Sunday, June 26, 2011

Screen on the Green Moves to Dunwoody

Due to recent "mishaps" at its current location the promoters of Screen on the Green are relocating the event to Dunwoody's own Brookrun Park. Lest you fear this also a relocation of The Troubles to our fair city, these promoters have a plan.
"We've got some lesson's learned from the previous experience, and we're pretty smart folks too. We have a plan to promote content that does not incite disruptive behavior. Why have a "Blade" marathon when there's Cary Grant?"
"So we'll start off with some golden oldies, like "An Affair to Remember", but we'll juxtapose that with "Sleepless in Seattle". For June, it's "The Longest Day" and "Saving Private Ryan". If we can carry through to December, we've got quite a Pearl Harbor lineup."
What if that still doesn't work?
"Then we get tough. We show two-a-nights with a sleeper followed by a classic silent film. We can do "Out of Africa" followed by "Modern Times"; "Citizen Kane" and "City LIghts"; "Dances with Wolves" and "Nanook of the North". If that's not enough, we go nuclear with "The English Patient". Doesn't matter what you show after that."
Of course this might cause one to ponder, out loud, why this would not work at the current venue.
"There is too much history to overcome. Plus we understand the Dunwoody PD has recently received their automatic weapons license from the Feds and they have assured us that any outbursts will be quickly resolved."
So there you have it dear readers. We're goin' to the movies!

Friday, June 24, 2011

Sandy Springs Maintains Services

As reported in today's Atlanta Journal-Constitution Sandy Springs has passed a 2012 budget with no service cuts while cutting costs by over $7 million.

How did they do this?

City officials have said switching from CH2M Hill as the provider of most city services provided big savings. They estimate around $7 million in savings by allowing companies to bid on separate services instead of all of them being put together.  "Dividing the contracts up has been good for the city," Councilwoman Dianne Fries said. This is supported by the City Manager, John McDonough who added, "Due to the savings realized from the re-bid of the city's general government services, Sandy Springs was not faced with making significant budget cuts."

Dunwoody was out front on the proper way to contract for city services, but it is comforting to have the affirmation of our "big sister" to the west. Now if Dunwoody could just show DeKalb County how to save some of our money...

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Cotton Pickin' Criminals

Way down south in the land of cotton,
Ole times there are not forgotten...
The passage of HB-87 seems to have negatively impacted the Georgia agricultural industry's access to plentiful, low-wage and illegal labor. The Governor, who signed HB-87 into law, has offered the suggestion that we press our own home-grown criminals into service to replace the now absent imported criminals. This has been challenged with the suggestion that these probationers "work in the Governor's kitchen", suggesting that the Governor's staff includes illegal aliens. While that may or may not be the case, what we now know is that Georgia's industrial farmers have relied upon the brazen exploitation of illegal immigrants for years.

And let's be honest, we're not talking about "forty acres and a mule here", we're talking about multi-million dollar businesses prospering from government farm subsidies almost as much as they profit from the sweat of these neo-slave laborers. The quaint image of the hardworking Protestant farmer conjured in "American Gothic" simply does not exist and is in no way representative of those whining about their rotting cabbage while they pay expensive lobbyists to stalk the halls of our Legislatures.

Even those well-intentioned supporters of "instant amnesty" for illegal migrants miss the point. Our farm industry wants nothing but illegal workers, as these workers have no recourse against these industrial farmers who use them as modern day slaves. Should someone wave the magic ObamaWand over illegals granting them all rights and privileges thereunto appertaining, they would become instantly unemployed.

It is now painfully clear to everyone, including farmers, that we don't need more unemployable people.

Monday, June 20, 2011

A Shout Out to Frederick County, MD

Google Analytics indicates the good folk of Frederick County, Maryland have been doing due diligence before moving from a traditional service approach to the once-favored "Public Private Partnership" or "Three Pee UhOh". Since our new cities north of Atlanta seem to be the breeding ground for Three Pee UhOh, perhaps the experiences of these communities can provide some guidance.

In no particular order...

Be wary of studies. The outcome of any study is based on assumptions. Whoever controls the assumptions controls the results and recommendations.

Be wary of consultants. Consultants are a bit like picking a doctor. If you talk to a surgeon, your ailment will most likely be treated by surgery. A homeopath? Not so much. If you hire a consultant with a track record of advising wholesale outsourcing of services, well, don't be too surprised when he recommends you do the same. And you should be no less surprised to find out he just happens to know of a company that can get the job done.

Be careful what you ask for.  If the motivation is to free the county from a Wisconsin-like death grip of public worker unions, then perhaps wholesale outsourcing is required to break free. Be sure the contract is no greater than a term in office or you will simply trade one demon for another. Plan a clear path to the optimal solution arrived at by some of our communities.

If the change is the result of a political shift from democrats, generally beholding to unions, towards republicans, generally beholding to business, be very wary. You are probably just trading one form of political corruption for another.

Wholesale outsourcing is dubious at best. The financial arguments are simple enough: like Walmart, these mega-corps allegedly enjoy economies of scale. Perhaps they do. But one thing is certain, when you pay the contract, you are paying their profits, their executive bonuses, and funding their re-investment in their business. Little of this money will stay in Frederick County.

When you outsource services you outsource quality. More importantly you outsource accountability and transparency. What is now subject to open records requests will magically become "the proprietary business information of a private corporation".

Full frontal Three Pee UhOh has lost its luster. Before rampant city formation had run its course north of Atlanta, at least one of the new cities rejected full outsourcing from the very beginning. The others have or are in the process of moving towards in-house management with multiple contracts for various work. This is being done not only to ensure the best service levels, but to save money. Ironically it is saving money that is offered as the primary reason to outsource but it simply has not withstood the onslaught of reality.

We in The Other Dunwoody hope this helps.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Greenspace: Supply and Demand

Dunwoody's "Greenspace Advocates" seem hellbent on strapping us with at least Fifty Million Dollars in debt, certainly proving they know how to put the green in greenspace. They also like to point out that many admirable places to live, where sadly they don't, have 10 acres of "greenspace" per 1000 residents whilst Dunwoody has one third that figure.  And where are these places? Oft-cited locations touted as strikingly similar to Dunwoody in every other way include Seattle and Minneapolis.

You simply cannot make this up.

This cherry-picked stat and these contrived comparisons intentionally neglect several important factors that apply specifically to Dunwoody when discussing parks, recreation and greenspace:
  • Dunwoody has relatively low density, with few high rises and instead is dominated by single family homes on more than ample lots---most in Dunwoody are blessed with ample personal greenspace
  • Dunwoody has more than one lakeside home, many more have private pools--if you can afford it, it's yours
  • Many communities in Dunwoody sport their own swim/tennis facilities, often with outside memberships available
  • Though located in Sandy Springs, Dunwoody Country Club abuts the city limits and serves many in our community
  • Dunwoody is home to a few mega-churches, providing services, including athletics and some, like the Day Wellness Center, have no requirement for religious affiliation
This is not to say that every resident has access to all these opportunities, but certainly these reduce the need for this City to compensate for deficiencies as other cities might. Furthermore this creates a system of individual "Pay for Play" that generally resonates with the conservative and libertarian view of government's role in our lives.

So what is driving this relatively mindless plunge into Long Term Debt? Is this a reprise of the "Dunwoody, It's A No-Brainer" emotional appeal underpinning the mindless rush into cityhood?

Why are so few demanding that everyone pay for their play? This leads to the defining question: what does $50 Million buy? For most of us, very little. For the few, the connected, it buys power. The power to decide who gets a piece of that $50 Million. And...who doesn't.

This movement towards debt fueled power proves this City is just more of the same malfeasance we allegedly endured at the hands of the County.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Three Million Dollars!

You will be thrilled to learn that the City of Dunwoody is considering slashing the budget line item for the Donaldson-Chestnut farm from $2,945,000.00 to $1,500,000.00.

We've really dodged a bullet there.

Seriously folks, three million dollars! Of course, since this would be borrowed money, by the time we, the taxpayers finish paying down the bond, it will be six million dollars.

For that amount of money we should be able to move that farmhouse, THE farmhouse, the Spruill Center House, all the outbuildings and that faux thoroughbred horse farm fence over to Brook Run. We could even throw in that railroad Station House formerly housing the Chamber of Commerce. If we do that we should go dig up that rail car wheel buried over on Spalding as proof there really was a railway here.

Or better yet, move it all to the "Pipe Farm" on the south side, creating a "Historic Village of Dunwoody" as a gateway to the city. Plumbing is in, roads are there, though some can be removed. Just needs the buildings moved in and some landscaping. And what better place for a community garden?

Then we can sell off the Spruill and Donaldson properties to developers and get these back on the tax rolls. Surely developers would drool over prime real estate in the Perimeter Mall area, though DeKalb might want to build a school there. And we simply must enlist our Most Favored Developer to throw down some million dollar clutter homes on the Donaldson property creating a nice chunk of change on the income side of the City ledger. A real estate office, no, a bank would look quite nice where the Station House sits. That area needs more banks. The Farmhouse land would make a great round-about. Perhaps we can move the Dunwoody Obelisk from the churchyard on Roberts to a micro park in the center of the circle.

We need to "Start Getting Smart*" about our finances. Surely these options are better than flitting three million dollars of taxpayer money on someone's nostalgic trip down "Farmhouse Lane" in a city that bans urban poultry.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Calling BS on Education

Every so often the blather coming from the mouths of the so-called authorities running public education becomes so odious you just have to call "Bullshit". Given the recent AJC headline "Many grads not college-ready" it may just be time to call out Education Colleges and the incompetents they pump out who then pose  as "qualified educators".

Data show that twenty-two percent of the high schools students these "educators" in our public schools consider qualified and eligible for their highest academic award--a diploma--require remediation upon entering college. One can only wonder about those graduates who don't bother to apply to college and how profoundly ignorant they are.

And what does the Georgia Department of Education have to say about all this? Well, Martha Reichrath, deputy superintendent of the DoE, while acknowledging that public schools must improve, blames others saying "we can't ignore that we have classroom teachers who didn't receive the content training they needed in college to teach students the material."

Absolutely gobstopping.

What does this say? That high school graduates were accepted into college education programs when these students did not even know what they were supposed to learn in high school? That further, they acquired a college degree without attaining knowledge at the high school level? That they are so severely crippled by ignorance of the content and incapable as educators that they cannot translate spoon-fed curricula into lesson plans? And yet schools and the state accept these bogus college credentials towards jobs for which they are obviously unqualified as they have demonstrated they can neither learn nor teach.

This casts a new light (or shadow) on the hyphenated degree programs that Colleges of Education have lapsed into, especially those in Math and the hard sciences. It can only be concluded that the separator is not in fact a "hyphen" but is instead an arithmetic operator, that of subtraction, such that a "math-education" major does not achieve competence in math augmented with additional understanding of the teaching discipline. Instead we have a program that takes mathematical rigor and replaces it with "learning concepts". One that substitutes the pop education psycho-babble of the day for analytical reasoning and that pushes aside discipline in favor of indoctrination. One that takes the hard work required to master difficult subjects and substitutes the same kind of "self-esteem A's" these young teaching prodigies are expected to award in their classrooms.

So we end up with soon-to-be classroom teachers with no core competency in their specialty who are such weak learners and educators that they cannot even teach themselves. And do we remit these failures to remediation? Of course not. We give them a diploma, a pat on the back and what has now been exposed as an overpaid job on the public dole.

We've known for decades that these "education" degrees were worthless in the real world. Now our state's education leaders claim they are equally worthless in realm of public education.