Monthly Archives: October 2014

COVE Report – October 22, 2014

COVEReport logo2

 

 

 

Blueprint DeKalb Needs Your Support!

 Blueprint DeKalb

 

Blueprint DeKalb is a citizen led group providing specific recommendations for reform in DeKalb County government in ethics, auditing, purchasing, elections…. This is a real opportunity for reform and requires your support.

 

Victoria Estates residents Pat Killingsworth and Martha Pacini, along with other citizen representatives have developed position papers outlining best-practice reforms that should be implemented. As the county government is chartered by the state, these reforms require action in the 2015 legislative session.

 

Here is what you can do:

  1. Go to the Blueprint DeKalb website and endorse the blueprint.
  2. Spread the word and ask your friends and associates to sign on.
  3. Ask the DeKalb legislative delegation to support the blueprint.
  4. Use the “please come speak to us” form to schedule meetings with your local groups

 

The DeKalb legislative delegation’s response in a recent meeting held in Brookhaven was positive. This is real chance for reform in DeKalb government, make some noise!

 

Next DeKalb Delegation Meeting to Voice Your Support

October 28 – 7:00 PM – Porter Sanford Center, 3181 Rainbow Dr., Decatur, GA 30034

Summary of the Recommendations in the Blueprint to Redefine DeKalb

The Blueprint to Redefine DeKalb proposes initial reforms for rebuilding citizens’ trust and confidence in DeKalb County government.  Until the cloud of corruption and lack of transparency in government operations are eliminated through effective reforms, all County actions and decisions will be suspect.  Citizens must demand that DeKalb County government move to the ethical and transparent high ground. Three of our four recommendations represent best practices that have been proven to save tax dollars, ensure transparency and prevent corruption. The key concepts in the Blueprint are:

  1. Modify the Organizational Act to create an independent, sustainable, professional and comprehensive internal audit function. Many local governments have this function to improve operations, investigate abuses and recommend solutions. The chief audit executive must be independent from the CEO and Board of Commissioners and should report to an independent body, such as a citizens oversight committee.  To be sustainable and comprehensive, the internal audit department’s budget should be mandated funding expressed as a percentage of the annual county budget (0.1%).  The internal audit function should be professional and demonstrate consistent use of best practices by following the practice guidelines outlined by the Institute of Internal Auditors, the Georgia Society of Certified Public Accountants and the Association of Local Government Auditors.
  2. Modify the Organizational Act to strengthen the Board of Ethics. In recent months, nearly every DeKalb County citizen has recognized the importance of this Board and the ways the appointment process has disrupted the Board’s ability to operate.  The Board cannot be appointed by the Board of Commissioners and the CEO without becoming a pawn in the political process.  To restore public trust in County government decisions, the Board of Ethics should (a) be independently appointed by a panel of civic and professional organizations; (b) be comprised of individuals with experience in ethics, law, finance or relevant subjects; (c) be protected against budget constraints by mandating funding as a percentage of the annual county budget (0.05%); (d) educate all individuals subject to the Board of Ethics jurisdiction regarding ethical behavior.
  3. Modify the Organizational Act to establish checks and balances over the management of the procurement process. Currently, all procurement policies are under the sole jurisdiction of the CEO, which allows for unilateral changes to procurement procedures without consulting or notifying anyone, including the Board of Commissioners. This broad assignment of power can lead to abuses. DeKalb County spends more than $200 million annually on contracts established by the procurement department–an enormous sum of money to lack appropriate oversight by the legislative branch of county government. The process for awarding these contracts must be fair, consistent, transparent and efficient. Both a recent highly critical third-party study and the Special Grand Jury have called for reforms in this crucial area. The Organizational Act should permit the Board of Commissioners to adopt the procurement procedures in county ordinances to provide clear, enforceable law.
  4. The final recommendation for Board of Commissioners and Board of Education term limits is admittedly controversial. The Blueprint suggests placing a straw poll on the ballot to advance the discussion. Consider that an incumbent DeKalb County Commissioner has not lost an election since 1992 when Elaine Boyer beat Jean Williams.  The reason:  incumbents have an enormous advantage both in terms of name recognition and fundraising.  These advantages are barriers to those wanting to enter public service.  In short, DeKalb County benefits every time a well-qualified, talented leader steps up and the power of incumbency is a deterrent.

Most of all, DeKalb County needs engaged citizens. Ultimately we the citizens of DeKalb are responsible for our government. The Blueprint DeKalb team encourages you to become involved in your local government. Please endorse the blueprint on our website (www.BlueprintDeKalb.org) and contact your elected officials to insist on effective reforms. Primarily, get involved and help us begin to restore trust and pride in DeKalb County.

 

Neighborhood Picnic – Thomson Park, Sunday, October 26, 4-6 pm

 picnic2

 

 

 

The Mason Mill Civic Association has rescheduled the neighborhood fall picnic to Sunday, October 26, from 4 – 6 p.m. Please RSVP again by replying to MasonMillCA@gmail.com with:

Name _________________________________

There will be (#) __________ of us at the picnic.

We will bring (main, side or dessert) ______________________

(#)_________ of us can help set up (~3-4pm).

(#)_________ of us can help clean up afterwards (~6:30pm).

 

Some reasons to attend the picnic:

  1. Meet up with the cool people who live around you.
  2. Enjoy the fall in beautiful surroundings.
  3. Meet the person who keeps sending you these emails.
  4. Take a step out of your social comfort zone.

 

We hope you will be there!

 

HALLOWEEN

halloween1-281x300

Mark it on your calendar: the Victoria Estates Civic Association’s annual Halloween party will be held in the Rainier Falls cul-de-sac again this year in late afternoon and early evening. More details will be forthcoming. This event is always fun, so we hope you will join us.

 

Cityhood – Initiatives and Schools

A letter from VE resident Jen Tipping

Jen Tipping 

Hi all,

 

I’m interested in cityhood initiatives and how the various options might impact our local school options. I would like our neighbors to consider not just the taxes and services implications, but also the impact on the schools that would serve VE under the various cityhood possibilities.

 

I attended a meeting on Thursday, October 16th at Briar Vista Elementary. A number of topics were on the agenda, including an Ebola update and academic benchmarks. I was there to hear from Marshall Orson and Matt Lewis about the ramifications of last week’s withdrawal of the Druid Hills Charter Cluster (DHCC) petition.   Alex Wan also attended to field any questions about annexation by City of Atlanta of all or some of the attendance zone served by Briar Vista Elementary. He confirmed that City of Atlanta wishes to expand, the only way to do this is via annexation, and the city will say “yes” to anyone who wants to be annexed. Parents and neighbors attended with what-next questions, given the number of cityhood initiatives underway that impact our attendance zone in different ways.

 

Matt Lewis has led the DHCC petition initiative and offered these two primary reasons for the withdrawal:

 

1) It became clear the county would not approve the petition under any circumstances.

2) There are a number of cityhood, annexation, and alternate charter proposals underway, any of which would divide individual school and the DHCC attendance zone. Withdrawal of the petition allows communities the freedom to act to preserve their school community.

 

Link to official withdrawal letter here. The petition was withdrawn without prejudice, leaving open the possibility that it could be re-filed when conditions are more favorable.

 

Briar Vista includes neighborhoods that cut across the proposed “map lines” drawn by the various cityhood groups. Marshall, Matt, and Alex encouraged the BVE community to organize around the school community. They suggested going back to our neighbors and asking them to consider the elementary school as an organizing principle when considering cityhood initiatives.

 

The Druid Hills Civic Association has a proposed map for annexation to City of Atlanta; the map includes the attendance zones of Briar Vista and Fernbank Elementary. You can see it here, scroll down for map:

http://druidhills.org/2014/10/15/cityhood-annexation-options-and-their-effects-on-taxes-and-schools/

The map includes Emory, as well as Druid Hills High School. Open question: what middle school would students in the attendance zone attend?

 

Everyone present at the meeting felt strongly that most of Dekalb County (at least northern Dekalb County) will be part of a city. Marshall expressed his opinion that annexation to City of Atlanta is the best way to keep BVE and Fernbank communities together. He would very likely be out of a job under this scenario.

 

Without question, this outcome would make BVE and Fernbank part of the Atlanta Public School (APS) system. APS has demonstrated an openness to innovative strategies (e.g., KIPP schools got a charter cluster and the new superintendent hired KIPP director as her deputy, http://www.ajc.com/weblogs/get-schooled/2014/jul/10/atlanta-school-chief-turns-kipp-charter-school-net/). It’s possible that the school communities of BVE, Fernbank, and Druid Hills High School, could organize as a “charter cluster” in APS.

 

A couple of notes/assumptions/disclosures:

 

  1. I have 3 kids as BVE. We are thrilled with how things are progressing there – I believe we’re on par with Fernbank and nearby “blue ribbon” schools, just waiting for the reputation to catch up to the reality.

 

  1. I selfishly think organizing around our neighborhood school is a reasonable framework for evaluating cityhood initiatives. The local elementary school serving a neighborhood is an important criterion on which home buyers decide where to live; a strong BVE serving Victoria Estates would surely improve every VE homeowner’s property values.

 

  1. I’m not an expert on cityhood and do not pretend to understand all of the ramifications of VE becoming part of any city – lots of unknowns.

 

Thank you for reading this. This ultimately comes down to each voter’s personal opinion at the ballot box, but I want this to be an informed choice, rather than something that happens to VE.

 

Jen Tipping

 

VOTE! – General Election Candidates & Early Voting Locations

voteGet out and vote!
The contested elections for the Nov. 4 General Election (Victoria Estates) are:

Statewide Offices

 U.S. Senate David A. Perdue (Republican)
M. Michelle Nunn (Democrat)
Amanda C. Swafford (Libertarian)
 Governor
  1. Nathan Deal (I) (Republican)
    Jason J. Carter (Democrat)
    Andrew T. Hunt (Libertarian)
 Lieutenant Governor L.S. “Casey” Cagle (I) (Republican)
Connie J. Stokes (Democrat)
 Secretary of State Brian P. Kemp (I) (Republican)
Doreen Carter (Democrat)
 Attorney General Samuel S. Olens (I) (Republican)
Gregory K. “Greg” Hecht (Democrat)
 Commissioner of Agriculture Gary W. Black (I) (Republican)
Christopher James Irvin (Democrat)
 Commissioner of Insurance Ralph T. Hudgens (I) (Republican)
Elizabeth N. “Liz” Johnson (Democrat)
Edward T. “Ted” Metz (Libertarian)
 State School Superintendent Richard L. Woods (Republican)
Valarie D. Wilson (Democrat)
 Commissioner of Labor
  1. Mark Butler (I) (Republican)
    Robbin K. Shipp (Democrat)
 Public Service Commissioner
 (To succeed H. Doug Everett)
 Herman D. “Doug” Everett (I) (Republican)
John H. Monds (Libertarian)
 Public Service Commissioner
 (To succeed Lauren W. McDonald)
 Lauren W. “Bubba” McDonald (I) (Republican)
Daniel A. Blackman (Democrat)
Robin Aaron Gilmer (Libertarian)

State Senate

 42nd District Gregory E. “Greg” Williams (Republican)
Elena C. Parent (Democrat)

Proposed Constitutional Amendments

“Shall the Constitution of Georgia be amended to prohibit the General Assembly from increasing the maximum state income tax rate?”
Kathie Gannon – “This would keep legislators from increasing the currentmaximum state income tax rate.”Mary Margaret Oliver – “This amendment will unnecessarily restrict future Legislatures from dealing with changing fiscal needs for 100 years. The income tax rate has not been changed since the 30’s, there is no discussion for a change, and this proposed amendment was the product of a partisan and non-substantive debate – I WILL VOTE NO.”
Yes
No
“Shall the Constitution of Georgia be amended to allow additional reckless driving penalties or fees to be added to the Brain and Spinal Injury Trust Fund to pay for care and rehabilitative services for Georgia citizens who have survived neurotrauma with head or spinal cord injuries?”
Kathie Gannon – “This is not a tax but a charge added to reckless driving fines.”Mary Margaret Oliver – “This amendment will increase funds available for rehabilitative services for those experiencing brain and spinal injuries – I WILL VOTE YES.”
Yes
No

Proposed Statewide Referendum

“Shall property owned by the University System of Georgia and utilized by providers of college and university student housing and other facilities continue to be exempt from taxation to keep costs affordable?”
Kathie Gannon – “This would give privately owned student dormitories and parking decks a tax exempt status because of their contracted obligation to serve the university theyare affiliated with.”Mary Margaret Oliver – “This amendment will allow University System properties to be built with private funds instead of University System bond debt – I WILL VOTE YES.”
Yes
No

 

Victoria Estates Area Early Voting Locations and Dates
Voter Registration & Elections Office
4380 Memorial Drive, Suite 300
Decatur, GA 30032
Monday – Friday, 10/13 – 31, 7 AM – 7 PM
Saturday, 10/25, 8 AM – 5 PM
Sunday, 10/26, 12 Noon – 5 PM

Downtown Decatur – Clark Harrison Building
330 W. Ponce de Leon, Room A
Decatur, GA 30030
Monday – Friday, 10/27 – 31, 7 AM – 7 PM

DeKalb Sustainability – Saturday, November – 8:00 am – 12:30 pm

Tucker High School, 5036 LaVista Road Tucker, GA 30084

 

DeKalb County’s renewable energy facilities at the Seminole Road Landfill is the first local government in the U.S. to capture methane landfill gas to produce electricity, natural gas and compressed natural gas (CNG) at a single landfill. The operation is equivalent to taking 30,000 cars off the road every year and will reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 17,000 tons.

COME HERE ABOUT DEKALB’S SUSTAINABILITY BEST PRACTICES + GET AN UPDATE ON THE SANITATION PILOT FROM BILLY MALONE, DIRECTOR OF SANITATION

Mr. Malone has been certified by SWANA as a Manager of Landfill Operations (MOLO) for 26 years. He is also certified as a Landfill Specialist by SWANA. Billy was elected as the first SWANA Technical Division International Board of Directors Representative for Landfills. He is still serving in that position. Billy was appointed by EPA Global Methane to serve as an instructor and site evaluator for the country of Indonesia. Billy also serves on the Board of Directors for Clean Cities Georgia. Billy has been an active Member of the Nature Conservancy since 1978 and the Wilderness Society since 1979. Billy championed the first Renewable Electrical Energy Project for Georgia Power in 2004 and the Landfill Gas to Renewable Natural Gas and a Public CNG Fueling Facility under a DOE Petroleum Reduction Grant from the Department of Energy in 2009.

 

Upcoming Work on Roads

From The Mason Mill Civic Association

 

Wondering what those marks are on the road?  We believe they are related to the following:

The DeKalb County Watershed Management has notified us that contractors will begin installing new underground flow meters.  These meters are devices mounted inside sewers to measure the depth and velocity of sewer flow.  The meters convey data to a server and will enable the county to mitigate sewer overflows.  County easements are often located on or behind private property, and workers will be entering driveways and backyards to gain access to sewer lines.  The project will take approximately two months and workers will be in the area from 7:30 to 4:00 p.m. Monday through Fridays, excluding holidays.  Personnel will be wearing proper identification and driving marked vehicles.  Feel free to call 404.906.1882 with questions or comments regarding this project. This is the first in a series of projects associated with the county’s ongoing Consent Decree with the EPA and Georgia’s EPD.

 

Brookhaven Receives Applications for Annexation from Executive Park and Children’s Healthcare

 

October 7, 2014  Posted by: The Brookhaven Post

The City of Brookhaven has received formal annexation applications from parties representing Children’s Healthcare of Georgia and Executive Park.

The properties referenced in the applications are located on the east side of Interstate 85, fronted by North Druid Hills Road.

The city is currently reviewing the applications to ensure compliance with state annexation laws.

Brookhaven City Councilman Joe Gebbia said, “Children’s Healthcare is a world-class organization that recognizes the benefits of being a part of the City of Brookhaven. That is a compliment and an asset. We are willing to consider their desire to join our city.”

LakesideYES Chairperson, Mary Kay Woodworth said, “If Brookhaven were to annex this area, it would have an effect on Lakeside because it would take away some commercial and industrial properties.”

State Representative Mike Jacobs (D-80 Brookhaven/Chamblee) said, “If the property owners are interested in annexing into Brookhaven, I sure would like to see that process run its course before the General Assembly goes into session in January of 2015. Otherwise, it’s clear that the very same territory will be in play in other legislative proposals.”

Jacobs said another Century Center situation would be the last thing anyone in the General Assembly wants to see.

While it is unclear exactly what an annexation map will look like, preliminary chatter is that it could encompass an area between Briarcliff Rd. and the Interstate 85 Access Road. – potentially on both sides of North Druid Hills Road.

More as this story develops.