Monday, July 25, 2016

It Is BROOKrun...

...not BROOKSrun!

The haters who've been laying the hatin' on local thespians seem to think the place was named after Tyrone Brooks mistaking it for another case of deepest darkest DeKalb shoving a famous black politician in their faces. Perhaps some of the pissy little megaphone mouths are upset thinking it is named after someone who shamelessly misappropriated funds. Even then it would still be about black except in this case it would involve a pot and a kettle. 

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Fait Accompli

Fran's Tax Freeze is under assault from a peculiar foe--he and his comrades under the Gold Dome misspoke when crafting a Tax Increase for all of DeKalb. They wanted to increase sales tax for all manner of things, including a whimsical county center parked between the jail and the mulch piles but also added language that real lawyers have determined will remove Fran's Tax Freeze. This was an act either of stupidity or incompetence, or both, and is pretty much what we expect from same-ole-same-ole politics in Georgia.

What is interesting are quoted statements from a county commish:
"At this point, even if the project list was[sic] perfect, bringing this SPLOST forward for a vote in November is irresponsible. To go forward would mean a devastating tax increase on 10 years of property value growth that has been shielded."
There is so much to mine from this shaft. The ten years applies only to those properties that have not been maintained or improved such that pulling a permit was required (and done). Yes, we're going to call a roof replacement maintenance even when the owner upgrades to those trendy architectural shingles.  Or perhaps pushing a growing portion of property valuation off the books (shielding??) was ill conceived in the first place.

What is really interesting is the implication that if a tax referendum is on the ballot it will pass. Perhaps it will. And here's one to roll around in yer noggin: maybe this is what the citizens want. Or maybe not. Maybe, just maybe, those who vote on this referendum will be informed voters making an informed decision.

Or maybe the politicos under the Gold Dome and down in Decatur were confident they could craft ballot propaganda all but guaranteeing a new tax but are pretty sure it goes down in flames if passage kills a sweetheart deal with homeowners who tend to turn out at the polls.

No matter. They'll have to wait until next year to push the new tax thru.

Monday, July 18, 2016

Elementary, My Dear Lewis

In a phone conversation that never occurred John Lewis reportedly said:
My heart was saddened upon learning of remaining pockets of racism near my home in Georgia recently exposed with the naming of local schools. This came about when members of the school board found their moral compass did not direct them down the path of arbitrary and unjust rules. Their simple act of civil disobedience has shown a bright light into dark corners of the hearts harboring hate and racism. These modern day marchers have once again demonstrated that our cause, ever worthy, is never finished. I am heartened to see this cause, started so many decades ago, has gained new momentum in their courageous actions in DeKalb County. 
Unaware that he'd not ended the call (damn those smart phones) he was not overheard saying:
Where the hell is Brookhaven? Should we send Sharpton down there for one of his "Marchin' For Dollars" rallies? Check his calendar and figure out how much he'll get. 

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Patriotism vs Nationalism

Patriotism is when you fervently believe your country is the best country on the planet because it is where you were born and where you live. Nationalism is when it is the other bloke and another country. 

Monday, July 11, 2016

Uber ID

Across the country city leaders are being pressured by Cab companies to require fingerprint background checks for Uber drivers, especially for pickups at airports. Airports have become the battleground because it is a lucrative concentration of customers and it also services customers from afar where pissing contests between new-age and stone-age business have been settled. In favour of new-age.

Publicly the stone-age argument is about a level playing field. The hidden argument allies the Cabbies and the Politicians and, no surprise here, is about money starting with medallion fees. Political fundraising is significantly easier when hitting up a few big donors, cab companies and unions, than it would be going after an ever-changing bunch of Uber drivers.

Big money almost always keeps operations in business long after their use-by date so it is quite possible the stone-agers will win. But suppose Uber extracts a compromise--that a Georgia Weapons Carry License, which requires fingerprinting and an FBI background check, satisfies the requirement. After all, don't the anti-Constitution Nutsies always try to equate gun rights with driving "rights?" Maybe that should be a two-way street.

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Melting Fran's Tax Freeze

Fran Millar has successfully and on multiple occasions pushed thru a property assessment freeze. It kinda works like this: your home's assessment cannot be raised whilst the freeze is effect unless it is sold or renovated. The freeze has a limited term but has been extended for five more years.

When you sell your house, mark-to-market is relatively painless. First, you always knew the market value was significantly higher than assessed value. Furthermore, you're not going to pay the higher taxes on the new assessment--the buyer is.

Where it gets fun is the "renovation" escape clause. How does anyone know you've done a renovation? Well if you do it yourself, it may just be your secret, but if you use licensed pros they will pull a permit. At that point you are up for re-assessment. And it won't be the $5,000 you spent on maintenance--say replacing those 1970's windows with new energy-efficient vinyl or putting on a new roof--you will get a mark-to-market assessment.

Now ask yourself: since this City started operation are there less or more things requiring permits? Do you really believe it's because they want to make sure your roofer installs a drip edge?

Monday, July 4, 2016

Tax Increase Gets Unanimous Support

At least there is unanimous support from the Mayor and Council who get to play around with the extra money. There was some political posturing suggesting some on Council are still uncomfortable in the role of bending you over the barrel, perhaps remembering when DeKalb did it to them. The usual excuses were trotted out:
  • Let's not talk about the Tax Increase, let's talk about the millage rate
  • The millage rate is the same as when we started the City
  • Look at the Consumer Price Index over the last few years
  • You spend more on your swim and tennis membership than City Taxes
  • If we did drop the rate you wouldn't save enough to even notice
  • Look at your bill--County and Schools are much larger--you should bitch at them first
Doesn't all this sound familiar?

Thursday, June 30, 2016

Mizz Dunwoody Embraces TOD

Mizz Dunwoody should embrace TOD. In fact she should fall madly, passionately in love with TOD.

No. No. Not this TOD. The other TOD: Transit Oriented Development.

Transit Oriented Development is the Love Child of the hipster "Live-Work-Play!" and Greedy Developer. Live-Work-Play! is as sexy as Scarlett Johansen and as bright as Gracie Allen making her a perfect mate for Greedy Developer. While Li'l TOD is blessed with his daddy's looks and his mama's brains he's part of a supportive team comprising his cousin, Millennials, and his rich uncle, Olde Farts.

The religious doctrine of this tribe is founded on the belief that no-one wants to drive as the faithful prefer instead to Walk, Work, Play.  For this to succeed the WWP-ers have to live within walking distance of Work-Play or public transit that will get them there. The latter, public transit, has come to the forefront because Live-Work-Play! couldn't bring home the bacon and whilst TOD may not be the sharpest tool in the shed, he's new and shiny.

This won't be easy for Mizz Dunwoody. After all, at first glance TOD is less than attractive, but true love is deeper than mere appearances. And remember, Mizz Dunwoody is in love with TOD, not Greedy Developer so when embracing TOD her focus is exclusively on TOD. And what does that mean? Well for one thing it means embracing a pedestrian life, a Gilligan's Island fantasy land where there are no motorcars (you get to keep your lights and phones). None. Nada. In accepting this, in promoting this lifestyle Mizz Dunwoody will have to put her foot down. No cars means no parking spaces. Hard. Stop.

Now Greedy Developer will not like this because deep down inside he doesn't like TOD and he doesn't believe in TOD. He just thinks that others do and that they will help him score his next Greedy Development. So when Greedy Developer comes to Mizz Dunwoody with his plans she should OK any building height he wants and any purpose that suits his fancy but where she must draw the line is parking--there can be zero tolerance for any parking spaces whatsoever lest it irreparably damage the good name of TOD.

Monday, June 27, 2016

Talk To The Hand

The City recently ran afoul of the Dunwoody Homeowners Association, particularly the DHA board, when they translated Legal Advisement into direct action. This action constituted policy, new or changed, which cannot be done without public presentation and being put to a Council vote in full view of the public. The urgency was probably exacerbated by a lawyerly perspective magnifying risk and advocating what some see as an overabundance of caution. This action was taken in what most would call a heavy-handed manner.

The gist of the issue was potential legal exposure due to DHA Board and regular members serving on City boards that impact development. Think Zoning Board of Appeals and Planning Commission.

Reaction from the DHA was equally swift and well, fervent. Clearly the City had misstepped so a meeting was hastily called to be held on the morning of the 24th so the Mayor could take responsibility and members of Council who were available could air their opinions, at least those that fell outside of client-attorney privilege. While the City's attorney noted that Council could waive privilege no motion was made to do so. What could be gleaned from Mayor and Council comments was a universal agreement that the action previously taken was wrong but that on the underlying issue of conflicts of interest, real or perceived, consensus was lacking. The meeting also included the obligatory public comment periods offering greater insight into the underlying problem.

The actions taken by the City singled out the DHA leaving some to publicly question, in the Friday meeting and other fora, what makes the DHA special? Here, being kind, let us assume this is a somewhat rhetorical question and if you really want to know just ask any DHA member and they will wax poetic. And they would be correct. Many things, good things, in Dunwoody are credit to the DHA and at least one of Friday's commenters remarked: "Dunwoody Homeowners Association should be credited with making this City possible."

Prior to City incorporation the DHA provided a unified voice on matters that were often of greater concern in this most northwestern corner of DeKalb County than they were down in Decatur. This often concerned zoning and development which when too loosely coupled to the community tended more towards concerns around profits. Again being kind, the DHA was a self-organized group of concerned citizens who worked hard to ensure that significant consideration was given to community issues as development moved forward.

For years the DHA acted as the defacto local government in the Dunwoody area where zoning and development was concerned. Developers quickly learned that successful projects required more than hosting an open public meeting. It required presentations to the DHA and negotiations with their board. Without DHA board approval a developer would fight an unnecessarily difficult uphill battle. Developers did not unlearn this lesson nor did the situation change when the City was founded. Instead of the City being the sole or even primary arbiter of Zoning and Development this is what doing business in Dunwoody looks like to Developers:

In spite of attempts to characterize the DHA as just another community group comments made on behalf of the DHA in the meeting and elsewhere do little to counter the prevailing view. In fact they do quite the opposite. You cannot speak on the one hand about all the great things DHA has done in "negotiating" with developers, bragging about how special it is and has been, and then pretend it is just another HOA. The DHA will be no different to the local swim and tennis club when it behaves like the local swim and tennis club.

One tell of the DHA's high self esteem is the number of times "negotiating with the DHA Board" came up in public comment during the City's special called meeting culminating in a question, per rule rhetorical, lamenting that the Mayor and Council did not come to the DHA to negotiate with the Board regarding the conflict of interest the DHA presents. It almost seems that the commenter's issue wasn't just that the City acted unilaterally but that it did not seek prior approval by the DHA.

General consensus is the legal advisement resulted from a couple of poorly executed development efforts in residential areas. Bigger money and proportionally larger risk is to be found in Perimeter Center. An article in the Dunwoody Reporter on the DHA vs City matter claims:
The DHA was heavily involved in the recently proposed Crown Towers mixed-use development. DHA members met with developers several times and agreed to support the project in exchange for such promises as payment of a $760,000 "voluntary impact fee" to be used toward park space in the Perimeter.
Does not sound like a neighborhood HOA but at first blush looks more like an ordinary protection racket. And in what world is a HOA's support for a project valued at over three quarters of a million dollars? Since government is involved perhaps this price makes sense in a world where choosing between the HOA and serving in a City Zoning and Planning position impacts over two dozen individuals. That the developer pulled out claiming uncertainty regarding how the Council would vote further suggests that someone, somehow had set certain expectations later believed to be unattainable. All things considered the $760,000 price tag presented during "negotiations" may seem a bargain. It certainly looks as if a bargain was struck. Bartered HOA support is more than unseemly as even the mere appearance that money buys a specific outcome puts the public at risk given that our government is involved.

And it is our government. A local, accessible government. A representative government. A government charged with serving all the citizens of Dunwoody and responsible for enacting, applying and enforcing our local Zoning ordinances, doing so fairly and uninfluenced by outside organizations and ex parte negotiations. Dunwoody is one litigious developer and one non-profit HOA misstep away from a courtroom disaster. A disaster for which the HOA cannot be held accountable and whose cost the non-profit will not bear.

Though horribly wrong in execution the City is right to take action. The risk goes beyond mere money and legal liability. The issue is whether our City is led by a representative government accountable at the ballot box or hosts a pretend government that merely carries water for the board of a non-profit HOA.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Mizz Dunwoody Bitch Slaps Mista DHA

The relationship between Mizz Dunwoody and her Mista has always been publicly pleasant if at times unseemly or downright incestuous. Recently an earth shattering breakup has Mizz Dunwoody kicking Mista DHA outa da house and to the curb. The abruptness leads some observers to believe Mizz Dunwoody has gone a bit crazy or might be over-reacting to some minor cock-up, like Mista DHA leaving the toilet seat up. Again. But somehow this has a burning bed quality about it.

Reaction in DaVille was immediate and in some cases pre-emptive. Some with an eye for Mista DHA as well as a slightly catty attitude towards Mizz Dunwoody are already slinging mud on Mista's behalf. Fact is they've been making catty remarks only slightly under their breath for some time and now that a crack has opened they are driving a wedge hard and fast all the while batting an eye at Mista DHA. The heart wants what the heart wants.

In reality even the batty-eyed flirts don't know what really happened. Mizz Dunwoody didn't just bitch slap the Mista, she lawyered up and laid a gag order on his stunned face. His initial compliance may be a simple delay tactic until he finds the better lawyers or it may be that Mizz Dunwoody has something that not only constitutes irreconcilable differences but might point to something significantly more serious and embarrassing than a brief indiscretion. And if Mista's courtesan's don't know how are the poor disengaged denizens of this burg to know?

Perhaps the better question is "why would we want to and what good would it do?" It's pretty obvious this split is for real and for good. The lawyers alone indicate that makeup sex is not in this couple's future and while his flirts may service Mista DHA, Mizz Dunwoody seems hellbent on standing tall. And alone.

But what now for Mista DHA? The sting is fresh and there is a risk of anger overruling reason. He may seek to vanquish Mizz Dunwoody on a field of legal battle but he would only win a pyrrhic victory. With significant collateral damage. Us.

Maybe Mista DHA can turn his attention to Miss Schoolhouse. They could be DaVille's next power couple. Or perhaps he can leverage his remaining wealth to invest in real estate. There are some nearby properties, notably a failed restaurant that he could save from becoming a successful bank. So many options. Only one of them bad.

Mizz Dunwoody and Mista DHA were, in their day, such an admirable couple. Let's hope bickering and acrimony don't permanently tarnish the image.