Thursday, October 29, 2020

Should He Resign?

Hell no!

He should be fired. With cause. Same fate should await his boss. But it should not wait a single day longer.

Monday, October 26, 2020

No Fooling? Really?

A local restaurateur with a widely and highly acclaimed menu has been reported giving free lunch to early voters as they wait in line.While he started his restaurant with his own hard work and culinary chops there are many reasons why he is succeeding in Dunwoody Village. And he isn't alone. He is in the company of other homegrown and family restaurants in what is actually a rather small area. Yes, some have come and gone, but for several decades Dunwoody Village has served as an incubator for restarentrepreneurs. That is what a suburban community can do that no faux urban center ever will. The suburbanites surrounding daVille are a tight community, they know the village and those businesses that respect their community receive their support.

Not that we haven't had any outsiders thinking they could come in with tony, trendy restaurants and charge NYC prices. Remember all the places that were in the Pizza Hut before Novo settled in--in to the community? These failures thought they knew the demographic. They were wrong.

But city hall and the seven dwarfs have the answer: they will change the demographic by tearing down this existing, effective business incubator and replacing it with a cookie cutter development supporting expensive, high priced franchises (Bam! Kick it up a notch!) with footfalls provided by, wait for it, high density, high crime urbanal residences-three to five stories of apartments towering over nearby subdivisions. Several thousand apartments are coming to daVille, because as Mayor Development says the business doesn't work without it: "we don't get the amenities we want without housing."

 And just who are "we"? Well it sure as hell isn't the community that built this village, that supports these businesses and rejects those that have no place here. No, in Mayor Development's lexicon "we" are city bureaucrats, developers, commercial real estate managers and profiteering businesses. Oh, and the seven dwarfs themselves. 

No Fooling.

Thursday, October 22, 2020

Are They Allowed To Do That?

Is the DeKalb School system allowed to operate a "Digital Learning Program?" In other words "Is DCSD accredited by Cognia (formerly AdvancED-SACS) to do Digital/Remote/Distance 'Learning'?" 

Are they? If we have learned anything since the Spring Of Our Discontent it is that Digital Learning requires a different pedagogy, a different infrastructure, different learning resources and more importantly different teacher skills and capabilities. We've also learned that DCSD, while hardly capable of running a brick and mortar program even with an enormously bloated budget, is fantastically incapable of a digital transformation. They lack leadership, core knowledge and key capabilities throughout. 

What are concerned parents to do? If they are familiar with Bryan Caplan's premise that education is mostly signalling then they should be terrified at the prospect of their child being "credentialed" by an unaccredited program. As many of their children's educators are pointing out this digital transformation is not a simple flip of the switch. Thankfully, for at least some parents, it is a simple flip of the switch: from DeKalb Public schools to programs, Digital or F2F, that are accredited. 

Parents with students in DeKalb Public are unarguably facing the prospect of their children never returning to classroom in a brick and mortar setting. If your children's education is going to be delivered to the den, shouldn't it at least be from a capable, accredited organization like one of the many Virtual Academies that know what they're doing? And can prove it.

Monday, October 19, 2020

Bright Flight

There has always been some of it: folks moving from place to place in the metro region seeking a better education for their children. These "better schools" tended to correlate strongly with distance with taxes and home prices exhibit an equally strong but negative correlation leaving commute time the only limiting factor. 

The pandemic changed all that.

Large numbers are working remotely and like it. Companies' comfort level is on the rise as results show increased productivity alongside reduced costs. Traditional schools are on life support, teachers are remote but inept at distance education, student contact time is low and incessant demands for more money have only grown louder. In DeKalb, parents perhaps were convinced by years of educator messaging that teachers, classrooms and schools are critical to the excellent education they've been told their children deserve and thought they were receiving. Now these same parents who want their children back in those most excellent schools are pushing back against reluctant teachers by regurgitating the Kool-Aid and it isn't a pretty sight as the bartenders have no appetite for the drinks they were serving. 

Many parents are staring at a tax bill where upwards of seventy percent goes to schools that are essentially down for the count. "Hell no-We won't go" is a broken record they cannot tolerate hearing. Teachers aren't coming back. Parents, at least some, will be "migrating" towards education for their child. 

Who are these parents? Who are their children? Will these be those most at-risk, those most negatively impacted by teachers' partial strike or will the be those children whose parents have the means and the priorities to ensure the best for their children? When the best and brightest are driven from traditional public schools why would they ever return?

Thursday, October 15, 2020

Pandemic Delusion Syndrome

The pandemic seems to be closely related to some serious disturbances in the farce, with some new and some amplified continuations of previous farcical behaviours. Let's look at a few.

Shocking to some is the rapid development and rollout of the picnic table app, to which TOD would simply say: make sure you pack your own picnic basket. What has some folks aghast is the fact that they've been at it for a decade now and still cannot get an app in place for identifying, tracking and resolving code violations. 

This leads immediately to the city's "enforce on complaint" which is employed whenever someone at the city feels like it. Complain about trucks violating the no-truck zone? Tough luck. Your neighbor keeping his motorized trailer in his driveway? Well there are about 1500 reasons for the city to jump on that. Some have suggested this is a follow the money issue as they have been told that there is not enough money in ticketing trucks. Frankly if Dunwoody were to apply appropriate fines there would be hell to pay with the folks at city hall who work on behalf of local businesses. 

And there are quite a few on our payroll working for business interests. We have a director of economic development and that's not to help out home-based businesses with their SLUP applications. Then there is the manager of business retention. Really. Now what do you suppose they do? After all doesn't "manager" mean there are employees being "managed?" Funny how there is no "manager of neighborhood preservation" or "director of resident satisfaction." Come to think of it, it really is NOT funny. 

Then there is the whole DPD kerfuffle, a raging dumpster fire that has become Dunwoody's version of the eternal flame. We've had police shootings with two "civilians" killed. There have been DWB and civil rights violations some yielding expensive court cases. If that's not enough we face a string of pending cases alleging  sexual harassment and the Top Cop will not answer questions about what he knew, when he knew it and if that wasn't until a lawyer dropped a dime, how he could be so clueless about what was going on under his nose. It is worth noting that he was not the candidate preferred by the Police Task Force and he has now lost support in the community with some calling for his resignation. Here's the punchline: the Top Cop's side hustle is coaching other cops on how to be a police chief every bit as good as he.

That DWB history is coming back to haunt with the BLM movement and SSR confessions all around. But not Dunwoody. Our Top Cop trots out personnel stats showing we have enough Black officers but might be short on Asians--the inconvenient minority. This dismissive approach to SSR hasn't worked well in practice. 

And we move on to the racial/racist underpinnings of the city itself with King John protesting that there was "nothing racial goin' on" yet immediately there were plans made to drive out Hispanics in PIB apartments and the power structure of the city and all its satellite organizations remain lily-white. But no "spoon-feeding" in this town. 

Let's close for now with the non-stop hating laid on the village. What's with that? Why do so many folks, hired guns as well as the seven dwarfs, so hate the village? They are hell bent on eliminating the village overlay with particular animus towards sign ordinances. In their recent "public survey on signs" it was all about the village. What about the similar business-retail at Mt. Vernon and Jett Ferry? Why no questions about signs that might be appropriate there? Or how about the business-retail center at Chamblee Dunwoody near 285? Why is the village singled out for 3000 rental residents (and yes, they will be rental, sooner or later)? Why not preserve a vital, vibrant SUBURBAN shopping and business center that has grown, organically, to serve the needs of the surrounding suburban neighborhoods? The Mayorette claims the village is the commercial center of Dunwoody, a mental turd that stinks up her "shilling for business" claims that high density residential is necessary for the amenities she wants-like perhaps a pandemic petri dish? Maybe she should head south from her office and see the real commercial center or maybe she should just lead the way for our top cop by submitting her resignation so the residents and voters have a chance to get someone who represents their interests.

Monday, October 12, 2020

Why Not? Here's Why...

Someone posed the ponderafication of "why didn't they consider 'instant runoffs'?", with "they" being the folks trying to re-write the city charter. What's an "instant runoff" you ask? Well it is a scheme specifically designed to address the money and time costs of runoff elections while hewing true to the democratic notion that citizens have a right to vote.  The system is quite simple. When you cast your ballot you select your first choice, then your second, then third and so on to n-1, where n is the number of options. When there is no candidate with a majority then the votes for the lowest vote-getter go to the candidate selected by the voter on their ballot. This iterates until a candidate achieves a majority. The winner may not be everyone's top choice but at least it isn't someone that a majority voted against. 

So why didn't the folks trashing the charter go for this? Others have. The largest anti-rationalization is that it is complicated and not everyone will list a secondary or tertiary preference. So? Not voting is a voter's choice, just as valid as any other. Furthermore, taken to the extreme should all the electorate chose not to chose secondary candidates this scheme devolves to the "plurality wins" scheme the charter hackers recommend. 

So that cannot be the real issue, can it? The real issue is as simple as it is obvious: partisan politics.

Democrats and Republicans are equally addicted to power and riches that control over government and politics affords them. They enjoy a duopoly they will not easily relinquish and will defend at all costs. Even if it means destruction of "little d" democracy as we're watching with the Charter Commission. 

Instant runoffs are a threat to their power (and money) because it greatly increases the chances for third party candidates to gain office. Suppose an election offers these candidates: a Republican Right Wingnut; a Democratic Left Wingnut; and a third party candidate holding down the middle. With the current vote+runoff scheme few that might otherwise support the centrist will instead feel they must vote for the lesser of the two major party evils lest the greater of the two, in their opinion, win the election. In the current scheme a vote for a third party candidate is either a protest vote or a wasted vote. The plurality scheme further marginalizes third party candidates while increasing power of the incumbent party as any votes siphoned off by a third party candidate are likely to go to the party not currently holding the office. The current scheme limits third party viability, undermining democracy and the plurality scheme only makes it worse. 

And the Democrats and Republicans who appointed the Charter Commission really, really like it that way. 

This is despite the fact that instant runoff is not a guaranteed threat to the duopoly. Suppose the three aforementioned candidates are running for mayor with the Republican getting 40%, the Democrat 35% and the third party 25%. [Yes, the race is technically non-partisan but we all know who is waving what color flag.] With no clear majority the third party candidate is dropped and the votes re-counted with the third party supporters votes going to their second choice. As a result the winner will have a majority and in this example could in fact be the Democrat. Because THAT is the will  of the people. Apparently NOT the will of the Commission. 

Though not guaranteed, instant runoff is a very real threat to the duopoly. Suppose the same election is held with aforementioned bitter polarization of the main parties and that this acrimony is such that many True Blues and Red Bloods would really prefer another choice than their own party offers, but certainly not the other team's. With instant runoff, voting third party is no-harm no-foul as they can select their party's candidate as the second choice. It would also mean that staunch partisans can vote third party as their second choice denying the opposing party the win should their party not make the runoff. So if the numbers are Republican 40%, Democrat 25% and third party 35% it is possible, perhaps likely, that the third party candidate will take the win in the instant runoff. Is there any Republican or Democrat that wants to see THAT happen? 

Thursday, October 8, 2020

For Whom The School Bell Tolls

The back-to-school bell is about to ring and it isn't clear if that bell is not cracked. In DeKalb many of the hell-no-we-won't-go teachers appear serious about not showing up, though some will seek paycheck protection under the FMLA. The focus has been on the most vocal group, the teachers, but will parents heed the call and send in the kids?

The hybrid approach offers limited schoolhouse time and the rule of "one is remote--all are remote" mitigates almost all of what value there may be to in-the-classroom presence. The limited schedule will not provide the freedom that parents who cannot work from home need to get their jobs done. For parents able to stay at home the crippling limitations of hybrid may cause further disengagement. What will they do? What are their options? And since this is DeKalb, what are their demographics?

In many cases options are already being explored. Edu-Pods are forming. Homeschool is getting a serious look by parents that otherwise would never have considered that option. Virtual academics, beyond the DCSD OJT option, are gaining traction. And there are always private schools with increased demand driving the creation of new schools.

Options are limited by the demographics of the parents. High income, already-remote workers can leverage most if not all of these options. As the collar shifts from white to blue, viable options fall off. This phenomena will vary by geography to the extent that income and flexibility vary. And it will probably track voting characteristics as well.

And the result? Many who can will leave the public school system leaving behind those philosophically wedded to public education and those who simply cannot access other options. The demographic skew will push towards an impoverished school system with little hope of overcoming longstanding, systemic financial, operational and educational failings.

If you thought things at DeKalb County Schools could not get any worse this pandemic may be enlightening.

Monday, October 5, 2020

Assassinating Democracy

Dunwoody's movers and shakers, by way of the Charter Commission, have tracked down democracy, slipped a knife in the back and started twisting. On the one hand they disparage voter turnout while simultaneously extending a term limit for the mayor guaranteed to discourage voter engagement. 

But that is not the mortal wound.

They want to do away with runoffs in contested races. Really! They actually approved that. Why? Because it cost too much money. That's right. They don't think that our vote is worth the cost. It gets better. In a move that would make Goebbels blush they claim that runoffs are anti-democratic because of reduced voter turnout. What it actually does is provide for installing a "winner" who had more voters against them than for them. And this would be in contests where interest is so high that more than two candidates vie for the slot. And they call this "democratic."

That's odious enough to back a buzzard off a gut wagon. 

For those who weren't here or have forgotten, this city was founded by a referendum vote held mid-summer in a presidential election year. This was a brazen voter suppression tactic. Oh, and by the way, it cost more money than having the referendum on the November ballot. 

And the hypocrisy runs deep. Many on this commission were 'playas in the day' with one being a member of the first city council. It is tempting to lob a 'shame on you' their way but shame requires character and being a character doesn't mean you have any.

Instead let's take pragmatism to the extreme. What the folks on this commission know better than most is exactly who this city was intended to serve from the get-go. So do the folks at city hall. So why not just cut to the chase and cut out the citizens and their vote altogether? Why does it have to be such a bloody murder? Why euphemize democracy when we can euthanize? 

Let's have the people this city really serves select the mayor and council. The city manager can pick two for council to represent the overlapping, redundant headcount in the city bureaucracy. The director of economic development picks another two to represent business interests profiteering from our community. And the Developers' Authority can pick the mayor and two more on council since they are the biggest of the big dogs getting fat on city hall largess. 

And think of the money we'd save.

Thursday, October 1, 2020

The Value Of Virtue Signalling

Academia is a weird, wonderful and entertaining place. Faculty members and administrators turn to the left harder than a NASCAR driver. They are windsocks wagging feverishly in even the slightest winds of political correctness. That they admit to being the smartest folk on the planet only adds to the humor value of their herd mentality and constant demonstrations of "failure to think things through." 

And now none other than the President of Princeton has proclaimed that Princeton is now and always has been systemically and structurally racist. Yes indeed. He went there. A contrary perspective was offered up by a Mathematics professor. Unsurprising as Math seems the last remaining bastion of logic in academia.

But then it got interesting.

While the Princeton President was basking in the glory of self flagellation he seems to have forgotten that he actually said this stuff out loud. And someone heard him. Someone from outside the apparently appropriately named Ivory Tower. The head of the Department of Education heard him loud and clear. And now? The DOE wants their money back. Seems he didn't realize that his wonderfully PC admission of SSR was also an admission that Princeton had also violated Title VI, a direct contradiction of former statements that Princeton was in compliance. And that compliance is a requirement for Federal funds. Funds Princeton has already received. Funds they may well be required to return.

To the tune of $75M.

While we may not know the value of virtue signalling but we are about to find out about the cost.