Thursday, August 27, 2015

ACT Hypocrisy

Recent ACT results indicate that Georgia has clawed its way all the way up to mediocrity.

Pop the champagne.

The AJC moderates their inebriation by saying that "Georgia can finally take comfort," as apparently they feel mediocrity is a good place to be and from a relative perspective they may be right. State School's Superintendent Richard Woods all but wets himself with excitement saying "These results are a testament to the hard work of our teachers."

Hold yer horses there Dickie. What happened to the mantra of the dark days when all we, the public, heard was how teachers are not responsible for [poor] performance, that there are circumstances beyond their control like poverty and missing or inattentive parents? We were to understand that educators only have these students for a few hours a day and could in no way be expected to overcome these other, more influential elements. Will we only hear that when declining scores must be announced?

Here's the problem with government bureaucrats and politicians, no matter whether it is the VA or public education: the minute there is the slightest improvement, even one that is statistically insignificant, they are grabbing the credit, but upon the merest suggestion of decline they obfuscate and deflect any of the responsibility.

Is it any wonder the public neither trusts nor respects these government agencies and their agents?

Monday, August 24, 2015

Good Renters Are Hard To Find

You would think that an advert right on Chamblee Dunwoody Road would bring in a lot of renters so you'd not see this sign often or for long.

You might also think it would attract the attention of someone at City Hall, perhaps someone in code enforcement. You would be wrong. Since this is not the first time this basement rental has appeared on the market there must be some special part of our zoning or a special dispensation from Smart City Hall.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Franchise Fees: With Interest

Probably the most enduring post on TOD is Franchise Fees 101 and it is generally assumed this is due to folks trying to figure out how much the plunge into the deep end of the citihood pool is going to cost. It must be noted that other diatribes on these taxes (What Do Franchise Fees Buy? and Franchise Fees: What Are They Good For?) see little or no traffic.

Perhaps when the reader figures out that it is just another tax from just another taxing authority they give up. They may not even go so far as to learn that even the cable companies are now on a statewide franchise whilst the local yokels keep dragging in the money. So you pay and you pay and you cannot even go down to City Hall to raise a stink over that cable that has been lying across your yard for the last four months. Not their problem, take it up with the State. Oh, and good luck with that.

Or maybe they just total up the cost of Franchise Fees and shrug "this is chump change." It is. In comparison to the other costs (think of FARA writing Home Alarm Registration city ordinances) foisted on you by your newly minted and inexperienced (incompetent?) City Council that would indeed be the case. The fact of the matter is that Franchise Fees are the least of your worries if you're being driven like cattle into the slaughterhouse of Citihood.

Do not let Franchise Fees distract from more dangerous problems. A quick survey can be found in Shout Out To Frederick County, MD. It is incomplete but it is a good start.

You might also look to the track record of nearby upstart Cities, particularly Dunwoody and Brookhaven if you're forming your new circle of governmental hell in DeKalb County. Dunwoody has recently employed the sneaky back-door tax increase by keeping the same millage rate but refusing to craft a revenue neutral (lower millage) tax. This allows politicians to say "we did not raise the tax rate." Legal but deceptive and exactly what they've complained about for decades when the county does it. Then there's Brookhaven. Riding in on their moralistic white horse to joust with the strip clubs only to come out of the engagement muddy and bloody but with saddlebags overflowing with lucre. We'll not go into how quickly Lysol can stain a reputation.

We'll blast past it. 

The real canary in these mine shafts is the City Attorney. If not directly involved in founding these cities they are at least well connected to the powers behind them. And that both Dunwoody's and Brookhaven's CAs have gone down in flames leaving a dark trail of ethical smoke should give anyone even pondering a vote FOR another city like these (and they're all like these) considerable pause. Who are these people? Consigliere? And who the hell are they beholden to, our local version of a political Mafia?

Now you're catching on.

These cities are based on a particularly nasty foundation of greed and a lust for power because to a large degree this is a zero sum game. In their scratching and clawing to get "their share" they will set aside the truth in favour of convincing prevarications, what little integrity they  have will disappear and any transparency will be thru their distorting prism.

Though the citihood outcome is unavoidable there is a way out. Push for an amendment to allow these cities to form their own schools. Now these schools won't be any better (probably worse) but there are enough lemmings out there who will race to the cliff of "local control" that your home value will see a significant bump. Remember the end of busing (aka M to M)? Same thing, only more so. Once the bump kicks in and before the fools realize City Schools are same song second stanza, you cash out. Just get the hell out of Crazy Towne.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Guest Post: Shelling Out

Whilst ambling about sniffing and snorting through this:

I, along with my dope on a rope, came across this:

Hard to see isn't it? Here's a closer look:

This series of guest posts provided by:

Dog With A Phone

Thursday, August 13, 2015

No Harm No Foul

How did District 80 end up electing a Democrat? Is this assumed-to-be arch conservative district lilting to the left? Will Brookhaven become the next Decatur instead of just another Sandy Springs wannabe? Will this progressive cancer spread northward into Dunwoody?

Oh, the Humanity!

Or was it really the Lysol Controversy? If so was it the act itself or the cover up? One might suspect the latter as it cost the City Attorney his job after what some claim were clear ethical and legal violations. However original City Attorneys have not faired well in North DeKalb's upstart Cities with Dunwoody's and Brookhaven's both embracing ill-advised actions leading to ethics charges and eventual resignation. Perhaps it really was the former.

Or maybe it takes only a few minutes for the good voters of District 80 to appreciate the symbolism after which they were really sure they preferred the alternative.

Monday, August 10, 2015

Back Where We Started

To be sure the drum beat the loudest in Dunwoody's march to citihood was "taxation without representation" countered with the promise that a city would ensure "local control." Perhaps so, but "rotten to the core" notwithstanding our Smart City That Should is beginning to look more and more like the County from which it fled.

The drafting of a comprehensive plan shows a widening gap between Staff and City denizens including some on Council. Not only that but whilst the draft is [allegedly] on the City website it is apparently like finding the pea under the walnut shell. Not so easy--sound familiar? Then when you do get the document what it contains has stirred a bit of a fuss.

Some feel they were sold Mayberry (they were) and they're getting Buckhead (they are). Some fear it caters to business growth with high density high rise development in areas outside of Perimeter Center and are not thrilled about five floors of office workers watching their kids swim in the backyard pool. Clearly the authors of the plan consider this a win-win. They get more tax revenue and you get free baby sitters.

Some are voicing their concerns in social media and town hall style meetings. Others are contacting their Council representatives. To the degree allowed by the genteel politeness of the South moving the City back towards the founding principle of creating a small southern town underpins the political campaigns of newcomers seeking open office or engaging in contested races.

These elections are the most important in this city's history and will likely decide whether Dunwoody is a complete sell-out to business and political greed or returns to its original mission.

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Millennials And Olde Farts

If you've been perusing the few active Dunwoody blogs you don't really have much of a life but you've probably noticed a couple of posts that appear to be about demographics but whose real stories are about development. Superficially one is about Millennials whilst the other is about Olde Farts. In the main both are used as a smokescreen to justify developers' high density housing ambitions. Whether it is  Papier-mâché apartments built like a wasp's nest or Bill Grant's clutter home McMansions, brownfield is about the only remaining model in Dunwoody and that is inherently going to increase the number of bedrooms per square foot.

The Millennial post is anti-apartment suggesting that agenda-driven characterizations of Millennials' behaviours, wants and needs are actually off-target. Even mass media reports are backing away from the propaganda of "No cars, No homes, No suburbs" since more recent studies have noted that Millennials' actually want these things perhaps even more than previous generations but simply cannot afford them. They are not living the "good life of Friends" because it's really cool but because they have student loans to pay.

And they don't just want a home in the 'burbs to start a family and raise the kids, they want a home at least as good as their parents' home. A Dunwoody Four-by-Four is what they consider a minimal, but acceptable starter home. Who knew?

In contrast the notions around "Senior Friendly" are equally off the mark but are being used as as a stick to beat down the number of town homes in the Parkway proposal. Aging in place is also quite the social-engineering buzzword amongst our political elite in spite of the unchallenged assumption that this is the place where anyone would really want to age. In common usage AiP means modifications to your existing home including wider doors, no stairs (or stair lift chairs), elimination of trip points, safety bars and accessible facilities. Senior Friendly, even for active seniors, often means one-level living, be it a high rise in Sandy Springs or a ranch in an active retirement community on Lake Lanier and most importantly it means "smaller than where we raised our family." Who really wants to heat, cool and clean unused bedrooms, baths and velvet rope living rooms? What this demographic most often looks for is an 1800 square foot two bedroom with an "open concept", not 3800 square foot three level with a man cave.

But that's not the direction our social engineers are pushing the Parkway developer. Under the banner of "Senior Friendly" the politicians' proposal is a "Master On Main." This does absolutely nothing to address the issues around "car parked in the basement" with the most obvious problem being shlepping yourself and your groceries up those stairs. It also ignores the fact that every month or so someone has to hobble up the stairs to scare the spiders out of the unused bedrooms and flush the toilets. What would address the stair-problem would be residential elevators and/or dumbwaiters, but these do little to restrict density. On the other hand, to avoid turning the living room of a reasonably sized town home into the Master On Main the footprint and overall size balloons approaching 4000 square foot. Unlike lifts this does nothing for Senior residents but guarantees a density reduction, apparently close to twenty percent.

Low density is the real agenda linking these two, one dispelling the convenient untruths about Millennials and the other promoting mischaracterizations of Olde Farts.  So the notion that Dunwoody should do anything other than discourage high density rental development based on the Myths of Millennials has quite a bit of merit and no small amount of intellectual integrity. On the other hand some relatively affordable town homes an easy, no crossing walk away from one of Dunwoody's better elementary schools might be very appealing to fit, young and able Millennials ready to revert to the mean of 2.4 kids. For Olde Farts, not so much. Perhaps we should encourage high density, high rise resident-owned condo developments well placed and well suited to Olde Farts and let the town home developers address the needs of next generation residents with next generation housing in a next generation location. 

Monday, August 3, 2015

There's A Grant For That

TOD has ranted often about grant-grubbing down at City Hall. When your new City is touted as "saving us all from DeKalb" these grants are the thirty pieces of silver politicians need to sell us down the mythological river of Local Control. It is the kind of sleazy politics as usual that puts an interstate lane thru a park and removes two lanes from a parkway.

If you've listened to all the hubbub around the Bicycle Lanes Matter movement, you might think that Dunwoody is some kind of bicycle nirvana but just like those poor misinformed souls who moved here for the parks and baseball diamonds you would be wrong. We aren't. And by and large what we do have are weekend Lance-alots who often drive here to then ride around here. That's right. They drive here to put their toes in their straps and their noses in the air. So keep in mind, this isn't about neighborhood kids flocking to school on their Schwinn coasters or the local Birkenstock Babe wheeling over to the now-defunct Green Market to score some Beets and Sweets.

As you've probably guessed the fuel behind this movement is grant money. Turns out there is quite a bit of Federal grant money available for this brand of social engineering. Your Local Control fanatics don't need to be in favour of bicycles, they just need to be in favour of taking these federal dollars and essentially stealing from our children and grandchildren who at some point will probably be picking up the tab. And there is no end of help to do just that.

Bike Walk Alliance and Advocacy Advance offer how-to guides on soaking the Feds for these pet projects. Others focus on how to tap the Feds for ongoing maintenance as this is a common complaint from Common Sense Citizens: "Fine, the Feds pay to put it in, but WE pay to maintain these white elephants." Still others provide talking points. There are even some organizations providing boiler plate ordinances and legislation so that your little piece of heaven can look and operate just like they want.

As a spoon full of sugar there are the ubiquitous Bronze, Silver, Gold, Platinum and Diamond certifications to be had as your locally controlled community aligns with their not so local demands. This is where Dunwoody ran into a hurdle. Seems one of the Bicycle Lanes Matter evangelists suggested that to climb this bejeweled stairway to their heaven a Smart City would need to hire a Bicycle Czar. This was viewed by some as unneeded staff expansion and scope creep. Though unmentioned it would also have a negative impact on grant grubbing efforts as money spent on payroll is unavailable for seeding grants. Deciding which contractors get access to City dispensed grant money is a key component of political power in our fledgling little cities. We are not at a stage to suffer erosion of that power so it seems the spandex crowd may have bent a rim on a storm grate that they themselves installed incorrectly.