Thursday, January 28, 2016

If You Scare Someone...

...are you a terrorist?

Probably not, but in the hyperventilating world we live in the rhetoric often heads down that path. This issue rears its ugly head, again, because some bloke went to DaVille's Panera whilst open carrying which as anyone, including that bloke, would know is going to cause other folks some indigestion. As it did.

We'll not go down the rat hole of constitutional rights vs colloquial "rights" but look instead at Panera. And guns.

As it would happen, Panera is no stranger to carry/no-carry controversy. In September of 2014 they issued a "request" that customers not engage in Take A Firearm To Lunch events at their establishments referencing a corporate ambition of creating "Panera Warmth." Apparently happiness is a warm bun, not a warm gun. At least not in the hands of a licensed gun owner. The backlash was strong and swift with over 27,000 responding to a CNBC online poll and 83% taking a negative view of Panera's stance.

To this day Second Amendment fans include Panera on lists of anti-gun companies they would prefer you not visit. Seems like the bloke who came to Dunwoody looking for soup in a bread bowl missed the email.

Monday, January 25, 2016

Honey Do

You can make them put the front door out back and the back door out front.

You can make them buy a bench and tell them what it has to look like.

You can make them install a trash can and tell them who they have to buy it from.

But you just cannot get them to take out the trash.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

New Media...

...old tools.

TOD has been bitching and moaning about the sad state of Dunwoody's IT infrastructure and service in general but particularly the video broadcast of Council (and other) meetings. Apparently we are not alone. That particular call to action would address the accessibility (in the broader sense) of the City supplied "transparency technology."

Replacing/supplanting the crap used by the City would address the fact that the City knowingly and at our expense denies many residents equal access to an important City service, but at the same time would encourage their bad behaviour by providing a viable alternative. The pressure to get this City to upgrade (e.g., Granicus as used by Athens-Clarke County--there are others, almost all are better than what we have) should not be lifted. Not the least little bit. After all it is OUR money and the City should not be pissing it away on the current POS.

On the other hand, should the City actually get its act together (and a Ramblin Wreck gives us hope) it would in no way mitigate the need or value of a citizen call to arms. Certainly a forum, unmoderated or moderated by someone unaffiliated with the City and its politics, would support free discourse. A non-government community can also establish verified identities creating a community of citizens and apply rules (posting, commenting, etc.) while other voices are more diligently moderated but not muted. Unless called for.

Getting this City to perform will be slow and difficult. Remember these are the IT wizards who brought us the CAD-to-CAD debacle. Even were that not the case these new digital vigilantes are to be applauded.

Monday, January 18, 2016

Smart Poles

No, this is not some Politically Incorrect joke about folks who need to buy a vowel for their last name. This really is about smart poles. You know, every Smart City should have smart poles.

What makes the poles so smart? It isn't just that they can auto dim the lights or that they have a smart power meter in there some where. They are also wrapped up in that whole Internet of Things (IoT) thingy. And if there is anything nearly as trendy as Millennials it's gotta be IoT and other Smart Shit.

These smart poles really knock it out of the park. They really do have smart power meters and these have the capability tracking power for your, the government's, use which is billed at very low rate that you extort out of the power company, but it also tracks usage for private service use. Would not want a private company getting the government rate now would we? If you're paying attention you just realized you can lease this prime real estate (the pole) to private companies. ChaChing.

Then you should imagine what other things go with poles. This is because someone else already thought of it but you should really work on flexing that flaccid noodle anyway. One pole thing would be femto cells for cellular voice/data. That would be in the bulge at the top of the pole. Then there would be the more obvious WiFi. Then there are other sensors: weather, vehicle traffic, etc. You can even tell how many cell phones pass by a WiFi access point even if no connection is established. In fact, you can track location, direction and rate of travel. You might even tie that into traffic light and crosswalk timing. In some cities that is call "Public Service."

So these are not just smart poles, they're really smart infrastructure. And when you are tracking the wily Millennial you need some smarts.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Lucks Not Locks

The Donald seems to be confusing and confounding some pretty important folks. In particular the pundits and pontificators in NY and DC. They cannot understand why Trump did not go up and flair out like a political roman candle. But what they find really baffling is that so many folks, largely but not only, in the fly-over states aren't paying attention.

At least not to them.

They could get a clue if they'd just pay a little attention to themselves. No. Really. This came to light during a recent Sunday dose of condescension being doled out on the talking head shows. The target, as has been the case for longer than they thought possible, was The Donald, specifically a rally in Biloxi, MS.

Which they pronounced "Beh-LOCKS-see" which anyone who knows much of anything round these parts knows is actually "Buh-LUCKS-see." If approached on this the pundits' reaction would be "so what--a rose and a name and really, that's not the point."

But it IS the point. If you are actually going to get your message across you need to speak the language your audience understands. You have to be relatable. You don't come in as a carpetbagger with utter disregard and then try to convince folks how confused and just plain wrong they are. That won't play in Peoria.

How would they react to someone who goes to upstate NY and pronounces "Newark" like they do in NJ or DE (they are all pronounced differently) or goes to the NY state capital and pronounces Albany like you would in SW Georgia? Or head west out of Detroit and pronounce Novi know-vee?  Would these haughty pundits really take direction from someone who seems so clueless about where they are? Yet they'll tell you it doesn't really matter how you pronounce Biloxi or whether or not folks living there like the way they say it.

And maybe that is true, but if you're going to lecture folks in what you consider the hinterlands you'll get more traction if you actually learn how to pronounce their home town. When you don't about all you really convey is your arrogant disregard for anyone in any place but  your own. 

Monday, January 11, 2016

Dunwoody Merges With Brookhaven

Details are just emerging but the AJC put the public on notice that a merger between Dunwoody and Brookhaven is in the works.

A non-profit has been established to promote and advance the merger with pre-merger Task Forces already established. Insiders indicated one of the most contentious is the Naming Task Force, where proposals have ranged from Dunhaven to Brookwood[y] to Pavedpark City to Cycle City to Teaborough and even City of Rightwing. The latter has been rejected as being too obvious.

As expected the City Charter Task Force is in turmoil. Some have suggested the merged city be headed by a mayor and a vice-mayor as hands-on CEO and COO respectively. Thankfully the suggestion that the charter require the mayor to be named "Davis" was promptly batted down. There has been no mention of a role modeled after a corporate CFO as this is government so cost containment isn't an issue and taxes are easily and routinely added and increased. Some have voiced concern about the number of Council members with the current plan being to add additional members. To ensure "proper" minority representation the districts will remain aligned north-south but this combined with the increase in Council is making for some very skinny districts. A proposed alternative is to increase the number of at-large Council members but there is some concern about attracting the attention of the Feds.

The Operations Task Force has proposed a restructured police force emphasizing enforcement, eliminating some desk jockeys and downplaying the revenue-by-fine model.  No one really expects this to make it into the charter let alone into practice.

Of course these are all unconfirmable reports as the non-profit is private and none of their activities are subject to open records requests.

We won't have to wait long for the dust to settle and details to emerge, but one thing everyone is excited about is that Dunwoody will finally be rid of purloined "Smart City" moniker.

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Corporate Welfare

Corporate welfare comes in a few varieties and though hard to believe we have some elected officials promoting a distinction between good and bad corporate welfare. It should come as no surprise that good corporate welfare is the one that concentrates power and influence with the party advocating one over the other.

So what are they?

Well, first we have Development Authorities, which (primarily for PR purposes) may provide infrastructure improvements, but for the most part provide ad valorem tax incentives (AKA abatements). These are generally funded by Authority issued bonds which is key to most criticisms--Authorities members are appointed (by elected politicians, but ignore that for now) and the indebtedness is not subject to direct or indirect public approval.

Then we have so called Improvement Districts, usually business areas that self-tax and use the funds in the district for district benefit. Sounds like the ultimate in local control and responsibility. Until you factor in government, largely federal grants. One local ID bragged that for every dollar collected locally they received nineteen dollars in federal matching funds. It is noteworthy that the federal government operates at a deficit--what a business would call a loss, or perhaps, indebtedness. Again, taxpayer debt.

Finally we have Tax Allocation Districts or TADs. Proponents of TADs (IE, those in control of the money) tout the fact that taxpayers in the TAD continue to pay taxes, but quietly gloss over the fact that these taxes are diverted, under their control, to the narrow benefits, as they see them, of the designated district. Outside the district, taxpayers are screwed (see APS and the Beltline TAD) but the politicians involved maintain power thru control of the TAD expenditures.

So. Is one better than the other? Perhaps. If you like being a shaker and mover, aren't interested in getting yourself elected but don't mind sucking up to those who do then you can wield the power of Other Peoples' Money on a Development Authority. If you're a business [owner] that wouldn't mind spending a dollar to get your hands on ten to twenty dollars of OPM to spend on your wants, then the Improvement District is for you. If you're a politician who believes it is your gawd-given right to make sure every penny spent in your area get's the blessed touch of your healing hands then you'll be a big fan of TADs.

But if you're just a taxpayer, or worse yet one who believes in small government, then there is a special word for you. Screwed.

Monday, January 4, 2016

The One That Got Away

Many families in the area serve up the Feast of the Seven Fishes on Christmas Eve. Apparently one had to settle for six.

The One That Go Away
Or maybe the frog strangler storms that week floated the poor bloke from natural habitat to Dunwoody gutter.

Worse For The Wear