Monday, January 30, 2012

Double Crossed

...or why diverging diamonds won't work.

If you look closely at the diverging diamond fairy tale animations you will notice that one key ingredient of Atlanta traffic is missing. Assholes. Specifically the asshole that is three lanes to the left on southbound Ashford Dunwoody when she knows damn well she intends to get onto 285 westbound. And she expects at least two lanes of traffic to come to a complete halt so she can get over. At the last minute.

And she's not alone. That intersection is an asshole magnet, attracting some of the biggest and most obnoxious this region has to offer.  If Dunwoody is number one in anything it is asshole drivers. Any day. Any time. Damn near anywhere, but especially there.

Why do these assholes do this? Because if they queued up in the correct lane whilst just north of Hammond, they might have to sit their self-righteous asses in a bit more traffic, that's why. Much better to zoom on down in what is clear to everyone is the wrong lane and push in just before the entrance ramp light. So they're not only assholes, they're arrogant assholes.

And arrogant assholes will deep six the best laid plans of our traffic engineers. You know, the same geniuses that brought the disaster known as the Lexus Lanes. Probably related to those that think that extending Peachford is something other than a road to nowhere. Unlike those two the diverging diamond looks like it should work. Problem is none of the traffic engineering accounts for assholes, and with the diverging diamond we can expect the current  crop of last minute "left to right" assholes to be joined by a similar set of "right to left" assholes. While the diamond may diverge, what happens when the lefties and righties converge? You know they will.

Our only hope is that the scheme will be so confusing it scares folks away from the entire perimeter area.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Al's Park Gets Pool

Construction on Al's park is continuing on schedule. As shown below, excavation and preparations for the initial pour for Al's pool is coming along, well, swimmingly.

And this is not to be just any pool, this is quite the water feature with a cascading waterfall (located in the foreground) feeding a "pleasure pool" at the base of the falls. To the side (off camera) will be a single-lane lap pool and adjacent to the main water feature, but not connected will be a series of fresh-water aquatic environments suitable for fish and amphibians--expected to be the star attractions. Excepting Al himself.

The finished "bath house" will be located where the existing Comfort Palace now stands, or leans, much like the Tiltin' Hilton in Sebewaing. It is expected to include a shower and hot tub as well as a sauna, providing Al with year-round activities.

At first many were surprised that the park would include a pool and bath house. But this was cleared up with a trip to nearby City Hall where the Assistant Director of City Parks' Associate Director pointed out this park, including the water feature, has always been in the "Al Master Plan". Furthermore this plan has been well vetted and subjected to much public input and scrutiny. The Associate to the Assistant to the Director did concede that the project may have moved up the priority list due to the unexpected availability of the property at an attractive price. The City is reported to have paid no more than a fifty percent premium over market well within City purchasing practices.

And Al couldn't be more pleased. When discussing the progress with a neighbor, Al is reported to have remarked "I couldn't be more pleased". In fact, he looks forward to completion of the "Al's Park" later this spring so he can begin his life-long dream of learning to swim.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

All Up In Your Business

The City of Dunwoody is preparing to go scatter-brained on us again taking up an issue that will  make the "Chicken Coup" look like an argument about the relative merits of Gerber over Blackwood. The issue at hand is whether to change existing ordinance to allow limited customer contact in residential areas for home-based businesses. The anti-business crowd is offering up unsubstantiated anecdotal "evidence" of the evils of these businesses while others, some who run home-based businesses, suggest this is an intentionally hysterical miss-characterization of modern SOHO business.

While there's enough silliness in our Smart City to make this really interesting there are some areas of common ground. Residential is residential, not retail and certainly not industrial. No signs, and especially no neon signs no matter how noble that gas. No heavy machinery, nor mining, nor noxious fumes. You cannot expect to run a creosote plant in your basement. So, to be clear: NO LEMONADE STANDS in any neighborhood. No slurp without a SLUP.

But then it gets really silly. The anti-business crowd uses the "N-word". No, not THAT N-word, the OTHER N-word. NUISANCE. They assert these businesses will all be nuisances. Cars coming and going. And stopping, perhaps to stay, perhaps for a day. And the deliveries. OMG! This will not be Christmas in July. They're talking deliveries week in, week out, maybe two, three times a week. Nuisance. Each and every one.

But with online shopping home deliveries are the new norm. And can friends or relatives not visit? Can you not host your brother AND your parents, each with separate cars or must they stay in a nearby hotel? What about for just a day? OK, maybe longer? On the nuisance scale how is that any different or if not different, lesser, than a potential customer dropping by to sign their tax returns? Both are rather seasonal aren't they? And what if this "customer" is also a friend and you gossip a bit over a coffee? Does the five minutes of "business" taint the entire encounter? What if you both attend DUMC? Does that make it better?

Or suppose you are hosting the weekly bridge night. Six other couples, probably THREE cars. Is this more or less of a nuisance than that customer stopping by at 10AM? Is the city going to shut the game down because there are three cars parked on the street? Or only if you host it every week? Or, no, because this isn't business (if you believe that you've not played bridge).

Then there is the other, heretofore unmentioned classification: office. Residential isn't office. Or is it? Anybody out there telecommute? Show of hands. Good. Now just the "smart" folks. Amazing isn't? Look at all the folks in Dunwoody who telecommute. Especially all the smart ones. Where do you suppose they sit whilst telecommuting? Oh, right, that would be what is in the vernacular a "Home Office". But telecommuting is not really "a business in Dunwoody" or the City would be demanding payment of the occupation tax on the percentage of top line revenue based on the employee contribution and percentage of home-based work, wouldn't they?

And it is telecommuting that offers a perfectly legal solution to the problem some seek to solve by going off the grid, though they will find that running their business without a license won't work. While this City may not have the wherewithall to publish radar sign data, rest assured they will get the Georgia Secretary of State's records and track your ass down. And "don't ask, don't tell" relies on a City policy of "Enforce Upon Complaint", which while this is defacto City Chicken policy, it is an incredibly bad policy and is probably unreliable as well.

So you may not be able to set up "corporate headquarters" in your home office, but you could telecommute. All you have to do is move your business to a "suite". You know, like the ones at PostNet. Just make sure it is not in THIS city. You'll want to "re-locate" to a nearby area, say, perhaps, Gwinnett county. Close. Lower taxes. Less hassle. And you get to tell City Hall to PUFO because you're no longer running a home-based business in Dunwoody. Just ask the Secretary of State for the mailing address of the corporation. That puts you off their radar because you are working for company located in unincorporated Gwinnett and you telecommute. A lot.

Oh, and if a "business associate" happens to stop by for a Cup o' Joe, well that was just a pleasant chat now wasn't it?

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Al's Park

Before Dunwoody 1.0 called it a Job Well Done, they knew it was only fitting and proper to honor a long serving and long suffering fellow citizen. Al. Plus, it completely zero-ed out the city reserves demonstrating that Dunwoody can be run just like a business. A non-profit business, but a business nonetheless.

Work has already begun on Al's Park. Land has been acquired and as you can see below, demolition is nearly complete.

Before you know it there will be a ribbon cutting ceremony with all the appropriate dignitaries in attendance to officially award Al his private park. Expect a beaming recipient. And surely this ancient oak will be the centerpiece of the ceremony that  day and his personal green space for years to come.

So if you enjoy a chance encounter with Al, be sure to congratulate him.You better suck up if you ever want to set foot on his park because that's the way Dunwoody works.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Dunwoody 2.0

At the end of the day, Dunwoody 1.0 as well as 1.1, the failed "Bug Fix" release, will go down as the "Spend All We Have, Then Borrow More" version of the city. The silent majority, the sixty five percent who either did not vote or voted against cityhood have awakened, and by rejecting the parks bonds clearly indicated the days of Dunwoody's pre-existing power structure "flitting others' perfume" is over. But the Spend-Alls did not leave without getting in a few sucker punches.

We were treated to a protracted pas de deux around the apparently pre-arranged purchase of an empty office building, owned by the same party that anticipated quite the windfall from the parks bonds. Believing these to be two separate, completely disjoint, arms-length negotiations is more than even Polly Ann can handle. The second rabbit punch was the approval the CVB budget including their move into the most expensive office space in Dunwoody--the Ravinia. So now we own vacant office space and rather than move the CVB there, to the benefit of all, well, the Spend-All Team preferred to piss away more money.

And those in the community worried about a return to the ways of D-1.0 must be vigilant. Some of the Spend-All Team remain and those new to office have not been tested by the temptation of spending Other People's Money. The city has also proven to be not quite as smart as they would like us to believe. Case in point: the plan to create Parks Under the Power Lines. Problem is, the wizards at city hall either didn't realize or didn't care that this was private property. Owned by city residents. Who, not surprisingly, did know and did care.

From the very beginning, D-2.0 will be challenged to show a degree of wisdom and foresight that eluded their predecessor. D-2.0 must take up the challenge of rewriting our zoning. As noted elsewhere there is much silliness in the existing documents, as authored by D-1.0, and an equal portion of care must be applied to handling this effort lest the impact of that inferior team be felt for years to come. It may turn out that the effort should be postponed indefinitely, but if pursued due consideration should be given to discarding the existing documents.

If D-2.0 is to succeed, it might look to the DeKalb Schools for guidance. Really. After finally changing guard, the new superintendent is making significant staff changes to address the culture that created the problems she inherited. Low hanging fruit includes "Friends and Family", those overpaid staffers who hold a position because of who they know, rather than what they know or what they can do. Dunwoody 2.0 should follow suite and purge City Hall of F&F staffers.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Two Lane or Not Two Lane

That is the dilemma.

As hard as it is to believe, there is quite a debate over the configuration of Dunwoody Parkway, centering on the lanes. For those who are not familiar with Dunwoody Parkway, it is the neglected stretch of pavement between Mt. Vernon and Chamblee Dunwoody circling behind Dunwoody Village. If you know where the "Bankwoody" Post Office is located, you know Dunwoody Parkway.

To be clear, it isn't actually a parkway, it is a boulevard, which means it has two lanes each way, a center median and enough vegetation to impeded one's view. At twenty five mph it also has one of the lowest speed limits in Dunwoody outside of All Saints. Of course it is located outside of the Perimeter Center area so there is absolutely no enforcement and speeds in excess of forty mph are not uncommon. Really. Between the length, the dead ends and the speed, it is more a dragstrip than anything else.

And the great divide is literally and figuratively over the median.

One camp wishes to convert Dunwoody Parkway to a street, one lane each way, ditch the median but keep the turn lanes at each light. The space freed by the lane and median removal is to be used for wide sidewalks and bike lanes in the hopes this reduces pedestrian jostling,  the current bike congestion and eliminates the associated injuries. This  camp is the old-guard Dunwoody Cabal and has enjoyed overbearing influence over city operations including so-called long range planning. In fact, the parkway plan has been championed by our outgoing mayor for years, even before the city became yet another albatross around the voters collective neck. And of course there is grant money involved and is there anything we wouldn't do to get our hands on other people's money?

The other camp wants each and every scraggly crepe myrtle in that median, and the median itself preserved for our children's children. And beyond. Further, and this is probably the real issue, they want to maintain the current status of "high speed cut through". Seriously. You cannot make this up. They want to ensure they have a four lane, high speed, half mile cut-thru so they don't get annoyed by going all they way to Mount Vernon and Chamblee Dunwoody. Of course, they're not against bike lanes or sidewalks, just don't take away their car lanes. And it isn't like they intend to stop and shop, or hell, even go the speed limit. Nope. They just want to get somewhere else.

So how about this: suppose we four-lane Mount Vernon from the village to the Dunwoody Club split? Now that would do something for congestion in the area. It certainly would stir more fervent and interesting debate.

At the end of the day, the only thing sillier that keeping Dunwoody Parkway four lanes is spending about $1,500,000.00 on a patch of land so some day we can spend even more to give a(nother) councilman a better commute. Can you guess what this city is going to do?

Monday, January 2, 2012

Brookhaven: Dunwoody Deja Vu

In two key regards Brookhaven is heading down the path recently paved by Dunwoody.

First is standard operating procedure for any powerful interest that wants to get their way: schedule a public vote at an inconvenient time, say the first Tuesday after the last new moon before the summer solstice. This provides the special interest with maximum benefit not just from ordinary public apathy, but also from summer distractions, vacations and outside activities. Expect them to push for a mid-summer vote where they can expect eighty percent approval from a very small turnout. And like Dunwoody, this will be done in a PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION YEAR, when fall voter turnout will be at a four year peak.  Were they patriotic supporters of this country's democratic principals the referendum would be on the general ballot, but they are more than willing to subvert our ideals to gain even a minor advantage.

The second was honed if not formulated by the Citizens for Dunwoody: form a private non-profit to run various "Task Force" efforts. These task forces were simply brilliant. They engaged people who wanted to think of themselves as  "part of the movement" and by appealing to their inflated sense of self-importance, kept them harmlessly engaged in the cause. Since the organization is PRIVATE so are all the meetings and reports. All the real shakers and movers have to do is round up the busy-bodies, teach them a secret handshake and give them some busy-work. At that point the "Task Forcers" will go press the flesh, saying asinine things like "trust me, I know, I'm on a the Task Force and the county has it all screwed up--the City will do much better". This isn't just marketing, it is prosthelytizing as it is not a matter of fact, but rather an article of faith.

It is not too late nor too early for reasoning folks in Brookhaven to take action. They should make two non-negotiable demands:
  1. put the cityhood referendum on the 2012 general election ballot
  2. operate the Task Forces under the legal constraints of Georgia's Open Meeting Laws and publish Task Force reports no later than six weeks before the referendum
You will be given some reasons why this just cannot happen. Any attempt to justify an "early vote" is unadulterated crap. Period. They will attempt to deflect the task force issue by using the "private corporation" shield, but as with Dunwoody, should the Brookhaven referendum pass, the Governor's office will establish an operational committee for the city between passage and first day of operation. You are only asking that the Governor's office start before the referendum.

If Mikey cannot pull these two simple things off, then perhaps his city isn't ready for prime time.