Blame elected officials for lack of transit in South DeKalb

August 10, 2011 2 comments

I am a big supporter of public transportation. When I was in my early teens growing up in Indiana, my mother bought me a pass for our local bus system. I was the only one of my friends who knew how to catch the bus. When we moved to Georgia, the first thing I did was buy a MARTA card. I learned more about this city riding transit than most locals knew who had lived here all their lives. When we bought our house several years ago, one of our desires was it be close to mass transit. It all was a matter of choices. Unfortunately in South DeKalb, public transportation choices will be limited to buses. No rail of any sort for those of us who have been supporting MARTA for decades. The roundtable, that is deciding what projects to include in next years tax referendum, scrapped any idea of a train system running into South DeKalb. Instead they chose to link Emory with the Lindbergh area, and extend MARTA up to Cumberland in Cobb county. I am in agreement with the roundtable that the Emory/Clifton corridor needs more than  buses, but to extend rail to Cobb is really a slap in the face for us long time riders and supporters of MARTA. Cobb, along with Gwinnett, and Clayton, decide decades ago that they did not want public transportation. Only recently have they embraced the idea that some public transport is needed. Now Cobb residents get to enjoy the spoils of an already in place system that was paid for by Dekalb and Fulton residents. But what is even more distressing is that one of the two elected leader that repesents the county on this roundtable was rather dismissive of any sort of transit choices in South DeKalb. Here is what CEO Ellis had to say:

Transit addresses traffic and belongs where there is the greatest concentration of people,

He should have added on to that “who will actually use it”. MARTA has done the needed studies to for rail service in parts of the I-20 corridor. They have shown that it is a viable project. They have done environmental impact studies, and have presented it to the public. The only thing that stood in the way was funding. Now that there is a possible funding plan, the rug is pulled out from under our feet. All of this is due to a lack of political resolve by the elected officials that represent us. This is just one of many times where our elected representatives have failed us. From quality of life issues to economic development, the county, our state reps and even our congressmen fail us at every turn. They do this because they know there will be few if any repercussions for their inaction.  The rally for rail that Lee May held earlier this week was well intentioned, but a little too late. That should have been done earlier in the process to let the roundtable know exactly where we stood. Much of South DeKalb has been written off as ignorant and unworthy of proper representation. Until we hold our elected representatives to a higher standard, we will continue to get sub-standard representation.

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DeKalb could lose two State Reps.

July 29, 2011 Comments off

That’s right folks. DeKalb, since it has grown slower than its exurban counterparts to the north will more than likely lose two of its state representatives to some far flung semi-rural backwater in the north Georgia mountains. That from the lips of district 90 representative Howard Mosby who was in attendance at the redistricting meeting held by Kathie Gannon in Gresham Park this week. Though he did not call it a rural backwater, Mosby’s speculation sort of mirrors what I posted last week about congressional redistricting in DeKalb. Power in the state house and Congress is leapfrogging the southern parts of the metro in favor of the far northern counties. From a political standpoint it means a smaller voice in the legislature. From an economic standpoint, it could mean fewer dollars for things like roads and transit. No details came forward as to which representatives would lose their seat, but Mosby did say that during redistricting, recently voted in members have an advantage. But that’s not all. Our school districts will go from nine to seven thanks to recently passed legislation. That means two members could be drawn out or forced to run against another incumbent. Again those recently elected have an advantage over those who have not faced a re-election since 2010. Those of you who wanted Cunningham or Copelin-Woods gone may have to wait for another election cycle. And finally, our esteemed board of commissioners will have their districts redrawn. District 5, Lee Mays dominion, is the largest district by size and population, so it will have to be cut down to help districts three and four become more balanced in terms of population. No one will be drawn out of the commission districts, though several are up for re-election.

As I was writing the above, the AJC posted what could be the first version of new congressional districts in Georgia. From what I can tell, DeKalb county will have three reps instead of four. It looks like David Scott in the 13th had the few thousand people in extreme South DeKalb taken away and put into John Lewis’ 5th district. As I was told by a politician recently, the 4th did slide further east taking in all of Rockdale, and some of Newton. From this map I cannot tell for sure if the 6th dipped further down into DeKalb, but it does look as though most of north DeKalb and North Atlanta are now in the 6th district. If this map holds, it looks like all three Democrats in Atlanta Metro are safe. I do wonder though if stretching the 4th all the way to Newton wouldn’t make the 4th a little more conservative, and give Hank Johnson a challenge for his seat. Of the three metro area Democrats, Hanks seat may be the least safe. Here is a copy of the map.

Redistricting coming to DeKalb

July 22, 2011 1 comment

I chatted with a local politician recently, and we covered a mryiad of topics including redistricting that will add a 14th congressional seat for Georgia. The seat is going to go to an exurban county on the outer fringes of the northern metro was his evaluation. With that additional seat comes a redrawing of all congressional district lines in georgia. Since Repiublicans control al three branches of Goverment in Georgia, it is a foregone conclusion that the seat will be drawn in such a fashion that a Republican will win the seat with ease. As for the other districts, compromise and legal precedent will shape how those districts are drawn. From what I am told, the fourth district represented by Hank Johnson will be extended futher east taking in the rest of Rockdale county and parts of Newton county.  If the 4th is moved further east, then you may see the fifth moving further east as well. I can remember when the 5th was generally the city of Atlanta. it has since expanded to areas of DeKalb that border the city. In the new alignment, the 5th would suck up what is much of DeKalb inside the perimeter and and South of interstate 85 on the northside. The 5th would become an inside the perimeter district with a few exceptions. I was also told that the fith could extend down into Clayton County to take in parts of riverdale wich is now part of the 13th district represented by David Scott. If that happens, then the 13th would be cut off from the rest of the district in the western part of the metro. That could mean that David Scotts district could be the sacrificial lamb in the redistricting talks. The sixth district in north DeKalb could extend further south down to I-85 inside of 285. If all of this holds true, then DeKalb will continue to be represented by four different congressmen, more than any jurisdiction in the state. Want more info on redistricting, go here to see meeting schedules and times

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 %

Extended stay motels help some, but hurt others

June 22, 2011 2 comments

City sees no room for hotel living  | ajc.com.

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.

 

Green Energy in South DeKalb?

June 15, 2011 Comments off

Biomass proposal draws protesters, wins DeKalb support  | ajc.com.

DeKalb County says it is the greenest county in America. And to help bolster that claim, they have approved a green energy facility that will have little or no pollution, and can generate electricity for 7,000 homes. At least that is the sell that Green Energy Partners has told DeKalb County. Residents in that part of the county are not impressed. They had been fighting to keep the facility from being built, but their pleas fell on deaf ears as DeKalb commissioners voted unanimously to approve the plant.

Green Energy Partners is not the only group to attempt to open a biomass facilty in DeKalb. In 2009 Southeastern Renewable Energy asked the county to rezone some land on Briarwood Road near I-85 and North Druid Hills Road so that thye could build essentially the same type of facilty. In fact if you read the SLUP for both, the purpose is exactly the same with the exception of who is requesting, and where it is located. Here is the stated purpose of each:

Green Energy

Application of Patrick Ejike to request a Special Land Use Permit to operate a utility generation facility (Biomass Renewable

Energy Facility) within the M-2 (Industrial) zoning district. The property is located on the east side of Rogers Lake Road,

approximately 446 feet south of Lithonia Industrial Boulevard at 1744 and 1770 Rogers Lake Road. The property has approximately 483

feet of frontage along Rogers Lake Road and contains 21.12 acres


Southeastern Renewable Energy

Application of Raine Cotton to request a Special Land Use Permit to operate a utility generation facility (Biomass Renewable

Energy Facility) within the M-2 zoning district. The property is located on the southwest side of Briarwood Road (vicinity of Georgia Power Easment)approximately 880 northwest of Interstate 85 (vacant land, no address). The property has approximately 150

feet of frontage on Briarwood Road and contains 3.16 acres

So what made the Green Energy application so much more plausible than the SRE application? After all, the planning department denied the SRE application based on several issues including “..anticipated significant impacts on water quality, air quality, noise impacts and transportation impacts.” Yet they recommended referral for the Green Energy application. Commissioners repeatedly deferred the SRE application from 2009 until April of 2010 when the application was finally withdrawn. So here are two facilities that use similar technologies to produce energy, yet one is considered a health hazard while the other is given the go ahead to operate. I am also wary of the timing of this entire thing. In April of 2010, DeKalb commissioners entertained the idea of this plant from Green Energy. A week later SRE’s application was withdrawn. In July of the same year, the commission voted to sell the very wood chips Green Energy says it will use in it’s facility for five dollars a ton. And now they have approved the facility in southeast DeKalb. If I lived within a half mile of this thing, I would definitely want to know more about how this whole thing wound it’s way through the county leadership.