Monday, September 17, 2018

Do You STILL Believe?

Before the fateful referendum, Fran (of Fran and Dan fame) had a conversation with a member of The Other Dunwoody who felt things were moving a bit too fast. Fran ended that conversation by saying "don't you just believe we'll be better off as a City?"

And now here we are. Sure, we got a new parkway. But we also got a rapid slide into a lower level of service, particularly with regards to code enforcement and police presence. It is worth noting that a call to 911 will come up empty on the code enforcement front because that isn't what cops are for. They're shuckin' and jivin' in a lip sync contest.

So Fran, what have you wrought?

The Penzoil Sign (at the right) is STILL Illegal
Moving the sign onto the grass may have opened up the sidewalk but it remains out of compliance with city ordinances. After all, THIS is what we were promised.

Last Work By Norman Rockwell
So, yeah, moving the offending sign allows these folk their promised right of passage. But we are obviously still not paying folks at the City Taj Mahal enough to get the job done. JiffyLube may well have pastured the Penzoil sign but they also offer us this.

That's right. TWO illegal signs. You just have to wonder who is getting a lube job. Oh, and does Fran STILL believe?

Thursday, September 13, 2018

They Call It A Sign Walk...

...we call it the Walk Of Shame.

Cannot Be A Sidewalk, Can It?
So, how much do we have to pay to get a city that provides their committed services? Keeping in mind that this sign has been in this location, blocking this sidewalk on the beloved Village Parkway for several days. What pay scale does it take to get ordinances enforced?

Perhaps we're already paying too much and higher salaries are not the solution. Perhaps we have more than one problem. Maybe the salaries are low but equally matched by low capabilities and even lower work ethic. Maybe money would be better spent on fewer, better employees at higher compensation.

One thing is certain. We aren't getting what we are paying for but we are sure as hell paying for what we are getting.

Monday, September 10, 2018

Everybody Gets A Raise

The city is preparing to give everyone on payroll a pay hike with the preparation, beyond the initial decision, comprising a commissioned study supporting their decision to increase salaries. At least they get what they pay for.

But do we?

The study itself, while somewhat boilerplate in presentation, content and methodology, is not entirely unreasonable. There is a section of "peer" governments to which Dunwoody compares complete with percentiles, quartile, hell, more tiles than Floor and Decor. It is the peerage where things unravel quite a bit. Largely driven by geography, somewhat by demographics, we see the likes of Sandy Springs, Chamblee, Brookhaven and the mayor's beloved Roswell. All good, but that it leaves that nagging question unanswered: do we, the mere residents of Dunwoody, do we get what we pay for?

You see, bureaucracies, particularly government bureaucracies like relativism over absolutes. Especially when it comes to bumping their payroll. So they are more than happy to compare what a bureaucrat in Roswell gets paid to what a similar bureaucrat is being paid in Dunwoody. Especially when it suggest the Dunwoody Aeron Driver should get a bump. The alternative is to compare merit, even relative. In fact, the only comparison readily available to residents is relative.

Do we get what we're paying for now? Relative to what folks in Doraville, Roswell or Alpharetta receive? Will paying more put us on par with the city's self-selected peers with regards to service or will we simply pay more for the service we're now receiving? And lest someone suggest that we are already getting more than we pay for TOD will challenge you to survey residents of, say, Roswell regarding that city's control of clutter, ordinance enforcement and compliance, traffic control and general quality of life. If the Village would be enormously improved by emulating Roswell then perhaps there are operations at City Hall that could benefit similarly.

Thursday, September 6, 2018

Family Feud... know, as in "Survey Says." Recently someone at City Taj Mahal kicked off just that. Who exactly did this or pushed for it is unknown, about as unknown as details on who actually completed the survey. Online surveys are built like that. And here is a real shocker: the survey says everyone wants the Village Overlay gutted and they really want the area to look like Canton Street in Roswell. Georgia. Just like the mayor has always waxed poetic about. Now it may be that a lot of respondents actually live in Roswell and like it. Maybe a few folk filled out the survey many, many times. Online surveys are built like that. Now if the City really wants to know what we think there would be a referendum on the upcoming ballot. Don't hold your breath.

So the mayor loves Roswell and yet, doesn't live there. Seems fixable.

Nonetheless there is much this city can learn from our neighbor to the north. First would be signs and code enforcement. Up north, you better get your sign approved, apply that sticker, or you are going to get fined. Hefty fine at that. Oh, and this is not just a do as I say, pretty please, these folks really will come to your home or place of business and write you a citation. They also have traffic enforcement. And not just right on Canton Street, but even in the neighborhoods where people live and kids play. Not only do they enforce truck zones they are notorious for keeping a lid on infractions as minor as rolling thru a stop sign. Don't even think about that illegal u-turn. Oh, and those construction sites and trucks? Thinking about tracking some mud on that city's streets, well, think again. Do that and you are going to get a very large fine. So what happens when ordinances are actually enforced? People obey the law. And the city is a nicer place.

So maybe instead of taking dictation from developers who insist on reworking the overlay to look like Canton Street maybe the mayor and council could focus on the important things that actually make a real city. If they focused on that then perhaps what follows wouldn't be just superficial appearances.

Monday, September 3, 2018

Men At Work

Are Women NOT Allowed?

Thursday, August 30, 2018

Found Art Foundry

Dunwoody has long been known for its Arts Festival where folks can wander about and get information on kitchen remodeling, window replacement and home equity loans to pay for it all. Now a group of residents have caught the art bug and have formed a non-profit to encourage the collection, curation and presentation of "Found Art" in public spaces. The head and co-founder of Dunwoody's Found Art Foundry, Steve Butterworth could hardly contain his excitement saying "we're bringing out art previously rejected as unwanted imbuing the community with a uniform sensitivity for these previously unwanted artists and their art." His partner and co-founder, Ruddy Kalman added "all too often we filter out the extraordinary beauty of our environment and what we hope is for the community to open themselves to new art that offers a more universal guidance, helping us navigate the complexities of modern life."

So what is the Found Art Foundry? Well it is an increasingly cohesive amalgam of local activists and artists who have joined together to use readily available materials "found" in the public domain to create art for public display. As Ruddy describes it "we're taking public eyesores, creating compelling art and returning this to public spaces."

Sounds like a win-win-win. Here is how it works. Artists, along with a growing group of volunteer helpers, routinely scour the city collecting illegally displayed signs. These signs are then used to compose an artistic collage--writ large--again for all to see. You may already have noticed the positive community impact with the removal of illegal signage of all shapes, types and forms: from not-yet-open businesses to flamboyant (and flagrant) booster groups but what you cannot yet see is the work going on to transform these eyesores into soaring works of art.

We can hardly wait. 

Monday, August 27, 2018

Hickory House Returns

Well not exactly, but BBQ is on the way back to the village. And it would appear that the bank that took over the Olde Hickory House location is folding its tent and moving out. Or so one must conclude from the sign being located on that bank's property.

Illegal Seven Ways To Sunday
The sign is clearly in violation of Dunwoody's Ordinances, specifically Section 20-67 regarding temporary signs like the one above. And what does that section say? Glad you asked.

Key elements of the ordinance include:
  • "(2) Each board must be located within ten feet of a pedestrian entrance of the sponsor of the board;"
  • "(3) Such a board may be utilized only during the hours of operation of the store or entity using it and shall be removed during the hours it is closed.
This sign is located nowhere near any pedestrian entrance to any business let alone within ten feet. Then the sign condemns itself indicating that the business is not yet in operation so therefore "shall be removed" because the business is closed.

Looks pretty bad, doesn't it? Like someone is planning to lower the average IQ in this Smart City of ours. Or, could it be something else? Perhaps this is less illiteracy, ignorance and arrogance and simply a game of "follow the leader." As it happens, at the very same time, the City of Dunwoody put out their illegal sign.

A Blatant Violation Of City Code
To make it even better, the City's illegal sign was to advertise a meeting to go over proposed changes to the Village Overlay. At this point it is worth noting that the sign ordinance the City has violated is not specific to the Village Overlay but applies equally throughout the City.

Rumor has it that a mere citizen pointed out the illegality of this sign as it was being placed and was later informed by a member of council that said council member "disagreed." Can said member NOT read? Or is it a comprehension problem? Or is it simply a capability issue? Regardless, the law is in clear, plain language and anyone who cannot read and understand that ordinance and see that these signs are in clear violation has no place at City Hall. 

Thursday, August 23, 2018

Fool's Gold

What is Dunwoody Village? That is the question of the moment and when posed by the folks we have on our payroll, it is a rhetorical question because city staff is going to do what they are told. By the developers.  But really, what is Dunwoody Village?

Well to look at the map it is a relatively small area centered around the Chevron station that started it all. Exclusively businesses but unless the map changes the upcoming Postal Townhouses on The Parkway will add "live" to work-play in the overlay. That's the geography but what is this Village? From a resident's perspective--you know the folks that live around here, shop there and keep the place alive?

You gotta start with Banks. Bankwoody has replaced Dunwoody Housewife Jokes as the Dunwoody Dig. And yes there are plenty of banks but keep in mind some have relocated keeping the net-net under control. And banks can be useful, especially if you want to buy a house or a car. Know what else is handy? Real estate agents and the village has quite the selection of those. And sneaking under the radar is a rather recent growth in law firms--in the farmhouse and over on The Parkway to name just a few. And your car? Which one of those banks holds the title on? Need new tires, service or repairs, or just get it cleaned--over half a dozen places awaiting your business. In the village. Just need to handle normal errands? Mail and shipping? Gotcha covered. Laundry and dry cleaning? How do so many even stay in business? Good eats? Pick your cuisine, price range and dining experience--you'll find multiple options from fast food to white napkin, from burgers to brunch to bar food. Into entertaining at home? Two grocers, a liquor/wine store and growler shop. In the village. Need to work off some of that fine dining? Choose your poison: yoga, pilates, hard workout. In the village. Need an MD after over-doing it, well you're going to have pick a speciality and then choose from one of many. In the village. Same for dentistry. In the village. Need a gash stitched or bone set? Two emergency doc-in-a-box to choose from. In the village. Meds involved? Two big box pharmacies and one independent. In the village. Want to get your doo on? Even without Super Signs there are over half a dozen places to get trimmed, coifed, tinted, polished and massaged. Yep, in the village. And that is the tip of the iceberg given there are multiple office condos and rentals hosting a wide variety of businesses. In the village.

There is a word for The Village: thriving. Businesses have come and gone over the years. Because it is thriving. The Village has been a place where someone with an idea, commitment and a dedication to serving the community can succeed and those with good ideas and hard work and willingness to embrace the community have succeeded. There is a word for those folks: entrepreneur. None of this happened overnight and it didn't happen because of or in spite of bricks and beige. It reflects the hard work of these business people and residents who have supported them. It is not some pre-fab, factory made spawn of a strip-mall architect's pen--it is a reflection of the community. The DVO is merely a legal document codifying what this community has built over the decades.

But developers have a new buzzword, "vibrant," and they're using City staff to get it out. What is "vibrant"? Well if you want to see what "vibrant" was a few years back drive up North Point Parkway from Mansell to the mall. What do you see? Stacked stone. Everywhere. Why? Because just a few years ago developers said that was "vibrant". No more. Now faux-factory-reno-loft-industrial is "vibrant" but what will be "vibrant" five years down the road? Who knows but it won't be what is "vibrant" today because development in this area is brownfield. It is re-development. So developers have baked in planned obsolescence and its name is "vibrant".

These developers are catering to a demographic with short attention spans who are easily attracted to the shiny, the new. The superficial. Those who will soon need something else that is shiny, new. A demographic that is shallow and transient--intellectually if not geographically.  Is that your Dunwoody? Is that the Dunwoody you want? What are you going to do about it?

Monday, August 20, 2018

Candles In The Wind

Light one or curse the darkness, or so goes the thinking behind those who are answering the Village Overlay survey. Others see it being as useful as spitting off the wrong side of the ship.

It is an odd survey having some of the aspects of a push poll. For "vibrant" they do offer their own definition, but they implicitly assume that everyone believes that "vibrant" is not only good but that it is to be maximized. If you don't fully accept their definition or their premise, that's too bad because your answers are going to be interpreted and presented in THEIR context and not yours. Even the picture selections are biased--away from what we have developed and embraced over the years in favor of what one, apparently very well connected developer wants for today. It is almost as if the developer commissioned the survey.

They ask what you'd like to see the village look like in 20+ years? Disingenuous that. The folks putting on this circus know damn well that what this developer is asking for is little more than the current trend based more on developers' version of the Hawthorne effect than any enduring societal or demographic sea change. They don't care what it will look like in 10 years let alone 20 and why should they. When a new trend surfaces, they or their followers will simply demand the old make way for the new and they will expect the City to at least rubber stamp their plan if not actually pay for it. It is almost surprising that the Brothers Crim have not demanded tax abatements.

In preparation for the tussle, forces have been sent to undermine the Williamsburg character of the current overlay. First was to broaden the definition, without asking anyone, to be "mid-atlantic" allowing them to nibble away at the existing requirements. Then they blamed it all on a gas station saying it "just happened" after one business picked that style. But that is the very essence of organic development. It started with one, was adopted by others until it because a cohesive representation of the community. Why? Because that is exactly what it is.

Now we have unelected folks at the City's Taj Mahal deciding what they will make of Dunwoody, what they will do with Dunwoody Village. As staffers, not even required to live in Dunwoody, they are beholden to developers, not those pesky but unknown and unseen residents. But they are not unlike elected officials who should reflect residents' concerns even when not facing election but increasingly seem distracted by more important issues.

There will be a presentation this Saturday and they will tell you what they are going to do. They won't say it directly because they know it isn't what you want--it is what their real bosses want--but if you listen between the lines you'll hear the end of Dunwoody Village as you know it.

Friday, August 17, 2018


What happened to the concept of "light pollution"? You remember--one of the key elements of the Village Overlay when this city was foisted and hoisted. Village lighting had to prevent overspray. Of course these ordinances have been "updated" as in "better suited to the business community" but they are very specific and actually quite stringent. And it isn't just the overlay--if your front porch light illuminates your neighbors' yards then you, sir, are a criminal. Motion light stay on for more than 10 minutes? Then it damn well better be pointed down--not that you really wanted to see what tripped it, right? Check out Sec. 27-250 of the ordinances, and for real fun notice that neon lighting is verboten by way of Sec. 27-248. Of course signs aren't lights are they?

And what IS it with the Dunwoody High School and outdoor lights? Why is this a mission ranking up there with Save Darfur or #BringBackOurGirls? And why the Trumpian propaganda that would make Goebbels blush? From the Go Fund Me blather:
"Neighborhood friendly LED lights could extend our practice time without bothering the neighbors..."
Seriously, did you guys actually graduate from a High School? A real one? So you expect smart folk in the smart city to believe you can install field lighting and magically the laws of physics will not apply and nary a single photon will escape the confines of your Blessed Child's event?

Fine, it isn't Wrigley in the Good Ole Days. You know, before they won. But they weren't playing in the dark they just weren't trying to not suck. Anyway, there are only a few ways that field lighting is "neighborhood friendly." It can either not be there at all (best); be turned off (second best); or be used only during the day (suboptimal). Somehow it seems Boosterus Maximus on City Council would not approve of any of these options.

Some might suggest it is "free lighting for a backyard 'cue" but they've not seen the number and size of bugs these lights attract. And it isn't just the bugs--that's not mustard on your dog, that's bat guano. And so what if it keeps YOUR child up late at night? Watch Close Encounters with them and they'll be so scared they'll pull covers over their heads and the light won't bother them. And you KNEW there were lights there when you bought your house didn't you? Oops--there weren't. So what. We've got someone on City Council who just loves all things Dunwoody High, so screw you.