Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Favorite Whine In Dunwoody

Pouilly Fuisse? I could drink it all day!

No, no, NO! Not wine, WHINE!

After all, this is Dunwoody, and you should know by now you cannot drink wine without overbearing supervision from the church or the government. Or both. And isn't it interesting that both expect money? But we digress...

No, the favorite whine in Dunwoody is...drum roll please...TAXES! Specifically, property taxes, because you see, property taxes are about the only taxes the average voter is aware they pay to the City. And it certainly is the most direct. But not to worry, the political process and the politicians that drive it are quite adept at addressing the tax whiners.

How do they do this? Let's start with a look at some facts. Cold, hard, uncomfortable facts:
  • Median Dunwoody 2007 Household Income: $111,884
  • Median Georgia 2007 Household Income: $49,136
  • 2006 Assessed Residential Property Value in Dunwoody: $1.5 Billion
  • 2006 Assessed Non-Residential Property in Dunwoody: $1.0 Billion
"So what", you ask? Well dear reader, look at what these facts reveal:
  • on average we make over twice what the average Georgian makes
  • forty percent of our taxable property is non-residential
  • only owner-occupied residences are eligible for Homestead Exemption
  • home owners still get HOST
Bottom line is the wealthiest amongst us, home owners, get the most tax breaks and are in fact leaching off of those less well off, those denied a voice in Dunwoody and others through out Georgia.

Let's see how this all works.

The forty percent of non-residential taxable property will ultimately pay more per unit value in property tax than the sixty percent residential due to homeowner exemptions, yet business has no meaningful vote on city governance. Rental properties get no homeowner exemption so the added tax burden is passed on to the renter. While these renters do have a vote, again, based on per unit assessed value, they carry a higher burden than the homeowner, who is often far wealthier. Then there are franchise fees, totaling about $2.8 MILLION of the projected Dunwoody revenue stream, and except for a small portion of GaPower's fees, these come from the pockets of all rate payers across Georgia. You might observe that a family in Hall county, living on one third of our average income, is paying fees to support the rich folks in Dunwoody.

And what is the reaction from the citizenry--from city hall? Outrage! That's right, outrage.

Outrage at the possibility that the citizens of Dunwoody, the voters in this fair city might actually be called upon to pick up their own tab. After we've soaked the business community for property and revenue taxes, after we've bled just a little bit, a pin-prick mind you, from everyone in Georgia, we have the unmitigated gall to rail against "higher taxes." Even though these higher taxes pay for services that, well to be frank, only we get.

Here's what's missing in The Other Dunwoody. We're missing the Magic Pews. We simply don't know where to go---what seat in which church of what religion to hear that voice of moral authority tell us that actions so heinous when done unto us are now righteous when we do them unto others.

It appears to be the Church of the Self-Righteous, practicing the Religion of Politics and the only voice you will hear is the voice of Greed.


Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Dunwoody Jokes

Back in the day, jokes with a Dunwoody punchline were either about Dunwoody Housewives or our Stepford-like communities with cookie-cutter homes. There were even rumors of progressive suppers in the Winters just to see what the neighbors had done with THE floorplan. Of course, these were exaggerations if not complete fabrications.

While those days are long gone we now have an even greater source of comedy--we have a Mayor and City Council. And this time dear readers, the jokes are for real.

They started when the Council set up city operations in another city. That's right, we're paying property taxes in another city, in another county, because that's where the Council wants it. You can't make this up.

After hilarious presentations of poorly worded ordinances we end up with convoluted laws crafted to skirt the US Constitution just to make sure the only boobs seen in Dunwoody are at the City Council meetings. And for good measure, and fear they might be more exciting than the Council, they also outlawed vibrators. You can't make this up.

After mowing down their Boob Competition, the Council, true to their HOA origins, outlawed unmowed lawns. Yes, dear readers, Dunwoody now has a grass height ordinance, and by the God of the DUMC, we're gonna enforce it. You can't make this up.

Then, before the City can maintain our streets, fix our traffic lights or field a police patrol, the Council has a retreat. No, not a retreat from sanity---that happened long ago. This is a retreat from---you guessed it---Dunwoody! Until shamed by public outcry our Mayor and Council fully intended to have a retreat, at taxpayers expense, (that's you dear reader) in Stone Mountain. You can't make this up.

Then the council decided that concerts in the parks would be a good idea (read: taxable event). For whatever reason mass stupidity set in and they outlawed glass bottles in city parks, the venue for these taxable events. While this is consistent with the plastic jug, paper cup ice tea socials at DUMC, it soooo neglects the delightful aspects of a Vouvray or even a Bordeaux at an intimate James Taylor concert. And for the record, James Taylor is not sanctioned by any recognized religious authority to offer communion at any venue---you will not skirt the long arm of Dunwoody law so easily. This was so outrageously asinine it not only made the front page of the AJC, it evoked this comment from Wittenstein, the only council member who seemed to have access to oxygenated air:
"The number of ways and things we've made illegal just boggles the mind."
You can't make this up.

It get's better. Our mayor declared the city fully operational as of Jan 1. Followed shortly by significant delays in repairing traffic lights and today, one of the coldest in years, Dunwoody roads are closed because someone opened hydrants and the City hasn't the operational capacity to sand the roads. Instead, DeKalb police are stationed at the icy patches to ensure the safety of the Citizens of Dunwoody. That's right, we have our old police force filling the gaps of our "fully operational" city. You can't make this up.

That's right: you can't make this up. It takes a special breed. It takes folks who labored long and hard within the constraints of a voluntary Home Owner's Association, longing for the day when HOA membership would be mandatory, when they would be empowered to force upon the unwilling their ideas of morality, their aesthetic, and when noncompliance would be punishable under their laws.

Dear readers, that day has come. Perhaps that's what the mayor means when he says the City is "fully operational".


Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Mega Businesses In Dunwoody Go Untaxed

The question has been posed: Since when did churches become a "business"?

In the original context this question was intended to refute the assertion that church real estate and revenue should be taxed by the city.
Why pick on churches anyway, aren't they all about God and isn't God good? Isn't that why churches aren't taxed in the first place and have a special place in our bill of rights?
Well, for one thing, churches today are nothing like those our founding fathers were protecting from government influence. In today's world there is a much clearer distinction between Faith, Religion and The Church. The first is all about God. The second is man's attempt to celebrate the Faith and carry it forward beyond this generation with writings and rituals.

The latter is a manifestation of man, by man and for man, co-opting both the Faith and Religion. It is a political entity embodying power, ambition and greed associated with all fundamentally political human enterprises. It is The Church that has committed some of the most heinous crimes against humanity, all in the name of God. Today The Church has embraced the practices of the temporal world with its strength and success measured by head count and collections. Much like the way businesses use sales volume and revenue to gauge their success. And ponder this: the Vatican has its own bank.

Increasingly these Historically Tax Exempt Churches not only operate like businesses, but provide services traditionally associated with business and in some cases place themselves in direct competition with taxed business. There are churches today in Dunwoody that:
  • operate sports facilities open to the public, with a fee for non-members.
  • operate day cares and private schools for a fee.
  • offer adult enrichment, job networking and speaking events that are open to all and carry a charge.
  • market their services to a geographical area far larger than the greater Dunwoody area.
These have all the characteristics of a business:
  • competition;
  • revenue;
  • growth goals;
  • expenses, including payroll;
  • asset management; and
  • marketing.
Everything except for paying taxes.

Some argue that all Churches aren't like that. Absolutely true, some aren't. While Congregation Ariel and Ebenezer Baptist haven't adopted the business model, the "First and Second Baptist Banks of Dunwoody" certainly have. As have churches with larger parking lots than the failed Publix shopping center proposed for the Emory property across from the library. Think about it, if your church runs a shuttle bus on Sunday morning because the main parking lot is full, it probably isn't a community church where neighbors gather to share a common faith. It is a competitive, successful business.

It is time for Dunwoody to equitably tax all businesses operating in Dunwoody without regard to race, culture, national origin and yes, even Religion.


Saturday, January 10, 2009

Self Loathing Intervention For Council, Mayor

Recent rumors that the Council might permanently move council meetings to Blue Ridge has not only caused quite a stir here in the city, but has caught the attention of famed LA radio talk show host and trained psychiatrist Dr. Phyllis Stein. The situation was brought to the attention of "Dr. Phyllis" by former Dunwoody resident and man-about-town, Ryan Seacrest. When contacted, an unnamed source with Mr. Seacrest's publicist stated "He couldn't believe they put city hall in another city, then when they retreated to Stone Mountain, he was stunned. But to hear they are moving city council meetings to Blue Ridge, well, that was the last straw. He had to get professionals involved."

Dr. Phyllis, displaying her trademark frankness, said "Clear case of self loathing, no doubt about it. Now I know that most shrinks would write this off as buyer's remorse, but they don't have the balls to be in this business. These excuses are enabling and cause more damage than good. This case clearly calls for an intervention and as soon as my producers can schedule it, I am going down there and fix that entire dysfunctional city." For the record, Dr. Phyllis would neither confirm nor deny a personal or professional relationship with Mr. Seacrest responding with "our relationship is in no way related to the problems in Ryan's home town."

As one might imagine, this is the buzz of Dunwoody. At the village barber shop, Mac "The Knife", owner and operator, offered his insights. "I cut the mayor's hair. I cut the Council's hair. Well except that babe, I don't know where she goes, but I can do at least as good and I'll give her the man's price. But I do cut everyone's else's hair and I know these people in the way that only someone with a sharp razor gets to know people. And I can tell you one thing, they ain't movin' to no Blue Ridge. No sir. These are St. Simons folks, through and through."

Now wouldn't that be an interesting twist. No matter, upcoming events are sure to be exciting in Dunwoody. When will the Dr. Phyllis intervention happen? Will it be Blue Ridge or St. Simons? After the move will the council decide to hold their retreats in some exotic locale, like, say...Dunwoody?

Stay tuned dear readers, we live in interesting times.


Tuesday, January 6, 2009

PCID Continues Assault on Dunwoody

As a result of a brief battle in the State House pitting Dunwoody against the larger, more powerful DeKalb County, Dunwoody secured victory and acquired control of the region at the southwest border of the city proper. This region, known by the acronym PCID, has been lobbing destruction, deceptively labeled "smart growth", at Dunwoody for several years. The latest volley in this lopsided engagement is the construction of yet another apartment complex in the PCID.

The quasi-governmental PCID strategy, often supported by DeKalb County to the south, is to construct high density residential settlements within the western strip they lay claim to, with the intent of overloading the surrounding transportation and education infrastructure. This dissipates the resources of the surrounding community since the PCID does nothing to support these services. In fact, even with the territory they control, less than ten percent of the money for their "project portfolio" comes from the PCID, with the rest obtained from outside supporters. To date, the PCID has been winning both the war on the ground and public propaganda campaigns.

It is time for the City of Dunwoody to engage the PCID forcefully to protect the City and the County Schools within the City. Dunwoody should take these steps immediately:
  • Work closely with DeKalb County Schools (not the County, but the Schools) to coordinate the imposition of school infrastructure impact fees to build adequate schools in the PCID.
  • Alternatively, coordinate with DCS to supervise the construction of schools within the PCID by the PCID for the settlers they have moved into the PCID.
  • Put in place an IGA with Sandy Springs and Fulton County to coordinate all PCID related activities.
  • Impose a sewer hookup moratorium until the PCID acknowledges its transgressions and provides meaningful commitment to redress the damage already done.
  • Demand the PCID pay reparations, restructure and institute procedures that protect the surrounding communities.
  • Impose a transportation toll on the PCID to cover needed repairs and maintenance to City streets caused by the PCID's irresponsible growth.
  • Put in place procedures that ensure the PCID activities are monitored, preventing recurrence of these problems.
It is imperative that the City take control of this territory before it becomes an even more powerful breeding ground of economic terrorism than it already is.


Monday, January 5, 2009

The Only Signs Welcome in Dunwoody

Are apparently Welcome To Dunwoody signs.

To quote John Heneghan, a Dunwoody city councilman and blogger:
"Two graphic artists in the area, Steven Fuller and Earl Cole, designed and submitted about 20 designs for the city signs. The designs were gathered [...] and submitted to the Dunwoody City Council, who narrowed it down to three finalists."
At best these are reminiscent of "Steel Magnolias", where the Julia Roberts' character had two favorite colors--bashful and blush--two almost indistinguishable shades of pink. A web page designer would observe that the three options are identical in content and except for minor changes in aspect ratio and element scaling are identical in appearance. We can only imagine how horrible the other 17 were.

And the beige. What is WITH the beige? Is this a joke? Perhaps a very bad one, as in "Beige, I think I'll paint the ceiling Beige"? It should be replaced with Dunwoody Yes! yellow to remind us all of those who got us into this, or commemorate them if you're a fan. Or maybe bronze like a historical marker giving a nod to the fact that Dunwoody is all about clinging to the past rather than embracing a progressive future. But please, anything but Flip This House beige.

This whole welcome sign affair is also eerily similar to the self-congratulatory "Vernon Jones & Co. " sidewalk signs. Maybe our esteemed leaders should complete the job by adding the Mayor and Council-person names. And get ready for the photo-ops when the first signs are installed. We're more likely to see a video of this event on the Dunwoody website than videos of council meetings.

The fact that this appears at this high a priority is very telling--the council spent valuable time culling out about 17 to arrive at 3 virtually identical signs. But there just isn't enough time for expanding public comment at council meetings. No sir, they're just too busy for that.

That's the real Welcome to Dunwoody sign this government is posting for all of Dunwoody.


Saturday, January 3, 2009

Fully Operational. NOT!

Or so screamed the flashing traffic light at the corner of Chamblee Dunwoody and Peeler most of Saturday.

It didn't take long for the city's first test. If a 6-8 hour response for a traffic signal at one of the city's major intersections is what the powers-that-now-be consider better than what we had, they haven't been paying attention.


Thursday, January 1, 2009

Moses Runs Dunwoody

"Set my people free!"

After gaining freedom from the evil, dark pharaoh, Moses led his people for forty years. Forty years of wandering. Thirst, starvation and abandonment (remember the first trip up the mountain?). Forty years of hearing about how bad the pharaoh was and how the Israelites were headed to a land of milk and honey, to their promised land. How this exodus would yield something better.

Now that Dunwoody is freed from the evils of southern oppression what have our prophets offered? What is the vision of Dunwoody's promised land? If you believed one of the lesser prophets, Porter on the Hill, it was a budget that is "fiscally conservative, [with] proposed service levels as a 25 to 30% improvement over what DeKalb currently provides". Or perhaps you're a fan of the Great Prophet Millar who preaches that the extra year he provided was "to try to get the best data for people to make a decision."

But what have these prophets really offered our tribe, outside of unrealistic promises? They brought down from their mountain new, puritanical laws ostensibly intended to preserve the purity of their nation. They found sanctuary in secrecy, using available technology to promote their agenda and foster cronyism, but somehow avoiding the opportunity to provide transparent, open governance. They moved rather quickly to increase the financial burdens on businesses and residents. They held glad-hand events for pollyannish sycophantic toadies and of course, their glamor shots adorn their new taxpayer funded (but not taxpayer supporting) website.

And Dunwoody's head prophet declares his city "Fully Operational". And what does that mean? Are Dunwoody Police patrolling our streets? NO. Instead there is the same police protection Dunwoody already had---terrible, to have heard our prophets talk about it before the referendum. But that's OK, because now we pay more for it. Well at least we have our parks in place, right? NO. What we do have is an ever increasing payroll and a pothole patrol. That's Fully Operational in someone's twisted world, but not in The Other Dunwoody.

If history serves as a guide we should all remember that Moses never saw the promised land and for good reason. After forty years of tortuous wandering someone else finally stepped up, helped those of weak character and failed integrity, and led the worthy to the promised land.

Where is our Joshua?