Tuesday, November 8, 2011

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?


No comments: