Guns & Turkey Sandwiches

7 05 2009

A once conflicted journalist

Only a year-ago, carrying and eating these two things on MARTA would have been inconceivable.  (I guess its still inconceivable to consume and digest a gun.)

Ten months ago, it seemed entirely odd that you could do one but not the other, as brilliantly illustrated by Andisheh in his definitive CL article

“So I just want to be clear,” I asked MARTA police Chief Wanda Dunham. “If I had a turkey sandwich in one hand and a gun in the other hand, MARTA police would ticket me for the turkey sandwich?”

“If you’re eating it,” she replied. “Only if you’re eating it.”

Genius!  Evidenced by the fact that I still remembered the quote 10 months later.

But fear not sweet Andy.  Let these ironies plague you no more!

With the signage of a recent bill, MARTA now has the authorization to sell food and drinks in their stations, thereby resolving this irony that has hounded you like a cat-loving dog for far too long.

Ah, sweet relief.





BREAKING: Decatur Wins HOST Ruling, But It Still Ain’t Over

6 10 2008

First on Decatur Metro: The Georgia Supreme Court just overturned the GA Appeals Court’s decision that ruled in favor of DeKalb County and its greedy withholding of the 1-cent sales tax money that rightfully belongs to DeKalb’s cities (over $8 mil due to Decatur at last count).

The reason?  The Supreme Court thought the Appellate Court overstepped its authority in deeming the original contract between the county and the cities as “unconstitutional”, since the term “services” had never been defined by the Supreme Court (which is its job).  Or at least that’s how I read the legalese.

But since the low-level trial court didn’t originally rule on this case, its getting thrown back to the Appeals Court to reconsider it again…this time without the option of deeming the contract as “unconstitutional”.

Now I’m no lawyer (can’t you tell?), but this sounds like a huge blow for the county.  Any lawyers out there want to weigh in?

The full ruling can be read here (or you can just read the summary after the jump).

As to why you should care about this case, take a look at this old summary I wrote back when the GA Supreme Court heard it, or just take the mayor’s word for it when he says you have two options for lower city taxes: annexation or winning the HOST ruling.

Also, a HUGE shout out goes to Thomas Wheatley, who provided me with this info that I’ve been waiting on for nearly 6 months!

UPDATE: The AJC picks up the story.

Read the rest of this entry »





Trinity Triangle Seeks “Lifecycle Density Bonus”

22 08 2008

Based on David’s picture of public hearing sign on the pile of rubble that might soon be the Trinity Triangle development, it looks like the developer is seeking approval of a life-cycle density bonus for that property at the same time the 315 project is scheduled to go before the planning and city commissions (Sept 4th and 15th).

What is a “lifecycle density bonus”? Luckily, Hugh Saxon explained it at a commission meeting back in ’04 when the ordinance was approved.

Excerpt from the city commission minutes of July 19, 2004….

Mr. Saxon stated that the proposed amendments allow a density bonus for projects that located in the C-2 and C-3 commercial zoning districts where the highest allowable development density already exists. Developers would be allowed a twenty percent (20%) density bonus as long as seventy-five percent (75%) of the units were available to provide lifecycle housing at an affordable rate. For example, if a developer proposed a project in the C-3 district, the current zoning regulations allow for development of 43 units per acre, so if a lifecycle housing bonus was incorporated, the developer could add 8 more units and 6 of those units would have to be available to meet affordable housing objectives.

Mr. Saxon stated that the proposed amendments provided that the standard for determining the affordable pricing structure would be based on a percentage of the area median income (AMI) for the Atlanta metropolitan vicinity. Mr. Saxon added that a specific percentage was not stated in the ordinance so that the City Commission could maintain flexibility in approving projects. However, standards and objectives for providing lifestyle housing were included in the ordinance so that the intent of the program was clear.

Since Livable Growth is concerned with density across the entire city, I wonder where they stand on the issue of providing greater density in order to increase the % of affordable housing in the city.  They certainly will have a chance to have their say if both proposals go before the commissions on the same nights.





Trees/Topography Delay City-Wide Wi-Fi Completion ‘Til October

18 08 2008

Since a few folks have voiced concern about the completion of Decatur’s city-wide wi-fi, I asked the city for a status update. Asst. City Manager Andrea Arnold was good enough to write up a response within a few hours…how’s that for service!

The City rolled out the network service in phases with the core downtown and Agnes Scott College being in phase I and the Ponce de Leon corridor being phase II. The remaining areas fall into phase III which is much more difficult to service than phases I and II due to foliage, topography and a general lack of tall facilities on which to place the wireless radios.

In fact, due to the challenges we encountered in phase III, Cisco engineers have been in the city for the past few weeks making adjustments to the wireless radios and the related software. This work has been pretty disruptive to the overall network and has resulted in service outages and intermittant signals. The bottom line is that there are about 12 more wireless radios that need to be installed, additional antennae need to be installed to cover deadspots where possible, and testing needs to be performed.

Barring any unforeseen problems, the network should be operational by early October, if not sooner. This is later than anticipated, but considering this network is the first of its kind in the State, the delays are understandable in hindsight. The City approached this project as ‘wireless pioneers’ with the intent to serve as a model for other communities that are interested in implementing wireless networks. We certainly have a long list of lessons learned and advice for other communities across the country who may be embarking on similar projects.

…the signal will not be broadcasting consistently until the whole network is up and running in early October. So, folks will want to wait a few weeks before running outside with their laptops.

If people would like more information on the network, there is information on the website at www.wirelessdecaturga.com or they may email me directly at andrea.arnold@decaturga.com.

[Decatur Metro doesn’t condone running with laptops. Please exercise responsibly.] 😉





Vote on City Issues Online – Soon!

18 08 2008

Many have wondered when/if the city of Decatur would officially join the online discussion, allowing for public input outside the commission room.  Well that time is nigh upon us my overly vocal contemporaries.

The city is currently working on a 3-month pilot project with Peak Democracy through the Alliance for Innovation to bring Decatur civic issues online sometime next month.  (Apparently, we were one of ten cities picked nationwide because we’re so civic-ly inclined.  So be proud. )

But this isn’t a traditional blog, thankfully.

Instead, here’s the way it will work.  The city will post an issue on the Peak Democracy site, with potential “pros” and “cons”.  Then each resident will have the opportunity to vote “yes” or “no” on the issue and attach a comment.  But you only get to comment once.  So its a lot more difficult for things to get out of hand…though I have to assume that if you started dropping f-bombs regarding your dislike of artificial turf at DHS or the heartless cyclist that made you late for pilates class, your comment would be deleted or blocked.  Also, I believe (though not confirmed) that residents will have to use their real names, which might restrain comments a bit.

As Linda Harris noted in an email about the program, the city doesn’t see this form of feedback ever taking the place of public participation, but hopefully will enhance it.  Also, those afraid to speak amidst their rabid neighbors (I know people often mistake my salivary gland problem for uncontrollable anger) might be more willing to voice their opinion.

Personally, I believe this is a smart compromise for the city.  They are able to get the issues out there and gauge opinion, but don’t have to do much moderating.  They can happily leave that fun to me and other Decatur bloggers.

This will be a three month test initially.  After that, the city will provide feedback to Peak Democracy about the site, since it sounds like its still in a beta-phase.  In turn, Peak Democracy will provide the city with a report about residents’ comments.  (Perhaps this is something that can be submitted during city commission meetings?) Then we’ll see where it goes.

I’ll let everyone know once the first questions are posted.





Follow Up: Kill the West Courthouse “Birds”

16 08 2008

Rus writes in and points out this question/response in the AJC earlier this week…

Q: What kind of birds are currently camping out in Decatur Square and why have they taken up at the square? Is anything being done?

TERRY FARR,

Decatur

A: Did you see birds, or just hear them? The One West Court Square building recently installed a speaker system on its roof that plays the sounds of birds of prey: hawks, eagles, owls and sea gulls. The idea is to scare birds away from the building before they fly into its glass-paneled sides. Aside from the noble goal of saving avian lives, the panels cost about $2,500 each to replace.

The building manager has adjusted the sound several times. It started out a bit loud but is now hoped to have gotten to a sound level that scares birds but doesn’t confuse humans.

You may recall that Carl has both written in and approached the city commission about this issue in the past.  If not, here’s the link to that post.  I also remember hearing somewhere that at least one commission member wondered why this was suddenly a problem that needed to be addressed by recordings of coked-up, chirping birds of prey.  (OK, they didn’t say “coked-up”…that’s me employing “artistic license”)

Well, Carl couldn’t stand it then, and though the AJC writes that the building manager has “adjusted the sound”, Rus reports its still too darn loud.

“It doesn’t seem to me that the sound level has been decreased at all. I used to be able to read the paper on the square but now I can’t due to the horrible screeching of what sounds like flying monkeys! They are too loud at Pastries a Go-Go to sit outside, I can even hear them at Dancing Goats! Why hasn’t the city done anything about this? How many windows were actually broken by birds? I remember one or two on the courthouse side that were cracked for years they certainly didn’t rush to replace those and I didn’t see any new damage in the past couple of years. What about the hawks I used to see near downtown? They seem to have been driven away by the recordings. But I’m starting to see more of the critters the hawks kept in check downtown: Rats and Pigeons (Sky-Rats).

So to recap, The recorded “birds” offer:
1) lower quality of life for taxpayers and tourists resulting in less income for local businesses
2) Disturbance of the balance nature that promotes vermin and disease
3) A questionable deterrence of bird strikes on windows on ONE building (may scare confused birds into striking other buildings).”

I’m not usually one to take such strong stances on things, but this action seems to be in blatant disregard to the surrounding area.  A couple initial questions come to mind:  Was permission ever asked for or granted?  How many birds are we talking here?  Has this bird laugh track solved the problem?

As I’ve said before, its not bad enough that its such an unsympathetic building right on top of the courthouse, but now we have to hear from it for miles around?  Give me a break. Prove you’re saving the lives of hundreds of birds and have no other alternative, or turn the dang thing off.





HOST Ruling: What’s the Hold Up?

10 07 2008

OK, admittedly there are a lot of things I don’t understand. One of them being the inner workings of the Georgia Supreme Court. But what’s the deal with the HOST sales tax ruling for “City of Decatur vs. DeKalb County”?

Why is it when I check out the Opinions and Summaries Page on the GA Supreme Court website, that every single date through the first court date in May have a copious series of opinions, while April 14th (the date the HOST case was heard) has just one opinion?

Why have all the April 21st and May 19th rulings already been decided, while April 14th opinions have yet to be delivered? What the heck are we waiting for?





Dunwoody Police Force Deemed “Slim” By Some Compared to Decatur

1 07 2008

Those opposed to the creation of a city of Dunwoody have recently pointed to Decatur to make a point.

In this morning’s AJC, the opposition to city creation note that the new city would have only 28 full-time officers compared to Decatur’s 36.  For some, this is cause for concern, since Dunwoody has nearly double the population of Decatur.

But Ken Wright, president of Citizens for Dunwoody Inc, points out that the proposed four patrols is an improvement over what they’re getting now with DeKalb County services.

“A city of Dunwoody will have four patrols,” Wright said in an e-mail, “fully dedicated and assigned only to serving Dunwoody. Right now, because our ‘assigned’ patrols can be called away at any time to service other parts of the county, we have somewhere between zero and three police patrols.”

Plus, North DeKalb has “substantially lower than average crime rates,” according to a 2006 Dunwoody study by the Vinson Institute.  Comparatively, Central DeKalb’s a bit more rough and tumble by my own estimations (which are as highly-regarded as a Gallup Poll).

Sounds like those Dunwoody opponents are trying to stir up trouble prior to the city vote.  But any comparison to Decatur doesn’t really make any sense unless Dunwoody was secretly trying some impossible breakaway from Decatur and not DeKalb.





Mayor Says Annexation is the “Obvious” Choice to Lower Taxes

18 06 2008

In his first post in over a month, Mayor Floyd is talking about changes in recruiting, hiring and paying police officers, a marketing study for downtown businesses, and (of course) ANNEXATION over at Bill Floyd Decatur.

He promises more on the annexation front in the near future. The latest Rosser report said that the city would start a campaign promoting annexation this summer. All the while, we wait for the GA Supreme Court to rule on HOST.

As David pointed out over at InDecatur, the font is really small for some reason, so I’ve posted the full text in a slightly larger font after the continuation for your convenience. Read the rest of this entry »





Decatur Historic Annexation Map

18 06 2008

It’s been such a long time…

Pulled from Old Decatur’s Historic District Nomination Form.

Ever notice that Decatur has little feet?