people will continue to break them.

So two big issues come from last week's Executive session: a breach of the city's ethics policy, and the possible sale (without bid) of a large chunk of city real estate.

Speaking of the zoning rewrite, this needs to be completed sooner than later.  As the economy turns, we need to be ready.

The mayor and city manager may have to review the ethics policy and explain it to all those attending executive session.  This may hurt the feelings of media darlings and FarmHousers galore, but it's the law.  you want to know what goes on in executive session?  Earn a spot on council and earn the privilege.