Saturday, April 30, 2011

Update From Councilman Wittenstein

Dear Dunwoody Friends and Neighbors,

Everywhere I look I see signs of an improving economy. The stock market is up, interest rates are rising, unemployment is falling and in Dunwoody, in April, we issued more permits than we have in any prior month during the city’s existence.
This is obviously great news. This improving picture has caused a new sense of urgency with regard to the acquisition of land for parks and greenspace. As a community we have become accustomed to a pitifully small amount of park space, no matter what standard or metric you use.
We have a closing window of opportunity to acquire under-utilized property and convert it to community use. We have made a big step in that direction by putting the “PVC Farm” next to Georgetown under contract. As I look around Dunwoody I see several other opportunities and I worry that in a year or two we will see many of these picked up by developers and forever off the market as potential greenspace.
To counter-balance this, I am keenly aware of the pull elected officials (including me) feel to DO THINGS—many of which involve spending your money.
Without exception, the mayor and the members of the city council are conservative and we are determined to live within our budget. We can lower our expectations and accept the current small amount of parkland and greenspace or we can decide as a community that land acquisition and development of a parks network is a priority we are willing to fund.
At our May 9th work session we will begin discussing whether we should put a parks and greenspace bond referendum on the ballot in November. We will also discuss whether to put a transportation bond referendum on the ballot. This is an important community discussion. If these items are put on the ballot, it isn’t clear to me which way the voters will go. There is a lot of taxpayer fatigue—which I share. There is also a general feeling of dissatisfaction with government, which I, too, often feel.
A counter-weight to this is a feeling of community spirit in Dunwoody. We have a community that is more willing and able to invest in our community. We have seen our community transformed by a new city government and I think we have a higher level of trust in our new government than many places where the system has become entrenched. It may be now or never.
It is too early to say “here is what it would cost the average family” or “here is what it would provide for the community.” I’ll provide additional information as it becomes available and I’m sure there will be other sources for news as we head towards November. Stay tuned.
Finally, I expect the city council to place on the November ballot a referendum for voter approval to allow Sunday sales of beer and wine in Dunwoody.



Monday, April 25, 2011

Top Finalist Drops Out Of DeKalb Superintendent Search

WSB-TV DEKALB COUNTY, Ga. -- Dekalb County school leaders are back to square one in their search for a new superintendent, since the top finalist pulled her name out of the running this weekend.

Channel 2’s Richard Belcher broke the story Friday that six members of the nine-member DeKalb School Board backed Dr. Lillie Cox for the job, but negotiations over her contract were bogged down because of what some board members considered overly generous salary and benefits demands.
One critic said Dr. Cox, who is currently superintendent of schools in Hickory, N.C., called her demands "platinum-plated."
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported Saturday that Dr. Cox wanted a 3-year contract that would pay her $275,000 per year and would have a roll-over provision that would extend her contract by one year at the end of each school year, in effect, creating a perpetual 3-year contract.
She also wanted 15-month severance pay -- about $343,750 -- if she was terminated and a guarantee of a due process hearing before she could be fired.
Severance pay has been a controversial issue for the DeKalb School System.
The board had to pay out nearly $400,000 when it fired Johnny Brown as superintendent in 2004.
Crawford Lewis received about $95,000 when he was fired a year ago. Lewis is now awaiting trial on state racketeering charges related to construction contracts.

For more, read the DeKalb School Watch blog, which has information on the negotiations with Cox getting leaked, and how that played a large role in her withdrawing as a candidate.  Shame on whomever leaked the negotiations (especially if it was a board member or member of the school system), but quite frankly, if that's the reason Ms. Cox withdrew from consideration, than in my mind she wasn't the right person for the job.  The person that gets the job better have awfully thick skin, and better be able to put up with a lot more than a leak in negotiations!

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Are Dunwoody Home Prices at 1997 Level?

The article below appeared in Thursday's Atlanta Journal Constitution.  It suggest that metro area home prices are at 1997 levels.  While this may be true of the area as a whole - and I have my doubts - rest assure that Dunwoody is not at 1997 levels.  With that said, Dunwoody is at 2001-2004 pricing
If a homeowner is serious about selling his or her house in this market, be prepared to accept market value.  What I like to tell my sellers is, look at your home as stock.  If General Motors stock was trading (selling) at $49 per share 4 years ago, and it's now trading at $25 per share, how much would you expect to pay for a share of General Motors stock?  It doesn't matter what you think it's worth, it only matters what someone is willing to pay for it - which is usually market value. 

By Rachel Tobin

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
The median sales price of a home in metro Atlanta dipped by $14,600 to just under $100,000 in March, according to new data from the National Association of Realtors.
“We’re back to almost 1997 levels,” said Steve Palm of housing data firm SmartNumbers. “It’s pretty bad and it’s not going to get better either.”
The volume of home sales in the area also dipped -- by 6.5 percent compared to the same month a year ago -- according to the data released Wednesday.
Palm said getting the housing market in better shape hinges on the economy, which he believes has not turned the corner.
In a speech to the Atlanta Press Club on Wednesday, Gov. Nathan Deal said this of the housing market, “It is truly one of the most troubling parts of our economy.”
It is a situation, he noted, that affects local governments more than the state, which gets a small percentage of the taxes paid by homeowners.
“What we have to do is create greater job opportunities,” Deal said.
Nationwide, the picture was slightly better than metro Atlanta. The median single-family home price in the U.S. fell $9,000 to $160,500, while sales volume declined 6.9 percent.
The South saw an interesting trend: Sales of existing single-family homes in the mid range -- between $100,000 to $500,000 -- declined significantly, while sales of homes from $500,000 to $1 million or more increased significantly.
The markets showed the best improvement in March were San Antonio, where the median home price increased 3.6 percent, and Washington, where it increased 1 percent.
The worst markets in March were St. Louis, with a 20.2-percent drop in the median home price, followed by Cincinnati’s 18.4-percent drop and Minneapolis-St. Paul’s 15.2-percent decline.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Odds & Ends

Dunwoody United Methodist Uses Facebook for Japan Relief

By Jennifer Leslie
WXIA-TV & Dunwoody Resident

DUNWOODY, Ga. -- Dunwoody United Methodist Church has launched a Facebook campaign to invite people to attend Easter services and help Japan at the same time.

The church has placed targeted ads on Facebook for Easter and Holy Week services.
The Easter ad contains an incentive. If the visitor clicks on the ad, they will see a coupon that they can print out and place in the church offering plate on Easter morning.
For each coupon, DUMC will give a donation to UMCOR (United Methodist Committee on Relief) Japan Relief.
Holy Week services beginning at noon each day, starting on Monday, April 18, and include a complimentary lunch afterward.
"This is an effort to bring people into the church and give them the opportunity to assist a worthy cause through us, all in one shot," said Senior Pastor B. Wiley Stephens.
DUMC members have already given generously to help the victims of the earthquake and tsunami in Japan.
The congregation has sent $24,176 to UMCOR for Japan relief through the "Miracle of His Touch" special offering.
Members pledged more than $70,000 for earthquake relief in Haiti last year.

Sunday Alcohol Sales

As reported in this week's Dunwoody Crier, the Dunwoody City Council will begin discussions next month on Sunday sales of beer, wine and distilled spirits (click on the link to learn, exactly, what a distilled spirit is).
According to The Crier, Dunwoody City Attorney Brian Anderson said the council will take up the measure with the idea of placing it on the November ballot.  I realize there are some who are against Sunday sales for the reason that it will lead to an increase in alcohol-related crimes such as DUI, but studies and statistics on this subject are mixed (read DUI Foundation).  With that being the case, I really don't see an issue with Sunday sales (it seems inconsistent to allow sales on Monday-through-Saturday but not on Sunday).  Stay tuned.

All Saints Fish Fry Sets New Record

The All Saints' Knights of Columbus held its final Lenten Fish Fry this past Friday night, and 2011 was a record-breaking year.  Over 7,500 meals were served, shattering the old record by more than 800 meals.  All proceeds from the fish frys go towards Knights of Columbus charities. Said Grand Knight Stan Wasowski, "this is a wonderful community, we can't thank you enough."

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Lemonade Days are Here

It's been almost a couple of weeks since my last blog, so there are a few items to catch up with.  First off, Lemonade Days started Thursday and continues through Sunday at Brook Run Park.  Lemonade Days is the annual fund raiser for the Dunwoody Preservation Trust and is about as family friendly as it gets.  For more information click on the link above or on the picture below, which will take you to a printable coupon.

Weather provided, Friday night will be the marque evening at Lemonade Days as the Dunk Tank will be up-and-running with members of the city council front-and-center.   Check out the schedule below.  Does anyone want to take a shot at new school board member Nancy Jester?  This is your chance!

The Dunwoody Homeowners' Association's April meeting is 7:30pm this Sunday at the Spruill Arts Center (next to the library).   To view this Sunday's agenda, which is rather light by comparison, click here.

Want to be a sponsor for the Dunwoody Parade?  Click on the "Celebrating Our Freedoms" below for details.  It may be well worth your time, and not as expensive as you might think!