Monday, May 7, 2012

Welcome To the World of Land Speculation

Another topic covered at the DHA meeting this past Sunday was the recent awarding of the development bid of the new Georgetown Project to John W.  Now before anyone rolls their eyes, again, I am in favor of getting this land developed.  I am happy to see that the 210 Townhomes will now be single family and attached two family homes instead. (What use to be called duplexes in my day)
Susan made a good point, that she and her neighbors who live in the Georgetown subdivisions are concerned about the name “Georgetown” being used for an area that has nothing to do with their Georgetown neighborhoods.  Just think how the folks in that suburb of Washington DC feel about all of this?  What was the name of that place again? You know the place they filmed the Exorcist.

What concerns me a bit is...... somehow through the magic of money, we give John W the pipe farm where he can build his houses and he buys the old hospital site across the street.  He leaves a corner of the property for future development of 30,000 square feet of commercial developments.   We then have a 19 acre piece of land across the street, that we really cannot develop for about 10 years since there are buildings on it that have leases and we have a lease on our city hall space and it really is not our problem because I know I will not be here then and none of the current city council are likely to still be on council so it will be someone else’s problem. (WHEW)

I should have paid more attention. 

Before Greg has a fit, it is true that it may cost a few bucks to finish the streets and stuff, but the minimal investment in return for the building of 110 homes is well worth it.  I am sure now that Greg is a columnist (not sure what publication) he will be loaded with facts and conspiracy theories, but he is the new expert since he stayed in a Holiday Inn last year.
So we now are the proud owners of a half built out piece of land, with no money to develop what we could develop even if we could.  A possible connection to Brook Run if we can find the right of way and John W has the pipe farm so he can start building  his new subdivision and parks.  I just hope the market supports his product and it is a raging success.  If not we might be stuck with a partially built subdivision with development conditions that a future owner might not be able to honor.

Sounds risky?  It is.  The financing is risky, the speed at which all of these financial transactions have to be completed are concerning and the rebound of the housing market is critical to its success.  Add that to the 19 acres that may not be developed for 10 years, the gamble is huge.  LAND SPECULATION

Well after all Rome was not built in a day, but this is Dunwoody we expect more.  One of the Councilmen wrote to a constituent and said, "you are just going to have to trust us".  As I said, I will not be here to see if that trust paid off.  Maybe those kids and grandkids I keep hearing about who  will come back here to live will fill me in at the home.

Location Needed, Parks Not Available


When the discussion occurred for the first time several years ago, the founders of the Dunwoody Farmers Market were outraged by my comments that they should not be permitted to open a commercial market on property that was zoned residential.  They had just been moved from the parking lot of the Spruill Farm house on Ashford Dunwoody Road.

The claim was fresh goods grown by local farms would be made available to our kids and families. Kids could see that carrots came from the ground and not from a bag in Kroger.  A noble cause, except the back then as it is now you cannot run a commercial farmer’s market in a residential neighborhood. 
Then for some reason I have yet to figure out, several councilmen took up the charge to find a home for the Dunwoody Farmers Market.  The Post Office had a parking lot that they were no longer using and the Market ended up there.  Nice story but the saga continued.

The Farmers Market, where veggies grown by local framers morphed into a “Green Market” where things that were made by vendors could be sold alongside of the local veggies.  Soon the “farmers market” became a weekly outdoor neighborhood market.  We now had a location to buy salsa from a Mexican restaurant that had a real store front in Buckhead, pizza, sandwiches and soup.  A commercial baker had a table where they could sell bread and muffins.  My favorite was the lady selling facial creams and earrings and the guy who cold make pens out of tree bark.  The original pitch of a farmers market had faded away.  It was now a green market. Items grown or MADE by the vendors were now permitted in the market. If they had someone selling restored furniture, they would qualify as a flea market.  All the vendors operated without Dunwoody business licenses
Seems there was confusion that since they operated on federal land, they did not have to pay taxes for fees to anyone. But since no one asked, no one ever bothered to check.

But as we all know, life is not always fair.  It seems that the Post office, without notice, decided they wanted the parking lot back.  The Green Market would be forced to move.
It appears that once again, the City could be coming to the rescue.  Someone offered up Brook Run and the Park at the Nature Center.  Ironically the Green Market folks rejected Brook Run as too far removed from their customer base.  Sorry for the inconvenience.  What are we thinking?  Why would the City be in the conversation in the first place?  This is a commercial venture, whose tenants do not have business licenses, who we have no idea if the collect or pay sale tax, are in direct competition with legally operated businesses in the area.  Why is a park even a consideration?

If Hickory House, my long standing weekend office, were to lose it lease, would the city be offering up Brook Run to them?  Of course not.
Go to the Chamber of Commerce.  Ask the business Community for help.  The City should stay out of this even though some members of Council may see it as a popular cause.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

A New Community Garden; A Few Steps Closer To Reality

Last Saturday, following in the pattern that Kathy has established earlier in the month, I stepped in a hole, fell like a KLUTZ and suffered a fracture of the radial head bone in my elbow. I have no idea that means  other than what the Doctors tried to explain to me while twisting my arm into various positions to get the perfect x-ray.
After about 8 different shots, the Doctor came out of the x-ray room and almost joyfully announced the "you broke it".  Took him 8 x-rays and he showed me this.  Just to the left of the red arrow there is a small, I mean real small, I means so small that it makes an aphid look like an elephant, crack in what is know as the radial head.  What I do know is that it hurt like hell.

As we have all heard before, if you fall off the horse, you hop right back on the saddle.  So with Kathy sitting in my lap, we drove back to the scene of my accident to confront my fears of the wayward fence post hole.  With my feet providing the gas and braking control ( she has a busted ankle) and her arms steering the car, we made our way down I 285 very carefully.  We completed the 12 mile drive is one hour and 53 minutes, not once coming close to having an accident or hitting one of those dangerous pot holes that we both have grown to fear.

Those flowers are not for me
When we arrived as the Smoke Rise Community Garden, amazing progress had been made.  The water lines had been installed, all the fence posts had been installed ( including that dastardly hole that robbed me of the use of my left hand) fencing has started to be hung and there were 4 beds that were under construction.  I had mixed emotions.  Happy to see that they had persevered through my devastating injury, but emotionally crushed that I was not needed.  They were building the garden without me.  Like one of those bridge builders who falls into the concrete foundations simply to be forgotten as the concrete continues to pour, my accident seemed to be a non event and construction continued. So here are a few of the pictures I took today of the Community Garden at Smoke Rise. Progress continues. They will have tomatoes and peppers growing in a few weeks and my sacrifice will slip even further into the forgotten memories of this Garden's birth .
                                                                                                                                                              

Thursday, May 3, 2012

I am Stunned, Shocked,


I get home from work today and and I get an email from the Patch.  Imagine my shock when I read that the city had awarded the Georgetown Renaissance project to non other than Wieland Homes. 


Now if my memory is not failing me, that would be the same John Wieland Homes that was leaked to the general public a couple of months ago,  Now you would have to be and idiot, something that I have been accused of several times in the past, not to believe that JW had a little bit of a head start on the other two "bidders" to this project.  Some council members even heard to say back then that they would not support this type of project if the developer were anyone other than JW because of the high quality product he is known to build

According to the Patch;

"Dubbed "Project Renaissance," the proposal by John Wieland is similar to what the city asked for when it put out an invitation for proposals on the project in March."

Gee now I am really befuddled.  JW, in meetings with the city for months ( per our friendly neighborhood leaker) presents a plan that was discussed by the city Council back in March.  I hope they at least changed the date on the submitted drawings.

Fishy?  "I'm just sayin"  (appologies to Kerry)

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

A FUGEE GRADUATES plus a dose of reality


Dear Friends,              

Mabior graduated from college on Sunday !!!!!

Those of you who follow me on Facebook and Twitter know that I said this was my "proudest day ever". It's not an exaggeration. I am writing today to explain a little bit more about what this day meant--to me, to Mabior, and hopefully to you.
Mabior first appeared in my life in 2005. He was 15 years old and had been in the country for just a few months. His mother was dead and his father was too old to travel, so he was here with only his two brothers. He was shy--painfully shy--but he wanted to play soccer. I learned much later that Mabior had grown up playing in war-torn Southern Sudan with a ball made of socks, but at this point all I saw was a tall, quiet kid in a button down shirt and neatly pressed pants who was very politely asking me if he could try out for the Fugees. This soft-spoken boy turned out to be an incredible athlete and a natural leader--a person whose gentle persistence and strong drive to succeed led him through the maze of high school and eventually to a full soccer scholarship to Bellhaven University. Taking photos of him in his cap and gown with his professors, friends, and teammates on Sunday was such a moving experience. This moment that looked from the outside like any graduation day was a triumph against the odds. I credit Mabior. He credits the Fugees. In a note he gave me on his graduation day, he said, "I wouldn't be where I am without my Fugees Family. I am just blessed to be surrounded with love and people who cares about lives of others."
 Like many recent graduates, Mabior is not sure of exactly what he will do next. But he has already proven himself in so many ways, including spending his summer breaks working at the Fugeees academic boot camp, mentoring younger kids, and giving them reason to believe that they too can make it.

I would like to say that nothing could tarnish the joy of Mabior's graduation day. But I cannot say that, because there are too many of his original teammates who have not "made it" in the way that Mabior has. He and I both felt it as we caught up on the whereabouts of the kids with whom we'd both shared countless hours and a lot of hopes. Out of 15 boys in that group, only 4 are in college. Four. A few dropped out of high school, some are working to provide for children they have fathered, one is in jail, some just hang out all day because they can't find work. These are not bad kids. But the public school system was not set up to help them, and even the best soccer and tutoring program in the world isn't enough to fill the gaps. This is the hard lesson that Mabior's team has taught me. This is why we need the Fugees Academy to get built as soon as possible.

Mabior's success is remarkable, but it should not be the exception. In the coming years, I hope able to send emails about the five, ten, and twenty Fugees who are graduating from college--not just one here and there. I cannot stand to keep losing kids through the cracks in our system. I am doing what I can. Mabior is well on his way to doing what he can. Are you doing what you can? If so, we thank you. And if not, I hope you will join in supporting us today. We can't do it without you.
With deep appreciation and respect,

Coach Luma

Join Team Fugees
Show your support by making a recurring monthly donation of any amount. Our recurring monthly donors are truly teammates we know we can count on. Follow this link to become a proud and valued member of Team Fugees - and invite your family members and friends to do the same. We're calling on all of our supporters to inaugurate this club - our goal is 5,000 members by the end of the year.
Click here to enroll securely through Piryx

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Your contribution can be made through payal as well.

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You can also mail your donations to
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P.O. Box 388,
Scottdale, GA 30079-0388.
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Sunday, April 29, 2012

Smoke Rise Community Garden

Ordinarily I would not post three quick videos about another garden, but Saturday turned out to be a little different than I had planned

I have been working with Doug over in Smoke Rise helping him set up a new community garden.  We have done the sketch of the layout of the perimeter and beds, he had the water meter installed, and negotiated the land deal with the Patillo Company, a huge land owner in the Stone Mountain PCID.

Today was the day to start setting the fence posts.

So, the first video is a quick view of the site
The second is Doug working the two man gas powered auger digging one of the  25 holes need to set the posts
The third is a quick shot as the hole digging was completed.

That last video is important in that about thirty seconds later I turned and stepped in a hole and landed on my face.  A perfect belly flop marred only by the breaking of the fall with my left arm.

At the time my pride was hurt more than my arm, but that would quickly change as I drove home.  Getting out of the car my elbow was swollen and bending it was painful to say the least.  Quick trip to Dunwoody Critical Care, an X-ray  and a handful or percocet and my day was done

Today after keeping my elbow iced down every 15 minutes, having it wrapped and in a sling, it actually feels a whole ( pun intended ) lot better.

Wednesday if it feels no better I will take my x-ray to Resurgens and have one of their specialists check it out.  Why Wednesday?  That is the day I take Kathy to her doctor to have her broken broken ankle checked out.  She had surgery two weeks ago after she stepped in a hole..

What a pair !



Thursday, April 26, 2012

Help DeKalb Animals May 20th

Animal lovers throughout metro Atlanta can lend a helping hand to DeKalb County’s troubled animal control services on Sunday, May 20th when three commissioners host the “Help DeKalb Animals” bowling fundraiser at Stars and Strikes in Stone Mountain.



Commissioners Elaine Boyer, Stan Watson and Sharon Barnes-Sutton will host the fundraiser from 5 to 7 p.m. Animal lovers can bowl and enjoy the company of animals available for adoption at Stars and Strikes at 1741 Mountain Industrial Boulevard in Stone Mountain.

Proceeds from the event will go to pay for spaying and neutering of animals in DeKalb.
The event is being co-hosted by LifeLine Animal Project, a multifaceted non-profit that works to save animals from euthanasia by promoting online adoptions, promoting low cost spay and neuter programs and offering low cost vaccinations.  www.lifelineanimal.org

Tickets are $30 for adults and $20 for children and include bowling, a game package and light refreshments.

DeKalb has a beleaguered animal services department. A special task force recently highlighted problems including a 67 percent euthanasia rate at the shelter; a dark and dirty animal services facility; and significant lack of adoptions.

“This fundraiser is a first step toward raising awareness of our animals’ needs in DeKalb,” said Boyer. “So many four-legged creatures who cannot speak for themselves need care and our fundraiser will help make sure we stop the cycle of overpopulation.”
Those who attend the Help DeKalb Animals fundraiser are encouraged bring donations of dog leashes, collars and laundry detergent.

To purchase tickets to the event, go to www.helpdekalbanimals.com or contact ecboyer@dekalbcountyga.gov





Wednesday, April 18, 2012

What To Do With the Brave Garden Vandals


OK, I have to admit, my first reaction to the news that they had caught the little darlings that wreaked havoc upon the garden may have been a little harsh.  The reality is that we do not have a tree with a long enough branch anyway.

After hearing some of the more rational ideas from some other folks I have ammended my position.



Let me communicate with them.

I believe the punishment for these kids should be full restitution to the Garden for all of the man hours it took to rebuild and repair the damage.  They should not be let off the hook for the cost of the damage even though Home Depot replaced the damaged plants and Costco replaced the destroyed food.
They should be forced to stand before the Garden members and the folks from the Food Bank and appologize face to face for the damage they did.

This was indeed a felony and while no one wants this on permanent records, they should understand the fact that if they were a couple of years older, they would not be so lucky.

I walked the damage with Sgt. Espinoza and know the $4k is a pretty accurate figure.  I also know the outrage and disgust I felt when the torn down the Blue Bird houses were discovered. That is not a "prank". That is the sign of an angry group of kids.

We should settle for nothing less than full restitution, perhaps split between the Garden and the Food Pantry.  This money could be used for the next season of planting to insure that the pantry  continues its mission to lend a hand to our neighbors in need.

The community service hours worked at the garden should be what it took us to rebuild on Saturday and Sunday times 5.  One for each kid involved,  They should then go work at St. Pats and serve the very cmmunity they stole from.

We have hundreds of feet of wood chips to be put down, path ways to be weeded.  Picnic areas mulched etc.  Then in a close meeting, they should be made to look into the eyes of the garden members and the members of the St. Pats Food Pantry and appologize

This cannot and should not be taken lightly.  This is not a case of smashing a pumpkin on Halloween.  This was destruction of property, a felony.  Danny Dunwoody needs to learn that there are severe consequences for his actions.  Make a bad decision and you suffer the consequences

Maybe I am getting old but when I was a kid, I would not have been afraid of what  the cops would do to me, I would have been afraid of what my father would have done to me when he found out.


Tuesday, April 17, 2012

A Vote for Dunwoody That Even Greg an I Might Agree

Well there very could well be.  If enough citizens vote for the Dunwoody Community Garden  on the website below, the City could receive a free Fruit Tree Orchard located near the Community Garden at Brook Run.  The orchard is provided by The Fruit Planting Tree Foundation: http://www.ftpf.org/

Please vote for the Dunwoody Community Garden to win a free orchard from The Fruit Tree Planting Foundation:
http://www.communitiestakeroot.com/Brand/Choose


Like politics of old, vote rearly and you really can vote often.  Send the link to your Face Book pages, Twitter acounts, your garden club, bridge club and all your old boyfriends and girls friends.
As of this morning we were currently in 10th place.  We need to turn out the vote!

Friday, April 13, 2012

Plant Sale at the Greenhouse


This is the only fundraiser that the Dunwoody Community Garden has.  All the plants were grown from seed in the Brook Run Greenhouse.
In partnership with City, the Dunwoody Community Garden along with the Nature Center and the Dunwoody Garden Club run the Greenhouse year round.  This weekend and next will showcase the results of all of that hard work.  Trust me when I say Brook Run is GREEN 12 months a year.

I could not end this post without mentioning that Team Food Pantry has beds in production inside the greenhouse all year long.  So even in the cold nights of the winter, there is hope for food for those in need. One of the founding principles of the Dunwoody Community Garden was the commitment to raising fresh vegetables for those neighbors, our neighbors, that may need a helping hand now and then.  Money raised at this sale will in a small way help continue this mission.



Come by, check it out. Buy a couple of tomato plants or a basket of herbs. Buy a whole garden of plants so you can enjoy the fruits of this sale all summer long.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Graduation Rates.


One of the habits you pick up when you write a blog, is that you tend to read a lot of blogs.  It explains why I never watch Dancing with the Stars  or the Voice.  I am too busy reading things that are really important  like the Other Dunwoody or Rick's, Bob's or Kerry's blogs.

One blog that I do not spend enough time on is Dunwoody School Daze.  Maybe it is because my kids are all grown up.  Maybe it is because my kids went to Marist and I never felt it was my place to stick my opinionated nose into a system that I had no participation in.  What ever the reason, I knew that Page, Lyn, Jim R, Nancy Jester, even Rick were keeping an eye on things.
Today something made me click over to Dunwoody School Daze and I was just floored by what I read. 
Having relatives up north, you know those two liberal Democratic brothers that live in NJ, I often am reminded about the shining example of education that the public school system provides for the kids in Georgia.  The stats I read today just struck a nerve. 
First it is good to see the  Dunwoody High School is way above the State graduation rate.  I know the parents are probably not satisfied with the 94th ranking, but the Dunwoody parents have always been strong supporters and advocates of the schools and I know that they will continue to work on raising that number.  We as a community need to be thankful of all those parents who work so hard to make our kids better. 

What number really shocked me was that the DCSD graduation rate was 9% points below the State of Georgia's average.

DeKalb 9% points WORSE than GEorgia
I am sure there will be explanations, reasons and excuses, but how ever you cut it, that number is embarrassing. I want  to read the resumes of all current and former employees of the BOE and see how they can spin these shabby results.  Parents of DeKalbCounty School kids should be outraged by these numbers.

For those former Board members who seek new political offices, how are they ever going to run on a record of corruption, investigations and a graduation rate that is embarrassing to us all.
  
Thanks to all of the parents in Dunwoody who work so hard to keep our schools at the top of the list. 
thanks to the students that put in the extra effort.  You make all of Dunwoody proud.
If DeKalb were a football team in the SEC, they would  be on academic probation.


Georgia Board of Education Releases New Four-Year Graduation Rate

The Georgia Board of Education has released the new Four-Year Graduation Rate.  As part of Federal Guidelines, all States and Local Education Agencies that receive Title 1 Funds were to begin reporting the new calculated graduation rate beginning with the 2010-2011 school year.  As part of Georgia’s ESEA Waiver, for the 2011-2012 school year, the state will use a 5-year rate for accountability purposes. 

Here is how the new rate is calculated:

Number of cohort members who earned a regular high school diploma by the end of the 2010-2011 school year
____________________________________________________________________
Number of first-time 9th graders in fall 2007 (starting cohort) plus students who transfer in, minus students who transfer out, emigrate, or die during school years
2007-2008, 2008-2009, 2009-2010, and 2010-2011

Dunwoody High School has a 4 year Graduation Rate of 80.8494th out of 461 schools ranked by the GA BOE.  Click here for the School-Level report.

The 4-year Graduation Rate for DCSD is 58.65 and the graduation rate for the State of Georgia is 67.45. For more information, click here for the Press Release from the GABOE.
Thanks to Dunwoody Daze  http://dunwoodyschooldaze.blogspot.com/

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Stream Buffers. Some Things Need to Change, others not so fast

If anyone happened to watch the City Council meeting last night or actually attended the meeting, you witness some very interesting things take place.  One, according to the City Charter is legal; the other was a case of a councilperson trying to fix a “problem” for a friend by totally gutting the stream buffer codes of the city.  It took both of these separate actions for me to realize that we have a problem in our system.
First was the attempt to change the Stream Buffer Ordinance in the city. 
What? 
You have no idea what I am talking about?  Well that figures because it seems after what was an innocuous comment made by Councilwoman Bonser at the March 26th Council meeting, very quickly mushroomed into a “First Read” of a text amendment change.  No public discussion, no review, some lame reasons why this change was necessary and we were ready to start the clock on a change to our codes that could have, would have had a major impact not only here in Dunwoody, but for every resident living south of I 285.
Kudos for the majority of the Council realizing this before the agenda item came up.  Councilwoman Lyn asked that it be pulled for discussion only.  John got it delayed for a full cycle review by Community Council, the Planning Commission and then the Council.  The big news is that the code will not change for now, only the definition of a "stream".   My only advice is to seek the input of experts on this issue.  Call the State, The Water Districts, EPD before you start trying to redefine streams of any kind.  What we may think is good for Dunwoody homeowners, could be devestating for those downstream.

This brings up the other issue.  Our City Charter allows for the Council to vote on any issue at any meeting. What starts as a work session can become a voting session. You may not notice if you blink.  It is a convenient tool that the Council can use when they want to fast track something through for a vote.  Well it may be legal and the Charter may say it is OK, but I think it is just wrong
The City should designate a meeting to be a work session.  Items to be voted on at future meetings could be discussed and debated.  The public could witness and review those debates.  Where disagreements occur, the time would give all parties the time to cool down.  Then at a scheduled voting session, actions by the Council could be taken.  Simple, clean and transparent.

Work sessions and voting sessions should not be mixed.  PERIOD.

It was this work session/voting session that allowed the terrible stream buffer rewrite to come up for a first read. 

I know we distain everything DeKalb, but the system of work sessions and public voting sessions allows time for issues to be heard, discussed and debated.  It allows the public to digest what they have heard and get ready for the voting meeting the following week.  It works in DeKalb without problems.  It may not mean fast government action all the time, but when you are making decisions that will impact lives, sometimes slower is better.
Advanced planning and preparation make the difference.  If you have a set schedule you plan your needs around it.  It maybe a little harder and take a little more work, but that is the price you pay to be totally open and transparent.