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.
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:
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.
Among the cuts probably headed our way according to AJC article:
Library to close
The library board voted to close the Scott Candler branch on McAfee Road. Other libraries will see reduced weekend and evening hours.
Cuts to police on the ground
A memo from Police Chief William O’Brien says he plans to cut 46 police officers, including the 40 vacancies the June academy was scheduled to fill and six new cadets
Closing precincts and response times
The chief is also looking at closing the Flakes Mill Precinct in south DeKalb and limiting responses to theft, fraud, harassing phone calls, vandalism, gambling and other non-emergency calls
Fire cuts personnel and stations
The fire department’s proposal calls for cutting 197 positions to privatize ambulance services. That includes 89 current employees and 108 vacancies. Of the 89 current employees, 83 are now in the fire training academy, according to a memo from Fire Chief Eddie O’Brien. He has also proposed temporarily closing stations 3 in Avondale Estates and 10 in east Atlanta during renovations
Dead bodies can wait
The medical examiner has proposed stopping weekend autopsies and storing bodies until weekday staff can handle them
More furloughs and layoffs
elections workers being furloughed 18 days and the voter registration office closing two days a month, except during October and November. Human resources, Planning, Geographic Information Services, and other departments have proposed layoffs
I guess they have trimmed all the fat and cut into the meat, now they are working on the bone.
CEO Ellis gave his annual State of County address on Thursday morning. It was an address to business and political leaders. Two biggies at the address were sewer upgrades and property tax increase. According to the AJC, Ellis says that the EPA mandated sewer upgrades will bring about 1300 jobs and bring a 5 billion dollar economic impact to the region. We will have to wait and see on that one. The CEO is also pushing for a tax increase. The county commission says no, but I wonder how long they can hold out. Something has to give. A tax increase, more service cuts or more layoffs. It is a lose lose scenario for everyone.
If stories about litter and signage in stories like this get you frustrated, then you can have your voice heard at several meetings planned by the code enforement task force this month.
This from CEO Ellis’ newsletter via e-mail today
Code Enforcement Task Force Seeking Input From Citizens
CEO Ellis recently appointed Super District 7 Commissioner Connie Stokes as chair of the newly established DeKalb County Code Enforcement Task Force. The task force, which includes community leaders, county officials, and other key stakeholders, will identify and assist in the implementation of solution-driven recommendations to address code enforcement issues affecting communities throughout DeKalb.
The DeKalb County Code Enforcement Task Force, which held meetings in September, has two final sessions scheduled in October to receive input from the public. The dates and locations are as follows:
Thursday, October 7 at 6:30 p.m.
Lynwood Recreation Center
3360 Osborne Rd.
Atlanta, GA 30319
Tuesday, October 19 at 6:30 p.m.
Cedar Grove High School
2360 River Rd.
Ellenwood, GA 30294
For more information about the DeKalb County Code Enforcement Task Force, contact the office of Commissioner Stokes at 404-371-3053 and email@example.com, or visitwww.conniestokes.org.
What really sucks about this is that a few days after this story was reported, a DeKalb officer is shot, luckily not killed, working for a pittance. If this isn’t a slap in the face, I don’t know what is. And it is bad in so many ways. The CEO decided to change job descriptions to get raises for his favored few.
Records obtained by the AJC also show that Ellis changes the scope of work for several of his employees, including promoting one woman from a housing project manager to deputy chief of staff – a job that carried a $31,000 raise.
A back door raise if you may. I will change your duties, and that will get you the raise that you want. Way to go Mista CEO.
But what about Commish Stokes, who wanted to Rep the 4th district. Here is her explanation;
Stokes said she tried to abide by that policy, but when her staff heard about the CEO’s raises, she had to give in. Stokes staff began complaining after the AJC reported that former chief communications officer Shelia Edwards’ salary went from $125,000 to $138,000. Edwards resigned Monday because of other reasons.
However, the records show she also gave two of her staff members raises, including a communications manager and camera-operator for the county’s TV station.
“I thought it was not fair to them when I heard everyone else had gotten increases,” Stokes said Tuesday. “I can’t say the policy is out the window because I don’t run the county, but I understand how it may look.”
Stokes, chairwoman of the commission’s budget committee, gave one of her two assistants, Tonza Clark, a $15,300 raise last week. She argued that her staff was paid way less than other commissioners’ assistants.
However, records show that Clark’s salary was similar to other commission staff.
You didn’t try very hard did you? So you helped pass a resolution that says no raises, for anyone, then you slide a couple of your people some extra cash. And your excuse is that others were doing it also. By that logic, it is OK for me lie, cheat and steal. After all there are plenty of people doing that in the very government that is suppose to work for us not against us. It is hard for me to believe that they thought this would fly. Ms Stokes and her cohorts must have a very low opinion of the residents of DeKalb, and the officers that protect the county. The problem with Ms Stoke and most of the DeKalb leadership is that they have no integrity. This was done without regard as to how it looked or how it affected others on the county payroll. It was selfish and all involved should be made to pay.
see the video of Stokes trying to slither her way out of this stupid decision.