Wednesday, December 14, 2011

My Dunwoody Christmas Wish List

Fresh blood, fresh ideas are coming in January.  I don't believe for a minute that the "vacation" time during our holidays will be empty.  I can smell the brainstorming from my own office.

Here's my wish list for the consideration of the seven "Santa Claus"s that will take their seats in a couple of weeks.

1)  Create a law/ordinance/directive to clarify the distinctions between commissions officially organized by the government and local advocacy groups. If someone gets appointed to a commission, and they're already serving on the board of (for example) the DHA, the Chamber of Commerce, the Nature Center, PCID, any other civic association, they have to resign from that board before accepting the appointment.  Either be a government-level arbiter that is able to assemble and balance all of the needs of the different groups in the city, or be a private-sector advocate for one small segment of it.  Pick one.  When a person serves as both private and public officials at the same time, the potential for conflicts of interest abound, and could potentially involve legal action via the Department of Justice.  No one has time for that.  Just avoid the conflict up front.

2)  Put the everyday needs of the everyday Dunwoody citizen at the center of the zoning rewrite.  Too often the zoning codes that the commissions sat around masturbating to had more to do with  superficial appearances and less to do with how the residents themselves use the goods and services provided by Dunwoody's business community.  For example, whose idea was it to not have easy-to-read "OPEN" signs on storefronts in Dunwoody Village???  Or to have lighting that makes menu boards and drive-throughs difficult to read?  What dumb mistakes!  When I'm running around with kids and getting errands done before school pickup times, I have to look quickly to see if the store I want to use is open.  If I don't see a clear "OPEN" sign, or other easy-to-read signage from my car, I'm not stopping.  So, Almighty Commission Members, how exactly did your ordinance benefit me, the Dunwoody Homeowner, with this aspect of the ordinance?  You didn't.  You made it difficult for me to get the resources I need close to home.   And this is just one example.  You have a chance early on in the life of Dunwoody to create ordinances that make life easier for the citizens.  Don't repeat your past mistakes.  This is a living city, not a replica by Norman Rockwell where ceramic dolls sit where you place them and do nothing.  Create ordinances FOR the residents' practical needs, not separate from them.

3)  While on the subject of the Zoning rewrite, incorporate the fact that different segments of Dunwoody have entirely different characters.  Some are strictly single-family residential.  Others (like the PCID) are different.  All are going to require different standards of zoning to match their character.  Don't punish the non-single-family regions for their existence.  In fact, it's the PCID's commercial nature that makes Dunwoody feasible.   Remember how DeKalb County was happy to siphon our taxes and yet not provide the services we paid for?  The situation is similar.  If Dunwoody is happy with the money PCID generates, then makes it difficult for them to function with overly-restrictive ordinances, then the government has become a clone of Vermin (sic) Jones' administration.

4)  Last one on zoning, I promise.  People are choosing to use their homes and property for a greater variety of activities.  Each activity may or may not be a threat to the "residential nature" that we purchased our homes for.  I don't believe that anyone in their heart of hearts gives a damn what others do on their property, so long as they don't have to deal with it.  That's not unreasonable.  There's potential for a lot of leeway.  Write your residential zoning codes with an eye toward flexibility within a defined limit, as I described a few months ago.  Make sure Code Enforcement is sufficient to handle the full daytime population when questions or problems arise.  You'll spend less time rehashing Every. Single. Thing.  a homeowner wants to do with their home and more time "fixing stuff".  ;-)

5)  Best thing I've read from a council member so far was in the Crier this week.  Excerpt below.  Full article is here:

In an interview later in the week with The Crier, Davis said the first thing he was going to do was obtain an office. Wright has not used one very much.
“I’m going to be in the office on a regular basis,” Davis said. ....
Davis said he intended to hold regular office days to which the public will be invited.

Outstanding idea, and one I hope is maintained throughout this administration.  In the future Dunwoody will probably have its own civic complex and our elected officials can probably count on office space there.  Until that day arrives, a local office space is a sound compromise.  I'll add a few points to it.

  • Create an office space for ALL SEVEN council members for this purpose.  Get everyone who is able, to hold regular office hours.  Divide the cost seven ways.  Not only will the citizenry benefit from knowing where and when to go to talk to a representative, "office hours" can help council members contain their city responsibilities and separate them from home/family/personal responsibilities.  
  • Invest in an office space away from Dunwoody Village or from the commercial area around City Hall.  Get closer to the average citizen, like the majority who didn't vote.  For some reason they feel that their opinion is not worth casting a vote.  Find out why.  Go outside your normal mindset and meet some Dunwoody citizens you wouldn't meet ordinarily.  You may find a new supporter or even a solution to a future problem that you wouldn't have if you hadn't stepped outside your comfort zone.  
  • Be careful out there.  No one should use an office space alone, no matter where it is.  Some scum have no problem knocking over banks near Dunwoody Village, don't make it easy for them to come for you.  
  • Even after Dunwoody builds its own civic complex, it's going to be necessary to go OUT TO people to meet them and hear what's happening on the street outside of election campaigns.  People let their guard down when on their home turf, even around the swimming pool of their local swim/tennis club or apartment complex.  It's amazing how open your constituents will be if you chat while they're wearing little more than their underwear.  You can also consider holding city council meetings in various places outside city hall, a suggestion I made some time ago on John's blog when he opened the question about how to develop Brook Run.  You've got school buildings, a theater (if it's ever renovated), churches, synagogues, the J, the library, and even picnic pavilions in parks.  You reached out to the public where they were during your campaigns and it worked - you're elected.  Keep up the tradition now that you're in office!
Just five items.  Not too much for Santa to ponder, right?  

Obligatory work comments:  "vacation" is a relative term.  My "vacation" will be made up of proposals to those companies that requested them, starting projects on new contracts, and lots (LOTS....) of system upgrades on my hosting server.  Lots o' new goodies for the good boys and girls to use on their web services for Christmas and Chanukkah!  If you'd like to chat about an idea for your website or other Internet outreach, you can contact me 24/7 at  I will always find time to pencil in one of my neighbors for their project.  

Here's another hint:  keep your eyes peeled for the Chamber's Business Expo to be unveiled in January.  Lots of local business by your neighbors making their living.  You'd be amazed at what big  things are happening right here in town.  

Merry Christmas, Happy Chanukkah, Happy 2012 to everybody!  Unless I hear from some of you before then I'll see you next year.


Anonymous said...

Regarding point number one. Such an ordinance was proposed a few years back. It was defeated 6 to 1. No one saw a problem

SDOC Publishing Internet Solutions said...

A number of things have happened since a few years back.

Like the head of a local HOA advocating against a certain motion by a citizen while simultaneously sitting on the Zoning Board of Appeals who was hearing the case. Had this person not been jerked back into reality by someone with extensive knowledge of federal law, that conflict could have led to a lawsuit w/ the DOJ. This particular conflict of interest would involve a civil rights violation due to government corruption.

Call me crazy but I prefer to avoid legal conflicts like this before they happen. Letting a conflict lead to a lawsuit to be defended then thinking, "hey, yeah, maybe we should be more careful about that" is a waste of time and money. Time for city hall to be more proactive in avoiding conflicts of interest, IMHO.

Thanx for visiting!

Anonymous said...

I don't disagree with your opinion in the least. In fact I completely agree with it. Interesting to note that the person who pointed out that there are conflicts of interest when advocacy group officials sit on commissions and pushed for an ordinance to prevent it from happening, was recently voted out of office.

People get the kind of government they deserve. To quote another blogger, "I'm just sayin'"

SDOC Publishing Internet Solutions said...

Cool. Thanks for pointing that out.
The fact is the general citizenry doesn't keep track of every vote that every council member makes. Even if they did they'd find a series of votes and statements they both agree and disagree with for every council member - as I do, and as I'm sure you probably do as well.

Let's hope the issue gets revisited in the light of 20/20 hindsight of 3 years. Cheers! :-)

Anonymous said...

Regarding office space for the council. They already have offices at city hall. I believe those council persons who don't have full time jobs do use them occasionally.
Also, they all receive hundreds of e-mails each weeks and do respond to them. All council meetings are streamed live via the internet. I don't see how they could make themselves much more accessible than at present. I believe most of the decision that the council has made including zoning ordinances have been based in large measure on what they hear from constituents.
They may be wacky at times, but they appear to be what many residents are clamoring for.