Friday, December 11, 2009

Restaurant Review: Dunwoody "Club and Café"

Opening last year with equal portions of fanfare and hype, the Dunwoody "Club and Café" is a relative newcomer to the greater Atlanta scene. The pre-opening hype designed to garner an enthusiastic local reception combined with the incessant, often embarrassingly harsh comparisons to the rival Dekalb's "Soul Food Station" all but guaranteed that reality would fall short of expectations. To obtain a fair appraisal this review covers dining experiences both at the early stages of operation and after the owners and staff had settled in.

After a brief operation in temporary digs, The Club and Café opened in a new facility situated at the south end of a large and poorly laid out parking arena (it is simply too disorganized to call it a "lot"). The building is low slung with an architecture and exterior decor somewhat reminiscent of that found in "Lady's" magazines from the post-war era. Not at all unpleasant but somehow disturbing, like a the single remaining photograph after an old house burns--it doesn't belong here--it doesn't belong now.

Upon entering the front door you immediately arrive in the main dining room. Directly across is a huge, sweeping, curved bar, dominating the south side of the restaurant. To the left are six generous booths and a large private dining room. Alas, these are available by reservation only and the means of securing a reservation is somewhat secret. At least to this reviewer. On the right is the kitchen, and in stark contrast to promises by the owners, this kitchen is not exposed to diners' view. Restrooms are tucked away behind the large partitions concealing the kitchen, an architectural construct reminiscent of the men's room entry on Concourse A.

The fitment at the bar is sumptuous, though noticeably more so behind the bar than on the patron side. It is also the center of activity, commanding the attention of most of the wait-staff as well as the obligatory bartenders. It is as if the restaurant designer took Shopsin's observation that "the profit is in the liquids" to heart and devoted a majority of the effort and resources to potable purveyance. As one would expect, service at the bar is most attentive and drinks at the bar certainly qualify as a "good pour".

The dining room falls somewhere between elementary school cafeteria and third rate sidewalk Café and was the first real indication that the facility itself was not new or re-newed and may have even been purloined. Recycle, repurpose and reuse all have their place. That place is not the dining fitment of a restaurant serving an alleged top end demographic. The tables were on the smallish side and while they appeared to be in good shape were obviously used. The carpet had not only uglied out it had worn out, becoming thread bare in heavily trafficked areas with separated seams being held together with duct tape. While many would consider this unsafe, warranting immediate redress, the owners priority appears to have been the bar and private areas with little emphasis on the common area.

Or perhaps the money went into the kitchen.

Perhaps not. One cannot see how the food is prepared thus forcing the diner (and critic) to avoid the distraction of Kitchen Nightmarish antics and focus on what comes out of the kitchen. After all, what does the Head Chef's wife's spat with a nearby competing restaurant have to do with the quality of food at this one?

The menu was poorly presented and being unavailable in any printed form was delivered verbally with great enthusiasm, but without much detail on either ingredient or preparation. Available fare was virtually the same as the Soul Food Station the owners intended to supplant. This was not totally unexpected since the pre-opening announcements indicated the Club and Café would offer more of the same, but would be a better value. Originally the owners intended to bring in professional restauranteurs, but at the last moment decided to toque-up and put their own chefmanship on display.

And it truly is more of the same. That said, a notably excellent offering is the Mighty Meaty Super Supreme Deep Dish Double Crust pizza pie. A real pizza pie with enormous amounts of meat, cheese and veggies sandwiched between two thin crusts, topped with sauce and cheese and baked in a spring-form pan. Nothing else on the menu compares in taste or value. Unfortunately for fans of the Club and Café this delectable comes directly from the kitchens of Dekalb's Soul Food Station. Not from their menu---this is delivery.

Otherwise, most fare was over cooked and over seasoned offering mushy mouth feel and monochromatic flavor profiles. When dining at the Club and Café, one is advised to remember the rule of etiquette stating that "what goes in on the fork, goes out on the fork, if one must". One must.   But at least one can clear the palette with one of those fine drinks from the bar, right? Not so fast. Apparently a good pour is reserved for those at the bar and what gets delivered to the table is at least watered down. Even the wine was opened before being brought out. Consider ordering that pizza with a bottled beer, unopened, and bring your own church key.

As for waitstaff, one must consider this is early in the operation with little time to select, train and develop staff. The owners' statements this was to be a "classy" operation leads one to expect a  well appointed and professional,  though not distractingly attractive waitstaff. And by no means is any waitress at the Club and Café even minimally qualified to work at Hooters. It was later learned this was by design with an explicit policy to deny the, shall we say, more esthetically qualified the opportunity to demonstrate their skills.

At first glance the commitment to value seemed like a reasonable assertion if one assumes that all kitchens have bad days and this was just one really bad day. But like many restaurants of its kind, the Club and Café could not survive without substantial outside investment. While restaurants are nominally about food, fun and dining, they are nothing if not a business, and in business where the money comes from greatly influences where the money goes. The bar is an obvious money maker and resource taker. Outside money probably has access to private dining with a far superior cuisine and level of service. The laughter from the private dining room cannot be completely explained by opening enthusiasm.

The second visit was no less revealing than the first.

The appointments were largely unchanged. The bar was bustling. The kitchen was still hidden from view, but one can sometimes hear what is being said and as one would expect this is mostly a distraction.  The dining area was unchanged and the booths and private dining were clearly still the place to be.

The menu was now in print, almost professionally, and the offerings had seen little change though there had been an attempt by one part-owner to remove the Mighty Meaty Super Supreme Deep Dish Double Crust pizza from the menu replacing it with a seasonal offering appealing to a small but vocal vegan crowd. Some latitude must be offered on this point since the Club and Café itself was founded on the support of a vocal minority but this time sanity prevailed and the Mighty Meaty remains a menu mainstay. And it continues to be delivered by the Soul Food Station.

There was some hope for cuisine improvement as several scrumptious looking dishes passed temptingly close on their way from kitchen to booths and private dining. Ignoring the long standing warning, again from Shopsin, against ordering "what he's having", orders were placed by pointing to dishes and booths. That resulted in a salad from which not quite all the wilted bits had been plucked and a chicken diablo on overcooked rice. The chicken itself was underdone as if it were delivered from the kitchen before it was quite ready. The other dishes were little better. A shrimp cocktail of six small, overcooked shrimp with a gritty component from the kitchen's failure to properly clean and de-vein. The cocktail sauce was bland and tasteless, but at least not distracting. A watery caprese salad came with tomatoes better suited to frying. Then there was the "signature steak": a healthy portion of NY strip cooked to order. Apparently "how would you like your steak cooked" is a rhetorical question at the Club and Café.  While the long edge of fat was properly crisped, only the far opposite ends of the strip appeared to have seen any heat whatsoever. If you trim away the fat and the two ends you would be left with a perfectly raw piece of meat, the very heart of the steak.  One has to wonder how you would do this even if you wanted to.  And the cheesecake! Flavorless and actually a bit tough, arrogantly bad, as if no one else in Dunwoody would be allowed bake a cheesecake. At least it was cooked.

A fellow diner, quite the fan of a good sloe gin fizz, watched from afar as the bartender poured. Shortly afterwards he noticed another sloe gin headed to one of the booths, but it came from a different bottle. Surprised, he snagged the waitress:
"Do you have call and bar brand sloe gin?"
"Of course not", she responded.
"But I just saw them pour my drink from one bottle and a booth drink from another."
"I'm sure you're mistaken. We only have one sloe gin."
But dining is about more than food and drink--it includes atmosphere and more importantly, service. As noted earlier, drinks are drinks (sometimes), and what comes out of even the best kitchen may vary from plate to plate, but service, now that's what separates great dining from mere sustenance.

The waitstaff generally had a noticeably improved attitude, more smiles if not greatly improved attentiveness (or attractiveness). As the menus were presented mention was made of this improvement in cheer.
"Well business must be improved, you seem almost giddy."
"Not really, business is pretty much the same as always."
"Are they tipping better or did someone get a raise?"
The waitress glanced to the bar and noting that the bartenders were in their normal mode of ignoring the dining area, she leaned over and said in a whisper,
"We can't call it a raise, but it is better than a raise. See we have these outside investors",
she winked as she smiled and continued,
"and the owners, they can pretty much take as much money as they want whenever they want.  That's why business doesn't really matter. Anyway, they wanted this gold plated health insurance and, like, there's some rule, you know, that if they get it we gotta get it. So we did."
Another mystery solved.

Then, believe it or not, things went downhill. This dining experience included a couple of business acquaintances making the mishandling of the bill even more of an embarrassment than just the usual "I'll, get it--No, I'll get it" pas de deux. It seems the prices on the menu had changed since our order and we were to pay the new (and no surprise here) higher prices. Even more insulting was the suggestion that perhaps we had made a mistake, but since it was such a small amount relative to the overall bill we could just "add it to the bill next time". Apparently the flow of outside money was not sufficient to prevent gouging the patrons.

So there you have it, dear readers. After one full year of operation the Dunwoody Club and Café presents no credible challenge to any of the top players in Atlanta's culinary landscape. Those with even a minimally refined palate who are looking for good value, attentive service, a pleasant dining atmosphere and creative cuisine will be much happier at Roswell's Woodfired Brick Oven, Marietta's Square Deal Diner, Norcross's Whistle Stop Café, Decatur's Funky Falafel, or even the old standby, Dekalb's Soul Food Station.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Assault Weapon

In the mid to late 1700's American colonists found themselves under the control of an imperialistic government so harsh in its restrctions and so demanding of the fruits of their labors, that they found it necessary to take up arms against what was then the legitimate government in America.   Their fight for freedom cost many their lives, some on the King's gallows, and put many more lives and livelihoods at stake. For this great effort these patriots put everything, their homes, their families, their honor and their lives, on the line.

Having recently freed themselves from oppression, they formed a government with separation of powers, each part held in check by the others and with provision to amend and adapt this government to better serve those to come after. In order to ensure their progeny the liberties for which they had just successfully fought and to provide us with the means to maintain these liberties they immediately added ten amendments. The first enumerates the freedoms paid for with their own blood. The remainder, in order of importance, serve to provide citizens the means by which to ensure for themselves their own freedom.

Cognizant of the nature of man they knew a system of checks and balances might prove inadequate to prevent the ultimate devolution into a self-serving government comprising people dedicated to their individual greed and lust for power--a government without regard for the people. To prevent this they guaranteed the citizens of this country the means to demand that government remain of, by and for the people.  The degree to which we as a nation have preserved the freedoms they fought for is directly measured by the respect our government shows to the people and to those rights enumerated in our constitution.

We have from time to time found it necessary to renew this fight for freedom, placing our men and women in harm's way in defense of this country and our constitutional liberties. Most recently this includes our response to an attack against the City of New York, the Pentagon and an attempt against Washington, D.C.

So it is with equal parts irony and alarm that we see the Mayor of New York City set himself against our founding fathers with his recent call for greater federal infringement of our second amendment rights. He seeks to abuse the Fort Hood tragedy, exacerbated by a policy that disarmed on-base personnel, to further erode the rights passed to us by these patriots. Yet he and others like him have neither the courage, nor the moral standing, to use that which they also gave us--the ability to amend our constitution--to achieve what they claim is best for a people who have consistently stood against them. It is  this arrogance, this elitist sense of superiority and subjugation that colonial America rebelled against.

This open assault on our freedom makes securing our constitutional rights more relevant and more important today than ever before.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Poultry Resources

Information:
Products:
• Omlet USA : Eglu and Eglu cube chicken "houses".
• Henspa : ultimate backyard chicken coop.
• Pen Pals : Backyard poultry nutrition.

Friday, November 27, 2009

No Hallucinogens Required

The same misguided soul who supported the notion that anything but Duke's is real mayonnaise has veered off into Atlanta's pizza landscape hoping to convince us he found the best pizza in Atlanta. Since Dunwoody isn't Atlanta (was that an "Amen, Hallelujah"?) it seems fitting and proper to disclose the source of the best pizza in Dunwoody.

It turns out not to be the usual suspects. Not Pizza Hut, which did at one time have the best pizza in Dunwoody as it was one of the few Pizza Huts in America to offer wine. But that location now hosts Peter's and while pizza may be on the menu, it is hardly the top item. Then there is the litany of the other non-contenders. The game-named delivery giant, the paternalistic purveyor and the latter day Saint John of Pizza, though SJoP, on a good day can be a worthy contender. Nor is it the perennial home town favorite, as psilocybin takes one only so far on the trip to pizza perfection.

No siree, the best pizza in Dunwoody comes from an unlikely source: Fresh Market. Yes, those store-made deli pizzas can be the best around. As is they are they are pretty good, especially the "supreme" and "veggie". Not overdone, not greasy and with a crust that is neither too thin, too thick nor too doughy. But it needs work. Obtaining the very best, even starting with something so good, requires enhancement, but like hacking Ikea you will take something good and make it excellent. And like anything from Ikea, this work goes better with a couple of beers. That's why Fresh Market sells Foster's Bitter in the oil can.

Unlike Ikea RTA (let alone hacking), the instructions are simple. You need the veggie pizza and one (only one, fatso) link of hot italian sausage. Remove the sausage from the casing, cook, drain, add as the final topping, pizza in the oven, beer in the belly, ten minutes of cook and chill time, and Voilà--best pizza in Dunwoody.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Healthy Perks

Anybody out there in predominantly Republican, self-made Dunwoody ever have a part-time job? Well did anyone who answered "yes" get health insurance coverage with that part-time job? Probably not.

Did you ever wonder why?

Well the answer is simple. You were not in charge of deciding whether you got those benefits or not. See if you had been in charge, like the Dunwoody City Council is for their benefits, you might have deemed yourself worthy of an unusually generous benefits package and like this council intends,  awarded yourself a full health insurance package for your  part-time job. And remember, you knew this was a part-time job when you took it and you knew the compensation package did not include health care coverage.

Of course this only stands to reason since health costs are the single largest employer payroll-related cost and if you had to pay for it yourself like some other folks, well that would be expensive. Plus it is quite the perk if you can give it to yourself using other people's money, and Dunwoody, in matters large and small, simply  cannot exist without other people's money.

But it gets better. See, adding health coverage to your compensation package is a benefit and technically is not a raise. Of course you could have voted yourself a genuine raise, but it wouldn't take effect until the next term, after you've had to face potential voter outrage. And by conveniently scheduling any mention of this back-door raise until after the deadline for anyone to run against you, you all but eliminate any negative fallout from this outrageous, self-serving behaviour. Observant readers will recall that Dunwoody was founded by a referendum vote conveniently scheduled to virtually assure passage. Same song. Second stanza.

See how clever our politicians can  be? Just like the ones in Decatur.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

The Great Mayo Brushup

A poor misguided soul over-equipped with access to media published a blasphemous treatise suggesting a mayonnaise taxonomy in which Duke's is not atop the hierarchy. This shameless heretic goes so far as to assemble a team of "taste testers" who declare Hellman's to be the best tasting mayo by a wide margin.

One take on this is the obvious -- it is stab at satire, revealing the all-to-common budding journalist's desire to pose as this generation's Swift. After all some of the comments on Duke's taste include "vinegary kick" and an afertaste--qualities long associated with Hellman's and never with Duke's. Of course this could be mere incompentence--the inability to keep the various samples straight. They did note one of Duke's strong points, a robust texture that results in tomato sandwiches with adequate mayo which will not simply squirt out the tomato slices all over your plate.

And this brings us to another incredible point, this author made his first tomato sandwich with a single slice of tomato. Perhaps this correlates with the erudite affectation associated with heirloom this and that, as if heirloom is something obtained by means other than death of a loved one, and even if that were possible that this so-called heirloom retained any of its original value. Regardless, one who actually makes a tomato sandwich with only one slice, no matter how thick that slice, is suspect as a judge of anything southern, and there is little more southern than the tomato sandwich.

At the end of the day, what was true remains true: if you're not spreading Duke's, you're spreading crap.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Public Schools: Golly How the Truth Will Out

The Department of Education recently published a revealing report on just how well states are doing with setting and achieving academic excellence. You know what academic excellence is right? It's whatever your local school board, principals and teachers say it is. At least this is what was revealed by the DoE report.

Turns out when Georgia says students perform at grade level, they really are well below national performance standards. Often so far below acceptable levels as to be deemed incapable of demonstrating basic understanding of the content. Yet we are told they are not only doing just fine, they in fact are excelling.

How can that be? How can this happen when we have a cadre of well-trained, self-sacrificing teachers educators led by experienced principals and adminstrators who are overseen by some of the best and brightest we can elect to our Boards of Education?

At this point you may be wondering how we can be so sure of their capabilities. You are right to wonder. We, the public, have two critically important sources of information on this matter. Unburdened by modesty, educators will gladly testify to their own amazing work ethic and capabilities. Second, the education machine, those education programs in our colleges and universities represent a multi-billion dollar industry, can supply mountains of data supporting what a great job they, and their graduates, are doing. Of course, with more money it could always improve.

These authoritative sources will tell you that one size does not fit all. That they have a better size chart for the brains of the average Abner and Daisy Mae than some Washington bureaucrat. That these standards are not on a continuum, but are orthogonal. That the dimensionality of the modalities and the dispersion of social paradigms...well, you get the idea.

But perhaps there is a simpler explanation: they are lying. That's right, our "educators" are systematically lying. And this is not a nameless, faceless entity. A "school board". Or the "Department of Education". Or the "administration". Or even the "faculty". No. These organizations exist only because of the people in them. People with faces. People with names. People with paychecks. And apparently people with an agenda. People who will do anything to protect their interest and their agenda. People who lie.

And parents, you see these people everyday in your child's school. It is the principal and she has a name. It is the teacher and he has a name. It is the school superintendent and she has a name. And it is the school board members and they have names. And they are all lying to you.

The lie they tell is both how great they are and, as a secondary consequence of the big lie, how great, how smart, how above average your child is. And every parent wants to hear this---every parent wants to believe this, to believe their child is a budding genius. And these educrats know this. And they use this knowledge to their advantage.

This situation is absolutely incredible. Parents have, with the assistance of tax-supported enablers, deluded themselves into believing their child is magically receiving a world-class education in spite of the fact that they know that Georgia public schools are among the worst in a country falling further behind in world rankings. Then, in any given sample large enough to be statistically valid, most folks are going to be average. MOST. Most students. Most teachers. Most parents. Everyone's child simply cannot be above average.

But it gets worse.  In this case, when you consider a larger population, the whole of the United States rather than just Georgia, our contribution to the whole is below average. We have built an education system that consistently turns out below average results whilst paying people to convince us otherwise. And here is the really good part: these propagandists are the same people who produce the below average results in the first place.

Yet there are parents out there, perhaps even reading this, who persist in thinking "well, yes, that may be true, but MY child is receiving one of the best educations in the world." Even with an embedded culture of systemic prevarication it is these parents who have destroyed public education.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

There is much we mere subjects of City Hall can glean from the Great Chicken Debate going on in Warren's World. The superficial topic at hand is whether or not we, the Serfs of Dunwoody, should be allowed more than three live chickens per household as is allowed under current city law.

The debate ostensibly centers around whether the limit should be increased or if this trend towards sustainable poultry will have Dunwoody smelling like a farm instead of just having the image of one on all our signage.

On the "pro" side are council members who lean a bit towards individual freedom and property rights, and who also seem aware of the extensive information and products supporting urban (not just suburban, but URBAN) chicken and egg production for home consumption.

The "con" supporters base their argument on childhood experiences from which they've gleaned that chickens stink and make noise. This isn't the best of arguments but let's give these retired chicken ranchers a good hear.

First we'll ignore the import of the "urban" observation made previously. Then we'll accept the fact that chickens create some stink and hens do indeed cluck. We'll ignore those little nuggets of fertilizer left by the neighbor's dog and we'll consider song birds, well, sonorous. But let's not ignore the fact that everyone in Dunwoody doesn't live in a condo, or a McMansion or a clutter-home. Some folks have yards. Some folks have big yards, some even bigger than their house. Who knew? It would seem obvious to allow those with lots above a certain, reasonable size, say 1/3 acre, a bit of say so regarding their own property and constrain smaller lots to the current restriction with exceptions by way of SLUPs.

Given such a simple solution that protects the individual freedom and property rights on both sides of the issue, on might conclude this is about something other than chickens.  Perhaps what we're seeing is much more important than backyard eggs.

We've been presented with a clear separation between those who support individual rights and those acting like frustrated refugees from a powerless home owners association who can now ram their rules down our throats. Perhaps if some of these folks had mucked out a few stables instead of feeding chickens we would have fewer horse-shit ordinances.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Dunwoody Diversity

Let's be honest here, Dunwoody cannot really be characterized as a champion of diversity. Not before cityhood, and certainly not since--just look at the demographic makeup of the city council. Or city administration. Or the police force. Or...

So when folks in Dunwoody talk about diversity, they're talking age diversity--they're talking old farts. Specifically themselves. Actually, they're talking about themselves in the future tense, denial being what it is and all. And these discussions usually boil down to "Assisted Living" facilities.

One view of these is that they are a deceitful way to introduce high density into a suburban setting. And we all know what high density means. Bad Things[tm].

Another view, that of the aging Dunwoodian who did not adequately prepare for retirement at St. Simons, is they are wonderful things allowing life long Dunwoodians (approximately 3.2% of the current population) to remain Dunwoodians until their timely demise. They tout the wonderful addition old farts make to the community. After all, were it not for the blue hairs, who would attend council and zoning meetings? And who would give us those fifteen minutes of quiet time in queue at the post office drop off? These folks not only keep Wednesday grocery shopping cheap, they often fill the audience at local plays, and offer many opportunities for high schools students to pad resume's with "community service" activities. It's like having little self-storage facilities chock full of grandparents.

So what about the non-demented elderly? Has anybody bothered to ask them? You know who they are: the ones who can choose where to live rather than those moved close to a guilt-ridden child who "needs them nearby to take care of them" (translate: wheel 'em out on holidays so the kids have quality time with gramps which is probably about all the quality time gramps can handle).

Probably not, because anyone who has lived in the 'burbs for any length of time comes to understand this universal truth: suburbs are places dedicated to the worship of children. Every old fart out there knows this and most will gladly share the insight.

This is the way it should be, which is convenient since it's the way it is. And just because suburbs are great places to raise kids doesn't make them ideal for your golden years. Au contraire.

After all, who, who doesn't already have to, wants to put up with soccer moms? Nobody, especially not old farts. Not when they clog streets in their SUVs schlepping the buggers to school. Not when they're at "Ladies Night Out" fawning over some local bartender's exaggerated British accent, tempting him with cleavage that probably violates a city ordinance. And certainly not when they drag their little demons out to restaurants way past their bedtimes when all you want to do is enjoy one of the few nice evenings out left in your allotment.

Then there is the incessant public whining about schools--like they really matter. And the taxes fer crissakes. Why would anyone on a fixed income want to pay the outrageous taxes these incredibly dysfunctional schools demand? And we won't even discuss what having schools littering the city does to concealed carry. Then we have laws and ordinances designed to protect children from themselves and even the remote possibility of exposure to anything deemed "mature". The kind of things that keep old farts' memories alive.

Why would any adult without school age children put up with all this? The answer is: they wouldn't. At least if they can afford not to.

So do we, as a city, want to create public policy that expands this "age diversity" or should we stay true to the mission, the reality of suburban living? Truth be told, what we really want is enough old fart warehousing to support the needs of a demographic that started a family late and now finds itself wedged between raising children and "caring" for the elders. We have enough of that already.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Never one to miss a good PR opportunity, the Dunwoody Police Department made a show of farce during the Dunwoody 5K run. This fine morning bore witness to the largest police presence in Northwest Dunwoody, home to Dunwoody's very own Needle Park, in DPD's brief history.

But not without mishap. One patrolman, obviously unfamiliar with the area and unburdened by a map or a sense of direction, got lost and had to flag down a Sandy Springs police officer for directions. Perhaps in an effort to save face, or perhaps to show the DPD's adoring fans that they can indeed write citations, this patrolman wrote up the Needle Park Crosswalk Practice Dummy for jaywalking. No one from the city was available to comment on how this fine would be collected or the consequences of non-payment--one suspects the Dummy will be hauled off to jail for "failure to pay". Odds are this is the last traffic citation in this area until this time next year.

The PR event ended abruptly as the patrolmen had to take an emergency call. Seems one of their two fave councilmen were hosting "Donuts with Deputies" all the way across town. Where they live.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Doraville Falcons

There's been talk.

Talk of the Falcons moving to Doraville. Talk of a stadium where the GM plant now sits. Talk of how this is bad for Dunwoody.

That's right. Some folks seem to think this would be bad for Dunwoody. Somehow they believe this will bring more traffic than the GM plant ever did.  Really. That's what they are saying. Of course this is so silly on the very face of it that you're probably wondering what they're really thinking, or what might be their real agenda. Others are simply wondering if they think at all.

True, a stadium, even one near a rail station, would bring in its fair share of cars. On game day--not seven days a week like high density development. It would also bring more than its fair share of shoppers and hungry fans to descend on Dunwoody's Mall and Restaurant Complex. We, the citizens of Dunwoody, would all reap the tax benefits of this commerce and our Toll Trolls would rake in cash like bears catching salmon during spawning season. Yes, there will be some sacrifice. Some must suffer the inconvenience of avoiding Doraville about twelve times a year. But on the other hand, the Doraville cops must deal with the traffic and the City of Doraville must pay to clean up the tailgater's mess.

The most vocal opposition comes from Smart Growth Propagandists abandoned when the Left WingNut Nation moved on to Sustainability. Though "Smart Growth" was superficially stupid from the beginning and has now been proven a failure and contributor to the financial meltdown, they can support no other option for redevelopment of the GM facility. But that doesn't change the facts. A stadium in Doraville is one of the best things that could happen for Dunwoody. It's the kind of Win-Lose proposition we like--we win everybody else's money and well, they just lose.

Anyway. There's been talk.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Practice Makes Perfect

Apparently disappointed with the lack of accidents involving pedestrians along the stretch of Chamblee Dunwoody near the Dunwoody Needle Park the city has re-installed the Pedestrian Practice Dummy. A summer off has taken the edge off our drive-through commuters and this new dummy is expected to provide much needed honing of the skills needed to score some pedestrian hits. Rumor has it this model is improved, incorporating a rubber bladder that spurts a red dye on cars of drivers who serve up a proper windshield hash. This not only adds realism, but allows the city to offer awards to drivers demonstrating skill, agility and endurance. However, without vocal public support it is unlikely the city will allocate funds for this much needed driver recognition.

Also, though it is not official policy, the city is expected to turn a blind eye to motorists who inadvertently commit infractions while practicing in this area. Fact is they have their hands full serving the PCID and operating Toll Trolls.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Lollipop, Lollipop...

...Oh lolli-lollipop!

"As easy as taking candy from a baby", the saying goes. Turns out it isn't so easy when the baby is the parent of a public school student and the candy is part of the largest entitlement in America. An AJC guest editorial recently suggested that just a small bit of the cost of educating each child be paid by the child's parent as sort of token tuition.  Though the amount was trifling, the outrage was anything but.

Letters to the editor excoriating the author generally fell along the lines of "We already pay for our children's education--it's called taxes". And they do pay taxes, but as we all know even well-to-do parents of two or more children are unlikely to ever pay an amount equivalent to the cost of educating their children. Not in property taxes, not in State and Federal Income Tax and not in all three combined. The fact that they are a burden to society is something they really don't like being pointed out.

They like even less the notion that they cannot do what they want (IE: have as many children as they please) without consequence. Doesn't matter if they have one child, ten children or none, it costs the same to educate them. Always has and to their way of thinking, as the entitled, always should. That's the way entitlements work.

These folks would embarrass even Veruca.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Dunwoody Joins War On Drugs

Though the official announcement has been delayed due to difficulty in arranging the proper photo-ops, it is all but certain that Dunwoody will be engaging in The War On Drugs. Dunwoody's three-star chief has proposed a Narcotics Task Force and will anoint an officer to join The War.

Now, you're probably thinking "how can just one officer make a meaningful contribution to America's already successful War On Drugs? Isn't this just wasting our money on some egotistical grab for glory?" Well you just aren't thinking about this the right way. Of course one officer won't make a dent in the production, distribution, sale or consumption of illegal drugs. But one officer is more than enough to haul in assets confiscated by those who really do make meaningful contributions to The War.

And that is what this is really all about---grabbing as much as we can of other people's money while contributing as little as possible. If we could make the Narcotics Task Force Officer a part time position we probably would.

Still, you may be worried this will lead to draconian enforcement of victimless crimes in Dunwoody, that you need to be more careful, perhaps even moving some of your smoking off the deck and back indoors. Well, that may just be normal, harmless paranoia, or...if the tit we give up for all that tat is allowing real LEOs into the city to enforce drug laws, you just might want to make sure that's real grass growing in your yard and not some weed.

Of course no one at City Hall would speak on the record, but a strange combination of French Roast and a deficiency in the potty training of others was quite revealing. As so often happens, French Roast can run through you like a Parisian fleeing the Nazis and is accompanied by a persistent demand intolerant of denial or delay. While this is annoyingly time consuming, in this case it created a serendipitous opportunity to be privy to the inner workings of our fair city...

...shortly after the restroom door opened it  was obvious two others had entered...

"Can you believe that loser expected official comment on what we're doing with the Narco force?"

"Can't these folks get it through their heads? They're only needed for taxes, fines and votes and we only need a little over half the damn votes. So, how is it coming with Narco? You got someone lined up?"

"Yeah.  She starts next week."

"SHE? Whattaya mean SHE? Don't we have enough of them already?"

"Dude, this one's a real looker. Plus, it isn't like she really has to do anything."

"Yeah, right. I bet she'll be doing plenty. Just keep it quiet and no matter what don't let her touch the thermostat. I hate it when they keep playing with the damn thermostat. And I don't care how good she is at what she's not really doing, she needs to hit the ground running on this Narco thing. We've got a river of money flowing 'round 285 and we need to tap into it. Now!"

"Damn right. And we need to start pickin' up some sweet rides like those guys at DeKalb---and I call dibs on the first Escalade."

"Done. With a ride like that you can pick up a box lunch anywhere in the ATL---that's where you need to be gettin' your doing done."

At this point they started giggling. For the record, grown men giggling in a restroom is almost too much to bear. Fortunately one headed to the sink and the other apparently went straight for the door.

"Hey, didn't your ole man teach you to wash up after doin' business?"

"Didn't yours teach you not to piss on your hands?"

Apparently no one taught them there is only one kind of business you should be doing in a public restroom.

So dear reader, there you have it. With the Toll Trolls, and now the Narcs, one thing is for certain: when you deal with this City Hall, you'll want to wash up.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Water Schmater, It's an Intellectual Drought

Suppose the legends are true and throughout the ages aliens have been visiting earth in search of intelligent life. Surely they would be amazed that thousands of years ago mankind harnessed power to bend his environment to his will. Perhaps our greatest achievement are the systems devised for storing, purifying and transporting potable water. From the days of the Screw of Archimedes and the Roman aquaducts, to the hey-day of Europe's canals, to modern times where we have harnessed water for power, fortified it, refined its purity, and delivered it to every home, we have increased our control over this most important component of our environment. In no small way, the ready availability of pure, potable water has improved our health and extended our lives. Surely this would impress even the most advanced intergalactic traveler.

Indeed these are truly impressive accomplishments. But then these intergalactic IQ evaluators would see what we do with this valuable resource. All too many of us simply dump most of the water delivered to our homes on the ground. This is not accidental, nor the result of some hard-to-find leak, nor is it negligence on our parts. Au contraire, we have actually built systems to methodically and automatically dump purified, fortified drinking water on the ground. Anyone in Dunwoody has seen these obscene tributes to stupidity spewing pure drinking water on the ground regardless of drought or deluge.

By these actions alone the intergalactic measure of our Societal IQ would place us somewhere between amino acids and Boston Ferns. So the search for intelligent life in the universe continues. Just not around here.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Stopping Speeders In Dunwoody

Dunwoody is filled with folks who "ain't from around here" who simply cannot resist telling us how to do things they way they are done where ever it is that they come from. Then we get the folks who travel, who claim to have a world view and can't wait to show us how far from real civilization our pedestrian little lives are. It is always better somewhere else.

But...

Every now and then someone in a far-off land really does have a unique, a new, dare we say even a better idea. In this case it comes from Denmark (not the place with the tulips---that's Holland and they're called "Dutch", and yes it makes your head hurt) and it deals with a problem near and dear to our hearts: speeding. Or rather, how to prevent, or at least reduce, speeding.

This Danish Technique shows great promise both in addressing the speeding issue as well as alleviating some of the negative aspects of traffic congestion. Of course there are problems, not the least of which is the need to import adequate talent. Then there is the Itty Bitty Titty Committee to contend with as they are sure to get their panties in a wad. But as Dunwoody has demonstrated time and again in its first year of operation, where there is a will there is a way.

This is a solution many in Dunwoody would gladly embrace.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Scholastic Aptitude Test

Now why do you suppose they call it that?

If you listen, even briefly, to any member of the Georgia Public School Apologists (GPSA, a local branch of the national Public School Apologists, headquartered in Lake Wobegon) you would conclude this test is generally worthless, but particularly deficient in its namesake purpose. They claim to have much to back up their assertions of SAT deficiency.

First, they observe that many students just don't test well. Now they are careful to avoid the fact that many of these students test well enough in the classroom to be awarded A's, and they offer no explanation as to why Georgia is blessed with such an abundance of students who don't test well.

Then they like to point out that all high school students in Georgia take the SAT which is not the case in other states. Fair enough, if they were to factor in Georgia's abysmal dropout rate recognizing that these dropouts don't take the SAT. But they're not going to mention the dropout rate because they are card-carrying members of GPSA, and the dropout rate makes the schools look even worse.

Finally, they point us towards colleges and universities that no longer use the SAT for admissions, with the implication that this endorses their view that the test is flawed to the point of being worthless. This ignores the possibility that colleges are responding to the horrible failure of public schools by admitting freshman classes that are a confederacy of dunces---because that's what the public schools give them. They don't need SAT scores to confirm these students have no place in college and if they persist in using the SAT they place their institution in danger of maintaining records suggesting they have intentionally lowered standards to fill out class rolls. Which is exactly what they are doing.

What they, the GPSA, don't realize is what this hollow propaganda reveals about them. Imagine this. Suppose Georgia ranked in the top five rather than the bottom five on SAT scores. Would these apologists be equally vocal in condemning the SAT then, or would these results somehow make it into the never ending chorus of "How Great We Art"? We all know the answer and it shows these people are moral and intellectual windsocks. What parents need to realize is that a vast majority of these people, these self serving apologists, are teaching in and running Georgia's public schools, and that it is to these people that they have entrusted their children's education.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Does Blogging Make Successful Politicians?

First, let's get the semantics out of the way. This is not about statesmanship, moral integrity or character. It is simply about political success--getting elected, then getting re-elected. Nothing more.

That said...

Much has been made (largely in the self-indulgent blogosphere) about a certain Dunwoody city councilman and his blogging activity. There have been some suggestions that his political success is caused by his successful blogging and that other bloggers might follow in his keystrokes.

As with all cases where correlation is taken as causality, there are links between the two, often strong links. Before blogging was cool, let alone the thing, this particular blogger had been active in his neighborhood, personally engaging the county on a variety of topics. At the early stages of his political career, the blog was a convenient way to keep friends and neighbors informed and publish important government documents--much like a newsletter. Often the postings carried a bit of watchdog tone, advertising events and actions that some in government might prefer kept quiet. So, much like the pamphlet publishers during the formation of our country, the activist-blogger is more a part of the Fourth Estate than the establishment. Any transition between these two requires a significant paradigm shift and in this case it was the formation of the City of Dunwoody. And that shift is over.

After election to the city council this activist-blogger's career took on the characteristics one expects of an elected official and the content of the blog turned a bit more inward towards the city and became noticeably more congratulatory with criticism reserved for the dark forces of DeKalb County and the occasional billboard vendor. This represents a difficult transition from an outside agent of change to a establishment insider that few among us can make. This particular blogger skillfully navigated this dangerous political and blogging passage.

The point is the blog did not make the politician--the politician made the blog. To suggest otherwise is akin to suggesting that someone with Tourette Syndrome would make a great public speaker simply because you can't shut them up.

Monday, August 31, 2009

School Season Officially Opens

The removal of the Redfield cross walk practice dummy signals the official start of open season on students and other pedestrians crossing Chamblee Dunwoody Road. As early as this season has started it will still be difficult if not impossible to best last years winner so get started now.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Dunwoody and Entrepreneurship

Startup companies can be extremely exciting places to work. They are often defined by one key, often radical, innovation and an entire team commits to an almost cultish effort to convert an idea into reality. As one might guess, it takes a special type to work in this environment. It takes someone even more special to manage these people and start these companies. And, as almost everyone in the VC community knows, these are almost never the kind of people who can successfully run a company once it is started.

So it is with cities.

Dunwoody's first post-formation elections are upon us and it is time to find candidates that can run a city. We need candidates who can define themselves in the new semantic of an established city with grown up responsibilities and accountabilities instead of the terms and capabilities of a home owners' association, no matter how effective it was in helping create the city. We need candidates free of even the appearance of unseemly associations and activities--no matter how much everyone likes them or their ice cream. We need to move forward and we need the right people for the job.

The danger one sees in retaining entrepreneurs beyond the startup phase is that their early success becomes justification for self-righteous actions that are wholly inappropriate and counter-productive once that phase is complete. The characteristics, personalities--the very people that were necessary to form the organization are those that will destroy it. The citizens of Dunwoody are facing just that danger.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Back to School: Be Aware

Suppose you are making decisions affecting the largest investment of your life. You are sitting across the table from the representative of a major institution who you hope will answer your questions and address your concerns. It is explained that your worries are unfounded, things will be all right, that in fact, things are all right. Much better than you imagine. This representative is cordial and navigates a sea of confusing jargon with aplomb just short of a dismissive "not to worry, we do this all the time, it always works out in the end". You leave feeling the representative was helpful, was sincerely on your side and all really is well.

But reality rears its ugly head and you cannot deny that you were had. That what you thought was a good thing, what you were told was a good thing, simply was not. You were duped.

Later you learn this representative was motivated much more by the agenda set by his organization and administered by his bosses than a more altruistic, good-faith effort to work on the client's behalf as you had originally felt. Truth be told, if the representative were allowed to tell the truth, there are many problems with the organization, its operations and services, and how it treats employees and clients. Stories of waste and mismanagement. Of a self-serving bureaucracy that has abandoned its original mission. But you will never hear this. It would cost the representative his job.

This is pretty much how the current mortgage/housing/economic crisis unfolded. People were misled and yes, that means they followed. The natural backlash to someone with a $40K income thinking they should get a$250K loan is to conclude no one could be that stupid, no loan originator could be that slick and quite frankly the stupid borrower should suffer. One cannot deny the borrowers' responsibility, but one cannot deny the lenders' either.

But what does this have to do with back to school? Well it turns out this isn't about ninja loans and the economic meltdown. It's about the education meltdown. If we are to believe the postings on a local blog, the representative turns out to be "teachers" and the organization is public schools. Now there is some reason to question the veracity as well as the significance of comments made behind the cloak of anonymity and various nom de blog, but let's accept it for now and see where logic takes us.

But first the facts. This blog is ostensibly for watching, as in watchdog, the local school system, but has become a safe haven for an unquantifiable number of "insiders" almost all of whom comment anonymously. When called to task on the anonymity (as we are about to see, it is an issue) the reaction is generally along the lines of "give those in the system a safe place to say what they think needs saying" or "If you want teachers and parents to post, they need to be able to do so withour[sic] fear of retribution" or open encouragement with "feel free to post ...anonymously...[the] administration needs to hear the details only you can provide but have no place for you to provide it where you can feel safe from repercussions". This can carry the mind so many directions (e.g., what if you wanted teachers and parents to actually do something rather than just vent?), but the task at hand is to glean what this says to engaged parents about the public schools and their front-line representatives.

First, one has to believe public schools are an oppressive bureaucracy resulting in a stygian work environment for educators. Why? Because that is what these statements speak to: bring up a problem, suggest a solution, expect retribution. Everyone knows the public education combine is rife with guild socialism, almost to the point of feudalism, but this speaks to a system that is so oppressive that even tenure provides no protection.

It also tells us much about the front-line educators, their priorities, their convictions and their character. They may see much wrong with the system, strategically and tactically, and may have suggestions for improvement, for changes that would benefit their charges. But the paycheck is more important. In every situation they know what they have to say and how to say it. Effectively. They are sock puppets and the hand thrust up their woolly little arses commands them to speak the approved edu-babble for the greater good of the system.

So what can you, the parent do as you sit across the desk from your child's teacher?

You must be skeptical and you must parse every sentence. Edu-babble is reknowned for its sonorous, poetic qualities as well as its almost complete lack of useful information. Question. Keep it simple--force answers to stay on-topic. Come prepared for the topic at hand. Squash diversionary tactics. e.g., the teacher suggests you see the counselor, the counselor routes you to a principal who wants to know why you--it is now your problem--couldn't resolve this with the teacher. Drag each diverter to the next suggested destination, call them in immediately or get them on the phone--no exceptions, no excuses. You will either get answers quickly, or end up in a meeting with a principal, a couple of assistant principals, a counselor or two and the teacher.

And never forget: it is our schools, your child and their future.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Dunwoody scores another first! We are the first Georgia city to convert an existing road into a tollway. Following the principle established with franchise fees (I.E., having citizens pay again for something they've already paid for), the Dunwoody Police Department has converted top end I-285 into a toll road.

The chief has established a Revenue Enhancement Division(RED) chartered with the goal of extracting money from non-residents in a dual effort to "bring in significant dollars" while minimizing political backlash. While no one in an official capacity would comment on the record, word on the street is that members of the RED squad are called the Toll 'Trolls.

And Trolls they are.

Anyone venturing outside Dunwoody has probably encountered one of many bewildered if not angry interlopers caught in the DPD web of success. The conversation generally goes like this: "What's up with Dunwoody, eh? I can drive twenty over the limit on Chamblee Dunwoody or Roberts--in a school zone fercrissakes--but I'm just keeping up with traffic on 285 and I get pulled. Are they nuts?"

Unsubstantiated reports indicate that an inordinate number of those paying the Toll 'Trolls are Cobblodites. While they are widely known to be the worst drivers on the planet, some even say the county sticker is redundant, in many cases they have not been observed doing anything out of the ordinary. It may just be that their reputation as horrible drivers suggests they are accustomed to receiving citations thereby making them easy targets. No one at the DPD would either confirm or deny the practice geopolitical profiling, but one individual was overheard joking "we don't profile that way".

Proposals to enhance revenue and reduce costs by entering into IGAs with neighboring communities so that Dunwoody receives direct payment from other municipalities are in the works. This would reduce the need for the 'Trolls, which will remain in place until the IGAs are finalized. There is another effort to investigate the availability of stimulus funds for the toll collections. Other federal grants have already been investigated but these required that the city provide some level of matching funds thereby reducing the net benefit. Off the record the city has made it clear that "this must be one hundred and ten percent other people's money."

In any event, the effort to obtain revenue from those residing outside Dunwoody is a success that is only going to get better.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Georgia Has a Best Town In It...

...Lord have mercy on us all!

Annual best places to live rankings were published this summer and while no Georgia city made the US News and World Report top 10, Peachtree City snagged the number eight spot on the CNN Money Magazine rankings. Dunwoody was nowhere to be found.

Why is that?

As US News explains in their methodology page, crime statistics play a significant part. Seems like a good idea to live in a place with low crime, even if you're a criminal (less competition). If we compare Peachtree City and Dunwoody we find that Dunwoody not only has more violent and property crime than Peachtree City but that it is more than double the national average.

Some have posited that Dunwoody stats are inflated because they are reported as part of DeKalb's stats and when these are disaggregated the true, and more flattering, image of Dunwoody will emerge. This puts folks who ardently support both Dunwoody and the Dunwoody PD (and its likely expansion) in a tight spot. You simply cannot tout Dunwoody as a wonderful place to live, evoking pastoral images of Mayberry and Rockwellian vignettes of a calmer, safer time filled with Lemonade Days and Fourth of July Parades, and then turn around and justify a 40+ member police force with no traffic enforcement division (and yet consuming over 40% of our budget) by claiming crime in Dunwoody makes this necessary. You also cannot ignore the recent daytime burglaries.

When this contradiction was pointed out to a popular local blogger he immediately pulled a post touting his belief that Dunwoody was somehow slighted, that not making the list was DeKalb's fault, that Dunwoody was and would be proven better. This retraction was sad recognition of an obvious political dilema with an equally obvious solution: support the PD over PR even if that means supporting the PD over reality. We have transitioned to a chauvanistic Deutschland, Deutschland über alles from the pollyannish Mayberry, RFD that got us a city in the first place.

But just where does that lead? We have what many say is an already bloated police department that others contend is understaffed even at these levels--after all there are those daytime burglaries. Still others, especially those told there is no traffic enforcement division, see executive and management incompetence.

One thing is certain, the police force will not shrink, and its growth will always be justified as a public safety necessity. It is the only way to sell it. Unfortunately this promotion of Dunwoody as a high crime area, or even as an island of calm where safety is maintained by constant patrols of an armed militia, does nothing to improve Dunwoody's stature as a great place to live.

So if we must have prophylactic patrols, let them be traffic enforcement. Surely flashing blue lights at a traffic stop will do more to advertise a benign police presence than sulking black and whites. After all the goal should be to make our community safer, even from speeders and let criminals know this is not a good place to set up shop. This can be done without sending the message that Dunwoody is dangerous crime pit.

Imagine how the current "crime drives staff expansion" PR campaign affects property values. Suppose you are relocating from a nice quiet town in another state and you are looking at houses in Dunwoody. As the real estate agent drives you around, you can't help but notice the police. They're everywhere. All over the mall. Cruising the neighborhoods. Dunwoody PD. DeKalb PD. MARTA. Mall cops. Folks, cops don't prevent crime, they respond to crime, going to where the crime leads them.

There must be something we can do and there is. If you believe the stats are inflated, the PD too large and mismanaged, then take action. Elections are coming up. Let your voice be heard. If you believe crime is bad and getting worse, protect yourself. Don't become another statistic. And dear reader, you can always do both.

Monday, August 10, 2009

It feels like the last day of the 2008-2009 school year was just last week but summer is over and school is starting up again. Yet many of us will not forget the last day of school this spring. It was the day a student was hit and severely injured on Chamblee Dunwoody in the school zone.

Dunwoody PD response was amazing. They took nearly half an hour to arrive, but given the probability they were 'trolling on 285 or guarding their favorite councilmen's neighborhoods, that was actually pretty good. Fortunately the county's first responders were already on the scene.

Now this was no ordinary hit and run, in fact it wasn't a hit and run at all. The driver stayed around. And this was no ordinary driver and no ordinary hit. This driver had to cross the center lane to hit the child with the back bumper . Imagine. Last day of school--last chance. Kid just off the bus. Cross the line for a back bumper bashing, knocking him right out of his shoe. The bonus points are over the top, definitely scoring an extra game and establishing a high score that may stand for years.

Normally one would be wondering when this driver gets out of prison, but remember, this is no ordinary hit. The driver wasn't charged--turns out it was the child's fault. And did the Dunwoody PD respond with patrols in a reactionary effort to calm traffic on this notorious bit of road? No way.

But it gets better. Not only did the DPD tell a nearby neighbor that there really aren't many speeders coming down that hill (this car was traveling downhill), but that the DPD doesn't have a traffic division! WHAT? Just what are those daily pull-overs on 285? Has someone stolen DPD cars and started their own money making operation? Of course, no one on the force would speak on record for fear of being quoted, but off the record comments indicate the police chief is proud of the fact his organization is "the only part of city government that makes money." In fact, he's hoping it will get him that much coveted fourth star.

The city did make one positive change. In an effort to help drivers in the area, they installed a cross walk practice dummy at the Redfield cross walk. This has given drivers all summer to hone their skills so maybe it won't take the entire school year for a repeat performance.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Dunwoody Needle Park

Tucked away in northern Dunwoody is a little known but frequently used Needle Park. This is a linear park on the west side of Chamblee Dunwoody stretching from Redfield near the newly installed crosswalk practice dummy to Spalding. While the city website provides no information on this park and no city official would either confirm or deny its existence, neighbors have found discarded needles on three occasions this summer.

Folks, the facts speak for themselves:
Flora + public access + hypodermic needles = Needle Park. Q.E.D.
As one would expect, nearby residents are up in arms. There is a Needle Park right outside some of their own homes and there are NO SIGNS. That's right dear reader, Dunwoody has its very own Needle Park and our city leaders have posted no signs. Clearly a missed opportunity to print more images of the farmhouse. Yet it is also a very serious matter, certainly more important that pet projects like community leaf blowers and night light patrols. How are we, the citizens this city, to know just where this park starts and ends? Is it on both sides of Chamblee Dunwoody, or just the west? What are its hours of operation? Folks, this is what signage is all about.

It is time the mayor and council got serious about their responsibilities. This calls for immediate action--we need to put the Official Beige of Dunwoody committee on hold and form a committee to address this park issue. We need to establish hours of operation. We need the aforementioned signage with an appropriately styled image of the farmhouse. We need to investigate the possibility of state and federal grant money to operate this park. After all this is Dunwoody and we, of all people, should not have to pay our own way. We need to know if liquor is allowed as well, or is this a dedicated purpose park. And we need to know what park events we can coordinate with Lemonade Days.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

During a recent trip to London, Thaddeus Osbourne Dabell died in his sleep.

Those who thought they knew T.O. often saw no more that an old cynic who outlived his time. Those who grew up in his company knew a man that was aware of a social and cultural change no lesser in scope and impact than the wave of technological changes that preceded it. He was also aware that one begat the other and greatly concerned that the current social and cultural transformation is the greatest threat this country has faced in its relatively short existence.

He knew first hand the role that technology played in dumbing down generations of Americans and often shared his concern that the average citizen's increasing lack of critical thinking and an intellectual context to reason about today's events is our democracy's Achilles' Heel. He knew that we have betrayed those who gave this country--gave us--that last full measure by abusing technology to foster hedonism over self-sacrifice and to substitute narcissism for character and integrity. He saw all too many young Americans choose permanent adolescence and was openly critical of the technologies and adults that encouraged them.

So it is no surprise that T.O.'s trip read was Bauerlein's latest book. It was a surprise, even a shock, to find that this blog even existed. We will never know why he did this. Perhaps he wished to address the inevitable but shallow "you don't know, you haven't tried it" arguments. Perhaps to elevate the quality of debate, or perhaps just to light that curse assuaging candle. But we do know this--we know what T.O. would say to you, the reader, right at this very moment:
"Turn off the TV, the cellphone and the computer and pick up a book and read it. Reading a book, any book, is better for you and better for America than what you are doing RIGHT now!"

Friday, April 17, 2009

Update: Keeping Dunwoody Safe

Dateline: April 17, 2009, 6:57 AM. Inner loop of I-285, between Ashford Dunwoody and Chamblee Dunwoody. Dunwoody patrol car, lights ablaze, Cobblodite pulled over.

Previously on DPD Green:
Dateline: April 5, 2009, 7:32 AM. Inner loop of I-285, middle of Doraville. Dunwoody patrol car on the shoulder, all lights blaring. No other car, no LEO in sight.

Dateline: April 9, 2009, 7:07 AM. Inner loop of I-285, Chamblee-Dunwoody exit. Dunwoody patrol car in "Speed Trap" mode parked on the grass shoulder between exit and I-285.

Keeping Dunwoody safe? From what? Falling tax revenues? Or perhaps they're looking for drugs? That could generate enough disposable income for that fourth star and some really cool uniforms.

Would someone please salt this leech before it gets ugly?

TOD

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Too Easy Being Green

Smart growth is so last millennium. And it wasn't that smart as it was overrun by "Live/Work/Play" which is now très passé. Yes Dear Reader, if you've been focussed on the goings on in Dunwoody or the global financial meltdown you are forgiven for missing the new winners in Buzzword Bingo: "Green" and her twisted sister "Sustainability".

Big Green's church of choice is the House of LEED. The problems with LEED, from being a costly moving target, to its sometimes nonsensical system that encourages point-mongering, to susceptibility to third party Certification Charlatans is well documented. You win by scamming the scores, not necessarily building the Greenest Building. The bike-rack vs HVAC system is widely touted as a shining example of the stupidity of LEED certification, which can be obtained without implementing any energy saving measures in the building. Not very Green, eh? But consider this: suppose we were told to replace inexpensive, reliable, non-polluting devices with an alternative offering inferior operation, lower reliability and containing toxic chemicals. Which is Green? Well it should be no surprise in this post-Orwellian world that it is the toxic chemical (mercury, phosphorus) laden product--the Compact Flourescent light. Truly that is the light bulb of epiphany for the Green Movement.

But Green has become a branding exercise and a marketing success. Not just GE, a leader in green branding with its ecomagination, but all manner of brown businesses are green-washing themselves and their products in a feel-good effort to market to the green conscious (but not savvy) consumer. After all, the ultimate green is money.

And this has made Green a bit long in the tooth, so like Raúl taking over for an aging Castro, Sustainability is taking the reins. The benefit of Sustainability as a debatable concept is that it has a closed and easily understood definition:
"the consumption of resources at a rate equal to or less than the rate at which they are produced."
Simple. Grok-able.

Coal fired power plant--unSustainable. Internal combustion engine automobiles--unSustainable. Photovoltaics--unSustainable, unless you ignore the fact that they require more energy to build than they deliver in their operational lifetime.

Wind energy--Sustainable. Breeder reactors--Sustainable. Hydropower--Sustainable.

But sustainability is about more than technology and certainly more than energy. And thus it is a knife that cuts deep.

Are we financially sustainable? Do we spend faster than we can tax, or beg grants, or increase "fees"? Do we take money from others while offering nothing in return?

Are we oil hogs? Do we consume directly and indirectly more petroleum than average, or more than in times past? Are we even headed towards sustainability?

What about resources that should be truly sustainable? Do we consume more water than we return to the ecosystem via infiltration, runoff and sewerage treatment? Do we consume more oxygen than we replenish with our flora?

And what about infrastructure supporting growth which we all know is ultimately unsustainable? Take a close look at our schools. Do we at least have the infrastructure for those already here and are we adding more, or are the only trailers allowed by Dunwoody zoning located on school property?

And food? Where's the balance to that equation?

At the end of the day aren't we just "breathing other peoples' air" and shouldn't we stop? Or is Sustainability just another brand, like Green, to apply to products simply to increase profit?

TOD

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Not Just Whistlin' Dixie

Recent City actions give the critical thinker cause to ponder where we're really headed. Dunwoody always had an intense reverence for the Farmhouse in spite of the fact that most of us aren't even sons of sons of farmers, and even more aren't better than first generation Dunwoodian. After all, how could we be since Dunwoody was mostly farms 50 years ago. But by golly, we'll have images of that farmhouse on the city logo and atop ever street sign in town. And that's OK, if that's all it were.

But that's not all.

Juxtaposed in time and space we have the Dunwoody Village Overlay District and associated ordinances mandating a strict adherence to a Williamsburg aesthetic. Dear reader, it doesn't matter what they want to call it, it is still Williamsburg, and to be fair, there is a Williamsburg, Georgia, but it is below the gnat line and not the Williamsburg afflicting Dunwoody. It is also interesting to observe that the beloved Dunwoody Farmhouse could never be built under these draconian restrictions. As popular as it is, if it weren't already there, it never would be.

What does this tell us?

Certainly that the powers that are have an almost perverse, conflicted affection for yester-year and yester-place. Not too surprising since many Atlantans who moved to Dunwoody in the early years were white flighters, joined later by folks from parts of the country where Williamsburg might well have been indigenous. And it seems they fit right in with that white flight mentality. So we shouldn't be surprised if Official Dunwoody seeks to spread homogeneity beyond the village and beyond architecture. In fact we shouldn't be surprised if Dixie is recognized as the de facto city anthem.

But there is a silver lining---a new game in town. When you're stuck in traffic around Mount Vernon and Chamblee-Dunwoody, don't curse the cars from Fulton, Gwinnett and Cobb clogging our streets. Put away that anger. Just look to the beloved farmhouse and find all the "Williamsburg Violations" you can. You will be surprised not only at how this helps pass the time, and how every time you play the game you find even more, but it won't be long before you're humming the tune to "Dixie". And if you have the courage, and your windows up, belt it out. Loud and clear!
"...in the land of cotton,
ole times there are not forgotten..."
TOD

Friday, March 20, 2009

What Homeschools Teach

If you believe that a school or teacher can and should be assessed by the educational outcome of the students, then we have a lot to learn from homeschools. There is a long, well documented track record of superior performance, but contrary to popular opinion (propaganda?) homeschool students are socially well adjusted, happier, and more likely to vote and engage in civic activities than regular kids. A further surprise to most is the reason why parents are choosing to homeschool. Less than 40% cite religious reasons, while almost 50% cite a superior education, and one in four cite a poor learning environment in schools.

So now we know a few things that really don't matter, that really don't work:
• Hyphenated half-and-half made up degrees: english-education, math-education, etc.
• Self-aggrandising certifications and awards.
• Pay.
• Expensive books and the marketing behind them.
• Constant curriculum churn.
• Capricious assessments and the companies making a fortune selling them.
• Expensive buildings.
• Expensive bureaucracy.
• Osmosis.
We also know what does work, what trumps all else: hard work and commitment. On the part of the parent/teacher and the student. Nothing, absolutely nothing else matters as much as these characteristics and these individuals.

And this is significant to Dunwoody because much of our demographic has the resources to make this commitment and simply choose not to. This would require sacrifice, personal sacrifice, perhaps even significant sacrifice. But if you don't view parenthood as a life-altering event, why should we pick up the tab? There are all too many folks who could be homeschooling, who could be providing their children the best all-around education available, but instead place their desires, their pleasures, their toys above their children's welfare.

The challenge from The Other Dunwoody is simply this: while waiting for your buddy to tee off on the ninth or while daydreaming through your mani/pedicure, ask yourself why you're not doing the best you can by your children.

TOD

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Learning from Pollution

They have a saying in wastewater treatment: the solution to pollution is dilution. Apparently if you flush effluent downstream with enough clean water it is not only less noxious but also less noticeable. Of course this works only when you have enough clean water.

It seems like public schools may operate on the same principle.

Suppose a system holds back one thousand students due to academic failure. Now that sounds like a lot. But what if you reported that only one percent of the students failed to advance while an overwhelming majority, ninety-nine percent, advanced and many excelled. You failed the same number of students, but now it isn't as noticeable.

Unfortunately, people are noticing. They not only see the "expected" failures (IE: someone else's child) they are beginning to understand that their children cannot compete with students educated elsewhere. Many are beginning to conclude that their children receive the "finest education available" solely because it is the only education available to them. Consequently many believe vouchers are the best way to fix this problem.

But not all agree. Dave Belton, a Republican Board of Education member in Morgan County, has written a point-counterpoint guest editorial against vouchers for the AJC. To be fair, the question put to the writers was "Will Public Schools Suffer Under Vouchers?" and the direct answer is obvious: anything which reduces the size of a mature bureaucracy is harmful to the bureaucrats and consequently to the bureaucracy. Our Public Schools are a very mature bureaucracy.

When you read Mr. Belton's op-ed piece, you can easily get lost in the usual educrat talking points: SATs are somehow flawed while self-assessments are not; social obligation to educate every child contradicting the depiction of parents as the ultimate shareholder; etc. In short, the Kool-Aid is talking. But then there is the territory all public school apologists approach but none fully explore:
"I have nothing against private schools. But please don’t pretend that poor kids are going to be able to use these small vouchers to get into the private school of their choice. Private schools only accept kids they want, and these vouchers won’t be nearly large enough to pay for good private schools. No, what will happen is that rich kids will use these vouchers to flee public schools in droves, leaving poor kids to wither on the vine —- unfunded and uncared for."
It appears Mr. Belton proposes to hide the pollution of the impoverished by diluting it with what he implies is the manifest superiority of the wealthy. He is saying what few in, or taking, his position will say: that poor kids, by and large, are doomed to failure in our Public Schools. Or perhaps he is suggesting that their success depends on the presence of the children of means more so than it does the teachers, administrators or board members. In fact, without these other, richer children, he claims the poor will be unfunded and uncared for.

Now the unfunded part is just nonsense. School funding is per full time equivalent student, which in DeKalb means "any student in home room on March 5th." Turns out they don't ask for a Parent Financial Aid Form, they just count heads.

The uncared for part is absolutely amazing. It says that the poor are neglected not only by their own parents but they are also uncared for by those underpaid, self-sacrificing professionals who toil tirelessly in our Public Schools. That teachers and administrators cannot choke down the Ripple without cleansing their palette with Perrier. He is also clearly stating that Public Schools fail the poor and the system needs the rich to dilute this failure. He has correctly concluded that subjecting Public Schools to objective measures of success and failure would reveal that Public Schools fail those who need them most and hide behind those who will succeed regardless.

While this particular component of his anti-voucher argument is repulsive, it remains difficult to support vouchers. After all, it really isn't the parent's money and if there is a societal obligation to educate there should be an equal, if not greater, parent-student obligation to learning--and this simply isn't there.

However, it is equally difficult to support Public Schools--if we didn't have them, would we create them and would they look anything like what we have now?

But Mr. Belton is right about some things. First, the ultimate shareholder is, or should be the parent, and the best way to hold a school accountable is to hold the parent accountable (IE: responsible) for their own children's education. And that starts with money. And second, a vast majority of our successful students will ultimately be in private schools, leaving Public Schools for children of those who cannot or will not meet their parental responsibility.

TOD

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Millar Distances Himself

Oh, yesterday's over my shoulder
So I can't look back for too long
There's just too much to see waiting in front of me
And I know that I just can't go wrong
That's right Fran, you just can't go wrong, so it must be us. Or that's his story and he's stickin' to it.

In the latest release of the Dunwoody Fan Magazine, Fran opines that we, the voters, (OK, 35% of the registered voters) were simply brilliant in voting for cityhood based on his advice and the advice of shills for CH2M Hill and the wannabe politicos running the Citizens for Dunwoody, but not so smart when it came to electing a mayor and council. Turns out it turned out the way these things generally turn out: it didn't pass the smell test then and now by golly, as the sweet perfume of his salesmanship dissipates, it is really raising a stink. Seems folks, not just The Other Dunwoody, have begun pointing out to their fine Rep that this cityhood thing is not at all what he said it would be. In fact, it is beginning to look like this is a scam of Madoff proportions.

So what's a successful politician to do? That's right. Duck and cover. "Please remember that the City Council chose to go in a different direction of governance than anticipated by most people." Not exactly a mea culpa, but Fran does acknowledge things aren't going well: "I see attempts for no-bid contracts and possibly hiring employees and vendors primarily because someone worked with them before." Sounds like Fran is seeing what we in The Other Dunwoody have seen all along--more of the same old cronyism in politics, except this time it's the frat boys and not the good old boys.

And after all, just what was "anticipated by most people"? Well that would be what they were sold/told by the leaders who brought this upon us. After shenanigans to get SB82 through the house and a manipulative referendum in mid-July scheduled well before publishing Task Force reports and in a presidential election year no less, Millar lays the blame at the feet of other politicians and the voters that supported them. How quickly he went from "we did it the right way" to they went another way.

Well, "Please don't blame me when you go to the polls" may not cut it this time. When a building advertised as glorious, innovative and safe collapses on top of folks the architect and engineer should expect to be held responsible. And that's just what...wait...what's that sound? Is it? Can it be? Yes! It is! It's Fran! Fran jammin' to Boofay...
With these changes in platitudes, changes in attitudes
Nothing remains quite the same
With all of my running and all of my cunning
If I couldn't laugh I just would go insane
[everybody!]
If we couldn't laugh we just would go insane
If they weren't all crazy they would go insane

TOD

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Spreadsheets to the Rescue, Part 2

Second in a two part series.

In the first of this series The Other Dunwoody challenged the citizens of Dunwoody to take the city to task just as they have the DeKalb County School System. In this, the second part, we will hop, skip and jump through the minefield known as Public Education. In keeping with the title, we'll focus on the financial aspects discussing the operational characteristics at a later time and leaving the more philosophical aspects of this great entitlement for your own discussion.

Some facts:
• 2009 DCSS approved total expeditures: $1,174,700,781 (That's right, 1.1 Billion USD) • 2009 anticipated K-12 enrollment: 101079 students • 2009 DCSS millage rate 22.98 • 2007 median household income for 30338:$111,884
• 2007 median house/condo value in 30338: \$467,426
• State income tax rate is 6%
Some assumptions:
• the average family with children in public school is consistent with the above income and home averages
• one half of state income goes to support K-12 education
• a reasonable long-term rate of inflation is 4%
Now, the model requirements:
• determine the total education costs by number of children in the household (1,2,3,4,5)
• determine the DCSS property tax on the median home
• determine the state income tax on the median income (assume it is all taxed)
• determine the amount of state income tax dedicated to education
• determine the total annual household contribution to the education system
• calculate the number of years it would take the average household to pay back their children's education cost (for 1,2,3,4,5 children), assuming no interest, no inflation
In and of itself this is a pretty interesting model[1]. It provides some startling revelations:
• It is highly unlikely that anyone with children in DeKalb public schools pays the annual cost to the county.
• It is equally unlikely that anyone with two or more children in DeKalb public schools, even in upscale locales like Dunwoody, will ever pay back the cost of educating their children.
• Without adjusting for inflation (which only really counts after your children graduate since it applies equally to house values and education costs) it takes the average Dunwoodian almost 50 years to pay off their education debt.
• The per-student cost greatly exceeds any voucher amount proposed by politicos.
• These proposed voucher amounts, for a single student, greatly exceed the taxes paid.
• If it is this bad for the Dunwoody demographic, it must be much worse for some parts of DeKalb.
Regardless of your views on public education, the application of a little critical thinking reveals that it is the planet's largest entitlement program.

TOD

Notes:
1. This model is presented as an OpenOffice workbook. If you are not using OpenOffice, now is a good time to start.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Spreadsheets to the Rescue, Part 1

First in a two part series.

In Dunwoody and throughout DeKalb there has been quite an uproar over the way the DeKalb County School System spends its money[1]. The Other Dunwoody applauds the fact that citizens are engaged, and many are capable users of some powerful technology: the spreadsheet. Using this tool they've gained insight into the compensation and organizational structure of what in reality is the largest (some say most bloated) local government we deal with: the public school system. And they are madder than a wet hen.

The Other Dunwoody would like to present a new challenge to these engaged, intelligent citizens, especially those within Dunwoody:
Demand the same data from your city government and subject it to the same intense, critical scrutiny.
That's right, The Other Dunwoody challenges you to stop the pollyannish cheerleading and demand the same kind of transparency, the same kind of information at the same level of detail from your city as you are currently receiving from your county school system! We've voted in a city that has given a job or committee position to nearly every active member of the Dunwoody Homeowners association and they have paid us back with incompetence. Clearly these people, who seem to think three plus two be faux pas, need adult supervision.

It is time for everyone in Dunwoody, but especially the "winnning" 35%, to give them just that. Then we will have better informed citizenry and perhaps even live in a city with capable public servants. And when the inevitable debates about wresting our schools from the county bureaucracy begin we won't have to assume the City of Dunwoody will be better stewards of our[2] educational dollars---we'll know.

TOD

Notes:
1. We in The Other Dunwoody won't quibble here about the semantic. After all if the money our Mayor and City Council collect and spend is their money to spend, then we must afford the same courtesy to DCSS, mustn't we?
2. The main topic of the second part in the series--just whose dollars are these?