Monday, October 30, 2023

Timing Is Everything

Maybe timing isn't everything but in most cases it is very important and sometimes sooner is not better than later. This is especially true in politics and associated "messaging." Recently the Blue Bag Bag had the weekly, rather droll, report on discussions between city bureaucrats and elected officials around the structural deficit, devalued commercial properties cutting revenue whilst avoiding mention of the shift of burden to residential properties, diminishing pandemic slush funds, expectations of SPLOST funds and the desperate need for bond money for unspecified parks projects allowing rebudgeting to support more than just playtime. The SPLOST and bond are coming up for a referendum vote and this is where it got sticky. 

The BBR article drops this nugget: 

"If costs continue to outpace revenue, the city won't be able to afford expanding local government to their liking."

You know what? You might have better supported the "unlimited growth agenda" had you waited until after the upcoming elections to lay this out there.

Still, lots to unpack, most importantly who does "their" refer to and just what is their "liking?" Are we talking about just the unelected bureaucrats who thrive on spending other peoples' money or have we elected folks who have forgotten, or never knew, that Dunwoody was founded on commitments to fiscal prudence and spending restraint. What flipped in the city's DNA that switched on this cancerous growth seemingly limited only by restriction of revenue? Is there any way to cure this cancer without killing the host or has this city run its course? If the latter it is time to call on hospice, starve the cancer and wind this thing down. Vote accordingly.


Thursday, October 26, 2023

Message Received, Loud And Clear

There are several problems with "selective enforcement" not just limited to making these enforcers judge and jury, providing opportunity for discriminatory practices and falling far short of the mandate enshrined in the city charter to enforce ALL laws and ordinances. 

Unequal enforcement is also a powerful way to send a message.

And that is what we have right here in daVille. You may be aware of the willful violation of a yard art ordinance with the city turning a blind eye due to some uncomfortable political optics based on surname and timing. The social media hoopla resulted in a dinowoody movement complete with signage, an example of which sits proudly (and illegally) in front of the Village Chevron. During the time of this dinowoody violation, posters showing some (not all) of the folks kidnapped and held by Hamas terrorists have been put up and then, mysteriously, removed. Well, all but one (have luck finding it). 

Whether it was the city or the citizens, by leaving dino while removing the kidnapped they seem to be sending the message: "we stand with Hamas."

Monday, October 23, 2023

Looks Like A Duck

Must be a duck.

Park in a driveway, drive on a parkway

Apparently when you pave a lane of interstate beside an existing road and stripe it just like a road folks begin using it like a road. And why not? Doesn't multipurpose include motor vehicles?  

Thursday, October 19, 2023

And You're Being Lied To

But you should be used to it by now. 

Remember the halcyon days, the before days, when Dunwoody Yes! and Citizens for Dunwoody put on a full court press to convince you that a city means "a better Dunwoody." You were told the city could operate on a $18M annual budget and they had the CVI study to prove it. That was a lie. You were told you'd get better services at a lower cost. Now look at the legal costs just to defend an out-of-control police department. You were lied to. You were promised that a city would clamp down on rampant apartment development and now you have a highly compensated bureaucrat telling you "The demand for apartments is significant. We need more of that here [in Dunwoody Village] and Perimeter," begging the questions of demand by whom and just who are "we"? But there is no question that you were lied to. 

And the lying is not in decline. 

Now you're being told it is a $60M bond, but you're not being told it is a $100M debt. Debt is what you're obligated to pay and anyone who tells you otherwise is lying. Anyone who fails to mention the true magnitude of this debt is also lying. 

Do you really like being lied to?

Monday, October 16, 2023

They Were Lied To

Who? All those "students" who took out loans for what turned out to be mostly a four to six year party and a worthless credential. 

The first lie has been a long term, systemic practice of grade inflation casually laughed off as the Lake Wobegone effect. It is particularly frightening that this is most prevalent in math. Parents should know more and demand better.

The lie affecting society as a whole is the myth that a college education is necessary and implicitly sufficient for someone to make a whole lot more money than they would otherwise. And yet what we have now are stories of folks carrying $44K (or more) who struggle to pay $138/month to nibble away at the debt. Why? Because this borrower had a job making $28/hour ($56K/yr), got laid off and found a new job making $18.50/hour ($37K/yr). Not exactly the pot of gold they were told was at the end of the college debt rainbow. 

And these two lies are not disjoint. Throughout high school students are being told they are much better educated than they are, particularly in math. This innumeracy manifests itself in students, told they are college material, who cannot fire up a spreadsheet or an online calculator and find out whether that mountain of debt can be bought off by the mirage of a pot of gold. Forget the spreadsheet, back-of-the-envelope ciphering shows that it would take almost 27 years to retire that debt at zero percent (0%) interest. At a measly 3% interest rate this payment would take almost 53 years to retire the debt at a total cost (principal and interest) of almost $88K. This debtor would be on track to pay as much in interest as they borrowed in the first place. Should they live so long. 

Yes, they were lied to. Yet, they, college material, made a choice and now they want that choice, a bad one, to have no consequences, at least for themselves. If they are to get debt amnesty a couple of things must happen first: they must explain to those who've paid their loan or never had one exactly why these debtors get off the hook; and the CFPB must realign towards preventing bad loans rather than facilitating them.

Friday, October 13, 2023

Hating On Democracy

DeKalb County has something called a "Charter Review Commission" that is looking into changes to how we, the people might be governed. For the most part the proposed changes are adjustments, mostly reasonable and non-structural. It is interesting to note that the CEO or a commissioner vacates their position if they qualify to run for any office other than the President of the United States, but it IS a draft. It does add some powers to the commissioners but retains the structural integrity of our county government. Most importantly we, the people, will elect the CEO who will be the person running the county. How democratic.

Someone doesn't like that and wants to ditch the CEO that we elect in favor of a county manager appointed by commissioners. This would remake the county government to mimic the school district and the new, faux-cities like Dunwoody because that's working so well---not. It would also add another degree of separation between the electorate and operations undermining local control and democracy itself.

Monday, October 9, 2023

Guest Post: Pound The Table

When a lawyer cannot make a case they pound the table. This seems to be in the hopes that the loudest, perhaps even the most outrageous will win. Hell, it worked once for Trump, maybe it will work for you. 

With the parks referendum we are back to the same place we were with the citihood referendum. On the one side are those insisting that we just must have this money but offering fairly weak transparency. Yes, the city has a "vision" and a "master plan" but have not given a detailed, prioritized list of exactly what they intend to spend this money on. And it is all or none, take it or leave it. To be fair, all of their masterplans include the need for consultants to help them come up with an operational plan: the one that is actually executed. So when you need outside help to plan how to plan don't expect much of the master plan beyond statements of "wouldn't this be cool" and "yes, this is gonna cost lots of money, but it's for the future, for your kids and grandkids." Honestly they may still be paying off the debt (Pew slots us all into 18 year generations, and just wait, someone will use the phrase "generational opportunity" if they haven't already). Because the case for "give us $60M today which will cost you $90M+ over time and a 53% tax increase" is not universally compelling they've fallen back on the tried and true: demean your opposition. 

DONT should really be DON'T

There are some problems with this. It suggests that any criticism of their desires must come from some crusty curmudgeons, nattering nabobs of negativity. If that's true this may backfire as it might piss them off enough to come down from the balcony and vote. Not your way. It ignores the possibility that nabobs may see the similarity between the most recent eSPLOST and this referendum. Lack of specificity, an implicit "you must trust us" vibe, and the ever popular "it's for the children." Combine this with the structural similarities between the school system and the city and it is hard not to throw up just a little bit in your mouth when you hear these proposals. Memory and juxtaposition is a bitch. And worst is the false implication that if you're against this referendum then you are against parks. This is a deception, a lie. It is also a tactic. And not one befitting the kind of intelligent discourse voters in Dunwoody deserve.  

Thursday, October 5, 2023

Do The Math

Apparently math comes in handy sometimes and our cultural predisposition to be dismissive of innumeracy is coming home to roost. We've fallen behind and we're not catching up. We're not even trying. Our K-12 system, largely public schools, are to blame. The pandemic shutdown may have exacerbated the problem, certainly drew attention but wasn't the cause. This has been going on for a long time as public schools have pushed conceptual understanding over indepth comprehension. They favor labels and are putting out a product that doesn't live up to the credential. Colleges and universities across America are finding incoming students who've passed high school calculus who simply cannot handle algebra as demonstrated by placement tests. So what happens? Instead of starting ahead of the curve, these students are taking remedial courses in high school algebra, necessary to have any chance in a college level math course.

Maybe some teachers are trying, shrugging off the mantra that learning has to be fun (and games) and going old school. Learning is knowing things and acquiring skills. One teacher literally ditched the games and stated (out loud) that:

"You have to explicitly teach the content.”

It isn't clear if she's been fired [yet] or if the union knows about this departure from doctrine. Research indicates that students actually learn math when they are explicitly told the rules of the road rather than relying on serendipity and intuition. This debunks the trendy notion that Inquiry Based Learning is a silver bullet, a belief held even though research strongly suggests that IBL works best in graduate level courses where students have sufficient base knowledge to support curiosity. They know enough to know what they don't know. Your eight grader doesn't. 

There is a chance this whole "teaching and learning" thing will catch on as the path (ed: really?) is already paved with a return to phonics. For our children's sake let's hope it does.

Monday, October 2, 2023

Going Postal

Remember back in the day, before a city, there was a postal center down on Shallowford just outside the perimeter? Of course you do. And then USPS proposed closing the Dunwoody facility (sorting and delivery). Remember that too? So the DHA got their collective knickers in a knot, pitched a tantrum and the USPS responded by keeping the Dunwoody Village facility and closed the Shallowford one. Now the village facility is past its use-by date and being idled. And guess what. No one is likely to complain. More likely folks have done a 180 by now and will advocate razing the place probably hoping for some high density housing. Gonna be fun watching them take on the USPS who owns the property.