Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Magic Carpet or Titanic Iceberg?

Concerning Dunwoody's Special Investigator's Report, which is it? A political "Magic Carpet" under which the real dirt is being swept or just the tip of the Iceberg regarding what has really been going on down at Smart City Hall? And what should we suppose has been going on? Well, that is hard to tell given the City is not very transparent in its operations. Certainly there are many questions deserving of answers.

But first a simple observation. There is no living, breathing, mysterious Sasquatch called "The City", but there are living, breathing people who individually take action on behalf of the collective entity called "The City". And they are, to greater and lesser degrees, individual players who are individually responsible for their individual actions on behalf of the collective. Recent events bear that out. When those actions are aligned with the good of the community and the goals established by our elected officials they deserve credit in proportion to their initiative and responsibility. Recent events bear that out as well. But in all matters they should be accountable and to that end the Citizens OF Dunwoody deserve transparency. We deserve answers.

Who initiated contact with Wieland and who specifically, City and Wieland were involved in the initial and following negotiations? Was this kicked off in a country club locker-room after a round of golf? During a rousing game of checkers at the local hardware store? Over coffee at the gas station or local BBQ joint? Via an open and transparent bidding process, because someone, yet to be named, at City Hall had an original, innovative idea? Was the City Attorney engaged to assess the legal propriety of these negotiations? Would it have mattered?

And who is it at City Hall that "suggests" changes to the developer, like "ditch the siding these need to be all-brick"? Who with the developer is suggesting that the City retain the flood plain property leaving only the juicy bits for lucrative development? How was it the plan went from detached construction to attached housing? Who, on both sides, is involved in these negotiations, and when and where have they and are they taking place? Who, on both sides, negotiates and approves the plan? Who is shaking hands over these agreements?

Where are the email and phone records, the meeting calendars and topics of discussion? Who attended the plenary meetings or was engaged in these conversations? What was the timing, especially with regards to the failure of the Parks Bonds and passage of the TAD? Was this always in the works or is it a reaction to voters shouting down the previous plans from City Hall? Who is driving these efforts?

And what about the folks selling the Shallowford/Emory hospital site? Who are these people and how did that ball get rolling? Before the Parks Bonds went down in flames, they seemed all but assured of a windfall sale of two properties in a very tough market as they were also the owners of the Peachford property slated (for what this is worth) to become a road to nowhere. How did THAT deal happen? What about the discussions leading to the plan with the bond contingencies? And was connectivity the real motivation for the City's Peachford purchase, or was it to secure an option on the hospital property post vote? Even if only by a "gentleman's agreement". Are we really to believe these two transactions were independent "arm's length" negotiations, only to concoct a plan where sale and purchase are so intertwined as to be indistinguishable? Is anyone in Dunwoody that naive? Who exactly are these folks--faces and names? Again, real names of real people who really sign legal, binding documents and the names of those who pay them to do so.

Now that the deals are done and we have skin in the game it seems imminently reasonable for the City to proactively publish on the City Website all the records related to these negotiations. Full disclosure, nothing less.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

It's Debatable

Or is it?

In the Battle of Brookhaven the latest gauntlet cast down is The Great Debate.

Old School.

Face to Face.

The challenge is offered by one of the most vocal advocates of Cityhood, who just happens to be a lawyer. A lawyer skilled in weaving a story around any given set of facts to support his view and his agenda. And a lawyer blessed with oratory skills, a dollop of charisma, and those skills have been honed to a razor sharp edge by years of courtroom practice.

The proposed opponent in the face to face Texas Cage Match will be equipped with virtually no oratory skills and little practice. Were it his choice, The Advocate would like a retired librarian with a speech impediment and preferably Tourette's Syndrome. But certainly not a skilled public speaker who might understand that it isn't what you say, it is how you say it.

But why the challenge? Because the "facts", even spun out like cotton candy, may not carry the day. And these "facts" seem to change on a daily basis, and while they generally change to support The Advocate, after a while this "flexibility" calls into question the veracity of any claim. If the facts are so malleable now, how amorphous will they become after the vote?

So now The Advocate is forced to fall back on Shyster 101:
  1. Pound the Facts and when that doesn't work, 
  2. Pound the Law and when that fails,
  3. Pound the Table
We are now at the point of "Pound the Table".

But what happens when evasiveness, charisma and oratory skills overcome uncontested facts and common sense? Well, we'll just have to wait and see.

But while we wait perhaps we can get a clue...

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Fixing the System

By now it should be clear to even the most apologetic defender of government schools that this grand, noble experiment has failed. Sadly that is not in fact the case, as many folk still seem to think the system can be fixed and by that they do not mean "rigged"--as it is now in favor of educators and their paychecks. So let's boldly go down that rabbit hole and look into the minds of those Hatters.

Totally suspending our beliefs and ignoring the facts so poignantly laid before us, let us spread a little vaseline on our ruby red glasses, dim the torches and assume that this system is reparable and we are indeed the ones to fix it. There are many places this hallucination can take us, but the one location not on this trip's itinerary is "the scenic spot where it looks good to keep any of the losers that brought you this train wreck". It just does not show up in the guide book. Not on any map either.

And for good reason.

Almost all teachers in America today are products of the same failed system that is failing us now. They are every bit as ignorant as the students they provide with a kind smile and a social promotion. And don't think for a minute they learned anything in college. Anecdotal point: education major at one of Georgia's finest universities came to calculus class absent the knowledge of "diameter". As in a circle. Longest chord thereof? The other areas of grade school curricula in which "Education" Majors are sorely lacking would appall the average person over 50. But that is only because the average person over 50 still seems to think that today's teachers know something. These people, and those in the pipeline, have not the knowledge, the thinking skills nor the work ethic to be successful teachers in a successful school. We won't even discuss how easily they become cheaters when presented with a challenging situation.

The administrators are no better, largely because most of them were at some point in their career teachers themselves. Equally ignorant then and now. They do come with more sophisticated sounding, some say "advanced", made up degrees, often from non-accredited online diploma mills. Hell, even they don't respect education enough to get a real one. We won't even discuss how easily they become cheaters when presented with a challenging situation.

So to be very clear, "fixing" the system requires a wholesale replacement all personnel currently on payroll.

But even that is not enough. These incompetents are products of a failed "teacher factory"--schools of "education". These are filled with pompous airbags who spew forth "wisdoms" like "modalities of learning" and other such claptrap. They are not capable teachers and have proven to be incapable of producing capable teachers. They too must go.

Then there are political and structural failures.

Politicians, with one exception, are unwavering in their boosterism of their constituents' schools. We have to look no further than the political monkey business going on in public and behind closed doors as the APS cheating violations were unavoidably made public. The exception, school board candidates and other politicians on "education committees", will pose as "fixers" to our educational problems, but politics being what it is, the "fix" begins and ends with their election. Job done. No, job WELL done. Nothing will change until those pulling the levers exercise control beyond the minimum required to ensure re-election. Throw these bums out.

Also look at how public schools are funded, not just the heavy burden on property taxes, but who is actually paying these taxes. Turns out it is not the parents. Perhaps if parents had some real skin in the game, much more than their neighbor with no children in the system or the business in the village that bears an even higher burden, parents might be forced to reclaim their responsibility for their children. Then they might sit up and take notice that their kids are ignorant, that English lit projects involving magic markers and crayons have no place in high school, or that sports really are not necessary and certainly are not more important than any single bit of core knowledge. Maybe once they see how much they pay for how little, they will see that it could be better. Or perhaps once they realize that society will no longer pay the full cost of that permanent reminder of a temporary feelin' they might not bring so many of the li'l darlin's into this world. We'll buy them a tattoo instead.

Regardless of the subsidy, parents and taxpayers must break the never ending cycle of self-delusion. Don't believe this societal delusion exists? Really? Well pick the AJC once in a while why don't you? Therein you will find parents protesting the loss of their neighborhood school because "it's one of the best". How do these parents know this for a fact? Because a lying, cheating teacher or principal told them. Folks, there is a reason it is spelt "al" and not "le".  Or how about this. Though admitting to cheating, parents expect what they believe to be an otherwise fine teacher at their child's school to be exonerated, or at least returned with a no more than finger marks on their arm. What ARE they thinking? Perhaps these educators are smart, but only in comparison to some of the dumbest parents on the planet---walking proof that sex does not require education. Perhaps we cannot get rid of these folk, but maybe, just maybe we can help them with that sex and procreation problem that has created such an abundance of delusional parents. Isn't there a pill for that?

We as a society can no longer sit back and watch this dead cat of a system bounce down the road all the while dreaming that cat is someone else's and our cat is just fine--even a show winner. It's not. It's our beloved cheshire cat, it is dead and we need to get out there and clean up the carcass. Then, and only then, should we go get another cat. And get it from a reputable breeder and take care of it this time.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Which Hunt?

Those who see the Mayor's Special Investigator as a waste of time and money are correct. We need no reports nor polygraphs (regardless of who buys them) nor blather about who told tales out of school nor cries of "witch hunt". Nor do we need further delay for we have two uncontested facts that are more than sufficient to drive the decision that must be made:
  • City Council entered into executive session, with the City Attorney in attendance, to discuss selling City owned property
  • In his current line of reasoning the City Attorney asserts that SELLING property was not in fact covered by any exclusion to the State's Open Meetings law
It requires neither the smartest of the smart in our Smart City nor any intellectual gymnastics to connect these two dots with the only straight line between them. The City Attorney, by action or inaction, supported Council in discussing disposal of City property which he now asserts was an illegal act. It no longer even matters which of these two assertions is true, nor which would survive scrutiny in a court of law, because the issue at hand is much simpler.

We pay for a full-time City Attorney to provide SOUND legal advice, day in and day out. Dunwoody is not well served by counsel that offers no better guidance than the flip of a coin. This is the heart of the matter. We deserve better and we should expect the Mayor and Council to ensure that we get the best legal counsel for our hard earned tax dollars.

If the Mayor and Council do not believe that the voters, taxpayers and citizens of Dunwoody deserve better than what they are now receiving then we need more than one change at City Hall.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Hoisted on His Own Petard

Reports from a recent council meeting indicate the basis for the vote to defer the vote to dismiss the City Attorney, was, according to the Mayor, "because we have not received the report yet, we as a group decided to defer until we could review it".

Were that we, the mere citizens of Dunwoody, afforded that courtesy prior to the cityhood referendum. As you may or may not remember there were several "Task Forces" chartered to draft reports and plans for key areas of city operation. To be very clear, none of these were released to the public prior to the vote. We did not get to read nor review these reports, but instead were sent to the polls with much conjecture, ballyhoo and hype.

The responsible party for maintaining this cloak of secrecy? That would be "Citizens For Dunwoody". And who is a corporate officer of that non-profit? Well that would be Captain Petard, who seems to play a star role in yet another yet to be released report. At least those determining his fate will have the luxury of reviewing this report prior to their vote.

Some folks get all the luck.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Me Watching You Watching Me Watching You

Google analytics is a wonderful thing. Seems more than a few folks down at city hall spend some time wandering about the blogosphere running into some things that go bump in the night.

Right there at number five sits the City of Dunwoody accounting for almost seven percent of hits during any given month.

Isn't that a bit like posting a Dilbert Cartoon at work?

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Guide to Brookhaven

Or more precisely, a guide to the "NO CITY" Brookhaven community.

Top of list has to be Ashford Neighbors, self-proclaimed as "a grassroots organization dedicated to preserving our community". We will assume their community is "Ashford" which will be part and only a parcel of the forthcoming City of Brookhaven.

Then there is No New City of Brookhaven, which hints at a twelve-step approach for those drunk on the Koolaid, but seems stalled at step one: Admitting there is a problem.

Hot on their heels is a similarly named No City Brookhaven, offering a "No Fear" approach to presenting the facts around the increasingly contentious issue of the cityhood referendum. An identically named blog, seems to offer much the same information, and like this blog is immune to the cacophony of annoying poems and irrelevant drivel cluttering up other local information outlets.

By and large you will find much the same information and resource links at all these, and there may be more, but each comes in a slightly different package. They all take the same approach, presenting the facts, though this has time and again been proven ineffective when political rhetoric is the opponent's weapon of choice.

But at least they publish the facts and provide relevant references so the voters cannot legitimately claim a year down the road that they were misled by pro-city rhetoric with no way to know what was really going on. They will make the claim nonetheless, as the first part will certainly be true.