Monthly Archives: November 2013

COVEReport – November 26, 2013

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County Survey on Area Projects; Zoning Issues

There is a survey on line …  A number of them would be very, very good for our area and address Clifton Road, Briarcliff Road, North Decatur Road, Clairmont Road, North Druid Hills Road and LaVista Road.

marthaMartha Pacini – 11/26/13

On November 18, DeKalb County’s Planning & Economic Development Committee hosted a public meeting/information forum on two important topics:  the 2013 transportation plan and the zoning code update.  Both topics have a potential impact on residents of Victoria Estates.  The County Commissioners who are members of the Planning & Economic Development Committee are Larry Johnson (who serves as the chair), Stan Watson and Jeff Rader.  There may be others, but these are the three who hosted the meeting.

The transportation plan has been in the works for a year.  There is a project team that includes an outside consultant that has sifted through thousands of proposed transportation projects.  This is a link to the slides from an on-line meeting in mid-November DeKalb Transportation Plan Presentation

They’ve gotten the original list of projects down to a little more than 180.  There is a survey on line to rank the projects from highest to lowest priority.  A number of them would be very, very good for our area and address Clifton Road, Briarcliff Road, North Decatur Road, Clairmont Road, North Druid Hills Road and LaVista Road. I’ve attached the list of projects, but it is also available on line Project List.  The survey is on line and still open—Click here for Survey   It would be well worth everyone’s time to take the survey.

Regarding the zoning code rewrite, the final draft is available on line click here for Zoning Code Update Final Draft

They are targeting February for approval.  Some of our neighbors in Druid Hills have devoted considerable time to digging into the details of the rewrite, and I have attached their concerns and it is worth taking a look at them—and at the zoning code—and sending in your comments. DeKalb County Zoning Ordinance Issues

One additional piece of information that was new to me—there is something called a “Community Council” that has direct involvement in zoning decisions.  The next meeting for our district is on February 11, 2014 at the Avis G. Williams Library.  The members of the community council are appointed, and here is the list with their emails:

Community Council District 2

Blair Belton bbelton@mindspring.com

Jodi Cobb jodicobb@bellsouth.net

Ted Daniel tedaniel@mindspring.com

Larry Diehl me9461@bellsouth.net

Jim Eyre jamesaeyre@gmail.com

Jacq Marie Jack jack.jacq@epa.gov

Richard Maise crmaise@mindsgring.com

Tim Miner javasea2365@gmail.com

Katie Oehler ko220@yahoo.com

Betty Phillips

Susan Rowe suzanrowe@comcast.net

John Stabler jodynjohn@gmail.com

Jon Steinigen stein@mindspring.com

Pat Thomas patathomas@patathomas.com

Kerry Witt kerrywitt@mindspring.com

DeKalb County Structure of Government Meetings

Carl 3

Carl Lange – November 26, 2013

I attended the first of three meetings organized by Interim DeKalb CEO Lee May, seeking input on potential changes to our county form of government.

Kimberly Nelson, Associate Professor of Public Administration and Government, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, provided a presentation on the forms of county governments in the U.S.

There are two primary forms of county government in the U.S., Commissioner and Executive.

Commissioner based is the most popular and common.  The commissioners hire a professional county manager or administrator who runs the business of the county.  The county manager is accountable to the commissioners.

In the executive form there is a separation of powers, as in the federal government.  Here political leadership is typically emphasized over administration.  The CEO is politically elected , defines policy, and runs the business of the county.  The commissioners provide approval of policy.  DeKalb does not exactly fit this model as our CEO also hires a county manager.

Based on situations, both have their advantages.  Professor Nelson, though, was clearly advocating for the Commissioner based solution.

We then broke out into 6 discussion groups.  It was the consensus of our group that we did not have enough information to conclusively recommend the best form of government.  What should be critical is focusing on controls and transparency, regardless of whatever the form of government.  We requested immediate focus on empowering the independent ethics commission as well as the auditor.

Interestingly, my group included Allen Moye, the chairman of the county study commission that resulted in the change to the DeKalb CEO form of government in the 70s.  He indicated the process took 10 years and a lot of effort.

In summary we were reminded that the key to good government is to have good people involved, including citizen participation, no matter what the structure.  Lee May said to change or not to change is not a superficial question; the importance is in the details.  May has asked the county commissioners for a study commission.

I recommend attending one of the two upcoming meetings.

May 2Interim CEO Lee May
Governance Meetings

Interim CEO Lee May is hosting a series of town hall meetings with breakout sessions that will offer the citizens of DeKalb County a participatory platform. Citizens will gain an understanding of the current CEO form of government, as well as various other forms of county government.   

Monday, December 2 | 6:30 pm – 8:30 pm

Porter Sanford Performing Arts Center

3181 Rainbow Drive in Decatur

 

Tuesday, December 3 | 6:30 pm – 8:30 pm

Rehoboth Baptist Church

2997 Lawrenceville Highway in Tucker

Lakeside Initiative Moving Forward

All,
The following news was just provided by Lakeside City Alliance indicating completion of the Lakeside City feasibility study and the intention to move forward with the request for the new city at the Capitol in January.

Carl Lange, Secretary
Citizens of Victoria Estates (COVE)

carl@carllange.com
cove@victoriaestates.info

New UGA Study Finds Proposed City of Lakeside Financially Sound
Feasibility Study Shows No Property Tax Increase Needed for City Services

ATLANTA (Nov. 21, 2013) – The Lakeside City Alliance today released a newly-completed study by the University of Georgia that shows a proposed city of Lakeside would be financially sound and that revenues would exceed the cost of city services – all without a property tax increase.

The study, conducted by the Carl Vinson Institute of Government, concludes that the proposed city of 63,000 residents in north-central DeKalb County would generate approximately $35.8 million in yearly revenue. Meanwhile, providing city services, including police, parks, public works, zoning and code enforcement, among other basic services, would cost about $29.9 million annually.

“We are thrilled that our community generates the revenue necessary to govern itself,” said Mary Kay Woodworth, chair of the Lakeside City Alliance. “After more than 70 community meetings discussing potential incorporation, it’s now time to move forward and request that the General Assembly allow us a vote to become Georgia’s newest city.”

The CVI study compared a new city of Lakeside with Smyrna and Dunwoody, cities of somewhat similar size and population. Highlights of the study include:

  • A new city of Lakeside would be likely employ approximately 81 police officers, significantly more than in Dunwoody (46) and almost as many in Smyrna (91). The average number of officers per resident of the new city would be 785 compared to 1,006 residents per officer in Dunwoody and 563 residents per officer in Smyrna.
  • A city of Lakeside would have 190 acres of existing parkland with 121 acres at Henderson Park, 29 acres at WD Thompson Park, 24 acres at Pleasantdale Park, 11 acres at the Mary Scott Nature Park and 6 acres at Frazier-Rowe.
  •  Under public works, a city of Lakeside could provide road and bridge repair and maintenance and would have an estimated $1.3 million to spend annually. It would have 213 lane miles in its city compared to 273 lane miles in Dunwoody and 450 lane miles in Smyrna.
  • The new city would have neither a jail nor courthouse facilities, as it would continue to rely on DeKalb County for those services and others,  including water and sewer and, sanitation and trash pickup.
  • Assessed property value in the proposed city boundaries totals approximately $2.5 billion.

The Georgia Legislature will consider the CVI study when it commences in January, 2014. It will review the study as part of legislation introduced by state Sen. Fran Millar (R-Dunwoody) to allow the Lakeside community to vote on incorporation. If the House and Senate agree to a referendum, the Governor signs in to law, and the voters in the proposed Lakeside boundary will vote on incorporation on May 20, the same day as the statewide primary.

“These are very strong numbers, and we believe the CVI report will help the Legislature move our city forward,” said Kevin Levitas, co-chair of the Lakeside City Alliance. “We have heard from our friends and neighbors in this community that they want better police protection, their own parks, better roads and local control. This report shows it can really happen.”

LCA has proposed city boundaries of approximately 20 square miles, based upon community input. The boundaries include North Druid Hills Road to the west and southwest, Interstate 85 though DeKalb County to the border with Gwinnett County to the north and I-285 to the Embry Hills community to the northeast. It would include Mercer University, Northlake Mall, Embry Hills and Toco Hills shopping centers among other landmarks.

The full report and information about methodology updates can be found on the Lakeside City Alliance website at www.lakesidealliance.org

COVEReport – November 15, 2013

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Reminder: Please Take the Survey Now!

It’s a minute long and four questions!

Create your free online surveys with SurveyMonkey , the world’s leading questionnaire tool.

DeKalb County Board of Education Denies Druid Hills Charter Cluster

DHCCParents and teachers across 7 diverse school communities express dismay and disappointment and consider appropriate next steps.

Druid Hills Charter Cluster – November 12, 2013

Atlanta — By a vote of 5-4, the DeKalb County Board of Education denied the state’s first parent and teacher-driven petition for an autonomous, public charter school cluster. The petition would have granted governance of 7 diverse school communities – five feeder elementary schools, one middle school, and one high school – to a non-profit board sourced from individuals vested in the cluster and its surrounding businesses and organizations.

The seven schools are Avondale Elementary, Briar Vista Elementary, Fernbank Elementary, Laurel Ridge Elementary, McLendon Elementary, Druid Hills Middle, and Druid Hills High.

Matt Lewis, a parent who led the petition effort, expressed disappointment about the decision. “The Board’s decision is a chilling demonstration of the tyrannical insistence on mediocrity that plagues the DeKalb County public education system leading to under-performing schools that block progress in the vulnerable parts of our communities. In one vote, the DeKalb Board has disenfranchised the very parental leadership it claims to champion, and committed the education and success of nearly 5,000 students and 400 school personnel to the ash heap of the status quo.”

The cluster petition, developed through an organic grassroots effort largely in response to lagging achievement and the accreditation woes of the district, reflected widespread community dissatisfaction with under-performing, under-resourced, and poorly-managed DeKalb County schools.

After 7 months of weekly cluster planning meetings – all publicized and open to the public and inclusive of any volunteer who showed up – and countless research and discussion documents posted online, over 1,000 cluster stakeholders turned out and chose to support this new approach to public education by an overwhelming margin of 92% to 8%.

Moreover, the indisputable merits of the approach would lead to lower class sizes and higher levels of achievement cluster-wide; provide for additional student enrollment from throughout the county at any of the 7 schools with capacity; put principals in charge of schools and teachers in charge of classrooms; use only a portion of existing funds for the 7 schools to provide innovative K-12 learning pathways with integrity; ensure no reduction in funding for any other school in the county; give schools and their communities the opportunity to select governance personnel; value teachers and increase their pay; and provide for independent accreditation. The cluster’s approach, in short, is in the public interest.

What is clearly not in the public interest is the denial of this petition.

At the November 11 called Board meeting, DeKalb County Superintendent Thurmond and his staff stated that the petition met all legal requirements for a charter, concurring with the conclusion of the Georgia Department of Education, but advocated that about 1/3 of the per student state required funding for charter cluster students remain with the school district rather than go to cluster classrooms.

Other events at Monday’s meeting showed an equal disregard for the charter process and public interest. Thurmond’s Charter Office seemed confused regarding petition approval criteria and reversed its position on key petition issues. Thurmond’s Charter Office and counsel refused to provide Petition organizers with any information on the district’s recommendation on the petition, and tried to withhold documents provided to Board members in the public Board meeting, attended by hundreds of Petition supporters.

Ultimately, the petition denial and Superintendent’s refusal to meet with the petition organizers or provide information will generate enormous and additional ill will toward the district from many of the 5,000 students and over 400 personnel in the cluster.

Furthermore, the district’s lack of transparency and fair dealing combined with the Board’s denial of a petition that would bring greater academic achievement to all within the majority minority community is likely to fuel and give momentum to various alternatives, all of which may well remove students and resources from the district. It will demonstrate plainly a continued challenge with basic governance at the DeKalb Board level that is counter to the accrediting guidelines from SACS.

And it will silence the voices of the hundreds of parents, teachers, and community members who committed themselves in good faith to the process of improving public education for students within the cluster and beyond – the same kind of parent involvement and leadership that is necessary to have successful schools.

Theresa Bennett, a parent of an Avondale Elementary student and future cluster governing board member who devoted countless hours towards the development of the petition also reflected on what the denial means to her school community. “The denial of this petition is very disappointing; I can’t believe the board has told our kids “no” to success and smaller classes. Do they really want our kids to succeed?”

It’s time for common sense to prevail. The cluster’s parent and teacher coalition will weigh all of its options to move forward on a path in the best interest of kids and communities.

DeKalb Seeking Your Input on Form of Government

May 2Sunday, Nov. 10, 2013 – From AJC

Interim CEO Lee May announced Friday that the county will host three community meetings, guided by a North Carolina college professor, to get input on whether to eliminate the county CEO position.

Kimberly Nelson, a professor of public administration at the University of North Carolina, will lead the upcoming meetings to try to shape a community consensus.

Nelson, who was recommended by the state’s association of counties, is an expert on local government management. Her job will be to explain the different forms of government and guide discussions.

Once those sessions are done, she will present her findings in a report for May to share with commissioners.

County leaders could use that as a blueprint when making their case under the Gold Dome when lawmakers convene in January.

The meeting all run from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. in different parts of the counties. The dates:

* Nov. 21, Dunwoody High School, 5035 Womack Road.

* Dec. 2, Porter Sanford performing arts center, 3181 Rainbow Dr., near Decatur.

* Dec. 3, Rehoboth Baptist Church, 2997 Lawrenceville Highway, Tucker.

Read More @ AJC

Emory Concert Noise

Noise

From: “Garrett, Matt” <matt.garrett@emory.edu>

Subject: Re: Concert last night

Date: November 7, 2013 6:58:22 PM EST

To: Martha Pacini…

Dear all,

I am writing to apologize for the disturbance you experienced as a result of the concert on campus last night. We fully acknowledge that sometimes our concerts present challenges to our neighbors. We have taken many strides to be good neighbors and help reduce that disturbance. For example, we have hired numerous sound engineers (including two driving around last night) to help us make determinations on how to best angle speakers and utilize other methods to reduce noise pollution into the neighborhood. Further, we have eliminated a couple of concerts and reduced the total number of large, sanctioned concerts from eight in 2008 to four/five in the last year and this year.  Further, we always remain within DeKalb guidelines when hosting these events, including as you will note from last night ensuring they end promptly by the curfew unless we have a permit.  We also only allow two of these events to be permitted, meaning they last until midnight.  Former events were allowed to go until 1 or 2 am, but we stopped that practice in 2010. For the other three annual concerts, we require the students to remain within the county guidelines.

You may be pleased to know there are no more concerts scheduled outdoors until two that are planned for late March/early April.  As a college campus community these concerts are part of the vitality, tradition and community of the collegiate experience.  We will continue to do all we can to prevent any disturbances at future events.  Unfortunately, we have no indoor option for events of this magnitude; however, for smaller events we do require them to be inside as much as possible.

If you’d like to be added to the list that will receive advanced notice about these 4-5 nights a year, please let me know. We appreciate you understanding and your patience.

Sincerely,
Matt


J. Matthew Garrett | Assistant Dean for Campus Life and Director

Office of Student Leadership & Service | Emory University

605 Asbury Circle | Drawer C | Room 340E | Atlanta, Georgia 30322

Tel. 404.727.6169 | Fax. 404.727.2066

http://www.osls.emory.edu

Life-Long Learning | Integrity | Interculturalism | Active Citizenship

New Zoning Code – Community Meeting – Nov. 18

6:30pm – 9pm

dekalb_seal_hi-res

Porter Sanford III Performing Arts & Community Center

3181 Rainbow Drive, Decatur

Zoning timeline

 

DeKalb Neighborhood Summit set for Nov. 16

Neighorhood Summit

Summit to focus on neighborhood accomplishments and best practices

Saturday, Nov. 16, 8:30 a.m. – 1 p.m. at the Courtyard by Marriott, Downtown Decatur, 130 Clairemont Ave., Decatur, GA 30030.

DECATUR – DeKalb County will hold its fifth annual neighborhood summit on Saturday, Nov. 16, 8:30 a.m. – 1 p.m. at the Courtyard by Marriott, 130 Clairemont Ave., Decatur, GA 30030. The DeKalb Neighborhood Summit will provide county residents with important empowerment information via public speakers, exhibitors, workshops, presentations, educational handouts, and networking opportunities.

This year’s summit brings together residents from across DeKalb to meet, exchange ideas and learn how to partner with county departments to sustain and improve the quality of life in our neighborhoods. Attendees will have the opportunity to participate in workshops, sign up for free recycling, learn about green initiatives, visit a county services expo and meet staff from several departments, attend a special session presented by The Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta Neighborhood Fund on preparing applications for the 2014 funding cycle, sign up to become a neighborhood ambassador, and network with community leaders. Also, information about the new Health Insurance Marketplace will be available.

Attendees can choose to participate in the following neighborhood empowerment workshops:

Public Safety – It’s a Priority

Planning and Zoning 101

Understanding Community Improvement Districts (CIDs)

Where Does My Trash Go – Where is Away?

Creating an Abundant Community

Stabilizing Your Neighborhood Through Code Compliance

Transportation Plan Update

When Disaster Strikes – Being Prepared

New Zoning Code

Land Bank

Let’s Talk Economic Development

Got a Park?

100 Pennies

Adding Value with the Arts

Introduction to Homeowner (HOA) and Covenants

Need Funding for Your Neighborhood Projects?

During the summit, a “DeKalb Great Neighborhood Award” recipient will receive $1,000 to use towards neighborhood improvements such as sign toppers and beautification projects.  Nominations are currently being accepted until Friday, Nov. 8. Submissions must describe, in 500 words or less, why the nominated neighborhood deserves the recognition and the positive impact it has on the community, and also describe the neighborhood project the award will go towards. Please submit nominations to onedekalb@dekalbcountyga.gov with the subject line: We are a great neighborhood!

Youth are encouraged to attend the summit and join the Frank Ski Kids Foundation and other youth groups to hear about young people on the move.  “The Power of Youth!” will engage youth with the area’s brightest and youngest community role models.

The DeKalb Neighborhood Summit is free and open to the public, and registration is encouraged. For more information about the summit, including registration, visit www.onedekalb.com or call 404-371-2881.

DeKalb County is Georgia’s third largest county with more than 700,000 residents calling it home. Known for its business and education hub, growing international community and natural wonders, DeKalb County Government is administered by Interim Chief Executive Officer Lee May and legislative policy is set by a six-member Board of Commissioners.

Stay informed with news from DeKalb County by signing up at www.onedekalb.com or send a text message with the word ONEDEKALB to 22828 (message and data rates may apply).

DeKalb Approves Additional Funding for Ethics Board

Funding Represents an Increase of 90%

EthicsDECATUR – The DeKalb County Board of Commissioners approved additional funding for the DeKalb County Board of Ethics partially from their own accounts and in partnership with Interim CEO Lee May.  The additional funds, introduced as an agenda item by District 2 Commissioner Jeff Rader, represents a 90% increase over the funds approved in the 2013 budget which was approved in February.

“The people of DeKalb County want to see this Ethics Board get on its feet and become active and viable,” said Interim CEO May.  “The funding that was approved today gets them the resources they need and sets the bar for funding in 2014.  We’ve nearly doubled our financial commitment to this cause.”

“We allocated funds from our own budget and from other areas in cooperation with the Interim CEO, which is a strong showing on what we all agree upon – that the Ethics Board needs adequate legal counsel and training, so it can be the most effective in service to the citizens of DeKalb County,” said Presiding Officer Sharon Barnes Sutton.

District 3 Commissioner Larry Johnson added, “This is a reasonable compromise and moves the whole county forward.  The Ethics Board gets the funding they need now, and sets them up for success as we move into 2014.  This is a great example of all of us working together affect a positive outcome in a timely manner.”

Dec. 3 Community Meeting @ Emory

Clifton

Tuesday, December 3, from 6:30-8:00 PM, in the North Decatur Building, Room 155.

Dear Neighbors:

Please mark your calendars for our next quarterly community meeting scheduled for Tuesday, December 3, from 6:30-8:00 PM, in the North Decatur Building, Room 155.  I have attached directions to the Lowergate South parking deck, which has a walkway from the deck onto the second floor of the North Decatur Building.  Room 155 is on the first floor.  Please note that the entrance to the parking deck from Gambrell Drive has been diverted to the right side of the deck due to construction associated with the new hospital bed tower.

As you know, these informal quarterly meetings are an opportunity to share information and discuss any particular issues of interest or concern to you with Mike Mandl, Executive Vice President for Business and Administration. Please extend this invitation to others in your neighborhood who may want to participate.  If you have any questions in the meantime, please feel free to call me at 404-727-5312.  I look forward to seeing you next month and will send a reminder note closer to the date.

Warmest regards,

Betty

Betty E. Willis

Senior Associate Vice President

Governmental and Community Affairs

Emory University

Map to Parking

Jeff Rader – On Our Form of Government

Jeff Rader Header

 

 

 

With the indictment of Burrell Ellis, new calls have come for a shift to a Commission/Manager form of government in DeKalb County.  As with the CEO form, there is no standard structure in Georgia enabling legislation, so the “devil is in the details” on exactly what this means.  To make a judgement, it is important to look at all the mechanics of the “Organizational Act” or Charter, identifying deficiencies and options for improvement.  Neither form is invulnerable to manipulation by elected or appointed officials, so the real test is what’s in a Charter that informs the public on government operations and makes it accountable to voters and taxpayers.

Governmental operations are complex, and they can affect your freedom, property and welfare.  Therefore you should be able to know in advance how you will be treated by government, and be treated the same as others.  Unfortunately, many governmental processes are not formalized, and are subject to the whims of individuals.  The most egregious example of this is the alleged manipulation of purchasing procedures for political gain, but it can happen in the award of permits, employment, and the enforcement of laws and regulations.  DeKalb County needs an Administrative Procedures mandate that will require County departments to formalize and document how they conduct business and implement laws, and to adhere to those procedures.  The Charter restriction against adopting a purchasing code should be removed.

Elected and appointed officials are fond of touting their accomplishments, and as in Lake Woebegon, everyone seems to see their accomplishments as above average.  What’s lacking is an objective third party with the skills and resources to systematically evaluate DeKalb operations against best practices and makes a public report of findings and recommendations for improvement.   Surprisingly, the current Charter provides that option in the form of an Internal Auditor, but the Board of Commissioners has never filled the position or funded operations.  DeKalb County needs an independent and mandatory Internal Auditor with a guaranteed budget.

Likewise, the ethical conduct of elected office is the foundation of governmental legitimacy.  DeKalb County has a state-mandated Board of Ethics, but it has been neglected and underfunded by the County government.  DeKalb’s Ethics Board should be strengthened by shifting the power of appointment away from the officials who the Ethics Board oversees, and by giving the Ethics Board a guaranteed budget equal to at least twenty-five cents for each of DeKalb’s 700,000 persons. A quarter per capita is a small price to pay for an effective ethics watchdog.

County governments are too small and too important to operate on a partisan basis.  Partisan alignment disenfranchises large minorities in jurisdictions where elections are determined in the primary.  The election of all County offices should be non-partisan.

Commission district boundaries, like those of the General Assembly and Congress are the object of increasingly effective gerrymandering.  As in these other bodies, the result is entrenched incumbency, political polarization and a general disaffection with government as representative of the common interest.  DeKalb should have an objective redistricting protocol that creates compact districts with common communities of interest.

As mentioned at the start, the details of an improved Charter are important and complex.   In many other states (and increasingly in new DeKalb cities) charter review is accomplished by a “Charter Commission”, an independent group of leading citizens with expert staff, but in Georgia, such changes are often accomplished by local legislative delegations in the course of the 40-day legislative session.  The DeKalb delegation should empanel and fund (using County tax dollars) a Charter Commission to work for a year to draft a revised DeKalb County Organizational Act for legislative approval in 2015.

All these suggestions, and not a word about CEO vs. Commission/Manager!  That’s because the improvement of government is not so much about how politicians divide power between themselves, but is instead about how accountable those politicians are to the public that elects them.  If voters don’t insist that accountability be strengthened, the CEO/Commission Manager debate won’t matter much at all.

Jeff Rader

Neighbors Forum On Citihood – Why Support the City of Briarcliff?

Providing a resource for neighbors to stay informed and engaged on issues impacting our neighborhood.

Briarcliff signNovember 15, 2013 – Peter Sederberg

Hello neighbors,

Like most of you, I knew nothing about proposed incorporation of a new city in unincorporated DeKalb until the middle of June. I never heard of the Lakeside proposal or a competing one for the City of Briarcliff.  I attended a neighborhood meeting to find out what was going on, and how it might affect me.

I superficially followed the incorporation of new cities in North DeKalb. They struck me as white Republican initiatives to lessen the local influence of the majority Black dominated county government. I was relatively satisfied with our neighborhood’s position and services from the county and looked with some suspicion on such “secessionist” activities. And besides, I had no voice in these community initiatives.

Then, with the Lakeside proposal, the issue suddenly became local. I had to pay closer attention.

What’s wrong with the Lakeside proposal? After all, weren’t you indifferent to the other recent cityhood initiatives?

Admittedly, I attended the first meeting in a state of relative indifference. I was open to hearing the case for Lakeside, and I wanted to know if I should care one way or the other. It took me about 5 minutes of studying their proposal to conclude, to borrow the words of Steve Jobs: “This is crap!”

Why so harsh?

Three words: Boundaries! Boundaries! Boundaries!

That is the same word, three times. Why not explain yourself?

Fair enough.

Boundary issue 1: I immediately noted Victoria Estates, along with other local areas like parts of Druid Hills, were not only outside the proposed city, but isolated by it into a fringe squeezed between Lakeside and the City of Atlanta. This seemed potentially dangerous for our community especially with respect to the provision of county emergency services.

Boundary issue 2:  Overall, Lakeside boundaries created a weird, vaguely dog-like shape. It resembles my boxer. Look at it. (You might see a gorilla.) The tail is over Victoria Estates; the head is up in the Tucker area; and down I285 is a weird protuberance, that you can name as you see fit.

Boundary issue 3: This weird shape creates arbitrary divisions. For example, the dog’s tail is formed by going a short ways down the middle of Clairmont to Mason Mill; whereupon it travels down the middle of Mason Mill, dividing that traditional community, and then takes a right up the middle of Houston Mill, dividing that community; and then takes a right on Lavista, then a left on Druid Hills, basically excluding the largely Jewish community along the Lavista corridor. That’s just in our area. The dog’s head also divides traditional communities in the North East.

What about the “dog’s,” ah, extension to the east?

Well, every proposed new city apparently should include a hospital within its proposed boundaries. This extension was needed to take in Emory University Orthopaedics & Spine Hospital. This is not a general-purpose hospital.

Why not just take in the main Emory hospital complex and University?

The “official” reason appears to be that Emory is satisfied with the relationships they have established with the County government and did not wish for the disruption of having to deal with a new city. Emory has taken no official position. Of course, to include in these resources, Lakeside would have to include populations that they presumably view as undesirable, that is, Democrats.

What about the CDC? It’s a major employer.

Not included. Emory and the CDC employ thousands of people, many of whom live in the area, are paid well, and pay local taxes. However, the institutions themselves pay no local property taxes. However, they also draw less on county services. For example, Emory maintains its internal roads and own police force.

Are you insinuating that they were motivated by a partisan political agenda?

Yes. They apparently evaluated the territorial boundaries on a precinct-by-precinct basis to ensure the Republican Party would dominate the new city.

Are you implying this proposal is a gerrymander?

No. It’s a “Frankendog.” A gerrymander is a politically mutant lizard.

What explains the dog’s, ah, tail, more politics?

No, this is economics. A new city has to have a healthy tax base. Of course, we all think our residential property taxes are high, but commercial property generates much more revenue, acre for acre. The tail draws in the Toco Hills shopping area into the proposed boundaries of Lakeside.

OK. So why should I care if I am outside the tail?

You should care if you shop at Toco Hills. This means you will be indirectly supporting a city that deliberately excluded you from its boundaries, but still wants your business. It’s a bit of taxation without representation.

OK, it’s a “dog” of a proposal. We will have a vote on this, won’t we?

Well, many steps have to be taken before citizens are presented a proposal on which they can vote. However, only people who live within the proposed city limits have a vote. Those outside these limits, like those in Victoria Estates and Druid Hills, who will be negatively affected by the new city, have no vote.

What?!!!!!!

Yes, if we are outside the boundaries of the city as defined on the ballot, we will have no vote on it even though it negatively impacts us. Of course, we can attempt to lobby the state senate and house, but since Republicans control both houses, our complaints would likely be disregarded.

What can we do?

I believe opposing something with nothing would prove a long and probably futile slog. A more promising strategy is to oppose bad idea with a better one.

Like what?

A better city. Once neighbors in Leafmore, Sagamore, and Druid Hills caught a whiff of the Lakeside dog, they came up with a more elegant idea: the new city of Briarcliff.

How is their proposal better?

First, they drew boundaries that have considerable geographic integrity. Instead of dividing existing unincorporated communities down the middle, they created a triangle with two sides primarily defined from the apex of the intersection of I85 and I285 in the north, traveling down these two interstate “rivers” until they encounter limits of the city of Atlanta in the west and south and the cities of Decatur and Avondale Estates in the south.  Cities are human creations, but Briarcliff is built in a way consistent with prominent existing, humanly constructed boundaries. Unlike Lakeside, these boundaries are not “crap.”

So Briacliff has boundaries that make more sense, but why should I support it, rather than remaining in the unincorporated DeKalb?

Several reasons: If you are outside the boundaries of Lakeside proposal, assuming the Legislature endorses it and sets up a referendum, you will have no vote, but it will affect you adversely. If you live in Victoria Estates or the excluded areas of the Mason Mill, Merry Hills, and Druid Hills communities, you will have a vote, yea or nay, with respect to the Briarcliff initiative, assuming the Legislature puts it on the ballot.

Moreover, Briarcliff has more going for it than boundaries with integrity. It includes, Emory University, the core of Emory Healthcare, and the Centers for Disease Control. This gives the new city instant visibility as the urban home of these three nationally prominent institutions, and it builds an urban community beyond a conglomeration of strip malls and suburbia slapped together to serve a narrow partisan agenda. Although these three institutions pay no local taxes, many of their employees live within the proposed limits of Briarcliff, and they contribute to the sociological and economic profile of the new city.

Moreover, Briarcliff, as drawn, will have a better gross property valuation per capita than Lakeside, making it more economically viable: better services for the same tax rate.

Finally, the City of Briarcliff will not have a narrow partisan identity.

What do you mean “partisan?”

As noted, precinct-voting analysis of the Lakeside boundaries suggests that they were partly drawn to ensure safe Republican dominance of the new city. Briarcliff, by using geographical criteria rather than political ones, creates a more balanced partisan distribution.

So what? I am a Republican.

And I am a Democrat. Others see themselves as Independents. However, on balance, more competitive political districts, especially in local government, tend to be more responsive to all voters and broader community needs.  Single party dominance also contributes to corruption by making it more difficult to “throw the rascals out.” Ironically, one of the complaints of the Lakeside advocates is the perceived corruption of the “single party dominant” county government, yet that is what they apparently plan to replicate in Lakeside.

So what, exactly, will this proposed City of Briarcliff do?

A city proposal must identify a minimum of three functions they propose performing from a designated list of about a dozen. Briarcliff has identified five functions: police, planning and zoning, parks and recreation, building code enforcement, and road maintenance. These functions represent core areas of dissatisfaction where we believe local control can respond more effectively to local concerns.

How will Briarcliff pay for these functions?

If the proposal successfully passes all the remaining hurdles, including ultimate approval by the voters within the proposed city limits, then the tax money currently collected by the county for these functions from the residents of the new city will be reallocated to the city. Consequently, the property taxes from this area for these functions, like police, will go to the new city. This will likely mean no increase in your property taxes, at least initially. In addition, cities are able to pursue revenue sources that the county is barred from doing, and option that could be used to improve services or lower property tax rates

Ha! So they could go up?

Of course they could. But these would have to be approved either by our elected representatives on city government or by a referendum. Our voices on this issue are more likely to be heard by the new city government than in a county with nearly a million people.

I don’t want any new taxes. Why should I support a new city if they might raise my taxes?

Why should you want to support remaining in the county, as they, too, are likely to raise taxes? In the new city, your voice will carry more weight in such discussions. Also, we need to keep focus on the central issue here: dissatisfaction with the services provided by the county. It may be that in order to get the police protection or the parks we want, that the share we receive from the county will not prove sufficient.

I may have a different attitude than others, but if someone can make a case that a tax increase could provide better public safety or improved recreational opportunities for our new community, I would certainly be open to considering it. The overall quality of life in a community improves property values. As Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes commented more than a century ago, “Taxes are the price we pay for civilization.”

All right. I am willing to consider supporting Briarcliff. What can I do?

First, go to the City of Briarcliff website. It will give you information on how you can get involved and answers to more detailed questions.

The good news is that the first major step has already been paid for and taken. The initiative raised the money to pay for a viability study by the Carl Vinson Institute at UGa. This will be completed by the end of the year and will be submitted at the opening of the legislative session in 2014.  Now is the time to contact your local representatives and urge their support for this initiative

Since the Republicans dominate state government, isn’t this a done deal for Lakeside?

It may be if we do nothing. But as I said before, we now have something better to propose as an alternative. The legislature can do whatever it pleases: Put both options up for a vote; pick one over the other; or even redraw the boundaries.

My guess is that if we work hard, we can at least force them to redraw the boundaries to incorporate the parts of the City of Briarcliff excluded from the Lakeside proposal. Under those circumstances, we would at least be able to vote in the referendum. They might even, under this option, “circumcise” that ridiculous eastern protrusion.

Please feel free to send your thoughts and questions to me at

petersederberg@ gmail.com

Your VE Neighbor.

Peter Sederberg

Progress DeKalb Event Summary

One DeKalbNovember 15, 2013 – Martha Pacini

The Progress DeKalb Conversation and Collaboration Event at Agnes Scott College on Thursday night was jam-packed with elected officials and included Karen Greer as the emcee.

The point of the evening was to underscore the ways in which the school system and the county government are working together on “shared priorities”.  Opening statements from Sharon Barnes Sutton (the Presiding Officer of DeKalb County) and Melvin Johnson (the Board Chair of the school district) were followed by a presentation from Zach Williams (the executive assistant/chief operation officer of the county, which is basically a county manager type of position) that outlined the cooperative efforts that the county and school district have undertaken in the areas of community health, community safety, expanding educational opportunities, sustainability and opportunities to improve the quality of life.

There were also presentations by others, including by the director of the school district’s DeKalb International Welcome Center, the police chief, and each county commissioner and school board member was given a question to answer.  The most professional presentation of the evening came from Vaughn Irons, who is the Chair of the DeKalb County Development Authority.   [I am trying to get copies of the presentations or a link to the video of the evening].

Several of the speakers referenced the Ronald McNair Discovery Learning Academy shooting as an example of how the school district and the county worked well together to deal with a critical situation.

Should anyone have questions about how DeKalb County and the School District are working together or suggestions on how they could work together better, they should be sent to progress@dekalbcountyga.gov.   They have said they will answer all emails.

All in all, a very planned and controlled event.