When I started reading this article, my thoughts wandered to the extended stay motels that dot the central part of South DeKalb. I can count at least twelve that I know of, so I am sure there are a dozen more I overlooked. I never really liked extended stays because they seem to be a magnet for crime no matter where they are. If you have ever driven south on Candler between I-20 and 285, you can see that many of the problems of prostitution, open drug deals, and general mayhem can be traced in part back to the extended stays in that corridor. After reading the above article, I realized that these places do serve a purpose for a small number of folks who have found traditional housing to be a challenge. I was really struck by one woman who described a situation where she found it nearly impossible to get an apartment through standard means.:
She recently found work as a shift manager at a Checkers fast-food restaurant. Harris runs the register, supervises four employees and opens or closes the restaurant depending on the schedule for $10 per hour.
That doesn’t leave much for savings, which is critical if Harris wants to move into her own place. Her application at a local apartment complex was recently denied after her credit report turned up an old unsettled bill. She was especially frustrated that she lost $20 on the application fee.
Other places have told her that her criminal record disqualifies her from consideration. Another complex accepted her application but wanted first and last month’s rent, which totaled $1,050.
Harris was forced to keep looking.
This woman has had some obvious challenges, and extended stay is her last option before living on the streets. And when there are children involved it makes it that much more distressing.
I would like to see DeKalb crack down on extended stays, but not to the point of pushing them out of business. Property owners should be held accountable for criminal activities that occur on their property. If there are code violations, the owners should be made to bring their property up to code or face stiff fines. And the police should put more resources into cleaning out problematic motels. If I, a normal citizen can see criminal activity from my car without having to stop and look for it, I have to believe the cops and the motel owners see it as well.
New Home Construction
If you have driven down River Rd lately you may have noticed signs advertising new homes for sale. Apparently the economy has come back with such a roar that the last bit of land cleared before the recession is back in business to sell you a new home. Now, unlike in the housing boom where they put houses up without a buyer in sight, it seems the builder is only going to build if there is a buyer in hand. The prices came down from 180-200’s to the 140’s. I find it hard to believe that a builder out there can get financing to build again especially in an area that was hit pretty hard with foreclosures and where costs of existing homes are half of what they are asking for these new homes. I hope they do well, because it would be a great sign that maybe things are once again on the upswing.
A new school Superintendent?
It seems the board and its consulting firm has given us three candidates to take over for the indicted and disgraced Crawford Lewis. The three candidates are scheduled to do a dog and pony for the public on Thursday. By now you know their names and their credentials and probably more. I went to the local media sites where all three live just to get a feel for how the media and the public views them. At this point it is a two-woman race from my vantage point. Mr. Culver has some issues that are not deal breakers, but at this point DeKalb schools do not need a polarizing or slightly dinged figure to come in and takeover. It will just add to the mistrust and lack of faith that the general public has in the school system. That leaves the other two candidates. The superintendent from North Carolina, Lillie Cox, would be the boldest move. I am not buying the argument that she comes from a small district. If you can lead a few successfully, then you should be able to lead many. Apparently she is beloved in her present job, and some are mad that she is considering leaving. But I doubt she is going to make the cut with the public or enough board members. Then there is Dr. Gloria Davis from Decatur Illinois. She will probably land this job because she is the safe pick that will cause the least amount of criticism. It is still early in the process. I hope the board and the consulting firm did their homework. I would hate to have someone hired and then find out they plagiarized their Doctoral Thesis.
School Board Takeover?
I found this poll on former mayor Shirley Franklins blog. When asked if they supported a takeover of the school board by a mayor or county commision, a mjority of voters agreed.
The survey of 595 metropolitan Atlanta voters commission by Blogging While Blue about various issues reveals that 54% of voters support school takeovers while only 30% oppose them.
While I would agree that if a board has become so dysfunctional someone needs to step in, I would rather see the requirements for becoming a board member increased. I cannot fathom someone who does not have a college degree serving on a school board. Having a conviction involving children or a felony should be an automatic disqualification. I would like to see more highly qualified professional men and women seek school board positions, not people who want to use it as a stepping stone to some other public office.
I am sort of neutral on where libraries fit into our digital culture, but I must say that I was totally impressed with twelve year old Sekondi Landry. Young Mr. Landry was not to happy that the Scott-Candler Library on McAfee was slated to close. So He decided to start a petition to save his library. Now I don’t know for sure that it was his petition alone that saved the library, but it made me feel all good inside to see a twelve year old get out and fight for something he believes in. Too many times our kids fight for the wrong cause. This kid was on the right side of a good cause. Things like that makes even a pessimist like me think there is hope down the road.
Would someone please inform the AJC that unless they have done the research, to stop insinuating that the high number of foreclosures in South DeKalb is the reason why school enrollment is down. There is no doubt that some students who leave a particular school has done so because their parents were forced out of their home, but enrollment in many South DeKalb schools has been declining for almost a decade. Here are a few examples from this year alone of the AJC making it a point to blame foreclosures for the recent enrollment drops. Here are a few examples:
Many speakers at the hearing accused the board of pandering to the interest of parents in affluent north DeKalb neighborhoods, while targeting schools in the south. However neighborhoods in south DeKalb are some of the hardest hit by foreclosures
Most of the schools slated to close are in south DeKalb, which has been hardest hit by the foreclosure crisis. Children from those schools would move to schools in other areas of the county
However, south DeKalb houses some of the neighborhoods in metro Atlanta hardest hit by the housing slump and foreclosures.
I did some cursory research on school enrollment at a few schools in South DeKalb, and found that the schools scheduled to close were losing kids years before the foreclosure crisis. In fact during the recent foreclosure mess and economic downturn, some schools have been able to maintained their enrollment levels. I decided to go back to the 2003-2004 school year. That was when I purchased my home, and I remember that people were still high on real estate and foreclosure was unheard of. Her is what I found:
Atherton Elementary Had 466 students in the 03/04 school year. Two years later(05/06) they had fallen to 438. Two years after that, it was down to 419, and by the 2009-2010 school year, Atherton had 399 students. Gresham Park fared far worse, going from 400 students in 02-03 to under 300 by the 09-10 school year. Both schools had massive drops that started long before the economic downturn and the resulting spate of foreclosures
Contrast that to A couple of larger schools in newer areas of South DeKalb. Oakview, opened in 2005, started out with 876 students by 2010 they had 828, a loss of 48 students, still one of the largest elementary schools in the county. Chapel Hill had 784 students in 2003, and 763 by 2010. Both schools loss less than six percent of their students.
My point is simply this; Without any hard numbers, making assumptions that foreclosures are the reasons for these school’s falling enrollment is misleading and lazy. If the reporter had a simple knowledge of the area, they would know that demographics is playing the largest role in enrollment decline. Unlike in other parts of the county, some areas in South DeKalb are not replacing students at a high enough clip for these schools to maintain normal enrollment numbers. In other areas of South DeKalb you have schools that are. These phenomenon are nothing new. In the 90’s, schools in South DeKalb that were outside 285 experienced such rapid growth that new schools had to be built to accommodate the influx of students. A decade or so from now, the declining enrollment at schools inside 285 will probably spread to those outside 285 in South DeKalb. It is a shift in demographics. Unless young people with young children move into South DeKalb, you are going to see this play out several more times in the near future.
Is South DeKalb the Atlanta of 20 years ago?
I have been in Atlanta for nearly 23 years save a six year stint in the service, when Atlanta became a destination more so than home to me. When I left the military, Atlanta metro was a natural choice for me. I was young Enthusiastic and ambitious. My new bride and I settled on Memorial Drive in the mid-90’s. The glory of Memorial had been gone for a while, but it was still an OK place. We both were on the cusp of finishing up college and planned for a better life in the future. As our careers started moving forward so did our desires for a better place to live. We moved to an apartment in the Emory area that was close to my wife’s job, and allowed me easy access to MARTA, after all we had only one vehicle at the time and we had to stay near MARTA. We enjoyed our time there, but longed for a house with a yard for kids and a dog and some privacy. We looked in the Emory area( too expensive), we looked in Douglas(too far out), Cobb(Couldn’t see it) and DeKalb. DeKalb was a nice mix. It was not too far away from the things we liked to do. It had a nice mix of social strata, and it seemed a great balance between city and suburb. We settled on South DeKalb for many reasons, but price and proximity to my mother-in-law led the Way. We wer young and Idealistic at the time. We had no kids so we didn’t even think about schools. We thought we would buy this house, do some work on it and try to sell it after 5 or so years. that was the plan. Had we known in advance that we were moving into what was going to be a massacre of foreclosures, we would have stayed in our cozy little apartment, but hindsight is always 20/20. Now some seven years later, South DeKalb, has become home. My wife has several family members in South DeKalb, and we love the proximity to Stonecrest, Downtown, and Decatur. The problem is that there is nothing for us in South Dekalb outside of family and our home. It has made us think whether or not we should hold out for an eventual resurgence or if we should cut our losses and abandon South DeKalb. For those who have been in Atlanta for a long time, you can see the resurgence that happens when capital and desire flows into an area. East Lake and Kirkwood were horrible places to be in the 80’s. Now one is a model for resurgence and the other is a go to destination for entertainment and living. East Atlanta, and even Grant Park were areas where people avoided. Now they are hot properties. Glenwood Park, Edgewood, the list goes on and on. So I have to ask myself, will the same resurgence happen here. I look at South DeKalb mall and think to myself what a great location. It is less than a ten mile drive to downtown. It is a straight shot to downtown Decatur, and even Stonecrest is an easy drive. It sits between two interstates and has quick access to the airport. It is a very walkable area because of the density of the homes and businesses in the corridor. Yet it is suffering, with little relief in sight. I cannot think of any major redevelopment in the Candler corridor in more than ten years. South Dekalb mall has had makeovers, possibly to it’s detriment, but the areas around the mall are third rate at best. No quality entertainment. No quality dining. Nothing that says this can be the next happening place in the metro. Leadership at the county and community level needs to step up. South DeKalb needs to shape an identity. Be it entertainment, specialty shopping, or even a sporting destination. Land prices there are be ripe for redevelopment when the economy turns the corner. County leadership and community leaders should be prepared to jump on the opportunity when it arrives. If we all sit back and wait, then South Dekalb will be Atlanta all over again. I Hope to see a resurgence soon, because I do not know how much longer I can hold on. And I am sure there are many who think similar to me on this issue.