Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Dunwoody To Outlaw Boobs

At a recent meeting of Dunwoody's Itty Bitty Titty Committy (yes, they spell it that way) plans are underway to celebrate the criminalization of Boobs in Dunwoody. With the help of the IBTC, Dunwoody has crafted two ordinances to ensure that baring breasts in Dunwoody be virtually banned.

Committe chair, Barbara Beacoup, thanked the many participants who contributed to the success of the effort saying "and you should all be proud that our efforts will put an end to this before it gets off the ground." She also added "while we all acknowledge these bare breasted women would earn significantly more than they might otherwise, it must be said that most of the boobs are fake thus making it just another form of fraud. It's a shame we had to use liquor laws and dance around the first amendment, but we did and we got the job done."

Co-founder and treasurer, Vera Vadeveist, addressed the assembly by noting these efforts not only protect the community but more importantly preserve the integrity of the nuclear family. "Our men should not be tempted into blowing the family's money. They need to stay home and learn to appreciate what they have." "That's right", Barbara chimed in. "This isn't a case of getting what you pay for, it's about paying for what you already have."

The featured speaker, Sister Mary Bernard of the Order of the Blue Nuns and official IBTC Moral Advisor remarked that this was a most excellent start, but it is just the start. "While no one is advocating a return to a puritanical general dress code, as I am a nun after all", a comment which sent giggles throughout the audience, "but we as a community have become too lax. For example, the skimpy clothing worn by our daughters at the Dunwoody High School car wash fund raisers is an embarrassment to the community. Downright shameless." Sister Mary B challenged the membership to fight complacency, to move beyond mere areola coverage to a more modest climate where the prurient would not be exposed to even the hint of a bikini line.

This challenge was enthusiastically embraced by the membership with the chants of "Lily White! Outa Sight!". Questions of bikini line elimination by tanning salons and the potential for extended surface area exposure that might offer were addressed by formation of a special task force. This group will determine if these businesses can operate legally in Dunwoody and if they can, how best to change that.

Shortly after Sister Mary B concluded her remarks and other, minor business was addressed, the meeting, as all must, came to a close. But unlike other meetings, those of the IBTC end with entire group singing the official IBTC hymn: "In olden days a glimpse of stocking was looked on as something shocking, now heaven knows..."

Thank God, we in The Other Dunwoody have these fine folks looking out for us.


Thursday, December 11, 2008

Specialized Sexual Activity

That's right dear reader, that's what we're talking about in Dunwoody: specialized sexual activity.

Don't believe it? Then check out the proposed Prude Laws soon to be passed by the Dunwoody City Council, page 5, last paragraph under Section 2: Definitions. This follows on the heels of the Council's (ab)use of Likker Laws to prevent raising a toast to any fine examples of human anatomy, as if there are that many. Furthermore, the fine gentlemen and lady comprising our city government are sipping the wine of God, a dry protestant varietal, in one of His many fine Dunwoody homes. Perhaps it should be illegal for the Mayor and Council drink from that cup while on the job.

Regardless of origin, true intent or even divine inspiration, we in The Other Dunwoody are still left with nagging questions.

What is specialized sexual activity and how do we get some? Do we need training? Are there classes? Certainly not at the DUMC, but maybe the Dunwoody Nature Center? Would these be adult only? Is alcohol involved? We all know candy is dandy, but isn't it true that likker is quicker? Or, is that already outlawed?

And just what are they, our ballyhoo-ed City Council, trying to outlaw with this ordinance? Is anyone with the Kama Sutra and the knowledge to use it as welcome in our fair city as a billboard? Perhaps only if they share their knowledge? Wouldn't want any learning going on in Dunwoody, now would we? Or, is specialized sexual activity a neo-con codeword for homosexual activity, which truth be told isn't as specialized as it once might have been?

Or perhaps, there is just no one involved in City government that reads this stuff before enactment. Could that really be? Are they so blinded by their self-proclaimed good intentions that they no longer see clearly? Are we, all of us in Dunwoody, just rolling down a steep hill in a bus whose driver is asleep at the wheel?

Folks, there comes a time when competence is a turn on. But it seems Dunwoody's leaders think this leads to specialized sexual activity, and by God, and in the shelter of the DUMC, they're going to outlaw that!


Friday, December 5, 2008

Billboard Tops Dunwoody

In a poignant display of oneupmanship Action Outdoor Advertising waited until the last day of DeKalb dominion over Dunwoody to erect a large and largely unwanted billboard just within the about-to-be city limits. Were they excited? You betcha! But no less than those of us in The Other Dunwoody.

There is the undeniable irony of it all. Were it not for last minute wrangling with a late vote change and the violation of home rule--a blatant show of disrespect for the DeKalb delegation, there would be no Dunwoody, no Mayor and no Council. Yet, the manner in which SB82 was pushed through the house was perfectly legal. And apparently all the paperwork was in order with our new billboard as well, and the company, prudently and legally, made sure it was in place before the city was. Just hours before, but before. And legally regardless.

Now City officials and many citizens have their shorts in a knot. See they don't like billboards. At least not in their back yard. And by golly, they're gonna do something about it. Call out the lawyers! Who cares if it is legal, we'll sue them anyway! Hypocrisy you say? How dare you! Can't you see that we are Dunwoody and Dunwoody is W^Hright. Always right and right in all ways. Get with the program folks.

Let's hope our nascent leaders come to their senses and see the irony if not the humor in this and move on to more important things than wasting our tax dollars on frivolous legal posturing. Maybe something like, oh, gosh, let's see, how about getting this city on its feet!


Saturday, November 29, 2008

A Momentus Day

December 1st marks the end of the 2008 Hurricane Season. It offers a time to reflect on the pre-season predictions and assess the accuracy of the experts. As sometimes happens, the predictions didn't quite meet with reality.

But December 1st is also the first day in the existence of the City of Dunwoody. This also offers the opportunity to reflect on where we are and how we got here, the end of our first season of Dunwoody.

Given that Dunwoody doesn't even officially start until Monday December 1st this might seem difficult, but...Dunwoody's Mayor and City Council have been in operation since being sworn in and prior to that operated under the auspices of the Governor's office and prior to that these very same folks who comprise the fledging government of Dunwoody operated the wholly political and quasi-governmental Citizens for Dunwoody and Dunwoody Yes! organizations. And as Dr. Phil likes to say "the best predictor of future behavior is past behavior". This gives a significant body of work to evaluate.

To make the job more manageable, let's look at some key metrics: No Taxation without Representation, Service Value, Integrity, and Transparency.
Taxation: D. This covers not only the taxation of various businesses operating within Dunwoody which likely have little say in city operations, but also the imposition of the Franchise Fee Tax which negatively affects everyone who lives in and uses utilities in Dunwoody, but more importantly represents a tax levied by Dunwoody on Georgians who live outside Dunwoody. Remember the primal scream of cityhood? No Taxation Without Representation!
Service Value: C. This is one political hot potato. On the plus side: a city hall not in the city because it is cheaper; and dodging the CH2M bullet, but on the minus side: tacit acknowledgment that the CVI study was bogus; serious, allegedly surprising, startup cash flow problems; insufficient funds for promised police staffing; and no immediate prospects for park or road improvements.
Integrity: F. There is just no other way to say it: the citizens of Dunwoody have been lied to from the beginning. A now suspect Carl Vinson Study produced under the direction of cityhood proponents. Task Force reports withheld until after the referendum. The Citizens for Dunwoody and Dunwoody Yes! operating outside public view and review as was their legal right, but since they were influencing events affecting us all there was a moral imperative to operate openly. A moral imperative they diligently ignored.
Transparency: F. You probably cannot have integrity without transparency, at least in government, and when the first official meeting of the City Council results in the first official open records request, you get a pretty good idea how committed the Mayor and Council will be to their pledges of transparent and open government. One might accept them as technological novices but for the fact that someone associated with CfD and DY! demonstrated an amazing ability to put up (and tear down) websites and post Shrill Jill videos when it suited their purpose.

So there you have it. On the issues that matter most to most of us, Taxes, Services, Integrity and Transparency, this city earned a first term grade of D-, far short of their original promises. Maybe next year there will be a hurricane Dunwoody that meets predictions.


Tuesday, November 18, 2008

It's Official: Dunwoody's For Sale

Well, maybe not or maybe it's just our integrity on the block, but it is increasingly clear that it is all about money:
  1. While our likker laws do keep out undesirables, more than anything else they generate revenue. Lot's of revenue. And by golly, that's what governance is all about--spending other people's money.
  2. And these likker laws are just a part of the business ordinances (IE: taxation) that the City, shall we say, derived from the existing county ordinances. Now remind us--those of us in The Other Dunwoody--wasn't this new city supposed to be better than DeKalb. Increasingly it looks more like a governmental mini-me.
  3. Now that we have a City Hall on the cheap, some questions have been raised regarding its location in Sandy Springs, to which members of the council have responded: you can't beat the price. Well, actually if Quixote and his faithful side-kick, Pancho, hadn't gone jousting at windmills, we'd still be in unincorporated DeKalb and as events are about to prove, that would be cheaper. So, do we really want cheaper? No. We want what we want, we just don't want to pay for it.
  4. And, the ever-popular Franchise Fee Tax has been officially revealed as just another tax increase. It's not clear how those outside The Other Dunwoody view it, except that the Chair of the Dunwoody Fan Club, Dick Williams, says: "Franchise fees, like 'em or not, have been part of the Dunwoody budget from Day One. Can't do it without them." Well thanks for the clarification Dick--this end justifies any means.
You might be surprised at all this late-in-the-day grubbing for money, shocked at feigned surprise regarding the delay of Franchise Fee/Tax receipts and the allegedly unexpectedly large police requirements. Yet, you know they squandered the extra year donated by Fran Millar, failing to put in place a startup plan, a one and five year plan, a comprehensive land use plan, and the financial models and budgets that demonstrate feasibility.

You might even be getting the idea this is more like a bunch of overgrown children trying to spell "god" with all the wrong blocks than a well-planned civic endeavor.

You might be catching on.


Saturday, November 15, 2008

New "Police" Patrolling Redfield

A close friend of The Other Dunwoody reports sighting a black crown vic with "Police" stickers on the front doors and trunk patrolling the Redfield neighborhood at approximately 7AM on the morning of November 10. The driver was a white male, around 35 years old, slightly overweight, deemed good looking and wearing what could have been uniform clothes: black pants and shirt. The car was bearing Gwinnett County plates and the Police stickers did not indicate affiliation with any police department, neighborhood organization or security company. There were no signs of police lights or any other indication this might be an official vehicle.

Further investigation revealed that the Redfield community had hired an off-duty officer to patrol the neighborhood. Not surprising, given the recent violent crime in the neighborhood and the security vacuum created by an overtaxed and exiting DeKalb PD and the time required to start the Dunwoody PD. They had already taken measures to secure access to their neighborhood and improve security lighting around the tennis courts and club house. Perhaps they are telling us all something about our future prospects regarding security and cityhood.

It should be of concern to us all that the vehicle was clearly labeled "Police", when other neighborhood patrols, like the Morningside Security Patrol, are clearly marked "Patrol" though in both cases they employ off-duty police officers. What is more alarming was the response of the security/patrolman when asked if he was a member of the new Dunwoody PD. He responded "not yet". It would be nice to know who might have (mis)led this individual into believing that a security patrol job is a stepping stone to the Dunwoody PD. These kinds of commitments should be reserved to the mayor, council and police chief, and consequently available for public review.

Or so we were once led to believe. Turns out that isn't true either. The AJC reports that Dunwoody officials are negotiating police options and report that Councilman Taylor:

"has met with agencies proposing to provide the gap coverage."

Further claiming that:

"Taylor declined to discuss the two cities in talks with Dunwoody. "
Declined? DECLINED! What happened to transparency? What happened to better governance than we had as unincorporated DeKalb?

Is it too late or too early for recall votes?


Sunday, November 9, 2008

Returning to the Scene of the Crime

The AJC reports that the mayor and city council has, designated Dunwoody United Methodist Church as the new permanent location for working sessions and city council meetings. The official Dunwoody website is silent on the issue of disregard for separation of church and state this represents.

While things have not gone as smoothly after the referendum passed as before the vote, it isn't clear that the glory days can be recaptured by merely returning to the original venue. Even though officially unconfirmed, rumors are circulating throughout the city suggesting that now more than ever, the Magic Pews of DUMC are needed to shield the mayor and council from impending doom.


Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Demon Rum

Dear god, what have we done?

Are you bored? Got some time on your hands? Need little laugh or maybe a real good cry? Then cruise on over and fetch the proposed Dunwoody likker law. It's a hoot. These are just a few miscellaneous notes from a quick read:
In legalese is 'or' inclusive or exclusive? If the former, is not article 2, section 3, item b not semantically equivalent to item c? One thing is for sure, legalese isn't english.

Why can't someone have a financial interest in a retailer and a wholesaler? Does the separation guarantee a bigger sin tax or do they just figure the more the merrier?

So the caterer at my daughter's wedding has to get separate license just for the Champagne Toast? Wow.

Are members of the License Review Board paid, or do they just get the fun of wielding power?
Mayor: "Hey Sam, wanna bust some chops?"
Sam: "Sure, I'd love to twist a few screws! Whatcha got in mind?"
Mayor: "You'll get to sit on the License Review Board. You whup up on folks who just wanna make a living and when you finally give 'em a chance, we'll bleed 'em dry."
Sam: "Sounds like fun, when do I start?"
Mayor: "Next week, but we'll go over the details after church tomorrow."
Sam: "See ya there."

Is the Dunwoody Bottle Shop far enough away from the private daycare/school? Will that impede the opening of restaurants in that shopping center?

Does article 4 section 3 effectively prohibit the Pavillion from serving drinks on their patio? Or do they and Mellow Mushroom get a special permit? Oh, and then there's Park Bench/High Cotton/Peter's/What's Next...

Thank God! Our underage children can still go to the rail, even on Sunday! But only a minister, rabbi or priest can give 'em booze in public--parents have to keep it at home. Wouldn't want anyone getting any ideas, eh?

Article 5, subsection 6 is such a strange mix of weird and funny it is (almost) impossible to comment. And "areola"? Can you even print that in Dunwoody? What, did the Prude Patrol go missing at the Promise Keepers convention? And just what is meant by "expose to view"? Does a chill in the air put T-shirted waiters and waitresses out of business? (Remember men have areola as well and it says "below the top").

The Fourth Amendment rights you give up to become licensed is downright offensive. Looks like our Police will get to search you in places you're not allowed to expose if you want to keep your license. "Put that drink down, we're doing a cavity search!" "But the drink's for me and that's why I need the drink in the first place!"

Article 7, section 2, items f and g imply that the minibars at the W have to be locked up at 2 AM. Oh, and should Dunwoody ever have a bed and breakfast...oops, not enough rooms. Who needs a B+B anyway. Totally out of place in Dunwoody.

Thank goodness we cut the veterans a little slack. Where is the Dunwoody VFW anyway?

But...no drinkin' and dancin'...that leads to licenscious behavior. Good thing the bowling alley is ITP. Can you imagine the symbolism some might attach to rolling a hard ball down a long lane with gutters on each side? Thank god they knock the pins down.

And we retain that wonderful DeKalb county restriction on more than one drink on the table at a time. That's right..."chug it down sir or I can't give you that second glass of wine". Hell, who wants to eat out anyway? And what about Macaroni Grill? If memory serves they just leave the whole bottle.

And finally, Article 8: money, money, money! Now that's what it's really all about!
Truth be told there are only a few reasons for these ordinances:
  1. To make lots of money for the city---and who will complain about a sin tax?
  2. To keep out undesirables: late night revelers from ITP, and strip clubs and the gentlemen who patronize them.
It does both of these very well. Can we sic these guys on tobacco next? Maybe then we'll be solvent.


Sunday, November 2, 2008

Boyken International vs CH2M HILL

It's called "workin' da web".

Try these searches on google:
CH2M HILL indict
CH2M HILL corruption
Look over just the first couple of pages of search results. The Alaska fiasco is prominent, because it is topical, but you'll also see reference to the Cleveland water disaster and the Camp Humphreys Expansion project. The common thread: the use of "consultants" who are really no more than shills for the company.

Now replace 'CH2M HILL' with 'Boyken International' and repeat the searches.

Does anyone still think Dunwoody didn't dodge a bullet?


Friday, October 31, 2008

A Great Place to Live

Or, maybe not so much.

CNN Money reports on the top 100 places to live and while Dunwoody is excluded from the list due to size, we can compare our fair city-to-be to the list. For more fun, visit the site and compare Dunwoody to neighboring cities.

So how do we stack up to the top 100? Well that depends.

We make more money and live in more expensive houses, but we also pay more in taxes and one might argue we get less for it. In spite of all the development going on around us, we are significantly below the top 100's average in job growth.

We are older, more stressed, more likely to have diabetes and less likely to have a health care plan to take care of any of this. We have more restaurants, fewer bars and air that is hardly breathable and have no plan whatsoever to address any of this.

Ironically we have more libraries, but even in a state scraping the bottom of the education barrel we fall behind the top 100's performance relative to state averages. We don't fund the arts, but we spend more on vacations. Apparently Delta's ready and we are too.

We're more likely to be married and have a small edge in diversity, though it isn't clear how many Dunwoodians consider that a good thing.

The weather is warmer, we get more rainfall and yet have the same percentage of clear days. All in all, the weather is here---we wish we were beautiful. If we just wish hard enough and click our heels three times then someday, maybe, we will be.


Thursday, October 30, 2008

What Do Franchise Fees Buy?

We can learn quite a bit from our neighboring cities on this topic. It appears that Chamblee, which also levies the Franchise Fee Tax, is considering a lawsuit against Georgia Power concerning the location of a substation. Why is this puzzling?

Well, the Georgia Municipal Association, an organization representing the interests of cities (though not necessarily their citizens) claims "franchise fees are not taxes, but are rent paid for the use of city public property by a utility". But if that were really the case, then Chamblee would buy, and own, the property for the proposed substation and would then lease it back to Georgia Power. The reality is that Georgia Power is buying the property they have (unilaterally, as is their right) chosen for the substation and furthermore were that property not for sale, they retain their powers of imminent domain and could force the sale.

Clearly, cities are not maintaining, expanding or controlling the property within their own city limits used by utilities. Once again, it is revealed that Franchise Fees are no more than appropriation of paid for assets and a new and never-ending tax by cities, including Dunwoody.


Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Another Legend Passes

Bob Carr, the man behind radio's "Willis the Guard" died Monday. The funeral is 6 P.M. Wednesday at H.M. Patterson and Son Oglethorpe Hill Chapel.


Dunwoody Hosts Young Aryans

Young Aryans from the suburbs north of Atlanta will convene at a yet to be disclosed location in Dunwoody, reportedly a local private club. Under the auspices of a charity event, groups of well educated, wealthy, white suburbanites will meet for what is publicly advertised as a fashion show---for dolls!

The Other Dunwoody finds it impossible to believe that intelligent adults would spend hundreds, even thousands of dollars on dolls, and furthermore schedule fashion shows and tea parties for these inanimate objects. Yes, you read correctly. Tea parties! Even more incredible is the suggestion that these adults would buy tickets to attend.

Surely the truth lies elsewhere and The Other Dunwoody will not be so easily fooled.

An anonymous source with the organizing group confirmed the event but refused to disclose the location without a ticket purchase. The source denied the rumor that the dolls also require a ticket and suggested in a tone dripping in disdain that this was started by envious members of the community who jealously oppose all such events. When questioned about the propriety of a mono-cultural event when we are on the verge of electing an openly bi-racial president, the source indicated:
"we have the same rights as anyone else, including the right to free assembly." "Plus, anyone who wants to attend need only buy a ticket, and if they don't feel comfortable, well that's just their problem, now isn't it?"
Without fail, the source clung to the story that this was indeed a fashion show for over-priced dolls and their somewhat affected handlers. However, the source refused to directly address the assertion that no one in their right mind would pay that much for a doll given today's economic woes simply saying "some people are recession-proof". The clear implication was that this did not hold true for The Other Dunwoody. At this point it became obvious the truth was not to be found here.

Later, representatives of a well known, but virtually invisible organization were contacted but refused to comment on the true purpose of the meeting. However, they did appear glad to hear about the popularity of such an event and indicated some members just might be in attendance.


TRANSPARENCY: A Word We Like To Use...

...to get elected. Then it appears our mayor and city council gets amnesia.

The Dunwoody Fan Magazine reports in its latest issue (sure to be in a driveway near you) that an open records request was required to obtain the names of the applicants to become our city manager. For a city council that by and large ran on a platform of open and transparent government to establish such a record of secrecy is reprehensible. We had been led to believe that a city council comprised of our neighbors would be more accessible, more open and more transparent than the distant, demonized county government. (Note: the mayor is exempt because he ran unopposed and never actually claimed to be any better than our county officials.) Apparently that's just one more lie to add to the list.

The mayor and council should be ashamed of themselves.


Monday, October 27, 2008

Dunwoody Beats Back Poverty

Dunwoody breathes a collective sigh of relief as Kroger pulls its Goodwill store plan. Not since the cityhood referendum has there been this great a cause for celebration, especially for the members of Citizens for a Clean and Pure Dunwoody. Current president Katherine "Katie" Chisolm and past president and co-founder Wendy Vespula were elated:
"This is a great victory, not only for our organization, but for all of Dunwoody", said Katie. "We've got a great community, a great culture with a solid history and now an increasingly bright future. We've come under significant outside pressure in recent years, but with a new city and now this victory, we're ready to move forward building on a solid past that was almost destroyed."

"That's right", added Wendy. "And, this isn't just great for Dunwoody, it is a win-win outcome. Our local church ministries have found that addressing the needs of the poor is enhanced when they are easily located and can be served within a reasonably compact geographic area. Dispersing them throughout other, more affluent communities makes it much more costly to offer needed services."

Katie offered further explanation: "Yes, and that's what Chamblee and Doraville are for. Dunwoody just isn't the place for that kind of operation. It belongs where those people already are and forcing them into this community would just frustrate them. After all, it would make it seem that the next rung up the ladder is out of their reach."

"That's right", Wendy concluded. "This is really the best for everybody."
We in The Other Dunwoody can all sleep better at night knowing that our neighbors, members of Citizens for a Clean and Pure Dunwoody, are watching out for us.


Monday, October 20, 2008

Dunwoody High School: A Record of Decline

RENAULT: And what in heaven's name brought you to Casablanca?
RICK: My health. I came to Casablanca for the waters.
RENAULT: Waters? What waters? We're in the desert.
RICK: I was misinformed.
If you moved to Dunwoody for the ``great schools'' it would appear that you, like Rick in Casablanca, were misinformed.

If Newsweek Magazine is to be believed Dunwoody High School is far from the best in the area. In fact it ranks outside the top 50 in all of Georgia and no Georgia school could break into the top 100.

But we're improving, right? Well actually, no, we are in steady decline in these rankings.


Dunwoody High has never been in the top 500 and is moving rapidly towards falling entirely off the list. And DHS wasn't beaten just by the likes of Walton, Lakeside, Milton and Sprayberry. No, DHS was bested by Tucker, Central Gwinnett, Cambell and Clarke Central, each with close to 50% of students receiving federally subsidized lunches.

You can choose not to believe objective outside measures of Dunwoody's dismal school performance. Many parents do. It is much easier to believe the teachers, administrators and principal when they tell you what a great job they're doing (even though they are underpaid) and what a wonderful education your child is getting (even though their teachers are underpaid).

But sooner or later your children will pay the full price of their lies and your denials.


Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Ain't From Around Here?

Forgive me Lewis for the quotes I am about to (ab)use.

Every so often someone goes somewhere, or a recent, yet-to-be acclimated transplant moves here and they inevitably come to the conclusion that we're pretty stupid and we should be doing things like they do in whatever place they just came from. Anytime you get the urge to voice these kinds of observations, ask yourself first "Why don't I just move there instead of living here?"

That said, there are indeed many things to be enjoyed in different places, some of which may even apply here, but they are different places and there are often good reasons that we don't do things the way they do.

A few of my favorites:
I visit Columbia, SC and stay in a walkable, vibrant downtown with a revitalized riverfront. Parking is free on the weekends. Would their raised pedestrian friendly intersections work in the village?

Augusta, Georgia? Great for a weekend getaway and almost a smaller version of Columbia. Transferable ideas? Not so much.

Go to Columbus and you'll see another river city with an appealing historic district, museum, riverside park and thriving downtown boulevard all within walking distance. Can't we build a small-town storefront boulevard in the village?

Savannah? Charleston? Chattanooga? Birmingham? The list goes on. Get outside of Atlanta and there are lots of charming towns and cities.
So what do these places have that we don't? For one thing, not just a high percentage, but a surplus of indigenous people--folks who are third or more generation. Community leaders whose grandparents were community leaders with a history of commitment to that community and who intend to leave a better place to their grandchildren.

More important is what we have, especially in the technology crescent containing Dunwoody. We have a highly leveraged, growth based economy that draws (demands?) folks who come here from other places. Why do they come? What draws these people away from the wonderful cities and towns of their forefathers? You know, the towns they just can't stop bragging about? Fact is no matter how quaint and family friendly their hometown, the economic opportunity we offer was more important.

This answers the original question, "why not move to that wonderful place?" They came here, they stay here, because they make more money here. They are motivated primarily by what is best for them and this fundamental aspect of their character is not likely to change no matter how long they stay. They sold out what they now say is really important, but they're not quite ready to give back that money.

Since the War of Northern Aggression, it has been the bane of Atlanta that we suffer those who "ain't from around here" who cannot resist telling "us how to speak, how to live, what to eat, what to think and they also want to tell us how they used to do it back in" where ever. We endure this so these other fine places can thrive. That is our sacrifice and in making that sacrifice we are helping create thriving, sustainable communities.

They just "ain't around here".


Tuesday, October 14, 2008

New Milton County To Include Dunwoody

On the QT, off the record, and very hush-hush.
Those in the know say key players are close to a decision to include the new City of Dunwoody in the group of runaway cities hoping to re-create Milton County. The primary goal is to remove Dunwoody schools from the faltering DeKalb system and of course keep northern money from flowing south. Said one enthusiastic supporter, "It's our money. It's our kids. It should be our schools, not theirs."

Proponents hope to build on the vision and leadership that led to the overwhelming support for incorporation in recent referenda. A local consultant and former banking executive has been tapped to manage the bidding process and act as interim superintendent while transitioning the current public school services to Edison Schools, Inc. This is expected to result in 25%-30% improvement in education outcomes without a tax increase.

While all parties are maintaining a unified front in public, some have privately expressed concern about a decline in athletic programs. While this is a potential show-stopper it is not expected to dominate public discussions.
Remember, dear readers, you heard it here first.


Friday, October 10, 2008

Kick 'em when they're up, kick 'em when they're down

Kick 'em when they're stiff, kick 'em all around
Dirty little secrets, dirty little lies
We got our dirty little fingers in everybody's pie
Love to cut you down to size, we love dirty laundry

We can do the innuendo, we can dance and sing
When it's said and done, we haven't told you a thing
We all know that crap is king, give us dirty laundry
Let it be known from the outset that The Other Dunwoody is no fan of Shrill Jill, but this is beginning to look like a vendetta. With all that is going on in Dunwoody, starting the city, selecting service providers, a mugging at Redfield, murder on Cotillion, assault rifle theft at Perimeter, the Dunwoody Fan Magazine (aka The Crier) wastes a front page headline and significant ink to beat up on Jill Chambers.

It isn't that Representative Chambers doesn't deserve to have these events presented to the public, but it has little relevance to issues confronting Dunwoody today. While Ms. Chambers does indeed live in Dunwoody, she represents only a small area of our fledgling city with most of her constituents residing in Doraville and unincorporated DeKalb. In fact, the ethics complaint does not come from a Dunwoody resident.

All the while there are significant issues with our own city council members that warrant more than a few questions and a better public vetting than they have yet to receive. Perhaps if we had a competent fourth estate on the job we mere citizens would have greater confidence that this city is moving forward without undo influence from self interested individuals and organizations.

Come on Crier, the cause is won. The trophy is on the shelf. The promotions succeeded and you have been selected as an official organ. Now it is time to direct your attention to a new set of politicians that deserve no less scrutiny than any others.


Thursday, October 9, 2008

Poor To Set Up Shop

Rumor has it that Goodwill may open a retail facility in Dunwoody to serve the needs of Dunwoody's homeless and underprivileged and possibly draw upon the similarly disadvantaged in other communities.

Needless to say, the Dunwoody community is excited about the prospect.

During a chance encounter with a high ranking official of the Catholic Church at Oscar's Villa Capri that official reiterated "The Church's love for the poor...is a part of her constant tradition." While there was some obvious concern that this new facility represented real competition to their efforts to address the needs of the local poor, the official expressed confidence saying "we will kick their butts even if we have to pass the basket twice every mass from now until hell freezes over." When asked about donating his Jaguar, the conversation abruptly ended.

Baptist representatives on the other hand disclosed their belief that it was the mission of all God's children to amass as much wealth as possible and donate at least ten percent to their church. Where this money might go remains undisclosed but they do appear to be clearing ground for a new facility of some sort and expressed no concerned about local competition on the charity front.

A representative of a local Jewish congregation politely but firmly refused comment saying "we would prefer not to talk about money, particularly not having any" but seemed enthusiastic about the prospects of a new discount retail operation in Dunwoody.

Local Methodists were too busy addressing recently discovered moral black holes and the loss of parishioners to concern themselves with people looking for deals on blue jeans, but showed some interest when it was suggested this might be a good place to search for their lost ones.

Unitarians by and large remain committed to "addressing the issues of poverty of the mind" and viewed this development with somewhat detached curiosity.

All in all, it is so heartwarming to see this community, with all the distractions of creating a new city, pull together in the spirit of charity to help those less fortunate. This is the Dunwoody we all knew it would be.


Wednesday, October 8, 2008

CH2M: Not to Run Dunwoody!

The AJC reported that CH2M has withdrawn it's offer to run Dunwoody!

At the first sign of a competitive, alternative option for city operation, CH2M folds. Surprising? Not really. CH2M has a history of using contractors and consultants to garner business while maintaining distance from activities that are increasingly scrutinized. This is not the hallmark of a competitive bidder.

Here's what their local broker has to say:
“They withdrew because they don’t feel they can get the kind of support they need to partner with the city,” Porter said.
What kind of support do they need? Would that be unfettered access to our money? Their self-proclaimed consultant installed as City Manager? Total lack of transparency? The ability to increase costs at will, as in Bonita Springs?

Was it possible that our city council actually wants to run our city for us? Were they a bit too inquisitive? Did they want a City Manager who isn't connected? Did they want too much oversight? No matter, if this decision sticks Dunwoody dodged a bullet.


Monday, October 6, 2008

Why Do They Call It Smart Growth...

...when it never involves building a school?

As reported in the AJC and the Atlanta Business Chronical, Yvonne Williams of the Perimeter CID envisions a walkable, livable Perimeter Center. That is unless you happen to be a student in our public schools--then you're bused far from the center of the PCID.

She describes part of her vision for the Perimeter Center community:
"...you have people using the retail, the restaurants and the housing so there is a live-work-play atmosphere."
This is being funded by a $6.5 million grant from the ARC Livable Centers Initiative. The Perimeter Transportation Coalition tells us:
"these LCI grants will be used to create an activity center within the Fulton and DeKalb Perimeter areas that support the "smart growth" concept of live, work, walk and play in the community."
Ever notice how smart growth's live-work-play paradigm conveniently leaves out learn? And how can you call a place livable when you must impose on neighboring communities to educate your own children?

Then we're told by Christopher B. Leinberger, a land use strategist and developer:
"The new plan will require increased density."
Unfortunately it will not require a school or any form of impact fees to compensate Dunwoody and Sandy Springs for this glaring oversight in their plan.

Until parents are walking their children across Ashford Dunwoody to their elementary school, or kids are biking to Perimeter Center High, smart growth is just a palliative buzz word used to mask the excessive greed of developers and their hypocritical shills.


The Best Tax

Is a sneaky tax.

In Dan Weber's Memorandum to the City, he offers some interesting revelations.

First, he mentions the 9/23 budget. There was a budget put together on or before 9/23? Why has this not been made available to the public? How did Weber get access to it? Don't we have a Mayor and Council committed to transparency? Isn't transparency a major whereas in Resolution No. 2008-10-01? Doesn't the phrase "serve all stakeholders in a transparent manner" appear in the two-sentence mission statement? Isn't item (4) of the Values statement "As representative of the City of Dunwoody, we will be fiscally responsible and transparent"? Does item (6) not include "we will be communicative"?

It's not clear if or when the Mayor and Council had their transparency epiphany.

In discussing the harsh economic reality of starting and running a city, Weber lets it be known that the city, in the unpublished 9/23 budget, plans to follow the county's lead by continuing a 0.7 mil tax increase. Many citizens would be more than a little surprised at this, since before the referendum, all we heard was 2.04 mils, with a 1.0 mil cap. Oh, and we were going to get 25-30% better services if you believe our not-for-pay consultant.

Now we find out that our Mayor and Council have intended for some time to slide in 34.3% increase in city property taxes because they believe we won't notice.

It is disheartening to learn that our neighbors in Dunwoody are no better than our other neighbors throughout DeKalb when it comes to governance.


City Struggles with Transparency

In its first official meeting the Dunwoody City Council faced two issues related to transparency.

First was the selection of a legal organ. There is a universal desire to reward Dick Williams for his unwavering support of cityhood, but the Crier is a weekly and that doesn't suit the council's desires for advance public notice. (You decide why.) It was proposed that there be two : the AJC, allowing for as short a notice as legally allowed, and the Crier for the aforementioned reasons. Everyone happy? Not so fast. A strong suggestion was made to get a city website in place ASAP. It was a well-reasoned, informative suggestion and did not meet with the resistance one might have expected. Let's all hope it happens.

Surprisingly (or maybe not so), this meeting saw the first open records request. What is certainly surprising is the respondent: John Heneghan! Perhaps it was an ethical contact high, but Councilman Heneghan had to discuss the matter before determining the document under question was indeed a public record. The document? It starts like this:


TO: Mayor and Council, City of Dunwoody
FR: Dan Weber
DATE: Tuesday, September 30, 2008

RE: Hybrid Budget

To assist in your decision making process, ...
How could anyone think that a memorandum addressed to the Mayor and Council regarding the most significant issue facing this city, with the stated intent of influencing their decision, could be seen as "a private conversation between two individuals"??!

Folks, it isn't that hard, at least not if you really believe in transparency. There are only two rules:
  1. If the council is discussing employee pay, promotion, discipline, or dismissal, it is private as is other employee personal information.
  2. Everything else belongs to the public and should be provided for public review, preferably on the internet---it is the 21st century after all.
The latter should include all communications, written, email, telephone and oral. Yes, oral. If lobbyists knew that officials were publishing a meeting report to those they serve (remember us? the citizens? the voters?) politics might be a better thing. All memos, all source material under review, all RFPs and responding proposals, and all email correspondence should be promptly and in some cases automatically, posted. It should also include all phone records, calls received and placed, parties on the call, duration, purpose of the call, and topics of conversation.

The technology is there to make this happen. Do it.


Friday, September 26, 2008

Consultant Ethics 101

Professional, ethical consultants have two qualities:
  1. Area expertise--they are exceptionally accomplished in an area important to their clients where the client is not sufficiently capable.
  2. Objectivity--the consultant receives no benefit due to the client's decision and this is most commonly expressed as vendor-independence.
Area expertise is table stakes, you cannot even sit in on the game without it. No statement of ethics from any professional organization tolerates consulting outside one's area of expertise. Not the Institute of Management Consultants, not the Project Management Institute, nor any state licensing agency for whom it may actually be a criminal offense. And consultants are expected to be expert, not just above average or merely capable. These extraordinary, exceptional individuals acquire their skills from academic research and/or outstanding performance in their area of expertise. They are few and far between.

Objectivity is absolutely critical--a consultant must not be influenced by a client's preconceptions and more importantly must not even appear to be influenced by or biased towards a particular vendor. A quick google search for "consultant ethics vendor-independence" reveals that many professional consulting organizations agree. Without this independence, objectivity is compromised and no matter how knowledgeable the expert, the relationship becomes deal brokering, not an objective advice in the client's best interest.

Why do we, The Other Dunwoody, care? Well, it turns out we have our own self-professed consultant who lives in neighboring Sandy Springs. None other than Oliver Porter, the citymaker. But who is Oliver Porter and what is his field, what makes him an expert, acceptable as a consultant? We know this from the City of Sandy Springs:
Oliver W. Porter, Sandy Springs, GA - Porter is a former vice president of sales at AT&T. He is the founder of the Combined Health Appeal of America and served as the group's chief executive officer and past national chairman. He served as a board member with the Committee for Sandy Springs and as the past chairman of the National Kidney Foundation. Porter earned a bachelor's degree in civil engineering from the University of South Carolina, a master's degree in business administration from Georgia State University, and completed graduate level executive programs at the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School, Williams College, and the University of Illinois.
He is a businessman, more specifically, a salesman. Prior to his position with Sandy Springs he held no elected municipal position, had no municipal job with fiduciary responsibility or oversight of services. Not even dog catcher. He has no degree in urban planning nor in municipal management. No law degree, no studies of state or local law.

This is not the background of someone exceptionally knowledgeable in municipal operations and the legal, political and financial contexts in which a city exists.

So much for expertise, now how about objectivity?

Mr. Porter has been involved in the creation of new cities in our region, including his participation as an unpaid consultant and lobbyist for the City of Dunwoody. In all cases except Dunwoody where the decision is yet to be made, these cities have all chosen to outsource services to one company: CH2M Hill. In the case of Dunwoody an RFP was issued which surely Mr. Porter had a hand in and here's the real surprise: there was no other acceptable respondent but CH2M!

This could be no more than coincidence. Or perhaps there really is no other capable vendor but CH2M.

But this strange set of coincidences isn't all there is. It turns out that Mr. Porter is also an author who is "boutique publishing" a book espousing the benefits of city service outsourcing. So how does someone market a book without the services of traditional publishers? Glad you asked.

You could set up a web site, perhaps even a blog. You could work with academic institutions presenting seminars and workshops or even offering full semester, for-credit classes.

Or, you could co-market your book with a favorite vendor.
Mr. Porter is probably not actually on the CH2M payroll, and CH2M is perfectly entitled to buy any book they want and give them to anyone they want, but this smells more like quid pro quo than a string of coincidences.

This tag team has been working very closely with the Citizens for Dunwoody with CH2M donating money to CfD and our consultant sitting side by side Rob Augustine and Tom Taylor at the League of Women Voters' debate where they:
"defended the studies as prudent, the estimated $18 million budget as fiscally conservative, and the proposed service levels as a 25 to 30% improvement over what DeKalb currently provides."

We now know these statements have no connection with reality, are not supported by sound judgment and would never have been supported by a professional consultant who is truly an expert in these matters.

Doesn't Dunwoody deserve better than a profit motivated corporation with an increasingly spotty track record shilled by a connected consultant?

The Other Dunwoody does.


Wednesday, September 24, 2008

The Time Has Come

"O Oysters, come and walk with us!"
The Walrus did beseech.
"A pleasant walk, a pleasant talk,
Along the briny beach..."
John Heneghan posted a most disturbing Blog entry wherein he states:
"This evening seven fairly intelligent people sat around a table for six and a half hours going over the expected City of Dunwoody revenues and expenses. Come this evening at 7 p.m. when five of us are sworn in, we will then be subject to open meetings and everything from that point on will be discussed in the open."
And just who are these magnificent seven? A Mayor and 5 elected Councilmen, and who else? A consultant? Fran or Dan? A representative from CH2M? Were there any dim-bulbs there or just bright lights?

Furthermore it is clear that right up to the very legal limit the Citizens for Dunwoody have been operating outside the spirit of the open meetings law. Yes, we all know they were not compelled to operate under that law until sworn in, but this leads to an even more disturbing part of the entry:
"money is very tight no matter how the city decides to go forward, there are many unknowns in this initial process"
Many unknowns? In communication with Fran Millar, wherein he was asked about his statement that this was done "the right way" he responded with:
"by delaying this one year to try to get the best data for people to make a decision (unlike Milton, Johns Creek) I do think it was the right way."
So now there is this amazing transition from "financially viable" and "same or better services with no increase in taxes" to "money is very tight" and "there are many unknowns". What happened and what good, other than marketing, was the Carl Vinson study? Did they squander the whole year? Are these "fairly intelligent people" capable of doing anything right?

And what caused this transformation of reality? We all know the answer to that one: the referendum passed.

So now...
"The time has come," the Walrus said,
"To talk of many things:
Of shoes--and ships--and sealing-wax--
Of cabbages--and kings--
And why the sea is boiling hot--
And whether pigs have wings."

"Now if you're ready, Oysters dear,
We can begin to feed."
Anyone else feeling a bit like an oyster?


It's the Law

Georgia Law requires open meetings:


O.C.G.A. § 50-14-1 (2007)

§ 50-14-1. Meetings to be open to public; limitation on action to contest agency action; recording; notice of time and place; access to minutes; telecommunications conferences
Any actions taken in defiance of these open meeting laws are not binding:
(b) Except as otherwise provided by law, all meetings as defined in subsection (a) of this Code section shall be open to the public. Any resolution, rule, regulation, ordinance, or other official action of an agency adopted, taken, or made at a meeting which is not open to the public as required by this chapter shall not be binding.
That includes zoning, the stick with which the city intends to beat back school overcrowding and traffic congestion.

Also the public must be given timely notice with adequate details:
(d) Every agency shall prescribe the time, place, and dates of regular meetings of the agency. Such information shall be available to the general public and a notice containing such information shall be posted and maintained in a conspicuous place available to the public at the regular meeting place of the agency. Meetings shall be held in accordance with a regular schedule, but nothing in this subsection shall preclude an agency from canceling or postponing any regularly scheduled meeting. Whenever any meeting required to be open to the public is to be held at a time or place other than at the time and place prescribed for regular meetings, the agency shall give due notice thereof. "Due notice" shall be the posting of a written notice for at least 24 hours at the place of regular meetings and giving of written or oral notice at least 24 hours in advance of the meeting to the legal organ in which notices of sheriff's sales are published in the county where regular meetings are held...

(e)(1) Prior to any meeting, the agency holding such meeting shall make available an agenda of all matters expected to come before the agency at such meeting. The agenda shall be available upon request and shall be posted at the meeting site, as far in advance of the meeting as reasonably possible, but shall not be required to be available more than two weeks prior to the meeting and shall be posted, at a minimum, at some time during the two-week period immediately prior to the meeting.

(e)(2) A summary of the subjects acted on and those members present at a meeting of any agency shall be written and made available to the public for inspection within two business days of the adjournment of a meeting of any agency. The minutes of a meeting of any agency shall be promptly recorded and such records shall be open to public inspection once approved as official by the agency, but in no case later than immediately following the next regular meeting of the agency...
One councilman understands the importance of adhering to the letter and spirit of Georgia's Open Meeting laws but also provides us with a telling observation:
"Come this evening at 7 p.m. when five of us are sworn in, we will then be subject to open meetings and everything from that point on will be discussed in the open."
This suggests that much has already been discussed behind closed doors---confirming what we already know from watching the Citizens for Dunwoody.

It is time for these Citizens for Dunwoody who are now officially in charge to realize they are no longer operating a private corporation where secrecy is allowed and that they are now beholding to all the Citizens of Dunwoody including those of us in The Other Dunwoody.

For all our sakes let us hope these leopards can change their spots. If they don't their decisions will not hold up in the court of public opinion and may not survive challenge in Georgia State Courts.


Monday, September 22, 2008

And the Winners Are

Lest they forget, The Other Dunwoody has compiled a list of interesting campaign statements and quotes collected from the candidate web sites and from their published responses at the Dunwoody Home Owners Association.


Ken Wright
  • Citizens for Dunwoody - president

City Council
Dennis Shortal
  • Dunwoody Yes! - co-chair and treasurer [TOD: Note, the required disclosure report was not filed on time].
  • "A small, responsive and efficient city government."
  • "Keep taxes low and have a balanced budget with a contingency fund"

  • Dunwoody Yes! - Board member.
  • Citizens for Dunwoody - fund-raising and database.
  • "I pledge to never support the creation of a new apartment complex during my tenure on the city council. [TOD: Note Dr. Bosner is running for a 1 year term]"
  • "I pledge to use each and every taxpayer dollar wisely..."

  • Citizens for Dunwoody - courts task force.
  • "I am a fiscal conservative, and will work to deliver enhanced and expanded services without a tax increase or major hike in service fees."

Tom Taylor
  • Citizens for Dunwoody - vice president, police task force.
  • Dunwoody Action Committee - president.

Robert Wittenstein
  • Citizens for Dunwoody - executive board, charter task force.
  • "I am a strong advocate of small and transparent government."
  • "We need to hold the line on taxes and prove to the voters that we can deliver superior quality government..."
  • "We need open and transparent government ..."

Danny Ross
  • Citizens for Dunwoody - ethics task force.
  • "...promise to serve all the stakeholders of Dunwoody in a fiscally conservative, transparent, efficient and professional manner."
  • "...a tax and spending plan which allows our community to live within its means..."

John Heneghan
  • Citizens for Dunwoody - Transportation, boundaries and mapping.
  • Fights for open government and electronically available records.
  • Fiscally conservative, the city needs to start slow until revenues are proven.
  • "I promise that I will do everything in my power to have every important government document published to the web to keep the citizens informed."
  • "I promise to be especially fiscally conservative the first year and always work to obtain a balanced budget to keep tax increases at bay."
  • "Transparency in Government breeds self-corrective behavior..."


  • Regardless of the outcome of the Bosner-Pankey run off there will be no member of the new city government that has not been involved in the shadow government that preceded the referendum.
  • Only three of the six member city council have listed transparency as a significant issue and only one has a proven track record of supporting transparency.
  • Some candidates, including the two top dogs from CfD, ran on a platform of "How Great I Art" without any meaningful policy or mission statement.
  • All claim some measure of business experience to bolster their fiscal acumen, yet none of the CfD entourage noticed that some budgeted revenue won't come in until the end of the fiscal year.
  • Five of six council members pledge to hold down taxes in spite of the fact that the Carl Vinson Study clearly states that each and every household, and each and every business, will pay out more money after the city than before.

If you believe your neighbor can never be a run of the mill politician simply because they live nearby, if you believe outcome is more important than the integrity of process, if you like the transparency of CfD and the timeliness of their Task Force Reports, then you're going to love the new City of Dunwoody.


Thursday, September 18, 2008

Two Requirements for a City of Integrity

If you believe, as we in The Other Dunwoody believe, that total transparency is a minimal requirement of good governance, then the very first thing the newly formed City of Dunwoody must do is establish a virtual City Library. This should be an online repository hosting all meeting notices, agendas, minutes, videos of all council meetings, recordings of conference calls, ordinances, proposed and signed contracts, proposed and approved budgets--in fact, every bit of information used or created by this city, except personal information of employees. And neither elected officials nor contractors are employees.

In a well managed city where no less than total transparency is acceptable, there is no need for open records requests because all records are already open and available online. If there needs to be a law to make this happen, then perhaps the first ordinance passed should include detailed requirements for maintaining transparency and penalties for failure to do so.

We know this can be done. How? First, other organizations and municipalities do it. Second, Citizens for Dunwoody, Dunwoody Yes!, and Dunwoody Candidate have demonstrated an amazing ability to put up (and take down) a web site when it suits their needs. Many of these same folks are now elected officials and it is high time for them to demonstrate they can put up a web site that suits the citizens needs--both in content and timeliness.

The second requirement can only be met by the private sector. Dunwoody needs a legitimate Fourth Estate rather than the fan magazines currently available. To be fair, Dunwoody is served by two weekly newspapers, one dedicated solely to Dunwoody and the other covering much of DeKalb as well. But these are free weeklies depending on ad revenue to survive and this business model will not support the kind of investigative reporting Dunwoody deserves. The kind that might result in controversy that negatively impacts ad revenues.

While neither of the current offerings suffice, Dunwoody must create a Press able to endure the consequences of taking principled stands, of demanding to look at what someone wants hidden. The citizens of Dunwoody must demonstrate a willingness to support this Press, or the Press must adapt to new technologies and business models to maintain viability.

To excel, Dunwoody needs transparency in government and a strong press to ensure transparency is maintained.

All of Dunwoody deserves no less than excellence.


Wednesday, September 17, 2008

CH2M Can Be Someone's Friend

But they probably won't be a friend to those of us in The Other Dunwoody.

Reports from Florida indicate Bonita Springs may have made a deal with the devil:
Since taking over, CH2M Hill and Bonita Springs have come under fire, mostly from the building industry, for proposing to quadruple fees to provide community development services such as building permit reviews, rezoning request reviews and inspections.
But it turns out to be a devil they should have seen coming:
East Cleveland officials last month [August] sued CH2M Hill OMI, alleging the engineering and management firm was part of a conspiracy that involved the city's mayor to improperly secure a multimillion dollar, no-bid contract to run the city's water department.
Is there a substantial difference between "no-bid" and "only accepted bid"?

Then there is the related fiasco in Houston:
CH2M Hill has also been reaping million-dollar contracts for developing a "strategic plan" for the city's water system and for a major project for the Port of Houston Authority. So it should come as no surprise that the feds are snooping around Texas.
Do we want the feds snooping around Dunwoody?

What can we do to avoid these pitfalls?
  1. Do not use CH2M at all: their baggage simply isn't worth it.
  2. Do not outsource all operations to a single vendor, regardless of the vendor.
  3. Establish performance criteria for each operational area. Publish this as part of any RFPs.
  4. Hire an Operations Manager to oversee all contracted services.
We also have to root out the participants in sweetheart deals on our side of the business relationship. We already know we have a City Council member with close ties to CH2M. Is this the only one, and how can we know since the CfD operated in secret? Even if these relationships are exposed and the individuals recuse themselves can we really be certain of a good faith business arrangement with no ex parte communication? Not based on the CfD's or CH2M's track record.

Finally there is the all important transparency in Government. Are we outsourcing our ethics? CfD was able to operate outside of public oversight because they were a private corporation and not required to inform anyone of their efforts (allegedly) on our behalf. CH2M has publicly taken the position that they are free from open disclosure laws in Florida:
There has been some dispute over the corporation’s adherence to public records law with people [...] saying the company must adhere to the same standards as governments [...]. CH2M Hill argues it doesn’t need to reveal this information because it is a private company.
Maybe we should take ownership of our own city instead of selling out to private interests with cozy political connections.


One Shining Star

John Heneghan won with 66% of the vote for his at large post, the highest margin of any successful candidate for a contested position. This is good for all of Dunwoody, not just The Other Dunwoody.

Mr. Heneghan has a long record of success in maintaining a well informed citizenry both before the cityhood movement, and to the extent possible, during that period. Though previously squelched by the legal restrictions of actions taken by corporations, Heneghan now has Georgia Sunshine Laws on his side. He has consistently set himself apart from and above politics as usual, and no doubt he will continue working to keep us informed. He deserves all our support in that effort.


Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Monday, September 15, 2008

Fool me once...

...shame on me. Fool me twice...

Perhaps that isn't going to happen. The backlash against Citizens for Dunwoody is beginning and let's hope it isn't too little, too late.

The Peach Pundit has taken notice of our impending financial woes. While that is mostly outsider gloat, there are some inside the city who are less than pleased. One commentator on Heneghan's Dunwoody Blog was surprised at the announcement of a budget shortfall. Another interprets recent events as the beginning of good old boy politics in Dunwoody.

Citizens of Dunwoody are beginning to feel duped. Because they were.

The referendum was rushed with the vote held before task force reports were available. Decide for yourself if that was intentional, but it is becoming increasingly clear voter ignorance was on the side of cityhood. Everything is on an accelerated schedule except full disclosure. That can wait. The nonprofit lobbying organization, Dunwoody Yes, even failed to file required disclosure reports on time.

Yet there was time to issue an RFP. From an organization with a top ranking official who has close ties to CH2M. Interestingly, CH2M was the only qualified bidder. You connect the dots.

The Carl Vinson Institute was given direction that resulted in a fairy-tale scenario supporting financial feasibility. Self-appointed leaders have acknowledged ignorance on significant revenue sources including the ever-popular backdoor tax known as franchise fees. Now we find out they had no firm grasp of cash flow--they didn't know that certain business taxes wouldn't be available until the end of 2009, or...perhaps they did.

This fiasco was created by The Few, The Self-Appointed, The Self-Righteous, but not without our help. Sadly, many of these same people intend to and probably will run our new city. Only a fool would expect them to do better after these elections than they have so far.

Let's hope we don't have a city of fools.


Wednesday, September 10, 2008

In The Red

We're off to an auspicious start. The city hasn't even started and we're already in the hole.

While the income side of the ledger includes almost $2.5 million in franchise fees it turns out that we will pay these fees throughout 2009, but the city won't collect until 2010. Business occupation taxes won't roll in until the end of the year either. So in the first year the city will be around $2.5 million short on revenue. No real surprise here.

But let's apply a little critical thinking to this situation and maybe we'll find a solution to the problem.

The AJC tells us that there are 27,000 registered voters in Dunwoody but DeKalb claims it is a little over 24,000 so let's use that figure. We also know that there was a 43% turnout for the referendum and 81% voted Yes! That means about 37% of registered voters, a little over 8,500, threw a party and now they want us all to pick up the tab.

Here's a better idea. Let's turn all that partying and celebration into cold, hard cash. Let's have each and every one of those 8,500+ supporters of cityhood pony up a measly $500 each. Far less than that Bimmer or Merc payment and probably less than one summer power bill.

That would give the city over $4 million and we would start off with a surplus approaching $2 million. That's not too much to ask, given it was their amazing foresight that put us in this situation.


Monday, September 8, 2008

Understanding Taxes

This explanation is not for those living in The Other Dunwoody. They already have a firm understanding of taxes and are provided with constant reminders lest they forget.

This is for the politicians and elected officials who get giddy with their ability to spend other people's money to the point they forget that they are expected to discharge that duty responsibly. This power transforms otherwise normal, reasonable people into spending junkies, looking for the next fix and the most expedient way to remove our money from our pockets.

The Other Dunwoody offers this simplistic explanation in the hopes it is not beyond the sight of their dollar sign encrusted eyes.
Taxes are like playing marbles. It is a twisted game of marbles, but marbles nonetheless. You draw a circle, put all your marbles in and then the government (in the case of Dunwoody, our neighbors) who puts in nothing uses its shooters to knock as many of our marbles out of the circle as possible. And they play for keepsies.

The astute reader, or perhaps one old enough to have actually played marbles, might argue that each player must put in some marbles and players lag to see who goes first. Generally that's true, but do you remember the sandlot bully? The one who never plays fair? Who keeps his marbles? Who always goes first? That would be the government: federal, state, county, and yes, the City of Dunwoody. And they don't play fair for the same reason that bully didn't---they don't have to.

The first government shooter whipped out a monstrous steely. A massive thumb propelled a shot from an intentionally delayed Task Force report on police and safety. This not only knocked 2.5 times more marbles out than expected, it sent stinging ricochets right in the face of the CVIoG, seriously bruising it's credibility.

Then representatives of baseball in Dunwoody sent out their shooter. Their shot into an already scattered field blasted out twice as many marbles as originally called for by their Task Force.

There are more to come and while the government has yet to send in all their shooters they have already shown a couple of the bags they intend to use to haul off their loot. They will sneak as many marbles as possible (over 2 million) into their franchise fee bag, hoping we won't notice that they pulled some from inside the no new taxes ring. We also know they will drag out the property tax bag, filling it at least to the legal limit. Then they will call on us to inflict even more pain on ourselves by voting to give them a bigger bag. This will be supported by a tremendous promotional campaign in the Dunwoody Fan Magazine (aka Crier), condemning all dissenters as unpatriotic and anti-Dunwoody. Expect the polls to open on Super Bowl Sunday at kickoff and promptly close by half-time with polls monitored by Robert Mugabe's staff.
Sadly current circumstances prevent us from gathering our marbles and taking them to another game and our soon-to-be government is dead set on making sure that when circumstance improve we won't have many marbles left.


Thursday, September 4, 2008

Candidate Rubric

Because gauging a candidate's sincerity is subjective the best The Other Dunwoody can offer is a rubric so each of us can make our personal assessments. There is a danger in this: candidates can (and will) say nearly anything to get elected and a rubric has the effect of telling them what you want to hear. That is why it is important to modify the proposed point system to your priorities.

It works like this. Each candidate starts with 50 points. Based on answers to following questions, points are awarded, or taken away. Total scores have no artificial bound either upper or lower.

You should also ask yourself several questions to expose your own priorities and begin to question whether you believe what these candidates say and why.

What Have They Done?
  • Were or are you a member of Citizens for Dunwoody? [yes -10; no +5; no answer -5]
  • Did you provide financial or in-kind support for Citizens for Dunwoody? [yes -10; no +5; no answer -5]
  • Were or are you a member of Citizens for Dunwoody? [yes -10; no +5; no answer -5]
  • Did you provide financial or in-kind support for Citizens for Dunwoody? [yes -10; no +5; no answer -5]
  • Do you believe the Carl Vinson report provides a viable framework for early operation of the City of Dunwoody? [yes -10; no +5; no answer -5]
  • Do you believe Dunwoody suffers a form of taxation without representation from the county? [yes -10; no +5; no answer -5]
  • Do you believe Dunwoody can provide the same or better services as the county without extracting more money from us? [yes -10; no +5; no answer -5]
  • Do you believe cityhood was promoted on the basis that Dunwoody suffers a form of taxation without representation from the county? [yes +5; no -10; no answer -5]
  • Have you read all the task force reports? [yes +5; no -10; no answer -5]
  • Have you demonstrated a commitment to open government by promptly publishing information? [yes +10; no -10; no answer -5]

What Will They Do?
  • Do you have a stated commitment to "no new taxes"? [yes +5; no -10; no answer -5]
  • Do you support franchise fees as a source of city income? [yes -10; no +5; no answer -5]
  • Do you support income sources paid by visitors and business rather than citizens themselves? [yes -10; no +5; no answer -5]
  • Do you support impact fees on new development? [yes +5; no -10; no answer -5]
  • Do you support integrating new schools into high density development plans? [yes +5; no -10; no answer -5]
  • Do you support a moratorium on new apartment construction? [yes +5; no -10; no answer -5]
  • Do you support a housing moratorium until school capacity meets or exceeds current demand? [yes +5; no -10; no answer -5]
  • Do you support a property tax increase if the money is needed to provide services as described in the Carl Vinson study or by the proponents of cityhood? [yes +5; no -10; no answer -5]
  • Do you support measures to stop infill construction of McMansions? [yes -10; no +5; no answer -5]
  • Are you committed to open government and an informed citizenry? [yes +5; no -10; no answer -5]
  • Will you work to ensure that all city documents (agenda, minutes, source material, RFPs, bids, contracts, etc.) are published on the internet in a timely fashion? [yes +5; no -10; no answer -5]
  • Do you support the installation of red-light cameras in the Overlay District? [yes +5; no -10; no answer -5]
  • Do you support the installation of radar speed signs to slow traffic and collect data on high-risk speed zones? [yes +5; no -10; no answer -5]
  • Do you believe quality of life and adequate services are more important than capping taxes? [yes +5; no -10; no answer -5]
  • Do you support outsourcing city IT functions? [yes -10; no +5; no answer -5]
  • Do you have a proposal for monitoring quality of services, especially outsourced services? [yes +5; no -10; no answer -5]
  • Have you or any of you relatives been employed by any company under consideration for outsourcing city services? [yes -10; no +5; no answer -5]

What Do YOU Think?
  • Do you believe drawing our Mayor and Council members from DHA and derivative organizations will create an entrenched good ole boy network?
  • Do you believe that a high ranking official of an organization that operated "under the radar" can truly be committed to "open government"?
  • Do you believe that Dunwoody can create a fiscally sound budget without adding new taxes and increasing existing ones?
  • Do you believe that people who ran organizations that deceived us are the kind of people we want running our city?
  • Do you believe the candidate under consideration has adequately disclosed enough information to ensure there are no conflicts of interest?
  • Do you believe the candidate under consideration has been honest and forthright in their answers or politically evasive?


Tuesday, September 2, 2008

How DID They Do That?

During the victory celebrations Fran Millar was quoted by the Dunwoody Crier, the fan magazine of the cityhood movement, saying that the referendum and vote was "done the right way". As events unfold and unpleasant truths are revealed it becomes increasingly difficult to argue that anything done in support of cityhood was correct, proper and above board.

But there may be a logical explanation, other than victory-induced exuberance. Perhaps we are victims of homophonic confusion and Millar actually said "done the Wright way.

Could this be? Well, before becoming mayor-without-election, Mr. Wright was past-president of the Dunwoody Homeowners Association, and more recently president of Citizens for Dunwoody, Inc.

As we all know the latter organization formed Task Forces that sadly enough could not complete their tasks prior to the referendum. Worse yet, they conducted their affairs as if hermetically sealed. Truth be told, Citizens for Dunwoody is a private organization and any work they do, source material they use or reports they create belong solely to CfD. Until now. Presenting these reports to the Governor's Dunwoody Task Force made them public records, and we are finding out why they were kept secret.

For one, the Police Task Force report is an embarrassment to the Carl Vinson Institute as it recommends a budget more than 50% greater than the CVI estimate. And now we learn this will only provide a level of protection that experts consider minimally adequate. So who is really competent, a task force comprising lay-people with an agenda or the heretofore highly regarded Carl Vinson Institute of Government? Maybe neither.

Then we have the not so small issue of privatization. Mr. Wright's organization took it upon itself to issue an RFP, accept bids and select the winning bidder. There are a couple of problems with this.

First, while done on behalf of the potential city it was done without any public oversight. We should not be surprised when we find our new city does not set a new, higher standard for open government. In fact, we should expect to see only those things that the law requires probably after an open records request.

Then there is the matter of the winning company having potential ties to a high ranking official of Citizens for Dunwoody. Turns out the wife of a CfD corporate officer is a past employee of CH2M and promotes herself as a member of the CH2M Alumni Association. The selection of CH2M and the process behind it doesn't pass the smell test.

So. Was Millar misquoted? Was he being punny? We will never know. But if the best indicator of future behavior is past behavior, we had best fasten our seat belts--it's going to be a bumpy ride.