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.


Joe Seconder said...

This is going to be challenged in the courts and/or struck down by our State Attorney General. For starters, it violates the US Constitution's First Amendment "the right of the people peaceably to assemble" by prohibiting Council members to attend DHA meetings.

dpgroupie said...

There was a time when I would have rather gouged out my eyeballs with a blunt instrument than say "Gee, maybe things weren't so bad under Dekalb County", but.......

Unknown said...

Your link to St. Andrews Circle does not resolve to a host. Mike may have dropped the domain. In any event we ain't got no HOA, we're just neighbors. Intentionally Unorganized works for us but apparently not so much for others.

In the good ole days DHA played the role of loyal and powerfully lawyered up opposition to DeKalb's predatory zoning and developers who wanted to abuse it. Were it not for DHA we'd have a mega grocery across from the library (instead of some really nice condos) and a couple of closed groceries just up the street in the village proper. Good on them. Then.

The DHA was at the very least a catalyst if not a driving force behind forming the City. Perhaps with that great success came a sense of entitlement, perchance even ownership. As Williams points out in his article our first mayor stepped in from his position as DHA President with nary a vote needing to be counted. Some might see this as Democracy Inaction.

In any event the DHA was transformed from a critical thinking, and sometimes just usefully critical organization to a pipeline to City Hall. When the Redshirters, our local outsiders, popped up they were attacked as not having "paid their dues" which seemed code for "what have you done in 'the community'?" Having held positions in DHA was a significant plus during the election--at least based on the results as any Redshirter facing a DHA-credentialed opponent lost.

You're not the first person to express buyer's remorse. The bloke up the street, who was on a "Task Force" starting saying "this is NOT what we voted for when we voted for a City" well over two years ago. Maybe three. Hard to tell--he whines a lot. I was not altogether unhappy with the benign neglect of DeKalb and based on services like paving (the end of my street is going to gravel) I do not really see a meaningful difference. I suppose I should appreciate the entertainment value the City offers. From Chickens to Parkways to Anderson to Bonser to "Smart City" to the Walmart logo to Chick-fil-A to Redshirts to ride-him-out-on-a-rail Hutmacher to questionable bond referenda and now this. I probably missed many others but I travel a lot and cannot keep up. I'm sure you know all this and much more.

Maybe the honeymoon is finally over and DHA can return to being the loyal opposition.

SDOC Publishing Internet Solutions said...


You said: "You're not the first person to express buyer's remorse."

Please do not project your personal feelings on to my thoughts. Your feelings and others' ideas are not interchangeable. You may portray that on Other Dunwoody but that's where it ends.

Show up once in a while and talk to people outside the blog where they are able to respond and the comments aren't turned off. I'm not expressing buyers remorse in regards to Dunwoody's incorporation. I am criticizing bad decisions recently enacted by our current Mayor. And there's more of that to come.

Max said...

I think that Joe has a valid point and that the recent announcements may need to be scaled back - Sort of like a developer asking for 75% apartments and taking less...

You need to be positively recognized for being on the DHA Board, a lot of work and dealing with a wide range of strong personalities is commendable civic service.

In my opinion, this action is a direct result of the Crown/GoldKist interaction with DHA. You don't see ANY other group forcing a kow-tow from developers and having the power of contract with them. Certainly not C of C. Your argument is flawed on that basis.

How can any City, anywhere, live up to a contract made by any 3rd Party, especially a powerful HOA? How does it work for ANY City to become obligated by an outside group, regardless of the nobility of their intentions? Others have made this point in the past.

In my opinion, had DHA been negotiating with anyone less classy and professional than the Crown folks, we would already be in Court. Luckily this stunt was not pulled with a certain Boston based developer.

How the heck did you all think negotiating a $3/4 MM payment was something the City could endorse?

SDOC Publishing Internet Solutions said...

Max -
The best answer I can give you is "we all" were not unanimously in favor of that action.
Your answer will involve responses from those who represent the spectrum of opinions in the room at the times it was discussed.

You're welcome to come to any Sunday night meeting and learn these opinions first hand and voice your own. ;-)

SDOC Publishing Internet Solutions said...

Before I forget, to your points:

I have trouble putting the words "classy" and "Crown" in the same sentence given the legal mouthpiece that enjoys conflict with the DHA and has for decades. Some lawyers who enjoy placing low-rent apartments and extended-stay motels wherever he can get away with it are not shy about suing. It has nothing to do with Crown's alleged "classiness". They don't have a case to sue.

The "stunt" was "pulled" with a "Boston-based developer" - that is, they entered into a legally binding agreement with the DHA (before Dunwoody's incorporation) over the ratio of rental to owned units. DeKalb County (the municipal authority at the time) did not go into a panic over an imagined future lawsuit.

As always - you are welcome to join us at any Sunday night meeting and learn these issues for yourself and lend your opinion in the public discussion. :-)

Max said...

Thanks SDOC!

I respect the work being done by others and will let those processes perc on their own - I have no patience for meetings, even when be paid to attend. This will all work out and you add a good voice to the mix.