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It’s now or never for MARTA rail in South DeKalb

October 3, 2011 1 comment

I must commend Commissioner Larry Johnson. He has taken the rail for South DeKalb issue and brought it front and center. The AJC which tends to only report about crime, corruption and the horrible schools in South DeKalb has had no less than three stories in the last month or so that talks directly about the rail issue in South DeKalb.( here, here and here) I think this is a testament to the power that South DeKalb wields in the upcoming vote for a penny sales tax to cover various transportation projects around the metro. It is a common belief that without Atlanta, Fulton and Dekalb this thing is dead on arrival. If South DeKalb feels it is getting slighted in all of this, which would not be surprising, then you might see a backlash with few voters willing to pay an additional penny on top of the one we already pay. For many of us in South DeKalb, it is a slap in the face to ask us to pay another penny in sales tax only to see other areas get transportation options and we remain gridlocked with 20th century options. I have previously written in support of the 1 cent, mainly because it was my belief that transit options would come to South DeKalb. Now I have become a fence sitter. I still believe the penny will help push transportation options for hundreds of thousands of residents all over metro Atlanta, but what disturbs me is that of those hundreds of thousands, few will live near or south of I-20. I fear that my lack of political influence and lack of money will ultimately have me paying an extra cent for goods and services and that money will go straight to Cobb or Gwinnett or one of the other far flung areas that do not have any of my interests at heart.

 

With all of that said, I must respectfully disagree with how some want to fund a rail line to South DeKalb. CEO Burrell Ellis, who sits on the roundtable that will decide the fate of rail in South DeKlab, wants to yank money from a GA 400 project. That idea won’t fly. GA 400 is a main artery between the wealthy and powerful North Fulton suburbs and the city of Atlanta. Polticians and business leaders who saturate that area will never allow that to happen. And a proposal by Lee May to strip some funding from the Clifton Corridor line is less likely to happen though it is more feasible than the GA 400 idea. I don’t like this idea because it would hurt residents throughout DeKalb. A third option floated by Decatur mayor and roundtable member Bill Floyd is to make the Clifton rail and South DeKalb rail one big project. This is less likely to happen given the price tag, but it has merits. If the Clifton segment is built to hook into the Avoondale station, and the blues line is extendided to Wesley Chapel, you would not have to travel all the way downtown to go to Sandy Springs or Dunwoody. That would make the Wesley Chapel idea much more attractive than one that only sends you to downtown.

 

So where does that leave South DeKalb? Well I think it leaves us in a sticky situation. If we vote for the tax without rail to South DeKalb it is highly likely that South DeKalb will be paying for improvements in transportation that will not directly improve our transit options. In fact we could be one of only a handful of geographic regions in the 10 county area to get little or no improvements for the 1 cent sales tax. On the other hand, I fear that if the referendum fails not only will we not get anything now or in the future, those areas that are clamoring for road inprovements and wider freeways will eventually get what they want through some other means. It’s the old classic damned if you do and damned if you don’t. The only win for South DeKalb would be a sales tax approved and a rail line.

 

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Screwed on taxes, Screwed on Education

July 14, 2011 4 comments

It has been a while since I posted, but there are two things that everyone is talking about and I want to chime in on both

Taxes

I think any of us with a functioning brain knew that DeKalb taxes were going to go up. I don’t see how it could have been any other way. I am no anti-government squawker who believes all government is evil, but I will say that unlike private sector companies, and unlike individual’s, governments just have to vote in order to increase revenues. They don’t need to take on an extra job, they do not need to change their product line or shift their marketing strategy. They just have to say yea and it’s a done deal. That is how I knew it was a done deal. And even when they lower taxes as a gesture of “we care”, it rarely equals the increase they forced on us in the first place. I believe that taxation is part of the societal contract that we have with one another. There are certain things, like public safety,  I do not want turned over to private enterprise, and the only way to pay is through taxes. I do want to see better management of the funds they do collect. Though the CEO touts he has cut some 100 million from the previous two budgets I think he can do a little more.  I wrote a post  last year about the Georgia State study that said DeKalb could shed nearly 800 positions and still provided a decent level of service to all citizens. I would like to see the CEO put those recommendation in place. He asked us to swallow an increase, the least he could do is trim the fat in county operations. Also, I don’t think it is coincidence that the three dissenters in the group are all up for re-election in 2012. Here is where I have to wonder about motives. Of course Boyer would vote against a tax increase, that’s her thing. But Barnes-Sutton and May make me wonder if they did the math and knew that they could dissent knowing that the increase would make it through, thereby giving them cover next year to say they voted against a tax increase. Barnes_Sutton may be trying to mitigate damage for the bad check scandal, and Lee May might have his eyes on an even bigger prize. It would not surprise me. The only one to vote for increase and is up for re-election was Kathie Gannon.

Education

Everybody is up in arms about the APS scandal and the cheating on CRCT tests by teachers and administrators. It is a sad thing when people we trust our kids education with would betray them and us in such a way. They have sent a decade’s worth of children into possible poverty, crime, and hopelessness. Not all of the children touched by the scandal will end up that way, but I cannot wait until the report or documentary comes out examining what happened to the children who attended some of the schools with the most egregious offenses. That brings me to DeKalb and South DeKalb in particular. At the same time revelations about APS started to bubble up, DeKalb also was in the mix along with a few other systems. In fact, the principal at Atherton resigned and was arrested for falsifying documents in 2009. Now there is no proof as of yet that the state or the media found any systemic problems in DeKalb, but that does not mean it isn’t a problem. I do know that local media are looking harder at all the systems who were in the original report, so do not be shocked if DeKalb gets hit by this wave too. In fact this open letter sent to the AJC by the DeKalb County School Watch blog  could stir up the hornets’ nest and reveal some unpleasant information. In the end, we do not know what these children would have done later on in their academic careers, but what these teachers and administrators did was to take from them the  possibility of  academic success. They passed them along knowing they were not properly prepared. These are men and women who turned their backs on the very children they were suppose to prepare for the harsh reality of real life. Instead of preparing them, they turned into a bunch of Judas’ and handed over these childrens future to the streets and ultimately the justice system.

DeKalb tax increase is inevitable

June 29, 2011 Comments off
The tax man cometh, and he wants to raise your taxes. I think by now most DeKalb homeowners know they are about to see their taxes go up. We knew this was coming, and the commission knew it was coming, but I guess they wanted to play the roles of friend to the homeowner when it comes election time. CEO Elllis knew it had to be dome, but he just didn’t ask for enough of a millage increase. So here we are about to get pinged with higher property taxes. The possibility of an additional penny for transportation ( got something about that coming too) a job and housing market that is anemic at best, and county services that are just as anemic. It is really becoming hard to justify remaining in DeKalb. The grass may not be greener on the other side, but at least it ain’t brown like we have in DeKalb.
Try to attend one of the scheduled public hearings on the millage increase whether you are for or against. Also check out the millage rate increases for the cities and the unincorporated areas.
Tuesday, July 5 (10:00 am and 6:00 pm)
& Tuesday, July 12 (10:00 am)
Location

Maloof Auditorium

2011

Rollback Rate

% Increase

Atlanta

10.39

8.938

16.25 %

Avondale Estates

15.41

13.464

14.45 %

Chamblee

13.71

12.223

12.17 %

Clarkston

15.06

13.242

13.73 %

Decatur

10.82

10.087

7.27 %

Doraville

13.60

12.607

7.88 %

Dunwoody

13.35

11.357

17.55 %

Lithonia

15.33

13.280

15.44 %

Pine Lake

15.61

13.541

15.28 %

Stone Mountain

13.90

12.980

7.09 %

Unincorporated

19.62

18.017

8.90 %

Countywide Debt

1.08

0.647

66.92 %

Unincorporated Debt

0.66

1.631

-59.53 %

Commission should vote against GM funding plan

August 23, 2010 Comments off

The following came from a post at Heneghan’s Dunwoody Blog: Taxpayers Can’t Afford to Subsidize another Atlantic Station by DeKalb Commissioner Elaine Boyer.

Drive into the suburbs or virtually anywhere in the Atlanta region and there are empty storefronts, shopping centers, apartment complexes and office buildings, thanks to this Great Recession. The last thing we need to do is use taxpayer money to add to the supply. Economics revolves around supply and demand. For the Atlanta economy to rebound to a sustainable condition, government must get out of the way and let market forces align so it can recover on its own. The economist Friedman was also quoted as saying: “Governments never learn. Only people learn.” Let’s hope this worst recession since the Great Depression will teach elected officials a lesson. Let taxpayers keep more of their own money.Boyer, a Republican, represents District 1 on the DeKalb County Board of Commissioners which includes Doraville and the site of the General Motors plant.

If the commissioner who represents the area thinks this is a bad idea, then the rest of the commission should take a hard look before going forward. I don’t want to be on the hook for this thing some thirty years down the road. If the county is going to receive this stimulus money, look at more longterm projects that will benefit all residents like sewer upgrades, or road improvements. Oh, and by the way, she is so right, there are too many empty store fronts in DeKalb right now. Why add to the glut especially in this anemic economy.

Georgia bumpkin tosses latest salvo in class warfare

April 21, 2010 2 comments

Senate votes today on cutting income tax credit for the poor | Gold Dome Live.

Once again, a bumpkin legislator has tossed the latest salvo in the warfare between the well to do and the working poor. In what seems to be a plan to save the state some money, Rep. David Knight of Griffin,  has decide he will take money from people who can least afford it. His proposed bill would take way the credits that poor people can claim on their taxes. You must be under the 20,000 dollar or less threshold to claim it. People making that kind of money don’t pay taxes anyway, but taking way this credit is a slap in the face to the poor all over this state. It is ironic that his bill initially failed to pass muster in the house, so the Senate decide to attach his crap to another bill. Here is the kick though. The Georgia legislator has decided to lessen the tax burden on upper income old folks, as well as cut the capital gains tax. Republicans preach a good game when it comes to tax cuts. they know that will get the base energized. But when you look into the details, their love of tax cuts only extend to their kind. Nothing for those of us in the middle, and not a damn thing for the least among us. I bet my bank account you won’t see tea parties and protests from the so-called patriots on this one.

DeKalb and Fulton should have more control over extra transit dollars

March 23, 2010 Comments off

DeKalb wants control over transit tax  | ajc.com.

According to this article, DeKalb commissioners voted to support a regional sales tax for transportation in the state, but with a few caveats, one being that DeKalb has more control over the extra monies. At least the commission has decided that it might be a tad unfair to tack on another penny tax for transportation when DeKalb and Fulton are already being taxed 1 cent. This seems to be a view shared by both sides of the commision. Here is Lee May, district 5 commisioner:

It’s so disheartening that the state wants to tell us how to use our own money,” Commissioner Lee May told the AJC. “We will accept another penny only if we have control of it.

Here is Jeff Rader from district 2:

This legislation is really unfit for support for the folks in DeKalb and Fulton counties. Really it’s not fit for anybody,” Commissioner Jeff Rader said.

This is good, at least the commission has found something that they all think is bad for DeKalb no matter where you live.

Sin taxes could save budgets

March 16, 2010 Comments off

DeKalb County School Watch: Refreshing Idea from Kathy Cox.

I think this is a wonderful Idea. they should raise alcohol taxes too. and make a law that says a certain portion of the tax increase goes to education, and maybe another portion to public safety. I also would look at gambling (Oh No! the dreaded G-word) and tax it hard and put the money towards education at all levels including college. Raising lottery ticket prices and upping the amount on so-called sin taxes would be an instant source of revenue and would be a rather stable one. Plus you would not have to worry about a revolt among the people who are affected. Since it is in effect a volunteer tax, only the drunkards and the addicts would complain.