Thursday, October 29, 2015

Twenty Five Til Three

The vote for yet another round of cities in DeKalb comes up on Three November this year. And twenty five? Well that is the number of holes lining Dunwoody Parkway awaiting the much ballyhooed renewable resource otherwise known as "trees."

What does that have to do with the Tucker and Cliffside votes? Well, it is just another symbol of "be careful what you wish for." There is much irony and no small amount of hypocrisy in these fledgling cities.

See, we got ourselves an incredibly expensive teardown and rebuild when what we asked for was a simple re-furb. The original parkway plan called for some serious repaving and restriping but there are those in this here locally controlled city what would have none of that. It was Complete Streets and nothing else. Bear in mind these are Torpy's One Percenters who are demanding that any pavement touched be retouched with bike lanes even they won't use. As mentioned earlier, the protests over loss of mature trees was beaten down by the mention of renewability of these plants. Yet there we have it--twenty five gone missing and in need of replacement.

And where are these masters of our local control? Are they clamoring for action? Are they taking action by volunteering to plant replacement trees? That would be a no. So where are they? Well as it would happen they are over at the park, along the massive concrete highway that had to be installed where a nature trail was called for. Why there? Why now? Turns out that their concrete highway thru paradise required a bit of clear cutting and concrete can get bone sucking hot when left in the sun. What is their solution? Plant trees. So after foisting an unwanted Parkway upon us and a Highway thru the Park they turn up at the place they didn't say would need trees to plant trees when they should be planting trees in the place they said trees would be renewed.

Again, what does this have to do with Tucker and Cliffside?

Well, you are probably quite tired of the chant of "local control" and while the yahoos behind these two examples are local what motivates them is far from it. The come to City Hall with the full faith and backing of national groups that have conveniently supplied the ordinances we should (and did) adopt to complete their dream. How local is that? Want to complain? Too bad because you weren't around for the Master Plan (wherein they have appointed themselves Master) and it is a done deal. Case closed. Hard stop.

Not local. Out of control.

Then there is the myth of small government is better government. Do you live in a neighborhood with a HOA? Think that's all right mighty fine do you?

And what is your definition of better? Well it best not be transparent, ethically pure or scandal free, because just with Dunwoody and Brookhaven we have amassed some evidence to the contrary. None of Dunwoody's land deals have been very transparent nor has the escalation of two aforementioned construction projects that went open loop. Then there was the great ethical crisis resulting in the loss of a City Attorney and a member of Council wisely choosing not to run for re-election. Ethics charges. Costly investigation by independent outsiders. Sound familiar?

Brookhaven is no better, what with the commitment to zone strip clubs out of town followed by highly compensated capitulation. Exactly what was being bought and sold there? Or dare we even mention Lysol-gate?

You are going to hear about the Three P's: Police, Parks and Pavement. Well, in Tucker they've at least determined that DeKalb PD isn't bad at all and they'll focus on zoning. The reality is that an enforce on complaint policy will be instituted basically meaning that enforcement is basically nil. Even a Mayor's wife will not be able to get your city to address the non-compliant deck at her back-yard neighbor's  house.

The Pro-City folks will continue their small/local chant but you may want to ponder, just a bit, the gist of what Liane Levitan said: when you add more government you just have that many more politicians to keep track of.

Monday, October 26, 2015


In a land not too far away in time or space there is a bucolic parish where peaceful folk, salt of the earth, live a simple life much as their forefathers before them. Whether vocation or avocation, the inhabitants of the parish are renowned for the growing of a special wood. The wood used in pencils. Every citizen contributes and like wine grapes in Lausanne every patch of even barely arable land sports pencilwood.

Traditionally the good folk supplied their pencilwood to village craftsmen who often specialized in specific types of pencils establishing relationships with growers providing the pencilwood most suited to their speciality.

Some old-school penciliers kept tradition alive and many a traditional pencil is to this day created by those growing the wood itself.

Others specialized in Beginners Pencils, those well suited to novice users and children, and these pencils were noted primarily for using pencilwood not well suited for other uses.

Another speciality with a small but ardent following were Artists Pencils.

These pencils, while not in general demand often required some of the highest quality pencilwood available in Pencilvania.

A pencil requiring moderately good pencilwood were those targeting the trades, particularly construction and wood working.

Their rectangular cross-section and consistent, relatively hard pencilwood ensured easy sharpening with tools commonly at hand for those versed in the arts of woodworking and related craftsmanship.

By far the most popular pencil, especially amongst the pencilwood growing community, was the Scholar's Pencil.

Scholar Pencils required nothing less than the finest pencilwood and immense pride was associated with having your wood selected for these prized pencils. A derivative of the Scholar was the Athlete Pencil.

In some quarters these were more prized than Scholars and some growers providing pencilwood for Athletes were known to take what some considered excessive pride.

For many a generation the craft system of pencil production served the community well but over time some began to see established grower-craftsmen relationships as closed and somehow unfair. Further there was a clear disparity in quality, cost and availability fueling a growing belief that the guild system had outgrown its usefulness and in its place they suggested a centralized system. Feeling this would be more egalitarian they also touted perceived efficiencies due to shared tooling and other resources and consistent quality by cross-training amongst the craftsmen.

Ultimately this argument won the day and a single pencil production system covering all of Pencilvania was established. While a few craftsmen and growers clung to the old ways they were marginalized by the newer monopoly.

And this system worked very well. At first.

Over time factory administrators began to question the relative cost of the various types of pencils. As so many pencils of reasonably high quality were required to complete an Artists' set these were first limited in their production and ultimately eliminated.

Next to fall were the pencils designed for the trades as these required proportionally more pencilwood and lead than other pencils. While the wood required was not of the highest quality the overall quality of pencilwood produced in Pencilvania had been in decline for years.

Some attributed this decline to overproduction and certainly those areas with the greatest production often produced the lowest quality pencilwood. Others argued that the new system eliminated any pride in the production of pencilwood. Everyone's pencilwood was tossed into the same bin at the factory giving the (often real) perception that "all the wood is the same." And one could no longer hold up a finely crafted pencil and declare "this is made from my wood." Without recognition there is no pride and without pride there is no striving for the best.

Regardless of the cause the pencilwood quality went into serious decline resulting in draconian changes. Hand selected pencilwood was chosen for the Athletes Pencil and these were crafted by the most experienced and best trained craftsmen in the factory. Many times this resulted in difficulty maintaining the Scholars Pencil line so it was decided to apply the techniques and process of the Beginners Pencil to the Scholars Pencil changing only the size and cross section. This involved pulping the pencilwood in order to extrude pencils in their final shape and finishing much as before--to the extent the new process tolerated the same finish.

There were some small pockets of pencilwood growers who carried on with the pride of their forefathers and who were dismayed, even angry, at how their wood was being disrespected in the factory process. As it became obvious their pencilwood deserved a better fate they decided to take action.

They knew they could not restore the guild system of independent craftsmen so they fought to break away from the single one-Penciilvania factory to create their own, smaller factory. This factory would be located amongst the community of pencilwood growers and would re-create the original factory model using each pencilwood for its best, most appropriate pencil and restoring the full lineup of pencils including those no longer produced in Pencilvania's factory.

The administrators of the Pencilvania factory fought hard against groups wanting to split away but ultimately these groups won, establishing their own factory. They worked hard and they met their goals. Their pencilwood was put to the use best suited to each stick. They built a full range of pencils, though Tradesmen Pencils, for some reason, saw very limited production.

The community was proud and pleased until one day they realized this was the pencil the world wanted and they had neither the raw materials nor the craftsmanship to make them.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Sayonara Menorah

We hardly got to know you!

Apparently a menorah has been cleverly wielded as an ax to chop down the traditional Christmas Tree used for Light Up Dunwoody down to the Farmhouse. Most pundits had expected it to be felled by code enforcement due to violations of the light pollution codes.

Some are offended at the loss and defend the practice of the tree lighting politico photo opportunity. A common refrain is the traditional carol of "That's the way it's always been" to which opponents channeling their inner Reb Tevye belt out "Tradition!" Some hide behind the "it's not Christmas, it's Holiday." Declaring Xmas trees secular has been a part of the politically correct way of sneaking the increasingly secular buying holiday under everyone else's noses but when a tree is sticking up an angel's arse there is something unavoidably non-secular going on.

Some embrace the Christian symbolism of the pagan-derived Xmas tree suggesting it need only be planted across the street at the Vet Office. Though this seems somehow related to the "dog spelled backwards is..." childism some have begun to ponder just what "mad dog" is backwards. Would seem like a non-starter for the non-secular, but then again maybe not*.

Thank God, whoever she might be, that no one has yet to declare it a Chanukah bush because then it would have to actually talk when lit and adding noise pollution to the mix is more than a body can stand.  Plus, it would probably speak in Aramaic, Latin or some other dead language and then who would even know what it's really saying?

Others have decided, in response to what was probably a tongue-in-cheek quizzical about Kwanza, that we should expand lighting to embrace all the diversity that is Dunwoody. The snarky comeback would be "that is EXACTLY what the Xmas tree did," but whilst we've not seen the first minaret in daVille challenging a cross-topped steeple begging God for a lightning blessing there are indeed other religions and cultures herein represented.

So yeah we've got Indians, dot not feather, so let's light up for Diwali, an ancient Hindu festival. But please let's draw the line at lights as putting up a swastika, another Hindu symbol, is likely to generate more animated opposition than any tree. And not all Indians are Hindu as Islam is well represented. Should we add in a celebration of Mawlid? Since that celebration is not  well accepted in all corners of Islam itself perhaps we're better off adding a few Toyota pickups to the Fourth of July Parade.  It would balance out the Bearcat and the parade could end with a rousing gymkhana.

Then there is the Tazaungdaing Festival of Lights evoking a pleasant mix of Buddhism and Hinduism, a cross-religion collaboration we should certainly admire. Along the lines of embracing multiple religions is Shintoism but sadly they lack much in the way of high-power-consumption celebrations fitting the time frame. Then there are the Hmong and while you may not consider animism a real religion, they do and they are blessed with Professional Shamans. We could probably use one of those about now. Plus, they were known for their wet-work during the Vietnam Police Action and could certainly find something to light up.

Or how about this: why not have all the people at the City and the NGO's that got all wrapped around  this axle spend the holiday season celebrating their religious beliefs with their family and spend all that extra energy on meaningful ways to help those less fortunate in our neighborhoods, our city and our region? Jesus!--why all the tsuris?

* It appears the DHA does its best work behind closed doors eliminating yet another mystery as to why DHA is a stepping stone to elected office.

Monday, October 19, 2015

How Is Your Carbon Footprint?

It's your nasty ole carbon footprint that causes Climate Change by creating what they call Greenhouse Gases. You're killing polar bears. Cute. Cuddly. Polar bears.

You may not know it but a lot of folks spend real emotional energy fretting about their carbon footprint. It should be noted that most do not self-identify as Republicans. To be fair the issue has been amped up by those that have made a business of it (if one considers NGOs and other not-for-profits as the businesses they really are). So we have the LEED bingo system complete with heavy metal certifications. We have Birkenstock babes pedaling around town and when they have to drive they're puttin' the pedal to the metal in a Leaf or the now-not-so-trendy Prius. They drift off to sleep with visions of solar panels and windmills dancing in their heads.

Lots of room there. Not a whole lot of intellect has been wasted on this Climate Change, formerly known as the Global Warming thingy. The problem with the carbon footprint approach is that it focuses on the wrong cause, notably carbon dioxide and the processes that produce it. Like filthy coal-fired power plants, cars and trucks just belchin' tons of the stuff and even Big-Ole-Jet-Airliners. We're practically drowning in See-Oh-Two.

Turns out there is more than one greenhouse gas and carbon dioxide is far from the worst offender. That title goes to methane. That's the stuff that DeKalb County is capturing from landfills and using to power vehicles. And methane does more damage to our climate than greenhouse gases from all forms of transportation combined.

The aforementioned NGO/NonProfits all profit from growth by which they mean revenue growth--donations. Now what if organizations representing the industry emitting enormous amounts of methane donated money to Green Peace, the Sierra Club and other loud mouth organizations pretending to act in the public's interest? What would you think? Well, given we don't hear a peep out of these groups regarding this imminent danger most folks would call it hush money.

Who is this powerful, shadowing group? Is it the Koch brothers? Surely the NRA has something to do with it. Sadly, no, as these groups are much easier to deal with. The real culprit is Big Farmer. You know, those mythical, hardworking underpaid folks that feed the planet, all the while conjuring images of American Gothic.  And they are powerful enough to own Washington, own the media and own these NonProfits. Their larcenous farm subsidies serve as enduring tribute to that power. And after the Patriot Act were Oprah to say what she said on her show she would probably face criminal charges. They are that powerful.  And oh, soooo patriotic.

Methane, and a lot of it that is released into our environment, is what comes out of the front end of ruminants, particularly cattle. It's What's For Dinner is not only a major cause of Climate Change, it is growing. It is also incredibly inefficient at converting vegetable nutrients to Large Dead Quadruped, it consumes enormous amounts of water and leaves a very healthy share of polluted water and land. Industrial "farming" of animal protein is a very wasteful business unless you're just counting your government subsidized profits.

But we just cannot get enough. Federal land is not only grazed at 18th century prices, the BLM is sending out choppers with snipers to take out indigenous predators. You really are killing cute native wolves. While timber is taken during deforestation in Brazil, trees (which we in daVille know are renewable resources) are not replanted, instead the land is turned over to cattle operations for grazing. Some might disagree over which is product and which is byproduct but at least one NonProfit representative had the courage to acknowledge that animal agriculture was the primary driver of deforestation but also noted that many remain silent because no one wants to be the next Dorothy Stang who is widely believed to have been assassinated because of her fight against deforestation and its causes.

There are some things that can be done though probably not by our current crop of bought and paid for politicians. We could force the animal agriculture industry to internalize all costs--the public needs to know what they're really paying. No more free or near free grazing. No subsidized grain making its way into feedstock. Use the water, return the water. As clean water. And when lagoons of animal waste are created it must be treated.

Pay the price, charge the price.

Then the slogan will be: Beef! It's a sometimes food! and we will have made a larger impact on Climate Change than any carbon tax ever will. 

Thursday, October 15, 2015

And The Answer Is...

NO! [Update: the sign was absent by Wednesday but the remainder of the diatribe still applies...]
It's Baaaack!

Zoning Doesn't Matter.

This is truly ponderific.

Are Zoning classifications and ordinances inherently unenforceable? Are they in fact designed to apply only to new construction thereby hewing true to the Founding Fathers' intent to ban NEW apartments? Do they further only apply to the Perimeter district? Or perhaps they also apply in the neighborhoods of the Mayor and those on Council. For the rest, not so much?

At the risk of suggesting Honesty Is The Best Policy, perhaps Council should update Zoning Ordinances to reflect the reality they have created and now maintain in daVille. Some McMansions come equipped with a quite nice in-law apartment in the basement--why can't they rent that out? What if you're not blessed with a six thousand square foot Bill Grant mini-estate? Well, why not "Rooms For Let?" A regular boarding house, reminiscent of The Greatest Generation. How quaint, just like the village Farmhouse.

Our Lords and Ladies of City Hall should give serious consideration to a comprehensive examination of our Codes and Ordinances and strike all that they cannot or will not enforce. To do anything less breeds [even greater] contempt for whatever shreds of authority and respect City Hall has been left with. Ditch the single family zoning designation--clearly not working--and to be honest, what else can a debt-ridden, underemployed, well-degreed millennial afford except a basement walkout? And Dunwoody is all about attracting millennials except when they're lip flapping about what great place this is to grow old and die. Then there is the home-based business. Residential Only should be hot on the heels of Single Family on the way out the door. Agriculture? Why not? Poultry...apiaries...vermiculture... Bring. It. On.

And these changes are possible. We do have an election and there are some contested races. This Zoning Thingy was a big deal when folks were pushing hard for a new city. Some of there very same folks now hold elected city office and what have they really done? Perhaps, where possible, it is time for an upgrade. 

Monday, October 12, 2015

Guest Post: My Deer Friends

There They Are!
And There...
...A Whole Herd!
And Then There Were Two.

Dog With A Phone

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Neat Freak

Would someone PLEASE take out the garbage?

Hard to imagine why anyone would oppose MARTA in their neighbor hood. They make such good neighbors, don't they?

Monday, October 5, 2015

Does Zoning Really Matter?

First, you have to give the bloke props for persistence. And he does have some respect, at least for his own property--"no pets."

Respect for zoning seems to be a distant and elusive concept.

But is it really [all] their fault?

Maybe not. Ordinances in daVille are "enforce on complaint" which does little to foster a culture of respect for the rules of the burg. But there is more. This is the same property that parked a barn right up against the back property line well within the setback buffer just outside a neighbor's garage. *

The City's response?

After-the-fact approval of the zoning violation.

Is operating multi-family rentals just a continuation of the same thinking? Are there connections in play? Is this yet another business the Mayor gladly welcomes to daVille? Or is it just one of the many commitments that were made to justify the founding of this City that remains unmet and ignored? Or is this what you get when your approach to code enforcement is "grease only the squeakiest wheel?"

When we teach people that rules are hardly even a suggestion we should not be surprised when they conclude that the only rule is there are no rules.

* To be fair, the owner does have the right to put an accessory building on the property and the non-compliant location made the barn least visible from the adjacent homeowner's deck. 

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Parks And Recreation

It would appear that someone at Smart City Hall has decided to take on daVille's version of a wooden stonehenge by axing the deadwood lining our not so green Village Parkway.

Sort of.

As a tribute to our former City Manager, whatshisname, one lone dead finger remains pointing to the heavens. It shall stand as a reminder to how Dumb We Were and how Smart We Have Become.