Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Atlanta Panhellenic Opens Scholarship Competition Online

The Atlanta Alumnae Panhellenic Association has opened its annual scholarship competition to women in high school, college, or graduate programs.  For the first time, applications will be accepted online.

The following scholarships will be awarded at the Scholarship Luncheon on May 13, 2017:

Six (6) High School Senior Scholarships at $1,500 each

Three (3) Collegiate Member Scholarships at $2,000 each

One (1) Alumnae Scholarship at $2,000

Learn more and access the secured applications at http://www.atlantapanhellenic.org/scholarships/

That's the official announcement from AAPA, a 10-year client of SDOC.

Now here's the rest of the story....

For years the Scholarship Committee requested that the application forms in the competition be formatted as fillable PDFs - the kind you can download, fill in on your computer, print and then mail.  The members at the time thought it would be easier.  For them it probably was.  This year the Scholarship chair wanted AAPA to organize a procedure that mirrored other online applications.  The PDFs were put out to pasture and yours truly was tasked with creating a system of online applications.

There is no "plugin" or "extension" for scholarship applications for your CMS and you don't need one.  I created the system for AAPA using Contact Form 7 for WordPress.  (You can do the same thing with other content management systems - the original Dunwoody Chamber online application was made with the Webform plugin.)

The key is in the details.  First, make a very clear list of what information you need to collect from your visitors.  Then you decide how you want to collect that info - entering text into a box, selecting from a drop-down menu, uploading a file, etc.  Finally you divide up the info into forms for each group you want to reach and sequence them so that your visitor has a logical workflow that leads them from one step to the next.

Complex information collection doesn't require fancy add-ons.  But it does require close attention to detail and a visitor-centered POV.

On a final note, the Atlanta Panhellenic has called Dunwoody home for at least 15 years.   From the meeting room near the Library, they have been reaching out to Atlanta-area counties with information about modern NPC sorority life and educational opportunities.  AAPA has been providing scholarships to area young women since 1932 and the total granted to date is approximately $100,000.  The total planned to be presented this year is $17,000.  If you hang your hat in and around Atlanta, please visit and investigate this opportunity for scholarship funds.

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Everything's Great Until It's Not - Hacked Websites, What to Do About Them and How to Prevent a Hacking

Earlier this year, I was hired to repair a hacked website for a Los Angeles-based entertainment company.  Ever since then, I have been knocking the concept for this post around in my head.  With the City of Dunwoody's website hacking, the subject has come to the front burner and I decided it was time to get this one posted.

Security is Relative

There is no such thing as a 100%-hack-safe computer on the Internet.  Whenever I see RFPs requesting "100% uptime" in their website, I take that as a red flag that someone doesn't understand computer security.  Even NORAD and NASA were hacked by teenagers.    A developer or network admin can make hacking extremely difficult - so much so that a hacker decides the site isn't worth their time and moves on.  But if a hacker wants to get into a computer system, they will eventually find a way in.  Website owners and hosting admins have to be vigilant and plan for recovery from attacks before they happen.

All Hacks Are Not the Same

Hacked websites will appear and behave differently based on the intent of the hacker.  In Dunwoody's case, somebody wanted to make a point and make sure the entire planet knew who they were and what was on their mind.  My entertainment company hack was more insidious:  the site looked the same but the administrator could not log on.  The hacker had made numerous changes in the back end that not only allowed clandestine access rights but also made it difficult to track down and remove the rogue code.

You Got Hacked!  What Now?

The name of the game is to eliminate any code or other elements that were placed by hackers and make sure your actual website code is intact.  How much work is involved is going to depend on what the hacker did once they got access to your site or server account and in some cases, how much stuff you had stored there in the first place.

This may or may not be a DIY job, depending on how comfortable you are with the files and database that drive your website.  When in doubt, consult a professional.

If you have a simple website and your webhost provides a routine backup option (or "snapshot", as its called by some) you can simply restore an older version of the website to replace the hacked version.  This requires some planning ahead and I'll go into those plans further down.

But what if you didn't plan ahead and there are no backups to restore?  That's when you have to take the step-by-step approach.

The Most Complete Hack Job I've Ever Seen

My entertainment site hack client was an example of a very deliberate, stealthy, even surgical hack that left the public face of the site intact but prevented legit administrators from accessing the dashboard, allowed different admins access, and hid the hacked content inside of normal files.  Here's what I found.

  1. The hacked site was in WordPress.  Which had not been updated in years.  The site also used a commercial theme purchased from a developer.  Which also had updates available and also had not been updated in years.  The host was bare-bones GoDaddy.  Without a site backup option. Problem #1 was identified.  The owner provided access to the GoDaddy account and the files could be read through a browser.
  2. There were a ton of directories with obsolete code from earlier versions of the website.  Inside were recently-added PHP code files with benign names like "security.php" and "file.php".  But they weren't benign - they were part of the admin control hack.  The tip-off was the date when they were added:  when all of the files are 2,3,4 years old and you have a new file that was added last month, that's your culprit.   The delete key was my friend.
  3. Similar benign-sounding-but-not files were found in directories that housed javascript files that drive the interactive and animated elements of the website.  When you have a directory full of files that end in ".js" and there's a recently added file ending in ".php", that's a file that doesn't belong there.  Delete key again.
  4. Same process was repeated in the "uploads" file where images and the like are kept.  When you see a bunch of ".jpg" and ".gif" files and a new one out of nowhere ending in ".php", that's the file you delete.
  5. Database edits:  the hackers created an additional table in the WP database to override the admin commands.  They also added new users with administrator roles.  Delete the extra table and delete any and all users that were not currently authorized on the site.  This is where a professional database admin comes in handy and we leave the DIY Zone.
  6. The last piece of the puzzle was the worst.  The hackers had not only done ALL of the above, but they had inserted lines of code into actual WordPress files, either at the very beginning, or at the very end.  Now if you're a developer who is used to looking at the individual files that make up WordPress and reading the code, you can tell when something is added that doesn't belong there.  There is NO way a casual user would have caught this.  Even if they managed to spot and delete all of the above hacks, the result would have been the site crashing altogether.  I reviewed all of the files in the core content management system and removed code that wasn't kosher.
BINGO!  The administrators could log in.  Software got updated, including the outdated theme and my customer was updating the website again.  No further hacks.

The above cleanup process took about 12 hours and I charge my hourly rate for that kind of work.  Can that situation be avoided?  Oh hell yes.  And I highly prefer it to fixing a site that had been entered by somebody using a server in the Czech Republic.

Six Steps To Avoid the Highway to Hacker Hell


  1. This is no longer a joke, gang.  If you are one of the many millions on Planet Earth using some kind of content management system (CMS) whether open-source or commercially available, apply all of your updates when you are aware of them.  The purpose of these updates is to close those little loopholes where hackers get through.  That's the core software.  Plus the little add-ons - "plugins", "modules", "extensions", whatever they're called.  And your themes.  Or "templates", whatever they're called too.  Most of these can be done automatically through the administrator's dashboard.  Or even from a VAN DOWN BY THE RIVER!!!

    Contact the CMS' manufacturer's website (or tech support if you're using a proprietary software like Sitefinity).  Don't put it off.  If you can't work it into your schedule, hire a pro to review it regularly.  That's cheaper than recovery.

  2. BACKUP, BACKUP, BACKUP  If your webhost has an automatic backup function, turn it on and use it.  If they don't, back up your files manually and find a new webhost that offers this service.  Backups refer to both the files where your data is displayed, and the database where the data is stored.  Most competent web hosts have help files and/or tech support that will walk you through this.  When in doubt - hire a professional and have it done for you regularly.  Monthly, at the very least for the typical non-government small business.

  3. Remove any obsolete files or directories from your web host.  If you're not using old plugins or other code, delete it from your server.  Save it to a local drive for posterity if you want but it's just a trouble magnet on the Internet.  Follow your CMS' instructions for uninstalling and removing components for your website.  Old directories with code no longer in use need to go.  If you're not sure how to do this ... wait for it....  hire a professional.

    WordPress users:  even if you uninstall and delete a plugin properly, the data from that plugin may still be left behind in the database.  That can still be a vulnerability, albeit a rare one.  There are plugins available that can clean out "orphan" data from a database but a database admin can manually go through and remove anything no longer in use.

  4. Remove any users who are no longer working on the site.  I believe this may have been part of what led to the major hacking I cleaned up.  There were a number of users still listed on the site who edited content and plugins from time to time, but were no longer involved.  They were still there, same passwords in place.  A disgruntled former employee can do a lot of damage.  But even if there are no bad feelings, what if that former employee gets hacked and someone gets a hold of their login credentials?  The result is the same.  Just delete the user and their access.  If they return, give them a new login.

  5. Rotate your passwords.  I know, passwords are a PITA to remember and use.  Changing them on a regular basis can prevent hacking and other fraud.  Don't forget to make it something that a hacker won't be able to find using a standard algorithm of searching for common words.  Many CMS and hosting providers require a minimum security level, including a mix of numbers, upper and lower case letters, and punctuation.  Anyone who still uses "password" or "123456" needs to be slapped.  As well as kept away from computers!

  6. Reevaluate your hosting provider periodically.  Not all hosts are created equally.  The uber-cheapo hosts are great for hosting vacation pictures by Aunt Suzie from Syracuse.  E-commerce needs something more secure, and that will require an investment.  Do some research as your web presence expands to make sure your website's foundation is secure and has the power to run your applications without hanging or crashing.  Government agencies and municipalities - don't skimp on this, no matter what the citizenry says.  When I consult for any government office or agency, I have a very short list of providers I will work with.

    Amazon web hosting is the gold standard for high-volume performance and security.  To give you an idea of what they are capable of, Amazon hosts WhiteHouse.gov, Georgia.gov and a number of federal agencies, including the CDC here in Atlanta.  In the private sector, they host NetFlix.  But hosting like that costs big bucks - there is no price menu at Amazon, all contracts are negotiated especially the high visibility ones.  Most enterprises do not need this level (or cost) of power and security but the point is, this isn't a place to go cheap.

It's all about paying regular attention to the bones of your website.  Either set aside the time or hire someone who will.  The following does not have to be you, if you apply some regular due diligence.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Happy Thanksgiving 2016

As usual, the sun doesn't set on an entrepreneur so between baking pie, roasting turkey and making sure the kids get out and run off some energy, I'll be upgrading software for my e-commerce clients in advance of Cyber Monday.

I hope all reading this can find some peace this week, through Christmas, Hanukkah, and the New Year.

Usually I post a brief excerpt from Nathaniel Philbrick's Mayflower regarding how building a community takes hard work and compromise.  Not going to cut it this year.  Here's the link if you'd like to review.

After the kids are settled in for the night Pat and I will split a bottle of pinot noir and a viewing of Places in the Heart.

Not a typical Thanksgiving movie.  Or any holiday movie for that matter.

Places represents Sally Field's 2nd Oscar win.  The movie is set in Great Depression-era Waxahachie, Texas (yes, that's a real town, just outside of DFW).  Won't spoil the plot if you'd like to see it but my takeaway is that family and community can grow anywhere - whether you want it to or not - in places you can't imagine.  Forces outside that family can modify it, but not destroy it if you don't let them.  (Warning:  given the date and setting there is some blatant racial violence in a few scenes.  Parents, judge carefully and be ready for an intense conversation if you allow your children to watch.)

Also a movie I recommend for Sisterhood nights in Phi Mu or any sorority chapter gathering.

We'll be home for turkey day, so it's OK to stop by and pass judgement on my cooking.  :-)

Monday, November 14, 2016

DHA Speakers Video Recap: GLASS, Dunwoody Senior Baseball, school contribution requests

In case you missed it...

Dunwoody Homeowners Association's monthly meeting played host to several groups last night.  The following videos were streamed live on my Facebook feed.

All of these are publicly available.  Please view and share and continue the conversation in your neighborhoods.

DHA will meet again in December.  Come and join in live and in person next time.  Until then, we'll see you at Light Up Dunwoody on November 20 at the Cheek-Spruill Farmhouse!

GLASS (Georgians for Local Area School Systems) legislative update

Dunwoody Senior Baseball presents their case for changing the IGA and the new baseball field location.

School funding requests from Kingsley and Vanderlyn.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Monsters From the Id - Social Media and 21st Century Politics

Forbidden Planet, released in 1956, was a groundbreaking movie in a range of aspects, only a few of which were in special effects.

The "planet" was previously home to a technologically "superior" race - the Krell.  During the course of the movie, we learn this civilization had created an infrastructure that could manufacture anything and deliver it to anyone with a thought.  It sounds like a great idea when Robby the Robot was creating jewels and clothing for Altaira or whiskey for the spaceship's drunken cook.

But the technology couldn't differentiate between a conscious wish and a subconscious nightmare.  So when the Krell slept, and the "Id" came alive, their technology delivered their greatest horrors.  No one was spared - not the most intelligent, not even the creators of the technology.

It is now 2016 and it is time to cut the bullshit daydreaming that our voting communities can be "united" after venting themselves on the Internet during election season.

The US Civil War was 150 years ago, and even though the USA is legally one country, the cultural prejudices and hostilities between North and South persist to this day.

Neither Trump nor Clinton will "unify" the US, regardless of who wins today.  It's unreasonable to call your opponent's supporters a "basket of deplorables" and expect them to fall in line with your inauguration.  It is equally unreasonable to make unfiltered knee-jerk smart-ass comments about your personal nemeses day after day for months and think all will be forgotten on November 9.

It's not just national politics.

In my little burg, the greatest advocates of "preservation" have torn elements of our community to pieces all in the name of keeping physical relics alive.  Our elected officials have turned to petty dictators in an effort to mold our city into their personal living room.  And ran afoul of the state government within 6 months of our last municipal election.  But that isn't new.  For years one representative or another has advocated for one group's lifestyle in this city to the detriment of others.  All in the name of "building community".  I have a flash for you, Barney - you don't create a community by turning elements of it against each other over residential lifestyle differences.

Then there's the nuclear arsenal of the carpool set:  school redistricting.  We have our playdates, we have our chance meetings on the playground.  We have our scouts, and youth groups and sports teams.  Then the idea of rearranging our school populations rolls in like a live grenade and the monster devours everyone again.  Think I'm exaggerating?  Read for yourself and decide.  You can figure out the personalities with a few minutes of research.

With all of the blog posts and social media clips and screenshots - nothing will be forgotten. No matter how many photo ops are taken or how many charity projects supported after the fact, everyone will remember getting attacked and hurt.   Everyone will remember who was on what side, and what attack they made.  Forgiveness is another topic altogether and I'm not holding out too much hope for that either.

The Krell planet eventually found peace - when the population disappeared and there was no one left to dream up a monster.

The best any elected official at any level can hope for in 2016 is a cessation of hostilities.  An equilibrium between groups whose POVs are irreconcilable.  It takes superhuman objectivity and a committed refusal to engage in combat online.  That's a very short list of capable people.  No one can achieve it perfectly.  But "unity"?  Forget it.  It's gone.  Mutual coexistence while minimizing overt hostility is the best you can shoot for.

I can't watch the returns tonight.  Likewise when keeping up with local politics, I do it alone, in a closed office.  Best when social media is turned off.

Migrating databases, debugging source code and managing household paperwork has never looked so good.  It's peaceful and it puts the Id to sleep.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

INTRODUCING: Rik Emmett & RESolution9

It's been just about 4 years since I got that late-evening call from Rik Emmett to take over the maintenance of his website.
Here's the first blog post detailing the initial work.  Once I got the software and theme code updated, keeping it all maintained and bug-free is a much smoother and less time-consuming process.

The only constant in website creation and maintenance is change and there have been quite a few.

First, the overall site design got upgraded to a fully responsive design where all elements adjust to the screen size, however large or small.  A lot of the graphics could be recreated with source code instead of image files, so the site runs faster now too.  If I've said it once, I've said it 100 times, fully-responsive design for small screens/mobile devices is no longer optional.

Just making a quickie mobile-friendly front page and leaving the rest of the site to desktop-only may fool the search engines, but it cheats your customers.  As of this morning, a full 40% of this site's visitors are made on a tablet or phone; 30% of all sales in the e-commerce store is made from a mobile device.

There is no reason that a smartphone visitor must endure a sterile, stripped-down shadow of a website.

Next was improved social media integration.  Photos are managed via Flickr, videos are managed via YouTube and those channels are fed into the site via plugins.    Most social media sites (including Google properties) have an API that will connect to a website in the hands of a webmaster who can walk through the steps.  Adding media galleries to social media where possible cuts down on the amount of site maintenance and hands-on programming required and speeds up the website and makes updating content easier by using multiple channels every day.

Video page, powered by YouTube:

Photo gallery page, powered by Flickr:

All of this slicing and dicing and planning for unknown future contingencies has paid off.  Rik recently signed with Mascot Label Group based in the Netherlands for a new rock album.  The team just got bigger.

Rik and I have gotten into a comfortable groove where I can make design and layout adjustments where they are necessary at my own direction.  But once a record label gets involved, the contract is law - literally.

The first image in the post is the new album jacket/CD insert.  (Yes, there is a limited pressing in vinyl.  Some serious music fans swear by analog recordings to this day.)  The graphic artists working for Mascot are also based in the Netherlands and they're calling the shots on designs for the new project, RESolution9.  North America-based label operations are in New York.  Large-venue booking agent is in Montreal.  Small-venue booking agent in the US is in Philadelphia.  Small-venue booking agent in Canada is in Toronto.  News media have expanded from predominantly the US and Canada to almost every country in Europe, with intense hot spots in Germany and Scandinavia.  My job in this machine is to integrate the designs for the project into Rik's current site, with the graphic artists' approval.

Thank God they speak English fluently because my Dutch is non-existent.  :-)

Between Mascot's internal machine and my content management planning, this process couldn't have been easier.  Even considering that adding a new splash page (entry page into the site with calls to action) is more than just slapping a single image onto a web page and calling it a day.  The artists sent me a file of the cover image that allowed me to extract all of the individual elements, then reconstruct them into a format that looks just like the record jacket on a laptop - but will reconfigure itself into a comfortable arrangement on a cell phone or tiny tablet.  

Then I set up the page so that it could become the first page a visitor sees.  Again, there were timelines and deadlines and "go live" was planned down to the minute within a specified time zone, dictated by a project manager.  Everything was loaded into the site the night before, and changing the front page literally took 2 seconds when I got the alert.

Most jobs that I work on currently require me to work independently and report to the site's owner.  But being part of an international team has a special buzz all its own and a unique satisfaction when the composite machine runs smoothly.  The fans and music buyers don't notice the work, they notice the results.  Working in different states, different countries, different continents, makes no difference at all.  And when the info goes live in the right venue at the right time, they spend money, and we all earn our living.

I didn't make the videos, but updating the site with video embeds is all in a day's work.  Here's the original album teaser for your enjoyment!

Thursday, October 6, 2016

DHA Meeting October 9 - First Presentation of Proposed DCSS Land Swap and more

Everyone is invited to bring your questions and be part of the conversation on these initiatives that will impact Dunwoody education.  As usual I'll try to live stream the speakers on Facebook.

Board of Directors Meeting 
Sunday, October 9, 2016 @ 7:30 P.M.
 North DeKalb Cultural Arts Center, Room 4 
5339 Chamblee Dunwoody Rd, Atlanta, GA 30338

Presentation and Discussion – Austin Elementary School land swap and ball field relocation between City of Dunwoody and DeKalb Board of Ed.
Chris Pike, Dunwoody CFO

Chris Pike, the city’s CFO, will present details on the just-announced deal with the school system to swap land for a new Austin Elementary school and for the Dunwoody Senior ballfields to be relocated to Peachtree Middle.  This is the first of several public presentations to the community and is a great opportunity to understand the deal and discuss its impact on Dunwoody.

More info and news announcement.

Presentation and Discussion – Ballot measure for proposed creation of an Opportunity School District— State Senator Fran Millar and State Representative Tom Taylor

Also on the agenda will be a presentation by Senator Millar and Representative Taylor on the proposed constitutional amendment that will be on the ballot on November 8th to create a statewide “Opportunity School District” to allow the state to take over chronically failing schools (including quite a few in DeKalb County).

3 Food Truck Thursdays Left in 2016

I don't know about anyone else but I think the fall Food Truck Thursdays are the best because the sweltering heat has passed.  Our family is hosting some relatives from Savannah evacuating ahead of the hurricane so it's another reason for a perfect night.

Dinner Trucks:

Dessert Trucks:

Don't forget Truck-or-Treat on October 27!  Kids - dress up in your Halloween costumes and "Trick or Treat" among the food trucks!

Friday, September 9, 2016

How do developers get tax abatements in Dunwoody? Dunwoody Homeowners Association Meeting this Sunday, September 11

Sunday, September 11  7:30 PM
North DeKalb Cultural Center, Room 4

This Sunday Dunwoody's Economic Development Director Mike Starling will be visiting to talk about development tax abatements - who gets them, what are the criteria, and what is the economic impact on Dunwoody and its full-time residents and homeowners.

Interest in tax abatements perked up when Transwestern announced a new speculative office tower project near Perimeter Mall - one of the most sought-after regions in the area for development.  Then went to the development authority in Dunwoody to request a tax abatement to "encourage" them to complete the project.  Maybe Mike can make sense out of the bad smell following that around.

Elsewhere on the agenda - GID Urban Development, the developers of the long-awaited "High Street" "multi-use" development with residential towers, shops, etc, near the State Farm complex will be presenting their current plans for the site.

To recap:

1)  This project was approved via SLUP by DeKalb County in 2007, the year before Dunwoody incorporated as a city.
2)  This project is arguably one of the reasons Dunwoody incorporated - to put the brakes on large-scale, high density developments exactly like this.
3)  The approval of the SLUP cannot be reversed without a long, painful, expensive legal fight and success is a long way from certain.
4)  The only influence on the developers was the DHA who, while they could not stop project approval (we are talking about DeKalb County under Vernon Jones, remember)  could at least negotiate the ratio of owner-occupied to rental units.  This agreement happened before my DHA tenure so I hope those involved will include their recollections in person.
5)  The economic downturn in 2008-2009 stalled the project.  This development and its approvals are neither new nor recent.  They were merely put on hold for just shy of 10 years until economic conditions became favorable to the owners.

Bring your questions and your comments - this will be one of the only chances to address them in person to the development/legal team.  Once you've put together your opinion based on the latest info, let your elected officials know what you want them to do with it.

Both of these speakers will be streamed live on Facebook.  Here's the profile:  https://www.facebook.com/sdocpublishing
Not everything on that is public but these videos will be viewable (and more importantly, shareable) by everyone.

After the public meeting, the voting board will discuss some text modifications that clarifies the DHA position on city appointed board members who also serve on the voting board of the DHA.

Some background:
In July of 2008, before the vote for city incorporporation, the DHA modified its bylaws so that anyone who was elected to office (assuming the incorporation vote was successful) from the DHA's voting board would be moved to an "ex officio" status.  DHA did this independently, without any pressure from any government.  So any elected officials on city council today who were previously on the DHA's voting board did not resign due to some moral quandry or "icky feelings".  The decision was made for them, years ago, prior to their election.

Currently, members who are both DHA voting members and city board members are expected to abstain from any vote, at the least.  The bylaws will be clarified that these members will physically leave the room at the end of the public portions of meetings where issues coming before them in their official capacity will get a DHA endorsement vote.  Those affected will be documented in the minutes.

More background:
Here's a little insight into voting board-only sessions:  the entire group does not sit around agreeing with each other.  There is almost always a minority report and some votes are very close.  That means - people learn to agree to disagree and move on to the next day in our lives.  No one gives up their opinions regardless of the majority.

Bottom line, city board members who are DHA members have never been forced to give the DHA's majority opinion in their role on a city board.  There is all kinds of communication between board members because they're all interested in what happens to their community.  But  the DHA does not dictate any members' vote in an official capacity.  As for the two dozen other HOAs plus myriad civic groups (like the Womens' Club and the Preservation Trust, for example) - you'll have to ask them directly.

Some people need their minds put at ease on that question.  So the bylaws will clarify that DHA majority opinions do not dictate how board members vote.

That should be the final blow that puts this dumpster fire of a decision to rest once and for all.  Everyone is tired of the fallout, it shouldn't have happened in the first place, and I hope no one is silly enough to resurrect it in the future.

“Most zoning actions ultimately result in some kind of compromise. And what any planning professor would say is, the more people get together and talk, and have opportunities to talk and discuss the issues, the greater the likelihood there will be a compromise. And nobody gets sued. And really, you want to encourage developers and neighborhoods to meet. Having a Dunwoody Homeowners Association is not a unique situation. There are neighborhood associations all over the metro area. And they serve a very positive function of helping to bring the parties together and helping to reach compromises.

The thought that there’s some “magical thing” that happens here at the meetings that must be stopped … is very illogical.”
--Seth Weissman in presentation to Dunwoody Homeowners Association,, August 2015

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

DHA Speakers Stream Live on Social Media

I started this experiment a couple of months ago to determine the best method of documenting Dunwoody Homeowner Association speakers.  No matter what meeting night you pick, there's someone who's interested and can't make it.  Plus, there are those whose only source of information are news articles which are limited by definition and get reinterpreted far and wide.

For ease of use, I'm currently streaming to Facebook and then leaving the videos open to sharing and embedding.  Please DO share - good decisions are made with good information and video documentation is the best standard we have.

My FB videos (not all of these are DHA):

Watch for announcements on FB and Twitter when a DHA meeting is coming up.

To start off, here are our speakers from August 14

Seth Weissman and his talk about city policy making and the DHA

Transwestern development proposal

Proposal for "farm house car wash" corner - new neighborhood scale restaurant?

Friday, August 12, 2016

Will the Dunwoody Village Car Wash transform into something new? Visit the Dunwoody Homeowners Association meeting on August 14

Dunwoody Homeowners Association

Board of Directors Meeting 
Sunday, August 14, 2016 @ 7:30 P.M. 
North DeKalb Cultural Arts Center, Room 4 
5339 Chamblee Dunwoody Rd, 
Atlanta, GA 30338

Everyone is welcome and encouraged to attend

1. Announcements and introduction of distinguished visitors

2. Approval of minutes for July 10, 2016 meeting—Lindsay Ballow

3. DHA members servicing on city boards legal memorandum – Seth Weissman

This will be a major discussion as Mr. Weissman literally wrote the textbook on how civic groups and HOAs interact with local governments and the ethics/law involved.  I expect it will be educational.  The DHA anticipated there would be questions about its role back in 2008 when the vote for incorporation was looming and acknowledged that the advocacy and public sounding board would remain the same - just with a different government.  DHA board also anticipated that some members would be elected to office and thus the rule was made to move any member in an elected office to be moved to "ex-officio" status.

4. Presentation – Transwestern development proposal for office tower at Perimeter Mall –Jessica Hill, Morris, Manning & Martin and Trent Germano, Transwestern Development Company

They're baaaaaack!  This is the development group that wants to build an office tower in the Perimeter area but get a tax abatement at the same time.  Michael Starling is supposed to have an explanation as to how this works and how the community benefits, but we have to wait until September to hear his side of it.

5. Presentation – Redevelopment proposal for property at the corner of Chamblee-Dunwoody and Mt. Vernon (currently a car wash)—Archie Archie Wanamaker, Crim & Associates and Michael Ritch SDG Engineering

For years, some in our community have complained about the presence of a car wash right across Mt Vernon from the Cheek-Spruill Farmhouse.  It was the subject of an ill-advised boycott attempt in 2004.  It looks like a developer wants to transform that corner into something new.  This will be the first look at the vision for that corner that may inspire the rest of the Village.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

(UPDATED) Will Dunwoody Finance New Commercial Development in the Perimeter? Find out Tonight, July 28.

There is a special called meeting of the Development Authority tonight, July 28, 2016.


The backstory:
Transwestern wants to build an office building on a parcel of Perimeter Mall's parking lot that was purchased earlier this year.  They went to great effort and expense, per an article in the Atlanta Business Chronicle, to purchase this property.  They went to great efforts to design a building that will connect via skybridge to both Perimeter Mall and the Dunwoody MARTA parking lot.  There were a few minor requests for SLUPs to allow encroachments and parking allowances to make the plan work.  But at the same time, Transwestern had 1) no tenants lined up and 2) a plan for a tax abatement so that the city would "encourage" their completion of the project.

Here's DWG's take on the presentation from June:

Tonight, Transwestern is going in front of the Development Authority with a different plan.  According to the documents associated with tonight's meeting, Transwestern proposes to have Dunwoody fund the construction via municipal bonds, then lease the building back to them.  The City of Dunwoody would become Transwestern's landlord.

UPDATE:  Joe Seconder contacted Economic Development director Mike Starling and received the following response:

I would like to clear a misunderstanding concerning the Development Authority. The City does not borrow money nor does it provide any City Credit towards these “Bond” transactions. These are private placement bonds that are financed totally by the developer. The Development Authority provides a lease back to the developer in order to provide tax incentives for projects. I would be happy to sit down with you to explain how this process works.
So we're back to the original proposal - a tax break for a company building a speculative office-space project in Dunwoody.  My smell test has not improved.  There are still questions that have yet to be answered.

Here's what the Dunwoody citizen needs to consider:

1)  There has been no public discussion beyond the DHA meeting in June.  So the request for municipal bonds is a bolt out of the blue.
2)  Do we, the citizens, want our government to use our city's bond rating to finance commercial development, not to redevelop "blighted" or "run down" parts of the city but to build in the most sought-after real estate in the southeast?  Do we want to issue tax abatements for speculative projects that developers want to get engaged in, until it's time for the tax bill?
3)  If the answer to #2 is "yes", what minimum basic requirements should there be for a developer to avail themselves of this process?  Guaranteed tenants perhaps?  Or a national brand or headquarters?
4)  What are the long-term consequences, both pro and con, to Dunwoody's government getting into the "landlord" business tax abatement upon request?

And finally - the elephant in the room:  is this resolution the reason why Denny Shortal does not want members of the DHA discussing new development?

Please note:  there will be no public comment before the vote!  Public comment will only be accepted at the end of the meeting.  If you have an opinion on this matter, communicate it to the Development Authority and our government representatives NOW! 

Dunwoody Development Authority:  http://dunwoodyga.gov/index.php?section=government_boards_commissions_and_committees_development_authority

Mayor and City Council:  http://dunwoodyga.gov/index.php?section=government_mayor_and_city_council

Friday, July 22, 2016

Treetop Quest in Brook Run Seeks "Operator"

Treetop Quest, the obstacle course company operating in a corner of Brook Run Park seeks an "operator" to run all major operations of the park.

Wages:  $10 per hour, part time

The ad was posted to Craigslist and spread via Twitter

View the ad here:  http://atlanta.craigslist.org/nat/csr/5695862946.html

Treetop Obstacle Course Operator

Operators are the eyes and ears of the Park. They help create a fun atmosphere through friendly, fun, high-energy assistance while ensuring safety regulations are respected. No experience needed; we provide necessary training.

We are seeking fun, motivated and professional operators to join our team on a flexible schedule:

- Treetop Quest open days:

o Every weekend & Holidays in August through November

o Group reservations during the week

Weekend AND weekday availability necessary. We have 2 locations: Buford and Dunwoody.


- Daily opening and closing of the Course

- Morning inspection: Inspecting each platform and obstacle for safety and cleanliness

- Greet participants

- Equip, advise and prevent participants

- Lead a safety briefing/orientation talk and demonstration

- Enforce park regulations

- Monitor participants going through obstacles, and coach them

- Handle off the ground rescue situations

Profile required:

- Must be 18 and older

- Athletic, dynamic with an outgoing personality, a sense of hospitality and good communication skills

- Must be patient and able to lead groups of kids as well as adults

- Must be reliable and this position requires a strong commitment to security

- Practicing outdoor activities and/or a tour guide experience are a plus

- Will be exposed to all weather conditions, frequent standing, sitting, walking, lifting of weight in excess of 40 pounds, stooping, reaching, climbing, and able to visually identify safety hazards

- Must have a flexible work schedule (including evenings, weekends and holidays)


Contact info:



Please apply online at https://www.treetopquest.com/work-with-us/

Please do not apply if you do not meet the above qualifications. Only candidates being considered will be contacted.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Special Called Meeting to Review DeKalb's SPLOST - Again

From Councilman Terry Nall:

Thanks for the recap.

Now that we have clear confirmation of erroneous legislative language (HB 596) that makes our homestead property tax freeze disappear if the eHOST /SPLOST referendum passes, we should all be working to stop the referendum from being called by BOC rather than spending our time on changing the distribution formula via an IGA.

We cannot rely on a promised legislative fix in January and simply hope it can be retroactive. The stakes for our citizens are too high to take this risk.

In my personal view, any city approving and/or encouraging the SPLOST resolution and companion IGA at this point, especially with the new information on HB 596 now known and confirmed, is putting its citizens last, not first.

Thanks again for your recap and your service for DMA.

From Commissioner Nancy Jester:

Nancy's blog goes into more detail about why this county SPLOST could result in massive tax increases for Dunwoody homeowners:

Below is the video I streamed live from the Dunwoody Homeowners Association meeting on July 10.

Dunwoody City Council voted last week, 6-1, to defer entering into an IGA with the county on spending projects for this proposed SPLOST. There is no project list and for all of the reasons described above by our representatives, it looks like a financially bad deal for our city.  The special called meeting is scheduled for tomorrow, Monday, July 18 at 8:00 AM at council chambers.


Dunwoody City Council (esp Shortal) please note:

The DHA was the forum by which Commissioner Jester could direct her comments to the public and field any questions.  The Dunwoody Homeowners Association did not vote to take a position on her comments.  So if there's any negative fallout from whatever your decision is, kindly refrain from backlashing the DHA.  It isn't their fault.

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Dunwoody Homeowners Association Agenda - updated 9:15 PM

Sunday, July 10, 2016 | 7:30 pm 
North DeKalb Cultural Center, Room 4

Update was distributed July 7 at 9:15 pm

1. Announcements and introduction of distinguished visitors

2. Approval of minutes for June 5, 2016 meeting—Lindsay Ballow

3. Overview of city actions related to DHA membership – Mayor Shortal

4. Brief report on 4th of July parade –Robert Wittenstein

5. Request for Sponsorship – Dunwoody Elementary School Parent Teacher Organization – Laurie Nichols

6. Presentation – SunTrust Bank development proposal for bank relocation in Dunwoody Village—Den Webb (Smith, Gambrell & Russell), Terri Lasoff (SunTrust), Bart Sargent (Architect), Davis Blumenthal (Engineer/Project Manager)

7. Discussion – City actions related to DHA members on city boards and city board members attending DHA meetings; DHA response.

Board only session: Votes as needed on any motions including:
  • DHA action related to city policy changes re: DHA
  • Dunwoody Elementary School Request for funds
  • Potential removal of inactive board members

The word of the day is:


[uh-koun-tuh-buh l]


subject to the obligation to report, explain, or justify something;responsible; answerable.

Last month, the Dunwoody City Council met secretly to change city policy and ban DHA members (not just voting members but ALL members) from serving on certain city boards.  The fact that this conversation regarding dual board membership (public vs private) has been regularly reviewed and questioned over the years is irrelevant.  The action of creating policy outside of a public forum represents the greatest ethical failing of our city government to date.

Realizing this, the council called an emergency public meeting and suspended implementation of this illegally-created policy.

The DHA is now going to discuss how best to hold our government accountable for their actions and how best to legally advocate for that position.  We were supposed to have as a guest speaker an attorney specializing in City Planning and Zoning to discuss a legal perspective on the question; a scheduling conflict came up but Rob will be presenting his thoughts for the board to cosider.

Denny Shortal accepted Rob's invitation to attend the DHA meeting.  He will give a speech but will not stay for the later discussion.  Just like the special called meeting.


SunTrust is in the process of purchasing the Old Hickory House property.  Their legally-required "public meeting" was held a couple of weeks ago.  They are holding a second public meeting with the DHA voluntarily to further reach out to the public.

A couple of points from that first presentation:

1)  This is not an issue of "adding" another bank.  No banks are being added.  SunTrust is merely relocating from a rented space to a new custom built space.  They know the competition is tough here; their goal is to serve their customers.

2)  At the time of the first public meeting, a rumor was circulating on Facebook that the landlords of Shops of Dunwoody refused to share their parking lot with SunTrust (or anyone else) and threatened to "boot" the cars of employees or customers of SunTrust.  I showed the Facebook posts to the team presenting and the categorically denied the rumor.  They pointed out that the storefront where they met was rented from Shops of Dunwoody and there have been no threats of penalizing SunTrust customers or employees in any way.

3)  Even with the requested drive through customer service area and 2 additional parking spaces, they intend to design and landscape the property so it is in greater compliance with the spirit and letter of the Comprehensive Land Use Plan and the Overlay District than it is now.

4)  The presentation team consisted of the property architect, engineer, a corporate real estate executive from Suntrust, the Atlanta area bank manager and the branch manager.  I expect this same team on Sunday.

DHA board meetings are open to the public; come visit and develop an informed opinion on these and other issues affecting our city.

Monday, June 27, 2016

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Dunwoody City Council Damage Control - Too Little, Too Late?

Let's call this my "public comment".  No babysitter in the morning means no attending a meeting either.  But believe me, I will be watching on video and commenting on social media.  No more Miss Nice Guy.

The last time I was this furious and actively sought justice, was over 10 years ago when a staff member at Northside Hospital entered my hospital room while I was sedated after giving birth to my first child and stole a check reorder form from my purse.  Then after ordering new checks from my bank, the crime ring they were working for stole them from the mail and went on a casino gambling spree.

You people on city council violated me and my family and our trust in a way that was just as severe, even as the methods differed.

Get this through your dense heads:  you are not trustworthy.  You are not ethical.   

I don't care how popular you think you are, or what your little favorite causes and groups are, you broke the law and you continue to wield your council seat like a personal fiefdom.  I've caught smaller instances of favortism in the past, even pointed them out so that you can  get yourselves back to the ideals you boasted of during your campaigns for office.

The first words out of each and every one of your mouths at the special called meeting should be the following and no less:

I was wrong.  I misused executive session to take out Shortal's personal vendetta.  I have no excuse and no justification.  I deserve a legal penalty for breaking the law and the trust I asked you to place in me.

Don't even think about trying to claim some kind of moral high ground for this or any other policy or legislation for the rest of your term in office.  If you honestly believe that you are justified in using executive session to single out one civic group for whatever reason, then you have been in office too long.  Pick your ass up out of that seat and walk it out the door - TODAY.

The only chance you have for redemption, either in your office or your personal lives, is to acknowledge the blatant legal betrayal and accept that responsibility in a visible, tangible, meaningful way.  Man up, gird your loins, and face the music, which is just what you would expect from any other elected official.  Maybe - MAYBE - you will be worth speaking to again.  

The fact that you have yet another "executive session" after this emergency meeting would be funny except that you seem to think all is well.


June 24, 2016
9:00 AM – Council Chambers







D.  PUBLIC COMMENT - (Public Comment allows the City Council the opportunity to listen to the public (3 minutes per speaker/30 minutes total.)


1.   Discussion of City Boards and Committees.

F.   PUBLIC COMMENT - Public Comment allows the City Council the opportunity to listen to the public (3 minutes per speaker.)




1.   For the Purposes of Legal, Real Estate, and Personnel Discussions.


Tuesday, June 21, 2016

STOP DIGGING!!! (Op-Ed: Dunwoody mayor's comments offensive, harkening back to Old South, from On Common Ground News)

On June 11, a Lithonia-area paper called On Common Ground News printed an op-ed piece from Mr. Jerome Edmondson, who is running for the DeKalb District 7 seat.  

He attended the Memorial Day celebration at Brook Run park.

It's too late for the people mentioned in the post but perhaps the rest of us can learn how to speak and behave appropriately in the 21st century.

Link:  https://issuu.com/ocgnews/docs/ocg_6-11-16  (Scroll to Page 6)

Screenshot of the op-ed:

Today, Mayor Shortal dismissed the team that has organized Memorial Day and Veterans' Day celebrations in Brook Run for years.  Less than a month after the incidents discussed in the letter.  Call me cynical, but I don't think the real problem has been solved.

Monday, June 20, 2016

99 Red Balloons - Denny Shortal and City Council Declare War on Dunwoody Homeowners Association

You and I in a little toy shop
Buy a bag of balloons with the money we've got
Set them free at the break of dawn
'Til one by one they were gone
Back at base bugs in the software
Flash the message "something's out there!"
Floating in the summer sky
Ninety-nine red balloons go by

Ninety-nine red balloons
Floating in the summer sky
Panic bells, it's red alert
There's something here from somewhere else
The war machine springs to life ....

Read more: Nena - 99 Red Balloons Lyrics | MetroLyrics

Shocker: Shortal purges DHA from city positions

Almost 5 years ago, I opined on this blog that there should be a clear separation between voting board members of any civic group and an official government board.  
My Dunwoody Christmas Wish List
When I brought it up in a meeting, I was almost booed right out of the room.  But I stand by these statements today.  I accepted the Exec nomination knowing full well I would turn down any request to serve on a city board that receives requests from the public and makes recommendation to city council.

Not everyone loves the DHA.  I sure didn't when I moved to Dunwoody in 2004.  It was an argument about DHA's positions about business that got me invited to join the board.  (Yes, really.  Remind me to tell you that story sometime.)

But for a moment, let's take a look at this process and its implications.

1)   It's not just voting board members or executive members that are affected here.  ALL DUES-PAYING members are banned from serving in this capacity, whether you have a voting role or not.  So even if you don't have a conflict of interest, the fact that you are a MEMBER makes you ineligible to participate in government.

Councilmembers John Heneghan and Jim Riticher and Terry Nall are DHA members, by the way.

2)  Only the DHA is targeted.  Even though every homeowners association in Dunwoody has an interest in the real estate development and evolution of the city, only DHA members are banned.  So if you're in one of the following associations, you're good to go.

Ashford Chase Homeowners Association
Ashworth Homeowners Association
Bellewood HOA
Briers North
Brooke Farm
Devinger Homeowners Association
Dunwoody Club Forest Neighbors
Dunwoody Club Forest West
Dunwoody Highlands
Dunwoody North Civic Association
Fairfield Homeowners Association
Lockridge Forest Civic Association (part in Dunwoody; part in Peachtree Corners)
Madison Community Homeowners Association
Madison Square at Dunwoody
Mayfair Park Homeowners Association
Meadowlake at Dunwoody
North Springs Homeowners Association
Oxford Chase Homeowners Association
St. Andrews Circle
Wellesley Place Homeowners Association
Wellington Place Condos
Winter Rose Homeowners Association
Wintercrest Homeowners Association
The Woodlands
Wyntercreek Subdivision

Or are you?  Maybe the DHA member banning is only the first strike and other homeowner associations will be added.  If one HOA can be systematically banned from government participation, then no one is safe.

3)  What about other civic groups?  The Chamber of Commerce has a vested interest in business and real estate development.  Are their members banned?  Especially since the current chair was Mike Davis' campaign manager.  No love lost there.  How about the Nature Center?  Or the Dunwoody Womens' Club?  Are they banned too?  

How about the Dunwoody Preservation Trust or the Brook Run Conservancy?  Are their members banned?  Or did they earn themselves some protection since they supported Denny's campaign for mayor?**

4)  Does this extend to spouses?  For example, I serve on the DHA exec board.  Would Pat Sr be eligible for appointment to a city board or commission?  How about adult children of DHA board members?  Siblings?  In Laws?  How far does this go?

5)  Don't miss the part where any and all officials are banned from visiting DHA meetings.  Even if they sit and keep their mouths shut.  They can't even *hear* what people say in a presentation that is the only place in Dunwoody where any citizen can show up and meet the developers and other parties in person.  Remember the Dunwoody Village townhomes?  The DHA played an integral part in negotiating standards of features for seniors and layout of that to-be-built development that were acceptable to the Vernon North neighborhood right behind it.  City Council just blew hot air after the hard work had been done and had nothing to add but ridiculous demands for the type of models to be presented and other minutiae that are beyond a government's scope.

For all of the talk of "transparency" and "involvement", city council is now diminishing the one venue where citizens can meet the major players and develop an informed opinion about development plans before they go to city government for official review.  That's not building a community.  That's not building trust.  That's not promoting citizen involvement.  That's cutting off communication at the knees.

6)  Speaking of cutting off communication, how about that gag order, threatening legal and ethics violations against those who talked to others about this process?  So city council can illegally change city policy in executive session, but those impacted are threatened?  This has to be a script for a bad sitcom.

7)  If DHA membership was so unethical for board or commission members, why did it take this long to discover it?

Finally, this is a city policy.  City policies, by law, must be voted on in public.  Denny Shortal insisted that this vote be taken in executive session.  That's called abuse of privilege, kiddos, and it's a violation of state law.

Not bad enough news for you?  

The majority of city council went along with him.  Including some who are exuberant about how "ethical" and "transparent" they are.  (Do I really need to name the names here?)  Denny has now blown up each and every campaign promise he made in his little video-recorded house visits where he promised more transparency and integrity.  To add irony to insult, this move is the pinnacle or arrogance - an insult leveled at Mike during the election season.

I regret to say this is only the beginning.  Dick's article above indicates that he's lawyered up and the open records requests will be flying hot and heavy.  There should be more revelations made - assuming someone isn't going to try to weasel out of responding.

This situation is NOT what we signed on for when Dunwoody voted for incorporation.

**Reports came across my desk that some citizens were alarmed at the amount of campaigning DPT board members engaged in for Denny Shortal.  So  much so that complaints were filed with the IRS over their tax-exempt status.

The opinion expressed in this and every post on this blog is my own and does not necessarily reflect that of any other organization with which I am affiliated, or its members.

Sunday, June 19, 2016

So much for Black Walnut Cafe - SunTrust wants to make it a bank.

Remember the sign outside the now-closed and decaying-by-the-day Old Hickory House that said "Anything But a Bank"?

SunTrust took that as a challenge.

SunTrust has purchased the property from Black Walnut Cafe and guess what they want to build there?

But they are submitting a SLUP to request more parking spaces.

The required community meeting is June 22 at 5486 Chamblee Dunwoody Road, Suite 8, from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.  That's inside the Shops of Dunwoody shopping center but can anyone clarify exactly what "Suite 8" is?

Want to tell SunTrust what you think?  Show up and tell them.  This community meeting is a required step in the SLUP process.  They have to look you in the eye and hear what you say.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

...and Let it Begin With Me

From the 2016 Continental Congress at DAR Constitution Hall, the All-American DAR Chorus.
CC is always an uplifting and moving experience.  Every woman there has a direct, familial connection with the founding of this country.  The facts of our history, the country's well-being:  it's personal..  I paged at this conference once in 2004.  (Then I had the kiddos....)  The Chorus chair got everyone back to basics tonight.

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Vendors Wanted to Manage Atlanta's Streetcars

I received this notice from a resource that distributes RFPs to municipal vendors:
Pre-RFP release event is tomorrow afternoon.
Who feels lucky???

Greetings Prospective Contractor:

This is an invitation for the event date below. The City of Atlanta is seeking a mid to long-term solution to provide stable and flexible management for the operation and maintenance of the Atlanta Streetcar system. Prior to the release of a Request for Proposal, the City will host an event to discuss a basic overview of the project and the general contracting process.

This event is designed to attract specific members of the contracting and subcontracting community to share programmatic information about the upcoming project. At this meeting, interested parties with specialties and DBE certifications in the following areas and NAICS codes are invited to attend:

Primary Trades

Urban Mass Transit Maintenance




Electrical Maintenance


Faculty Security


Body Panel/Track Maintenance


Vehicle Maintenance


Rail Engineer


Secondary Trades

Emploment Placement Agencies


Facilities Support Services


Regulation & Admin of Transport Services


The event will take place at City Hall in City Council Chambers on Wednesday June 8, 2016 from 1pm to 3pm. The address is 55 Trinity Ave. 2nd Floor Atlanta, GA 30303. Hope to see you then.


Richard D. Case

Senior Manager

Office of Contract Compliance


Thursday, June 2, 2016

Dunwoody Homeowners Association meeting Sunday, June 5

North DeKalb Cultural Center
Room 4
7:30 PM

The DHA monthly meeting is the place to learn about proposed projects in Dunwoody, meet the involved parties in person, ask your questions, and develop an informed opinion before these requests go to City Council.

Discussion – Review of updated PCID Zoning Code rewrite— Steve Foote

Presentation – Transwestern development proposal for office tower at Perimeter Mall –Jessica Hill, Morris, Manning & Martin and Trent Germano, Transwestern Development Company

This last one will generate the most discussion, IMHO.
This is the group that wants to put up an office tower (with no tenants announced yet) in place of the MARTA parking structure across the street from State Farm and on the same corner as the new High Street development.

They also want a 95% tax abatement from Dunwoody.
I look forward to an explanation as to why they and their project deserve it.

Here's some info on the proposed project from the Atlanta Business Chronicle.


Dunwoody Food Truck Thursdays on June 2

Assuming we don't get the much-needed rain around 5-ish, Food Truck Thursday is back at Brook Run.  5 PM til Dark

Brought to you by the Dunwoody Homeowners Association.  Who is having a public meeting this Sunday to learn more about two proposed developments in the Perimeter.  Learn more in the next post coming soon....

DWG recommends:
Tasting Maine
Mix'd UP Burgers
Nana G's Chicken and Waffles
King of Pops

Any other reviews/critiques of the offerings?  Comments are open.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

INTRODUCING: GA State Representative Tom Taylor - District 79


May has been one busy month.

Tom asked me to recreate his website back in November 2015 when initial plans were being laid for his reelection campaign.

This updated WordPress version launched at the beginning of May 2016.  The responsive design was a traditional American political approach.  The content was formatted to highlight Tom's voting and bill promotion record during his previous time in the House, his record of community support prior to taking the District 79 seat for the first time, plus other commentary as needed.

So why am I talking about this "new" website a month after launch?

Due to the news coverage of Tom's arrest and subsequent legal questions, this was not a typical election season.  Every focus of this website, plus the social media that I also managed, had to be on Tom's record.  Any distraction could diminish the results.  Plus, the opponent in this campaign has a history of aggressive and even violent behaviour and his political supporters weren't much better.  Personal safety procedures, both online and real life, were not afterthoughts.

When anyone of any profession chooses to get into a supportive role in politics or government, it's smart to count the cost beforehand.  I went through this same process when I worked for Nancy Jester's campaign and subsequent Commissioner's websites and former Councilwoman Adrian Bonser's site.  When it comes to building a website and/or managing social media, I work for the official or candidate.  But in the rest of reality and the universe, they work for me as my elected representative.   When everything is going smoothly, that dichotomy is no big deal.  You don't even notice it.  But when there is a legal conflict or problem, it gets complicated.

I resolved it by compartmentalizing my opinions and feelings where the legal issues were concerned from my technical skill and expertise on websites.  That's a skill I picked up while working in oncology research back in the day when I had to turn my feelings off to work with cancer patients in one study or another.    Your reactivate your feelings and process them later when the job is done.

In politics and government, there are going to be legal problems and conflicts.  It's an inevitable nature of the beast.  It's OK if a professional decides they don't want to handle it.  But you make that decision BEFORE you take a job, not after.  I kept my commitment to Tom that I had made 6 months prior to the election getting hot and heavy.  I keep my commitments to all of my clients in the same way.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

VOTE!!! Local Elections Impact Your Life More Than National Elections

Today in DeKalb we have a primary election for State House and Senate seats, and a special election for Tax Commissioner.  You've seen the signs all over Dunwoody and you've probably already found the websites and social media so I trust most people reading this have made up their minds.  Now make it count in the booth.  Your opinion doesn't help if it isn't recorded on a ballot.

We also have a vote on (yet another...) E-SPLOST.  The one you heard about in the news where Superintendent Green wants you to approve the money first, then tell you what it's going to be spent on later.

Compounding this backward planing was a DeKalb Schools robo call last night that was supposed to be merely informative, yet claimed that voting in favor of E-SPLOST would result in capital improvements to "your" childrens' school.

The contradictions are obvious to citizens, but apparently not to most of the school board or to Dr. Green so let's spell them out.

1)  The appeal to improving "your" child's school is bogus without a project list.

2)  The call was made using the DCSS' automated calling system - the same one used to distribute weather closing alerts and requests to follow up on truancy reports if your child is late or absent.  That means tax money was used to persuade parents to vote a certain outcome in the election.  That's illegal, kiddos, but since when has that stopped you before?

I'm headed out to Crossroads Baptist as soon as the garbage is on the curb and my cup of coffee is down.  Every vote counts and every person has an impact today.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Mt Vernon Renaissance

Shout huzzahs from on high - the water mains are replaced, the roads are smoothed, the Chamblee-Dunwoody washboard is (almost) gone and new asphalt is down.  Paint is in progress.

Mt Vernon is now a road capable of the traffic it carries and no longer a glorified cow path.

To some people the most important parts of the road are the 3-4 feet at the edge on either side.

This one's for you!

Friday, May 6, 2016

Dunwoody is getting a dedicated city hall

(Emphases are added.  See notes below.)

Dunwoody, GA – May 5, 2016 – The City of Dunwoody agreed in principal to establish a new location for its City Hall by signing a purchase agreement for the lot and building located at 4800 Ashford Dunwoody Road.

The selection is a result of a two and a half year exploration conducted by city staff and planning consultants to determine the optimum location for the first City Hall complex completely owned by the eight year old municipality. The decision to select 4800 Ashford Dunwoody Road was based on a prioritized list of considerations and needs for a new City Hall, primarily looking at accessibility, convenience, overall cost and capability for future growth.

The agreement signed by the City of Dunwoody covers the purchase of the three and a quarter-acre lot and building for approximately $8.25 million. The city will continue further due diligence and inspection of the property over the next 90 days and, dependent on the due diligence findings, expects to close on the purchase within approximately 120 days.

“We performed extensive assessments and evaluations of available, existing or vacant properties within the city to see which might be the most beneficial solution for our citizens and city staff,” said Dunwoody Mayor Denis Shortal. “As city leaders and staff reviewed options, the 4800 building rose to the top of our list as the most fiscally prudent and logistically sound choice.”

With an estimated 45,000 gross-square feet, the newly purchased building offers slightly more overall square footage than the space currently leased by the city (located at 41 Perimeter Center East) and an annual cost comparable to existing yearly lease terms. The city intends to conduct minor modifications to its future building to create well-organized, efficient office space for the entirety of city staff, police department, municipal court, and city council chambers.

“We believe the new City Hall building will allow us to better serve our citizens,” said Mayor Shortal. “Our intent is to utilize the first floor of the new City Hall as the primary space where citizens and businesses will interact with the city through permitting, licensing, police department, court or council and public meetings. The central location, sufficient parking and overall accessibility make this new City Hall an ideal fit for our community.”

The city anticipates moving into the new City Hall space following the close of the sale and the completion of all planned modifications to the building, estimated to be no later than the end of Q1 2018.

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For more information regarding the City of Dunwoody, please contact Bob Mullen, Marketing and PR Director, at 678.382.6700 or bob.mullen@dunwoodyga.gov.

A few notes:

1)  The location is ideal:  city hall has to serve full-time residents and commuters and visitors alike.  The old C&S Bank building on Ashford Dunwoody is a middle ground for all of those populations. It may not be the geographic center of the city, but it is the "center" of where everyone can get to it.

2)  I've been inside - even without redecorating or renovating it's an attractive space.

2.5)  added - the press release makes no mention of the chamber or CVB space.  I'm sure details about their futures is forthcoming

3)  Two and a half years ago the process for finding a permanent city hall was begun.  That puts the process at around January 2014.  Mike Davis was the mayor at that time.  That means, Mike Davis' administration began the process that made this result possible.

4)  During the DHA candidate forum in 2015, Mike and Denny had to know that the process for obtaining a site for a permanent city hall had to be well on its way to a conclusion.  And yet, when Denny was asked about a city hall location, he clearly stated that a "citizen committee" had to be formed to determine the best way to proceed:  build, buy, or lease.  I didn't hear any word of a citizen committee being formed, but it must have happened because Denny said so in his campaign speech.   it had to happen very quickly because Denny was inaugurated in January and this deal is announced in early May. 

Anyone who served on this committee, please post in the comments here or on any other blog/social media and let the public know what actually happened.

Here's the video from the DHA forum.  Denny's comments on city hall and a "citizen forum" to determine the best course of action begin at about the 51:49 minute mark.