Monday, December 31, 2012

It's The Robot Boys

It was an early Christmas present for our beloved boys in blue but for the rest of Dunwoody it was a flaming bag of stink dropped off on our collective front porch. 

The Dunwoody Police are getting a robot.

Did the department request a robot? Do they even need a robot? Did they make the case for this robot to Council? Did Council approve and provide budgetary support for a robot? Is there anyone who can be held accountable to the public who had anything to do with initiating and executing this acquisition?

Hell no. 

So why are we getting a robot? This cannot really be a Christmas present. Can it?

Well the answer is quite simple but only after you understand what drives decisions in this Smart City of Conservative Critical Thinkers. There was a grant. Yes sir, turns out GEMA, didn't quite run out of money in their federal money laundering scheme so they were throwing it out like candy at parade. Of course it wasn't just money. You have to spend it the way they tell you because that's how grants work. Another thing grants do is get you to buy something you don't need and then you have to pay to maintain it. Sort of like how a "free puppy" ain't really free. See, someone is going to have to maintain this mechanical device and we're very likely to see officers taken out of service for "robot training". 

Maybe after they're trained they'll be half as good with robots as these Danes.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Furnace Mystery

A long-time Dunwoody resident (aren't we all?) recently did the most peculiar and yet most Dunwoody-esque thing. While a full-time Dunwoody resident, this bloke, like many others 'round these parts, owns a second home as sort of a "vacation" home. Nothing unusual there. Well, this fall his furnace died. Nothing unusual there either.

Then it gets strange. Sure, the furnace was old, but it was reparable and at a cost of a several hundred dollars its service life may well have been extended a few more years. But instead of having the furnace fixed as most in Dunwoody will agree is the prudent course of action, this bloke had the whole thing ripped out and replaced. To the tune of several thousand dollars. How could someone smart enough to not just live but vote in our fair "City of Smarts" spend all that money while discarding a furnace that needed only a minor repair, that had served his needs in the past and promised to continue into the future?

This warranted a serious investigation.

The story is at least as peculiar as it is strange. The place this bloke bought five years ago was built in the mid eighties and the furnace was original. Something he described as not much different than the cursed furnace in "A Christmas Story" but lacking the character. Furthermore, the A/C which blew a mighty wind failed to blow a cold one. And this wind blew barely filtered air through leaky half-naked ducts compensating for those inadequacies by ensuring that the second floor was roasting whilst the main floor did a proper imitation of "The Mayor's Skating Rink". Year round. While built to code in the eighties, time, technology and building codes had relentlessly advanced.

So our bloke from Dunwoody decided to let the Past keep its own and move on to the new millennium.

He had the old HVAC system ripped out. Ducts, supply and return, were stripped, sealed and insulated. A modern zoning system was installed to properly address the all too often divergent needs of upstairs/downstairs. A real air filter. And, of course, a new furnace and A/C unit paired for maximum efficacy and sized based on up-to-date heat load calculations--real engineering--indicating that efficiency upgrades called for a smaller A/C unit than previously installed.

Z Wave aside, this project was not just about maximum efficiency, wiz-bang technology or catching the latest greenie trend. In fact, a lower-efficiency furnace was selected. Why? Because this bloke lives in a traditional "Williamsburg" style home (don't we all?) and a white pipe poking out the wall "just don't look right" and you cannot vent a high efficiency furnace through an existing terracotta chimney flue. While the desire to modernize was great, there was some serious consideration given to the heritage and character of the home and neighborhood.

But at the end of the day this bloke did something few others from Dunwoody would have done, especially for a secondary residence: he spent considerably more money to upgrade and modernize than would have been required to simply patch up the existing system.

Friday, December 21, 2012

What's The Problem?

The first problem is that no one at City Hall seems to ever ask the question "what's the problem?" The City's inability to ask, and answer, that question prevents them from providing a cogent description of issues being addressed, potential solutions and the criteria for evaluating options. Simply because the fundamental problem is never clearly stated.

We've recently seen this with the Pavement SNAFUs. What was the real problem being solved by the high school roundabout? Were the intersecting streets thoroughfares or were they intended to become through-ways? If so, this should have been clearly stated upfront in the problem statement. Then prioritizing the importance of pedestrian traffic would be clear. Perhaps City Hall was afraid of being honest with the citizens  by stating the dominance of business related traffic over residential traffic and related concerns.

A similar situation occurs with the IT efforts. They have only a hammer and consequently only see nails. Since they're always going to use the same hammer it is simply a waste of time to ask "what's the problem?" since they only see one solution. It's as if they believe the "I" in "IT" stands for "idiot". By refusing to clearly articulate the problem at hand they have been unable to prioritize concerns and make intelligent, informed technology decisions. And they waste quite a bit of our tax dollars fielding inadequate "solutions".

Until this City starts with a clear problem statement based on sound analysis that establishes clear goals any attempt to move forward will be met with resistance and every issue will become a wedge issue.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Revolutionary Colors In An Un-Civil War

For those new to the cause that is All Things Dunwoody the creation of this City was a revolutionary event. The noble patriots who fought the good fight and set us free from our dark overlords in Decatur did so under  an almost golden Yellow banner. The battles waged were for hearts and minds and votes, both under the truly gold dome and here, in the trenches, in Dunwoody. There were many fierce battles waged in our meeting halls, on our streets and in our front yards. Everywhere the enemy was met with Yellow. Yellow yard signs. Yellow bumper stickers. Yellow tee shirts. All Things Dunwoody became All Things Yellow. For Yellow is the color of our courage, the symbol of the intellectual dominance of those who would go on to build the first Smart City in Georgia.

Though  the opponents of Dunwoody were defeated they were not truly vanquished. Those that survived have regrouped and are strengthening even as you waste valuable time reading this. The forces assembling against us, those working to destroy us and all we've built are traitors, betrayers that come from within. These heathen destroyers bear the sign of blood, of destruction, of the very fires of Hell. They wear Red.

The time for action is upon us.  We must once again gird ourselves for battle, march against these treacherous Red Shirts and rain destruction upon them. We must be swift and decisive to ensure victory and when that certain victory is once again secured we must drive out all remaining Red Shirts beating them back to the Hell of Ignorance from whence they came. And there will be little time to celebrate as it is now certain that we must be forever vigilant, guarding against any who might rise up against us. Forevermore, no matter when they come, no matter where they come from, we must destroy all those who would challenge us.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Local Control For Sale

We in the 'Wood wax poetic about "Local Control". "Local Control" is the cornerstone of City governance based on the superficially obvious observation that it is smaller and generally in closer geographic proximity. But miles are not the only measure of proximity and the ballot box is not the only means of control.

A perfect and quite transparent object lesson is had by juxtaposing the High School Roundabout with the Village Parkway. In the former case Council "bowed to the will of the people" allegedly receiving a Sagan-esque "billions and billions" of emails. The objecting noise over the Parkway is unceasing and protesters have literally taken to the street. To no avail. For the Parkway matter Council hides behind "The Master Plan" claiming it is well vetted, the product of public input and not subject to further review or modification. The same could be said of the roundabout, but it isn't, and the Smart Folk are left to ponder why.

The differentiator is as simple as it is obvious. Much of the Parkway funding is from grants while the roundabout is simply our tax dollars at work. And when City Hall taps Other People's Money, these Other People tap them--on the shoulder and direct them to do what these Other People want and do it the way they want it done. If that happens to align with your "vision" and achieves your goals, and only your goals, then it is little more than another source of funding. Of course this is never the case. If you were going to do something as these Other People would have it, why should they pay?

The problem is increasingly obvious. The Other People are much more subtle than a tap on the shoulder. They tell the City up front what "their way" is making it clear it is "their way or the highway". Consequently our City bureaucrats are not identifying and characterizing problems in order to propose one or more solutions for public approval and funding but instead look to what funding is available, determine what strings are attached and then craft a "solution" tailored to the grant requirements. Problems themselves are discussed only as it furthers grant approval and characterized only to the degree required to squelch public outcry. We're not very good at the second part.

As few grants cover one hundred percent of costs these Other People are buying influence and taking the "Local Control" we've entrusted to the City at a very steep discount. It is increasingly apparent that Council exerts as much power at City Hall as the DeKalb Board of Education does over DCSD Administration.

At the end of the day when grant prospecting influences what this City does and how it is done unelected City bureaucrats are selling OUR "Local Control" for their benefit.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Rank and Sort

A recent Radio 4 Analysis programme impaneled experts to discuss the recent trend towards a content based curriculum along the lines of E. D. Hirsch. One of the experts made a foundational observation:
A primary function of schools is to rank and sort and when they lose sight of that they fail.
This is exactly what has happened in the United States. We have abandoned the necessary mission of evaluation and direction for a politically correct but intellectually vacuous mantra of "anyone can do anything". And for whatever reason, probably in no small part due to guilt, parents support this silliness. While these same parents acknowledge levels of ability (and inability) in sports and will even concede their tennis playing child will never become the next McEnroe no matter how much they practice, for some reason they are quite confident their child should master Geometry to the "A" level.

And our schools have been more than happy to please. Previously difficult subjects, like Geometry, have been watered down to the point that the village idiot is now on the "Path to Excellence". The only thing shoveled out faster than "A"s is self-esteem which we are so wrapped up in that it is a cardinal sin to grade papers in red ink. Challenging students to the point that most earn a "C" and only the top five percent warrant an "A" is not discouraged, it is forbidden. At this point American public schools, and the diplomas they print, offer no differentiation whatsoever to distinguish one student's "academic accomplishments" from any other.

Until we have an education system where distinctions are made, where children are properly and professionally advised and directed toward appropriate programs, trade or professional, the United States will continue to devolve.

Thursday, December 13, 2012


This week's City Council Meeting was cancelled in favor of a Holiday Pity Party for the City. The announcement went out as a letter from the Mayor published in the "Official Organ" and in typical CoD fashion it was a day late. While word seems to have gotten around and it was clear that this party would be BYOB it was nonetheless crashed by the usual suspects.

A key party theme was apathy and those most loudly protesting citizen apathy seemed to have recently unwrapped that little present so often found at the bottom of a bottle of scotch: memory loss. To be fair, it could be early onset alzheimer's or in some cases ordinary senility, but we in The Other Dunwoody are romantics--we're going with the scotch theory.

What these particular whiners seem to have completely forgotten is that were it not for apathy there would be no City of Dunwoody. Less than thirty five percent of eligible voters said "Yes" on the referendum whilst a vast majority simply stayed home (or were on vacation) or worse yet raised their voice in opposition. But this was intentional Abuse of Apathy by Calendar Manipulation and it suited the purpose of some of these very same whiners so that was just fine. Now these boo-birds squawk because their zoning re-write meetings are poorly attended. Then, in justification of "All Things Unpopular We're Doing Anyway" these intellectual bipolars wave around  some "Master Plan" while acting like a certain mustachioed Austrian in mid-30's Germany only to claim it is the "Will of The People" because a few hundred of their closest buds had a bit of a say-so way back when.

Gotta reconsider the scotch theory. This is beginning to smell of absinthe.

They also seem to have forgotten anything taught in a civics class. If they ever took one. In spite of the fact that they are willing participants in one they seem profoundly clueless about the nature of "representative government". They apparently have never been to the Clue Store over at the mall to pick up a copy of the best seller entitled "Why You Were Elected". It's a quick read, if you can read, and it clearly states "You were elected to represent your constituents in the People's Business". So the electorate has the expectation that you know what they want and you will work towards their goals because that's why they elected you. So when you don't, they rise up in opposition. Is that really so hard to understand?

This how-to guide also details invaluable techniques for proactively maintaining contact with those you serve, preserving the integrity of your office, playing by the rules (often of your own making) and keeping your oath. There is an entire chapter explaining how representative governance is not a full democracy (or the Master Plan would have been on a ballot) and how the electorate has delegated their voice in government matters to you and how you are responsible for being their proxy. The concepts are as simple as they are important but seem somehow elusive.

But be forewarned. Were one actually interested in figuring out that "representative government" thingy, there is something important to keep in mind: knowledge acquired thru study must be acquired in the same state of sobriety as will be the case when that knowledge is to be used. Pour your drinks accordingly.

But the real purpose of the Pity Party was to soothe the City's bruised little self esteem. They may not know much but they know for damn certain they don't get the respect they want. The problem, the one represented by the red-shirts, is that they're actually expecting more respect than they've earned of late and they don't seem to realize they've taken out a huge unsecured loan from the Bank of Public Trust that they are underwater on and have no hope of paying back. They're bankrupt and don't seem to know it.

And the reasons for the current respect deficit were on fine display. Citizens, who council and mayor are sworn to serve yet are so out of touch with, are allowed three minutes, on a timer, for public comment. No audience reaction allowed. No "two way" dialogue. No questions asked. And also no recognition from the bench of how this actually DISCOURAGES public interaction and FOSTERS the appearance of apathy.  And they wonder why folks all but boycott their cliquish little meetings.

While the rules for citizen participation are clear and well enforced no meaningful restrictions prevent council from making snide, derogatory comments immediately after or even during those one hundred and eighty second allotments. Yet they think they've earned respect.

We may have to up the ante to bathtub gin as these folks are doing a mental Jake Walk.

It gets even more odious. Council are permitted the bully pulpit, uninterrupted, with no time limit. Twice. This can and has been used to berate the public--you know, the one they complain about being oh so absent. And they demand proper decorum from what few citizens show up for these abusive bemusements about why they, the council, the mayor, just don't get their props from the peeps. Perhaps they should install kneelers for the audience so The "Little" People will know where they really stand in the eyes of their public servants.

There oughta be a law and it oughta be a dram law.

And finally, in all seriousness and with all due respect for the Office each elected official holds, there are many orphaned adults in Dunwoody and they did not elect any of you to replace either dead parent so please keep your public performances in line with what is consistent with honorable public service rather than what one would expect from an abusive alcoholic character in a Pat Conroy novel.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Pop Quiz

This comes from a discarded SAT test found near Dunwoody High School.
Examine the following picture and select the best answer to the question below

Muscle Milk is to Milk as a local politician is to
  1. Honesty 
  2. Integrity
  3. Humility
  4. Apology

This is obviously a trick question as the only proper answer is "all of the above".

Monday, December 10, 2012

Transportation Modes

We seem all wrapped up in roads these days and we always come around to the question of "how do we get cars off the roads and get pedestrians and bikers on them?" yet we never question the underlying assumptions: pedestrians good; bikes better; cars bad. Unfortunately Dunwoody has more than its fair share of Luddites who cannot get past the antiquated idea that roads are purpose-built for cars and other motorized vehicles. To them it seems obvious, but those wanting to take their fair share of the asphalt away from cars see things differently.

Perhaps it would facilitate discussion if we could properly characterize transportation as one of two categories: destination transportation and recreational transportation.

Destination transportation is that antiquated fossil-fueled ICE driven modality, emphasizing effectiveness and utility over more important things like "it's good for you". Basically, destination transportation means automobiles. Parking. Commerce. Getting there, getting it done, getting back.

Recreation transportation is about the journey. Scenery. Fresh air. People contact. Basically, recreation transportation means "human powered". Walking, running, and biking. Not swimming yet, but plans are afoot to install a network of swimming canals throughout the 'Hood. Rumor has it a former mayor has a plan to freeze the canals so we can ice skate to and through the Village, much like what is done in Ottawa. Except their water just freezes.

The simple fact is we're not about to see grocery shoppers pedal up to Publix and Fred and Ethel are not going to waddle on over to Hickory House. And back. Weather, hills, and yes, automobile traffic make this less than unlikely. And there is absolutely nothing wrong with recreational walking and biking but let's be honest, only a very small percentage of human powered locomotion is for anything but recreation (while it is a stretch, we're considering exercise "fun").

The real question we need to address is just how much of our taxes (and yes, grants and other OPM) do we want to spend on recreation transportation and what are we willing to sacrifice with regards to destination transportation?

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Village Gets Sewerage Plant

Construction has begun on a "micro-facility" sewerage treatment plant in the heart of Dunwoody Village.

This facility is being funded in part by a Federal grant that is part of a program to ensure that the effluent of the affluent is processed as close to the source as possible. Critics of the program have applied the derisive label "Keeping the Stink Where Republicans Drink".

But folks in Dunwoody think it is a Good Thing. At least fifteen hundred of the usual suspects comprising the Citizen Input Contingency are said to be enthusiastically in favor of the project. Or so say City Hall.

Fortunately this Smart City is ahead of this expected wave of enthusiasm. Upon hearing of the grant opportunity City staff immediately issued a Memorandum of Understanding committing the City to accepting the funds and moving forward with the project. When a disinterested citizen challenged the cost/benefit of the project a spokesman for the City claimed "we'll drink each other's bathwater if it means we get a grant".

How true.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Bank Operates In The Hole

There has been some confusion surrounding the siting of the Chase bank at the corner of Dunwoody Village Parkway and Chamblee Dunwoody Road in the heart of the Village. Some say it is situated "in a hole" and if one is standing on the sidewalk near the city-mandated, never-used park bench, the building does indeed sit below sidewalk level.

The problem is that folks have it all backwards. Literally. When you are looking from the CDR sidewalk you are actually looking at the back of the building. The picture below is of the actual front of the bank. Notice the porch, signage and those little things blocking the view...they are called "automobiles". These are often used by what business folk call "customers" in order to get to and from the place of business.

It is all the rage for governments to legislate how and where a business is allowed to put its own building on its own property. Dunwoody is neither unique nor unusual, but they have kicked it up a notch down to the Village requiring bike racks, park benches and lighting in addition to the signature "beige and brick" and the more commonly mandated sidewalk.  Whilst all the greenies are fawning over the "artists renditions" of folks perambulating up and down the sidewalks, some taking a brief respite on the bench and generally having a good ole time, businesses have been laboring diligently to make this nonsense workable.

And they did.

They were forced to situate the building near the "frontage road" (Chamblee Dunwoody) with parking "in the back". And to make this work they simply turned the building around so that from a functional point of view it is the back that faces Chamblee Dunwoody Road. The functional front is "in the back" where all the cars are parked. While they did dress up the functional back, don't be too surprised if the doors stay locked if only for security reasons. Still not convinced? Well, where is wheel-chair access located? Do you usually put handicap access as far as possible from the front door?

You can legislate all you want in an attempt to coerce your own brand of silliness, but businesses are going to do what they must in order to remain in business. Some folks maintain that the City should not have allowed this bank to be built in a hole, but the fact of the matter is that is exactly what the City insisted be done.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Planning the Plan

A local retired US military officer who served in WWII and was involved in planning the D-Day invasion retained possession of his copy of those plans. As one might imagine these plans evolved over time as better G-2 became available and open issues were resolved. The Allies managed this development by issuing update packets containing revised pages and additional pages to plan holders who were instructed to remove and destroy updated pages. This particular officer never got around to destroying the superceded pages and consequently maintained not only a completed set of plans, but a historical trail of the creation of those plans.
He had the Plan of the Plan. 
While today's endeavors pale in comparison to That Day, we, through our public officials, do make plans that affect our daily lives.These plans evolve, and as they evolve the document that we commonly call "The Plan" goes through many drafts. Just as it is fascinating to see the development of a historical document it is even more revealing to see the progression of plans and other documents created on our behalf by our public servants.

We have one such work in progress before us today: the KPMG audit of DeKalb County Schools' finances. It would be very revealing to compare and contrast the currently available draft document with the final document to see what additional items surface, what items are changed and which are eliminated. It would be even more revealing to acquire copies of all correspondence between the System and KPMG related to this effort since it is very likely that many updates will be driven by those in the System responsible for "damage control".

A "Reasonable Man" would suggest that all documents, especially something as important as a financial audit, should be proactively made public. Though it briefly was posted online that was only after it had been "leaked" and it was subsequently removed. This is unacceptable. Government organizations, DeKalb Schools, the County and the City, must maintain full, proactive disclosure of all documents and communications related to the people's business. And let's be clear, they should be doing nothing but the people's business.

One final observation: KPMG seems to think they own all distribution rights for a work product that we, the taxpayers, purchased and perhaps, by contract, they do. If this is indeed the case then our public servants should never again be party to a contract with such anti-transparency clauses and if that means KPMG walks away from our money then so be it.

Friday, November 30, 2012

You Don't Have to Eat the Whole Egg... know it's rotten

That pretty much sums up the KPMG, on-the-net, off-the-net, draft audit report on the financial shenanigans down at DeKalb County Schools.

Many folks are questioning the particulars, often focusing on the 150 central office positions the Board demanded be eliminated to bring the budget under some semblance of control. Didn't happen and folks are upset. As well they should be.

However when one takes a step back and examines the situation a bit more philosophically, one can only conclude that "upset" is woefully inadequate to address this situation.

The School System has established a convoluted network of bank accounts that would do a Mafia money laundering operation proud. No wonder some prosecutors are more than just whispering "RICO". While all the money comes into one account, and goes out through one other account, once in the system money bounces around like a ball in pachinko machine with the Administration explaining it away as "we'll reconcile it later". "Tomorrow is another day" is a great line from a great movie but it really is no way to run a billion dollar business.

The System itself is organized along the lines of a terrorist organization with cells that may know something about their little bit of the puzzle but are kept woefully ignorant of nearby, related operations. In true public education fashion, when quizzed about process and procedure few employees appeared to be singing from the same sheet of music and many had begun exploring the financial equivalent of improvisational jazz.

Other things are difficult to explain as anything but deliberate means to achieve a nefarious goal. It isn't just the "bank account du jour" but the fact that System employs a bespoke account coding system that is inconsistent with the State coding requiring error prone manual processing in support of grant applications and reporting. Not that the State does much in the way of an audit. After all they're just passing around Federal funds. Furthermore this coding system is intentionally crippled in that it does not provide a unique code for each employee's position in the system. This makes it nigh on impossible to verify whether or not the School System had actually done what the Board directed.

The public school system is fundamentally broken and while this audit attests to that focusing on the particulars makes it difficult to see the underlying problem or begin to craft a solution.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Free Firewood

To augment the current Master Plan for Paving Parks and Parkways the City of Dunwoody has expanded the existing Free Firewood for City Employees program to the general public. While official statements indicate the firewood is available on a "first come, first serve" basis, a high ranking City official was overheard remarking that should supplies run low they will simply make more.

So contact the mayor or your council-person to have your name put on the free firewood list.

Monday, November 26, 2012

High Tech Meets Smart

Chattanooga, a neighbor to the north, has installed gigabit fiber supplying high speed internet to 170,000 residential and commercial customers. This is touted as a great catalyst for innovation and is expected to attract well-educated young professionals to an already attractive city.

This is the kind of futuristic thinking that may well earn them the title of "Smartest City".

Certainly Dunwoody has helped make their case. It's newly released "GIS" system is based on a deprecated technology, a decision that can only be explained using the "hammer" analogy. When all you have is a hammer everything looks like a nail, and the hammers swung by these fools is "Microsoft". This technology is not well supported on non-Microsoft platforms and even Microsoft does not support this technology on their latest smart phones.

It gets better. The other side of the Silverlight coin is media streaming, as Silverlight was designed as Microsoft's answer to Adobe's Flash technology. The City spent our money on a Silverlight based system to stream council meetings replacing a service provided by one of the councilmen on his own time and on his own dime. To be better the City's system must be cheaper, more reliable, get video posted sooner and most importantly be accessible on more platforms. It consistently under-performs in all categories.

Transparency in government is essential and transparency requires accessibility. When no technology provides accessibility to 100% of  your clients it is much smarter to choose a technology in ascendancy over one in decline.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Irony of Education in Georgia

Now that the slap in the face the voters gave the Georgia Public Education Industry has just about stopped "smarting" we pause to note the irony of the circumstances.

Public Education abandoned knowledge/content based curricula in favor of "conceptualization" and "critical thinking" emphasizing "creating good citizens" over graduating competent scholars. The Education Industry embraced this in no small part because of concept-based education's fuzziness which makes it practically impossible to measure student achievement and consequently their performance.

Until Amendment One.

This put the Education Industry in a bind. Passage posed a real threat to their exclusive choke-hold on all public funding for education. Being masters of propaganda they initially attempted a FUD campaign which, surprisingly, failed. They were left with the unsavory option of campaigning against the wording of the ballot claiming it was misleading voters, implying if not outright stating that voters were too poorly educated to understand what they were voting on. And just how did they get so poorly educated? Well that would be at the hands of our Public Education Industry right here in Georgia.

Perhaps they are right. Perhaps most folks in Georgia, those they have "graduated", are indeed extremely ignorant. But perhaps they are just smart enough, see clearly enough, and know just enough of the facts to realize they've been cheated.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Tongue Freed From Cheek

It seems quite a waste to spend $1136/ft on the Mt. Vernon to Chamblee-Dunwoody stretch of Dunwoody Parkway. Not only is this pricey, it doesn't solve any real problems. In an upcoming diatribe we'll rant about the differences between destination transportation and recreation transportation, but for now let's look at the Village and see what we can do.

First let's observe some sanity rules and objectives:
  • Roads at or under a 25MPH limit will have not dedicated bike lanes--you'll share the road and if you cannot enforce a speed limit or share the road at these speeds there are deeper problems that no amount of pavement or striping will fix.
  • The entire run of Dunwoody Parkway should be at or under 25MPH.
  • Transportation IN the Village is not primarily for the benefit of those trying to get THROUGH the Village. We have through ways. Use them.
  • Passive speed control measures should be used as we're not likely to see active measures in force.
  • Some existing trees warrant saving but many do not and neither have a constitutional right to equal treatment or equal outcomes. Some will die, others will be planted.
  • We need to address more than just the needs of special interests, be they cut-through drivers in a hurry to get where ever or bike riders in a hurry to get back where they started. 
Based on the annotated map below let's look at what we could do to improve Life In The Village.

Tackling the 800 pound gorilla first the contentious part of the Parkway (shown above in green) would be reconfigured. Where possible trash trees (think Bradford Pear) in the median and those medians will be removed. Crepe myrtles are readily sacrificed as well. In the areas with no median the outer lane will become a small linear park with wide sidewalks and plantings including non-trash shade trees. You have one half the width of the median and the width of one traffic lane to work with on each side. In areas where there are high value, high quality trees in the median these will be preserved--there are a few. This will create traffic calming structures known as "center island narrowing" where lanes diverge around these retained medians. This is being used effectively on a similar road on at least one corporate campus in the area.

Now let's look at the oft neglected portion of Dunwoody Parkway stretching from Chamble Dunwoody down to the Publix center, past Car Repair Central and over to Restaurant Row ending at the four way behind Hickory House (shown in blue above). This certainly needs re-paving and curb improvements. Either the storm drain problem at the bottom of hill must be fixed or the area declared a federally protected wetland. This little stretch of road should not be costly to bring up to par with the rest of the Parkway, but it is important to the overall plan as will be shown shortly.

Then there are also some important additions (shown in red above). First, a round-about (the red circle) which is not only euro-chic but appropriately located near Dunwoody's British pub, and Alison's, whose proprietor sports a British accent, and D'Vine Wine bar, purveyors of wine from across Europe. Another critical component of the overall plan is an extension of the Parkway behind Moondog and dead-ending on Nandina after a dog-leg to the east. This route is already paved, but not as part of the Parkway and rights of way would need to be acquired and the roadway brought up to Dunwoody Parkway standards. Another added element is raised pedestrian crosswalks at key locations around the Parkway (shown as red squares) which not only provide clearly marked crossings for pedestrians but offer a similar alert for drivers. As a traffic calming measure they complement the center islands. There are other additions and changes, but these are largely minor, like fixing the Fresh Market entrance at the Chevron station which is awkwardly angled. A Citizens' Committee can handle these details.

And what do we get for all this trouble? Glad you asked.

  • These improvements allow us to ban all left turns from shopping center parking lots on Chamblee Dunwoody. This is long overdue and eliminates one source of accidents that waste our police budget.
  • Nandina can be made one-way south. Folks leaving Moondog will be able to turn right on Nandina, right on the Parkway to the round-about and have their choice of traffic lights to head their merry way. Something may catch their eye and they just might pick up a little something extra. 
  • Shoppers can move with relative ease through all areas of the Village without the current interference of commuter traffic.
  • The City will get the consistent "look and feel" some seem to want.
Most importantly we get past the current dog fight created by focusing only on what some silly grant covers.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Dunwoody Pavement Paradox

If you're trying to figure out a simple answer to all things asphalt in Dunwoody then you're probably dizzy from all the spin. The problem is there is more than one distorted looking glass in this fun house. You cannot just follow the money and you cannot just look for the busy body who wants to run your life. You must consider both.

Take the interstate lane to be paved through old growth forest. Done deal. Chamois chafing bikers are hell bent on creating a Dunwoody just like Seattle or wherever the hell bicycle nirvana really is (and belongs). But they are "progressives" and that makes them right and you wrong. Just ask 'em.

Another on the special interest front is the High School Roundabout. Roundabouts are currently very trendy with the aforementioned "progressive" crowd. Just gotta have 'em, after all they are so euro-chic. Can't wait until they find out how euro-chic castles are. Real castles, not those shoddily constructed mcmansions. Anyway they attempted to validate their plan by hiring a consultant who never did a site visit and didn't even know about the high school. Little Fuqui Yuppee. Then the Not Around My Place folks pounced and shouted in Council's ear and like a wind-sock Council blew the NAMP's direction. Score one for the "interlacers".

Council were not listening so intently when the anti-parkway crowd tried to bend their ears. The plan is simple enough: spend two point four million dollars on zero point four miles of road. That works out to over eleven hundred dollars per running foot, not the kind of money that falls off trees. This plan includes de-paving--sacrificing one lane each way for sidewalks and bikeways so one might conclude the progressive bikers have won another battle. Naturally the interlacers came out in force, stealing a progressive mainstay, "save the trees", in an effort to stop the plan. But this is a case of follow the money, and the money is a grant that we've asked for and received and should we turn up our non-progressive noses, we'll not see another grant for quite some time. And we're addicted to OPM.

There's also the one point five million dollars pissed away on a building now left to rot. Why? Well, the official answer is this property is a necessary component of a cut-through from Shallowford over to Perimeter/Ashford-Dunwoody. In reality this is a bit of both follow the money and "we'll run your lives". You see the real goal was to acquire the old Shallowford/Emory hospital property allowing for an extension of the interstate lane through Brookrun and preventing the construction of those nasty ole apartments with those nasty ole people living in them. Just so happens that Peachford property was owned by the same folks and they wanted to unload all of them. If you think those deals were unrelated you're too stupid for this smart city.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Inciteful Movie

If you care at all about the sorry state of American Public Education then you've seen Two Million Minutes and perhaps some of the other films available on that site. You may have seen Waiting for Superman which is available on Netflix's streaming service. Or perhaps you've seen The Lottery.

Perhaps not.

This is not an attempt to encourage viewing these films nor is there any intent to discourage viewing them either. This is about another film, a documentary on how schools really operate. The Cartel. You may be pretty burned out with the cheating scandals, the financial incompetence of DeKalb Schools, charter amendment propaganda or the corrupt operations that have become so ingrained in the system and you just may be over it. To help you gauge whether this is worth ninety minutes of your time that you will never get back, The Other Dunwoody offers a very simple test:
Go online and find these three facts, usually available on your local school system's web site:
  1. Total annual spending 
  2. Total number of students, often called "FTE"
  3. Average number of students per class
Using this information calculate the total amount of money, your tax dollars, that are spent operating the average classroom. 
If this doesn't cause you to immediately re-check your calculations only to confirm the answer and ultimately result in a mouth-agape WTF moment, then don't watch The Cartel. You're part of the problem, not the solution. If you're absolutely shocked at the number this simple calculation yields, then you should invest ninety minutes of your time in a personal, in-home, Netflix powered screening.

If you want to have some real fun, invite a public school apologist over to watch with you. You know the kind, someone so full of the Kool Aid their eyeballs are floating. A teacher at any nearby public school would do nicely. If you're up to even more fun, try to secure a principal, administrator, or the holy grail--a school board member. Now as they watch the movie, you watch their face. Whenever they wince, flinch or frown (not to worry, they won't smile or nod in agreement), hit "Pause". Give them a chance to explain. From the deep end of the Kool Aid pool. Listen politely and take note of any and all excuses but one: "That's some other school (system), not ours. Ours is great." Fact is, as bad the things are that are depicted in this movie, DeKalb Schools are worse.

Monday, November 12, 2012


[Note: in the following charts the "flat-liners" are the Dow and S&P 500 indices, those showing healthy signs of life are Ruger and Smith and Wesson.]
Now that all the politickin' has chilled perhaps it is time to recognize the effect that Obama's policies and leadership have had on the US economy. Demonize them if you will but the folks on Wall Street vote with their wallets and by and large make choices with their head not their hearts. So how have they assessed Obama's performance.

Well, in the days following the election the markets have not clicked the "Like" icon very many times. However there are some stocks Obama has favorably affected, notably firearms manufacturers. While the overall market took a dive immediately after the results were posted, both Ruger and Smith and Wesson sustained gains over ten percent, peaking at close to twenty. Not bad for less than a week.

But this is not just a recent trend. Since the beginning of Obama's first term our economy, and pretty much any investment in stocks--ownership in America--have not been good enough to qualify as disappointing. It's been that bad. Unless of course you had the good sense and bad taste to bank on the fact that Obama in the White House and (at least at the beginning) Democrats in control of the legislative branch would drive gun sale growth.

*No investment advice is intended. Mention of any company is not an endorsement and is for educational purposes only. Past performance is no guarantee of future performance.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Dunwoody Park Forest Drive

If the Dunwoody Parkway tragedy continues as planned we, as a community, stand to lose these fine trees to chainsaws and bulldozers. Why the same public pressure that brought a four-way-stop to roundabout plans cannot or will not be brought to bear to stop this destruction is simply baffling. Why are council email inboxes not flooded with stop work requests from all corners of the 'Wood?

Simply put the parkway plan must change.

A simple exercise of eminent domain will put sidewalks and our beloved bike lanes beside the existing road preserving the fine arboreal specimens dotting the median. This will not only provide for all those who walk to work in the village and those who bike to shopping but it will also remove crufty, dilapidated old trees like this one which overshadows the median suppressing the growth of far superior specimens (see above).

Get moving and email that windsock of a council today!

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Quran Displayed At Dunwoody Polling Place


It was actually a regular Amuricun King James Bible.

Feel better?

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Slow Ride...

...take it easy...
Ever wonder what makes cars in Dunwoody so damn slow?

Some causes are obvious. Take hair color for instance. We all know that blue hair means a real slow ride. But blond shows a pretty strong correlation as well. Another obvious speed brake is a cell phone. These are so incompatible with getting anywhere that one must wonder why they're called "mobiles".

Back in the day many thought there was a gender correlation, but now we're finding much less association between gender and speed. Still it is hard to argue that the trophy wife driving the Escalade without a care in the world is going to move traffic along. But the guy who bagged her is probably no better.

Vehicles make a difference and in some counter-intuitive ways. We all know about the Buick. Not a slower moving car in Dunwoody. But what might surprise some is the most delicate of vehicles, the one that all but stops when approaching a steel plate. The SUV. The bigger and badder the slower. What was once advertised for their off-road prowess, is now often humbled by the merest bump. And the most egregious offender? That's right. A BMW SUV. The Ultimate Driving Machine. Not!

But it is not just the vehicle and driver. There are those nasty hard to execute maneuvers known as "right turns". These are particularly bad on Ashford Dunwoody southbound OTP. Many times a right turn is executed as if the laws of physics do not apply in Dunwoody such that a complete turn can be made without the wheels rotating at all. Simply amazing.

Then there are windows. Open windows. These are guaranteed to take fifteen to twenty percent off the normal speed of the vehicle and this slowdown is particularly noticeable on highways. Often, but not always this is associated with cigarette smoking which drags speed down by another five percent. Something there is about oral fixation and the right foot that are incompatible.

And there is thumping. That kidney rattling pounding bass. You know type. So loud it has shattered a window, now covered with plastic that flails about in time with the "music". These are often tragically slow cars. It isn't clear just why they are so slow, and no one is really looking for them to be rolling examples of the doppler effect, but it IS possible to get more than one wheel rotation per beat.

In combination these appear to be additive. So if you find yourself on Ashford Dunwoody behind a BMW SUV driven by a blond Junior Leaguer with a cell phone glued to her ear and blowing smoke out the open window as she starts a right hand turn, then you might just as well wait until tomorrow to get where you're going.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Buying Votes

You've probably noticed the news story about the Sporting Goods store offering a raffle ticket to voters. The prize in the raffle is a long-gun or a pistol. Honestly it seems the prize is at the root of all the noise.

Leading the charge to shut this raffle down is none other than Georgia State Senator Vincent Fort who contends the raffle "runs afoul of a state law banning people and businesses from offering money or gifts in exchange for voting or registering to vote." To be fair, the State Attorney General agrees and his office has put a stop to shops offering free coffee and doughnuts to those showing proof that they voted.

And that is a good thing.

And it will be even better when it is applied consistently without regard to race, religion or party affiliation. Even it this means an end to "Vote and Vax".

So, the next time Brother Vinny or any others of his ilk, run a "register to vote" campaign offering "free transportation" the State Attorney General should move swiftly and deliberately to shut that operation down. Whether you value it at the cost of a MARTA trip or a taxi ride doesn't matter. You're in violation of the law.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Dunwoody Shutters CVB

The City of Dunwoody has unannounced plans to shut down the Convention and Visitors Bureau--how long DID they think it would be a secret? And this was no Town Pump leak at a gas station, this is mere reading between the budget lines.

The 2013 budget calls for twenty thousand of our hard earned tax dollars to go towards creating and televising a promotional film about Dunwoody and if that isn't something the CVB is supposed to do, what is? The only rational conclusion is that the City Council have rightly ascertained the real value of the CVB, somewhat shy of zero, and are forced to take over the CVB responsibilities. At the next CVB budget review it should be a no-brainer to shut them down. And this is a Smart City, right?

Cynics might offer another explanation: drunken on the HOST windfall our esteemed Council has "gone shopping" and this is just one of the many shiny baubles we can expect them to piss away our money on. But seriously folks, is there anyone in Dunwoody who's that cynical?

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Georgia Manufacturing Renaissance

The State of Georgia is embarking on an ambitious plan to bring Twenty First Century manufacturing to Georgia. Through new policies administered by the Board of Regents, Georgia intends to convert all public college and university programs to Diploma Mills, manufacturing cheap credentials for warm bodies in a misguided attempt to pretend quantity is far superior to quality.

This plan centers around changing the state-to-college remuneration system from credit-hours earned to "diplomas granted". As we all now know, bureaucratic public education, of which the colleges and universities are no less a part than Atlanta or DeKalb public schools, is more than willing to maintain or grow their income by any means necessary. We also know this is not limited to honorable means, and to the extent that less-than-honorable means are easier those are preferred. At least in practice.

Worry not your pretty little heads for our noble politicians are in control with none other than University System Chancellor Hank Huckaby claiming quality will be maintained. That is either a smoke-and-mirrors political dodge or a harrowing indication of how far the University System has already fallen. His statements, quoted in the AJC, do not provide much guidance.
"We are committed to stay on top of this as much as possible."
Wow, how reassuring is that? What if "as much as possible" is indistinguishable from "not a damn bit"? It gets not better.
"We do not want to lessen rigor."
Seriously. We don't give a rabid rodent's hairy rectum what you want but we are terribly afraid of what you do.  It sounds like this State is hellbent on destroying the only part of Georgia's public education that is worth a tinker's damn.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Private vs Charter

Suppose there is a public school with one thousand students. Then a private school opens and pulls one hundred students from the public school.

What happens to the incumbent public school funding?

Well, the school system will lose the per-pupil state funding so the State saves some money. They may lose some Federal funding and likewise the Feds save money. But the incumbent public school system does not exempt the parents of the now privately educated children from school taxes so that system keeps all the tax money it collects. Yet there are about three fewer classes to maintain.

Now suppose that instead of a private school it is actually a state-sanctioned charter school that opens. How does this change things?

In terms of the amount of money coming into the incumbent public school system there is no difference whatsoever and the workload still goes down by the same amount. For the parents who pull their children out of the incumbent public schools, they see a significant drop in cash outlay for their child's education. They still pay the incumbent's tax for an education they cannot or will not use, but now they send their children to a state-funded school. Of course this means that the State does not reap the financial benefits when parents privately educate their children.

What the Amendment One brouhaha boils down to is quite simple: the incumbent public schools' position is that they have sole and exclusive access to all monies spent by the State on K-12 education. However, it is the State, not these incumbent school systems that bears the burden of the constitutional mandate to provide an adequate education. Anyone who has been paying attention also knows that the existing Georgia public schools are far below adequate.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

When Seconds Count...

...the police are only moments away.

It seems Dunwoody PD's "scare 'em into giving us more money" tactic is working. The 2013 budget is likely to sail through on the headwinds of the HOST windfall with staffing and pay increases. But there also appear to be some unintended consequences.

Anecdotal data suggest that folks in Dunwoody, not just The Other Dunwoody, have begun to take their personal safety, well, personally. This really all started back when the City was formed with the bumper sticker crowd who painted Dunwoody as a pretty dangerous 'hood. You know, those "Bad Guys Beware" stickers. But the public reaction now goes beyond the home alarm system which primarily serves the purpose of initiating the police-report process and generating false alarm fines. Folks are taking the PD's most recent chicken-little justification--recent and future increases in crime--to heart. And Dunwoody is up in arms. Literally.

Unsubstantiated reports indicate an increased interest in firearms for personal and home defense. In other areas this might be seen as over-reacting, but in the South and in a conservative community like Dunwoody, it should come as no surprise. Still, the image of an SUV-driving soccer mom with a cell phone in one hand, a latte in the other and an LCP in her purse might give even the most ardent libertarian occasion for pause. Since this trend appears irreversible it is prudent that those considering substantial personal and home protection become well informed.

The first suggestion from those in the know about personal defense is to avoid danger. Dangerous areas and dangerous people. If you believe you live in an area where "Bad Guys Beware" is a cogent message you should move. If that means leaving Dunwoody, so be it. After all, the pros are telling us crime is on the rise.

The next suggestion, much like the first, is that you should immediately extract yourself from any dangerous situation you inadvertently find yourself in. This is often called "running from danger" but in The Other Dunwoody it is called "Flight Before Fight". You are always well advised to determine just what ground is beneath your feet before "standing your ground" as running from danger rarely lands one in prison. Combat duty is a special case.

Even for those that remain undeterred these first two suggestions are still the best options for personal safety and should always be top of mind. If arm you must, just remember that managing your personal safety in a responsible manner has two key requirements: training and practice. To that end, anyone considering such an important step, such a pro-active role in their own safety, should ensure that their actions do not compromise that very safety they seek to maintain (see "unintended consequences" above).

This is not difficult nor is it expensive. Just outside our City borders are two fine and related facilities, the Sandy Springs Gun Club on Roswell Road and the Norcross Gun Club on Peachtree Industrial. These clubs offer training, equipment rentals (try before you buy) and guidance on acquiring a Georgia Weapons Carry License. While you may think going all "Dirty Harry" and toting a forty-four magnum around sounds like a good idea, you just might want to see if you can hit the broad side of a barn with that cannon. The folks at these clubs will help you out and you may find that shooting is primarily a sport and a fine one at that, but one best engaged in at a range.

Get the training, keep it up with practice, then decide.

Monday, October 22, 2012

The Buck Stops the Police Department.

Apparently ALL the bucks stop there.

Since this City's founding our police department has demonstrated a penchant for uncontrolled growth, growing at a rate much faster than the population. And it isn't just head count. The City has announced a budget calling for four percent raises and given that a vast majority of City employees are in the police department this is pretty much a police raise. In these economic times that is quite a salary boost as any of those Dunwoodians who've aged in place could tell you. Their Social Security payment will increase at substantially less than half the police raise--much more in line with inflation.

We're subjected to many excuses for this out of line and out of control cost. First is that we do not have enough officers to respond to 911 calls in a prompt and efficient fashion. Yet, we have more than enough officers to run I-285 Toll Trolls and are never in want when bikers or runners need a police escort. We even roll Dunwoody's finest when it's pear-pickin' time down to the Farmhouse.

Then we're told we need to up the pay to prevent poaching by the nearby newly formed cities. A bit hypocritical since that's how we built this burgeoning police force.

And it isn't like we're getting what we're paying for. The Dunwoody Daycare fuster cluck is not a singularity. We have an outstanding double homicide that has seen no progress, a force noted for making a beeline to the scene of a bank robbery rather than establishing a perimeter, neglecting to check out 911 calls and letting suspects escape because "going around back" just sounds too "Mayberry". And there's the affection for toys for the boys, noted by colleagues who've reported the chief getting all starry eyed over the latest gizmos at conventions. Do we REALLY need an ATV?

What we really need is a council that is more than a bunch of pollyanish besmitten police aficionados that rubberstamp whatever comes out of the department. We need hard questions and solid answers. Assuming community safety is a top priority are speed patrols on I-285 REALLY the best use of our resources? Is it cost effective to used certified LEOs as glorified mall cops or would our tax dollars be better spent hiring a security firm? What other jobs can be de-skilled to control costs? Should all the special interest groups (run, bike, walk, pick fruit) hire their own escorts and traffic cops? Would it not be very cost effective to transparently publish key data (date/time location of citations, speed sign data) and get more eyes, public eyes, on these data? You know, "data driven" and all that. Do we have to unquestioningly accept anything the department says because "they're the professionals"? Isn't that exactly what has brought government schools to the sorry state they are in?

But this is politics and this simply is not going to happen. It is much more likely that we'll see council members doing PR ride-a-longs followed by public sing-a-longs. And we will see the police force grow. And Grow. And GROW.

Perhaps we're left with the obvious alternative: contacting those in charge of forming Brookhaven and offer them a slightly used police chief with startup experience and a track record of growing a force. Quickly.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Matter of Opinion

The Tuesday AJC (10/16/12) quotes our good "Doctor" Eugene Walker as saying that a budget is a matter of "opinion". Perhaps we live in a world numbed by vocalized idiocy about gravity and evolution being mere theories, but of all the mindless drivel to spew forth from this man's face this has to be the silliest.

Is it too much to ask that our "Historian in Residence" go emeritus? Clearly his learned self has maintained neither the knowledge nor critical thinking to prevent a repeat of a very bad history he began studying almost forty years ago. We had hoped this advocate of life-long learning had continued his own studies, but as we are now witness to a re-play of the political infighting and fiscal mismanagement that has all but destroyed the topic of his original thesis, we now know this cannot be true.

Clearly his intellectual endeavors have been relegated to the past as he now excuses identical gross and flagrant fiscal incompetence occurring with his guidance, under his watch, as a matter of "opinion". Or perhaps he sees himself as the great facilitator and this is all part of some plan to evolve a strategy for social change and DeKalb Schools are unfortunate collateral damage sacrificed for the greater good.

Of course this is all just a matter of opinion.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Practical Reality

It doesn't matter what folks say something is. It doesn't matter what something is or was supposed to be. The only thing that matters is what something really is.

That is practical reality.

A perfect and timely example is "local control" and what makes this pretty interesting is that DeKalb's out-of-touch public school bureaucracy has co-opted the term. The assertion is that politicians elected at the county level are more "local" than bureaucrats at the state level.




But only for real simple minds, because it is little more than a play on words--a perverse little pun.

So let's look at this from a pragmatic point of view.

By and large do the voting public in DeKalb county feel that DCSD administration is "local" to them in any meaningful way? Do these administrators listen and learn about issues in the community AND address these issues in a straightforward, effective fashion? Do the public feel that it REALLY makes a difference who they elect to the School Board when Board members are structurally prevented from direct, forthright action under the threat of sanctions for "micro-managing"?

For many in DeKalb the answer is probably a strong yes, but for others it is an even stronger no. The former have representation in the controlling bloc which wields the political power necessary to ensure that the hired bureaucrats bend to their will and comply with their wishes. The other Board members, who feel their constituency is not well served, are relegated to the role of annoying outsiders--increasingly less-than-loyal opposition.

It is the latter constituency, empowered by the geographical self-aggregation that prevails in today's America, who have been and will continue to be "break-aways". They do this not out of racism and only partly over money--more based on how it is squandered than where it is spent. The practical reality is that these voters are disenfranchised by a system that has so diluted their representative voice that they have no control over any aspect of the school system charged with educating our children.

Without ANY control it doesn't really  matter whether it is "local" or not and it appears this group would prefer some control at whatever level is available rather than no control at all.

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Necessary Work Conditions
  • Maximum of 40 work week equivalents per year (based on 5 day work week)
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  • Employment protection continues when promoted to management
  • No stack ranking or any objective job performance evaluations
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Minimum Compensation, Benefits and Perqs
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  • Mandatory annual raises based on seniority
  • Bonus pay opportunities
  • All Federal, Banking and religious holidays -- paid
  • Defined benefit retirement
  • Full healthcare coverage, sick leave with one work year minimum cap on accruals
  • Disability and life insurance

Monday, October 15, 2012

Oink Oink

Pork: Always Good
The only remaining agribusiness in Dunwoody seems to be harvesting pork.

This has recently surfaced in the Parkway kerfuffle, but it is interesting to note that few voices are raised in opposition to the pork stampede driving this project to completion but rather to the specifics of the project and the million or so bucks it will cost local taxpayers. And it really has gone without saying, in any meaningful forum, that many of these taxpayers are businesses, some of which rely on this little stretch of paved paradise.

However, there has been some indigestion over the general issue of pork--controlling grants that fund bloated excess in what local governments do and how much they [over] pay for having it done. In response, supporters of the gluttonous appetite for this intrusion and bloat offer the tried and true "if we don't do it some one else will." This speaks to the belief of a zero sum game as this is commonly followed by "and they'll get ahead of us." OK. So what? The argument isn't quite as childish as "nanny, nanny boo, boo" but it is pretty darn close.

One valid observation has been made. This version of the pork industry is a structural implementation of the tragedy of the commons. But it has all the moral appeal of starving people only to watch them fight over crumbs. For your own entertainment. Let's just call it a government operated "Survivor" reality show. And local governments, of which Dunwoody aspires to be the best, are fighting to "get on the show" and it is every bit as embarrassing as you might imagine.

A few, a very few, outliers seem to be thinking outside the box that is our city limits, suggesting that at some point people of principle and character must take a stand on a larger stage, even if there is great risk. Normally such talk is allowed in Dunwoody only on the Fourth of July and only in reference to long dead forefathers who risked property and life so we could rape and pillage the future they fought for. After all that is what they fought for. Right?

The fact is there has always been a tension between principled ethics and practical ethics (yes, some consider this an oxymoron). The grade school example is "you see a dollar on the ground--should you take it?" While there are bodies of law built around what folks do, what they are allowed to do, and what they should do in cases  like this, the question remains: should you take something you know does not belong to you?

Of course the situation in Dunwoody is completely different because we have a man in a trench coat flashing us really cheap Rolex watches and if we don't take these off his hands someone else will. We may not need another watch or care what time it is and we don't really care where he got them. In fact, it's better we don't know.

Friday, October 12, 2012

HOST Windfall

The City of Dunwoody just got an early birthday present: a HOST windfall slightly in excess of the cost of the Village Parkway re-do.

So, will the taxpayers get a rebate or reduction in property taxes? Not on you life! You see, it was the City, not the Citizens, who got the windfall and this Smart City is going on a spending spree.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

They Paved Paradise...

...and they put in a velodrome!

Or it least that's what it seems like in Dunwoody these days.

It was one thing to stripe off bike lanes during the re-paving process, especially on high traffic routes, but the plan to put an interstate-lane-wide impermeable concrete bike road through wooded parkland is odious. It would be like putting an interstate through a national forest so drivers can zip by and "see the scenery".

And just what has happened in the cycling world anyway? Doesn't anyone own a mountain bike? Wouldn't that be an appropriate ride through a nature park? It seems like the vocal wing of our cycling community are all Armstrong wannabes that will ride no less than the best road bike, they'll ride it wherever the hell they want, and if there isn't a road there they will cry like colicky babies until it gets built.

This fascist wing of cycledom not only holds drivers in contempt but they also have little regard for those they consider lesser riders on lesser rides. Mountain bikes might only warrant a condescending snort, but the sight of a beach-bike with pedal brakes and a flip-flop shod rider would have them in a hissy-pissy fit. These spandex-clad blivets sitting atop their Fuji Finests act as if the smallest bump would have that razor thin "saddle" performing an impromptu prostate exam. As painful as that might sound, the greater risk is it would put an eye out.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Local Control In DeKalb County

If forming cities made sense to folks in Dunwoody and Brookhaven desiring adequate local control over their government do you suppose they might want their own charter schools to have equally local control over education?

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Budget Vacancy

What does it REALLY mean to "budget for vacant positions"?

Did you ever wonder why there always seems to be a surplus of "vacant positions" in any government, particularly government school, budget? Did you notice that when UGA announced it would "reduce its budget" by cutting 130 positions that most of these were "vacant positions"?

If so, did you wonder just how this saves any money, since they couldn't be cutting paychecks to a non-existent employee?

Well the answer is that these "vacant positions" constitute a slush fund. That money is allocated and that money is spent. All under the radar. All according to Doyle.

Don't you wish your budget worked like that?

Monday, October 1, 2012

Dunwoody: Showing Europe The Way

Dunwoody has not only been the role model for our neighbors to the south but has spread its religion of "I, Me, Mine" across the pond. In Spain, the Catalan separatist movement has been re-energized by the economic crisis as Catalonia sees itself as net donor supporting the economically weaker areas whilst sharing equally in the harsh austerity programs. They want to keep their wealth in Catalonia and to hell with the rest of Spain.

Catalonia announced a snap election potentially opening the way for the country’s most economically important region to declare independence. “The hour has come to exercise our right to self rule,” said Artur Mas, Catalonia’s president.

Under the current fiscal system, Catalonia collects taxes from its residents, but turns them over to the central government, which then disburses a designated amount to each region to pay for public salaries, social services, infrastructure and the like. In 2009, the latest year for which figures are available, Catalonia provided 19.49% of the federal government’s tax revenue, yet received only 14.03% of the state’s spending.

Previously, Mas had called for a fiscal reform that would enable his government to collect its own taxes and turn over a designated amount to the central state (rather than the other way around). The courts struck this down silencing all moderate voices in the region.

He is not alone in his separatist views. “We have no other option since our will has been totally ignored” says Soledat Balaguer, a member of the secretariat of the Catalan National Assembly. “Catalonia needs to be its own state.”

Sound familiar?

Friday, September 28, 2012


One of our DeKalb County School Board members seems unusually obsessed with the System's inability to budget for utilities. This issue is being surfaced over and over to the point one must wonder.

Is this a politically correct way of suggesting incompetence, or even stupidity on the part of budget authors? After all, most folks pay their own utilities and have a pretty good handle on what it will cost month-to-month and year-over-year, so why can't they? They keep telling us how smart they are.

Perhaps it is worse than that. You see there is household budgeting and then there is government budgeting. Here's the difference. In both cases one could grossly under budget for a "must have" like power and in both cases those bills are going to get paid. In the household this may mean pain, definitely in discretionary spending and may incur cutbacks in other areas as well. In the government case, it's just an "oops" whitewashed with some lame excuse about cold weather (or hot, whichever sounds good), but no real impact to any other payouts. Like to friends and family.

In the DeKalb School system there has been a constant pattern of under-budgeting these relatively fixed, must-pay line items which is in fact a shift of budgetary funding from needs to wants. Those numbers over those years do not lie. The only real questions are around intent and whether this is systemic and if so is it limited to DeKalb. If this is a standard "educrat" budget gimmick then DeKalb must surely be the poster child for this repulsive practice.

Unfortunately, this is all conjecture because plain talk appears in short supply. Or is it possible that at least one board member doesn't want to call a spade a bloody shovel for fear that would be misinterpreted as "micromanaging"?

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Cheryl's Calendar

School has only recently started so you probably still remember all the "Give the Children Supplies" campaigns. With all the ads and the feel-good spots about teachers who spend their own cash on crayons you would think the DeKalb School System is a third world country run by arrogant despots.

Maybe it is.

Or maybe one thing fell off the "necessary supplies" list: a desk calendar for Superintendent Cheryl Atkinson. Her official mouthpiece is quoted in the AJC as saying "she realized `at the last minute' that the month is almost over" and “she wanted to comply with the board’s request” to resolve some pay issues by the end of September. That is her excuse for a last minute addition to the Board's agenda, and she seems to believe it is credible.

Well roll up the pants--it's too late to save the shoes.

Hell, if we can afford to buy her a "spokesman" maybe we should pony up for that calendar. Alternatively we might get a really good admin assistant and a chief of staff to complement the mouthpiece and then we would not need a Superintendent. We do have options, right?

But let's just go with the calendar so long as we make sure it comes with a new desk. At a new job at another school district. And she can take her mouthpiece with her.

Friday, September 21, 2012

DCSS BOE : No Investigation Needed

The current silliness between SACS/AdvancED/Elgart the DeKalb County School System revolves around a letter from Elgart to Atkinson regarding alleged micromanaging by the Board. This devolved into a three ring circus around the official response to the letter and now SACS intends to do an onsite investigation.

This is totally unnecessary.

The charge at hand is "does the DeKalb Board overstep its bounds and micromanage the DeKalb County Schools"? The answer, and evidence is also at hand.

The shouting table-pounding "spokesperson" for the system claimed this was a purely administrative situation no different than any other situation resulting from any other letter that Atkinson might receive so of course it was handled behind closed doors. This is unadulterated crap. Fact is, Atkinson does not bring every opportunity to respond to a comment or criticism from "any other source" to the board for approval of "process". And, the fact that the Board unanimously approved the plan suggests the plan had probably been pre-approved. How often does any Superintendent so quickly receive unanimous approval of anything? Nonetheless, in most cases the Board has no input on how a response is crafted nor any editorial approval before sending.

Not the case with Elgart's letter.

A "task force" was created--purely administrative mind you lest they run afoul of open meetings laws by having it be a Board sanctioned committee. However the task force itself included members of the Board. Not enough to make it official Board business (see aforementioned open meetings laws) but only an idiot believes this does not constitute "undue influence". And the results were cleared with each Board member, but only on a one-on-one basis to again adhere to the letter, but violate the intent of the law.

Herr Doktor "Do Nothing" took the personal initiative to craft an editorial explaining how this was all within the letter of the law but did little more than confirm that the goal of the DCSS was to legally subvert the intent of the law. And it must be noted they are quite skilled at it.

This fiasco is a surprisingly open, but all too common display of exactly how the Board micromanages and how the Superintendent is complicit. What more does SACS need?

Monday, September 10, 2012