Thursday, December 18, 2014

Dunwoody's Best Option for Shipping Christmas Gifts is American Mail

It's holiday time.  Don't wait in line over at the Government shipping center.  All your shipping needs (and gift wrapping) can be handled at American Mail.  American Mail is conveniently located on Main Street Chamblee Dunwoody Road, across from Publix (same parking lot as Mellow Mushroom, the only local place to get Hoegaarden on draft). Head in and meet Vic and Nina.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Dunwoody Leads the Way for Non-Combustible Buildings, Preventing a Massive Fire as seen Today in Los Angeles

A huge fire engulfed nearly an entire block today in Los Angeles, CA.  The fire broke out in the DaVinci apartment complex, a seven-story building. The bottom two floors were concrete, the top five wood-framed construction. 250 fire fighters worked to extinguish the fire.

As we learn from others, never let a tragedy go to waste.  Tonight at city council there will be a 2nd read on changes to Chapter 8, Buildings and Building Regulations.  See HERE.

The heart of the change to Chapter 8 is to require the use of non-combustible materials for buildings like the "upscale" DaVinci apartments.  In Dunwoody, any building over three stories will require non-combustible building materials if these changes pass tonight.  DunwoodyTalk expects passage by a 5-2 vote.

The Council for Quality Growth is opposed to these new standards.  No word at this time from the seekers of quality on the L.A. fire and the wood construction.  

The Council for Quality Growth has quite the headline on their web siteDunwoody Proposed Ordinance to Eliminate Certain Potential New Development in City if Passed.  Well, that's a chance we'll have to take, I suppose.  We don't have 250 fire fighters to fight a seven story twig blaze, so non-combustible sounds good to us.  Perhaps Los Angeles will follow our lead.

We heard that this change to Chapter 8 will stop development in Dunwoody.  Of course the new proposed hotel by Wal-Mart changed from three story wood construction to seven story concrete/steel just recently, defying the 'eliminate development' claim.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Deer on the Move in Dunwoody

Hunters across the country anxiously await the 'rut' every deer season.  This is a family-friendly blog so we'll keep it clean.  Rut is when those bucks break their cautious behaviors and seek a few girlfriends.  The past week and into next week seems to be the 'rut' season for Dunwoody.  You'll see dead deer along the roads.  Be careful driving at dawn, dusk, daytime, and nighttime as the deer are on the move. 

If you do hit a deer and it dies, you can salvage the meat.  It's what we call the Original Grass-Fed Meat. No hormones injected, all organic.  Look online for the closest deer processor.  Check local law regarding road kill.  

Hunters donated 2.8 million pounds of game meat last year, 11 million meals. A DunwoodyTalk staffer donated venison just last week.

Many people like seeing the deer in the suburbs, until they do $5,000 in damage to your vehicle.  Or when they eat your crops from your food garden.

Here's where deer belong

Brood of  wild turkeys

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Community Council Meeting Tonight (Thursday)

The esteemed Dunwoody Community Council meets tonight.  On the agenda is a change to the hotel project by Wal-Mart (The Spruill Hotel and Retail and Restaurant Retail Center for the Arts Profits).

Also, discussion of changes to zoning and land development, Chapters 16 and 27.


Email me or another community council member with comments, or simply show up tonight at city hall and tell us in person.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Where was Council for Quality Growth in the Late 1990's and early 2000's?

Prior to 2006 building owners in Dunwoody (and all of DeKalb) could easily convert office buildings to five-story apartment buildings without public input.  After 2006 the DeKalb Commissioners (we will give credit to former Commissioner Boyer and Farmer Bob for their work on this issue) required a Special Land use Permit (SLUP) for office buildings to convert to apartments.  Before the 2006 change to this practice, thousands of apartments were permitted, and still today we feel the affects of the conversion technique.  We will still see apartments built in Dunwoody due to grandfathering.  During this time Sandy Springs did not see much of any apartment buildings.  They were securing corporations and building Class A office space.  In summary, during a decade of high growth, Dunwoody got apartments and Sandy Springs got the businesses.  Office buildings were torn down for apartments in Dunwoody.

Where was the Council for Quality Growth when all this was happening?  Where were the letters to DeKalb commissioners?  When were the meetings with the DHA and the Council for Quality Growth (CQG)?  To whom were the emails sent stressing the 'urgent alert' of converting office buildings to apartments?  The CQG has been around for three decades or so.  From their web site:

Council Mission

The Council for Quality Growth is a not-for-profit trade organization promoting balanced and responsible growth in the metro Atlanta region and state by:
  • Promoting long range planning and adequate delivery of government services
  • Serving as a catalyst for consensus on growth issues
  • Providing a forum for discussion of responsible development, and economic or technical expertise as needed

What We Do

Since its inception in 1985, the Council has worked as the development industry’s voice, a clearinghouse for critical information on growth and development policy and a forum for education.  The Council advocates  for its members to ensure that governmental development policy is fair and conducive to balanced and responsible growth.   Through constructive leadership and active participation in resolving growth issues based on real-world experience, the Council is a knowledgeable and informed advocate for you.
The Council’s work on behalf of its members has a direct and profitable result on their bottom line.  Impact fees, development moratoriums, unrealistic code amendments—it only takes one new regulatory layer and your project becomes unfeasible.  The rate of return on your membership investment will prove to be immeasurable as our policy team affects positive change in the political and regulatory web you face daily.

I suppose allowing DeKalb to permit office space to apartments without public input was balanced and responsible growth, due to their non-involvement.

Tonight Dunwoody's city council is discussing an amendment to Chapter 8 of our building code.  This amendment will not make Dunwoody unattractive to developers.  We will still be located off GA 400 in one of the strongest office markets in the USA.  We will still be minutes from Buckhead and downtown, and the growing north Fulton business corridor.  In summary, Dunwoody will still be an attractive location. 

Let Sandy Springs continue their building spree of apartments.  They can fill the housing void, if such a thing exists, in the PCID area. 

The CQG does not have the best interests of Dunwoody homeowners in mind, nor do they claim to care about the residents who live here.  Their goal is to give power to corporations to do as they please, regardless of the input of people who reside in Dunwoody.  Take a look at the CQG web site and you'll find a bunch of Cobb County folks, not people from Dunwoody.  These building owners do pay taxes, and their taxes do keep homeowner taxes lower, no doubt.  Without the PCID we'd be paying higher taxes like the folks in Decatur.  But at least they have their own school district. But the voters and our elected council have a strong say in what can and cannot be done. Some think this will prohibit upgrades to existing apartments. Time will tell.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Cut to the Chase with Nancy Jester DeKalb Commissioner Race

NOTE: A rare copy/paste for DunwoodyTalk, but it's deer season and we need to keep some fresh material 

Nancy Jester first found a public spotlight focused on her when, as a “mom with a blog and calculator”, she exposed a host of financial irregularities within the DeKalb County School Board. Ultimately, six of nine board members were removed by the governor.
Currently, Jester is running for the District 1 County Commission position, and once again she is taking a hard look at the financial irregularities that seem to plague the county. She is running for a position that was vacated by Elaine Boyer who plead guilty in federal court to charges of bilking county taxpayers out of $93,000 through mail fraud conspiracy and wire fraud.

DE- Given Boyer’s activities, the answer to this is obvious- what do you see as the biggest problems facing the Commission as a whole and District 1 in particular?

NJ- Well, the answer is pretty obvious, but it’s not limited to District 1. The Commission and the County at many levels are plagued by a complete breakdown in confidence and trust for government. And it is deserved. When you look at District 1, we had commissioner who plead guilty to stealing money from the taxpayers. Add onto that the CEO was indicted and on trial for shaking down vendors for campaign contributions. (At the time of this interview, the jury was still deliberating in the Burrell Ellis case.) You have a federal prosecutor looking into other commissioners. There’s no confidence that the commissioners are doing their jobs. Many county services are so bad there’s simply no confidence that the county can perform at any level. So issue number one, we have to address the complete breakdown in confidence in county government. That starts with transparency and competence.

DE- There has been considerable demand in DeKalb and other counties for the creation of new cities. Do you see that as a response to corruption at the county level?

NJ- To a great degree, yes. In District 1, you have seen a heavy push to municipalize. We saw that in 2008 with Dunwoody forming, we just had Brookhaven form and there’s a push to form the city of Lakeside and additionally a push to form cities in Tucker and Briarcliff. And that’s in addition to potential annexations to other cities by various groups, some in District 1, some not. Part of the motivation- why did Dunwoody become a city, why did Brookhaven become a city, why the push– well, these city governments have proven themselves to be more effective at delivering services and certainly providing a much more accessible form of government. District 1 has roughly 140,000 citizens. That’s a very large group, so there’s not a sense that you can have any effect, and there’s little in the way of constituent services. So there’s a big push to municipalize and I’m in favor of that. I think municipalization has done good things for DeKalb.

DE- Yet not everyone see it that way.

NJ- That’s true. In fact Elaine Boyer went down to the legislature during the last session and tried to stop organic cityhood movements that had formed. To me, that was just going to the legislature to stop folks from having the right to vote on cityhood. I don’t think that’s right. There are earnest people on both sides of the debate, and some disagreement about where you draw the lines for a city’s boundaries. But I think these people just need an honest broker who isn’t going to try to undercut what they do. And that’s what I think went on last time. There’s some controversy about where boundaries should be drawn and which areas should be part of which cities, but honest people can make compromises and work that out. It’s just difficult to do when your own elected official is operating against your interest to have a referendum or has chosen a side.
DE- Cityhood will address a number of the problems, but not all of them.

NJ- Of course not. There are and will remain, services that the county must provide to sections that are not cities and services that cities still have to avail themselves to- the court system, the water shed department, some may need fire and police services. I support the right of citizens to make the choice— whether or not to form a city—by referendum. And I would think that after the next legislative session, we’ll see that happen again. You’ll see a referendum come perhaps for the city Lakeside, perhaps for the city of Tucker, perhaps for the city of Briarcliff. So I think you need a commissioner who understands that’s what the citizens of the district want. Fine. But they also want good county government. Clean county government. And they want a clean break from the administration of the past, they want a clean break from the corruption of the past.

DE- The fraud and shenanigans are definitely troubling issues, yet DeKalb also seems to have more than its share of problems with simply providing services.

NJ- Absolutely. One of the biggest problems in the county is the Department of Watershed Management. They have had a complete breakdown in the ability to provide customer services. People who would normally get a water bill between $100 and $200 in the summer are getting a $1,000 bill. In fact the mayor of Brookhaven mentioned that in a Town Hall meeting—he had gotten a $900 bill and hadn’t used any irrigation. Certainly, everyone understands that mistakes can happen, equipment can malfunction and meters can be misread. But then we have a service problem. I challenge anyone to call the Watershed Department and see if you can get a human being to answer the phone. See if you can hold on for I don’t know how many hours to get a human being. It is at the point where the only way to rectify your situation is to physically go down to the city of Decatur to the Watershed Department because you cannot get anybody on the phone. People shouldn’t have to drive from all over the county to get a water bill corrected. Think about our elderly or maybe our mobility impaired citizens. It’s a real burden. It’s a burden for families with people going in 15 different directions. It’s insane. Customer service has completely collapsed in that department. It’s a county-wide issue and has to be fixed.

DE- But you can’t do that if elected officials have no interest in fixing what’s broken. Voters always say they want to eliminate the abuses and inefficiencies, yet they seem to have a penchant for electing or reelecting people who don’t take care of business or abuse their positions. That’s not limited to DeKalb. A few years ago, Gwinnett County had similar problems with two commissioners being indicted, and the chairman resigning to avoid being indicted. Is it something in the water?

NJ- (laughs) No I don’t think it’s the water, I think some people are very good at hiding their illegal activities and in many cases, transparency and accountability are seriously lacking. And sometimes relationships aren’t very well known. In my race, there are five folks running. I have no ties to Elaine Boyer. I was never appointed to any commissions or had any community involvement on her behalf or related to her. Some of my opposition have had those positions and were appointed by Elaine Boyer and other commissioners. So they have ties to the commission. And if you’re really listening to the citizens of District 1, that’s not what they want. They want somebody who is completely outside of that domain and I’m the only candidate who can credibly offer that. And I think they want accessibility and that’s a big issue for people in District 1 because our last commissioner (Boyer) was not accessible. She did not have meetings, she did not go into the communities.

DE- Have any of the other candidates picked up on that or do they seem to be following in Boyer’s footsteps?

NJ- It doesn’t appear that they are interested in doing anything different. In the last 10 business days, I’ve been to six or seven community meetings whether it was a neighborhood association meeting or a town hall meeting about a cityhood movement or a DeKalb delegation meeting and at each and every one of these meetings, I have been the only candidate for District 1 that has attended. And these are meetings within District 1. I hope the voters understand what that means. If you’re not accessible as a candidate, you certainly won’t be accessible if elected.

DE- Lack of accessibility is certainly a problem voters should recognize, yet given the track record of numerous DeKalb County commissioners, an even bigger problem will be to rebuild trust. How do you propose to do that?

NJ- I am very leery of the word trust when we talk about public service and elected officials. I often say to folks, do not trust anybody you elect, like you would a family member, What I say is you should elect a person who is trustworthy in your opinion, but then you should hold them accountable. And they have to be willing to be held to account. And to do that, they do have to be accessible. And that’s what I will be—and have been. I’ve had a very active web site. I’ve put up documents that maybe the school district or some other entity didn’t make public. I’ve also posted commentary so nobody has to wonder where I stand on an issue because I tell you as it’s happening. I’m also very much available on social media. I have a history of doing those things. None of my opponents can offer that same level of communication. I’m not the new kid on the block for that, I’ve done it for years.

DE- When you were a member of the school board, your public disclosure of spending activity led to the wheels coming off and the governor ultimately stepping in to get the board back on track. I would guess you see similarities between the past problems with the school board and current problems with the commission.

NJ- What was happening at the school board I believe is also happening at the county government. There’s a similarity. The school system was basically using budgets and budget documents as a deception. And if you go to the county’s web site now, good luck finding a budget document, good luck finding current financial information. It’s very opaque. That’s a problem. I will certainly advocate for the government making budget and current financial information available- one click away from the main web site. And to the extent that I can, I’ll publish it on my own personal web site to make it available.

Another problem I see up and down the layers of government in our state is real time disclosure of how your money is being spent. This is not avant garde, it’s not new it’s really old news in other states. You can buy in-the-box software for this. You don’t have to reinvent the wheel. I’m going to put on my own web site an inline check register because each commissioner’s office has its own budget to spend. It’s actually far too much and I will advocate for cutting that down.

DE- Do you think greater transparency would have prevented some of the abuses in the past?

NJ- In many cases, absolutely. Elaine Boyer’s scam was to pay money to an evangelist and then get a kick back. She never would have been able to get away with that if the public could have seen her “purchases”. And regardless of whether someone in government—bureaucrats as well as elected officials—is writing checks or using an electronic purchasing system, there needs to be more oversight. Especially in DeKalb County where it’s the Wild West of accounting controls. That has to be stopped. I hope to be able to get all the commissioners on board with that.

DE- Let’s get back to the push for more cities. When a city forms, it takes on delivery of some of the services formerly provided by the county. When that occurs, there’s less need for personnel at the county level. Has DeKalb County government gotten any smaller in recent years?

NJ- No it hasn’t. We have really failed to shrink county governments as cities have formed and have taken the liabilities for supplying some services off the table. When you don’t have the responsibilities, you have got to reduce the cost of government. Well, they haven’t done that. Besides that, the county government hasn’t been the guardian of the quality of life in DeKalb. There’s been a real top down heavy-handed attitude that has hurt the county over time. People want to control their zoning and the look and feel of their community. That’s why you see a Dunwoody and a Brookhaven and potentially a Lakeside and a Tucker and a Briarcliff. People want that control because the quality of life has really been hurt by the decision county commissioners have made. They have willfully ignored the desires of communities. That has to change. As a commissioner, you’re there to represent the will of the people.

Brook Run Park, Full of Activities for Sports and Activities

Brook Run Park announces Fall/Winter Schedule

Sunday is the best day at Brook Run.  This photo is a few years old.  Shade canopies have been added.  Seriously, the playground at Brook Run is top-notch.  Great for 1-7 year old kids.

Monday is a unique activity.  Kids and active adults sit on aluminum bleachers and watch dogs destroy the ecosystem and pollute the water basin.  The area is shaded so no need for a cap, but closed-toe shoes (washable) a must.  No whistles or beef-product snacks, please.

Tuesday, salute to city officials and employees day. 

Wednesday is ideal for those with a wild imagination.  Wednesday at Brook Run is officially, "Pretend We are in Murphy Candler Park" day.  Storytelling at noon - hear from coaches and players as they mention things like baseball fields, softball fields, football fields, and team uniforms.  Keep the noise at a minimum because the park does have neighbors, and people buying a home close to Brook Run expect near-silence from the park and its visitors.

Bring some cash on Thursdays as it's 'All You Can Eat on Asphalt' day.  No metal cleats allowed in parking lot, but music and free Atlanta Hawks hand towels on the green
Friday, it's finally here.  Been stuck behind a desk all week?  Need to release some tension?  We have it here!  Come sit on a stump or recycled plastic bench and watch turnips and tomatoes grow (seasonal).  One of metro Atlanta's largest private, yet public-hosted, garden clubs has squated on an ever-expanding piece of turf at Brook Run. Enjoy the smells of basil, mint, fish fertilizer, and Farmer D special mix at this suburban food plot.  Clapping and light cheering permitted. No artificial noise makers.
Saturday Brook Run hosts several activities in the back field.  Mornings you can participate in the 'Find a rock that fits in your hand' league, and afternoons play host to Atlanta's only 'Hide in the weeds' tournament.  All ages welcome.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

DeKalb Commissioner District 1 Race. What Happened and Why?

In a surprise to nearly everyone, the unknown candidate Holmes Pyles has claimed a spot in the two-person runoff for DeKalb Commissioner District 1.  His opponent is Dunwoody's Nancy Jester.  Many are asking, 'how did this happen'?  Wendy Butler ran a good campaign in Brookhaven and had the support of local media.  Larry Danese was backed by SaveDunwoody and had signs all over Dunwoody and came in last place.

A simple word was placed under each candidate's name on the ballot..  Four of the five had 'Republican' listed and one had 'Independent' listed.

Only Holmes E Pyles was not listed as a Republican.  For you Conservatives and Republican voters, take a look at the following fake ballot and ask yourself whom you would vote for:

Although you recognize the names, you will probably see the word 'Democrat' and automatically drift away from that name.  For many of you, the choice on the fake ballot is Mr. Pyles, regardless of all other factors. And for 1 of every 3 voters yesterday in District 1, they saw one choice, Mr. Pyles. 

Here is a snapshot of District 1 votes.  We placed a blue ribbon beside each precinct that was won my Michelle Nunn. District 1 of DeKalb is the lone pocket of Republicans for the county, but there are lots of Democrats here as well.  Why do you think Governor Deal was in the area three times in the last few weeks?

The losing candidates in this race were all stunned last night as the results poured in.  Larry Danese could have won a spot in the runoff and perhaps the position had he run as a Democrat (he ran as a Dem before in DeKalb, was appointed to positions in DeKalb by a Dem, but ran away from the Dem label in this race). 

The runoff of Jester and Pyles will take place next month and will be the only item on the ballot.  The Dems won't be back as the Republican vote is much bigger.  Jester will not have three opponents competing for the Republican votes.  We all know now that it is possible for a Democrat to make the runoff in District 1, but the chances of a Democrat winning the spot is low.  Jester will need a strong turnout for the runoff.  Jester owned the high-turnout, Conservative precincts of Austin, Dunwoody library, and Mount Vernon East.  The fact that Brookhaven had two candidates and Dunwoody had one played a major role in this election.  

We wish much success and victory for nancy Jester in the runoff election.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Halloween Traffic and Safety Tips Dunwoody

Halloween, when on a weekday, is one of the worst traffic days of the year.  With Halloween on a Friday, traffic will be a nightmare in metro Atlanta.  We suggest leaving work two hours earlier than normal.  If you live in Dunwoody and work in Cobb, head home by 3 PM at the latest.

And here is some great advice from the SDOC blog;

Finally, be prepared to meet some regional neighbors you don't see every day.  These last words I posted a couple of years ago but they've become fresh as I come off the costume parade at Coralwood last week:
With Halloween upon us, please keep in mind, a lot of little people will be visiting your home.

Be accepting. 
The child who is grabbing more than one piece of candy may have poor fine motor skills. 
 The child who takes forever to pick out one piece of candy may have motor planning issues. 
 The child who does not say "trick-or-treat" or "thank you" may be non-verbal. 
 The child who looks disappointed when they see your bowl may have an allergy. 
 The child who isn't wearing a costume at all might have a sensory issue (SPD) or autism.

Be nice. Be patient. It's EVERYONE'S Halloween.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Dunwoody Cross Country Advances to State Championships

Many of the Wildcats concluded their season on Saturday at the Region 6-AAAAA Championships at Druid Hills Middle School.  With cool temperatures for all four races and the team rested, tremendous performances were seen all day long.  In total, 44 Wildcats ran a season best time!  What a great way to end the "regular" season and push us on to the State Championships!

The Boys Varsity race started the day and the Wildcats were led by Cadmiel Velazquez, who had his best race of the season and finished 10th, and was followed right behind by Blake Tiede, who showed tremendous grit during his race.  The boys team finished 3rd behind Clarkston and Druid Hills, which qualifies them for the State Championship meet at Carrollton MS in Carrollton, GA on November 8th!

The Girls Varsity race followed, and allowed for some of our hardworking runners to get the spotlight and send their team to the State Meet.  The Wildcats successfully defended their Region title, winning the title for the third year in a row! Six Wildcats placed in the top 10 of the race, led by the group of Ally Womble, Ellie Conoley, and Shanel Stewart.  The Wildcats will look to get back on the podium in two weeks at the State Championship.

Blake Tiede

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Dunwoody Girls Volleyball Advances to Final Four

The Dunwoody girls volleyball team defeated Camden County Saturday night to advance to the Final Four, playing Wednesday night at Dunwoody High School.  The Lady Wildcats won game 1,3, and 4 for a 3-1 game win.

The team looks great, playing with lots of emotion.

Come out Wednesday night and cheer on the team.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Tailgate Party for Dunwoody Volleyball 5 PM Saturday

The girls volleyball team hosts another playoff match Saturday (Oct 25) at 7 PM.  Parents, friends, classmates, and team supporters will be gathering at 5 PM in the school parking lot for pre-match gathering.  

Let’s all get together for a tailgate at 5:00 Saturday for some pre-game festivities. Bring your tents, chairs and corn hole.

Bring your own food and drink. The baseball team grill will be available for our use if you are so inclined.