COVE Report – October 18, 2016

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Mason Mill Civic Association – Fall Picnic for All Area Neighbors

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Sunday, October 23, 2016*
4:30 – 6:30 pm, W. D. Thomson Park Pavilion
The tradition continues: our semi-annual neighborhood picnic!

We are hoping for perfect fall weather and expect lots of good food. The MMCA Social Committee will be grilling hamburgers, veggie burgers and hot dogs, and supplying drinks, ice, plates, cups and plastic ware. Please bring a favorite main or side dish or dessert to share with your neighbors. Bring enough for 8-10 people. (Don’t forget a serving utensil!) Also, bring folding chairs, tables or blankets and any kind of toys for the kids.
* Any postponement due to rain will be posted on the picnic pavilion and via nextdoor.com. Your donations help defray picnic costs! A jar will be on the sign-in table. If you are attending, please rsvp to civicassn@masonmill.org. Hope to see you there!

2016 General/Special Election – Advance Voting Has Begun

voteSample Ballot

Click here for Victoria Estates residents: 2016-general-ballot
In addition to races, there are four proposed constitutional amendments, and a special vote concerning homestead exemptions.

Click here for My Voter Page with Sample Ballots

Some Advance Voting Locations

Decatur
10/31 – 11/4 (7:00 am – 7:00 pm)
330 W Ponce de Leon Ave
Decatur, GA 30030

Brookhaven
10/31 – 11/4 (7:00 am – 7:00 pm)
4362 Peachtree Rd, NE
Brookhaven, GA 30319

Main
10/17 – 10/22 (7:00 am – 7:00 pm)
10/24 – 10/29 (7:00 am – 7:00 pm)
10/30 (12:00 pm – 5:00 pm)
10/31 – 11/4 (7:00 am – 7:00 pm)
4380 Memorial Drive
Decatur, GA 30032

General/Special Election

November 8, 2016
INTOWN COMMUNITY CHURCH
2059 LAVISTA ROAD
ATLANTA, GA, 30329 – 0000
Election Day precinct hours are 7:00 am – 7:00 pm.

Proposed Georgia Constitutional Amendments

georgia-state-capitol-1

Amendment 1

Provides greater flexibility and state accountability to fix failing schools through increasing community involvement.
Senate Resolution No. 287 Act No. 309 Ga. L. 2015, p. 1498 “Shall the Constitution of Georgia be amended to allow the state to intervene in chronically failing public schools in order to improve student performance?”

Amendment 2

Authorizes penalties for sexual exploitation and assessments on adult entertainment to fund child victims’ services.
Senate Resolution No. 7 Act No. 306 Ga. L. 2015, p. 1497 “Shall the Constitution of Georgia be amended to allow additional penalties for criminal cases in which a person is adjudged guilty of keeping a place of prostitution, pimping, pandering, pandering by compulsion, solicitation of sodomy, masturbation for hire, trafficking of persons for sexual servitude, or sexual exploitation of children and to allow assessments on adult entertainment establishments to fund the Safe Harbor for Sexually Exploited Children Fund to pay for care and rehabilitative and social services for individuals in this state who have been or may be sexually exploited?

Amendment 3

Reforms and reestablishes the Judicial Qualifications Commission and provides for its composition, governance, and powers.
House Resolution No. 1113 Act No. 537 Ga. L. 2016, p. 896 “Shall the Constitution of Georgia be amended so as to abolish the existing Judicial Qualifications Commission; require the General Assembly to create and provide by general law for the composition, manner of appointment, and governance of a new Judicial Qualifications Commission, with such commission having the power to discipline, remove, and cause involuntary retirement of judges; require the Judicial Qualifications Commission to have procedures that provide for due process of law and review by the Supreme Court of its advisory opinions; and allow the Judicial Qualifications Commission to be open to the public in some manner?”

Amendment 4

Dedicates revenue from existing taxes on fireworks to trauma care, fire services, and public safety.

Senate Resolution No. 558 Act No. 530 Ga. L. 2016, p. 895 “Shall the Constitution of Georgia be amended so as to provide that the proceeds of excise taxes on the sale of fireworks or consumer fireworks be dedicated to the funding of trauma care, firefighter equipping and training, and local public safety purposes?” DEKALB COUNTY SPECIAL ELECTIONS YES NO DeKalb County Homestead Exemption Act 264, House Bill 596 (Vote for One) “Shall the Act be approved which amends the homestead exemption from DeKalb County ad valorem taxes for county purposes in an amount equal to the amount by which the current year assessed value of a homestead exceeds the base year assessed value of such homestead by extending the time limitation on such exemption?”

DeKalb County Special Election

DeKalb County Homestead Exemption Act 264, House Bill 596
Shall the Act be approved which amends the homestead exemption from DeKalb County ad valorem taxes for county purposes in an amount equal to the amount by which the current year assessed value of a homestead exceeds the base year assessed value of such homestead by extending the time limitation on such exemption?

Our Representatives’ Statements Concerning the Ballot:

gannon raderelena_parent

Amendment 1

Commissioner Kathie Gannon – “This amendment would allow the state to manage schools that have been deemed as failing, based upon their College and Career Ready Performance Index score. These schools would be shut down or placed under a statewide opportunity district overseen by a governor-appointed Superintendent.”

Senator Elena Parent – “Summary: Amendment 1 is a constitutional amendment that would allow the General Assembly to authorize the establishment of an Opportunity School District (OSD) to provide for state interventions for low-performing schools.

Governance: The OSD Superintendent, who is appointed by the Governor, is granted broad power and flexibility to waive State BoE rules, regulations, policies, and procedures for OSD schools with the ultimate goal of improving academic performance. The OSD Superintendent has the authority to select, approve, or remove the school principal for schools in the opportunity district and governing board members for opportunity which become OSD charters.

Structure: The proposal authorizes the OSD to take over up to 20 schools a year with a cap of 100 schools total. OSD schools will remain in the district for at least five years but no more than 10. If an opportunity school or OSD charter earns above an F on the relevant criteria for three consecutive years, the school will be removed from the OSD or no longer subject to OSD oversight.

Powers: The OSD director can take one of four steps regarding a struggling school: (1) direct management, (2) shared governance, (3) conversion to a charter school or (4) closure. Any teacher who is not hired on at their school post-OSD takeover remains an employee of the local school district and the district may determine whether or not to keep employing the teacher.

Elena’s Opinion:
I voted against the Opportunity School District and plan to vote no. While the goal of improving failing schools is laudable and I believe that Governor Deal is well-intentioned, the appointment of a superintendent who is unaccountable to taxpayers and parents is not a recipe for success. There is no specific plan delineated as to how the failing schools would be turned around. This, when coupled with the lack of accountability, is worrisome. We do need to turn around our struggling schools, but state leaders should be following proven, research-based methods of doing so rather than chasing the “state-takeover” fad that has taken root in some nearby states. There are no quick fixes and this “solution” does not provide a long-term plan for improving education in Georgia for all our kids, which is what we need to do.
There are theoretically some pros. There is a chance good reforms could emerge at the school level. These could be positive. We just don’t know, because there is no specific plan for voters to count on. (In the other extreme, there is no prohibition on the use of for-profit charter managers, for example.)

The biggest pro that I see is that the threat of state takeover and the loss of associated local school dollars could motivate some local school boards to implement reforms that have not occurred due to lack of motivation or politics. However, I believe that there are other, better ways to accomplish that goal. To begin with, current law permits the State School Superintendent to exercise several of these powers.

This is a complex issue. For those who want more information, following are links to several articles:
An op-ed I wrote in Reporter Newspapers explaining my opposition to the OSD.
AJC: 7 Things to Know about Gov. Deal’s Opportunity School District
Report from pastor who attended OSD meeting with Gov. Deal
Info from group supporting OSD

Amendment 2

Commissioner Kathie Gannon – “This amendment will allow for establishing a Safe Harbor Fund for rehabilitative and support services to sexually exploited children. Taxpayers would not contribute, but would use fines from convicted sex trafficker cases and annual fees from adult entertainment industries.”

State Senator Elena Parent – Summary: Amendment 2 establishes a new Safe Harbor for the Sexually Exploited Children Fund, receiving money through $2,500 fines on convicted traffickers and an annual fee of $5,000 or 1% of annual gross revenue, whichever is greater, on adult entertainment establishments. Funds are then used to provide housing, mental care, education, job training, legal help, and child care to the victims. Convicted traffickers will also be listed on the state sex offender website.

Elena’s Opinion:
I voted for Safe Harbor and plan to vote yes. Our city and state see some of the highest levels of human trafficking in the country. I agree with the goal of ensuring that victims of child sex trafficking get the needed counseling, medical care, education, and other support services they need to live happy and healthy lives – and without raising taxes. Some feel that the fee on the adult entertainment venues is punitive or unconstitutional, but I feel that the good in this amendment strongly outweighs the bad.

Amendment 3

Commissioner Kathie Gannon – “This amendment will abolish the longstanding Judicial Qualifications Commission overseen by the judicial branch and give the authority to the general assembly. “

State Senator Elena Parent – Summary: Under current law, the Judicial Qualifications Commission (JQC) is comprised of two judges selected by the Georgia Supreme Court, three lawyers appointed by the State Bar of Georgia and two citizens appointed by the Governor. The proposed constitutional amendment would change the appointment powers: appointments would be made by the Speaker of the House, the Lieutenant Governor and the Governor. The public will now be denied access to a judge’s disciplinary hearing before the JQC for the first time.

Elena’s Opinion:
I am strongly against Amendment 3 and will vote no. This amendment eliminates the JQC as an independent constitutional entity and puts political appointments in its place. As such, it makes the oversight of our judiciary less democratic and more political. And indeed, it appears that at least some of the impetus for the passage of this Amendment is dissatisfaction with actions of the JQC by members of the Legislature, one of whom happens to be a former judge who was investigated by the JQC.

Furthermore, the Legislature’s work on this has been the reverse of thoughtful policymaking. Hearings should have been held to take testimony to determine what exactly is wrong with the system the way it is and then a solution addressing those perceived flaws should have been crafted. Instead, hearings are being held NOW to determine those things. I consider the passage of this Amendment to be mostly a political power play. This is actually all you need to know to understand why you should vote against Amendment 3.
Conducting a Google search will bring up other interesting articles, if you so choose to immerse yourself further.

Amendment 4

Commissioner Kathie Gannon – “This amendment would support moving tax revenue from the sale of fireworks to trauma care, fire protection services and fire safety. 5% of the tax revenue would be allotted to local governments to support 911 services.”

State Senator Elena Parent – Summary: Amendment 4 will dedicate the proceeds from a general excise tax on fireworks to support funding for fire protection services, trauma care and public safety. The intent of the amendment is to establish a permanent revenue source that may not be diverted by the legislature without repeal of this amendment by the people.

Elena’s Opinion:
I will vote yes for this amendment. If passed, this creates a permanent fund for trauma care, fire safety and public safety, all of which are impacted by the legalization of fireworks in Georgia. The use of the excise tax for this purpose should provide a direct funding stream to ameliorate any harms created by the use of fireworks.

DeKalb County Homestead Exemption Act 264, House Bill 596

Commissioner Kathie Gannon – “In 2015, the General Assembly passed legislation to call a referendum to extend the existing Homestead Property Tax Assessment Freeze (applicable only to County taxes) until 2022. Voters wishing to extend the Homestead Property Tax Assessment Freeze until 2022 should vote yes to approve the legislation. Voters wishing to end the freeze at the end of 2016 should vote no. The freeze maintains your property value at the level set when you elected to take the freeze.”

State Senator Elena Parent – A “yes” vote will extend the existing Homestead property tax assessment freeze (applicable to County taxes only) until 2022.

Commissioner Jeff Rader – “In 2015, the DeKalb Delegation passed local legislation to call a referendum this November to extend the existing Homestead Property Tax Assessment Freeze (applicable only to County taxes) until 2022.

However, the legislation went further to stipulate that, if the voters approved separate referenda to dedicate the Homestead Option Sales Tax (HOST) exclusively to tax relief (eliminating the current 20% available for capital improvements) AND to approve a Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST) for capital projects (to replace the 20% HOST allocation to capital), THEN the Assessment Freeze would be TOLLED (suspended) while those taxes were in effect. The authors of the legislation have said that the wording was in error; instead of “tolled” they meant “extended”. Nevertheless the language is plain, and therefore binding. As a consequence of this error, the Board of Commissioners withdrew plans for a referendum on the HOST amendment and the SPLOST. Legislators intend to address the error in this year’s General Assembly.

All this complexity notwithstanding, voters wishing to extend the Homestead Property Tax Assessment Freeze until 2022 should vote yes to approve the legislation, or the freeze will expire at the end of 2016, exposing many homeowners to increased County property taxes

Jeff Rader”

Discussion on the Proposed GA Constitutional Amendment “Opportunity School Districts”

Become an informed voter!
Please join CINS, SEACS, and the Carver Cluster for a Round Table Discussion on the Proposed
GA Constitutional Amendment “Opportunity School Districts”
When: Wednesday, October 19, 2016, 7 – 8:30 pm
Where: The Frazer Center, 1815 S Ponce De Leon Ave. NE, Atlanta, GA 30307
http://www.frazercenter.org/wp-content/u…

If entering through the front gate from S. Ponce, take the driveway all the way up to the right to back of the property and park. Head towards the circular drive, and you should see a sign and a cracked door into the Senior Center.

What: We are hosting a community discussion with panelists representing both sides of the proposed amendment, including:
• Diane Jacobi, Public Education Advocate (substituting for Janet Kishbaugh, Director of Research and Information Services, Public Education Matters http://publiceducationmattersga.org/)
• Steven Quinn, State Outreach Manager for GergiaCAN, http://www.gacan.org/ and Field Coordinator for Students First, https://www.studentsfirst.org/georgia/wh…
• Atlanta Public Schools Board Member, District 3 Representative, Matt Westmoreland, will be on hand to answer questions about their Turnaround Strategy currently underway.
• GA House of Representatives District 59 Representative Margaret Kaiser will also be on hand to answer any questions on the proposed amendment and its history and future significance.
For more information and to become an informed voter, please see: http://www.legis.ga.gov/Legislation/en-U…

Emory Annexation into Atlanta – Update

emory-annexation-jpg

Emory University has indicated its proposed annexation into Atlanta will not occur in 2016. Victoria Estates and adjacent areas are not included in the annexation but could be impacted in regard to transportation, public safety, schools, and taxes.

The COVE board is working the following response:
• Obtain more definitive responses from officials on impacts
• Provide updates to neighbors through COVE Report
• Conduct survey of neighbors to understand concerns
• Neighborhood meeting with Atlanta, DeKalb County, and Emory representatives

While Victoria Estates is not included in the annexation, it could be annexed by petition of residents. The petition option would be available to VE only if the Emory petition is successful and Victoria Estates then has a border with Atlanta.
A collection of articles concerning annexation proposals on Decaturish

DeKalb Interim CEO, Commissioners Address Water Billing Issues with New Resolution – New Water Meter Installation Halted

DECATUR, Ga. – The DeKalb County Board of Commissioners approved a resolution introduced by DeKalb Interim CEO Lee May which empowers the chief financial officer (CFO) with discretion to address unusually high water bills due to billing or meter errors.

The legislation clarifies code sections 25-106(f) to specify that the CFO has the authority to make adjustments to a customer’s account for billing errors, as long as the dispute was recorded within two years of the billing error itself.

The resolution also stops the installation of the new iPerl water meters and calls for the establishment of convenient bill resolution sites around the county during the moratorium.

Another proactive step addresses excessively high bills. In these cases, Chief Operating Officer Zach Williams has directed the Utility Customer Operations Center to send out estimated bills with messaging that indicates that the county is investigating the cause of the variance. Once a high variance is detected, a work order for a water meter inspection will automatically be generated.

“Sending out estimated bills will let our customers know what is going on with their accounts in a timely manner, as well as provide a mechanism for them to pay their average amount due while we get to the root of the problem,” COO Williams said.

On Sept. 20, Interim CEO May issued a moratorium through the end of 2016 on the disconnection of residential water accounts that have been contested through the Utility Customer Operations Center.

Water customers who believe their bill is in error should notify the Utility Customer Operations Center at 774 Jordan Lane in Decatur, or call (404) 371-3000 to speak with a customer service representative. Account holders with disputed balances are required to pay their average amount due until the case is resolved, with the balance, if any, due at the time the investigation is complete.

Further, a third-party dispute process is being developed to provide customers an additional avenue to resolve their disputes. This process will be implemented during the moratorium.

There will be no water service disconnections for customers with account balances in dispute who have paid their average bill through the end of 2016.

Jeff Rader

W.D. Thomson Park Work Days Kick-Off 10/22

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The 2016-2017 season of volunteer work days at W. D. Thomson Park begins on Saturday, Oct. 22, from 9a-12noon.

(And please save these dates for more fall & winter work sessions: Saturdays Nov. 12 and Dec. 10, and MLK Day Monday Jan. 16. We’ll announce our dates for February through June at a later date.)

October 22 will mark the start of the 5th year of the “Friends of Thomson Park” group. Over each of the previous 4 years, individual park lovers have contributed well over 200 person-hours of time at WDT. They’ve accomplished a great deal and had a good time at it! This year we’ll be expanding our volunteer outreach and involvement, and changing our focus to reflect having achieved most of the highest-priority goals of our initial years.

Please help make this first session of the 2016-2017 season a successful one. There are tasks for young and old, large and small. Friends will continue to remove some invasive plants, but also make preparations so that in coming months we’ll be able to relocate some heavily eroded trails, rebuild failing bridges and stairways (and add some new ones!), plant native species and install benches in some of the areas we’ve reclaimed from privet and thicket, add more signage and trail information, and much more.

As always, we’re also interested in snacks and beverages for our workers, which could be delivered to Patrick Noon in advance, if need be. Contact Patrick at
Patrick.Noonan@emory.edu

Open Streets Emory Village – October 23rd – 3:00 pm – 7:00 pm

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Enjoy Oxford and N. Decatur closed to vehicular traffic from roundabout to roundabout in the Village for pedestrians, bikes and strollers. Healthy activities, good food, music, arts & crafts and science.

Some Recent Area Zoning Applications

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This application has been filed with DeKalb County and will be heard by the Community Council in October before going to the Planning Commission and Board of Commissioners in November.

Z-16-20971

2312 and 2320 LaVista Rd NE, 4 1/2 acres

Edge City Properties seeks a rezoning from R-100 to RSM for 5 fee-simple detached homes and 18 attached duplex homes.

http:bit.ly/2cOkrdJ

Z-16-20895
DEFERRED UNTIL OCTOBER 25, 2016; BOARD OF COMMISSIONERS PUBLIC HEARING
Commission District: 2 Super District: 6
18-102-04-001, 18-113-11-012, 18-113-11-137

Application of Oak Hall Companies, LLC to rezone property from R-100 (Single-Family Residential), C-2 (General Commercial), and M (Light Industrial) to RSM (Residential Small Lot Mix) to allow an 82-unit fee simple townhome development at a density of 5.74 units per acre. The property is located on the north side of North Druid Hills Road, approximately 551 feet east of Spring Creek Road, at 2369, 3352, & 3396 North Druid Hills Road, Decatur. The property has approximately 753 feet of frontage on North Druid Hills Road and contains 14.28 acres.

Additional zoning information… http://commissionerrader.com/boc-business-zoning-summary.html

DeKalb County Seeks 2017 Art Calendar Contest Entries from Elementary School Students

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DeKalb County Department of Watershed Management is calling for artistic elementary students across the county to enter its 2017 Art Calendar Contest. Entries are due by Oct. 21.

The 2017 theme is “Your Water – To Know It Is to Love It.”

Artwork ideas could include conserving water; using water wisely; water/wastewater treatment; cleaning up our water resources; reducing water pollution and more.

Submitted artwork must be drawn on a landscape piece of white paper 8.5 inches tall by 11 inches wide. On the back of each entry, clearly print the artwork title; student’s name, grade level and age; school name and address; and teacher’s name, contact number and email address.

Watershed Management will honor 12 winners during a special ceremony at the Dec. 13 Board of Commissioners meeting.

For a complete set of rules or more information, visit www.dekalbwatershed.com/education.html or contact Michael O’Shield, environmental education coordinator, at (770) 724-1456 or msoshield@dekalbcountyga.gov.

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