Monday, November 28, 2011


The first vote is in and the runoffs are a week away. We've had two Sundays to become intimately familiar with the distinct boundary between Dunwoody and Sandy Springs even as a new purveyor of adult libations plies his trade in our little village. As the tryptophans fade and the toddy warms, let us all pause to take stock of recent wounds and those who lick them.

The most obvious are the fans of "America's Sport", baseball, and there seems to be quite the disagreement on just how popular baseball is in Dunwoody. On the one hand, the Dunwoody Fan Rag claims without any supporting citation that "there is ample public demand for ball fields". Really?!? Sadly for these ample demanders, this did not bear up under public scrutiny nor did it survive a public vote. Frankly it is superficially incorrect: where "ample demand" exists, pay-to-play works because "ample demand" begets "ample support" with no need to tax non-players. Clearly Dunwoody falls far short of "ample" with regard to boys, their beloved balls and the sticks to beat them with.

Then there were the parks bonds themselves, invested with more than ample  histrionics and ego and whose rejection appears to have ripple effects far beyond mere boy's games. The City's immediate response was a little "tit for tat", putting on hold the purchase of property slated for the "Peachford Extension" as if to say "if we don't get what we want, we'll just take our bat and ball and go home", knowing they'll just have to call a special session to approve the purchase or lose $50K. But publicly we're treated to a Councilman saying " the voters of Dunwoody spoke loud about us buying land particularly if we’re going to buy land and pay too much for it".  Yeah. Right. Like the voters were wrapped around the axle about the price tag of those apartments and didn't care a whit about the pogrom it forces. These folks never had their fingers on the pulse of the public, and it is unlikely there was an election day epiphany at a Tuesday night pity party. It is more believable that this was a pissy fit of pique resulting in a childish tantrum.

Or perhaps the voters simply put them on notice with regards to whimsical boondoggles. This extension is to facilitate east-west travel in the area, which is located only one block from the apparently inadequate east-west conveyances of I-285, Cotillion and Savoy. Or perhaps not.

But it could be that one plan, the parks, was tied to another, the extension, by way of the general budget. Had the bonds carried the day, this infusion of cash would take parks out of the general budget freeing up funds needed for less playful commitments. Like pavement. Complete with white and yellow markings. Now that the City does not have that easy $66 million to go on a "shopping spree" and all projects must come out of general funds, perhaps  they don't have enough money to run this City in the manner they promised.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Dunwoody: Startup Expertise

Most folks involved in the high tech community are painfully aware of the fact that the people who start a company are almost always NOT the people you need to run that same company once it is fully operational. Dunwoody, with a few years under its belt, is like a young company transitioning from startup to sustainability and we no longer need our current team of brash inexperienced startup specialists who require an increasing amount of adult supervision. In fact, we will not be able to survive them. It is now our time to acquire the experienced professionals we need running the show from here on out.

And we're in luck. We're all in luck.

Nearby voters already have or soon will approve and establish two new cities. This offers exciting new opportunities for our "City Entrepreneurs" while at the same time providing Dunwoody with the opportunity to grow the quality of our team. Starting now, we should be looking to upgrade our City Management staff, acquire extensive expertise in the City Attorney's Office and put a steady hand in control of our Police Force. And those currently in those positions will find themselves available to assist the newly approved City of Peachtree Corners and the about to be approved City of Brookhaven with their startup needs.

A serendipitous Win-Win-Win opportunity like this does not come along very often and we should not squander it.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Brookhaven: Learn from Dunwoody

Brookhaven is well along in fulfilling its destiny as the next city to incorporate in DeKalb and there is much to be learned from its slightly older sister to the north.

First, it is inevitable, don't fight it. You don't have to blindly embrace it, but fighting will be like swimming in quicksand, but with a peanut gallery rooting for the sand. In the end you're going down and all you will succeed in accomplishing is adding your name to the list that includes "Shrill Jill" and "Farmer Bob". But again, you don't have to just sit in the corner, eat your cookies and drink your milk. You can think. You can analyze. And...if you are very careful, you can criticize.

Your CVI study is complete. In terms of content this is relatively insignificant, but as a milestone it means that the dominant power structure is in place. Just check out the assumptions underpinning the foregone conclusion that "shows Brookhaven would be viable". Then pull that string. Who insisted on these assumptions? Is it the same group that paid for the study? Just who are these people--not a group--real, flesh and blood, money makin', power-hungry people? Who the hell are they? They need to be outed. Early.

These are the folks who will run your city for the first few to several years. And they will run it to their benefit, not the benefit of the Citizens of Brookhaven (see, now doesn't that just sound right?). They will be pulling the strings of council and mayor, but even before, it is these, the few, the empowered, that will draft your ordinances, set the rules that dominate your life, and unlike the benign neglect of DeKalb, these folks will see to it that you toe the line. Or else. If you're in a HOA and hate it, think of this as a HOA on steroids, with the power to tax, condemn, and compel with an armed force. If you're in a HOA and just love it, then you're probably one of the assholes that will be running the city anyway.

When it comes time to vote, not for the referendum--that will be rigged, but for mayor and council, you might want to pretend it is the second or third election, not the first. By the time you get to the third election you will have become thoroughly disillusioned with all the pompous asses that promote themselves as having been some kind of great contributor to the cityhood movement or who played patty-fingers with other power-hungry frat boys in one of the unavoidable string of "non-profits" that foisted this city upon you. Those are the people you'll certainly vote against then. Cut to the chase. Vote against them now.

And you might just want to look at the financials. See, the proponents of cityhood are gonna tell you how "we can have the same or better services for even less money". Maybe. And they love to point out the elimination of the bifurcated "Special Services Tax District" which covers two of the much ballyhooed "3-P's" of new DeKalb Cities: Police and Parks. Fact is, these have to be paid for, and you will have your own overhead to cover down at the newly minted city hall. Expect "parks bonds" to be floated within three years of incorporation. Expect a police force that is twice as large as you will be sold on pre-referendum and a never-ending stream of budget increases backed by little more than flag waving.

As you dig down into the revenue side you'll see a big chunk o' cash: franchise fees. Turns out the county gets virtually none of this money as it is not incorporated but your newly incorporated Brookhaven will, so any financial comparison that ignores this disparity is intellectually bankrupt. Now much of this money comes from folks in unincorporated areas of the state, including yourselves at this point, but it largely/only goes to cities. Some folks, often those in unincorporated areas, find this morally reprehensible. But, as has been pointed out by leaders in Dunwoody, this money is necessary to support the city, and in your case it helps eliminate that SSTD assessment. So it's OK, right? After all, you've been on the downside of this great moral divide and now it is your turn to reap the rewards. This is how "situation ethics" works. All you need to bring to the table is a very flexible moral spine and an equally firm sense of self righteousness.

But wait! There's more!

You're gonna start this city, so you're gonna need "City Services". One thing Dunwoody did right (really, you finally read it here) was to ignore the siren song of the "Shills for CH2M Hill" who were advocates of Whole Hog "P Three Uh Oh", otherwise known as "privatization". Clearly many services should not add head count to the city payroll with its generous benefit package--and yes, you will find one of the first things enacted will be generous benefits. If you have a janitor, electrician, HVAC tech, mechanic, or even an IT guy, on city payroll then you're an idiot. By the same token, you'll probably NOT want to contract for police services. But there is much grey in between. Fortunately there is a simple rule to follow in deciding whether to outsource or not: if you can envision requesting information under the Open Records Act, then you want that function in-house. Otherwise, you're screwed. Well, you're probably screwed anyway, but if they can throw up the "sorry, private business information" roadblock, then you're screwed, glued and tattooed.

And finally, don't let your guard down. You're gonna have yet another set of politicians that require constant watching and frequent changing. Buck up. You gotta do both every chance you get.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Not So HOT, eh?

It appears that SRTA cannot wear down the resistance. What had been seen as a small, fragmented group of malcontents has coalesced into an uber organization, Stolen Lanes. This umbrella group claims to represent nearly ten thousand commuters who are hot. Under the collar, not in the lanes.

And perhaps they vote?

But Stolen Lanes are up against formidable opponents including a powerful state bureaucracy, well-connected private interests and the support of the Fourth Estate, notably Cox Enterprises, who thru channel 2 and the AJC have relentlessly promoted the HOT lanes. The media full court press includes daily usage counts reminiscent of the Vietnam War body counts, both in frequency and inaccuracy, as they intentionally fail to acknowledge traffic levels supported during the HOV era, or note how many carpools have been expelled from those lanes. And the smarmy financing and misuse of tax dollars is something the government is reluctant to disclose and proponents unwilling to discuss.

Clearly this new organization is fighting an uphill battle, but it is a noble cause. Give them a read. It may be your cause too.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Just a TAD Will Do Nicely

The Citizens OF Dunwoody rightly rejected the ill-managed drive towards deep debt represented by the two parks referenda. Whilst the approximately forty percent who voted in favour might be considered a "forty percent wrong out of a hundred" and consequently a pretty solid "F", this is politics where fifty plus one is an undeniable "A". Those forty are down.

But not out.

The Citizens OF Dunwoody have granted the City the power to create Tax Allocation Districts, allowing the City to identify an area as "blighted", issue bonds (w/o any more approval from those unruly citizens) and re-structure our tax base and expenditures. Expect this "tool" to be used by the City well before the currently sitting council and mayor leave office. And what might we expect?
  1. A blighted area will be identified and it will, not coincidentally, be EXACTLY the same area the EXACT same mayor and council had identified as the IDEAL location for a major city recreation center.
  2. Negotiations with area businesses (aka "apartments") will be revealed, preferably as a last minute agenda item at the end of an intentionally long city council meeting.
  3. It will also be revealed, unwillingly, that details of these negotiations as well as development plans have been sitting on a city computer for some time. We will never know how these "discussions" originally started and who started them nor the real power structure behind them.
  4. Though the location was ideal for "playgrounds for the children of the rich" it will have since been determined even better suited for a "Live, Work, Play" redevelopment with heavy emphasis on "Play", some on "Work" and not so much on "Live"-- and only to the extent that it is owner occupied.
  5. Deals will be signed, bonds issued, taxes pulled from the general fund and directed exclusively to the "blighted" redevelopment, and Dunwoody will be rid of its undesirables as well as off on an exciting adventure in land speculation and development.
To their credit, the Citizens OF Dunwoody exercised fiscal prudence with their vote on the bonds referenda, but until the City reflects the will of the Citizens and not a shadow power structure, the Citizens OF Dunwoody must remain unwaveringly vigilant in all matters regarding TADs.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Just Say NO!

Shortly we, the citizens of  Dunwoody, will be presented with three opportunities to raise our taxes. Two take effect immediately and the third kicks in at the whim of the city, whenever they want, and whoever they may be at the time the mood strikes them.

Referendum: "Shall land be acquired and remediated for parks and greenspace by the City of Dunwoody in the amount of $33,000,000?"
  • VOTE NO: This represents almost THREE TIMES THE CURRENT BUDGET in debt load.
  • VOTE NO: We are now told the City intends to use the money to force undesirables from their homes--this plan is now as official as anything the city has ever said.
Referendum: "Shall the park system of the City of Dunwoody be improved by the issuance of general obligation bonds in the amount of $33,000,000?"
  • VOTE NO: Again, this represents almost THREE TIMES THE CURRENT BUDGET in debt load.
  • VOTE NO: This was split out of a single, $66,000,000 bond because even the City knows this is an outrageous idea.
Redevelopment Referendum: "Shall the Act be approved which authorizes the City of Dunwoody to exercise redevelopment powers under the 'Redevelopment Powers Law' as it may be amended from time to time?"
  • VOTE NO: You, the citizens and voters of Dunwoody will be giving the city unbridled power to alter tax structure and wield power of eminent domain.
  • VOTE NO: What you give up, you will never be able to take back, and you will have relinquished all opportunity to control the power delegated to the city, as defined by whoever may be in office at the time.
Dunwoody is not yet five years old, but consistent with the personal fiscal policy of many of Dunwoody's Smartest, the City remains free of long term debt. Much has been done, and much more can still be done without incurring debt for ourselves and our children--and let's be frank, this is a debt that once adopted will be renewed and we will be locked in a fiscal model based on long term debt. This debt load can only be satisfied by growing the tax digest, and with the intent to remove more properties, especially commercial properties from the tax rolls, residents will take on a greater burden.

The rebuttal, used during the drive to form the city, is "Trust Us". However, the way these referenda were intentionally written, the way information has been intentionally withheld then leaked, and the intentional timing of any releases is indistinguishable from deceitful manipulation. Earning Trust? Hardly!

Should any of these referenda pass, our standing as a well-managed, fiscally conservative community will be shattered and there will be no looking back. Dunwoody will be well on its way to becoming just another city run just like any other city--by the same kind of politicians we thought we left behind in DeKalb.

Just Say NO!

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

St. Augustine of Dunwoody

From [because '.com' would hit too close to home] we learn about one of history's most famous Saints.
"St. Augustine* of Hippo is the patron of brewers because of his conversion from a former life of loose living, which included parties, entertainment, and worldly ambitions. His complete turnaround and conversion has been an inspiration to many who struggle with a particular vice or habit they long to break. "
And who doesn't enjoy a cold brew ever and anon?

It sounds like he should be the patron saint of college commencement as this modern life milestone most closely resembles his transformation, but the text provides no additional insights into his appointment as patron to that which he had so dramatically put aside.

Perhaps "Hippo" is somehow related to "hypocrite", though this is unlikely as those biblical scholars, many of whom remain anonymous to this day, were quite the sticklers when it came to spelling--regardless of the language or medium. One thing is certain, it is in no way related to "hippocratic" despite the similarities in spelling.

* Like most in Dunwoody, it is presumed our St Augustine is indeed from afar, transplanted in both time and space, and might in fact be St Augustine of Hippo. However, any resemblance of anyone mentioned herein to persons living or dead should be plainly apparent to those persons and those who know them in direct proportion to their ego and inverse proportion to their desire to remain anonymous. Any events described herein may or may not have actually occurred and even if, may not be accurately related as matter of fact or chronology. The author or authors, excepting those directly cited, remain anonymous, because that is their right as Americans.