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.