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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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?