Monday, January 5, 2015

Welcome Aboard

This is a shout-out to Eric Linton, Dunwoody's first properly selected City Manager.

Welcome aboard. You bring with you the gift of much hope.

As a graduate of Georgia Tech we know you have a track record of hard work and success in an environment where you were surrounded by people asking, and answering two questions: what problem are you trying to solve? and what assumptions are you making? Your arrival heralds a new phase in the maturation of Dunwoody.

You also grew up in the area giving you the advantage of familiarity and a deep understanding of the sense of place in the northern burbs. You are also probably familiar with the transformations occurring over the recent decades.

Your experience, your education and your background all bode well.

We offer you a city just exiting infancy. As you are probably aware the process of transforming a  bedroom 'burb into a legal entity was fast-tracked and we hired in leisure paying quite a price for haste over the few years of our existence. As one would expect when frat boys and sorority girls graduate from a home owners association with only a passing familiarity with Roberts' Rules of Order into government positions governed by Rule of Law we have had our first ethics kerfuffle. But we make lemonade round these parts. We benefited from the opportunity to upgrade the City Attorney position as the individual in that position was in the kill radius of the ethics explosion.

Some say your predecessor was brought down by incompetence epitomized by the never ending CAD to CAD project. Some hold an even harsher opinion. Others contend he moved to greener pastures and given the only metric he seemed concerned with was budget expansion (whether overall budget or scope explosion of individual projects) that is quite plausible. In any event your arrival is the upgrade to the second pole holding up the tent over this three ring circus.

The third pole is the Dunwoody Police Department and that has been a train wreck. As you might expect it is political suicide for elected officials to criticize the local gendarmes and some of the current elected officials held quite the sycophantic view of the DeKalb force but now cast a similar gaze on the Dunwoody Police. Don't expect hard facts, informed opinions or objective views from the Lords and Lady of City Council. But you already know that.

You may also know some of the Police bunglings as several hit regional and national news. Of course there is the Scheiderman murder, handled so poorly that some pundits say Andrea should send the Chief flowers on his birthday in gratitude for her freedom. Though we are a young City we also have an unsolved double murder and despite the recent arrest of relatives on unrelated charges the murder case appears to be stone cold. The failed response to a 911 call where it was just too cold to hike up that long drive to check out reports of a fire which later caused a fatality. Or SWAT-ing on an attempted arrest but forgetting to cover the back allowing the alleged criminal to escape, never to be found. But they looked simply marvelous in their military regalia with their AR-15s.

As one would expect from the previous administration's love of money our PD has never seen a grant it could pass up. Military equipment? Because it is "free." An anti-terrorism junket to Israel that has shown no measurable impact on terroristic activity in Dunwoody. But, it was paid on someone else's dime. And then the rather opaque and unseemly association with FARA resulting in ordinances that could easily be dismissed as just another revenue stream but which also remove officers from the community undermining any platitudes about "Community Policing."

Then there is the inevitable budget bloat, most recently the addition of executive positions funded by our 2015 tax increase. If patrol officers are spread too thin to respond to what may (or may not) be a false burglar alarm would it not make more sense to beef up the patrol force rather than add more (and more expensive) high ranking officers? It would to any sane person and we suspect you fall into that category.

We also suffer from severe operational/training issues including over aggressive enforcement of DWB even to the point of calling in an indicate-on-cue drug dog when a member of We, The People exerted his Fourth Amendment rights. Or police shooting at and in one case killing citizens. Allegedly a GBI investigation took place, but it is indistinguishable from "close ranks and bury the story" and searching the official City website for "officer involved shooting" results in hits that take you to "404 - Not Found." But for the grace of God,  Dunwoody would have been Furgeson. We may be yet.

The challenges you face are enormous but if anyone is up to the task it would be a Ramblin' Wreck.