Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Dunwoody Election Runoff 2011 - Bob Dallas

Bob Dallas is in the runoff for Mayor.  Don't forget to vote on December 6.  His campaign website is at www.dallasfordunwoodymayor.org.  Bob also says:  "And my cell phone number is 770-331-4040 should anyone wish to speak with me. "  

Thank you, Bob, for your opinions below.

1) What one qualification do you have for elected office that exceeds those of your opponents?

I have over 23 years of experience in the private sector as a business executive with BellSouth, as a professional owning my own Dunwoody business law firm, and as a professional in a regional business law firm.  I have almost 8 years of experience as Governor Perdue’s Director of Highway Safety for the State of Georgia where I managed public budgets larger than the City of Dunwoody and gained firsthand experience implementing successful public safety and transportation solutions.  But most importantly, I have a wonderful wife and five boys, four of whom are on track in Dunwoody’s elementary schools, all who call Dunwoody home and believe its best days lie ahead.

I also have had the privilege of over 20 years of Dunwoody public service in matters directly related to the duties of mayor.  These include the following:

City of Dunwoody Planning Commissioner, Chairman
Dunwoody Chamber of Commerce, Executive Board Member
Atlanta Regional Commission Class of 2008 Regional Leadership Institute Graduate
International Association of Chiefs of Police Associate Member
DeKalb County District One Planning Commissioner, Vice-Chairman (former)
State of Georgia Public Service Commission Hearing Officer (former)
Safe Kids of Georgia, Founder, Director and President (former)
DeKalb County Children's Initiative and Collaborative Board
Co-Chair of Board and Executive Committee (former)
Dunwoody Home Owners Association, Board Member (former)
Dunwoody YES! Board Member (former)
Dunwoody Rotary Club, Board of Directors Member (former)
Spruill Center for the Arts, Board Member and President (former)
Vermack Tennis & Swim Club - President (former)
DeKalb County Blue Ribbon Sales Tax Study Committee Member (former)
Chairman of the Citizens For Property Tax Relief in DeKalb County (former)

2) The City’s Economic Development Department’s stated purpose is “The City of Dunwoody Economic Development Director is responsible for leading efforts to retain, expand and attract businesses that support a broad array of employment opportunities; strategically grow its knowledge-based economy; and expand the City’s tax base.” What should be this department’s next priority task to accomplish this purpose?

As a member of the Dunwoody Chamber of Commerce Executive Committee, I believe we have to focus on each of our distinct business character areas and home business operations with this in mind:  develop solutions which build on their strengths.  Moreover, our regulations cannot be overly burdensome while at the same time must protect Dunwoody’s character.  As we consider the Perimeter market, we have to partner with our neighboring jurisdictions to both retain and expand existing businesses here, and develop a coordinated effort to attract new national and international businesses.  This is to say the models used by Gwinnett, Cobb and North Fulton county chambers of commerce and economic development should serve as Dunwoody’s model.

3) What was the City’s best business decision to date? (Any level or department, since operations started.)

Creation of the 501(c)(6) Dunwoody Conventions and Visitors Bureau.  Shortly after the City’s creation, I saw it was headed for the authority model; in other words a City department.  Under State law, only the authority or (c)(6) models are allowed.  The former is run by the government; the latter is run by the hoteliers—a private sector solution.  From my experience throughout the State of Georgia the government authority model generally resulted in wasted money, typically in buildings that were never self supporting and which became a taxpayer drain, not to mention failing to achieve the purpose of putting “more heads in beds” as was intended.  The private sector models generally did a better job for less money.  With that, I joined Joe DeVita and Lindsay Ballow in making the case to the City Council to allow the hoteliers to run the CVB.  I called on my friendship with the Department of Community Affairs Commissioner Mike Beatty for technical help.   After about six months of many meetings and hard work, I was thankful the City Council went with the private sector model.  And as a new CVB, the Dunwoody CVB has done an outstanding job.

4) What was one business decision made by the City (at any level, since operations started) that should not have been made? If you were given the chance, what would you have recommended be done differently?

The City needs to reconsider adding a DDACTS (Data Driven Approaches To Crime And Traffic Safety) units to the police department.  While the studies throughout the United States prove these units reduce serious crime and make our streets safer, in Dunwoody they are needed for another reason: economic development.  This is because according to the Dunwoody CVB and Economic Development Director, one of the growth areas for Dunwoody business is “Girls Weekend Out.”  As shocking as it is for me, my wife Liz occasionally wants to get away from me and the five boys—go figure—and have fun with her girlfriends shopping, dining and enjoying each other’s company over the weekend.  Apparently this is a common sentiment.  Dunwoody, because of its perceived safety, high end amenities, and convenient location, is the perfect place.  However, too many of what others call “petty” crimes are occurring.   To the victims, these crimes are anything but “petty” and to me can easily escalate into a major crime.  In either case, the victims naturally tell their friends, who tell their friends, and so forth.  (I invite those who think otherwise to review the extensive literature on the “Broken Window Theory Of Law Enforcement” to better understand this issue.)  That means we are not getting the greatest amount of desirable economic development as we could.  With the DDACTS unit in place, we would reduce these crimes and have the ability to further the marketing of safety to further economic development.

5) As a member of City Council, you will be able to appoint or recommend members of various commissions. Besides an interest in the subject, and a desire to serve, what qualifications do you want to see in a potential commission member?

The appointees must have experience in the issues which are addressed by the boards under which they serve.  I look at experience broadly and believe it must be demonstrated over a period of time prior to the appointment.  Fortunately, in Dunwoody we have many citizen led organizations which allow great opportunity for folks to participate in our City’s future.  And we have an active citizenry from which to consider.  Anyone seeking an appointment, or public office, should have a demonstrated track record of public service.

6) Which City department or commission (besides the Police) is the most critically important in developing the future of Dunwoody?

The city manager.  Dunwoody’s charter provides for a strong city manager.  However, I believe it is mission critical for the City Council and Mayor to set the policy and city manager to carry out that policy.  From my perspective, there have been too many instances where that line has been blurred.  As mayor, I will not allow the city manager to set city policy; conversely, I will insist all of the City Council members and I as mayor take responsibility for setting policy.  I will accomplish this by establishing an effective standing committee structure so as to ensure a predictable process, accountability, and effectiveness of policy setting and execution.

7) Which City department or commission do you feel is underserved and needs more attention in terms of funding and other resources (including personnel)?

At this juncture the departments are balanced to meet the budget.  With my public service experience, I am critically mindful of increasing personnel and the impact that may have on budgets years out, or during economic downturns.  That is why I am adamant about using the private non-profit sector volunteers, i.e. Dunwoody Chamber, Dunwoody CVB, Rotary, Kiwanis, Spruill Center For The Arts, Dunwoody Nature Center, etc., to provide better and more economical solutions.  They also build community from which all in Dunwoody benefit.  I know this first hand having served on many of their boards and in leadership roles.

8) In what ways should the City and Chamber of Commerce (or any other private entity) collaborate and in what ways should they be working separately to grow the City’s economic base?

The City economic development department and the Dunwoody chamber should work hand-in-hand.  As noted above, the successful models take advantage of the strengths of each so as to attract and retain business.  An example is the chamber may be able to invest its private funds to attract business in ways the City cannot nor should not.   Thus, as an executive board member I am glad the Dunwoody Chamber of Commerce sponsors the Dunwoody Music Festival, and in contrast would not want the City to commit its taxpayer funds.

9) Elected officials are constantly contacted with requests to have specific issues addressed by local citizens. If elected, how will you prioritize what issues get on the Council agenda, what will get further private discussion, and what will be tabled?

By engaging an effective committee structure, issues important to the citizens of Dunwoody can be heard and vetted.  Moreover, I plan to hold Saturday monthly meetings at the Williams Room of the Dunwoody Library to allow the citizens to share their ideas, concerns and suggestions.  This will allow for the official meetings to move forward expeditiously and allow citizen input at all levels.

10) Open Mike Question: Make any statement you like on what issue or action will be most important to you as an elected official. 

I believe our next mayor should have experience to carry out Dunwoody citizen’s vision for the future.  Too often people run for office as if they were seeking a prize and have no track record demonstrating any experience or working with the public.  I am seeking to continue my decades of service for the community I and my family call home.  With that in mind, I have from the beginning of this campaign for mayor demonstrated I have experience in the areas which I have heard Dunwoody citizens say are important to our future:  public safety, transportation, economic development, neighborhood zonings, and parks—all within our budget and no millage increases.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Stay Safe Online This Shopping Season

Happy Thanksgiving, everybody!  I've got to run out to the store later to see what's left for the crowd at my house tomorrow, so this will be my last post for a while.  Between turkey and football and the 'rents and the kids and some scheduled maintenance for some customers, this little corner will be quiet.

Until next time, here's some sage advice for those of you who will be shopping online for Christmas and Chanukkah this year.  The hackers and the phishers are out in full force this time of year so beware!

1)  If you shop online, make sure your payment info is only entered into a secured website.
If this sounds obvious, it's not.  It's easy to forget to check the menu bar of your browser for that little padlock and an address beginning with "https".  No matter how much you trust the company unless your payment data is secured, don't use the site.

2)  Think twice before clicking links in emails from banks or online stores.
It is the easiest thing in the world to create a fake version of PayPal, Amazon, or even Chase or Wells Fargo.  Phishers all over the world do it every day.  Then they send out "blast" emails with generic-sounding text about an account being frozen or suspicious activity with a link, presumably to your account.  The link will lead you to a fake website where any information you enter will be stolen and passed around like a bottle of wine.  If you have any doubts at all as to the validity of an email from your bank or online shopping outlet, call their customer service directly via phone to confirm.

3)  Upgrade your passwords to your online banking or shopping sites.
Daily Finance from AOL posted an article last week listing the Top 25 Worst passwords.  This is how hackers get into your account:  they just guess that you're using a simple easy-to-guess password and they are often right.  Take the time to create a complex password for your accounts that only you know.  My hosting provider just recently required all email passwords to have at least one capital letter, one punctuation character, one number, and one lower-case letter, and a minimum of 8 characters total.  It's good advice all around.  If you think you don't have time to create a secure password, then you really don't have time to reclaim your identity and your life once it's been stolen online.

4)  Shop Small This Saturday!
This Saturday is Small Business Saturday where shoppers are encouraged to shop at a locally-owned business for their holiday needs.  I'm not against larger corporations and their benefits, but small businesses put more money back into the local economy.  In Dunwoody, the majority of our business community are locally-owned enterprises so when you shop Dunwoody first, you are directly supporting your neighbors and your city. That includes any eateries for when you stop and take a break, plus other household services that you normally use all year.  Give them a try and you may find a treasure chest of products and services that you won't find anywhere else.

Feel free to use the comments below to post suggestions for local businesses to check out this weekend.

If you're a small business looking to think big online, drop SDOC Publishing a line at our website and let's talk about what the Internet can do for you.  We're lining up new projects for our customers and now is a great time to get on the schedule and your web-based enterprise off the ground!

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Light up Dunwoody

Great night tonight at the Farmhouse. Pam, tip a big wet one, you deserve a break now that it's over.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Local Dunwoody Lawn Care

Like everyone else our house is scrambling for Thanksgiving and a parade of other activities this week.  Every leaf in North Georgia landed in our yard, a bunch of stuff had to be trimmed and I had NO idea how I was going to get it done.  

Keith Hutchinson of Dunwoody Total Lawn Care has been doing the maintenance on my lawn for several years.  Keith is a Dunwoody homeowner and runs his business from home (yes, legally).  You can't see it in the picture from this angle but there is a PCMS magnet on the back of the truck.  He does basic lawn mowing, cleaning, fertilizing and maintenance and pruning.  His rates are the best I've ever seen.  Best of all, he does not hire any day labor; he does all of his work himself, personally.

Keith handled my little leaves-everywhere problem this past Sunday.  We came home from church to find that problem resolved and the yard and front porch spotless.  

If you are in the market for basic lawn care services, please give Keith a call at the number in the picture.  

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Keep Your Data Safe When You Recycle Your Electronics

I look forward to the electronics recycling events.  Like everyone else I don't like the idea of just throwing away old cell phones, chargers, cruise card transponders, etc.  So they pile up in my office until a recycling drive comes along and I can drop them off.

There are several things that I hesitate to drop however:  computer hard drives.  The "delete" key is not all-powerful.  With the right software data can be retrieved.  Anything personal on your drive could potentially be reconstructed.

That's not just external hard drives.  Scanners, fax machines, copy machines (like at FedEx Kinkos) home office all-in-ones all have hard drives in them and they all save all of their images of documents copied.  Like your tax returns, drivers' license, etc.

When you recycle anything with a hard drive, make sure you destroy it.  Computer hardware specialists should know how to remove the hard drives from your peripherals.  Plait Solutions, LLC who I believe are based around Alpharetta held a recycling drive in October.  The owner boasted of bringing a power drill and sledge hammer to ensure that all hard drives were inoperable.  An industrial electric magnet will do the job too.

Finally, cross-check the recycler's certification.  Make sure they actually recycle the heavy metals and other non-dump-worthy content as they say they do.  A few years ago 60 Minutes did a report on an electronics recycler who lied through their teeth, claiming to safely recycle electronics in the USA but were actually dumping them into an environmental nightmare in China.  I hope this was just an exception but I can't get this episode out of my head.  Best to make sure that you and the recycler are on the same page with how to dispose of e-waste before you start.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Alcohol Sales on Sunday - the Catch-22

Sporadic start dates muddle transition | ajc.com

The article above quotes Bob Leavey, owner of d'Vine Wine Bar in the Shops of Dunwoody (my favorite watering hole) regarding the Sunday alcohol sales referendum.

The question passed by about 80% in Dunwoody on election day. Dunwoody alcohol sales begin on December 4.

I looked over the ballot closely when I voted and also reviewed some of the sample ballot questions posted online. Not once did I see anything about an additional $1,100 fee for the privilege. Were it not for the memorandum from Chris Pike on John's blog, I would have thought the AJC got it wrong. The item is up for discussion at Monday's council meeting.

The last page is fascinating. In addition to a $4,000 license for a full-service bar, plus additional "nickel and dime" fees for employees that pour and wine tastings and whatnot, there's an additional $1,100 just for Sunday! Where did this number come from? Outer space?

So for these small outfits to meet the obvious demand for sales on Sunday and remain competitive with larger stores (like Total Wine) and restaurants and supermarkets, they have to pay an extra fee and stay open. But if they pay the extra fee they stand to lose a chunk of profit so the competitiveness doesn't pay off. Classic Catch-22.

Most bars and liquor stores are stereotypical "mom and pop" outfits. Bob aludes to that himself in the AJC article. Like most small businesses they don't have extra cash just lying around; everything is invested in making the business function. A couple of years ago, when the discussion of Sunday alcohol sales was first raised, I had a fascinating conversation with one of the owners of the Rhapsody Bottle Shop in Orchard Park. They were against selling on Sundays. Not because of any religious concerns (they sell alcohol for a living - duh) but because they were just a family outfit and Sunday was the only day they could take off and rest. Supermarkets are always going to sell and additional fees or hours won't even make a dent in their bottom line.

So the only people this fee will harm are the small, local family-owned outfits. 

So whadaya think of the additional fees to buy liquor on Sundays? There's a poll on the bottom of the page. But if you really want to make a point, call Chris Pike and tell him yourself at 678-382-6700 or email him at chris.pike@dunwoodyga.gov. Don't forget to comment on the Council Agenda post on John's blog. Make sure the rest of City Council knows what you think too starting with the Mayor (there are links to the other city council members' pages from here). Don't forget our not-yet-inaugurated new city council member Lynn Deutsch and the gentlemen continuing their campaigns in a runoff. If you have the time tomorrow night, show up at City Hall and look them in the eye when you tell them what a rotten idea this is because it shafts our small business owners.

All that legal paperwork for one simple convenience and it may or may not be as simple as we thought because of an additional fee. Unbelievable.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Remembering Veterans Day

While remembering Veterans Day, if you're at the Orchard Park Kroger, support the local VFW and wear a poppy today.

The Soldier

It is the soldier, not the reporter, who has given us freedom of the press.
It is the soldier, not the poet, who has given us freedom of speech.
It is the soldier, not the campus organizer, who has given us the freedom to demonstrate.
It is the soldier, not the lawyer, who has given us the right to a fair trial.
It is the soldier, who salutes the flag, who serves under the flag, and whose coffin is draped by the flag, who allows the protester to burn the flag.

By Father Dennis Edward O'Brien, USMC

For my father, US Navy, 1950s
For my father-in-law 101st Airborne, WW2

For my great great great great grandfather, Thaddeus Skelton
Union Army Infantry, 84th Brooklyn Volunteers, 1861
Served with distinction at the First Battle of Bull Run/Manassas

For my great great great great great great great great great grandfather Captain Daniel Lyon, Continental Army of New York, 1776

For my great great great great great great great great great grandfather, Lt Nathaniel Tibbetts Jr, Continental Army of Massachussetts, 1776

For my great great great great great great great great great great great grandfather, Thomas Prence, Governor of Plymouth Colony during King Philips' War.

To everyone serving overseas, my prayers you get your jobs done and get home safely.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Opportunity Pounding: THIS is a property Dunwoody should buy

The infamously empty residential lot at the corner of Tilly Mill and North Peachtree is up for sale.  This sign had to be recent - maybe even today.  I happened to snag the photo while returning home.  I've heard all kinds of stories about this lot from "a house is going to be built there" to "someone cut down and stole the trees for firewood."

Here's why this would be a good purchase for Dunwoody:

  • Given the size of the lot, it's probably not going to break the regular budget.  No bond referendums, etc.  Given its long time vacant status I predict there will be no bidding war.
  • It is unoccupied.  No one is going to be displaced by the sale.  It shouldn't be hard to steer clear of the neighboring residential properties if you put your mind to it.
  • The lot can be used to improve traffic in an intersection that carries more cars daily than it was designed for. Improving traffic flow in this growing area is a documented NEED, not a recreational WANT.
  • The positive impact the realignment of the intersection provides will benefit anyone who drives on the road.  That's a cross-section of the entire "Dunwoody" community, including homeowners, renters, students, employees and commuters.
  • Depending on the type of street alignment built, you can make it a secondary gateway, inside the city limits. Think of the foyer to a house and additional hallways are built off of it.  Great place to start the recently-discussed "wayfinding" system.  (Also useful, although I'd like to see some efforts to reach out to the "daytimer" community to find out what those needs really are before building anything.)

Talk about incredible timing!  Right after the majority of voters turned down the parks bonds, a piece of land crops up suddenly that fills a clear NEED to improve our basic infrastructure.  How lucky can you get??

2011 Dunwoody Elections - The Morning After

Turns out the early returns were accurate.  This is the official tally distributed by the City:

2011 Election Results

The following results are the unofficial results from DeKalb County.

     Bob Dallas - 3787   43.21%
     Mike Davis - 3389  38.67%
     Gordon Jackson - 1540  17.57%
     Write-in - 48  0.55%

Council Post 4
     Terry Nall -3824  44.73%
     Robert Wittenstein -3564  41.68%
     Rick Callihan -1133  13.25%
     Write-in - 29  0.34%

Council Post 5
     Kerry de Vallette -3694  44.48%
     Lynn Deutsch -4593 55.30%
     Write-in 18 0.22%

Council Post 6
     John Heneghan -7087  98.90%
     Write-in 79 1.10%

Parks Acquisition Bond
     yes - 3080  33.32%
     no -  6163  66.68%

Parks Improvement Bond
     yes - 3715  40.18%
     no -  5531  59.82%

Redevelopment Powers Act
     yes - 4759 54.25%
     no - 4013  45.75%

Sunday Alcohol Sales
     yes -  7395  79.51%
     no -  1906  20.49%

Education SPLOST
     yes - 33114  62.18%
     no - 20141  37.82%

The Education SPLOST succeeded across all of DeKalb but Dunwoody locally voted it down.

It's not over yet - we've got two runoffs in the coming month.

Keep keeping it classy.  If your candidate or issue won the day, you don't have to gloat.  Don't do that to your neighbors.  If your candidate or issue lost, try to work with it/them anyway.  You may be pleasantly surprised that it works out.  If not, you can vote again in the next election.

I am glad that we have local accountability for our votes.  We have to look each other in the eye in the coming weeks.  We still have to deal with each other.  That's better than a government half a county away that couldn't care less about our community except for what they can take from our wallets.  I wouldn't have it any other way.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

2011 Dunwoody Election Returns

...are in progress and will get posted whenever I hear them. In the mean time, here's the live blog from Dunwoody Patch. Posts courtesy of Peter Cox.

UPDATE. look for a runoff for mayor Davis/Dallas and dist 1 Nall/Wittenstein. Park bonds and eSPLOST are tanking. Too close to call on TADs


Update 3. Deutsch wins.

Dunwoody Election Day 2011

I've been mentally composing this post for a couple of weeks and when I was finally ready and able to put it down, I got a cold splash of perspective.  Found out (on Facebook, of all places) that a Phi Mu sister who I communicated with on our sorority listserv and on LinkedIn was killed in a car crash last night leaving behind her husband and children.

So everything below this line suddenly seems verrrrrrry small.  People and lives are more important than political arguments, neighborhood squables, or business negotiations.  I live my life this way but every so often you get jerked up short and reminded when you least expect it.

These are random thoughts, sometimes contradictory, that follow me to the polls this evening.  Some are about one candidate or issue, some about several, some are a "big picture" perspective.

No one running in this election is Evil Incarnate.  We're not talking Damien and The Omen here.  When choosing among friends, acquaintances, neighbors, and that guy I see while driving to school every morning, you're choosing among fellow humans.  Like every election there is rarely a candidate that every voter agrees with 100% of the time on every issue.  Best you can do is vote for the one who is not only closest to your ideals, but also the one who can be reasoned with to find middle ground when the inevitable disagreements arise.

Long-term politicians have a bad rep.  Some deserve it, some don't.  Building a career in politics does not necessarily mean that a candidate does not have local issues and people at heart.  For Dunwoody to become a city, legislative bills were introduced and passed and the state Constitution was changed so we were even permitted to vote.  That process was handled by (wait for it....) career politicians.  Dunwoody owes its existence in part to these people so they can't be all bad.

The PCID is the reason we're able to stay afloat financially.  It was a huge political football during the incorporation fight and probably the key reason there was so much opposition from the County, the DeKalb Chamber of Commerce and other citizens.  (Anyone else remember the "Why you take my CID?" chants from the grassroots opposition?)  PCID is a part of Dunwoody, but a very different one with different needs than the stereotypical bedroom communities.  It would be unwise to hamstring it with ordinance and zoning restriction more suitable to a suburb full of center-hall colonials.  The new Zoning code, when it's written should take that into account and find a way to let this very unique district develop in its own way.

Leadership is leadership:  the ability to coalesce a group of people and move them to a common goal.  It is actually more difficult to do this with volunteers than with paid employees.  Paid employees are persuaded with a paycheck.  Volunteers need emotional motivation which is infinitely harder.  Don't count out the person whose experience is in working with volunteers - they've done the hardest job.

During the Chamber of Commerce forum someone (Terry Nall?) mentioned that out of the 2500 (approx) registered businesses in Dunwoody, that 500 of them are home-based.  I'd like to dig around and find out if that number is anywhere near correct.  That would mean that a full 20% of business establishments in this city are run from someone's home!  That's not just a scattered handful of residents quietly indulging a quirky hobby, unwittingly dragged in front of City Council and used as poster children for someone's utopian re-visioning of Dunwoody.  That's a significant percentage of residents who choose (or need) to conduct business in this way to make a living!  Home based work is going to have to be taken much more seriously as a significant part of this city's economic viability.

The daytime population of Dunwoody is over 100K.  The citizen count in the census is 46K.  Homeowners are 50% of that population, which is about 23K.  That means that generally, resident citizens are outnumbered 2 - 1 by students, employees, customers, and commuters.  Homeowners are outnumbered 5 - 1.  A city government will ignore the needs of that extended population at their peril.  Being involved in the DHA leadership is not "nothing" experience, but is a DHA board/exec board member going to be able to take into account the needs of non-homeowners when making city decisions?  Whether you're part of the DHA or other HOA in town, it's easy to find consensus among your membership when your needs are under attack and you're all taking cover in the same foxhole.  What happens when you become the status quo and all those annoying little differences that were previously overlooked come to the forefront?  Who is going to ensure that other populations continue to come to Dunwoody - and more, ensure that they leave some money behind?

The Parks "Plan" and the apartments.  Either someone is flying under my radar and really does have evil intentions toward apartment residents along PIB, or someone did some galaxy-class piss-poor communicating.  The planning process has been full of holes from jump.  From the questions asked on the initial survey, to the statistical analysis and interpretation.  (I mentioned the flaws in the latter at a DHA meeting and my point soared over everyone's head - that there was no way to tell whether people were telling the truth on the parks surveys, or if they were giving what they thought were The Correct Answers, based on what was expected.)  Then there's questions of who is influencing what on behalf of what group.  Then the amount of debt.  Then breaking down the debt to "what does each person pay".  That breakdown tactic is the same one car dealerships use to persuade a sale - get the customer to focus on the per month payment, not the total cost.  I don't go for that line of thinking when buying a car, I don't go for it for any other large financial decision either.

Just when you thought it couldn't get any worse another piece of the puzzle becomes the anticipated October Surprise and if pursued will result in the displacement of several hundred (thousand?) Dunwoody residents.  Whoever gets elected, make note:  I will not vote in favor of any plan for any reason that involves the confiscation of private residential property.  Unless the home is structurally unsound or the property a public health hazard,  you're not going to build your support base by removing people.  I don't buy the "reduce crime" argument either.  First, because there is more crime in the PCID than along PIB and no one is proposing turning that into a park.  Second because crime is reduced by law enforcement at all levels.  If you're not going to treat your residents as people, then why are you working in the public sector and who exactly are you working for?  If this plan does not imply removing people, then you best clarify your plans a lot better before signing off on a press release.  Make it really clear you're treating people with the same dignity you want for yourself, you'll have a much easier time selling your ideas.

Finally, I hope that after today, Chip and Rob get a room and resolve that tension in private.  I'll even donate the wine, rose petals, and leather accessories, just take it behind closed doors for a while, ok fellas?


Monday, November 7, 2011

Opportunity Knocking: Google+ Now Open for Business Pages

Hot off the presses as of 90 minutes ago.
In its latest effort to compete with Facebook, Google + is now allowing businesses to create pages just like (wait for it....) FB.

Full article here on Search Engine Land.

Important excerpts for those looking to try this out.  (Including yours truly, who just added it to the ever-expanding system upgrade project!)

Not everyone who goes to that page will get in (many will get a “Google+ Pages isn’t ready for everyone” message). Again, it’s a random rollout happening over the next two days. But once you gain access, you’ll be asked to create a page in one of five categories:
  • Local Business or Place
  • Product or Brand
  • Company, Institution or Organization
  • Arts, Entertainment or Sports
  • Other 

Here's where it gets interesting:
Of course, many local businesses have already claimed their pages in the completely separate Google Places. Much of the information that Google+ Pages for local businesses wants — and more — are on those pages. But they remain unconnected. Google tells me: "Currently, Place pages and Google+ Pages must be managed separately. A Place page provides information about a business and makes it easy for customers to find local businesses on Google Maps and local search; while a Google+ page provides business owners with additional ways to engage, build relationships and interact directly with customers."

So if your small business is already listed on Google Places (and you should be to boost your rankings.  If you're not, then what are you waiting for???)  you have to decide if you want to put the time and effort into a second Google-based networking tool that isn't connected to the first.  AND - has fewer eyeballs than Facebook by a landslide.

Review the article at the link above for more info on how to create a page, including some interesting limitations to the obviously step-wise technical rollout.  IMHO, the desirability of a Google+ business page is going to be directly proportional to the amount of time and effort you want to put in to (a) experimenting with new outlets and (b) using social media at all.

I got the "not ready for everyone" message so I'll rely on the comments section of those who want to play with this new function for a first-hand account of its workability or lack thereof.

Dunwoody Election 2011: Lynn Deutsch

Our latest response is from Lynn Deutsch.  She is running for District 2 at large.  \

1) What one qualification do you have for elected office that exceeds those
of your opponents?

What sets me apart from my opponent is my service on the City of Dunwoody Planning Commission and my consistent and current involvement in city issues.  I have attended City Council meetings, actively participating in multiple city issues, for the last three years.  I am ready to hit the ground running as I am very familiar with the many issues and challenges facing the city.

2) The City's Economic Development Department's stated purpose is "The City
of Dunwoody Economic Development Director is responsible for leading efforts
to retain, expand and attract businesses that support a broad array of
employment opportunities; strategically grow its knowledge-based economy;
and expand the City's tax base." What should be this department's next
priority task to accomplish this purpose?

I think the Economic Development Department has done a great job thus far.  They have attracted several high quality companies and retail outlets to Dunwoody.  The department must continue to market Dunwoody as well as focusing on retaining the businesses that are already here.  Exit surveys for businesses relocating out of Dunwoody must be part of the department’s strategy as well.  If we understand why businesses choose other locations, or leave Dunwoody, we can better strategize in the future.

3) What was the City's best business decision to date? (Any level or
department, since operations started.)

Dunwoody’s model of government, using some private entities to provide public services, has been very successful.  This model has allowed Dunwoody to offer high quality services for less cost than other governments.  In addition, the city is able to hire companies that specialize in specific service provision and control costs..

4) What was one business decision made by the City (at any level, since
operations started) that should not have been made? If you were given the
chance, what would you have recommended be done differently?

The Perimeter Center Improvement District needs its own overlay district.  Treating the PCID the same as Dunwoody neighborhoods is a mistake and makes extra work for everyone from landlords to the city employees.  A retail establishment that backs up to I-285 should not have the same sign requirements as a retail establishment that backs up to a neighborhood.  We want the Ashford-Dunwoody corridor to be high quality and not turn into “just another highway exit” but we must use common sense.   The overlay district for the PCID should have been a top priority.

5) As a member of City Council, you will be able to appoint or recommend
members of various commissions. Besides an interest in the subject, and a
desire to serve, what qualifications do you want to see in a potential
commission member?

I am going to cast a wide net looking for interested persons who may want to serve.  I think that the vast majority of citizens are unaware that there are opportunities for really meaningful involvement or if they are aware, they have no idea how to get involved.  My recommendations will be for people who, aside from being interested in serving, will do the work necessary, attend the meetings and have a long term view to their involvement with the city.  I would like us to use these commissions to get more citizens really involved in Dunwoody.    

6) Which City department or commission (besides the Police) is the most
critically important in developing the future of Dunwoody?

The Economic Development department is critically important to the future of Dunwoody.  What types of businesses we attract and retain has a direct impact on our commercial tax base, which impacts our ability to provide high quality services.  Empty commercial space is a huge negative for a community and lowers property values for everyone.

7) Which City department or commission do you feel is underserved and needs
more attention in terms of funding and other resources (including

Code Enforcement.  If we are going to take code enforcement seriously, we need more than one person serving in this department.  If we pass ordinances, then we need  to enforce them, otherwise they shouldn’t be on the books.

8) In what ways should the City and Chamber of Commerce (or any other
private entity) collaborate and in what ways should they be working
separately to grow the City's economic base?

The City can collaborate with the Chamber and the Convention and Visitors Bureau (CVB) to promote Dunwoody to both businesses and visitors.  The City and these organizations share a mutual goal, the success of the City.   The Chamber and CVB can be more creative with initiatives because of their funding sources.

9) Elected officials are constantly contacted with requests to have specific
issues addressed by local citizens. If elected, how will you prioritize what
issues get on the Council agenda, what will get further private discussion,
and what will be tabled?

This will be one of the most challenging aspects of being a council person.  I will work with my constituents to help them solve issues that don’t require council intervention,  I will be cautious with introducing issues that really aren’t appropriate for Council meetings.  The City has to be a city, not a Homeowners’ Association and it is important to remember this as we move forward.

10) Open Mike Question: Make any statement you like on what issue or action
will be most important to you as an elected official.

When I am elected to the Dunwoody City Council, I will be accessible and available to my constituents. I am both a good listener and a good communicator. I will hold regularly scheduled town hall meetings where I will actively solicit feedback about issues. I will keep in close contact via a newsletter so that Dunwoody citizens can be regularly updated on issues that are important to them. I have friends in nearly every neighborhood in Dunwoody and am lucky that I can call on them to assist me in distributing information.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Nice is the New Black

I took a moment from shovelling up after Halloween to check in with the online opinionating regarding our upcoming elections.  I ran across this gem and just had to share:

Now, just because I won’t talk about what they said, doesn’t mean I can’t say this. Neither one of the candidates who responded agree with me on everything but I still I had some really pleasant email with one of them. This process has taught me what I WILL HAPPILY editorialize about: we need to remember that candidates, no matter how high the office, are people. Yes, real, actual, living breathing people, with lives and families, and their own problems, issues, concerns, experiences and filters. Just because some of their positions differ from mine doesn’t make these guys wrong or stupid or dense or ANYTHING. It just makes them different from me on these particular positions. Period. End of story. We get to make ZERO inferences or conclusions about the rest of their lives. A plus B does not necessarily equal C. 
All of us must step back during our political rhetoric and keep that in mind. It’s time to be nice. 
We need to be nice to Sarah Palin and we need to be nice to Barrack Obama. We need to stop attacking Tea Partiers and Democrats and Republicans. We need to find common ground. Who we pick for Mayor isn’t necessarily going to change America’s political landscape but we can certainly try to start acting differently here in Dunwoody. Shoot, after the name calling during the school districting process, it’s long over due. 
Spread the word: Nice is the new Black.

Dude I have no idea who you are but I'm glad I'm not alone in the universe who sees all of the people in our process as people first, people during the election, and people afterward, no matter how it turns out.

Check him out at http://howplanet.wordpress.com/

Friday, November 4, 2011

Dave FM Big Show for Little Voices - Tune in and Pledge!

This weekend is the annual Childrens Miracle Network radiothon, this year broadcast by DaveFM from CHOA-Egelston.  Listen in, call in, and pledge your support for CMN.  Local funds raised STAY local through CHOA hospitals.  Including Scottish Rite in Sandy Springs.  If you're a parent, you've made at least one trip to this establishment, which means you have benefitted from CMN and radiothons just like this one.

My Phi Mu sisters and I will be taking pledges via phone throughout the day.  Stay tuned for pictures on Facebook!

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Opportunity Knocking - Return of the Housecall

The other day I received an email from my son's playgroup list about her friend's hairdressing service.  Due to the same life and family demands many of us parents face, she created a new opportunity for herself.  Parts of the email are reproduced below, emphases are added.

Just wanted to share some info in case some of you other moms find it helpful.  I had a hair dresser that I loved before Alexa was born but she got pregnant as well and decided to stay at home with her son.  The fact is she loves cutting and doing hair so in her town she has started going to women's homes on the weekends and doing their hair in the homes to give them the convenience of not having to find someone to watch their kids.  I just recently made contact with her again and every other Friday she drives to Atlanta and does hair  so I got to have my hair done at my house this past Friday.   
She charges $40 for a hair cut, and charged me a total of $135 for a cut, and some high and low lights I'm not sure what her other prices are, but you can email to ask her.   She said a group of ladies in her town get together on a regular basis and have brunch and have her do the their hair in someone's home while the kids play.  She said its a lot of fun and she get mult. people's hair done while others are processing.  Could be a fun event for moms club or a play group at some point for those who wanted to try it.  I asked her if I could share her info and she said sure! 
Her facebook page is:
https://www.facebook.com/cayladoeshair  It has her number and her email on it.  
There is a number of reasons why this so simple idea is so perfect for small businesses in our town.

1)  This is Dunwoody.  You can't throw a stick without hitting a playgroup somewhere.  So if your company markets to moms, dads, and/or kids, you can meet potential customers in a group all at once.  That's a big demographic at your disposal!
2)  Because playgroups and kids' activities are so hard to balance with work (including housework, on top of  "the regular job") any chance to multitask is welcomed.
3)  Housecalls take advantage of a large loophole in the "home business" ordinances.  The Home Occupation laws say that a business owner must jump through a number of SLUP hoops - paperwork, public hearings, etc - to see customers in THEIR OWN home.  However, the ordinance is silent regarding a business owner seeing a customer in the CUSTOMER'S home.  No SLUP, no paperwork, no hearings.  In addition, there is no complaint regarding cars on the street, traffic or other objections that routinely get raised in the SLUP process.  

If your business - storefront or home-based - can be adjusted to provide housecalls, you may open up a whole new customer base and a whole new level of service that sets you apart from others in your field.  It works - I've already tried it!

Happy Wednesday!

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Happy Halloween!

It was one helluva night last night!
Check out the photos on Patch.
I'll upload some video "views from the swamp" sometime when my desk clears.  In the mean time here's a photo I've been waiting for a month to post.  Nancy, next time, my house.  Go have a hot toddy and get over that cold!

Even Nancy's most mean-spirited detractors are human beings and deserve to be right one day out of the year.

Moving on now to All Saints Day, the real holiday in our family calendar preceded by Halloween.