Residents Go Crazy For Decatur 2009-2010 Budget

20 05 2009

As popular as a new Harry Potter installment, city of Decatur residents have been gearing up for weeks to get their hands on a copy of Decatur’s latest and greatest 2009-2010 budget (pdf).

Residents from around the city lined up at midnight Tuesday in front of city hall to be the first to get their hands on a copy.  Many were dressed as their favorite city employee, with many men donning wigs.  “I had planned to sport a pair of “Hugh Saxon glasses” said a man in a purple cardigan who refused to give his name, “but when I heard that my neighbor was doing something similar, I went the Linda Harris route.”

When the real Linda Harris appeared on the city hall steps a couple minutes after midnight, carrying around 20 copies of the 200+ page document, cheers from the anxious throng echoed throughout the town like recorded birds-of-prey atop 1 West Courthouse Square.

After getting over the intial shock of seeing so many grown men in wigs, Harris regained her composure and spoke to the crowd.  “With much anticipation, I present to you the 2009-10 budget!  If you pre-ordered a copy online, please stand in a line to the right.  After you receive your copy, please proceed in an orderly fashion to the commission meeting room where Andrea Arnold will be giving out autographs  For those who didn’t pre-order, I’m sorry to say that we’re completely sold out.”

And with that residents got into their respective lines and upon receiving their copy thumbed immediately to page one.  Some proceeded inside, while others made a beeline to their cars.  “I’m going to be up all night reading this!” shouted a man in a light brown wig as he jumped into his Toyota Prius and sped off down North McDonough.

Just another day in the life.

30 Million Up, 4 Million Down

18 05 2009

After seeing the AJC article about Decatur being one of three cities with increased tax values, I was curious about specifics.  At tonight’s City Commission meeting, City Manager Peggy Merriss laid those details out on the table, literally and figuratively.

The city lost 4 million in property values in the past fiscal (?) year, but gained 30 million from new construction.

Even so, the city will use 1.3 million over the next two years to cover the gap between revenues and expenditures, without cutting programs or raising the millage.

I believe I heard someone say that the full budget will be available online this coming Wednesday.

70 DHS Students Participate in Emory Mock Trial

10 05 2009

09emorymt16 groupII

DHS teacher Chris Billingsley writes in…

Around 70 Decatur High School students participated in the Emory Mock Trial competition Saturday from 9:00 until 2:00. Students acted as jurors in several criminal trials. Not only did students get to learn about the legal system, they worked with some of the top judges and lawyers from around the country and Emory’s top second year law students.

Students earned a small stipend for their efforts and Emory Law School will make a generous donation to the DEF in honor of the four Decatur High mothers who lost their lives to cancer during the school year.

Special thanks to Decatur High booster, Judge Lindsay Jones and DHS teacher Mr. Beau Dominguez for making this experience happen. Extra special thanks to Mr. Thomas and Ms. Maddox, parents of 9th grade students, for being chaperons. Judge Jones may be able to provide you with more information of the mock trial competition. Enjoy the pics. They will come in batches.

I was especially impressed with the number of Muslim students participating. I am hopeful that by participating in these types of experiences, Islamic students will develop a greater appreciation for the U.S. legal system.

After the jump…it looks like some students even found time for a little lunchtime dancing… Read the rest of this entry »

Atlanta Is the Nation’s “Most Ambitious” City, With Short-Sighted Mayoral Candidates

8 05 2009

As reported by RealClearPolitics, according to the Kaufmann Foundation Index of Entrepreneurial Activity (say that five times fast), Atlanta is the country’s most ambitious city “with nearly 200 more entrepreneurs per 100,000 people than the second runner-up.” (h/t: AJC’s BizwriterKristi)

But note that this is based on 2008 data, which includes almost months of pre-crash activity.  It will be interesting to see how Atlanta entrepreneurial activity holds up to its rivals “post-recession.”

Hopefully these scores of entrepreneurs aren’t heeding the words coming from city of Atlanta mayoral candidates, Kasim Reed and Lisa Borders, who during a recent real-estate endorsement induced euphoria exclaimed to the AJC

“The real estate development community is to Atlanta what the financial services industry is to New York,” Reed said at a Midtown Starbucks one recent morning.

Borders, in a phone conversation, said almost the same thing: “Development is to Atlanta what cars are to Detroit and entertainment is to L.A.”

Both candidates better hope to hell that their statements aren’t true.   Tying Atlanta’s future to the real estate market seems like a sick death wish.

And why would you even mention Detroit?!

Rule 1 when running for mayor: never EVER speak the word “Detroit.”  At most you can say “Motown” and even then you better be lamenting the once great music scene.

Vinyl Siren Skatepark Pedicure

3 05 2009

…oh wait, that’s “Pedicab.”

What a great creative exercise!  Every two weeks I could come up with a trippy, new pseudo-band name using City Commission meeting topics!  And YOU thought I got this job because I was devilishly handsome.  Ha!

So what exactly is on the agenda for this whacked-out Commission meeting?

Vinyl:  The City Commission will vote on authorizing $38,000 for HVAC improvements and $24,000 for replacing (or just covering over?) the lovely vinyl wall-coverings at the Decatur Conference Center.   This is in preparation of a full-fledged Holiday Inn makeover.

Siren:  The city has received a $108,000 grant from FEMA to install for city-run tornado sirens around the city.  If accepted, that will make 5 total within the city limits, including the existing Agnes Scott siren.  It requires only a 15% match by the city.

Skatepark:  Active Living Director Dan Magee is looking to get the go-ahead to purchase 6 new Spohn Ranch skate park pieces for McCoy’s Skate Park.  Magee has even gotten a thumbs up (or whatever the skateboarder equivalent is) from park users.  The $25,000 cost was already approved in the last fiscal year.

Pedicab:  Probably the most interesting agenda item.  A Wisconsin couple who recently moved here is looking for permission to run a “pedicab”  service in the city similar to the one they operated in Green Bay.  (Here’s what one MIGHT look like.)  Rides would start at $5 and would be free during festivals if they could obtain sponsorships.  There’s also talk about a $10 pedicab tour of Decatur.  The city recommends a six-month trial run and urges haste so the pedicabs are up in running prior to the start of festival season.

And if that weren’t enough!

Other sensational agenda items: David Junger wants 416 Oakland to clean up its act, East Decatur Station wants on-street parking on Sams Street, Amanda Thompson wants to apply for $500,000 energy efficiency grant, and Peggy Merriss wants approval to submit an application for a $360,000 grant that would be used to combat childhood obesity.

Patti Garrett – “Champion of the Week”

2 05 2009

Looks like the District 2 media blitz is well under way.

Allison points out that city commission candidate Patti Garrett is Champion Newspapers’ “Champion of the Week.”  I’ve pasted the entire article below, since I can’t for the life of me find it online.

“Decatur is a great city to volunteer in. With so many fun activities to join in and volunteer with, there are always ways to give back,” said Patti Garrett.

Garrett is a resident of the Oakhurst community who gives a tireless effort to help her community. From chairperson of the Tour of Homes project since 2002 to serving on the Oakhurst Community Garden Board for the past four years, where she and her husband share a seat, Garrett is an active volunteer from Volunteer! Decatur.

“I have so many great volunteers Patti is definitely one of them. She is always willing to help whenever there is a need. She volunteers on so many projects we have and elected Hometown Hero a couple years ago for her extraordinary efforts”, said LeeAnn Harvey of Volunteer! Decatur.

Being an outstanding volunteer is all about timing, according to Garrett. “The time just comes for people to get involved and when it does and you actually take part, it is always rewarding. Because my children are in the adult ages and I now work part-time, I have the timeto give back to a wonderful community like Oakhurst.”

Being a Decatur resident is very fulfilling for Garrett, which, she says, is why enjoys giving back to her community. “I am a strong advocate for Decatur and great supporter of the local businesses. I try to always shop in Decatur and eat in Decatur. It makes it that much greater to volunteer when you have great people, like LeeAnn, who set up such wonderful projects. It’s just extremely fun and always rewarding.”

Kyle Gets More Press

1 05 2009

This time its Southern Voice who profiles Kyle Williams’ District 2 run.

The article focuses mainly on broader LGBT issues, but still gives a couple of specific examples of things he would attempt to implement on the local level if elected.

“Decatur is such a blessed place because it is so progressive,” he said. “We want leaders who will push the envelope. We were one of the first cities in the state to pass a non-discrimination [including sexual orientation and gender identity] statement. It needs to be updated because the language is old and I’m talking to Jeff Graham of Georgia Equality about that.”

If elected, Williams plans to ensure gay issues are at the forefront as well as managing the development of Decatur. He also wants to make sure those under the Gold Dome knows Decatur deserves attention for funding opportunities as well.

“Sometimes our leaders are too quiet on issues and you really want them to speak out because their district will support them.

“Decatur can be a regional leader on LGBT issues respectively and without controversy. We’re often called the Berkley of Atlanta. I say let’s take this pony out and ride it and do some good stuff.

Patti Garrett To Run For District 2 Commissioner Spot

29 04 2009

Patti's Facebook Pic

First on DM: A tipster who wishes to remain anonymous informs DM that Patti Garrett will also seek the District 2 city commission slot vacated by the out-going Mary Alice Kemp.

Garrett sent out a letter yesterday announcing her candidacy.  Here it is in full…

Hello Friends!

I wanted you to be among the first to know that I have decided to run for the Decatur city commission, representing District 2!  Mary Alice Kemp, who has represented us well the past eight years, has decided not to run again in the fall of 2009.  We certainly appreciate the service she has given to our community.

When Gary and I moved to Decatur from Chattanooga eight years ago, we made a commitment to become active in our new home as we had been in Chattanooga. We could not have anticipated the great opportunity Decatur affords us as residents to uniquely participate in true community.  We have relished being a part of all of that Decatur has to offer-being in a walkable, diverse community; participating in numerous community events; and volunteering with the Martin Luther King Jr. Service Project, the Barbeque Blues and Bluegrass Festival, and the Decatur Arts Festival, to name just a few. I also welcomed the chance to serve in leadership roles on the Boards of the Oakhurst Neighborhood Association, the Oakhurst Community Garden Project and with the Decatur Holiday Tour of Homes, which I have chaired for the past several years.

Since moving here, I have loved being immersed in the life of our city and have grown to care deeply about this community that has given me so much. I want to give back to our community and see our city continue to thrive and prosper.  While there are many wonderful aspects to Decatur, there are also opportunities to explore to make this an even better place to live.    I will be back in touch with you in the next few weeks as we formalize my campaign. Thank you in advance for your support. I would also like to know the issues you think are important to our community. I look forward to hearing back from you!


Patti Garrett, for City Commission District 2

Perdue Coming to Decatur Tomorrow! – Kinda Sorta

27 04 2009

Knowing my unfulfilled desire to see Governor Sonny Perdue visit the city of Decatur, Creative Loafing’s Thomas Wheatley forwards a press release from the Governor’s Office stating that Perdue will be joining Falcon’s quarterback Matt Ryan and a bunch of other dirty birds in Decatur tomorrow to sign the Student Health and Physical Education Act.

“But is it really Decatur?” you ask.

“Of course not.” I reply.

We’re talking Greater Decatur.   Specifically, Glenhaven Elementary down on Austin Drive in 30032.

But hey, he’ll be close!  Perhaps Sonny will want to swing by for a little lunch on his way back to the capitol.  Trust me, we’re not as mean and/or share-the-wealthish as we sound in an internet forum.  We can talk about family values!  Decaturites can’t get enough of that crap!  We even take the time out of our self-mandated busy days to bike our kids to school!  How freakin’ crazy is that?!

Kyle Williams Formally Announces Candidacy

24 04 2009

Project Q Atlanta has the details of Williams’ formal announcement that he will run for Decatur City Commissioner in District 2.  (Thanks to Carl for posting the link!)

I found this quote from Williams particularly interesting…

“I ask that you join me in this conversation and journey. Decatur is a fantastic place. We do many things right, but I believe we can do better. Decatur does a tremendous job keeping the trains running on time, but it does not always put new trains on the tracks. This campaign is about innovation. This campaign is about Decatur and its role as a metro-Atlanta and statewide leader and advocate.”

I’ll be very interested to hear details about some of these “new trains” in the coming weeks and months.

In my opinion, one of the most interesting aspects about Decatur politics is the apparent satisfaction a majority of residents feel towards the city’s operation and goals – as evidenced by the most recent city survey.  And while this is great for incumbents, it can be difficult for newcomers to take a strong stance to define themselves.

While there are definitely areas where the city can improve, many aren’t that blatantly obvious.  On top of that, when a candidate does pick up a cause, there’s no guarantee it will resonate with the general population.  (And please, right now before we get started, can all candidates just agree not to make any mention of the durability of city trash bags?)  It will truly be interesting to see which issues really stand out in this campaign after everything that’s transpired over the last couple years.