Thursday, February 28, 2013

SACS O' Shite

SACS. Who are these people? Really, who are they and where do they come from?

We already know that their involvement with DCSS is due to the staff who reports to the Superintendent who answers to the Board elected by the voters then replaced by the Governor, but has anyone along that chain of command vetted the capabilities and operations of SACS? Is it difficult because SACS is a private corporation beholdin' to no one but they are somehow entitled to play a shell game based on "Hole In The Bottom Of The Sea" with our money? In spite of Elgart's best effort some of the smelly bits of SACS were on display at the SBOE hearing wherein Mr. Elgart was questioned by Mr. Wilson. While Mr. Wilson is a very good lawyer and skilled at (cross)examination the SACS story stank like fresh manure on a hot summer day--Wilson didn't spread the manure, he just parted the clouds letting the sun shine on it.

Time and again SACS, through their report and their mouthpiece Elgart, lamented about "ten years" of troubles. Ten long, painful, disgusting years. Really? So just how is it that Mr. Elgart used the questionable authority of his private, unaccountable corporation to bestow his very own seal of approval for the middle two years of that ten year period? Is it because the system converted from school accreditation to system accreditation much to the profit of SACS? Could it be that the recent troubles affect little more than DCSS's ability to pay Mr. Elgart the healthy fee his private corporation demands and therefore "the fix" must be put in place with all haste?

The few troubled souls who routinely read this blog are very aware that TOD is no stranger to rumor, innuendo and anecdote, but for a highly paid, allegedly professional, private corporation to sling out a report with absolutely no possibility of corroborating a single line in that diatribe and not only expect us to accept it, but to pay for it, is ludicrous. That man has more balls than a pool hall and access to enough of our money to keep them fine and shiny on the best felt Brunswick has to offer.  When questioned about his report's vagueness and lack of citation or reference to background information (like district provided lists of interviewees, schedules, agendas, etc.) Elgart slyly pointed out that "the district" provided these data and consequently knew this information and since this was a report "to the district" and not the public (or the Board for that matter) that this level of (in)completeness was perfectly acceptable. Of course the superintendent provided none of this information to the Board and had the Board demanded it, as is their right if not also their responsibility, Elgart would have risen to her defense accusing them of meddling and micromanagement. And the fact that Atkinson was less than forthright (or capable) was outed by Thurmond who pointed out that the Board could not act on issues because she did not or simply would not provide accurate information in a timely fashion. That Mr. Thurmond was able to solve "The Case of The Missing Textbooks" giving full report, a report that Atkinson under the protection of SACS was unable to provide during her entire reign, is powerful testimony that she, and by association SACS was at least as much the problem as a dysfunctional Board.

It is as if Atkinson and Elgart were in cahoots to maintain their status quo by throwing the Board under a school bus. Over and over again.

And it gets better. Apparently SACS and advancED are not just obfuscating intertwined corporations but are themselves a bizarre shell game where responsibility and accountability are the "missing pea". And the third shell in this scam is Elgart's shadowy pool of "associates". These never to be named Voldemorts apparently are the keepers and if they so choose destroyers of all record pertaining to the details of interviews, site visits and investigations. SACS/advancED/Elgart claim no possession of nor control over these very important artifacts. While eschewing plausible deniability Mr. Elgart hides behind a robust and impenetrable shield of willful ignorance.

And now the rats are fleeing the sinking ship. Everyone, including SACS, is hiding behind the "It's About Educating Our Children" bumper-sticker platitude, yet not a single word in the report addressed academics and dear reader, Wi-Fi has damn little to do with academic outcomes--at least good academic outcomes. So pool room or not even SACS doesn't have the balls to take on the monotonic academic decline of this system, yet like cowardly terrorists they hide behind hostage children while taking pot shots at everyone else.

Are these really the kind of people you want in control of your child's destiny and pissing away your money?

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Late Breaking News

Sources close to the Governor are preparing folks for his upcoming decision regarding the DeKalb County School Board. He will remove the board and in an effort to defuse at least some of the legal challenges he intends to remove the entire board and will not reappoint any sitting members including those recently elected. The calculus is not just political but is in part based on the observation that all of the current board members are "duly elected and reflect the desires of the voters thereby laying the responsibility for the current failures clearly at their [the voter's] feet." This has undermined any belief that those most recently elected are any better than those they join or those they have replaced.

There are also credible reports that the Governor has narrowed his choices for replacements to twelve and will be making the final selections this evening. All candidates are considered capable but some concern has been voiced regarding the fact that all are male and all are white. In discussions of the political consequences the Governor is reported to have said that DeKalb is a train wreck and "I'm getting the best people I can to fix this and I'm not going to apologize for their gender or their race--we're getting this done. I'm sorry this has to happen in February--I'm sensitive to the timing--but quite frankly I can hear MLK spinning in his tomb over what folks in DeKalb, using his legacy, have done to those children--the grandchildren of the Civil Rights movement."

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Removing The Board

There has been much chatter of late regarding removal of the DeKalb County School System's Board of Education. En masse. There is a recall process for removal of elected officials in Georgia but there are a few problems with that which is probably why some folks want the Guv to do the dirty work.

First is related to the fact you cannot initiate a recall vote just because you're pissed off whilst you can trot down to the Capital and bend the Governor's ear. However to initiate a recall you must have specific grounds:
  1. The official has, while holding office, conducted himself or herself [ed: gotta be PC] in a manner which relates to and adversely affects the administration of his or her [ed: again with the PC] office and adversely affects the rights and interests of the public; and
  2. That official has also:
    1. Committed an act or acts of malfeasance while in office;
    2. Violated his or her oath of office;
    3. Committed an act of misconduct in office;
    4. Failed to perform duties prescribed by law; or
    5. Willfully misused, converted or misappropriated, without authority, public property or public funds entrusted to or associated with the elective office to which the official has been elected or appointed.
Just so happens that simple incompetence is simply inadequate. Is anyone really surprised that politicians hold themselves to such a high standard?

But there is a bigger problem with recalls and it speaks to the fundamental problem underpinning the decline of public education all across America. Parents. The same delusion that causes parents to espouse how great their child's school is when it is painfully obvious to the casual observer that is simply not the case causes them to wax poetic about the capabilities of their Board Member. They don't want to recall THEIR Board Member, they want to recall YOURS.

It really doesn't matter if the Governor removes the Board and installs replacements. It doesn't even matter if the System loses accreditation. Nothing will ever matter until parents open their eyes, objectively evaluate the situation and take personal responsibility for THEIR CHILDREN. Until then WE have the school system THEY want.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Tale Of Two Cities

This begins with two similar events, traffic accidents involving school children, the first over three years ago and the second, more recent, little over a week ago. Both have resulted in public outcry and a call for action.

The first accident resulted in an a serious injury and what has apparently been viewed at City Hall as a never ending chorus of whining and requests for increased traffic enforcement and other safety measures. To the City's credit they would respond with a patrol, the mobile speed trailer with associated sanitized eighty-fifth percentile reports and installed a now dead and buried middle-of-the-road crosswalk sign. To the resident's point these patrols have become little more than feeble placations and the obvious conclusion of a destroyed crosswalk sign seems to have escaped our Public Safety team at City Hall. The residents being persistent have even reached out to a Councilman to come to the scene and witness first hand the hazardous conditions that persist to this day. This request was denied.

Little over a week ago all this changed. This same Councilman's son was involved in a similar accident, saved from potentially mortal injury by the quick thinking and deliberate action of a crosswalk guard. And let's be very clear on one point: at any time since the creation of this city were one to stack rank our elected officials based on any objective criteria this Councilman's name would appear at the top. Not near the top. At the top. This Councilman has now put the full force of his office and credibility in the community behind addressing the traffic safety issues and the hazardous conditions that prevail throughout our community. Not just his neighborhood but citywide.

This Tale of Two Cities is not so much about the contrasts of two traffic accidents or to disparage the fact that the City may now finally do the right thing and do it well or to in any way discourage them from that course of action.

What these events speak to is a widening rift between the elite class in Dunwoody and the plebeians they rule.

Were a parent or concerned citizen to approach Council to speak up about the first accident and what to do about it, they would be limited to three minutes of Council's precious time whilst a Councilman endures no such restriction on his freedom to speak. When a tragedy befalls a mere citizen the City has a muted reaction, but not so when it touches one of their own. It is this separate, this unequal reaction to and treatment of people and events that has created a class separation so distinct and so wide as to be missing only a proclamation from the Mayor of "Let Them Eat Cake".

This was evidenced in the recent council meeting when the Councilman recounted his son's accident and made recommendations for Citywide action. He was interrupted, rudely and inappropriately by what could easily be dismissed as a heckler. Though the behaviour was inexcusable it is explicable. There is an undercurrent of anger born of disenfranchisement not seen since citizen anger directed towards DeKalb was leveraged to form this City. There were or should have been adults in the room and this "heckler" should have been asked to leave. Instead there was a literal call to arms, a demand from the Chair that this person be removed by the police implicitly by force if necessary. This does little to show respect to citizens, any and all citizens, by this City.

It is imperative that we understand these events have revealed two separate problems. We have traffic safety issues in Dunwoody and while we can lament that it took a near tragedy affecting an elected official for this to get the attention it has long deserved we should not sacrifice the good that may come because this also exposes a growing chasm between our City and those they are to serve.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Of, By and For

As predicted the first volley in the war against ethics in Dunwoody governance takes aim squarely at accountability and transparency.

First we have the "frivolity filter". No this does not mean that the Lords and Ladies of council will no longer snicker and giggle at past and present public comment. This means that public speech will be officially squelched before it becomes troublesome. We have seen the last ethics complaint from Mr. Joe Hirsch and "Mr. Smith Who Goes To Dunwoody" might just as well stay home. And that is exactly what the City wants. You can tell because the bureaucrats behind this failed to provide a clear definition of "frivolity" and offered no proposal whatsoever for an appeals process.

Then we have pre-emptive pardons of any and all transgressions for key City employees:
"Staff further recommends that the Ethics Ordinance remove the City Clerk, City Attorney and City Manager from the Ordinance..."
So, the City Manager wants to wield the power of  a stack of $50,000.00 pre-approved checks unfettered by even the possibility that someone might question the goings-on of his office and more importantly, call him to task when those goings-on don't pass the smell test. He wants permanent immunity. The "explanation", that these employees can be removed at any time by the Council, suggests that a successful run at office might include a campaign promise to replace bureaucrats that work "at the will of the Council" with those who do the will of the Citizens of Dunwoody.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Soft Pine Cones

It is widely known that down here in the Southland we love our guns. What may be less widely recognized is how much we love our dogs. Of course this leads to a small problem, often quite a few small problems, referred to in polite company as "soft pine cones".  When folks come to visit it is just plain good manners to give them a head's up on where they might run across one of these soft pine cones. Especially if they bring rugrats that insist on "playing" in the yard. 

As you are probably aware DeKalb County and the entire metro area has more than it's share of political soft pine cones. Fortunately we have a local warning system as well. 

Jeff Dickerson. 

Where ever you find Jeff D. you're gonna find a whole heapin' mess of soft pine cones. Whenever he's the spokesperson for a cause or an organization you certainly do not want get caught downwind and if at all possible you want put as much distance, real and political, between yourself and his pile du jour. If he happens to be on your payroll, you're in some profoundly deep doo-doo, but you probably know that already.  And when he goes all arrogant cranking the volume on his screamin' ninny up to eleven then literally and figuratively it is all over but the shouting. 

So if you want to go out and play in your political backyard, look around first and if you see Jeff D. you just might want to stay home.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Brook Run Parkway

After the City's courtroom triumph over the "save the trees" TRO many a reporter observed the Smart City's Good Mayor ejaculating:
"We're going ahead and constructing the trail as planned"
bringing us to a rather fine point: just which plan would that be? Amongst all the khazeray this silly drama of Ents vs Trolls has rained upon us what seems to have been lost is exactly how did we, the mere citizens of Dunwoody, get bamboozled?

The process itself seems quite simple and is a tribute to the fact that City bureaucrats have honed their skills and learned quite a lesson from the spankings they got over the "Power Line Parks" and "Bond for a Parks Pogrom". This time they published and took public comment on a plan they had no intention of implementing but in so doing acquired the political cover of "public buy-in". Once that was in place they followed the real plan, the concrete plan. Not the much more appropriate, full length and less costly (and yes, still ADA compliant) asphalt plan. Not when some city bureaucrat has a "Friend in the Concrete Business".

The "why" is a bit more clever but no less easily understood. Politicians and their dirty-sanchez-ing bureaucrats gain power by maximizing the amount of money that is spent under their say so. In this case, our tax dollars. And power has a way of currying favor, whether it be a high paying job for that cucumber your sister's daughter was dumb enough to marry, a few rounds of golf at Augusta, or a less than arms-length real estate deal on that nice place down on the coast. What goes around comes around and if you control how taxpayer money gets around, good things are sure to come your way.

Just imagine how much power and glory is to be had from a Perimeter Center City Sports Complex.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Serial Taxation

Tis tax time in the 'Wood. And boy do they rake it in.

Today's tax rant is about the "occupational tax". On the surface this looks like a simple way of draining money from businesses who cannot vote anyone from office and it proudly wears the shield of "everyone does it". Indeed. Dunwoody sucks no less. What an aspiration.

But this is a special tax. It has the "administrative component" which is a flat fee taken by the City for the courtesy, on their part, of processing this tax. Then there is the headcount portion which is a per-employee assessment. And finally, the magic part, a revenue tax, not a tax on net revenue nor on profits. This is a tax on gross revenue and that makes this the tax that keeps on taxing.

Here's a simple example. Say you run a company in Dunwoody (as many do). You make a hundred dollars. The City is going to take their cut of that one hundred dollars. Suppose you spend the remainder on supplies and materials necessary to keep the business open and being wrapped up in all things Dunwoody you choose to spend it locally. Good for you. And good for Dunwoody, because now they are going to apply exactly the same tax to those remaining dollars and take their second bite at your apple. And should your vendor buy locally as well, they'll get another bite. And another.

So where are all the folks with their yellow shirts and their yellow signs and their yellow bumper stickers proudly singing the Cityhood Anthem "No taxation without representation"? Why are they not up in arms that businesses are now suffering the same injustice that drove them to rebellion? Is it because they're afraid they might actually have to pay for their peccadilloes and prefer that someone else pick up the tab? Ain't this City wonderful?