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.