Friday, August 16, 2013

Marlow's Dunwoody and FirstWatch Cafe

Lots of excitement on Dunwoody Parkway this week.  No, not the roar of chain saws removing the weeds from the center median, the start of the Parkway project, but rather the announcement of a new eatery in Da Vil.

New signage indicates a breakfast spot, most likely a FirstWatch ,possibly an Egg Harbor Cafe.  Now that the large tree has been removed from the roof of this building workers on readying the spot.

Next door is a DunwodyTalk favorite, Marlow's Tavern.  Next week is the Anniversary Celebration.  Join local celebrities and regular foodies at the event.

Dunwoody Anniversary

And a final note, a peek at two hard-working guys with a big project on their plate:

Mowing the "lawn" at the abandoned lot near Brook Run

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Charter Systems Are A Total Joke And Will Be Used To Quiet the Mommie Brigades of Dekalb

The Druid Hills High School area voted to seek to become an independent school cluster yesterday, with 92% saying 'Yes' to a charter.  The fine people of the Druid Hills area want a cluster to control the finances and hiring/firing of school personnel.  This is the same thing we need in Dunwoody.  Actually, Dunwoody needs an independent school district, as does Sandy Springs, Johns Creek, Chattahoochee Hills, and Milton.

Now the issue moves to the DeKalb School Board.  Will they vote with 92% or will they side with 8%?  This will be the first big test since they voted to approve buying 15 new cars.  During the crucial car vote-buying meeting earlier this year 48% of DeKalb parents wanted a gray colored interior and 50% wanted a beige colored interior.  2% said they don't see things in color and had no opinion.  It was a huge decision for the Board and now this Cluster vote is equally as important for Board members.

This is scary stuff for the central office and the superintendent.  No way should PTA mommies have any say in what happens in a DeKalb school!  We need experienced educators running the show (oh wait, no one on the Board or the Superintendent has ever written a lesson plan, taken roll, entered grades, instructed 35 kids in a janitor's closet, or taught a group of kids in a trailer learning cottage).

So how will the wheelin' and dealin' DeKalb Machine handle this situation?  Look for Superintendent Thurmond to announce a transition for the DeKalb County School District to become the DeKalb County Charter School System, thus one-upping the Mommy brigade at Druid Hills.  In other words, Thurmond will break protocol and pull out the "I triple dog dare you" card.

And just exactly what does a School System Cluster mean?   To the children it means absolutely nothing!  Will it increase student achievement?  No.  Will it increase parental involvement?  No.  Will it take power away from the central office and take control away from the $1 Billion monster? No.  Will it stop the crazy hiring practices known as the Land of Misfit Toys Teachers?  No.  Will it guarantee power to stay in the same hands?  Yes.  In summary, a Charter School System is a smoke and mirrors scheme.  

What people in many areas of DeKalb want is to be able to hire/fire teachers and admin at the local level and controlling their own money by spending it where it is needed.  Superintendent Thurmond is standing in the way of this dream, and he has political supporters that will defend him all the way to the bank.  Will the students of DeKalb have the support of a majority on the school board or not?

The Charter School System is a total joke and a waste of time and money.  Look for a few influential people to use this Charter System as a replacement for the independent school district.  Why?  Not because they actually care about local control and improving student achievement and raising teacher pay, but because they benefit in some way or another from squashing the rebellion of the mommie brigades.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

MARTA Looking to Confiscate Land in Sandy Springs and Dunwoody to Add "WorkForce" Housing?

We have written many times here about the TOD, the Transit Oriented Development.  The TOD is a government-funded housing complex that is built attached to a MARTA station (Atlanta). The goal is to force people out of their cars and onto MARTA.  It's the classic (failed) Live Work Play.  MARTA has failed to do anything right, and instead of providing what people want, they want to spend more taxpayer money and take private land to continue their failed mission.

I threw away my Tea Party issued tin foil hat a couple times, but always seem to get another one.  One thing the Tea Party nails it on is the Agenda 21 and the goal to build TODs in our major cities.

Once a week or so Real Estate Bisnow (ATL) sends out an email concerning real estate happenings in Atlanta.  Today's email blast talks about Charles Pursley.  You can go elsewhere and read about Charles, but it seems he is a smart and successful guy.  Charles thinks MARTA will be forcing itself on the fine residents of Sandy Springs by confiscating land (eminent domain, Charles' specialty) to force the building of at least one TOD in Sandy Springs.

Sandy Springs has not found a shiny new development it doesn't like.  The Sandy Springs council seems to let people build any sort of thing they want, as long as they pay taxes.  Does Sandy Springs have no sense of history and not realize these shiny apartments built in 2013 will be slums by 2033?  Apparently not.  I doubt MARTA would even need eminent domain in Sandy Springs, unless it is a land owner stopping the TOD.  

So back to the email blast:

Charles was instrumental in the creation of the modern MARTA system. After a stint in the Army and Vietnam as a judge advocate, Charles came to Georgia and joined the late firm Huie Brown & Ide and was tasked with helping MARTA condemn property to develop the system, including the property that eventually became the Five Points Station (above during its 1978 construction, you were probably at the disco when this pic was snapped) and the Peachtree Center Station. Charles says MARTA's current transit-oriented development plans—where it's getting input from developers to create mixed-use projects at various stations—has a dual purpose. "Ridership is a big part of that, and revenue is a big part of that," he tells us.

Now that development is picking up again in Georgia, Charles expects some real cases to come before the court. There are "potentially huge condemnation cases" coming regarding developments in the Sandy Springs area.

When you sign on MARTA and/or HUD as a partner for a TOD you (the city, developer, etc.) will receive Federal dollars, tax credits, grants, low interest loans, etc.  And what do you give up in exchange?  You give up any chance of the project being a short term or long term success.  You give up creating a quality place to live, work, and play.  That's not such a bad deal, is it?

By converting what is normally a private, for-profit venture project to a Government subsidized project you (the developer) will be required to set aside a percentage of the housing units for "work force" housing.  'Work force' housing sounds great, right?  Ask the folks at Atlantic Station how that work force housing deal played out.  Work Force Housing is actually a step below Section 8 Housing.  

Cobb and Gwinnett took lots of criticism for keeping the heavy and light rail out of their counties.  Now these counties cannot take advantage of having MARTA and HUD building 'work force' housing developments attached to rail lines.  

Dunwoody has a MARTA stop.  This land is now owned/zoned to be a development called High Street.  Although High Street has 1,500 apartments and 1,500 condos, the property owner will be able to rent/sell these units to the highest bidders at market rates, not to whom MARTA says to rent/sell them to.  Although not a huge fan of the 1,500 apartments approved for Dunwoody at High Street project (before we became a city), at least these will be rented on the open market.  There are thousands of apartments already approved for Dunwoody (approved prior to us becoming a city), and we don't need MARTA setting the monthly rates.  See HERE for details.

There are two MARTA stops in Sandy Springs.  One is in Brookhaven by the hospitals. The Sandy Springs stations are: one by the movie theaters and Sports Authority, and one on Peachtree Dunwoody Road.  Don't be surprised when the city council and mayor of Sandy Springs sign up for millions of tainted Federal dollars and tax credits for developers.  By the time HUD and MARTA get through with the handouts the developer will make millions more and Sandy Springs will get some road money.  Long term this TOD is a big loser for homeowners in Sandy Springs.  Even in the short term there is no upside.  MARTA has used eminent domain in the past and will use it in the future. 

I've written about the TOD a few times: See HERE and HERE

Dunwoody and Brookhaven Neglected by DeKalb Schools No Surprise

Dunwoody taxpayers pay in DOUBLE the amount of tax dollars to the DeKalb School System compared to most other parts of DeKalb when factoring number of students in Dunwoody, tax revenue received, and cost per student to educate.  In other words, Dunwoody would need $100 million to operate a school system spending the same amount as Dekalb, yet sends $200 million to the school system (approximate numbers).   But moms and dads here don't ask for double the number of books, they don't ask for double the amount of gymnasiums or tracks, they don't ask for double the amount of textbooks - they just want is needed.  In return, the central office employees continue to treat District 1schools and students poorly.

Nice gesture by the Central Office observer to park in the principal's spot on the first day of school, August 12, 2013.  Yes, the temporary tag is expired on the new car, and probably the other new cars as well.  No worries, this is not a line item for SACS.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Occupy Dunwoody, aka Save Dunwoody, Hosts Town Hall Meeting

Saturday was a strange day for Dunwoody politics.  But before we get to Saturday, we need to back up a bit.  The DeKalb GOP put on its calendar a meeting for 10:30 AM on August 10th at the library.  The meeting was allegedly hosted/sponsored by the 40th Congressional district.  One problem:  Senator Fran Millar, our elected official from the 40th District, was NOT invited.  He was not even made aware of the event by its planners.  DeKalb's two other elected Republicans, Tom Taylor (State Rep) and a guy from Brookhaven, were also not invited.  Turns out the Occupy Dunwoody leaders were behind this stunt.  Once the plot was revealed the DeKalb GOP leader canceled the event by email.  But as they say in all other circuses, the show must go on!

In last week's Dunwoody crier Jim Dickson, a co-leader of Save Dunwoody/Occupy Dunwoody expressed concern over the DHA hosting a candidate forum.  Now we have a group led by the same Jim Dickson renting a room at the library under the name of Natalie O. on behlaf of the 40th District of the DeKalb GOP, possibly under false pretenses? 

Many agents of Occupy Dunwoody are Tea Party agents as well.  The Tea Party nationally, like all other political parties, is comprised by a lot of great Americans, and by some not so great Americans.  The Tea Party has had little success at the Federal level, and has made no gains at the State level in Georgia.  The new M.O. for Tea Parties across the country is to back off at the National and State level, and start grass roots at the local (city, municipality, township, borough) level.  We are witnessing this in Dunwoody and in Cobb and other areas.  I'm not saying this is a bad thing, just pointing out the obvious.   

Here is a link to Georgia Tea Party groups.  Dunwoody chapter not listed currently.

 So at 10:30 AM (after the official DeKalb GOP breakfast at Wright's Gourmet ended) the Occupy Dunwoody Town Hall meeting started.  I give credit to Occupy Dunwoody; they had a great turnout.  There were about 70 people on hand to start (perhaps 10 or so were not part of the group, but wanted to attend for various reasons).  The meeting was full of negativity and was poorly hosted.  Nothing constructive came out of this gathering except that the core supporters of the Clean Sweep candidates has shown to be limited in size and limited to see the glass as cracked and half empty.  I'm not in the political consultant business but I do know anyone running for office that associates themselves to this group has NO CHANCE of winning an election anywhere except maybe as head bottle washer of Occupy Dunwoody.  The Clean Sweep candidates may be great guys with wonderful ideas, but if today's group is their base, the other candidates should feel a little better today.  After Saturday's spectacle maybe I should toss my name in the hat for District 1. 

This group that met today fails to realize we as residents of Dunwoody are so better off being a city than a part of unincorporated DeKalb.  Our taxes are much lower than everyone else in DeKalb and we have better police and zoning.  This group wants all the roads paved yet does not want to pay a penny more in taxes.  They oppose the Dunwoody Parkway grant while complaining the roads need improved.  They oppose bike lanes but scream when trees are cut in Brook Run.  This group is like a chicken with its head cut off running around the barn yard.

There are a few controversial issues in Dunwoody, none of these alone or combined are enough evidence to suggest we should not have become a city.  

I don't like that we spent $100,000 on the ethics issue, the trail at Brook Run could have been 9 or 10 feet instead of 12 feet, the Dunwoody Parkway could have simply been repaved with no grant money while reducing the Village side to one lane with a sidewalk added, and the Vermack/Womack intersection could have a 4-way green/yellow/red traffic light 22.5 hours a day and a police officer directing traffic 45 minutes in the morning and afternoon. But all of these projects were discussed at great length many times.  

There were hundreds of other things approved the past five years by city council that I fully support, as do thousands of other Dunwoody residents.  I've been writing this blog for a few years, and sooner or later (or often and always) my opinion will differ from yours.  No one anyone agrees with me 100% of the time.  Same thing when you have a city of 50,000 residents and a city council.

What Save Dunwoody needs to know is that just because 40 loud people oppose a project does not mean the project is stopped.  Unfortunately, the squeaky wheel in Duwnoody (Save Dunwoody) does not want attention, it wants to derail us from the track.

I don't like cameras mounted on police cars that read thousands of license plates a day and I don't like the idea of cameras videotaping cars coming and going at Brook Run.  The cameras will be live on the Internet for all to see, enlisting Dunwoody residents as Brown Shirt / Big Brother agents (if Dunwoody buys or gets a grant for a drone I will officially join Norb and his Tea Party Posse).  And the city won't allow me to have chickens.  But I'll survive all these 'travesties' knowing Dunwoody is better now than it was six years ago.  

We have lots of new sidewalks, many roads are being paved, and the police department is making arrests.  Now that we are a city we have stopped the apartment loophole and I know a Dunwoody city council will not approve a transit oriented development (as I suspect Sandy Springs will).  We are attracting businesses thanks to our economic development guy.  

Is the city perfect?  Nope.  Does council sometimes vote Yes when I would have voted No?  Of course it does.  Is there a huge conspiracy at city hall to flood Dunwoody with apartments and silence residents?  No.  The Occupy Dunwoody group is being mislead, a victim of some of their own leaders, by means of the very Delphi Method they oppose.

It's a shame that some individuals of this group have talents and ideas worthy of sharing, yet their association with Occupy Dunwoody discredits them from earning worthy attention.

I took photos and video clips, but I can summarize the meeting this way:

The Red Shirts / Save Dunwoody / Clean Sweep / Occupy Dunwoody group sat around and complained over and over for two hours on the same couple of items.  Not one time did a member of the group put forth a positive idea for the city.  Not once did a member of the group (which included their candidates for city council) mention how to make Dunwoody better.  Not once did a member of the group mention anything about children.  Not once did a member of the group discuss overcrowding and financial issues with our school system.  Not once did a member of this group say one good thing about an elected official or city employee or police officer.  It was your classic "I hate everyone and everything in Dunwoody" meeting.  The tone was so negative it was nearly unbearable.  Not one thing positive or uplifting was said in two hours.  But I suppose the purpose of their meeting was to vent frustrations so maybe I should not be surprised.  This was the ultimate doom and gloom crowd. Councilman Terry Nall was there in the room,  No 3 minute rule, no giving your name and address, no public comment rules.  Just Terry and the group.  The group asked him one question on the start date of the Dunwoody Parkway project - that's it.  Why did the group not ask him all these questions they say are going unanswered and ignored? 

The group talked again and again about issues that are behind us.  The trail is done and people love it.  We have experienced more rainfall in Georgia this year than any other year to date and NO flooding in the neighborhood behind Brook Run.  Those homeowners will NEVER admit the new walkway in Brook Run has IMPROVED storm water issues.  Never (except when they try to sell their homes).

The group talked endlessly about Dunwoody Parkway.  My message to the group regarding traffic flow is this:  Spalding Dr and Roberts Dr have 50 times the daily volume of Dunwoody Parkway, yet these two roads are two lanes whereas Dunwoody Parkway is currently four lanes.  Traffic will not be an issue when Dunwoody Parkway is reconstructed.  Dunwoody Parkway is a done deal.  This group is wasting their energy complaining about this topic.  What will they complain about next, the 1991 World Series when Kent Hrebek lifted Ron Gant off first base to tag him out?

Did the city spend too much money on Dunwoody Parkway at a time when other intersections needed  to be higher on the construction list?  Maybe, maybe not.  But one thing is for sure, that road project (that will cost $30 per resident) is going forward.  It humors me to no end to hear this group dwell on two or three issues constantly as if they were discussing an arms treaty or creating peace in the Middle East.    Members of the group will say the three magic issues (Brook Run Trail, Dunwoody Pkwy, Wover/Vermack intersection) show a pattern of ignoring citizens, but that is not the truth.  Dunwoody has so many meetings and there are many times for input (input works, when presented logically and in a timely manner).  The big problem is that many decisions were made in Dunwoody while Occupy Dunwoody folks were either not involved or not affected.  All of a sudden this group wants to take Dunwoody back to 1977, and that is not possible.

The group complains endlessly about being ignored.  They feel that when they want something stopped (Dunwoody Pkwy) it should be stopped.  The group as a whole cannot accept 'no' for an answer.  On one hand they discount the Transportation Committee's priority list and the Parks and Rec survey results, then on the other hand promote their biased survey results as gospel.  Once again, you can't have it both ways.

One interesting conflict of opinion is the environmental side of Occupy Dunwoody.  Out of one side of their mouth they fight  to limit the stream buffers.  They don't want a 75 foot buffer they want 25.  Out of the other side of their mouth they complain about trees being cut.  What is it, OP, do you hate streams but like trees?  Or do you change your environmental opinion when it is convenient?  It is not okay for the city to cut trees to add access and an asset to Brook Run but not okay for the city to limit disturbances in a stream buffer?  You can't have it both ways.  

But all was not lost today.  A couple of shining moments from today.  Bev Wingate, not a member of Occupy Dunwoody, spoke today.  I don't know her well but have seen her at many meetings and social events.  To put it simply she showed the others in the room how to speak and get a point across.  Bev Wingate was firm yet polite when addressing the group, speaking a voice of reason.  


I can't see how any of the Clean Sweep candidates or members of this group felt their meeting today was a success.  They were preaching to their own choir, with no true leader and no set of goals.  They were simply there to complain and spread bad information among the already infected.

Here is the email blast sent to Save Dunwoody / Occupy Dunwoody subscribers:

Town Hall Meeting 

August 10th, Dunwoody Library Meeting Room, 10 AM.   

This is the first in a series of Town Hall meetings to be held over the next several months.   

Come prepared with your questions concerning local, state government issues and actions and meet the new candidates for Dunwoody City Council who will be attending as fellow participants 

We will discuss city issues including easements, stream buffers, projects, city charter, zoning/land use and other local issues in this first meeting. State and/or federal regulations do affect these. 
Your Save Dunwoody Team

SaveDunwoody was established in September 2012 as a voice for Dunwoody citizens – it is a coalition of Dunwoody voters not affiliated with any group or political party. SaveDunwoody has already grown to over 800 members and may now be the largest community organization in Dunwoody. ”
Like us on Facebook - Save Dunwoody

I can't believe I wasted two hours on a Saturday then the added time to type this blog entry on this group.  But it is important for Dunwoody residents to know what is happening.  I applaud Occupy Dunwoody folks for getting involved, but know your opinion is in the minority now and will be in the minority come the November election.  As Farmer Bob suggested to you at the meeting, channel your energy in a positive manner and focus on things you can change. 

It also seems as the Clean Sweep candidates has extended their quiet period as they barely participated in Saturday's unofficial Town Hall meeting.   Or maybe the three guys have already recognized the Save Dunwoody group is not the support group needed to win an election.