Monday, July 29, 2019

Never Lower The Millage Rate

Our neighbors in Fulton County are at it again. The roused rabble of homeowners cannot stomach the mark-to-market increases in property value as it blows their tax bill sky-high. On the other side of the equation the bureaucrats and politicians running the show refuse to implement the simple fix of adjusting the millage rate--downwards. It is more than simply not in the politicians' DNA, lowering any tax seems to pose an existential threat. It is as if this might happen:

Politician Lowering Taxes

Saturday, July 27, 2019

Milestones Or Millstones

Milestone reports are in and the AJC is declaring "impressive" gains. Of course this is relative (and propaganda) since the absolute measure shows 58% of third graders scored below proficient in Language Arts (includes the first of the three "R"s : reading). Juxtapose this with the declaration that "reading well by third grade is essential for academic success" and one has to wonder what all the chest beating is about. After all well over half do not possess this "essential" skill.

Milestones is coming under attack from another direction as some districts in Georgia are banding together to create "student focused" tests they claim will remain nationally normed. The plan is to discard the "big bang" approach of Milestones replacing it with evaluations scattered throughout the year. This caters to the current pedagogical paradigm of "get it then forget it" where students are expected to retain knowledge only briefly. Their approach aligns with teacher provided grades while the Milestones test exposes grade inflation and lack of real, substantive learning. 

Thursday, July 25, 2019

Ethical Or Legal

The recent armored car I-285 "cash drive" brought issues of ethical and/or legal behavior to the fore. After cash from the truck littered the interstate folks stopped to gather what they saw as a windfall of free cash. The Dunwoody Police (it happened in their jurisdiction)  rightly pointed out that this was not their money, it must be returned and keeping it would be illegal. That is also consistent with Ethics 101: it is isn't yours, don't take it.

But can unethical taking be made legal? Turns out that is the case and it is something the Dunwoody Police do on a routine and regular basis. It is called "asset seizure" which is government (police) appropriation of private property on the mere suspicion of wrong doing. In theory, due process applies. In practice due process is so onerous that it is impossible for the accused, even if exonerated, to ever regain their property. So the police, DPD included, seize the property, convert it to their needs without any consideration given to the fact that a) it is not their property; and b) there exists legal due process-a law they are sworn to uphold.

So now the question is do actions speak louder than words? Are laws something that only apply to the "little people" with the police state immune to ethical, moral and legal considerations?

Tuesday, July 23, 2019

Guest Post: International City

From a former neighbor and Friend of TOD. Without further ado.

About ten years ago I went into semi-retirement and moved to Blue Ridge, GA. The "semi" part of retirement gives cause for infrequent travel, mostly out of Hartsfield. It's a haul and I usually park at North Springs and MARTA it the rest of the way as that is the most reliable way to get past the roadblock that is Atlanta. At least until yesterday.

I was coming back from the flaming hot mid-Atlantic to the cooler sunny South expecting to bypass rush hour traffic using MARTA and get home in time for an adult libation and at least Final Jeopardy. But there were clues this was not to be. I got on the train at Hartsfield on the side usually reserved for the Red Line noticing the sign was (still?) set to "Airport" which I dismissed as typical MARTA. Don't sweat the little things, right? Train pulls out, still indicating it is an "Airport Train" though it is clearly headed in the opposite direction and other than that everything seems normal. Until Five Points. At this point confusion reigns and it basically becomes clear that this train is going no further. I get out and see MARTA employees directing all riders up and out. It was at this point, and only because I asked, that I learned there had been a fire at the Peachtree Center station and there was a "bus bridge" from Five Points to North Avenue. Whisky-Tango-Foxtrot? NOW you tell me?

It gets better. After about over an hour waiting for, getting on and stand-riding to North Avenue I find myself standing with a lot of hot peeved folks waiting for the next northbound to Lindberg. That's right. There would be no Red Line at North Avenue, I would have to disembark at Lindberg and wait, again, for a Red Line train. It was at Lindberg where MARTA decided to rub salt in a now very raw wound.

A MARTA employee, with no need of a megaphone, basically told everyone to "get off the phone, be quiet and listen" and then proceeded to inform all southbound commuters what lay ahead. The fire. The bus bridge. The delays. All that. She even recommended that riders that need to make a flight might consider "alternative transportation" explicitly calling out Uber and Lyft. Wow! And just why was there not a similar, informative presentation at the Airport Station where there often are, and in this case were, people not even from this country who were completely confused by this dysfunctional goat rodeo. Was it because the City runs the airport and they're more beholding to medallion wielding cabbies than Uber or Lyft? Who knows. But if Atlanta fancies itself an International City, it must brace itself for the hard reality that this means its peer-cities are all in Third World countries.

This dark cloud came with a silver lining. I used the extra couple of hours to do some internet research. I already knew I was a 90 mile drive to the MARTA ride to Hartsfield, but what were the other options? Well, I'm only an 80 mile drive, through some of the most beautiful scenery in America, to the Chattanooga airport, conveniently located on MY side of their fair city. It's under 100 miles to the Knoxville airport, again on MY side of the city, only sightly further than my drive to MARTA. I'll never fight my way through Atlanta, MARTA or not, to get to Hartsfield. I know I will pay more, in cash anyway, and that I will be at that airport sometime in the future, but only to change planes. And if I ever visit another "International City" it will be in another country. 

Monday, July 15, 2019

Deja Do-Over

If it feels like we've been here before it's because we have. Dial the Way-Back-Machine to 2011 and look up the Dunwoody Village Master Plan. Now you do have to wonder how much this cost and why it didn't even endure for a decade because now the City is shoveling more money into what is being called a Master Plan Update. This is like building a McMansion by tearing down all but the side wall of the basement and then calling it a "renovation" yet this "update" leaves almost nothing untouched or intact.

Some of this is explained by the context of the original master plan which was created when the City was relatively young, politically naive and not yet unduly influenced by outside economic forces. But now, when a developer wants the overlay in the dustbin and demands a building with floor-to-ceiling windows, stacked stone and other trendy veneers the parrots down at City Hall begin squawking "vibrant" incessantly. But this "update" is a great bit of theatre, a theatre City Hall will not vote to tear down. It is the embodiment of "practical impossibility" as it demands conversions of private property to public roads and paths (keep in mind that this City's idea of a "trail" is a super-highway lane of concrete) that is both prohibitively expensive, politically "unattractive" and more disruptive than desirable. At least if you live around here. But it may be attractive to those who will cash in on the re-development and keep in mind the very first impediment to this plan is "long-term property owners" who will have to be sated (or just pushed aside) in favor of new developers. Not likely to happen.

So what is going on? Well there will likely be limited re-development and things will need to be pushed aside to satisfy the developers' demands. The impediment in that case is the existing Village Overlay. Basically they are demanding trends that are getting close to their use-by date: new urbanism (being displaced by Avalon-type developments) and a faux-post-industrial look that peaked a couple years back. One has to wonder how long before a wave of developers descends pushing a "Williamsburg Style" as "vibrant" and "retro-trendy." Then there is the high pressure sales job--the kind that would make a Florida condo-pitch seem tame. When they are trying that hard they are either selling you something you don't need or they are distracting you from what they are really doing. Or both.

But it is the "Who's Responsible" slide that is the most odious, the most insulting, the most offensive. This characterizes "The Public" (us) as doddering old fools unable to comprehend what is going on and so stupid we are easily bamboozled by a myriad of special interests, all the while the aficionados of neo-urbanism (traffic enginerrs) are positioning themselves at the same level of honor and integrity as Girl Scouts. With an air of arrogant condescension they demean us as readily manipulated (by everyone but them) idiots and by commissioning this team and using OUR money to pay them, our elected officials are saying exactly the same thing.

Shame on them! For what they have done and for what they intend to do. 

Thursday, July 11, 2019

So The Mountain Goes

Trying to capitalize on the PD epiphany of the Parade where many eyes were opened and more than a few Police realized that Dunwoody actually has residents, some of whom own single-family homes, some members of the community have decided that what this City really needs is a government affiliated non-profit. In this case it is the Dunwoody Police Foundation which in addition to soliciting funds and picking winners to receive the proceeds will, perforce, be a liaison between the newly discovered residents of Dunwoody--lest they forget. And honestly, what could possibly keep the forgotten masses front-of-mind better than good ole greenbacks? Now a cynic might say this is just backfilling the likely loss of highly questionable asset seizures (Jeff Sessions is long gone taking his staunch support of a militarized police state with him) but if this does anything, even a minuscule amount, to keep the PD aware of the existence of our communities, then it is, if nothing else, a good start.

Monday, July 8, 2019

Officer Friendly

The Fourth of July parade was a momentous occasion for the Dunwoody Police. It was the first time in their ten year history that many, if not all, have actually entered the community at large. You know, where the residents reside.

Overheard during an interview for a local rag, Officer Friendly said "who knew so many people actually live in Dunwoody?" Unable to contain himself, Lieutenant Richard Head chimed in with "yeah, look at all those houses--I thought that whole 'home alarm' thing was just standard BS from on high but it's really just another excuse for us to stay at The Mall."

Clearly a great time was had by all but let's hope it doesn't take another year before officers wander into our neighborhoods.

Thursday, July 4, 2019

Curb Your Dog

Tall Dog

Monday, July 1, 2019

Blue Bag Rag Goes To Onion

Though recently rescued from the dust bin by a local media outlet it appears that the Blue Bag Rag is being positioned as the Onion-esque imprint of the local mogul. The article on Georgia City of Ethics is a nifty bit of satire.