Thursday, March 27, 2014

Elaine's Restaurant Reviews

Paying homage to Angie Hicks and following in the footsteps of Dale Cardwell DeKalb County Commissioner Elaine Boyer is rumoured to be opening a new chapter in her life--as a restaurant reviewer.

What started as a hobby, a mere pastime, has blossomed in recent years expanded by her strong commitment to constituent services demanded in her role as a public servant. Of necessity this called for frequent, nearly daily contact with professionals in the food service industry and offered exposure to a wide variety of cuisines that further cultivated her interest in the culinary arts. A majority of her exposure was restricted to offerings in the local area so it wasn't until service called her to areas outside the State of Georgia that she realized how developed, how refined, how well attuned to the modern sensibilities her palate had become. What had been so obvious to others was now undeniable--by languishing in a county office she has been denying the culinary community the benefits of her true talents.

If the rumours are true and her avocation is to become her new vocation we wish Ms. Boyer all the best in her new career.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Can You Tell The Difference?

Been away so long I hardly knew the place
Gee it's good to be back home

Leave it till tomorrow to unpack my case
Honey disconnect the phone
I'm back in the U.S.S.R.

You don't know how lucky you are boy

Back in the U.S.

Back in the U.S.

Back in the U.S.S.R.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Is Dunwoody Business Friendly?

Much of the interesting discussion in last week's City Council meeting inadvertently asked (and perhaps answered) this question.

The first was about mandating long neck garbage cans at drive-thru lanes in fast food joints and if you watch the video you're just waiting for someone on Council to jump up and shout:
"Live from City Hall---IT'S MONDAY NIGHT!"
Sadly this did not happen. They were serious.

Now those amongst us who are Southern by the Grace of God must be patient with those not so blessed but by all that is holy sometimes folks living in a world chilled by freon really stress the limits. We'll just have to ask them to imagine--not that there is no heaven...that really is easy if you try---but to imagine their drive thru experience. That's a bit more like hell.

Like the others it starts at the squawk box that makes the ESL student's voice even more unintelligible and as the queue moves slowly towards the window where you pay and you pray (that you got what you thought you ordered) you find an interestingly placed garbage can. Now the do-gooders say this is here because there are soooo many people, mostly in huge SUVs, that have run out of trash space in the back seat so they need to unload between order and fresh eats so they have room for the new garbage. Don't know what part of Dunwoody these folks live in but you can smell it before you see it. So then in their imaginary world you would gather up all the garbage (keep in mind you don't have the sense to have a litter bag in that overblown truck) and toss yesterday's junk food wrappers into the garbage can at today's junk food emporium. Because you're a junk food junkie. Anyway, that's how they see it.

But here's where the southland rises up. You know what an outdoor garbage can like this really is way down here in the land of cotton? It is a haven and breeding ground for all manner of vermin. But not just no-see-ums, flies and rats. No sir. We're blessed with a special creature. One that just loves to feast on what little Coke might remain in the cup thrown out this morning. We're talking about Yellow Jackets. Territorial. Fierce. Angry. Aggressive. Downright mean spirited. And when they launch out of that garbage can--and it isn't just any can because the City is gonna mandate it be a long-neck can with its bat-cave-like maw right beside your open window--they are coming after you and yours like Obama's drones going after a Pakistani wedding party. There will be blood.

What makes this trash can ordinance a business issue (as well as even funnier) isn't just that the City intends to foist the cost on businesses. It is because one justification was "it would be easier and better for the business instead of having to pick up trash in the drive thru." Really? You'd think a for-profit operation would have figured out which is better, cheaper and more efficient without a whole lotta outside help.

And this whole Yellow Jacket Microclimate Ordinance was just the warm-up act. It. Gets. Better. Because the on-deck issue focussed on "for profit"--something the City most certainly is NOT.

This issue was about the increasingly contentious "Arts Festival" which as we've pointed out in the past is stretching the definition of "Art" when we include booths for banks, kitchen remodeling and auto repair. However this is particularly on point when some of these booths are manned by for-profit organizations that are not even located in Dunwoody. But that wasn't really Council's concern. There was some concern about the negative impact to local business--this all but shuts down some village businesses for whom Mother's day is otherwise a big event--but the real concern was around the fact that the festival is organized and operated by a for-profit entity.

Some took issue with the perception that the City was "picking winners" amongst for-profits but there seemed to be little (some, but little) concern that this winner is itinerant and their financial victory comes at a cost to our neighborhood businesses. Of course the low-impact alternative presented earlier by TOD is impossible this year because the City has chosen to run a barrel racing contest on the Parkway while the Arts Festival is in full swing.

What was very interesting was the intense focus on the fact that the organizers are for-profit as if somehow that matters a bunch. Those who've not had much exposure inside a non-profit may believe everyone there is drunk on altruism and works for a dime on a dollar because they're doing good works they really, really believe in. Perhaps true for some folks on the front line, but by and large non-profits are driven by the same growth ambitions as any other organization money flows thru--business, government, you name it. You do remember the scandal of the United Way execs who were flying around in their G-4s and smokin' big cigars don't you? Rest assured, if this organization were non-profit the folks working there would be getting as much if not more money, they'd pay less taxes but we'd get to see their filings (after 3 years).

The profit/non-profit obsession seems deflective. Fact is the City is putting on a party and in new-city fashion we have privatized the operation by contracting it out to a party-organizer. Now before folks get their knickers in a knot, that's not quite precise as the party-organizers applied for permission to close the street and the City's involvement is only to approve and provide necessary security. Makes it a little less clear exactly who they work for now doesn't it?

And don't ask why security at Vermack/Womack isn't just as "necessary" Or why the City is more than willing to foot the bill for security at Food Truck Thursdays. And don't ask how Food Truck Thursdays can be such a raging success but relocating the Arts Festival to the very same location would be such an obvious disaster that it isn't even worth trying this one time. And certainly don't ask "if they were really trying to screw things up what would they do differently?"


Because we have a representative government and Council have already asked similar questions on your behalf. The City Manager and Staff were specifically asked to investigate moving the Arts Festival but haven't gotten around to finding an answer. Either that or this investigation is the only thing more delayed than the CAD-to-CAD interface. Or perhaps the City Manager and Staff don't believe something as silly as "Arts In The Parks" could ever work so they just don't want to waste their time.

The fact of the matter is that this train wreck is pretty much out of the Mayor and Council's control as the approval of these permits is an administrative matter not a policy matter. If the City Manager and his Staff want an Arts Festival and the third party organizer (no matter who they really work for) want it on Chamblee Dunwoody then that's what we'll have and that's where we'll have it.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Olde Farts And The Missing Majority

Lately there's been some 'cussin' and discussing around a stated gap between this City's demographics and what subset shows up for Council and Town Hall meetings. And when we say demographics we mean age because the dirty little secret is that no one at City Hall is the least bit concerned that the audience remains lilly white. The audience age observations surfaced at the first Town Hall meeting in the Mayor's statements that were later recounted at the subsequent Council Meeting.

According to print media the Mayor "told the town hall meeting audience that the average age of a Dunwoody citizen was 37 or 38, and those citizens did not have time to come to these types of meetings because of their families or jobs." We won't speak to what keeps other folks busy and quite frankly neither should the Mayor.

But we're all over the age thing.

The 2012 estimates from the U.S. Census bureau suggest a median* age of 36.6 years in the Wold. First this is not the average age but it is the age at which there are just as many who are younger as those who are older. This particular stat also includes all ages. Infants. Twaddlers. Elementary School children. High School. In fact, over 21% of our population is under 15 with almost 26% under 20. Certainly those 18 and 19 year olds are eligible for the vote but the remainder of this one-in-four cohort is indirectly represented.

As we've pointed out before, suburbs are places dedicated to the worship of children so it should come as no surprise that many in the Wold expect that the parents of minor children are the most appropriate representative on their children's behalf. The City Manager has taken us all to school on what a representative form of government means (he gets what he wants--you don't) and perhaps he'll let us know if this reaches into our dens and kitchens. It also seems the Mayor disagrees with parental primacy--otherwise he would have used a demographic stat that more accurately reflects the rather inconvenient view that an elected official should first and foremost represent the electorate. You know. The voters and taxpayers.

So what are the demographics of the potential electorate--those eligible to vote in this representative government (even if they don't bother)? One way to look at this is to examine the U.S. Census bureau data** for the potential electorate. This group comprises 36,388 souls out of a total of 46,133. The estimated average age*** of the twenty and over crowd is 47.1 while adding in some potential non-voters gives an average age of 45.3 for those fifteen and over. Call the average age the midpoint between these and we get an electorate that is ten years older than the median age of the overall population. Not quite Olde Fart but not thirty something either.

But that's just the average which surely tells only a small part of the story. How true. So how many Olde Farts are there and how does that stack up against them Smart Young Whippersnappers? Well, 12.6% of our population is 65 or older and that seems old enough for Olde Fart. Given the Olde Fart end state (dead) that compares pretty favorably with the under-fifteen crowd that comes in at 21.2%.  Taking out the legal minors we find that Olde Farts hold their own with young voters as well. You must march firmly into the 25-35 decade to match the over 65 crowd.

If we close in on the center of demographic mass we find that 23.1% are over 55 (previously known as "doing the speed limit") while the under-twenties comprise 25.9%. A back of the envelope estimate shows that there are about the same number of residents over 55 as there are those that are legal minors. What sane politician wants to piss off over 10,000 folks of an age known for a high rate of voting in deference to about a thousand 18 and 19 year olds who often cannot be bothered to even register?

So yes, Dunwoody has a large contingency of young folks, but primarily these are too young to vote, too young to enter into a contract and in almost all cases too young to drive. As one might expect our population demographic takes a dip with college age children as presumably these folks go away to college or get an entry level job and can no longer afford Dunwoody. And this all fits our general description: a suburban home to those who want a good place to raise their children.

Basically we've a middle-aged population. Currently the average age of adults (and we're acknowledging 18 yr olds as "adults") is around 46 but should rise as we now have a developer proposing to build a fifty five and over residential complex near Georgetown. This is not likely to offer a younger crowd at the Mayor's meetings and will drive up the average age in Dunwoody. With a stated policy of suppressing apartments with transient residents who tend to be younger the shift should be even greater. So you may not like Olde Farts but outside of that poor bastard we scared back to Fantasy Land it looks like our Plan of Record is "grow the rolls."

But is that what this is really all about? The aforementioned article goes on to quote the Mayor: "We, as a city council represent 47,000 people and we have to be very careful not to be pushed and swayed by a very vocal minority."




They're vocal.

But they may not be the minority they're dismissively made out to be. But even still there seems to be something else going on.

Sixty five percent of our population is under 45--children (a full 25% of the total and 40% of this younger subset), their parents, some folks working towards parenthood and a few smart young folks. And these are the folks who are NOT showing up at the Mayor's meetings which he states is because they're too busy with life. But the Town Hall meeting started with a personal testimony to the fact the the Mayor and Council cannot read minds. And yet...he can speak authoritatively to what are the motivating concerns and issues for this missing two thirds--which represent only 56% of the potential voters. Could it possibly be that the things most important in their lives are more centered around what is going on with the schools than how long the orange barrels are going to be on the Parkway? Perhaps so long as the City doesn't let anything important go pear shaped they are focussed on things that directly and immediately impact their children's well being. Who really knows? TOD cannot read minds either.

Politicians love to claim they represent a larger than life group in support of their opinion or policy all too often falling back on "The Missing Majority"--those folks out there in the constituency in some form or another that just don't have the time or opportunity to participate as much as others yet have all the time in the world to share their concerns and views with any ole politician (in private and off the record of course). This is particularly true when the politician's position is not carrying the day--remember all those emails about the Parkway that could just never be found? So the approach is to marginalize those who show up, who represent, as a vocal minority. Yet some of the very same politicos hold in high reverence that distinctly smaller minority that wrote, as if writ in stone for the ages, some Master Plan that was then subject to quite the minority for review and consequently can now only be deviated from on recommendation of the staff. Perhaps size really doesn't matter. The reality is that these politicians don't give a hairy rodent's rectum if you're in the minority or not they just want you to shut up, sit in the corner and pay your taxes.

And that's exactly what you should do because they are going to do and get what they want whether you like it or not--just pretend you still live in DeKalb County--because you do.

* Only in special cases (even distributions) is the median (midpoint of the range) equal to mean (average of the numbers in the range).  As we move along we will (due to lack of raw data) assume such a distribution.
** Unfortunately the Census data are bracketed as 15 yr 0 mon to 19 yr 12 mon which covers two years worth of voters. However it does not account for those over 18 who are not eligible to vote--not citizens or voting rights suspended. In the absence of detail data we'll call it a wash but recognize the inherent inaccuracy.
*** These estimates are based on the assumption that within a Census range the distribution is even, IE the median equals the mean.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Martin Luther King Jr. Monument

It appears that the Georgia General Assembly is (finally) going to install a monument to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. on or near the Capitol grounds. A few suggestions.

First, buy Dr. King's Bible and Peace Prize Medal. Don't quibble, just pay the ransom and be done with it. These items should be put on display in a prominent, publicly accessible location in the Capitol building.

A proper monument requires more consideration. It should not include a likeness of Dr. King for a variety of reasons but primarily because his legacy is not his appearance but rather the lasting impact of his contributions. It should not include quotes, no matter how famous or obscure. Such a life cannot be distilled down into a half dozen easily chanted lines.

The monument must be simple, elegant, enduring and powerful.

The keystone of the monument is a black granite obelisk standing proud on a cylindrical base and situated at the southernmost edge of the monument grounds. The southern exposure of the base carries a simple inscription:

Martin Luther King, Jr
Born: January 15, 1929
Assassinated: April 4, 1968

To the north sweeping from east to west and centered at the obelisk's base is a semicircular expanse of granite bounded by a single ring of granite benches whose outer edges are defined by the arc swept by the shadow of the tip of the obelisk on 15th of January and whose inner edges are defined by the shadow on the 4th of April. A lawn extends beyond the benches to encompass the full arc of the obelisk's shadow on the shortest day of the year. The spaces between the benches mark off the hours as the obelisk casts it's shadow throughout the day. Water emanates from the base of the obelisk flowing across the black granite skirt forming a rippling pool that offers a reflection revealing character not visible from other vantage points. Near the top the obelisk is pierced by an aperture from south to north with the north opening fitted with a prism. The aperture and prism are designed such that a rainbow of color spreads across the water on the 28th of August and during those brief moments water roars from the obelisk forming a mist lifting the rainbow for all to see. Throughout the year the sweeping grey shadow and the outward flowing water define the spire as a starting point inspiring visitors to take from this place some small part of the peace and courage it commemorates.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Whereas Sustainability

In the upcoming discussions of proposed changes to ordinances impacting the construction of large apartment complexes there is the following "whereas":

WHEREAS, in order to create easily accessible development regulations that integrate other such regulations, the Mayor and Council wish to revise the building code provisions for increased building quality, sustainability, durability, and longevity while revitalizing the areas zoned for uses other than what is currently developed.

We will gladly leave the debates and pontifications regarding how can we legally ban apartments as effectively as we've banned "Gentleman's Clubs" to far wiser minds and focus instead on what seems to be a minor point. Why does this seem minor? Because it is.

Basically this ordinance forces construction of 4 story and higher residential structures (BTW there are some houses that might fall into that description) to be built according to the construction codes of the third little pig -- concrete and steel. Again, we'll not argue how well these gulags will hold up to aesthetic criticism in their 50+ year life but instead we'll hone in on one word: sustainability.

This probably appears in the text as part of some boilerplate text that magically appears when someone on Hutmacher's staff pushed the easy button, but this is a Smart City supposedly with Smart Citizens and we hope with a Smart Staff. We should do better.

You don't have to be Kevin McCloud to know that concrete is definitely not a green building material and while steel is recyclable it carries a pretty hefty carbon burden. Wood frame on the other hand comes from trees and as we've all been schooled by the Paradise Pavers, be it parks or parkways, trees are a renewable resource. Any waste after use is either recyclable or biodegradable.

So to even suggest that these changes are in any way aligned with sustainability isn't SMART, it is SILLY.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

'Shroom On Over

The Dunwoody Nature Center is sponsoring a Shiitake Shroom class being taught by 2 Fun Guys who operate as the Johnny Appleseeds of Shroomdom. What is interesting is how something so potentially dangerous can be so good.

BTW, if you've not watched QI you should give it a whirl.

Here in the Wold we'll not be growing anything as exotic as "Trumpet of Death".

But we could.

As it turns out these bad boys are not only good looking they're good for you. And tasty to boot. A very interesting but somewhat dated study out of Portugal shows these are high in protein, low in fat, and contain vitamins and other beneficial nutraceuticals.

Who knew?

Apparently those Iberians better known for putting the cork in your wine knew, that's who.

What this study also indicates is that wild Shrooms (at least those in their study) tend to be more nutritious than the store bought varieties. In comparing their study with those done by others in other regions there is also reason to believe that the same Shroom cultivar will have nutritional value and flavour profiles that vary according to region and cultivation techniques.

Of course there are the concerns about poisonous Shrooms but as Steven Fry observes this appears to be blown out of proportion. Most of the harmful effects are to the liver and kidney, but what the hell, Viagra does that too and that hasn't really cut into sales now has it? (FWIW, neither has the treatment for priapism which seems a bit medieval for our times--blood letting and all). There have also been some reports of rat tumors due to a steady diet of mushrooms but when air dried the Shrooms seem to have lost all carcinogenic properties. And no one is suggesting you eat a diet comprising nothing but mushrooms even though it looks like that could sustain life for quite a while.

So like many other things in our Smart City when taken in small doses the benefits of Shrooms outweigh the potential risks and there just might be something to growing your own Shrooms after all.

So sign yourself up and Shroom on over to the Nature Center and get some fungi among yee.

Monday, March 3, 2014