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? 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?