Monday, August 29, 2016

Goldilocks : Choosing Mediocrity

Advocates of the status quo who believe that they have arrived at just right compromise yielding the best benefits to themselves are girding for battle. The battleground? Schools of course.

This time the battle centers around a referendum, which if passed, allows the State of Georgia to intercede at the "local" school level on behalf of ill-served students. Lots of issues here.

We have one of the leaders of Georgia's Teacher non-unions, Verdallia Turner, blasting Superintendent Green who has (wrongly in her view) chosen to avoid takeover by doing a better job:
"Superintendent Green came from Kansas. He is going to leave DeKalb County. We are here to stay."
She much prefers Superintendent Lanoue of the Clarke County School system, not because his failed attempt to leave was aborted by his system's botched handling of a rape situation but rather because he prefers to ask voters to reject the referendum outright thereby preserving the status quo. Apparently Ms. Turner and Superintendent Lanoue like how the system is working...for them anyway. Lanoue seems to prefer a greater cultural or social agenda:
"We need to help you build your community around your school and we can do that outside the Opportunity School District."
Notice that it appears to be your school, your community yet they are required to build anything. Also does not really sound like the "we" being referred to are particularly invested in "your" community. If your community needed help you might even find it condescending.

Then there is the warning (not really a threat) of what happens if you don't do as Ms. Turner and Superintendent Laoue insist is really in your best interest:
"But if you vote this in, what you've said is that you're giving the responsibility to educate your children to someone else." 
Like he and she are NOT someone else? Really? Isn't that the very essence of why we put our kids' education in their hands in the first place? That, in fact they ARE someone else and we, the poor uneducated masses are ill-equipped to educate our own children? Or is she the "Goldilocks" choice? Just right--in her estimation.

The next dodge in justifying tenure-holding "professionals" strangle-hold on a never diminishing stream of funding is the "local control" unicorn. Turner claims:
"People do not understand this will take away our local control. If you don't like your board of education, vote them out."
So all of a sudden she's one of us? Unbelievable. Really. Unbelievable.

Then there is that whole BoE/VoteThemOut line of crap. Anyone who paid any attention at all to DeKalb Schools over the last decade knows what a steaming pile of BS that is. Do the incompetents get voted out? Really? Then why did the Governor have to act and kick them out? And...don't we elect the Governor? How about State Representatives and Senators? They're still elected aren't they? Can't we vote THEM out?

Oh, but the folks that will decide on take-overs are appointed-hired guns. So? Aren't superintendents, ones Ms. Turner likes as well as those she doesn't, also hired guns? Haven't we been schooled by SACS that superintendents rule and no meddling by our elected officials will be tolerated? Do we elect the folks running SACS? Hell, do we even know who they are, what they're qualified to do and how they got the job?

So the next time you're sitting at the kitchen table going over your child's homework, know this: if you truly want control of your child's education you have only one option. Homeschool.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Playing The Price Is Right

What is a property worth? How about your house? Is it worth what you paid? More? Less? Suppose you found someone who'd pay three times what you paid only two years ago, would you sell? Would you feel the least little bit bad about taking advantage of a fool?

Probably not. Not if you have "Dunwoody Values." Especially when those values mean you overpay for an asset and then in an effort to appear thrifty you deliberately under-deliver on commitments to tenants in order to drive them out without promised compensation.

But what is this bad boy we want to call City Hall really worth? Hard to tell, but there is always the sales history.

While it is hard to use this track record to justify the money that Staff, Council and Mayor are getting all wet over spending, the "over-pay" assertion is based on a notion of "arms length purchase" that doesn't exist. Businesses, the owners and renters of commercial property, operate in a community bordering on incestuous. Chambers of commerce and industry organizations are the most obvious public facing entities but for every one of these there are ten less formal but no less potent "networking" associations. Commercial real estate transactions take place at the benefit of both parties and may be structured in such a way that the full value to each party is not reflected in the recorded sale price.

The County has, as it must for tax purposes, its own opinion.

Today's opinion is around $5.2 million, a year-over-year increase of thirty percent over last year's $4.0 million. This might explain why the co-owners are appealing the assessment.

On the afternoon of September 16 the Board of Equalization is THE place to be. It would be very interesting to play back a recording of the owners' argument that $5 million is too high during the meetings with Dunwoody where they argue that over $8 million is a real bargain. Should the City persist in their argument that the County valuation is low by sixty percent what do the City have to say about other properties in the area? How about yours? Is our entire property digest low by fifty percent or more? Who are these fools trying to fool?

We can be certain of one thing: the City of Dunwoody is paying an outrageous premium for this property. What we do not know is who, on the buying side of this deal, is making out like a bandit.

Our only consolation is that the City cannot claim that enormous tax giveaways are necessary to encourage development in the Perimeter area while at the same time justifying overpaying for this property because real estate is booming in the area. 

Monday, August 22, 2016

Lovin' Dunwoody

Step lightly,
You're movin' too fast.
Take your time, boy,
Soon the pain will pass.
In the meantime,
You gotta find yourself a love
That's gonna last.

Step lightly,
Things will work out fine,
Nice and easy,
All it takes is time.
Please, believe me,
I wish this song was yours instead of mine.

Now don't be angry at what i'm telling you,
I'd be happy if you would see it too.
But in the meantime,
Find yourself a love that's true to you.
Somehow this just does not resonate with Greedy Developer, who, as reported by the AJC, now expects a retroactive taxpayer handout. And this isn't just an incentive (they say accelerator) for additional future development but covers the existing building nearing completion. Like a post-coital pre-nupt with assets in a trust.

As you might expect some boo-birds have surfaced. What surprises is that they come from outside DaVille, including the county and even from an expert outside the state:
"They're asking for an incentive for something they're already doing," said Brent Lane, director of the University of North Carolina Center for Competitive Economies. "We're doing away with the charade of doing something to incentivize behavior. It's just giving away money."
And our Smart City Development Authority is preparing to do just that: give away money.
Michael Starling, the city's economic development director: "The certainty that the project moves forward sooner and is definitely going to happen -- I think there's a benefit to that."
And it isn't just the city's top dog. We have another member of the Development Authority waxing poetic about his desire to respond promptly and generously whenever Greedy Developer yells "Hey mister, throw me some beads." Robert Miller reportedly said:
"If this inducement helps them to make the decision to do it right now rather than wait four or five years, then I personally feel like that's good for Dunwoody because it gets the project done. You could have something worse. You could have [the property] declining and stagnant, and people not wanting to move here."
J. M. & J!

Really? REALLY? Declining AND stagnant? Roll up the pants boys, it's too late to save the shoes. Dunwoody has way too many folks hell bent on proving this is really a quite stupid city, these are just the few two who recently took the stage.

And the Perimeter area is NOT a blighted area. If this were a residential area in the City, half as desirable  as Perimeter, there would be a bidding war to develop any property. Consider if you will the prospect of a neighboring city developing property inside their own sovereign boundaries that just happens to abut a Dunwoody residential area. What would happen then? Well Dunwoody would have
shakers and movers descending on THAT city's council advising THEM to make haste slowly lest they impact Dunwoody! Maybe we should reserve some of that deliberation and prudence for what goes on INSIDE Dunwoody.

But because of a system with Greedy Developers on the one hand and sycophantic city authorities on the other what Dunwoody has is more like Carnival: leering bureaucrats get their thrill on and taxpayers get fleeced. And just who takes the biggest hit? Schools. Do you suppose the mayor or any member of council could run on a platform of undermining public schools? Well when they let this kind of corporate welfare go on right under their noses that is exactly what they are doing.

Frankly, property in the Perimeter area will be developed and were the City to be as opposed to any development as they are fervent in catering to Greedy Developer, Greedy Developer would get his buildings built anyway. He might even pay the City for permission! What Dunwoody needs in regards to development are people with a long range vision who can guide us towards developments in the area that support a thriving community ten, twenty and thirty years from now. Instead, it looks like we have development crack-whores spreading wide for the next fix from Greedy Developer. They have sold their souls and they're selling our future.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Olde School

New School Algebra
George A. Wentworth
Copyright 1898

From the preface, a total of two pages from a small-format text:
The first chapter of this book prepares the way for quite a full treatment of simple integral equations with one unknown number. In the first two chapters only positive numbers are involved, and the beginner is led to see the practical advantages of Algebra before he encounters the difficulties of negative numbers.

The definitions and explanations contained in these chapters should be carefully read at first; after the learner has become familiar with algebraic operations, special attention should be given to the principal definitions.

Where to begin?

First, let's ignore the dated and politically incorrect use of the male pronoun as this was published well before women had the vote in the US or Eleanor Roosevelt published "It's Up To The Women." Then, the text is four hundred seven pages (not counting a whopping six pages of front matter) published in a four and a half by seven inch format starting with definitions and simple equations and covering multivariate equations, imaginary numbers, quadratics and simultaneous equations, properties of series and the binomial theorem. On average the book is more than fifty percent exercises (you know, where the learner does the work of learning by actually solving problems) with Chapter XII comprising fourteen pages with less than a page and a half of text and the remaining space dedicated to 66 exercises. Today's student might wonder what happened to all the pictures, the visual pop-outs of definitions and "further study," and the multi-cultural-correct photos of children having fun doing something that must be related to math if for no other reason than it is in a math book.

Today's pedagogical theorists would dismiss this as antiquated "drill and kill." Obsolete. Ineffective. Out of step with today's students. Nothing could be further from the truth. This is actually "skill and thrill." By progressively working thru exercises that demonstrate and elucidate the principles explained in the text the student learns--masters--techniques and concepts necessary for a deep understanding of and proficiency in more advanced mathematics.

This one book can take a learner from colours and counting to pre-calc. Yet you'll not see this in any modern school today. If you have a child you wish to see as a tiger-cub you don't need to subscribe to modernity in mathematics. Instead you should go to a used book sale and buy a text no less than fifty years old. Have your child learn alongside the minds that put a man on the moon. 

Monday, August 15, 2016

Dunwoody Slum Lords

Slum Lords are kinda mythical. We see them in cop shows, inevitably set in New York City, with plots driven by greedy landlords who are either just ripping off tenants or more dramatically are stuck with permanent renters with equally permanent rent caps. In the former case tenants freeze, cockroaches don't and any water that flows is neither clean nor hot. This is driven by profit motive with negligence only to the point that money comes in but not so much that tenants go out. The latter case usually has some underlying big-time greed motive, usually re-development at an obscene profit. The tenants don't represent benign hosts for parasitic landlords but obstacles to progress and no one gets in the way of progress. So the landlord takes immoral, and if it is a cop show, illegal measures to drive tenants out.

This is what is set to happen right here in DaVille.

And we're not talking about the downtrodden over by PIB or the aging units at 285. Nope. This is the City itself. See, we're poised to borrow 8+ million dollars (with interest we the taxpayers pay more) to buy a cute little building at the edge of the Real City to be our new City Hall. There's only one problem. OK, there are a couple of problems. First it is a real fixer upper but HGTV has not come forth with any reality star willing to reno a town hall that never was a town hall. The other problem is that the building has tenants. That's where slum-lordin' comes in.

There are four tenants and three can be kicked to the curb at the low, low rate of under $150,000. Now you might think that is a lot, but when you compare it to the reno costs it is chump change. Then there is tenant number four, an evil medical imaging service running an MRI operation and they gotta go. But setting up an MRI operation is costly and it ain't just the machine. There is quite a bit of infrastructure involved and this is expensive. Cost is more than four times the other three combined.

So what is a tax-hiking', cash-strapped City beset with a slew of losing law suits to do? Easy Peasy, just make life untenable for the tenant. As reported in the Blue Bag Rag:
Sheats offered a solution to isolate the MRI tenant from the rest of city hall, including a possible separate entrance.

Deutsch said she would hate to spend money to keep the tenant there and suggested the city make it more inconvenient for the tenant.

"Then maybe they would want to leave," said Deutsch. "Then maybe we could reach a compromise sooner."
We can only assume "compromise" means "get out, get out now and get out cheap."

If you did not already know why Dunwoody is on the losing end of lawsuits now you do. Being a smart resident of a smart city you must smile at the City's revulsion to having City Hall in the immediate proximity of a device that lets doctors see inside a patient. After all, transparency is governments' kryptonite. 

Thursday, August 11, 2016


The AJC reports on an "unintended consequence" of the growing "you breed 'em, we feed 'em" trend in public schools. As always that problem centers on money--your money and they getting their hands on it. The schools' logic, if you can stretch that definition far enough, is to reduce the stigma associated with getting free lunches. Can't wait to see how they address the stigma associated with NOT being in the talented and gifted programs.

The background issue is that schools have been (ab)using the free lunch program to claim federal funding. And it is big money. APS reports 75% enrollment in the 2014-2015 school year. That seems incredibly high. And incredible it is. Giving everyone a stigma-free free ride changes the schools' funding basis which shifts from unaudited fill-out-the-form-honey to "eligible for federal assistance" which apparently sets a higher bar. The predicted impact is a 50% reduction in funding.

We can only hope it also means a 100% improvement in integrity--but don't hold your breath, schools can be pretty clever when it comes to scamming the system.

Monday, August 8, 2016

Where Angels Fear To Tread

The courts will rush in.

Apparently someone has decided that a key battlefield in the war of gender equality is the right to bare one's breasts in public and the AJC reports that these folks are making a Federal Case out of the matter. As the reporter notes many of Georgia's local busybodies have laws prohibiting such actions. For women. And only women. This would include the self-proclaimed Smart City--we never said we were non-discriminatory.  To wit:

Sec. 24-4. - Public indecency.
It shall be unlawful for any person to perform any of the following acts in a public place:
Simulated acts of sexual intercourse;
An exposure of one's genitals, or of one's breasts, if female, except in a place designed for same.

So maybe it is time to set aside the DHA vs City pissing contest and have the DHA Board craft a new, constitutional ordinance for the City to pass.

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Existential Threats

There's one problem with claims of City action posing an existential threat to the DHA--there is an existence proof to the contrary.

It wasn't that long ago there was no City of Dunwoody, but there was a DHA. How can that be? Did the DHA have a couple dozen folks down in Decatur sitting on zoning boards, planning commissions and the like? Hell no, they didn't. And yet the DHA existed. And the DHA will not cease to exist if it re-acquires the level of influence at Dunwoody City Hall that it formerly wielded at DeKalb County offices.

That the DHA views a reasonable separation, even a firewall, between DHA board negotiations with developers and official City decisions and actions regarding those same developers as an existential threat is the clearest proof that the DHA is indeed bartering with their influence at City Hall.

Comments and statements to the contrary do not pass the smell test.

First they claimed to be "just another homeowners group" which they later upgraded to "like the Buckhead Coalition." Still not quite right. The Buckhead Coalition represents the interests of the Buckhead community, not all parts of the City as the DHA lays claim to for Dunwoody. Because of that members of the Coalition suffer from a geographic constraint limiting their ability to dominate citizen boards and panels. Not so with the DHA.

Then there is the claim that members do not receive marching orders from their DHA superiors. Perhaps that is technically true. But they do go to the Sunday revival meetings where the folks in the pulpit describe the souls they've saved and how wonderful the glory. Folks come out with admiration for their workings and have certainly been singing from the same hymnal. Were they brought to the alter for the layin' on of hands to shouts of HEAL? Probably not. But there is little doubt they'll be bringing the Good Word to the unwashed down at the Big Hall.

Clearly the City does not pose an existential threat to the DHA. It is increasingly clear that the DHA poses such a threat to the City. 

Monday, August 1, 2016

Dunwoody Goat Rodeo

Rumours out of the Blue Bag Rag suggest that our hired-gun City Attorney has asked a higher authority, the State Attorney General, for an opinion regarding the executive session which breathed life into the no-DHA policy. Thankfully it is just an opinion and not an investigation being requested. Should someone with subpoena power embark on an actual investigation this could go pear-shaped in skinny minute.

First would be the City Hall investigation questioning not only the legitimacy of forming policy in closed executive session but singling out an individual organization. The former is surely a faux pas but the latter may light a fuse on a bigger bomb. It may be hard to limit this investigation to just City Hall as their actions were reactionary even if the risk is only perceived. One might question if there is any substance to the perception or has someone been licking some stamps from the sixties.

If the investigation were to expand to cover development protocols in DaVille, DHA genuflection costs and benefits and surety of back-room commitments we might find ourselves with a real goat rodeo on our hands.