Thursday, January 31, 2013


This is a term used in municipal government that loosely means "we're not really going to do our due diligence on a contract, we're just going to copy what another city does". While this is closely related to "best practices" in the case of "piggyback-ing" we're talking about money and more importantly we're talking about cronyism. See, if your business can land a contract with Sandy Springs, the City of Our Envy, you are a shoo-in with Dunwoody. No competitive bid required.

It doesn't matter that the actual bid is significantly different. It doesn't matter that the costs are totally unrelated. Apparently once you are in with the Cabal Of City Managers you are In Like Flint. That's the way this City rolls.

Recently the value of the office of City Manager has been called into question during public comment. Given the abdication of key responsibilities to an engineering firm and the fact that RFQ/RFP-s are de-scoped that question is all the more relevant. Maybe we should outsource that entire office.

Notice, dear voters, the silence coming from our elected Lords and Ladies.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Parks and Recreation

By now you've heard that the City was pondering the formation of a Parks and Recreation Board. It is all but certain this will not happen but we do know one thing: if this board is formed citizens need not apply.

There appears to be a general consensus amongst our elected Lords and Ladies regarding the rabble that elected them. Apparently we are little more than high maintenance whiners with narrow interests worthy of any navel gazer and they only need "public input" that aligns with their own agenda. Consequently when they want your opinion, they'll make it up.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Unringing The School Bell

A fully mature bureaucracy always maximizes positive outcomes for the organization and the bureaucrats that run it with almost no remaining substantive connection to the original mission. These organizations flourish in government since the competitive environment of free markets tends to weed out organizations that no longer serve a need and government is widely known to never solve a problem and dissolve the agency chartered to address an issue. Think Rural Electrification Administration -- are there not lights in Podunk, Ga?

For most of us the largest government entity that touches our lives are Public Schools and they have matured into exclusively self-serving bureaucracies and it isn't just DeKalb, this is true everywhere. And this goes beyond the school house or even "The Palace".  The non-functioning bureaucracy has built its own ecosystem that includes colleges granting questionable teaching degrees to questionable graduates, textbook and test publishers, unions defeating all attempts at meritocracy, training and consulting groups, modern day snake oil salesmen hawking technology and educational packages, and even architects and builders who have established that schools are "special". All the while these educrats and hangers-on have co-opted the public, particularly parents, on the notion that it is "all about ``our'' children" leveraging the unquestioned precept that there is a societal obligation for everyone to pay for anyone's children.

Public Schools have also expanded their scope of "services" diluting their original mission and reducing, by that dilution, their accountability for "job one" -- education. This is not a recent development. And the public/parents are OK with that. Try pondering with friends or colleagues about "what would happen if we simply shut down the public schools, kids aren't learning anything anyway" and sooner or later someone will pipe up with "well what are those kids going to do all day"? It turns out "stay home with a parent" is no longer an acceptable notion and we in America have truly created a nanny state.

Sooner or later reality will force us to realize that Public Schools are fundamentally and fatally flawed when it comes to educating children. There is no fixing them. It is a difficult and painful realization, but it is nonetheless inevitable--these schools cannot be fixed if by fixed we mean "deliver a world-class education". We can recognize them for what they are -- government daycare -- and deal with the issue of educating children separately.

Once we accept that reality there is much we can do to address the extreme costs and gross inefficiencies of this secondary government. We've already dismissed the notion that "teachers" need to understand the subject matter they teach. In reality they are not teaching so it doesn't really matter and the current education ecosystem acknowledges this.

Consider this. A major Georgia institution will graduate elementary school "teachers" equipped with a shiny new "elementary-education" degree who do not understand fractions. No one is alarmed. These individuals will have a college degree and do not understand fourth grade math and no one is alarmed. They graduated from high school without understanding fourth grade math and no one is alarmed. They graduated from eighth grade with no clue about fourth grade math and no one is alarmed. They were promoted from fourth grade to fifth grade ignorant of material just covered and no one is alarmed. And that is proof positive that Public Schools are far separated from learning and they have spewed forth enough ignorant generations to become fully self-perpetuating. This is not a confederacy of dunces it is an incestuous community of idiots.

The facts are undeniable. These are not educators and should not be paid as if they were, instead they should be paid like the babysitters they really are. We can also dismiss the ancillary costs that come with pretending learning is a part of the program. We are pouring over $300K into each classroom when what we need is someone who can keep the inmates from harming one another. That is not a $300K proposition and we should be able to babysit and feed these children for far less. Yes, it is now a government responsibility to feed children at Public Schools and since the program is unaudited we are left to assume it is as corrupt as every other Public School endeavor.

The sooner we move forward embracing what Public Schools have transformed themselves into the sooner some parents will wake up and take charge of their children's future.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Props To The Cops

At the recent City Council meeting Dunwoody's Top Cop advanced his pitch for alarm system registration and fines for what they determine are "false alarms". Not that the cops would deliberately incorrectly classify a call merely to generate revenue if simply because, as you're about to understand, they won't need to.

The back story is pretty mundane and follows the typical "City Goes Money Grubbing" plot line. The necessary crisis is built around the notion that an enormous and skyrocketing number of home alarm system calls are false alarms. Of course this is draped in the politically bullet-proof shield of "Public Safety" which as a tool for parting the public from their money is second only to "Educating Our Children". The equally mundane second cornerstone is the bratty little school child's excuse of "everyone else did it" which in bureaucratic City-Speak is known as "Best Practices".

In spite of some "Best Practices" where every alarm site pays a registration fee, this Smart City has heard from the voters loud and clear on the Bonds referendum and have determined that these preemptive fines can only be applied to businesses. As smart as they are they actually understand that businesses cannot vote anyone from office and if they vote at all it is only with campaign contributions or their feet. This strategy has already proven to mitigate public backlash by all but eliminating public attention.

The only point of inquiry from our elected Lords and Ladies is around the crank call policy the Top Cop intends to follow. Apparently after a specified number of "false alarms" you'll be branded as "the boy who cried wolf" after which our little shepherds will let the wolves have their day. Of course there is a path to redemption and that path is paved with gold. Your gold. All you have to do is pay some fines, you don't have to fix your alarm and you're back in the flock. If this looks like those credit card companies that want you to carry a balance so they can rake in usurious interest payments, then you have a pretty good grasp of the situation. Apparently this "we won't be taking your calls any more" approach offended the few remaining humanist members of Council so it became a point of inquiry.

And this is where it went from a rather plodding, almost doltish re-enactment of  "fleecing the flock" to something that was revealed to be nothing short of brilliant. During these inquiries it was revealed that the State Legislature is passing a bill, and it will pass, requiring "double verification" before alarm monitoring companies contact the police. At Council the Chief of Police acknowledged this would have a "tremendous impact on false alarms" and when questioned about any negative impact on this new revenue stream he indicated the impact would be "moderate".

In a nutshell, the City is poised to create a new revenue stream justified by a situation that will soon be all but eliminated by State legislation so that all this new money can be diverted to whatever the City wants. This is how a "fee", like an alarm registration fee, becomes just another tax.

As clever as that is, it isn't the brilliant part. That is based on incredibly skillful timing on part of the Police Chief. It goes like this. We have a problem with false alarms, the fix is registration [fees ] and fines and we need to implement this now. Shortly the problem will go away due to no action on our part but if we get this done just before the state law takes effect and false alarms plummet then the Police Chief can take credit "how well his program worked."

Now that's brilliant.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Democracy Inaction

As many know Dunwoody will hold elections for City Council seats this fall. At the same time it is becoming increasingly apparent that current council is just a wee bit out of touch with the citizenry. We're regaled with tall tales of "thousands of emails from all across Dunwoody" when it suits council's desire to ramrod something generally unpopular down the public's throat but are given no substantive evidence of any alleged support for clearly unpopular issues. No clue where they get their wild-eyed ideas but we might as well be running this city based on chit-chats at a gas station.

But now there seems to be concerted and effective opposition to the whimsical fantasies of our duly elected Lords and Ladies of the ruling class and their courtesans at City Hall to the point we find ourselves at an impasse. The trifecta of "Runway in the Park", "No Way on the Parkway" and "Turning Down the Roundabout" pulled up lame right out of the gate.

This offers an excellent opportunity to solve the underlying problem of City Hall detachment. Put these issues on the upcoming ballot and while we're at it, let's dissect the "Master Plan" and put those individual components up for vote. Doesn't have to be a formal referendum, just a non-binding straw vote, but a vote that is much more transparent than rumors of bountiful and conveniently unavailable emails and phone calls.

Ramrodders will argue that we cannot afford to wait. Wait for what? Transparency? Serving the citizens of Dunwoody? For someone to actually look into what is really going on and question the almighty authority of City Hall and the bureaucratic minions who bloat our budget?

Until we get responsive and responsible leaders and city staff, we deserve no less than to have our voices heard in an auditable, undeniable forum.

Let the voters speak.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

DCSS - Dunwoody City School System

There has been much hysteria of late regarding formal but belated recognition that DeKalb County Schools are wallowing in abject failure. There is and always has been gross incompetence in every aspect of the operation: financial; HR; operations; administration; IT/MIS; and accreditation oversight. Oh, yeah, and education. This is exactly what happens when government bureaucrats sate their lust for power by "managing" other people's money.

So now our local sugar plum visions dance around the creation of Dunwoody City Schools. Some say we should convert all existing schools in Dunwoody to charter schools in the hope that would give parents with children attending those schools greater influence over what goes on in that school. Or so they think. Parents have always been a bit delusional about "their school" and we have yet to demonstrate that giving excessive weight to their "concerns" improves education.

Others have suggested doing with the schools as the City did with DeKalb County--break away. For this to happen there must be a change to the constitution and legislation mandating transfer of school property at a nominal cost as was done with the parks when the city was formed. As many have already pointed out government school operations come with many encumberances and a CoD system would be much more expensive than proponents are willing to acknowledge (think Dunwoody Police Department). Yet the Carl Vinson Institute would certainly give it a green-light as that is exactly what they will be paid to do. There would be additional startup costs, beginning with textbooks and recruiting, and it isn't very likely that the parents themselves would pick up the tab. Even in conservative Dunwoody parents expect others to pay their freight.

A third proposal, perhaps only a trial balloon, was to create new schools from the ground up. Private schools. Well, quasi-private, as again, proponents of this proposal are expecting the City to subsidize the operation. And who wouldn't want to pay higher taxes so the neighbor's kids get a private school education? Turns out there are quite a few. While the semi-privy advocates are not very clear regarding the legal and regulatory implications of their grand scheme they're damn sure they don't want their kids going to "those DeKalb schools". But they also don't want to pay the piper--they just want to call the tune.

Outside of wanting someone else to pay what all these folks have in common is a rather flimsy grasp on the overall financial operation of America's Public Schools. The AJC reports that neighboring Gwinnett spends approximately $1 Billion to serve approximately 125,500 students. Assuming average class size of 30 students this works out to about $240K per class. We know the average teacher's burdened cost isn't half that even with platinum plated benefits. The fact that most of these folks don't know where all this money goes doesn't necessarily mean it is wasted but rather that they are not aware of what it takes to run a school. Bear in mind, Gwinnett is one of the more efficiently run systems in the metro area.

The powers that be had a similarly weak grasp of financials when they formed the City of Dunwoody. That or they were intentionally deceptive, take your pick. Yet many persist in the belief that Dunwoody schools would somehow be better run than DeKalb schools supported by the commonly held opinion that nothing could be worse than DeKalb. However there is no tangible evidence to suggest that Dunwoody would actually offer anything different or better in way of governance other than consistently pasty faces which in and of itself isn’t “better”. There is evidence to suggest Dunwoody might be as bad or worse than DeKalb. Dunwoody has polarized internal factions, openly acknowledged ethical issues, rather convoluted real estate "deals", and the City started from day one with “Friends and Family” on the City payroll which directly contributed to pissing away close to $100K. The parallels are frightening.

But probably not frightening enough to prevent the inevitable drive towards a mini-me DCSS--the Dunwoody City School System.

Monday, January 14, 2013

You Just Might Be Stupid

You just might be stupid if...

...the City of Dunwoody has it's way. With words. This comes by way of the third "Whereas" in the upcoming "moratorium on ethics" in Dunwoody. Yes, you probably thought there had been an outright ban, but there wasn't. Here's where the City is pretty sure that you, dear reader, are stupid:
" has become apparent to the Mayor and City Council that the process for adjudication of same is overly complicated and time intensive and not conducive to the understanding of the general public"
Well isn't that speah-SHUL? "It has become apparent to the Mayor and City Council"--it's about time something became apparent that folks in this City care about. But see that "not conducive to the understanding of the general public" part? The one in bold italics? That's where they're saying the general public (that would be you) are too stupid to understand the Smart City Leaders and Staff (that would be the Mayor, Council, City Manager and Lesser Minions) even when they put things in terms a fifth grader can grok.

And lest you think this is just a bunch of vapid Whereas's, Wherefor's and Whatwith's the Great and Mighty Oz spews forth before awarding the Tin Man a brain, look to the first enumerated item on the second page:
"The aforesaid recitals are not mere recitals, but are material portions of this Resolution;"
See? This is not merely a recital (from which we can conclude that unless specifically noted all other recitals in other City documents are in fact merely recitals). So, they're saying you're stupid and they're saying they mean it. And you can be certain about one thing--they will gut the ethics rules. They are going to say they're rewriting the ethics ordnance so the Stupid Little People in the 'Wood can understand them, but the rules will be of, by and for the folks who should be held to higher standards than the "general public".

And you just might be stupid if you continue to put up with this crap.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Brookhaven Seeks City Manager

We should be so lucky.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Dunwoody Charter Academy

This is direct from rumor central:
A group of like minded parents in Dunwoody are banding together to form Charter Academies to cover K-12 education for their children. Their unique approach, the basis for their Charter application, is that these schools propose to provide academics and only academics. No school lunches, kids can brown-bag it. No sports, that's what Dynamo and ALTA are for. No music program so if you think you're kid's got talent, then go for it on your own time on your own dime. And it will be modeled after homeschools (see GA Code Ann. 20-2-690 & Co.) with one hundred and eighty days of instruction of four and one half hours per day. 
Proponents of this model tout the efficacy and financial merits. Teachers will focus on teaching and teaching only with at least two hours every day for prep work. The laptop every child will tote around will be their multi-media center (what was once called a "library"). Given that students will be on campus approximately five hours per day the child's contact time with their parents will increase affording parents a greater opportunity to be engaged partners in their child's journey to educational achievement. Elimination of unnecessary waste in the form of cafeterias, libraries, sports facilities and theatres will trim costs and ensure that everyone, parents and students alike, understand "school is about learning". 
Of course this will never be approved and if it were it would never work. How can you possibly deliver a top-notch education without sports?

Monday, January 7, 2013

Blind Sided

Cheryl Atkinson, like all too many educrats across this nation, is hell bent on getting "computers in the schools" and has announced that 8200 students will be transitioning from "traditional" textbooks to netbooks, self-congratulating herself by saying "no longer will our students be saddled by heavy backpacks". As if that were not enough she could not hold back this edu-fart: "the fact is our children have an intellectual complexity  that demands we change our educational approach". Only in educational la-la land can profound ignorance and non-existent work ethic be considered "intellectual complexity".

It is mind-boggling that adults spew this nonsense and even more so that it works.

But this diatribe isn't about the proven waste of money and year over year growth of graft and mismanagement in public school IT departments and it isn't about the fact that computers in the classroom have no demonstrated benefit. This is about what may have a chance to put a stop to this nonsense.

If anything or anyone can, it will be the NFB--the National Federation of the Blind. If you check out their website you will notice (at the time of this writing) a prominent condemnation of Amazon for pushing their Kindle e-book readers to schools. You may think nothing of this, but consider that a philanthropist attempted to donate similar technology to an Athens area school and the school was compelled to reject the offer--they could not accept the legal risks of being sued by the NFB. If you don't believe it just point your browser to google and search "nfb sues".

It looks like DCSS and the taxpayers that fund it are about to get blind sided because they cannot see past the latest trend.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Al and Al

Not Tiede and Alberghini. Gore and Jazeera.

Turns out that after Al Gore invented the internet and went off to tend to his marriage he still had time to set up a cable channel which he has now sold to Al Jazeera. No telling what he'll do now.

What is really interesting about this deal is not Gore's obvious observation regarding continuity across owners but the reaction of cable companies who will no longer carry the channel. They claim their customers will not watch Al Jazeera originated content because it is "nothing but propaganda".

Yet these same customers are glued to "Faux News" and the "Communist News Network".

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Sista From Anutha Planet

This scifi based dramedy sports Mary Steenburgen in the role of Janet Nester, an alien scientist stranded in the fictional town of Desuka where in an effort to fulfill her mission of studying alien social structure she finds herself on the local school board. It isn't as far fetched as it sounds.

Like most sitcoms Sista episodes begin with a lie followed by a buffoonish cover up. Unlike most sitcoms the show does not end in a kumbaya moment as it would in Friends, but in a teeth grinding attempt at putting the drama in dramedy, a plot device the writers are unfamiliar with. These are far from the worst failures offered up in the scripts. The writing is not just formulaic but  mindnumbingly repetitive like an insipid copy of Groundhog Day but without the daily plot progression of the protagonist.  If you've seen one episode, you've seen them all.

The only bright part of the writing is a certain Bevis and Butthead quality where the entire show is really a parody of the show's most devoted fans. The program is wildly popular with parents who do not seem to realize they are the real butt of what few jokes there are any more than they realize the witless parents on the show are lied to by "their" teachers and principals just as the Steenburgen character is fed lies by the school administrators.

Steenburgen valiantly tries to save the show only to be overcome by horrid writing and lack of any other competent actors in the ensemble. The Board Chair, who would be a perfect foil to her character were he played by the likes of James Earl Jones, is played by an actor so bad that the character looks like a racist caricature that should have Al Sharpton blackmailing the producers. Likewise the Superintendent is played by an actress clearly incapable of remembering her lines. Outtakes must be priceless.  Other role actors have surrendered, staggering through their performances like zombies. On occasion the extras playing the clueless, gullible parents steal a scene or two, but this is more a credit to the decision to use local extras than to the casting couch.

As the show enters its third season rumors of cancelation are growing louder. Hopefully her alien overlords will rescue Steenburgen from this hell but until this slot is filled with quality programming the discerning viewer should spend their time and money elsewhere.