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A few thoughts if you please

October 19, 2010 2 comments
A few thoughts on politics, government and community 

The 2010 midterm elections are approaching fast, and the there are so many candidates and offices up for election that it’s easy to get overwhelmed.  Endorsements are rolling in from groups and individuals whose motives are unknown at best. There are a lot of offices up for grabs for South DeKalb voters, so here is my rundown on some of them.

Let’s talk board of education first. EduKALB has endorsed its slate of candidates for the board of education. As we all know, the board has been the subject of some bad press lately, and the thought of having the accreditation of the county schools revoked has put the spotlight on the board members themselves. EduKALB, a reform-minded group , I think,  has endorsed Dr. Kirk Nooks in the 5th and Corey Wilson in the 3rd district. They also gave the nod to Donna Edler in the 7th district. These seem like reasonable endorsements to me. Having talked to two of the three, I came away with a good feel for both Wilson and Nooks. I have heard Ms. Edler on several occasions, and I think she will be an upgrade in the 7th. What surprised me about EduKALB was the lack of endorsement for Nancy Jester in the 1st district. She seems to be a well grounded individual that has a good command of what is going on in the system and wants to see a change in the way business is done. Maybe Jim Redovian is not like the other incumbents in that he has no dirt that is sticking to him like several of the other candidates. In any case, Voting for Jester would not hurt the 1st district in my humble opinion.
The election for the 4th district congressional seat is probably safe for Hank J., but I wonder how much of a dent Liz Carter will make. She has been at Hank from day one. Even during the primary, Hank was her primary target. She and her supporters make no bones about their lack of confidence in the present representation, but lets be real here, this is a pro Democrat district, and unless there has been some radical change in the last few minutes, it will remain just that. No Republican has gotten more than a third of the vote in this district since it was redrawn back in the mid-nineties, but Carter has been very vocal and has a solid group of hard core supporters that will probably go to the polls. Hank on the other hand has played it quiet, not engaging in debates, and basically ignoring Carter’s call for at least one debate. I do have to wonder why Hank won’t debate Carter; is it fear of a misstep that could be fatal? I doubt that even a few mistakes by Johnson would hurt him in the 4th. What I want to see is if Carter can get between 40-45 percent of the vote. If she does that would be news all its own and could signal a changing of the guard in DeKalb. 

I haven’t spent much time on the 13th district race, but I have to say this; I hope David Scott loses. Why, you ask? Well to start he doesn’t even live in the district. He would rather fight community gardens in Inman Park than live and play around the people he is supposed to represent. If you need more reasons, just Google him and then tell me you still support the guy.

The folks over at Crossroads News have been on point as of late. A series of articles taking the county to task about it’s roadside maintenance has reaped some benefits. In the past few weeks, I have seen not only county workers, but volunteers and community service folks cleaning up major thoroughfares in South DeKalb. One weekend I saw so many orange bags waiting to be picked up I had to wonder where all the trash came from. Now it is up to citizens to do their part. Trash strewn streets and waist high grass is an eyesore and shows a lack of pride in ones own backyard.

Thanks go to a DeKalb police officer who responded to my neighbors alarm. I came home one day and my neighbors alarm was going off I knew she was out of the country and had a home sitter while she was gone. I walked around the house and saw nothing out of place. I called her alarm company since I did not have the house sitters info, and advised them. They told me they saw the alarm, but it was a motion and not a window or door but would call police anyway. When the police arrived about 15 minutes later, the officer checked things out and alerted the alarm company who killed the alarm. The officer was polite and actually thanked me for alerting the alarm company. I wish I had gotten his name because all the crap that he police put up with, he took the time to be polite and friendly.

Lats but not least. The county needs to work on it’s documents depot. That is where average folk like you and me can go to see many of the documents that help us keep track of our elected officials. My beef with the DocDepot is that minutes from BOC meetings are never up to date. In fact if you go there right now, you will not see any minutes from BOC meetings since early July. I know that the minutes have to be approved by the CEO and there are some other additional hoops before they can be published, but there has to be a faster way. You will find agendas and summaries but no minutes. The minutes offer details that summaries and agendas do not. You would think that meeting minutes from August would be posted by now. In this day and age, information moves at the speed of light, but in government, it still moves at a snails pace.

Allegations against Long troublesome

September 21, 2010 1 comment

I watched the interview by Attorney BJ Bernstein and I must say up to that point I was trying to be opened minded about the allegations. After watching her explain the events surrounding the lawsuit, I realized that these allegations cause seismic rumbles at Newbirth. I remember that Bernstein helped Genarlow Wilson through his issues with the legal system. I Don’t think she would be on board if there was nothing there. This thing is going to get worse before it gets better. A couple of questions in my head are: What is Bernstein’s motive? is it genuine help or something else. I know that attorneys have egos that need to be stroked quite often. The other question I have is what is going to happen to Newbirth? The last time a large South DeKalb church was facing serious allegations, it ended up costing The Cathedral thousands of followers. Let me know what you think?

Here are links to the court filings.

http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2010/images/09/21/robinson.complaint.pdf

http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2010/images/09/21/flagg.complaint.pdf

Value is misplaced by too many

September 20, 2010 Comments off

One thing is clear: African-Americans do not need another program carved out to address anything. When 70 percent of our males drop out of high school; when 30,000 black people show up for HUD voucher applications; when greed, graft and criminal attachments seem to travel with our best and brightest in politics and government; when robbery and murder of our community entrepreneurs is vogue; when our young people believe that exposing their underwear is fashionable; and when we believe that whored-out expensive autos with rented rims is the way to social salvation, another program is not the answer

via CrossRoadsNews – Dropout rates reflect failure of principles not programs.

Now thats how you shoot from the hip. I really like the whored-out autos line, that is too classic. This post was in Crossroads news recently, and it goes to the heart of the problem in too many black communities. Too many people put value into the wrong things. The things that should be valuable to most of us, has no value to many. Education has no value. Family has no value. Friendships, hard work, and spirituality and life have no value for too many people.

This is what happens when local control is given to residents

September 9, 2010 Comments off

Dunwoody: How a new city is finding its way  | ajc.com.

I am putting myself on the record as being an advocate of all areas of DeKalb incorporating into separate entities especially South DeKalb. I am not in favor of the entire unincorporated areas gaining city-hood. Incorporation and annexation of specific areas gives people better control of issues that are most pressing to them. The problem with the present unincorporated areas is that there are 600 thousand plus people who have no local say as to what happens in the areas in which they live. Take for example a recent board decision to allow a gas station to be built on Covington Highway near Redan Rd. Of seven commissioners, two voted against it. the other five gave approval for an 8th gas station between there and Wesley Chapel Road, a scant 2.5 miles. This was approved, because those who voted in favor know nothing of the area that they make crucial decisions for. Residents don’t need that many gas stations or liquor stores or any other eyesore establishments that do more harm than good. If that area were incorporated as part of a larger city, then you would have people representing the area who know the area and care about how many businesses of a particular type opens up. This is one reason why Dunwoody left the county, more local control over their daily lives. The citizens are happier, and much better off.

Neglected South DeKalb gets a voice, maybe

August 31, 2010 Comments off

CrossRoadsNews – Now can South DeKalb and Stonecrest get an ear.

Great article from Crossroads. To answer their statement, I hope the answer is Yes, though I doubt it. The GM site has been called a developers dream, with its access to two interstates and MARTA. Right now, developers are probably hedging, but when the economy turns the corner for good they will beat a path to the former plant. Unlike Stonecrest, and all of South DeKalb the GM site sits within what I like to refer to as the golden triangle. The area that forms the triangle that starts at the tip of buckhead, and goes out along interstates 75 and 85, with the top extending across Gwinnett, North Fulton, and Cobb Counties, a sort of inverted triangle if you may. Within this triangle is where most quality development takes place. The rest of us with a few exceptions (Midtown, City of Decatur) are left to fend for ourselves. We have to endure development of a lesser value (strip malls, gas stations with a couple of retail strores attached) that generates little tax income for the county, and provides little in the way of jobs or civic pride for those of us who live outside the triangle. The article in Crossroads makes some good points with respect to land costs, and interstate access and available infrastructure in and around South DeKalb which could be a developers dream. They also bring the county to task for not maintaining what could be one of the county’s crown jewels. I am glad that they have put a spotlight on an issue that has been around for quite sometime. I also hope that the county leadership is listening. It is time to bring quality development to South DeKalb.

Categories: development, Society

Late night musings

August 25, 2010 Comments off

No public cash for private developers

Connie Stokes and Kathie Gannon reportedly were the only two commissioners to vote in favor of the GM site redevelopment plan. What baffles me is that the entire commission was dead set against raising taxes to cover budget shortfalls, funding of public safety and infrastructure projects but were in favor of a tax increase to take what amounts to a gamble that if lost, the taxpayers would be stuck with the bill. I know the increase was minimal, but it is about principles. If you are willing to raise taxes to fund a private developer, why not raise taxes to fund items that make the county work. As for the 9,000 jobs this thing was going to create, I wonder how many would actually go to DeKalb or Doraville residents. If this thing was funded by private dollars, and the infrastructure could be paid for with out a tax increase, then this thing would have been a no-brainer. This would have turned into DeKalb’s version of the federal stimulus plan.

Not Surprised by nail salon manager

A store, no a nail salon in Lithonia charges a lady an extra 5 bucks because, in their opinion, she is too heavy for their chairs. Michelle Fonville was shocked and almost at tears according to her when she was told she would have to incur an overweight surcharge. Add to that a manager who basically told Fonville eff you, it costs me 2500 dollars to fix my chair because you sat down and broke it. The salon manger told Fonville to take her business elsewhere and even said that had she seen Fonville before she sat down, she would have refused to serve her based on her weight. all this on local TV no less. This does not surprise me at all. Stores like these consistently berate, and belittle the very people who keep them in business. This nail salon manager knows that her business will not suffer any ill-effects of this bad PR. It will be forgotten Thursday, and she will have a packed house on Friday evening. I personally will not give my cash to a store that berates or denigrates it’s customers. This should be a wake-up call. If they treat you like crap and you continue to give them money, what does that say about you. see video of Fonville here.

Hush Money??

DeKalb just can’t seem to stay out of the AJC’s line of fire. After the county rejected using pubic dollars to finance a private project, here’s this. The AJC reported tonight that former communications director Shelia Edwards (she accused NJ police of murder in the death of a friend) is getting a 46k severance to keep her mouth shut. I know these things are typical, even my company did it, but it seems odd they would give her severance and include phrases like not disparage the county, or not sue the county. Tells me she knows stuff that could at the very least embarrass some folks.

A quick note on Dekalb schools.

I talked with a teacher at a school that was recently built under the direction Crawford Lewis, Patricia Pope and others. This teacher told me the school is in terrible shape. Door knobs not working, ceiling tiles falling onto the floor, and leaky ceilings among other things. She told me that she can’t believe that all of the money earmarked for the school construction actually made it there. She told me plainly that she thinks Pope her husband and others took advantage of the school system and should be made to pay. That comes from a teacher who has a couple of decades in the profession. Also, attorneys for Dr. Lewis asked for a change of venue. They say the will be unable to get a fair hearing in DeKalb. If you are guilty, that evidence will follow you wherever you go. A change of venue will not change that.

Lastly, I have to weigh in on this mosque thing that seems to be captivating everyone. I do not believe that this is about reverence for a site that saw the deaths of 3000 people. There is nor reverence here. On the site will rise another structure praising the glory of capitalism. If it was a place to be revered, it would be more like the memorial at Pearl Harbor. In the end this is about hatred of all things Islam, after all it was the religion of Islam that caused the deaths 0f 3000 innocent souls. The idea of government not promoting or sponsoring any particular religion really means that Judeo-Christian principles rule the day, minus the Judeo part. These men and women, being citizens of the United States, have every right to build their place of worship wherever the choose, so long as it meets existing laws/ordinances, and does not infringe upon the rights of those around them.

Incorporating DeKalb not the way to go

August 17, 2010 1 comment

I attended a community forum held by DeKalb County and CEO Ellis. The forums are a chance for citizens to give input on what the county can do to better serve it’s citizens in the next five years. This was the second of five to be held in various parts of the county. The biggest concern from many in attendance was public safety which is at the top of my mind as well. The one issue that came up that peaked my curiosity was the talk of annexation, and incorporation. One person stood up and made a statement about the possibility of Tucker pursuing incorporation. The speaker warned that another situation like what happened when Dunwoody decided to incorporate would cause even more harm to the counties coffers and hurt South DeKalb specifically. Others spoke of the possibility of cities in DeKalb annexing more of the unincorporated parts of the county, again shrinking funds that provide services to unincorporated citizens. Some spoke of incorporating the rest of DeKalb in order to stave off the cities taking more residents, and other areas incorporating. The CEO spoke in favor of exploring city-hood as an option that would bring additional resources to the newly created city. Many in the crowd seemed to fear the result of more incorporation or annexation in DeKalb. I for one am not against the cities expanding their boundaries if that is what the citizens to be annexed want. More local control of public safety, zoning, and other issues works beetter than having out of touch commissioners decide what an area needs, and they do not live work or even drive through the area. I have also expressed in a previous post that certain parts of South DeKalb should consider incorporation. I cannot fathom that a city of DeKalb would be any more responsive to it’s citizens than the present government is. More money and more resources will not equal quality service or responsive government. A government that is closer to the people has proven to be much more responsive, and do a better job for the citizens living there.  Given the option of incorporating the rest of DeKalb, and having an incorporated South DeKalb, I would go for the latter. That way I know the people who represent me at least has an idea of what needs to be done to increase the quality of life in my neighborhood. That’s not to say I would not be for incorporating DeKalb if that were the only option, but it is definitely not at the top of my list.

There are three forums left see the dates and locations here

Education FAIL

August 11, 2010 Comments off

Zepora "the slugger" RobertsI read two articles  about education recently that defines why schools are failing just about everywhere especially here in the metro. One was about a board member in DeKalb name Zepora Roberts . In case you haven’t heard, Ms Roberts decide to go old school on a TV reporter, and threatened to “slug” her if she didn’t back off her and two of her kids who happen to work for DeKalb schools. If going gangsta on the reporter wasn’t enough,  the sluggin’ grandma told the AJC that she had no regrets over her statements. Thats polite talk for “I don’t take no crap from no stupid reporter”. At this point, I think the old lady has lost it. Even with this thing being played out in the local media, she remained defiant like a true gangsta. Well today, some four days afterwards, she was of a different mind set. It seems she was sorry after all for the “slug you” reference. Now a group of educators wants the old lady to resign, saying she sets a bad example for the kids. Well I don’t think a resignation is coming. She is defiant, and will not succomb to pressure from those out to get her. So the citizens of district 7 will need to step up to the plate and send her packing in november. She is not entitled to that position, and if the voters reject her and  a few others on the board, it will show that they do want reasonable and competent people representing them. If they send her back, then we know exactly what to expect not only from the board, but from the entires system down to the parents and the students.

On to the second article I read today that was, for me, far more disturbing than a slug happy board member. It was a post on the AJC Get Schooled blog here. Basically, it was a letter written by someone who could not understand how a person could graduate from high school with honors, and have what is at best a fifth grade education. Now I do not know if the writer of the e-mail was genuine in her account of a student graduating with a fifth grade education but the subject of the e-mail was relevant and factual. The fact is, this has been happening for quite some time. I have seen this for some 15 years starting with my nepews, and going down the line to other family members, and the children of close friends who are willing to talk about their childs educational success and failures. When my oldest nephew was in 5th grade, my wife and I would tutor him, because his mother asked us to help him. So we spent three days a week helping him with his various subjkects. neither of us are educators, but are well versed in our respective fields, and felt we could make a difference. Over time, I started to realize that he had not gotten the basics of reading or math. To him reading was not comprehension and the abilty to explain in his own words what he just read, for him it was his ability to pronounce the words. He was never pushed b anyone, at home or school, to read critically. The same went for math. he never learned the process of how to solve equations, or solve a word problem, so By sixth grade he was woefully behind. In fact, one of his teachers told me during a parent conference, ( we were asked  to attend by his mother) that he was on a third grade reading level. What was disheartening,  was that he got as far as he did not knowing how to read or do basic math. He eventually graduated from a DeKalb county high school with a diploma. When he took the SAT as a senior, his scores were quite low. He was accepted into a two year college, where he flunked out as a freshmans and was put on academic suspension. He now attends a technical school. The bad part in this process is that from day one the entire system failed him. His family did not prepare him for school at an early age, the school system passed him along to keep him from being a burden on their resources, and society has turned a blind eye to him and so many children who are leaving school without basic comprehension skills. This is a sad state of affairs. If our children are unable to read at an advanced level, or understand complicated arguments or questions, how can they possibly compete for the high wage highly technical jobs that are sure to be the future on this planet.

Accreditation agency wants to talk with DeKalb schools

August 5, 2010 Comments off

DeKalb schools must respond to questions from accreditation group  | ajc.com.

I think a lot of people saw this one coming. A dysfunctional school board. Administrators facing jail time. Employees allegedly shaking down schools for profit. Test scores sliding into the abyss. Now this. I told you in a previous post that this system was on it’s way to losing it’s accreditation. Now the proof is in the pudding. SACS has come a calling, and it can’t be nice. Remember Clayton schools. They had similar issues, and eventually lost it’s acreditation. Now SACS has DeKalb in it’s sight. The accreditation group wants the system to respond to a series of questions by the end of August. Here is my first prediction. The system will either not respond on time, or ask for more time to answer SACS. Either way it is going to make the system look really bad. If they don’t answer SACS by the end of August, you can believe this will piss SACS off and make the systems job a lot tougher.

Here is what SACS wants from the system:

• Policies and procedures for effective management, including hiring, whistle-blowers, nepotism and conflicts of interest.

• Information on staff and school board training.

• Information on the board’s role in fiscal oversight and monitoring the district, along with how the board uses closed meetings and how members avoid micromanaging.

• Description of the checks and balances to make sure the board is following hiring and firing policies.

• Information on how the board follows procurement procedures and awards bids to avoid conflicts of interest.

• How the district enforces policies and prevents breakdowns in checks and balances.

• Information on the superintendent search. The board terminated its superintendent in May.

Now check out this quote from board chairman Bowen:

“The SACS inquiry letter is not connected to any possible loss of accreditation,” he said. “The inquiry letter seeks to get additional information from the district on whether the appropriate policies exist and were followed in response to a number of issues. … Although SACS has the power to take away a system’s accreditation, its primary function is to improve DeKalb and all systems it accredits.”

No, it is your job Mr Bowen to improve DeKalb schools. SACS is there to make sure you are doing your job, and that kids are receiving a quality education based on a set of standards. When SACS comes a calling, It isn’t a social call. They obviously see something they do not like.

I hope for the county’s sake that the board is able to answer these questions effectively. Then again maybe it will take a SACS investigation to right this ship.

Incorporate South DeKalb

August 4, 2010 3 comments

The county is poised to have a population that exceeds three-quarters of a million people, with a vast majority of them living in unincorporated DeKalb. Recently we have seen a spate of new cities created  that gives citizens more local control of their tax dollars and issues that are important to them. Public safety, zoning, and recreation are just a few issues that citizens should have more control over. The issues are at the heart of many problems in South DeKalb. Today, DeKalb has 5 commissioners that represent an average of 150,000 people. The other two each represent roughly half the citizens of the county. How can they possibly reflect the desires and wishes of so many people who have different ideas about what direction the county, and specifically their neighborhoods, should go. They cannot do it. Someone has to be left out. That is why South DeKalb should incorporate. If the three zip codes that make up the heart of South Dekalb (30032, 30034, 30035) were to incorporate it would have a population of around 135,000 people. That would be the upper end. It could actually settle at about 100-120 thousand if the lines do not follow zip code boundaries exclusively. Geographically speaking it would be similar in size with other Incorporated cities in the metro. Roswell  and Sandy Springs would be roughly the same size by land area. If incorporated, it would become the second largest city in the metro and the 5th or 6th largest in the state. But beyond the numbers, South DeKalb is culturally and economically bound by common desires that are unique to it. It has it’s own identity (good or bad) and it’s own desires that are separate than other parts of the county. This is not a knock on the county, or other cities, it is a plea for reasonable people to be able to determine their own destiny. Other citizens in DeKalb have that ability. Dunwoody, Decatur, Chamblee, Doraville, and Stone Mountain  are all making decisions that improves the quality of life of it’s citizens. We in South DeKalb are at the mercy of a county commission that has to work for far too many residents on far too many problems. Some of those problems would be best handled locally by people who know intimately the ares in which they live. I know their are people reading this think that it is insane to want to incorporate parts of South DeKalb. Many will point to a lack of a strong tax base to get a city up and running. Others will say you will have to raise taxes to make it work. Those are the same questions that Dunwoody, Sandy Springs, Johns Creek, Milton and Chattahoochee Hills all faced. They now are their own separate entity. South DeKalb may not have the wealth of those places, but when does wealth determine whether or not citizens can for their own government when the one they are under is not responsive to their needs. I say do it. Incorporate, and take control of issues that matter most.