Tag Archives: Lee May

COVE Report – October 13, 2015

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Mason Mill/Victoria Estates/Logan’s Knoll Neighborhood Picnic


This Sunday, October 18th from 4-6 p.m. in W. D. Thomson Park


Residents of Mason Mill, Victoria Estate and the surrounding area are invited to our neighborhood’s annual fall picnic on Sunday, October 18th from 4-6 p.m. in W. D. Thomson Park. The pavilion has been rented, shoppers are lined up to secure provisions, and the grill maestros have been recruited.

Please plan on joining us and bring a favorite dish for 8-10 people, along with your folding chairs, blankets and toys for your kids. You can RSVP via nextdoormasonmill or by email to civicassn@masonmill.org. If you’d like to volunteer to help with the set-up (at 3:30) or the clean-up, let us know by emailing civicassn@masonmill.org. Hope to see you there!


Don’t Forget to Vote! – DeKalb County Election


Tuesday, November 3, 2015


On the ballot for Victoria Estates neighbors:
DeKalb County Board of Ethics Referendum
(Vote for One)
House Bill No. 597
Act No. 204
“Shall the Act be approved which revises the Board of Ethics for DeKalb County?”

LaVista Park Fall Festival


Saturday, October 17: Noon – 4:00 pm
Corner of Wild Creek & Brookforest
• Free food & drinks
• Silent Auction
• Many Raffle Items
• Children’s Activities
Click here

Cityhood Forum

Monday, October 19, 2015, 6:30 – 8:00 pm
Young Israel, 2056 Lavista Rd, Atlanta, GA 30329
Sponsored and Moderated by State Representative Mary Margaret Oliver and State Senator Elena Parent

Purpose: To provide a structured meeting enabling both sides to present their positions to the public, and for community members to have their questions answered

When: Monday, October 19, from 6:30-8:00 PM. Meeting will start and end on time.

Where: Young Israel of Toco Hills

Please come and hear discussion of this issue so important to our community.

Senate Study Committee on Annexation, De-annexation & Incorporation

Wednesday, October 21: 2:00 -5:00 pm
Tuesday, November 3: 9 AM-12 PM
Room 450 of the Capitol

Sen. Elena Parent has scheduled the last two meetings for the Senate Study Committee on Annexation, De-annexation, and incorporation. More details will follow as the agendas for both are finalized. You can also find the committee documents that have been posted online here
and the notes here
If you have any questions please contact Stephanie Tanner, Legislative Assistant to Sen. Parent, at Stephanie.Tanner@senate.ga.gov

Interim CEO Town Hall Meetings

Lee May is hosting “an up close face to face conversation concerning his Executive Order and the recent report that was released.”

Thursday, October 15: 6:30 – 8:00 pm

Tucker-Cofer Reid Library
5234 LaVista Road, Tucker, GA 30084

Tuesday, October 20: 6:30 – 8:00 pm

2842 H.F. Shepard Drive, Decatur, GA 30032

COVE Report – January 18, 2015

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Two Opportunities to Discuss Cityhood, Annexations & the County with Your Elected Officials! – Brought to you by COVE

Howard Mosby, Chair of the DeKalb Legislative Delegation

MosbyHoward175Thursday, January 22, 6:30 pm
Location: Home of Peter Sederberg & Jan Love, 873 Castle Falls Drive

As the chair of the legislative delegation, Rep. Mosby can provide us with insight on what to expect during the upcoming legislative session and how to make our voices heard. This meeting is for Victoria Estates residents and COVE guests.

Lee May, Interim CEO, DeKalb County

May 2Saturday, January 24, 12:30 pm
Location: Home of Pat & Scott Killingsworth, 1364 Rainier Falls Drive

As the interim CEO of DeKalb County, ICEO May will be presenting the county’s legislative agenda to the delegation on Monday, January 26. This is a chance to hear about it first-hand and discuss the agenda directly with the person creating it. ICEO May can also answer questions about county reform, improvement plans and challenges. This meeting is for Victoria Estates residents and COVE guests.

General Assembly will decide DeKalb issues | AJC Latest News

State lawmakers will likely give DeKalb County a good deal of their attention during this year’s leg…

Interim CEO May to Central DeKalb area: Unincorporated DeKalb County still a viable option

DeKalb County, GA, January 16, 2015 – by Trey Benton – Applause broke early out as Interim DeKalb County CEO Lee May… click for more    Click for video of meeting

Together in Atlanta

“Together In Atlanta is an effort by parents and residents from the neighborhoods near Emory University and within the Druid Hills High School attendance zone, seeking to achieve annexation into the City of Atlanta, with the public schools within the annexed area becoming part of Atlanta Public Schools and other preferred local governmental infrastructure, such as neighborhood planning units (NPUs), significantly improved law enforcement-to-resident ratios, leading-edge parks and greenspace, and substantially higher per-pupil funding (resulting in higher teacher salaries) due to Atlanta’s much stronger and more diverse tax base.” Together in Atlanta

DeKalb Strong

A newly formed organization is promoting a moratorium on new cities in DeKalb County.

“Worried about the chaotic process of forming new cities and annexation properties in DeKalb? Even though the map lines continue to shift and change, some proponents of new cities are still pushing for a vote as soon as possible, maybe even as early as this May.
Meanwhile, the effect that these new cities will have on taxes, schools, and quality of life are still unknown. Such serious and long-lasting decisions require far more study and thought!
We have formed an organization, DeKalb Strong, to fight against the new cities and annexations as they are constituted in 2015. If municipalization of the county is inevitable, the process should be reasonable, comprehensive, equitable, and feature involvement of affected citizenry: the current process is none of these.
There are many ways that you can help us! “
DeKalb Strong

Comparison of Remaining in Unincorporated DeKalb vs. Joining the City of Atlanta

The article features a comparison of tax burdens, services, schools, governance. Click here

Another comparison by DeKalb Strong Click here

Blueprint DeKalb

Blueprint DeKalb continues to work for reform to DeKalb county government through bills to be introduced in the 2015 legislative session. To sign onto the recommendations go to Blueprint DeKalb.  Also, be sure to thank Victoria Estates residents Martha Pacini and Pat Killingsworth for their many hours of effort on these recommendations!

Atlanta Regional Commission Survey

The Atlanta Regional Commission is asking how the region should address a future of rapid change and innovation. Your survey answers will help inform Regional Plan policy and how to respond to upcoming trends in technology. Click here


Express your views to the following individuals concerning Victoria Estates’ future. Current proposals for Victoria Estates are to remain unincorporated/moratorium on cityhood or annexation by the city of Atlanta.

DeKalb Delegation

Stacey Abrams stacey.abrams@house.ga.gov, Karen Bennett karen.bennett@house.ga.gov, Dee Dawkins-Haigler dee.dawkins-haigler@house.ga.gov, Karla Drenner karla.drenner@house.ga.gov, Michele Henson michele.henson@house.ga.gov, Scott Holcomb scott.holcomb@house.ga.gov, Mike Jacobs mike.jacobs@house.ga.gov, Darshun Kendrick darshun.kendrick@house.ga.gov, Rahn Mayo rahn.mayo@house.ga.gov, Billy Mitchell billy.mitchell@house.ga.gov, Howard Mosby@house.ga.gov, Mary Margret Oliver mary.oliver@house.ga.gov, Tonia Peterson-Anderson mspete16@yahoo.com, Pamela Stephenson pamela.stephenson@house.ga.gov, Tom Taylor tom.taylor@house.ga.gov, Ernest Williams ernest.williams@house.ga.gov
Gloria Butler gloria.butler@senate.ga.gov, Elena Parent elena.parent@senate.ga.gov, Gail Davenport gail.davenport@senate.ga.gov, Steve Henson stevehenson@mindspring.com, Emanuel Jones emanj@mindspring.com, Fran Millar fran.millar@senate.ga.gov, Ronald Ramsey ronald.ramsey@senate.ga.gov

Cityhood – House Governmental Affairs Committee

Chair Amy Carter (amy.carter@house.ga.gov), Vice Chair Buzz Brockway (buzz.brockway@house.ga.gov), Tyrone Brooks (tyrone.brooks@house.ga.gov), Barry Fleming (barry.fleming@house.ga.gov), Hugh Floyd (hughfloyd@mindspring.com), Mark Hamilton (mark.hamilton@house.ga.gov), Dustin Hightower (dustin.hightower@house.ga.gov), Kidd Culver (“Rusty”) (rusty.kidd@house.ga.gov), John Meadows (john.meadows@house.ga.gov), Alisha Morgan (alisha@alishamorgan.com), Howard Mosby (howard.mosby@house.ga.gov) DeKalb Delegation, Larry O’Neal (larry.oneal@house.ga.gov), Mary Margaret Oliver (mmo@mmolaw.com) DeKalb Delegation, Alan Powell (alanpowell23@hotmail.com), Jay Powell (jay.powell@house.ga.gov), Bruce Williamson (bruce.williamson@house.ga.gov)

Intragovernmental Coordination Committee – Deals with Annexation Efforts

Chair: Jan Tankersley jan.tankersley@house.ga.gov, Vice Chair: Jon Carson john.carson@house.ga.gov, Kevin Tanner kevin.tanner@house.ga.gov, Kimberly Alexander kimberly.alexander@house.ga.gov, Tonya Anderson tonya.anderson@house.ga.gov DeKalb Delegation, Simone Bell simone.bell@house.ga.gov, Patty Bentle patty.bentley@house.ga.gov, Bruce Broadrick bruce.broadrick@house.ga.gov, Brooks Coleman brooks.coleman@house.ga.gov, Demetrius Douglas demetrius.douglas@house.ga.gov, Ed Rynders erynders@bellsouth.net, Chuck Sims chuck.sims@house.ga.gov, Pam Stevenson pam.stephenson@house.ga.gov Dekalb Delegation, Brian Strickland brian.strickland@house.ga.gov


House of Representatives: Simone Bell (simonebell2012@gmail.com), Roger Bruce (rbruce5347@aol.com), LaDawn Jones (ladawnbjones@gmail.com), Sheila Jones (sheila.jones@house.ga.gov), Margaret Kaiser (margaret.kaiser@house.ga.gov), Mable Thomas (ablemabledistrict56@gmail.com), Keisha Waites (keisha.waites@house.ga.gov), Joe Wilkinson (joe@joewilkinson.org)

Senate: Vincent Fort (vincent.fort@senate.ga.gov), Hunter Hill Hunter.Hill@senate.ga.gov ), Donzella James (donzella.james@senate.ga.gov), Nan Orrock (nan.orrock@senate.ga.gov), Horacena Tate(horacena.tate@senate.ga.gov

Legislation Email Guide

COVEReport – June 26, 2014

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Citizens of Victoria Estates (COVE) Annual Membership Meeting To Be Held on Tuesday, July 22, 6:30 – 7:30 pm, 1364 Rainier Falls Dr NE

Please join us in recognizing our one year anniversary. The meeting will include a presentation of accomplishments, election of board members, review of budget, and next year plans. Look for more details in the coming weeks.

Victoria Estates Neighborhood 4th of July Party, 1-3 pm

PatScott and I are hosting the Victoria Estates Fourth of July pool party at our home this year.  If it rains, we’ll move it to the 5th.  We will provide hot dogs chips and soft drinks, and ask guests to bring sides.  The pool/patio are handicap accessible. Visiting family members are also welcome to join us.

Please notify the neighborhood for us, and let me know if you have any questions.  If this goes well, we’ll make it an annual event!

Patricia Killingsworth
1364 Rainier Falls Dr NE

404.323.3720 (cell)


Dunwoody 4th of July Parade 9:00 am


City of Avondale Estates 4th of July Celebration, 10:30 am

The parade begins at 10:30am. Concert and fireworks in the evening.

City of Decatur Pied Piper Parade, Concert, and Fireworks, 5:30 pm

The parade begins at 5:30 pm. Concert, featuring the Callanwolde Concert Band, begins at 7:00 and fireworks begin at dark (approx. 9 pm).


Dog Walkers Unite! – July 8, 6:30 pm

Home of Jennifer, Barry, and “Teddy” Tipping – 1374 Rainier Falls

dog walker watchDear neighbors:

Please join us for an inaugural meeting to launch the Victoria Estates Dog Walker Watch:

Please RSVP for you (and your pet, if your pet likes to hang out with other dogs) so that we can plan the right number of snacks and milkbones.  Canine guests will have the opportunity to play in the fenced backyard.

We are launching a Dog Walker Watch program, a national crime awareness program sponsored by the National Association of Town Watch (NATW), in Victoria Estates to mobilize the dozens of dog walkers (as well as those who walk without pets) in our neighborhood who can serve as “extra eyes and ears” for our local law enforcement.

Al Fowler, DeKalb County Public Safety’s education specialist, will be there to help us learn about the program and some other useful tips, such as how to identify suspicious activity and what to do when we see something.

To learn more about the program before the meeting, you can visit http://natw.org/dog/

Thank you.

Your co-hosts,

Jennifer Tipping & Teddy (the dog)



Martha Pacini & Beau & Bacwyn (the corgis)




RUN-OFF ELECTION: July 22; Early Voting Starts Next Week 

voteCivic Association Network

June 24, 2014

By: Beth Nathan

Can voter turn-out be any lower than in a Primary election? YUP — in a Primary Runoff. And there’s one coming up on July 22; Early Voting starts next Monday, June 30. Remind your association members and neighbors that the primary isn’t over yet.

Voter-specific *SAMPLE BALLOTS* are available via

*EARLY VOTING**: *8am-5pm, Memorial Drive Complex, Suite 300; 4380 Memorial Drive; Decatur, GA 30032
06/30/2014 – 07/03/2014 (Mon-Thu) & 07/07/2014 – 07/18/2014
(Mon-Fri, Mon-Fri)

/Candidates appearing on DeKalb County ballots:/
*County Sheriff *(Vernon Jones / Jeff Mann)
*U.S. Senate* (Jack Kingston / David Perdue)
*State School Superintendent *(Mike Buck / Richard Woods)
*State School Superintendent *(Alisha Morgan / Valarie Wilson)
(per http://web.dekalbcountyga.gov/Voter/CurrentElectionInfo.html)

Proposed County Funding of YMCA Controversy


DeKalb County is considering spending approximately $5million of the remaining Parks Bond dollars (approx $1M from district-allocated funds and $4M from countywide funds which is ~38% of remaining countywide funds) to acquire the South DeKalb YMCA and then lease it back to the YMCA for 50 years at $1/year.  The YMCA is to devote the purchase proceeds to site improvements.  This YMCA is geographically close to several other DeKalb recreation/health facilities (parks & senior centers). The Board of Commissioners voted 5 to 0 to defer action on the South DeKalbe YMCA proposal until its first meeting in August.

Kathy Gannon’s Response

Fellow DeKalb Citizens,

Please see the attached letter regarding my position on the South DeKalb YMCA. While I appreciate the work of the YMCA and I’m in favor of partnerships, I am opposed to the current proposal. I hope that the YMCA will withdraw so we can consider a partnership that benefits DeKalb County as well as the Y.

Dear YMCA Board Members and our DeKalb Community:

We appreciate all of the work across metropolitan Atlanta that YMCA’s do every day. Whether it is helping their members stay healthy and fit through exercise and recreation programs, or providing early enrichment to Head Starters or the numerous other ways that the Y helps build community – the service of the YMCA staff, volunteers and Board of Directors is of the finest American tradition.

As members of the DeKalb County Board of Commission we believe Partnerships which leverage complementary capabilities are a valuable tool and in the potential relationship with the South DeKalb YMCA, we hope to find one that is transparent, respects the taxpayers and serves the needs of the broadest group of citizens.
With this in mind, we have reservations about the proposed Master Agreement between DeKalb and the Metro Y that would use County Green Space Acquisition Bond Revenues to purchase your South DeKalb Y facility and lease it back to you at a nominal price.

Please consider these FACTS:

  • This Partnership agreement is exclusively negotiated with the YMCA, and nothing similar has been offered to any other non-profit, private organization or governmental partner. No terms or parameters for negotiation were authorized by the DeKalb Governing Authority, and the proposed Master Agreement was only made public when it was placed on the Commission Agenda on April 8th.  Neither the Green Space Bond Advisory Board nor the Development Authority of DeKalb County have had any input to the Master Agreement.
  • The Y brings no new money to the table.  The County has successful models for staffing facilities, and is experimenting with other partnership models. For example the Boys and Girls Club will manage the after-school program at the Redan Recreation center next fall, each entity receiving a benefit.  We should treat partners comparably, and negotiate openly.
  • The South DeKalb YMCA is in an area where significant County investments in recreation and senior services have already been made: the Y is 2.5 miles from Exchange Park Multi-Generational Recreation Center ($7.2million); 2.8 miles from Browns Mill Recreation and Aquatic Facility ($8.9 million); 4.1 miles from Lou Walker Senior Center with a heated indoor pool; 5.7 miles from Candler Road Senior Center, which will have exercise equipment when it opens this summer; 8 miles from Redan Park Recreation Center ($5.4 million); and 8.7 miles from Wade Walker Park and YMCA ($13.6 million).  In 8 square miles of this South DeKalb community, the County has already invested over $35 million in recent and ongoing Parks Bond developmental funds and additional county and federal grant dollars for the senior centers.  Investing in this location is not a good return on the citizens’ tax dollars.  It will duplicate services in this area while many areas of the county still do not have access to any recreation center. DeKalb County taxpayers will continue to pay for the operations of Browns Mill, Exchange, and Redan Centers. No current public expense will be reduced.
  • The Master Agreement provides no benchmarks or guarantees related to the health deficiencies the investment is purported to address.  Indeed, the question may be fairly asked:  why, after 40 years’ service to the community has the Y had so little effect on these deficiencies?  Why will a renovation have a transformative effect?
  • DeKalb County will purchase the existing YMCA for $5 million, using $1 million of District 3 and 7 Parks Bond Land Acquisition Funding and $4 million in County Wide Acquisition Funding.  The agreement diverts land acquisition funding to development, contrary to the Bond Referendum.   The property is appraised at $2.5 million for tax purposes, with the land appraised at $400,000.  The Appraisal provided by the YMCA estimates the value at only $3.9 million.  All appraisals supporting this proposed transaction are made using the “cost” method, which is inappropriate, given the multiplicity of similar facilities in the service area.
  • After the purchase, the County will transfer the property to the Development Authority of DeKalb County (DADC), who will lease the property back to the YMCA for $1 per year for 50 years. At the end of the lease, the property reverts to DeKalb County. The Return on Investment to the taxpayers footing this bill is $50.  The Y will book the lease as an asset, similar to the Wade Walker Y, whose lease is currently valued by the Y at over $10 million.
  • The YMCA will renovate the building to its own plan, and continue to operate the facility as a YMCA, charging a fee schedule of its own choosing, except that special benefits exclusively for residents of three surrounding zip codes, not all taxpayers, shall be provided.
  • Currently the SD YMCA operates with a $300,000 + annual surplus and there is no requirement to use surpluses to the benefit of DeKalb County taxpayers.  The Wade Walker Y likely generates a surplus as well, yet there is no provision in either Master Agreement to account for such surpluses.
  • The YMCA has other options for renovating this facility without using taxpayer funds. Typically YMCA renovations are completed with private capital campaign contributions through the umbrella Metro Atlanta YMCA organization and through fundraising within the service area being served by the facility.
  • The county does not have the funds to renovate the much needed repairs and upgrades at the Tucker Recreation Center, the Lithonia Recreation Center, the need for a real Recreation Center at Mason Mill and the long overdue replacement of a Tobie Grant Recreation Center in Scottdale.  There is no Parks and Recreation Plan Update that assesses the need for another recreational facility in this area whereas there is assessed need for a new Center in Southwest DeKalb County.

Where is the partnership in this proposed agreement? There is a no win for the citizens of DeKalb County, only for the YMCA.  It is clearly the wrong thing to do and should go back to the drawing board.

Please withdraw from this proposal and let us participate in a transparent process that assesses the needs of both partners to the “partnership.”

Commissioner Kathie Gannon, Super District 6
Commissioner Jeff Rader, District 2
June 23, 2014

An easy introduction to the proposal is found on Crossroads News: http://crossroadsnews.com/news/2014/apr/11/dekalb-county-acquire-south-dekalb-ymca/

Many important details are summarized in SoDeKalbYMCA_DetailOverview.pdf, compiled by Commissioner Rader’s office

Source documents on this proposal, the RPCA Master Plan, and parks bond funding are available on the Civic Association Network’s website in the reference materials section.  See http://www.can-dk.org/file-cabinet/parks_gardens/southdekalbymca

DeKalb County 2014 Transportion Plan Complete!

DeKalb Transportation Close UpCarl Lange – June 26, 2014

The DeKalb County 2014 Transportation Plan was unanimously adopted on May 13, by the Board of Commissioners. The development of this plan has resulted from the hard work of many individuals across DeKalb County including all of the stakeholders that sent emails and participated in focus groups, surveys, and public meetings.

Tier 1 plans, which are based on the current DeKalb level of spending through 2040 include improvements to Clairmont, Clifton, and Briarcliff. Houston Mill Rd. is not identified for improvements, which in my opinion can be a good thing as routing of traffic to Emory and CDC is envisioned around our neighborhood, not through it.

1675 – 31 Signal Upgrades on Briarcliff Road./Clairmont Road./Church Street. – Upgrades to approx. 31 signals on Briarcliff (from Sheridan Rd. to Johnson Rd.), Clifton (from Briarcliff Rd to N Decatur Rd.), Clairmont (from LaVista Rd. to N Decatur Rd.), and Church St (from N Decatur Rd. to Bell St.) – $5,000,000

5093 – Clairmont Road Multimodal Corridor Improvements – Corridor improvements to include a median (center turn lane or landscaped) as well as bike and pedestrian accommodations and operational recommendations at key intersections. – $45,000,000

5108 – Briarcliff Road at LaVista Road Intersection Improvements – Intersection improvements, including turn lanes and signal timing to reduce vehicular delay; pedestrian improvements, as needed. – $6,000,000

In one of the early public input meetings I made a recommendation concerning the intersection at Whole Foods, a frequent slow-down obstacle for me. I’m glad to see this included. Check out your frequent travel paths and see what might be improving the quality of your travels too! Plans include public transportation, bicycles, cars, trucks, and pedestrians.

The Recommendations Report, the Appendix, and the Project Fact Sheets document are available on the project website:  www.dekalbtransportationplan2014.com.

For a quick read, jump to this excerpt of Tier 1 projects Pages from DeKalb 2014 Transp Recommendations – Tier 1

Here is the full report DeKalb 2014 Transportation Recommendations

Emory Community Meeting – Emory Point Phase II

emory pointMartha Pacini

A few quick notes from the Emory Community Meeting that was held on Wednesday evening (June 11):

  • EmoryPointPhaseI is fully leased and there is a 50-person waiting list.  They will begin leasing for Phase II in 3-4 months, and are scheduling for occupancy in first quarter of 2015.  More than 90% of those leasing the apartments work or go to school on Clifton Road.  Parkingwillcontinueto be handled separately from the housing as an encouragement to take advantage of Emory’s bus system, etc.
    • Earthfare out of Asheville, NC, is taking 25,000 SF in Phase II.  This is one of four stores they are opening in Atlanta.  They are similar to Whole Foods, but not strictly organic. Earthfare’s emphasis is on strict nutritional standards.  My layman’s way of understanding this is that you will be able to get a Coca-Cola there, but it will be the kind from Mexico that is made with cane sugar, not high fructose corn syrup. Should open in May 2015.
    • I asked about car alarms in the parking deck.  There is a full-time security presence there, and they should be handling.  If the alarm continues to go off, we can contact the 24-hour security line—I’ve asked for the number, but some of you may already have it and can share with the group.
    • Noise.  I asked about the noise that rattled windows in our neighborhood the second weekend in May.  Several other attendees said that they thought the noise was coming from somewhere not Emory/Emory Point–like Toco Hills or North Druid Hills Road.  I asked for a contact with DeKalb County School System, because I think we need an early warning system for when things are scheduled at Adams Stadium.  As soon as I receive that, I’ll reach out and see about working out some form of communication with them.

Emory Point Security Number

The  24-hour number for Emory Point’s security to report something/contact someone there:  404-840-5751

Houston and Clifton Property Zoning Approval

Zoning approval at Houston and Clifton

DeKalb Ethics Board

dekalb_seal_hi-resJune 24, 2014

Civic Association Network

By Mike Cooper

WSB-TV reported at 5 p.m. that Acting CEO May “will recommend a huge increase in funding for ethics training and enforcement.”

The report, by Richard Belcher, says Lee May seeks to establish what would be the largest ethics budget of any metro-area government, if it is approved by the Board of Commissioners.

May is to recommend a mid-year adjustment increasing the Ethics Board’s budget to almost $470,000 from the current $118,000. His plan would create three full-time board positions — a Chief Integrity Officer, an investigator and an administrative assistant, WSB-TV’s report said.

Belcher’s report also said May will impose new limits on gifts county employees can accept.

DeKalb Commissioners Ethics Complaint

June 24, 2014

Civic Association Network

By Mike Cooper

The DeKalb County Ethics Board agreed Tuesday (June 24) to accept and investigate new complaints against Commissioners Larry Johnson and Sharon Barnes-Sutton and her aide involving their use of county purchasing cards.

The board agreed to consider the complaints, filed by Rhea Johnson and Viola Davis, after hearing the board’s legal counsel say the board had personal and subject-matter jurisdiction.

Earlier complaints against Commissioner Elaine Boyer and her chief of staff, Bob Lundsten, remain active, but action on them was delayed until the board’s next meeting. The board is awaiting the results of a preliminary investigation by attorney Victor Hartmann, who was chosen by the board to investigate the complaints made by Thomas Owens. Hartmann is expected to present his findings at the board’s next work session.

The board dismissed a complaint against the CEO’s office that questioned why the CEO did not investigate an internal 2011 finance department audit which showed three commissioners did not comply with county policy in their use of county purchasing cards. The board’s attorney was instructed to tell Robert Ballou, who filed the complaint, that he could resubmit it if he made more specific allegations.

A separate complaint by Johnson against suspended CEO Burrell Ellis was tabled until the conclusion of Ellis’ racketeering trial, which is
scheduled to begin in September.

Complaints against Kevin Walton, an unindicted co-conspirator in the Ellis case, and Nina Hall, Ellis’ former secretary, were tabled until the board could obtain a certified copy of grand-jury testimony that
was cited in the complaints. The board’s attorney said that attorney Oliver Halle, who conducted a preliminary investigation, believed it would be better for the board to wait until completion of the Ellis
trial, in which Walton is expected to be a witness. He said trial testimony might be a more “economically efficient” way to handle the investigation.

The board rejected an ethics complaint against Susan Apolinsky, a former member of the DeKalb Historic Commission, that said she should have disclosed in a vote that she lived three houses away from a
property being considered. The motion failed 2 to 3, with two abstentions.

DeKalb Government Operations Task Force

task force charterThe Operations Task Force was created by DeKalb Interim CEO Lee May with the support of the DeKalb County Board of Commissioners through an Executive Order in March 2014.

The 15-member committee is empowered to explore and study (1) the financial, business, zoning and quality of life impact on residents and government operations caused by the creation of new cities and annexations; (2) the effectiveness of the current governance structure of DeKalb County and ethics and transparency in County operations; (3) the equitable distribution of Homestead Option Sales Tax (HOST) proceeds and legacy pension costs between the DeKalb County and it’s cities; and (4) other related matters.


Task Force June 5 Meeting – Report


Friday Jun 6, 2014
Beth Nathan, CAN (Civic Association Network)

Some details became as clear as mud last night about how the CEO’s Task Force is going to operate, but it sounds like a lot of the proceedings and materials will be made available to the public.  Last night’s meeting was simulcast on public television and will be rebroadcast on DCTV. The rest of the meetings are to receive similar treatment. No word on whether they will be web-available for those who do not get DCTV.

In addition, a website has been added to the main county website in a subdirectory named “*taskforce2014*” to carry all of the information given to the Task Force members (they received a loose leaf binder of information last night), beginning with the 40+ slide PowerPoint that Lee May presented covering his Executive Order (2014-1) creating this Task Force.  The PowerPoint was extensive and included summaries of the law on municipalization, history of municipalization with voting statistics and bottom line financial impacts on the county, history of county government (starting with the 1886 creation of 5 commissioners of Roads and Revenue), maps of proposed cities, maps of proposed annexations, collection & distribution statistics for HOST dollars, and more. A place for citizens to email their comments and suggestions may be added but did not seem to be part of the original plan.

11 of the 15 announced Task Force members were present last night  (absent: Patrick Ejike, Stan Watson, April Atkins, John Shelton) as Lee  May announced that the Task Force had been EXPANDED TO 17 with the  addition of Fran Millar and Mike Jacobs to ensure all areas and viewpoints are represented.  [The list of all Task Force members is now posted on the county web site.]

Phyllis Mitchell, assistant to the CEO, is coordinating organizational matters for the Task Force.  She outlined her proposal on the structure by which the Task Force would operate,  which prompted a good number of further questions from the members. She suggested that the full Task Force meet twice a month at the Maloof to discuss info from two SubCommittees which would meet in the  intervening weeks. She mentioned the date of Wednesday, June 25, for the next full Task Force meeting, at which the members are to elect a Chair & Co-Chair and hear an in-depth report from GSU (subject matter unspecified). The two envisioned subcommittees were designated as (1) Municipalities/Annexation and (2) Governance, but the division of work between those two committees generated several questions for clarification. There was an indication that citizens, many of whose names are already in the CEO’s hands, would be asked to participate on those subcommittees, but no indication of how or when they would be called. Subsequent to this meeting, the Task Force and its Chair are to have full power to run independently and the CEO will step back. Phyllis Mitchell will remain available to assist them.  Citizen comments were taken at the end of this meeting and it was suggested they would be taken at subsequent meetings as well.


Jeff Rader proposed that the Task Force needs an apolitical chair who is also qualified to deal with organizational matters. He expressed hope that the Task Force’s eventual recommendations would be taken seriously by the legislators even though the Task Force is not legislatively-chartered. He spoke of the uneven nature of the cityhood process which has been running in an opportunistic manner reflecting the lack of public support over large areas of the county for current county management practices. The recommendations need to aim to make the county more stable and have less people racing for scarce resources. Transparency and purchasing practices in the Organizational Act need to be amended, allowing citizens to know what’s happening.

Bill Floyd, former Mayor of Decatur, commented that, while HOST may appear to be disproportionately distributed, the data presented to this Task Force in the power point was incomplete and should be clarified to allow the Task Force to figure out what’s best for both the county and cities alike.  Lee May responded that the Task Force was free to challenge any materials/figures presented to them.

Several members asked for clarification on organizational issues, including Vaughn Irons, Sharon Barnes-Sutton, Gloria Butler, Elena Parent and Karla Drenner, who specifically noted the lack of citizen participation on the Task Force.


These were as varied as you might expect. Speakers included Mary Kay Woodworth (Lakeside Yes), Tess Knight (DeKalb Planning Commission), Charles Peigler, Robert Stanfer (Stone Mountain), Joe Edwards (Kings Ridge Civic Association), Debra Jackson (Mayor of Lithonia), Roj Frierson (Hidden Hills Civic Association), Patricia Killingsworth (member of COVE and former Ethics Board chair), Willi Pringell (retired transit worker), and Alan Venet (City of Briarcliff, Sagamore Hills). These comments included a thank-you for service on what looks to be an impossible job, a call to do it right and pull the county’s varied factions together, both that cities are good and that the county should not be broken up into cities, a call for the Task Force to throw away its charge and instead focus on economic development, a call to make the ethics board stronger and make timely appointments of new members, expectations that politics and racism will play big roles, a reminder to use technology to share info widely, and statements that some Task Force members are part of the county’s problems with a call to fix the problems at the ballot box.

The meeting was adjourned at 8:00 pm.

*The meeting scheduled for June 25th was postponed, and no future meeting date has been published.*


The Meeting Powerpoint Presentation :


Suburban Plaza Development

suburban-plaza-planCivic Association Network

Mon Jun 9, 2014

By Jim Smith


New DeKalb Zoning Code to be Deferred until July 

Civic Association Network

Tue May 20, 2014

By Mike Cooper

DeKalb County Planning Director Andrew Baker told county commissioners this morning that his department will ask for deferral of a vote on the proposed new zoning code, with plans to ask the Board of Commissioners to approve it in July.

Baker asked commissioners for guidance on changes being considered in Article 4 (Use Regulations) and Article 7 (Administration). Meeting as a Committee of the Whole, commissioners agreed to discuss Article 4 at the May 27 Planning and Economic Development (PED) committee meeting
and Article 7 at the June 3 Committee of the Whole meeting.

Baker presented a list of changes he said had been made to the zoning code because of input from the public and the PED committee. He said about 50 people attended last Thursday evening’s public meeting on the new code.

“We did receive a list of written responses and comments from the Good Growth committee, which is made up of people in and near downtown Decatur, but also other representatives from other neighborhoods throughout the county. They provided a list of concerns that they had. And what we have provided for you today actually is our staff response to those items specifically that they raised,” Baker said.

Among the changes made to the zoning code:

– Reinstated the six-foot fence requirement in addition to required buffers

“The community was requesting that we add back the 6-foot fence as part of the buffer requirements,” Baker said. “Staff has made that change to the zoning code.”

– O-I when adjacent to SF zones requires undisturbed buffer separation, transitional height requirements

“There was some concern from the residents about O-I districts when they are next to the single-family neighborhoods,” Baker said. “If an individual or an applicant comes in and requests a rezoning to O-I, the Commissioners can also add additional conditions.”

– Pervious pavement – lot-coverage calculations have been revised limiting application to patios and pools

– Administrative variances

“We have specific criteria that is [sic] used by staff for the applications for variances.”

Additional examples of changes in response to public input:

– Deleted the reference to concurrent variances

“We had concern about concurrent variances,” Baker said. “We have deleted the section on concurrent variances.”

– Zoning petitions denied by the BOC require the applicant to wait 2 years (put back in code)

“We put back into the code the two-year wait period.”

– Provide better notice by posting agendas, staff analysis and recommendations on the web site. Considering larger signs or redesign of the sign copy to improve readability.

– Changes the definition of dormitories and provided clarification in Article 4 Table 4.

“The new code has taken measures to protect single-family neighborhoods,” Baker said. “We think we’ve made this document more protective for the neighborhood resident.”

Baker said planning staff wanted guidance on wireless-tower restrictions in Article 4.

“We’ve had some discussion regarding the wireless communication towers,” Baker said.

“The discussions we’ve had with the commissioners deal with the height of the proposed cell towers, the location, should they or should they not be allowed in residential districts and on public property, as well as the stealth design,” Baker said. “We are requesting additional policy direction on that particular article.”

Baker said questions also remained about Article 7, involving rights to appeal, appeals to Superior Court, as well as who has standing and the definition of an aggrieved person. “We continue to work with the law department,” he said.

Baker said the department would request a deferral at the May 27 County Commission meeting, while maintaining “an aggressive schedule.”

“We need individual meetings on Article 4 for wireless. We can possibly do that one at the PED committee meeting on the 27th,” he said. “We need an additional meeting with PED to discuss Article 7.”

Commissioner Larry Johnson said discussion of Article 7 could take place at the June 3 Committee of the Whole meeting, instead of waiting for the next PED meeting one week later.

Baker proposed that the Board of Commissioners approve the code at its July 22 meeting.

“We will be taking the map, the home rule and the code to the Planning Commission, hopefully on the (July) 8th, and we would like to have adoption on July 22nd,” he said.

He said he wanted to get feedback from commissioners between June 17 through 23, with plans to have a final document back from Pond & Company on July 3 before going to the Planning Commission on July 8.

– Mike Cooper
Community Affairs Representative
Little Creek Farm Conservancy

Community Zoning Review Meeting

BE IN THE KNOW! At the Community Council meetings, the public has an opportunity to discuss zoning or land use map amendment applications that will eventually be decided upon by the Board of Commissioners. After the Community Council meetings, the public has opportunities to comment on applications at public hearings that are held by the Planning Commission and by the Board of Commissioners.

Community Council Zoning Meeting – June 17

From Martha Pacini

Hi all,

I went by tonight’s community council meeting to make sure there wasn’t anything on the agenda that affected Victoria Estates.  Good news—there wasn’t!

Two things were on the agenda.  One involved a person who actually was going through the zoning process for her small in-home daycare off of Woodridge Drive in the Medlock neighborhood.  The council members congratulated her on actually going through the process since so many people ignore it.  Her request was approved.

The second item involved an application to put a liquor store in an existing building out on Lawrenceville Highway.  There were about 100 people from the surrounding neighborhoods wearing red shirts there to speak against it.  I didn’t stay for the fireworks since the 4th is just around the corner.

Public Hearing – DeKalb County Millage and Mid-Year Budget – July 8

The public meetings for the 2014 mid-year budget will be held June 24 and July 8 as part of the public hearing portion of the regular Board of Commissioners meeting.  The public hearing portion of the meeting begins at 10:00 am.  The millage rates will be adopted at the July 8 meeting.

Public Hearings – DeKalb Schools Millage Decision – July 7

Wed, June 25, 6pm
Mon, July 7, 11am
Mon, July 7, 6:30pm

DeKalb School System
Administrative and Instructional Complex
1701 Mountain Industrial Blvd
Stone Mountain

The DeKalb School Board is holding 3 public hearings regarding its decision not to roll back the millage rate to compensate for higher revenues from increased property tax assessments.

DeKalb County Launches the Vacant Property Registry 

 vacant registryThe Vacant Property Registry Ordinance requires the owners of vacant properties to provide the County with official contact information for party responsible for bringing the vacant property into compliance. Property owners are required by law to register their vacant properties with DeKalb County or face fines up to $1000.

Contact: 404-371-2289 | registry@dekalbcountyga.gov

Thompson Park

Thompson ParkFrom Patrick Noonan

Greetings Neighbors and Friends of Thomson Park –

As we wind down our park volunteer activity a bit during the hot summer months, I thought it a good idea to give you an update on some progress and other recent park news.

— We have one more regular volunteer day planned for the summer: Saturday, July 5, 9am-12noon. We’ll be finishing our work in the wooded area surrounding the tennis courts and upper parking area.

— Thanks to Derek Sampey of McConnell Road and Pack 43 of Twin Oaks LDS Church on Wesley Chapel, we’ve been able to start restoring the trail markers in the park. The Cubs and adult leaders helped give the existing posts a fresh coat of paint, and we’ve started replacing some of the missing posts and filling in other gaps. (As the new ones weather they’ll get painted, and they should fade into the woods and not stand out quite so much. Also, as we are able to add some trail maps at the entrances, we can probably remove a few redundant ones to reduce their visual impact.) A very *rough* initial sketch of the upper trail system is attached. The Cubs also donated a nice redbud tree, which now lives adjacent to the tennis parking area.

— Google finally admitted that they’d been misspelling the name of W. D. Thomson Park on their maps for years (leading to most of the Internet calling it “Thompson Park,” because Google). The County fixed the spelling on their site, too. When you see online references that are misspelled please write to the host and ask them nicely to change it. Now they *can* “Google it” to confirm!

— In addition to the July 5 volunteer day, we are in need of some help over the summer for other projects: Repairing, replacing and adding bridges over the creeks and drainage channels; cutting up and removing some large fallen trees from the paths; repairing the stairway from Mason Woods Drive. If you’ve got the will and the skill (and perhaps a chainsaw, which doesn’t fit that rhyme scheme), please contact me and we’ll coordinate some time to work together on this.

Many thanks to all the volunteers who have contributed literally hundreds of hours of work this past year. If you’d like to support the work of our Friends of Thomson Park group with a donation, you may write a check to the Mason Mill Civic Association and designate it for the “Thomson Park Fund.”

Best regards
Patrick Noonan
Coordinator, Friends of Thomson Park

Past President, Mason Mill Civic Association

Check out the map of the trails:

Upper Trails – rough map 5-28-14



COVEReport – November 15, 2013

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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


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.


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


Life-Long Learning | Integrity | Interculturalism | Active Citizenship

New Zoning Code – Community Meeting – Nov. 18

6:30pm – 9pm


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


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 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.


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.

COVEReport – October 24, 2013

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How are we doing?  – Take Our Survey!

SurveyCOVE is three months old!  Since our inception, we’ve held several meetings including events with our own CEO and county representatives.  We’ve worked on sidewalks and are looking at zoning. What else do you want us to do?  What have we done well?  We want to know. Please help us continue the conversation by taking the four question survey. – Erika


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Update on Proposed “Druid Hills Charter Cluster”

Jen Tipping (2)October 24, 2013 – Prepared by Jennifer Tipping

Jen Tipping has organized information concerning the proposed Druid Hill Charter Cluster that impacts Victoria Estates.  Victoria Estates is included in this proposed district up for a vote on November 4.  We thank Jen for this valuable information! – Carl

BVEOn a personal note, our family has 3 students attending Briar Vista Elementary School (BVE). We are active on the BVE Parent Teacher Organization. Following a vote by parents and teachers at BVE, the official position of the BVE School Council is in support of the Druid Hills Charter Cluster (DHCC) Petition. I am no expert on the Charter question but have voted in favor of the petition moving forward and would be happy to try to answer any questions you may have. As with any initiative that touches on public funding, property values, and education, the DHCC petition has been both praised and criticized. The web resources referenced here – especially the AJC coverage and reader comments – feature perspectives from all sides.  – Jen Tipping

Druid Hills Charter Cluster Mission Statement

DHCC“The Druid Hills Charter Cluster will develop college and career ready students by providing

continuous learning pathways for students from K-12.  These pathways will provide a choice of learning models with rewarding instruction, an authentic assessment process, and environments that value parent, teacher, and community contributions to the education of all children.”  Petition, Q3, Mission; Click here


A 2005 Georgia law allows all of the schools in a high school cluster (elementary, middle, and high schools) to operate under a single charter as a charter cluster.  In February of 2013, principals, PTA and School Council representatives filed a letter of intent to form a Druid Hills High School Charter Cluster (DHCC) within the DeKalb County School District.  Stakeholders from the seven schools making up the proposed DHCC worked together throughout 2013 to draft and present a petition for the first Charter Cluster in the state of Georgia.

The DHCC petition proposes that an autonomous governing board would have authority over all major decisions involving staffing, pay and curriculum.  The board would create a non-profit entity to employ all staff, including a chief administrator and finance chief.  The petition seeks a 5-year term to begin, if approved, August 2014.

On August 13, 2013, a community vote on whether to present the petition to the Dekalb County Board of Education (BOE) passed overwhelmingly.  Of the 1,130 votes cast, 92 percent favored the charter cluster.  The petition was submitted to the BOE on August 16, 2013.  The BOE has 90 days to decide whether to approve the petition.  A BOE vote is expected at the November 4th Business Meeting.

Victoria Estates is in the attendance zone served by 3 of the 7 schools in the proposed DHCC:  Briar Vista Elementary School (BVE), Druid Hills Middle School, and Druid Hills High School.  The other elementary “feeder” schools are Avondale, Fernbank, Laurel Ridge, and McLendon.  These 7 schools serve approximately 5,000 students.

Please see the DHCC Executive Summary document for details about the goals of the proposed charter.    Click here

Charter = Flexibility + Autonomy

Charter schools are primary or secondary schools that receive public funding.  Charter schools may also receive private donations.  Charter schools are subject to some of the rules and regulations that apply to other public schools but, through waivers, generally have more flexibility and autonomy than traditional public schools.  Charter schools are expected to produce certain results, set forth in each school’s charter.  Charter schools provide an alternative to other public schools, while remaining part of the public education system.

If the Charter Cluster petition is approved, each school is subject to the contract outlined in the Charter between the Charter Cluster’s governing board and the BOE.  Through the contract, each school would have greater flexibility in its operations and instructional approaches in exchange for greater accountability.

Serving All Students

The attendance zones for each of the schools would remain the same under the Charter.  Pursuant to Georgia law, the Cluster must enroll any student previously enrolled in a Cluster school prior to conversion to charter status.  Any child who resides in a school’s attendance zone will be able to attend that school.  As public schools, Charter schools are required to serve all student populations, including students with disabilities, English language learners, and students with special needs.

Title I schools (including BVE) will still receive funding and will apply and utilize those funds as outlined by the Federal Government and the State of Georgia.  Title I funds are school-specific and will not be shared across the Cluster.

Work of the Organizing Committee and Working Groups

The Organizing Committee (OC) was comprised of 2 representatives from each school.  The OC worked to implement and organize the preparation of the Charter Petition.  The OC arranged the charter petition work into 6 sections:

  1. Educational Programs;
  2. Assessment Methods, Goals and Objectives;
  3. Waivers, Fiscal Feasibility and Controls;
  4. Mandated Services and School Operations;
  5. Parent and Community Involvement and Governance; and
  6. Description of Materially Distinguishable Factors and Cluster Rationale.

A Working Group was assigned to each section.  Each Working Groups had between 9 and 30 volunteers; all 7 schools were represented in each Working Group.  Each Working Group researched and drafted its assigned section of the petition.  Volunteers included parents, teachers, community members and administrators.  BVE was well-represented across all working groups.  Through the spring and summer of 2013, Working Groups and the OC developed the final charter petition.

The petition is now pending before the DeKalb County Board of Education.  A vote is expected at the  next BOE meeting on November 4, 2013.  Meeting details: 7:00 p.m., at the DeKalb County School District’s Administrative & Instructional Complex, J. David Williamson Board Room, 1701 Mountain Industrial Boulevard, Stone Mountain.

Want to be heard on the Cluster Petition?

Please contact Board members in writing and let them know your position on the DHCC petition.  An e-mail friendly copy & paste contact list of all board member e-mail addresses follows the list of individual contacts:

Dr. Melvin Johnson (Chair)
Mr. James L. McMahan (Vice Chair)
Mr. John W. Coleman
Mr. Marshall Orson
Mr. David Campbell
Ms. Karen Carter
Mr. Michael A. Erwin
Dr. Joyce A. Morley
Mr. Thaddeus Mayfield

To reach all the Board Members at once, click here or copy and paste the contact list below into the recipient field of your e-mail message:

melvin_johnson@fc.dekalb.k12.ga.us, jim_mcmahan@fc.dekalb.k12.ga.us, john_w_coleman@fc.dekalb.k12.ga.us, marshall_orson@fc.dekalb.k12.ga.us, david_campbell@fc.dekalb.k12.ga.us, karen_carter@fc.dekalb.k12.ga.us, michael_erwin@fc.dekalb.k12.ga.us, joyce_a_morley@fc.dekalb.k12.ga.us, thaddeus_mayfield@fc.dekalb.k12.ga.us

Web Resources

Druid Hills Charter Cluster Website

Druid Hills Charter Cluster Facebook page

DeKalb County Board of Education

Briar Vista Elementary School

WABE broadcast of March 28, 2013

AJC coverage

Executive Summary Document

In the K.N.O.W.:  Knowledgeable Neighbors on Watch

Birg_ErikaErika Birg, October 24, 2013

It was a gloomy, cool, and wet Saturday morning, but spirits were high at the DeKalb County Police Headquarters in Tucker, where the DeKalb County Police hosted their quarterly “In the K.N.O.W.” session for Neighborhood Watch communities in DeKalb on October 19, 2013.

image (9)On the agenda were “Target Hardening,” “MARTA Safety,” and “Holiday Safety.” DeKalb and MARTA officers and our public education specialists, including our own Center Precinct Specialist, Al Fowler, made three hours speed by in a blink with helpful information.

Target Hardening:

A police term for property protection; how to make your home less inviting to burglars.  Given the recent spate of brazen daylight burglaries in our vicinity, and sadly in our community, this presentation garnered rapt attention from the 30 or so attendees.  Officer Francisco, who regularly responds to burglary reports in DeKalb, spoke and answered questions for an hour on home safety; and no doubt, he could have gone longer.   Officer Francisco made numerous recommendations (which we will detail in a “tips” section of our regular COVEReport), but emphasized three items that all can do to protect their homes:

  • Alarm System:  If you don’t have one, get one.  If you don’t turn it on, it’s useless.  There are numerous companies in our area that have affordable plans, such as Ackermann at $18 per month for monitoring.  Xfinity by Comcast offers a service that also allows you to turn lights on and off and other extras.  Burglars are more likely to avoid a house that has alarm system signs out front (and back).  Cameras are also invaluable and are becoming more affordable.
  • Reinforce your Doors:  In two videos shown during the Holiday Safety presentation, thieves were able to kick in doors within 30 seconds.  Two or three kicks and they were in.  How to prevent that?  Reinforce your doors with Door Sentinel.  These are steel bars that are installed along the doorframe and on the doors that prevent them from being easily kicked in.  It’s available on Amazon, and depending on your door, can be less than $50 self-installed.
  • Close it Up:  As we move into the cooler temperatures of fall, it is tempting to leave a window open for fresh air.  Don’t do it.  Open windows mean that if there is an alarm system, it likely is not on, and the burglar is halfway in.  When you are not home or are asleep, close your blinds, close and lock your windows, close and lock your doors.  Any opening is an invitation to a ne’er-do-well.   This includes doggie doors. Officer Francisco noted that some burglars will bring their children who can climb in easily and unlock the door.  (And, note, if you have a thumb lock installed on a door with a window or side panel, that is easy access for a burglar as well.)

image (1) - CopyMARTA Safety:

MARTA Officer Jones spoke to the group to help let people know that MARTA takes the safety and peace of its customers seriously.  As many may not know, MARTA officers are state-certified law enforcement officers with powers attendant to officers in counties and municipalities.   Officer Jones addressed three new initiatives to improve rider safety and comfort of the system.

  • New Enforcement Capabilities:  MARTA is instituting a new program that allows MARTA to suspend riders who violate MARTA’s rules; suspensions can last from 12 hours to an entire year.  And if a rider is a repeat offender, that rider can be banned from the system.  How will enforcement work? If a rider is suspended and violates the suspension – off to jail.  Working with local law enforcement and our courts, MARTA will be able to send offenders to jail.  That may encourage good behavior and deter offenders.
  • See and Say:  MARTA has created a new smartphone app that allows riders to discretely photograph and report problems, including suspicious packages, and to call MARTA police directly.   The app is free and is available for multiple smartphones.   It allows you to take a quick snapshot – with flash automatically disabled – and to send it quickly to officers so that they can respond.  Apple App    Android App
  • Smart Cameras:  MARTA is installing new “smart” camera system that will sound alarms when it captures video of certain events such as a suspicious package that has not moved in a certain amount of time or when there is an altercation.   The cameras will be rolled out fully in the coming months and will provide the officers with another eye on the scene to assist passengers and improve the safety of the stations and trains.

image (6)Holiday Safety:

The focus of this portion of the program (presented by the three precinct Public Education Specialists) was personal safety, with a little on additional home safety to consider during the holidays.  Here are a few of the highlights (stay tuned for more tips in future COVEReports):

  • Purses:  Do not drive with your purse on the front passenger seat.  Easy target for a smash and grab.  Also an easy target at gas stations – thieves called “sliders” will enter the other side of an unoccupied car while the driver is pumping gas and steal purses and items in the car.  Take your purse with you or lock the car.  Do not leave your car windows open and items of value inside – they can go through open windows too!
  • Credit cards:  Be careful how you produce your credit card to the cashier.  Thieves are now taking pictures with their phones of card numbers as they stand behind you in line.  Cover the numbers (front and back) with your hand as you turn the card over to the cashier.  Be aware of your surroundings – is anyone standing a little too close?  Also, one attendee noted that an electronic reader read his cards  and charged on the card shortly thereafter. Now, he keeps an old card wrapped in aluminum foil in his wallet to prevent electronic card readers from being able to read the information on the card.  (For more on electronic pickpocketing, see here:  http://blog.checkadvantage.com/how-to-stop-electronic-pickpocketing/).  Relying on wads of cash may not be the best alternative either, as flashing cash at stores is a sure way to gain someone’s attention.
  • Packages:  When you take packages to the car – move the car:  How many times have you gotten your hands full, decided to take a run to the car and then go back to shop?  Someone is watching the parking lot and likely can break into your trunk faster than you can imagine.  If you have more shopping to do, move the car and re-enter from another location.  If you have packages you want to put in the trunk before you shop, move them to the trunk before you arrive at your destination.  At holiday season, there are groups of folks, including watchers who do nothing but spot potential loot – you may not see them, but they see you.
  • Holiday Decorations:  If you leave a tree or lights in the window, be careful not to show too much.  A beautiful tree may mean beautiful presents underneath, and even a menorah in the window can present an unobstructed view to a well-appointed living room.  Burglars want to have the best chance of a successful transaction, so don’t advertise that you have much that they may want.  (Also, children’s toys or decorations may suggest a woman’s presence, which often means to a burglar easy money by stealing valuable jewelry that can be pawned quickly.)

It was an attention-grabbing three hours, and each of the presentations reminded us to stay alert.  COVE will invite Officer Francisco to a COVE member meeting soon to talk about “Target Hardening,” and we will be in contact with Mr. Fowler on other ways we can stay in touch with our DeKalb County Police to continue getting good information to help us better protect ourselves and make their jobs easier.  We extend our thanks to the DeKalb County Police for an outstanding presentation.  We appreciate it:  COVE will continue to stay “In the K.N.O.W.”

DeKalb Zoning Code Draft Update

dekalb_seal_hi-resCarl 3 Carl Lange – October 24, 2013

 In our October 2 meeting with Interim DeKalb CEO Lee May, Deputy Chief Operating Officer Luz Borrero (development) said the “final” draft of the revised DeKalb Zoning Code would be available soon.  It’s now available.  To access click here.

 Zoning code should be a top concern in preserving the quality of our neighborhood and county.  We should remain vigilant about potential development abuse, including leveraging of our designation as a tax empowerment zone.  The best way to defend against undesirable development is to understand and encourage good zoning practices, well before an individual property is at risk.  The current code is very outdated and this revision is long overdue.

Some interesting questions and concerns were posted on the Civic Association Network (CAN) on August 29, 2013.  We should be working with our fellow neighborhood associations and county to understand how these questions are being addressed.

Following is what was posted on CAN:

“Last night at the CAN (Civic Association Network) meeting, a discussion of the new proposed DeKalb County zoning ordinance was held, led by Bruce MacGregor and Joe Arrington. Both have been involved in reviewing the draft and commenting to the county.

The attached document, SUMMARY OF SOME OF THE PROBLEMS WITH THE PROPOSED NEW DeKALB COUNTY ZONING ORDINANCE, was distributed to attendees. It summarizes some of the problems with the new proposed code that will limit the rights of county residents…

Pat Thomas


  1. Severely limits the ability of homeowners and public officials to appeal land use decisions. Only developers and builders have standing to appeal decisions; code requirements become irrelevant in protecting neighborhoods.
  2. Reduces the size of transition buffers between zoning classifications from 50’ to 30’
  3. Eliminates the 35’ height limit on buildings in zones classified for office buildings that abut residential zones, thereby permitting five-story buildings adjacent to single family homes.
  4. Exempts pervious pavement from lot coverage limits, enabling builder/homeowners to pave all or large portions of their properties. This situation caused problems that were remedied in the current code, but which will be a problem again with the new proposed county code.
  5. Allows administrative reductions of required setbacks and minimum lot sizes. This situation also caused problems that were remedied in the current code, but which will be a problem again with the new proposed county code.
  6. Allows the construction of cell phone towers anywhere without adequate recourse for homeowners and businesses. (The extensive cell phone section of the new proposed zoning code was written by the cell phone industry.)
  7. Allows rezoning s with embedded variances (“concurrent variance”). This situation caused problems that were remedied in the current code, but which will be a problem again with the new proposed county code.
  8. Provides overly generous density bonuses in county-wide zones. Eliminates the ability the ability to steer density to areas best suited for it.

The new proposed code weakens the Community Councils, compromises pre-application neighborhood meetings that applicants are required to hold, and provides very limited criteria for who has standing (sufficient connection to a situation to challenge it.”

Update: Responses from Interim DeKalb CEO May

Lee MayInterim CEO Lee May has responded to the remaining questions not addressed at our meeting on October 2, 2013. He has provided the following edited questions and his responses:
1) Why have our County officials not been involved with the cityhood debate to point out how this may damage the County? And how can citizens who are against all these divisive cities and would like to keep the County as large as it is now make their opinions heard?

Part of the problem is all of the map boundaries are hypothetical and subject to change. Furthermore, each city provides a different set of services and this is deducted from the county portion of the tax bill and becomes a new city millage. This makes it impossible to nail down exactly how much a new city will cost, down to the penny. But all cities pay more in taxes pro rata than in unincorporated areas. It is worse in some areas than in others. But another layer of government ALWAYS carries expenses that never come out in the feasibility studies. But, with the extra expense also brings more control, and for some it’s worth it.

2) What we can do to get our streets repaved, including Houston Mill and LaVista, sewers repaired and water mains replaced?

La Vista is a state road, so that is GDOT. So are Clairmont, Buford Highway and Lawrenceville Highway. All county roads are rated, and we have a limited amount of funds to repave. The roads rated the worst are at the top of the list. We should be addressing potholes and dangerous spots as needed. Calls to Roads and Drainage usually have a 48 hour turnaround or less, weather permitting. We cannot pave or patch in the rain or the cold.

3) How can we get a stop sign at Rainier Falls and Castle Falls?

We have directed Traffic Engineering to see if a study has been completed. If the intersection meets certain specifications we can put a stop sign there.

4) Problems in the Planning Department. Are you aware of any major changes to the culture, and if not, how could this be achieved?

The CEO is well aware of numerous problems in this department and has taken steps to correct it. Part of the issue is the permitting process, from zoning all the way to building inspection, falls under several different departments. The CEO is getting all of these under one roof. Most of the complaints stem from delays in fire inspections. We are attempting to outsource this function presently. There is also new leadership ion place with Deputy COO Luz Borrero and Planning Director Andrew Baker. This should provide stability.

5) The grand jury indictment against former CEO Ellis. What recommendations do you have to change the actual culture of corruption in a sustainable way?

The District Attorney is handling the investigation into the former CEO and perhaps others, and we have no knowledge or input into that process. Administratively, we have outside firms looking into our purchasing practices and protocols, as well as current employees that were named in the Special Grand Jury Report, but not listed as being involved in a criminal capacity. We cannot and should not be reviewing these issues utilizing current county staff. Hiring outside firms to do this gives us an arm’s length viewpoint and a more global perspective on best practices moving forward.

6) The grand jury indictment recommended your county commission positions should be made full-time to provide better oversight over county employees. How would you see this working and are you in support?

I don’t know if there is widespread support for full time commissioners or not. There has been a lot of discussion about a full time county manager, and presumable that would be to a part time Commission. In a county manager form of government, the County Manager would watch the employees and oversee operations, and the BOC would provide the oversight to the county manager. Commissioners would not be running down individual employees.

7) We have experienced a serious wave of crime surrounding the Toco Hill shopping area. This includes theft at gunpoint, people being followed home, and car break ins.

These are very serious concerns and I have brought this to the attention of Chief Alexander and his staff at the North-Central precinct. I should point out that we have recently reallocated boundaries of police precincts for a more efficient deployment of officers, and that we are planning to hire 160 additional officers each year over the next three years.

8) How do you see the recent corruption scandal centered on the Department of Watershed Management, impacting its ability to function? What is the status of the Capital Improvement Plan in response to the Clean Water Act mandate?

I have directed Zach Williams to look into all aspects of the purchasing and contracting process and fix it once and for all; he has made several recommendations, which we are implementing, including the ones in #5 above. We have 84 indentified projects in our CIP list, and under the terms they must be started in 5 years (which would be 1st Q 2016) and completed in 8 years (1Q 2019) some of these projects have already been awarded and none are completed yet, but we will see a lot more activity on this in 2014.

9) I recently had to deal with the DeKalb water department. I believe the water department needs a complete overhaul. How could you help facilitate this?

Part of the problem is staffing, it insufficient to accommodate the volume of traffic, and our old Interactive Voice Recorder system was inadequate. Starting this week (Oct 22) we are implementing a more comprehensive IVR system which should alleviate some of the traffic, which should improve customer response time. That is not the complete fix, but that should help.

10) With a Republican political majority, what are our opportunities for insuring we have a fair review of other options of cityhood, including a countywide review of city boundaries, staying unincorporated, City of Briarcliff, or annexation by Atlanta?

You can’t guarantee a fair review. If there was a fair review, Dunwoody and Brookhaven would look a lot different, if they exist at all. The entire process is not equitable, and that is why I am against all new cities until the process is fair. To answer the question, you don’t need fairness or feasibility to create a city, only 50 +1% of the vote of state lawmakers, the vast majority of which do not live here.

11) When can the County repave Rainier Falls Drive from Houston Mill for about 2 blocks west as the street is old and crumbling and terribly uneven and bumpy?

All roads are rated, and we have a limited amount of funds to repave. The roads rated the worst are at the top of the list. We will direct the Traffic Engineering Division to review this. In any case, we should be addressing potholes and dangerous spots as needed. Calls to Roads and Drainage usually have a 48 hour turnaround or less, weather permitting. We cannot pave or patch in the rain or the cold.

12) Have you requested or considered the county getting a study re: the implications of prior and future city carve outs? If not, why?

Yes we have and we are moving in that direction

13) Would you support (or preferably proactively advocate) a legislative moratorium on cityhood initiatives until a full study, preferably statewide (or at least for the large metro counties that are not geographically isolated and that tend to share infrastructure), could be done to recommend best operating structure that addresses both quality issues and cost implications.

Yes I would, for these reasons and the reasons articulated in #1 and #10.

Once again, we thank the Mr. May for taking time to meet with us and look forward to working with him to best ensure the future success of the county!

Mason Mill Civic Association & Victoria Estates – Fall Fling Picnic

Thompson ParkSunday, October 27, 2013
4:00 – 7:00pm, W.D. Thomson Park Pavilion

RSVP: Click Here




COVEReport – October 10, 2013

Get Informed – Take Action!

October 4, 2013 – by Carl Lange, Editor
Our neighborhood and county are facing significant challenges (and opportunities) concerning governance that COVEReport has been following. Read more

DeKalb Interim CEO Lee May Meeting with Victoria Estates and Mason Mill Neighbors

Read More

Governance Op-Eds

DeKalb: Fixing the County – by Carl Lange

Cityhood–City Moratorium – by Susan Bell

City of Lakeside – by Kevin Levitas

City of Briarcliff  – by Ron McCauley

“Salmon Run” on Rainier Falls

Pat Killingsworth asked that we include a photo and video showing the flooding that has occurred down to her front door.  Click the photo above for the video.  This is in response to an email from Marian on good practices concerning pick up of leaves and debris.  Read more

A note from our friends at the Vogt Riding Academy

Vera Vogt requested that this message be forwarded to neighbors:

“Dearest neighbors, Read More

Reminder: Neighborhood Picnic – October 27

Mason Mill Civic Association & Victoria Estates

Fall Fling Picnic
Sunday, October 27, 2013
4:00 – 7:00pm, W.D. Thomson Park Pavilion
MMCA_VE 2013 Fall Picnic flyer

COVEReport – October 4, 2013

COVEReport Logo


Get Informed – Take Action!

Carl smallOctober 4, 2013 – By Carl Lange, COVEReport Editor

Wednesday night’s meeting with DeKalb Interim CEO Lee May was a great success thanks to the vision and persistence of COVE president Martha Pacini in securing this meeting.  We had an opportunity to gain insight into the activities of the CEO in correcting county issues and to ask some of the many important questions from our neighbors.  Please thank Martha for this great work and check out the summary in this issue of COVEReport!


Our neighborhood and county are facing significant challenges (and opportunities) concerning governance that COVEReport has been following.  Keeping informed is important for us to form opinions, take action, and effect change.

Some issues, such as how to get our streets and sidewalks fixed, involve talking to the right people and persistence.  We sent in a list of problem sidewalk areas  earlier to the county and continued the dialogue Wednesday night in our meeting with Mr. May and some of his staff.

Other issues such as cityhood involve staying informed, acting individually and collectively, and may result in an opportunity for our neighbors to express their decision at the ballot box.  The bottom line is our staying engaged continues to be important.

This issue of COVEReport provides a summary of the evolving options for our neighborhood with some op-ed columns.  They are intended to move the conversation along.  Please review the summaries and opinions and respond back here with your own.  We’ll include these in our next newsletter, along with a poll for our neighbors.

Governance Issue/Options

Fix DeKalb County:
–       Whether we end up in a city or remain unincorporated, we’re still in and rely on the county.  Fixing the county remains a top priority no matter what.

–       Cityhood Moratorium
–       City of Lakeside
–       City of Briarcliff
–       City of Atlanta annexation

COVE does not endorse a particular position or the opinions expressed.



DeKalb Interim CEO Lee May Meeting with Victoria Estates and Mason Mill Neighbors

Lee May  20131002_191827

Carl smallOctober 4, 2013 – By Carl Lange

COVE president Martha Pacini provided an introduction and thanked CEO May for taking time away from his family to meet with us.  May was previously the presiding officer for the board of commissioners.  He was the youngest person ever elected to the commission and was recently appointed by Governor Deal as interim CEO.  He is a graduate of Emory’s Candler School of Theology so has some familiarity with our area.

Attending along with the CEO were a number of county employees including police officers, county Executive Assistant Zach Williams who reports to the board of commissioners and CEO, Deputy Chief Operating Officer Luz Borrero (development), traffic engineering, code enforcement, and others.

The meeting proceeded with a short statement by the CEO followed by the reading of submitted neighbor questions by COVE board member David Woolf.  Responses by May then resulted in related follow up questions from the audience.

He opened his remarks commenting on the persistence of Martha in “following” him to ensure the scheduling of the meeting for the neighbors.

May indicated the issues we are dealing with have been going on for decades and need to be addressed.  He referenced his use of SWOT (strengths/weaknesses/opportunities/threats) analysis as a former business owner to address these concerns.  While issues are being dealt with, his priority is also to ensure daily delivery of services.

He doesn’t know how long he will be in this role.  It is based on the legal situation concerning indicted former CEO Burrell Ellis.  Currently May has the full power as CEO.

May responded yesterday to the grand jury report with recommendations concerning DeKalb county government “weaknesses.”

Zoning Questions: 

We understand the DeKalb Zoning Code is being revised and the recent deadline for community review was not met with any update to the schedule.  Zoning code is a top concern for our neighborhood and how smart development can be maintained to preserve the quality and value of our community.  We’re concerned about potential development abuse, including leverage of our designation as a tax empowerment zone.  What is your position as to when the revised code will be available for vote?

May was not sure when the code will be voted on.  It is with the board of commissioners for review now.  The current code is very outdated and is not relevant and sensitive to the needs of the community and does not follow a comprehensive plan.  It has been reviewed for at least four years now.  The delay was due to the outsourcing of the legal review to confirm that the document is  compliant with state and other laws and the county’s own ordinances. 

Luz Borrero indicated October 9 will be the date for publishing the new draft.  She also indicated there had already been 64 “public” meetings concerning the code.  There will be three consecutive “home rule” meetings on the new draft before the board of commissioners can vote.  Because of the holidays, the commission is unlikely to vote before February 2014. 

May said how long it takes for the board to approve the new ordinance cannot be determined.

Charter Commission Questions:

The grand jury indictment against former CEO Ellis details a widespread culture of corruption within the county government and recommends a major overhaul.  Changes in structure have been proposed, such as eliminating the CEO position, but this does not address the lack of controls and transparency essential to good governance.  How would you support our request for a charter commission to be formed, that includes community representation, that could provide a more objective review of the county government, and better ensures controls and good governance practices are put in place?

May said “I support a deliberative process to deal with our government structure in DeKalb.” He is going to host three county wide meetings.  He is looking at bringing in a non-invested third party to evaluate the government.  It’s not as much the overall system but some individual components that are a problem.  Other counties in Georgia have many different forms of government and are doing fine.  The substantive issue is not whether to change, but if you change it, what will the new structure look like.  What in our current system is broken, what are the various options, and how do you fix it?

The Association of County Commissioners of Georgia (ACCG) is planning to participate in this dialogue.   The ultimate decision is with our legislators making any decision a political one.  May is taking action now to have information available for legislators to assist in whatever decisions they make. 

Concerning use of a charter commission, this has occurred in the past by legislators.  He recommended that this request should come from legislators and not him.  He indicated there was some hesitancy from some legislators to do this and that a professional third party may be a  preferred choice.   

He is proceeding with the third party effort and will be seeking the consensus of the commissioners.  He stated a professional corporation and/or university will be selected.  It was recommended from the audience that if a university was used, this be a university from outside Georgia to better ensure objectivity. 

Internal Auditor Question:  

The County has an internal auditor position that has been funded each year but has not been filled.  In light of the damning allegations of corruption detailed in the grand jury report, filling this position is critical.   Are you working to have this position filled, and by what date?

A resolution for an internal auditor is before the commissioners now, having been in committee for 3 weeks.  Last year the board voted to move three county financial auditors to administrative control by the board of commissioners.  That aspect of the budget was vetoed.  Lee believes there is support now for the board of commissioners to pass this change.  Outsourcing is also an option being considered and is an idea supported by May.  He is also recommending that the commissioners approve the purchasing policies of the county.  Currently the CEO position has full control over this without any oversight.

Susan Bell asked what budget there is now for the auditors.  May responded that there is no budget defined now but a budget will be presented by December 15 to the board of commissioners.  This includes a line item for the internal auditor who will be hired by the board of commissioners.

An independent whistle blower hotline will also be implemented.

Moratorium Question: 

Would you support (or preferably proactively advocate) a legislative moratorium on cityhood initiatives until a full study, preferably statewide (or at least for the large metro counties that are not geographically isolated and that tend to share infrastructure), could be done to recommend best operating structure that addresses both quality issues and cost implications.

May said “yes, yes and yes!”  The concern is the manner in which cityhood initiatives are unfairly impacting the county, leaving most of the fixed costs but taking away much of the revenue.

Fixed costs include DeKalb County employee pension benefits.  These remain with the county after cities extract revenues.  These benefits must continue to be paid, despite loss of revenues.

“No corporation can continue to operate efficiently and effectively if every other year there is this major impact to your revenue…. You can’t comprehensively plan…” 

ACCG is recommending a 10 year moratorium.  If that organization can get a bill sponsored, the general assembly could consider it next year. 

Ron McCauley said he just met with Mary Margaret Oliver who believes the only way for the three overlapping cities in DeKalb to work, Briarcliff, Tucker, and Lakeside — is for these cities to sit together and work it out.  If not, none of these will go through.

May says we could municipalize the whole county and he is intrigued by this proposal.

Taking the commercial areas and not the residential areas while forming new cities according to May is “theft.”  Existing cities should have the first right of refusal concerning annexation of new areas.

Representatives of Atlanta have not spoken to May concerning annexation.  Atlanta has not previously come to the table concerning county cityhood issues.  He does not feel they’ve been previously engaged.

Previous City Incorporation Impact Question:

How do you monitor the county infrastructure impacts (cost, quality, time) of managing so many contractual agreements? More specifically, how has the need to manage recent (Dunwoody, Brookhaven) and old (Atlanta in DeKalb) city/county contracts impacted headcount and operating costs (recurring and non-recurring)?

Is there an analysis of true incremental costs, both intended and unintended? 

May indicated this is not currently being looked at. Dunwoody’s incorporation removed approximately $16 million from the county’s annual budget and Brookhaven $26 million.

Pension cost impacts are being looked at now as well as health care costs.

Lakeside a Done Deal Question: 

We’ve heard from a political supporter of the City of Lakeside initiative that approval of that plan is a done deal at the Capitol.  With a Republican political majority, what are our opportunities for insuring we have a fair review of other options including a countywide review of city boundaries, staying unincorporated, City of Briarcliff, or annexation by Atlanta?

According to May this is about relationships.  He’s been working hard on building relationships with individuals under the dome to help encourage a proper outcome.  He’s letting them know about the issues.  Many of the legislators were born and raised in DeKalb County.  Qualifications for the next election will be in March.  He is banking on the fact that legislators don’t want any more drama than necessary concerning DeKalb.

Neighborhood Infrastructure Question:  

What can we do to get our streets repaved, including Houston Mill and LaVista (from Briarcliff to N Druid Hills), sewers repaired and water mains replaced?  

Response:  There is a distinction between county and state roads.  For this discussion, let’s focus on county roads.  DeKalb is 400 miles behind on repaving of roads.  This is largely due to historical commitments the county has made to other expenses.  The county created and funded Grady and MARTA, and provided homestead tax credits.  The county is at its tax limit.   There is not an ability to do a SPLOST, special purpose, or local option sales tax. 

Peggy Allen with Public Works -Traffic Engineering indicated each street is rated annually and is resurfaced base on the highest score.  The county is currently repaving down to number 31.  Last year the county resurfaced 38 miles of road.

Rainier Falls is rated 31, even so, it is not on the next resurfacing list.  The county will patch potholes as requested.  Mason Mill and Houston Mill are rated 28.  It is hoped that they make the next list.

Susan Bell recommended the list should be published for more transparency.

A question was asked concerning the South Creek Bridge on Houston Mill.  Allen indicated they are inspected annually by the state.  Concern was expressed that it has a broken railing and is noticeably shaking and was not likely designed for the volume of traffic it currently has.  Allen advised letting the county know and they will contact GDOT for an inspection.

Sidewalk Question: 

How do we get enough money in our budget to fix our sidewalks?  And why is there no budget for that?  Sidewalks are key to the new economy.

Response:  Peggy indicated there are no funds for new sidewalks but that repairs could be made.  She asked that any problem sidewalks be identified by the neighborhood.  COVE has previously provided a list of some problem areas, but will provide an updated detailed list.

Crime Question:

We have experienced a serious wave of crime surrounding the Toco Hill shopping area.  This includes theft at gunpoint, people being followed home, and car break ins.  What is being done about this?

Response:  Attrition rate of police officers is a big issue.  100 are leaving annually.  There needs to be more officers.  What are the reasons for this? – There has not been a pay increase in six years, there have been insurance increases, paid vacation days have been taken away, and there has been inconsistency of leadership which is disruptive.  We’re lacking in pay compared to other jurisdictions.  May proposed being more aggressive in hiring.  Hiring 160 each year is the goal.  This is also the case for the fire department.  There is a three percent bonus this year.  May is implementing a take home car program in 2014 (in which officers may park their cars in the neighborhoods they live in), providing academic tuition programs, and 2014 salary adjustments county wide.

May agreed to send answers to additional questions that were not addressed in the meeting.  Any responses will be posted to the COVE website. 

Thank you all for attending this important meeting!


Governance Op-Eds

dekalb_seal_hi-resDeKalb – Fixing the County

Carl small October 4, 2013 – By Carl Lange

DeKalb has big problems as detailed in the recent grand jury report that led to the indictment of former CEO Burrell Ellis.  What many already suspected was made more alarming by the accused extent of problems.

In our meeting with commissioners Gannon and Rayder a charter commission was recommended as a means to ensure transparency in the review of the county issues and appropriate recommendations for correction.

A charter commission is a group appointed by the CEO or legislators to look into these issues and make recommendations.  These have been formed in the past by legislators concerning DeKalb, Atlanta, and other governance issues.  In our meeting commissioner meeting, Victoria Estates neighbor David Scott, discussed his involvement in a charter commission that had been formed many years ago to discuss the county jail.

The term “charter commission” is completely unrelated to schools and “charter” districts being developed for them.

In our meeting with Lee May the CEO said “I support a deliberative process to deal with our government structure in DeKalb.” While CEO May said he was not opposed to a charter commission he has recommend a non-invested third party for expediency and better results.  May recommended that a request for a charter commission should come from legislators and not him.  He indicated there was some hesitancy from some legislators to do this and that a professional third party may be a more preferred choice.

I believe we should continue to explore the request for a charter commission to best ensure transparency.  If there are valid reasons for not having one, these need to be confirmed.

We should be closely following the selection of the third party to review the county.  We should have full disclosure and an understanding of the qualifications, objectivity, and breadth of scope of the third party examiner and examination process.

We have an opportunity now to affect change when there is such public concern with the business-as-usual corruption of the county.

I will for one, and I know other neighbors, will be looking for this in the months to come.

man-stop-signCityhood – City Moratorium

20130220_susanbellweb October 4, 2013 – By Susan Bell

I have lived in DeKalb County for 28 years, including 14 years in Morningside (city of Atlanta, DeKalb County) and the remaining years in unincorporated DeKalb. For the past 12 years my husband, son and I have lived in Victoria Estates–and we love it here!  During these years, we have had the opportunity to use many of the DeKalb County services including for example, parks where our son has played, building permits for home renovations and police response to our home burglary last fall. Generally, we have not had major complaints about the county services we have used and continue to use on a daily basis. I am, however, disappointed in, and truly disgusted by, the multiples instances of actual or alleged fraud, waste and corruption in county government, school system, etc. (both in our county and many others).

That said, I am neither for nor against cityhood as an alternative to the current county structure as I do not believe we have enough fact-based information to make an informed decision.  I believe cityhood efforts should proceed only with extreme caution and after appropriate study of the alternatives, implications and potential unintended consequences. Specifically, I feel strongly that the Georgia legislature should impose a moratorium on cityhood referendums until a comprehensive, objective study can be performed that will inform constituents of both the opportunities and risks associated with county “carve ups”  or any other viable alternatives to addressing the areas of concern in the county.

Such a study may include, for example:

-detailed analyses of various county/city-provided services and any alternative service models

-data supporting which of the services benefit from large economies of scale vs. those delivered more effectively on a smaller, local basis (there is precedent for this locally and in other states; therefore, a study should show the cost impacts as well as any quality considerations)

-information on governance structure alternatives for certain or all county services (e.g., can the county carve out certain services under different governance to address quality concerns without increasing costs?)

– a description of the infrastructure required to manage the city/county tax-sharing and cost-sharing contracts when cities are established (there also is precedent for this both recently with the new DeKalb cities and previously with “City of Atlanta in DeKalb”) and the related costs (e.g., how many people does it take to manage these contracts up front and on an ongoing basis?)

– key metrics and benchmarking information that could be used to objectively evaluate a cityhood proposal as to both current and long-term cost implications

– a summary of any other qualitative factors that should be considered

– a summary of alternative scenarios that could achieve the quality goals without significant cost impacts

Finally, any study should offer scenarios setting forth key assumptions and the potential sensitivity or variability of those assumptions.

Please note that I am a CPA and believe we need good fact-based information to evaluate our alternatives, especially the financial business case.  This opinion is solely my personal opinion and not that of my firm.


Cityhood – City of Lakeside

kevin-levitasOctober 4, 2013 – By Kevin Levitas, Board Member, The Lakeside City Alliance

The Lakeside City Alliance (LCA) continues to educate residents in northern DeKalb County about the pros and cons of cityhood through community meetings, such as the one held recently at the Toco Hill-Avis G. Williams Library for residents in around Mason Mill Woods and Victoria Estates.  LCA contracted in mid-June with The University of Georgia to complete a required city feasibility study, the results which should be ready by no later than mid-December.  When the Legislature convenes in January of next year, it will decide which, if any, cityhood ballot initiatives to approve for voter consideration.  It is likely that legislators would approve no more than one cityhood measure next year.  If signed by the Governor, the measure would call for a vote on cityhood in 2014 by residents within the boundary area.

Here are a few frequently asked questions about LCA and cityhood:

1.    What is the Lakeside City Alliance (LCA)?

LCA is a grassroots group of north DeKalb neighbors working to understand how a new city might benefit the citizens of our north DeKalb community.  Background information about LCA board members is available on our website at www.lakesidealliance.org.

2.    What are the boundaries of the proposed city?

The general boundaries are Interstate 85 on the west, North Druid Hills Road on the south, Interstate 285 and Chamblee-Tucker Road on the east and the DeKalb County border with Gwinnett County to the north.  A copy of the map can be found on the LCA website and a large printed version is available for viewing at our community meetings. (Editor’s Note:  Lakeside includes all of the Toco Hills shopping center and parts of the Mason Mill neighborhood, but does not include Victoria Estates.)

3.    Would my property taxes increase if a new city is formed?

The formation of a new city would not cause your property tax rates to increase.  Incorporation is revenue-neutral because a portion of tax revenues shifts from the county to the city.  Since the city takes over the responsibility of providing certain services to city residents, the money follows those services.  City tax rates would be locked in at the prevailing rate for unincorporated DeKalb County on the day that the city begins operations.

4.    When would the new city begin?

Assuming voters within the boundary area approve a cityhood referendum in 2014, the new city would begin operating in January of 2015.

5.    Would creating a city simply add another layer of government?

No.  A city government would assume control of certain services from the county, so there would only be a single layer of locally controlled government managing those services.

6.    What services would the new city provide?

LCA proposes that a new city provide Public Safety (police and code enforcement), Parks and Recreation, and Zoning and Land Use.  These three service areas are most often mentioned by residents expressing an interest in local control of government service delivery.  Additional services, such as Public Works, could be added to this list if residents so choose.

Get more information and the answers to many more questions on the LCA website: www.lakesidealliance.org

Briarcliff sign

Cityhood – City of Briarcliff

Why support the City of Briarcliff Initiative?

Ron McCauleyOctober 4, 2013 – By Ron McCauley

An editorial by your neighbor Ron McCauley

There are two cityhood proposals in the works that affect our neighborhood of Victoria Estates: Lakeside and Briarcliff.  It’s difficult to sort out why these are occurring, how they might make sense, and what the results may be if either is successful.  I’m going to explain the evolution of my thinking on the matter and why I believe supporting the City of Briarcliff Initiative is in our best interest.  In order to create something less than a dense book for people to read, this will be short on detail, but I welcome any who would like to learn more to have a direct conversation with me.

Like most of you, when I received word that there were cityhood proposals being formed I was very skeptical.  I wondered how such a thing made sense.  Aren’t we doing fine as is?  Why add a layer of government?  Will my taxes increase?  What possible benefit would be derived from forming a city?

Sometime in May I became aware of an opportunity to learn about the cityhood issues when there was an announcement about a meeting of a Briarcliff committee.  I viewed attendance as an opportunity to engage a group of wrong-minded folks generating an unneeded, damaging enterprise.  Frankly, I went there prepared to pepper the folks with questions, expressing my negative opinions, perhaps even causing a bit of trouble for them.  Near the beginning of the meeting I saw a comparison of the maps of Lakeside and Briarcliff.  I was shocked to see that the Lakeside border included an odd little peninsula that grabbed the Toco Hills shopping center while leaving out about ¾ of the surrounding residential areas.  It was an apparent land grab for revenue from a large commercial center while excluding the people who go there to do their grocery shopping, buy prescriptions, dine out, etc.  The effect on us is obvious: less tax revenue to support our essential municipal services.  The meeting did nothing to sway my opinion on whether forming a city was a good idea, but it became clear that we needed to find a way to oppose Lakeside.  I began an independent effort to find more information.  I also decided my neighbors needed to be informed about this critical issue.

After I had done some quick research I had the opportunity to relay some findings at a meeting led by our neighbors Erika Birg, Martha Pacini, and Carl Lange.  My message was simple: Lakeside is a really bad idea and we need to find an effective way to oppose it.  Following that meeting I dug deeper.  I learned more about how cities are formed, what municipal services each proposal was moving to perform, how those are financed and much more.  I also interviewed one of the principal architects of the Lakeside proposal, Kevin Levitas.

As my research gathered focus some things became apparent:

  1.  The Lakeside folks didn’t give me satisfactory answers to my questions about their map.
  2. If not opposed, the Lakeside proposal will very likely be approved and be forwarded for referendum later this year.
  3. Lakeside has every resource they need to achieve their goals – they are well financed, well organized, and have deep political support.  The bill presented to the state legislature is sponsored by Fran Millar, the legislator who was instrumental in the formation of Dunwoody and Brookhaven.
  4. Forming cities is a trend that has accelerated in recent years.
  5. An effort to simply oppose Lakeside would be difficult and would have a very low likelihood of success.

I came to the conclusion that the best way to oppose Lakeside was to support Briarcliff.  At that point I joined the Briarcliff effort and have devoted significant time and energy to that cause.

So, opposing Lakeside by supporting Briarcliff was my primary motivation, but since that time I’ve found other reasons to form a city.  In no particular order:

  1. Some municipal services such as policing, parks, and city planning are better served by a smaller government with greater focus on a smaller area.
  2. One essential feature of city government is representatives that are more answerable to their constituents.
  3. Taxes need not increase.  There is a transfer of tax revenue from the county to the new city.
  4. County government is not only corrupt, it’s completely broken.  The set of indictments of county CEO, Burrell Ellis are only the tip of a very large iceberg.  Corruption in the county is both endemic and structural.  Without major reform the problems will continue and get worse.  County government is structured such that there is a complete lack of transparency and accountability.  As a result, spending is wasteful, incompetence is widespread, and government is unresponsive to citizens.  The current ideas about converting the CEO position to a city manager and making county commissioner positions full time amount to (metaphorically) rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic.
  5. With the formation of a city there is a level of civic pride that simply won’t happen in an unincorporated area.  When someone tells you they live in Cambridge Massachusetts, or Palo Alto California, there are obvious impressions that come to mind.  If Briarcliff were to become a reality, the city borders that feature total inside the perimeter geography, Emory University, Emory Hospital, CDC, Mercer University, etc. are bound to engender a similar image.

There is much more that I could include, but I’ll end on that note.  Again, I encourage you to contact me directly if you’d like to learn more.  I can also give another, larger neighborhood presentation if people are interested.

Ron McCauley
1017 Castle Falls Drive



“Salmon Run” on Rainier FallsIMG_20130808_124317

October 4, 2013

PatPat Killingsworth asked that we include a photo and video showing the flooding that has occurred down to her front door.  Click the photo above for the video.  This is in response to an email from Marian on good practices concerning pick up of leaves and debris.

From Marian on 9/30/13:


Did you know that how you (or your landscape service) deal with your leaves and other debris can result in flooding of properties below you? I worked for a landscape company for 10 years, and a responsible company (or homeowner) will not blow leaves into the storm sewers, the street, or someone else’s yard or hedges (even if they can be “hidden”). Please speak up if a crew (or a neighbor) is not following the Golden Rule. What flows downstream from clogged storm sewers can really damage someone’s home….

Pat writes:

Re: Marian’s request that yard waste not be deposited onto the street, especially now that leaf season is upon us.  Attached is a photo and short video of the “salmon run” that we experienced last fall and again this summer during heavy rainfalls when our street drainage pipe was clogged with debris.  Please, please take her request seriously!

Patricia Killingsworth
1364 Rainier Falls Drive NE


VogtA note from our friends at the Vogt Riding Academy

October 4, 2013

In a reminder announcement to the neighborhood concerning the meeting with Lee May Wednesday night the following was included:

Some of the questions already submitted for discussion are:
  • What is the status of the delayed revision to the DeKalb Zoning Code and the potential impact to our neighborhood?
What risks could we face with future development, for example with the Vogt Riding Academy?

Vera Vogt requested (through Marian) that this message be forwarded to neighbors:

“Dearest neighbors,

         I’d like to put a mentioned concern to rest.  I live on the property of the Vogt Riding Academy and my sister’s riding school is providing a much needed service to the community. My intention is that the land remain a riding school for AT LEAST 50 more years.

                      Wishing you all peace, love, & joy – Vera Vogt”

The Vogt property was used as an example due to its size, location, and potential impact to Victoria Estates with any land use changes.  We are so thankful to have such great neighbors and to be reminded of their wishes and intentions to maintain the riding school for a long time.  It’s also important to understand that county government controls the zoning designation for properties and not individual property owners.  Situations can change and the best way to defend against undesirable development is to understand and encourage good zoning practices, well before an individual property is at risk.


Reminder: First Friday (Tonight!)

Our friends at Zonolite are planning First Friday, a Zonolite Road Experience on October 4, 5:30-8:30 pm.  There will be food, beverages (rumor has it that a whiskey tasting is part of the plan) and exhibits by Zonolite area merchants.

Zonolite First Friday

Reminder: Neighborhood Picnic – October 27

Mason Mill Civic Association & Victoria Estates

Fall Fling Picnic
Sunday, October 27, 2013
4:00 – 7:00pm, W.D. Thomson Park Pavilion
MMCA_VE 2013 Fall Picnic flyer