Thursday, January 30, 2014

Civil Emergency Message at the request of the Georgia Emergency Management Agency in Atlanta Georgia.

A state of emergency remains in effect for all of Georgia due to impacts from a winter storm on Tuesday through this morning, Thurs., Jan. 30, 2014.

The Civil Emergency Message will remain in effect until noon today and primarily pertains to the Atlanta metro counties. Those counties include Fulton, Dekalb, Clayton, Cobb, Gwinnett, Douglas, Rockdale, Fayette, Henry and Cherokee.

Abandoned vehicles still litter highways and Interstates
in the metro Atlanta region.
Solid sheets of compacted ice and snow continue on many sections of roadways in the Atlanta metro area. This continues to cause extremely hazardous road conditions with some areas still impassable. Roads will be extremely treacherous through Thursday morning or until the ice melts.

The Georgia Emergency Management Agency requests that travel be limited to emergencies only for your safety, and for the safety of emergency officials and Georgia Department of Transportation employees that continue to respond to the dangerous impacts of the winter storm.

What is a Civil Emergency Message?

A message issued by the National Weather Service in coordination with Federal, state or local government to warn the general public of a non-weather related time-critical emergency which threatens life or property, e.g. nuclear accident, toxic chemical spill, etc. The CEM is a higher priority message than the Local Area Emergency (LAE), but the hazard is less specific than the Civil Danger Warning (CDW) Source:

Get the Cell Out - Atlanta hopes everyone is safe.  Drive with care and stay home if possible.  Schools in DeKalb County are not in session today.  A message about possible delays or closures for tomorrow will be posted on the school system website.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Bill Could Allow Cell Towers in Residential Areas


Posted in January on the Georgia Municipal Association website.

Don Parsons (R) -
a former BellSouth
executive and member
of ALEC, continues
the push for
making life easier for
cell tower companies.
But, wasn't he elected
to represent the
people in his district?
During the 2013 legislative session Rep. Don Parsons (R-Marietta), chairman of the House Energy, Utilities & Telecommunications Committee, introduced legislation supported by several telecommunications companies that would severely limit the ability of cities to determine where a cell tower could be placed within the city. While the bill did not pass in 2013, GMA anticipates an even more ramped-up effort by the telecommunications industry this year.

House Bill 176 is a significant alteration to the way local governments review and regulate cell towers. GMA believes this bill will seriously impair the ability of local governments to protect the public from the intrusion and expansion of towers in locations that are not ideal, or even appropriate, for the construction of a tower. Of particular concern is that GMA believes HB 176 bill would make it very difficult to prevent the building of telecommunication towers in a residential areas. 

HB 176 also contains several other provisions that would be damaging to a community. For example, cities would be prevented from imposing surety requirements to ensure that abandoned or unused wireless faculties are removed. Abandoned and unused towers are eyesores and public safety hazards. Additionally, the HB 176 would prevent a city from determining the rental rate for siting a cell tower on publicly owned property. A city would only be permitted to charge a “market rate” for public property, regardless of the rate the wireless industry would pay to site a cell tower on private property.

GMA believes the construction of new cell towers is necessary for economic development and to ensure a high quality of life for residents, however the placement of new towers must take into consideration all factors that are important to the host community.

For more information contact Marcia Rubensohn at

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

SACS takes DeKalb Schools off probation

by Ken Watts

STONE MOUNTAIN — The DeKalb School District is no longer on probationary accreditation status. Mark Elgart, the president and CEO of AdvanceEd, the parent company of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools made the announcement Jan. 21 at a packed board meeting at school district headquarters in Stone Mountain.

A standing-room-only crowd listened as Dr. Mark Elgart detailed the progress made by DeKalb Schools in his report on the system's accreditation status.
After reviewing the district's progress in meeting 11 required actions, Elgart said the accrediting agency has placed the district on "warned" status, a couple of notches below full accreditation.

Elgart said the district has met eight of the 11 actions and is still in progress on the remaining three.

"This district has come a long way in a very short time, and frankly we were surprised that you've made so much progress so quickly," Elgart said.

SACS downgraded DeKalb's accreditation in December 2012 after citing governance, financial and student performance problems.

A SACS inspection team visited the school system in December for an evaluation and noted its improvement.

SACS will return in six months for another review of the district.

DeKalb will have to show that it can sustain its improvement and fulfill the remaining actions, Elgart said.

Gov. Nathan Deal praises the work done by current board members to move the school system in the right direction.

Gov. Nathan Deal, who replaced six of nine board members in 2013 after the accreditation crisis, spoke at the board meeting and praised his appointees for their work.

“You have shown my actions and my confidence in you to be well-placed,” he said.

Superintendent Michael Thurmond said when he took over in Feb. 2013 there were questions about the district's viability.

"Things were in chaos and we were on the brink of losing accreditation," said Thurmond to reporters after the meeting.

"Now that's no longer a threat and we can build from this solid foundation."

Board Chair Melvin Johnson acknowledged the work that remains.

"We are only on the 50-yard line," Said Johnson after Elgart's remarks.

"We want to score a touchdown. And that touchdown will be student achievement and full accreditation."

Thursday, January 9, 2014

T-Mobile sues Johns Creek over cell tower denial

T-Mobile has filed suit in federal court against the city of Johns Creek for denying its application to build a 134-foot cell tower on Rogers Circle in a rural area of the city.

At a meeting attended by dozens of residents in October, the city council voted to deny the telecom company a zoning variance to construct the tower on land currently zoned for agriculture.
It is the second north Fulton city to run into legal troubles with T-Mobile.

Earlier this year, the company filed suit against the city of Milton for denying a similar application. The city ultimately declared a moratorium on new cell tower applications until it could craft a new ordinance, which ultimately passed in August. The revised ordinance calls for a more detailed application process and more restrictive policies regarding location and height of cell towers, primarily for aesthetic purposes. It also institutes a licensing fee.

The Johns Creek decision came after a public hearing in which five people, including a representative of the current owner of the property, spoke against the tower.

Resident Lisa Muzi presented the council with a petition signed by more than 700 residents in opposition to the tower.

Jay Stroman, vice president for advancement at Young Harris College, said as trustee of the property, the college is committed to maintaining its value. A cell tower, he said, could diminish the property value by as much as half, he said.

The college assumed ownership of the property in July, following the death of the former owner whose family had been working with T-Mobile.

City council members pointed out that the proposed site is in one of Johns Creek's last rural areas and contains numerous historic sites. They also said they were not convinced the company explored alternatives to the site.

In its court filing, attorneys for T-Mobile said the company performed all the studies and met all the requirements set out in the city's ordinance. It further acceded to any conditions for landscaping and buffers recommended by the planning staff.

The council's decision, the company attorneys argued, was made in bad faith and has caused T-Mobile unnecessary trouble and expense.

Representatives from Johns Creek and T-Mobile would not comment on the litigation.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Revealed: The NSA’s Secret Campaign to Crack, Undermine Internet Security

by Jeff Larson, ProPublica, Nicole Perlroth, 

The New York Times, and Scott Shane, 

The New York Times, Sep. 5, 2013, 2:08 p.m.

The National Security Agency headquarters at Fort Meade, Md.
The National Security Agency is winning its long-running secret war on encryption, using supercomputers, technical trickery, court orders and behind-the-scenes persuasion to undermine the major tools protecting the privacy of everyday communications in the Internet age, according to newly disclosed documents.

Many users assume — or have been assured by Internet companies — that their data is safe from prying eyes, including those of the government, and the N.S.A. wants to keep it that way. The agency treats its recent successes in deciphering protected information as among its most closely guarded secrets, restricted to those cleared for a highly classified program code-named Bullrun, according to the documents, provided by Edward J. Snowden, the former N.S.A. contractor.
The agency has circumvented or cracked much of the encryption, or digital scrambling, that guards global commerce and banking systems, protects sensitive data like trade secrets and medical records, and automatically secures the e-mails, Web searches, Internet chats and phone calls of Americans and others around the world, the documents show.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

No Big Surprise: Dunwoody Wants Out.

Dunwoody residents want out of the public school system, but there's more to this story than what one might assume.  Good parents in good neighborhoods want something better, right?  But, if that were true, why are the legislators only now starting to listen to them?  What has happened to spur this sudden call for change?  The parents and even Dunwoody's former School Board Member Nancy Jester, have been calling for change for a long time.

But, according to Sen. Millar, everyone cares about money.  Here's his take on the bill to create a Dunwoody City School System.  That must be the case in Dunwoody as they have been disappointed in losing some big opportunities for businesses to relocate to their area and the blame was the failing school system.  But, isn't this what parents have been warning about for years?  In fact, isn't it really the case that the parents who could afford it left the school system for private schools years ago?

Have they come back to try and regain something they have already decided to work around?  OR, did the exit of the wealthy families from the county's system start the decade-long demise whereby open seats began to be filled through federal legislation that forced schools with high rates of failure to recommend their worst students to be bused to the school of their own choosing anywhere else in the system, where there was room for them?  That's part of the loophole legislation called "No Child Left Behind."  It worked more like, "No Child Left in One Place Very Long."

To prevent Dunwoody from becoming overwhelmed with difficult students, the charter and magnet programs helped to feed their high school, and Chamblee's high school, with the best and the brightest recruits from all across the county.

But, didn't that open up seats everywhere else for that pesky legislation to fill?  Yes, so many Lakeside and Tucker students headed up to Dunwoody Schools while Stone Mountain and Clarkston started their bus routes earlier and earlier to ride over to schools in Central DeKalb.  That opened up a few (or a lot) of seats at schools where no one was left to bus over so then the rounds of school closing began.  Now South DeKalb is filled with beautiful schools with very few students and a lot of empty buildings for sale.
When we were working together, we were making the
biggest impact on the school system.  North and South
DeKalb residents need to listen to each other, not to the
same politicians who have created the idea of this great
divide only to keep themselves in office and their hands
in the cookie jar.  Cities will bring harm to those who live
both inside and outside their borders.

So, now that the system hit "rock bottom," and the school board was removed, now what?   Well, one would think that the parents and community members would rally around the new, highly qualified appointed board, right?  After all, these are the folks who were selected from a pool of applicants by the Governor to get things back on track.  But, instead, the various political districts in the county began to unveil their plans to break away from the system entirely.

They are undermining the very outcome that they fought so hard to get.   For one brief moment, all of DeKalb was working together.  Parents in the north and south were coming together, talking and working out plans to ensure education for all students.  They were learning that many of their complaints were actually very similar and that it was possible to work on solutions that did not involved "taking" or harming another area just to benefit their own.

The movement toward new cities in DeKalb County is about the school system, make no mistake about that. It will bring harm to those both inside and outside each of the city borders.  Cities compete against each other; they do not encourage working together.  But, they do something else that may not sound harmful on the surface, but it is.  These start-up cities are gerry-mandered to include as many people of the same political party as possible.  And, history shows that it isn't Republicans or Democrats who have the corner of the market when it comes to corruption.  Rather, it is when there is a majority of one party in control so they can essentially do whatever they want without a viable second voice challenging them in any effective way.

So, it doesn't really matter who is in control.  What matters is that the people continue to work together, putting perspective on their challenges and holding the leaders accountable.  When the public school system works, it works for everyone.  When it is being used as a pawn in a political game, it harms the children, the economy and all of  us.

The SACS report that was issued on DeKalb, placing the system on probation, was clear.  The divisions in the county are tearing it apart.  Cities create deeper lines in the sand and just when we were making strides toward erasing them.

For more on  this subject, see the AJC's "Get Schooled" editorial piece here.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

T-mobile Suing DeKalb to Place Cell Towers Next to Children

Wireless communications firm T-Mobile South has sued DeKalb County a second time. According to the Daily Report Online T-Mobile says its leasing deal with the DeKalb County Board of Education to erect towers at nine of the county's public schools exempts it from local zoning laws the county is attempting to
enforce. The company filed suit in U.S. District Court on Dec. 20, asking the court to force the county to issue a land development permit so it can build a wireless tower at the Margaret Harris Comprehensive School in Atlanta. In October, T-Mobile sued to force the county to allow construction of a tower at Lakeside High School. That suit is also pending before Thrash.

There is prior case law that shows an exemption to local zoning ordinances only applies when building is for an educational/governmental purpose on publicly owned property such as schools.  T-mobile towers were contracted for purely a revenue enhancing purpose for the school system and a profit center/tax avoidance purpose for the telecom company.  Advocates for safe school grounds are hopeful that the judge will throw the lawsuit out for having no merit.

T-mobile's contract with the DeKalb School Board stated that it would not go into effect unless permits were secured.  If funds were paid by T-mobile for lease of our school grounds without the permit approvals, the School Board should vote to reimburse the funds to T-mobile and legally declare the contracts to be ended.

For details, keep up with Get the Cell Out - Atlanta at or on Facebook.