Tuesday, December 1, 2009

City Celebrates 1st Anniversary

The City of Dunwoody celebrated its first anniversary on Tuesday, and for the most part, "so far so good!"
Mayor Ken Wright and the city council should be applauded for all the long hours of work in making the first year a success. The city got off the ground with very few hitches. The mayor hired an extremely capable city manager in Warren Hutmacher, who in turn hired a more than capable, community-minded police chief in Billy Grogan. While Hutmacher has managed to put Dunwoody in the black after one year, thanks to smart use of outsourcing, Grogan has made the police department a visible staple of the community, something it wasn't under DeKalb County's reign.
Not to be overlooked, the city's court system, which has contributed to Dunwoody's projected first-year surplus of $2 million. And our elected officials appear headed in the right direction concerning zoning and code enforcement (please don't bring up the chickens).

But like all cities, even one-year old Dunwoody has issues and in my humble opinion our elected officials haven't made all the right decisions. The council clearly dropped the ball in acquiring control of our parks from DeKalb County. Early on, DeKalb CEO Burrell Ellis offered us a long-term lease at a minimal rate, with full control, as well as the $6 million in unspent bond money. For whatever reason we turned it down. Now we're negotiating to buy the parks for as much as $4 million. And who knows if the $6 million is even part of the negotiations. Dunwoody has an overall budget of $16 million, so there is no way we can afford to pay DeKalb a quarter of that.
Speaking of budget, our police department eats up close to $6 million, which is almost 40 percent (and more than double what the Citizens for Dunwoody estimated). That's way too much, and this is not a knock on Police Chief Grogan. I'd ask for the moon too if I were police chief. The problem is the council is giving him the moon! Instead of those dollars going to police services, we need to allocate more money to improvements in infrastructure. Here's hoping our roads don't get neglected for too long, and our much overdue road improvements happen sooner than later.
The other issue that I have a bone to pick is with business license fees. Because the city whiffed on hiring the right company to collect these fees, tax dollars are lagging behind and at the last council meeting in November city staff recommended that some Dunwoody companies have their fees raised by over 200 percent. 200 percent! Can you image your property taxes being raised 200 percent! The council did the prudent thing and voted against the recommendation.
It may sound like I'm complaining, but as a citizen I have the right, if not the obligation, to ask questions of our elected officials. It's all about checks and balances.
Again, I applaud the mayor and council, and thank them for a job well done, especially John Heneghan who has made our city government the most transparent in the state. But that doesn't mean our elected officials get a free pass. Or free health insurance - but that's a matter for another day.

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