Saturday, March 29, 2014

Jason Carter Blasts State of Georgia on Ignoring Education

Jason Carter is running for Governor of Georgia against current Gov. Nathan Deal. The election will be held in November.

And the School Board in DeKalb County will have all members up for election in May 2012.

From Georgia School Watch (in part):

A crucial school board election in DeKalb County has drawn 22 candidates. Missing from the list of candidates who emerged Friday after the week-long qualifying period were two people Deal appointed to rescue the district.

John Coleman of north DeKalb had previously announced he would not run, leaving an open seat. Only Stan Jester, of Dunwoody, signed up to succeed him, so all that stands between Jester and a board member nameplate is the formality of the May 20 election. Jester is married to the prior occupant of that seat — Nancy Jester, who is now running for state superintendent. This was a referendum on Nancy Jester’s service as a board member. The people have spoken and they want a Jester in that seat.

The other incumbent bowing out is David Campbell of south DeKalb. Five are vying for his seat, including one incumbent. Thad Mayfield was appointed by Deal to an at-large seat that was eliminated last week by the Georgia General Assembly, and lives in Campbell’s district. One of Mayfield’s challengers is Jesse “Jay” Cunningham, the only board member removed by Deal who is seeking a return to the office.

All seven seats are open because of the recent changes wrought by Georgia lawmakers. After several tries over the past few years, they shrank the board from nine positions by cutting the two at-large seats. That means northeast DeKalb incumbent Jim McMahan must defend his seat against incumbent Karen Carter, an at-large member who lives in his district. (Additionally, GTCO-ATL is in favor of former DeKalb teacher Ella Smith, a resident who has spoken up against the cell towers and who may be able to keep the school board focus on the achievement of students rather than the politics of the area that have ignited many tempers recently between Tucker and Lakeside High School families.) McMahan is one of only three incumbents elected by voters. The two other elected incumbents also have challengers: Marshall Orson will face Don McChesney, who previously held that seat in central DeKalb but lost it to Orson two years ago. And board Chairman Melvin Johnson will defend his southeast DeKalb seat against newcomer Bridgeman Bolger.

Whoever wins the seats held by Johnson, McMahan and Orson will hold office two years; the rest of the seats are for four-year terms.

What is not clear is why is a removed board member (Cunningham) able to run again for office after being "permanently" removed, as indicated in the language of the law that was used by the Governor to remove him?

And, will voters without children show up to vote in runoff elections even when they are not highly publicized in the media? The poor turnout for these runoffs in the past have led to big upsets for some contenders who were predicted to win, but had their margins reduced by close votes in the initial non-partisan election and special interest votes win out during the runoff.

Will we ever learn? Will DeKalb voters show up and do the right thing?

Time will tell. Meanwhile, please tell others about this website and how we all got to this point. Spreading the word to encourage others to vote is probably the best defense against irresponsible government. The larger the turnout, the more difficult it is for any one group to have control over the outcome. And never sell your vote in return for any favor. Vote your conscience. It's the only way to dig ourselves out of the hole we have been dropped in.

Children should never be pawns in a game, regardless of how much money is at stake. And school grounds are not a place for corporations to seek profit. Every child deserves the best education we can afford to provide them. If we are not accomplishing that basic goal, then the entrenched leadership needs to go. Fresh perspective is sometimes needed when the old guard refuses to see things in any other light than the one they have been using for decades. Our children do not have that long to recover from the bad decisions made by others. Action is needed now!

Sunday, March 23, 2014

The Real Problem with the Lakeside Cityhood Effort

Reminder:  GTCO-ATL is bringing some relevant news about Lakeside City to our readers because we were the very first ones to publically recognize that certain members of a community calling themselves 'Lakeside' were actually moving on their own agenda which would become a threat to the Tucker community.   And, once again, we were right.  

Many blog trolls tried to discredit the people from the Save Tucker! movement during the very early stages of their engagement with the Tucker community. But, in their haste to connect the dots between Save Tucker! and Get the Cell Out Atlanta, they got ahead of themselves and made a big mistake.  They connected the cell towers and the city movement long before anyone else did.  They actually helped to point us in the right direction and even placed a T-mobile employee on the board for Tucker 2014, the for profit group that had many Tucker residents convinced would help them become a city.

Before many people knew that there were any plans for a Lakeside City, before there was even a Tucker 2014, founding members of the Tucker group asked to meet with Save Tucker!  At that meeting, they participated in a very odd and contrived conversation about cell phones and how much they loved T-mobile.  It could have been straight out of a commercial except for the fact that T-mobile's commercials are much cooler and edgier than this cheesy version of "coffee talk" about great customer service and the exciting news about the Iphone being available on a new platform.  (give us a break!)   It was clear at that point that there was a connection between Tucker and Lakeside, but we did not think the residents of Tucker would fall for it.  While some of them did, unfortunately, they also became more skeptical as time went by.  The Tucker team did not listen to much feedback and had secret partners with other areas outside of Tucker.  Their agenda may have been more about making sure Tucker failed than it was about helping it succeed.

Once the blog trolls drew the lines for us, we looked at the placement of the cell towers and it all makes sense.  The cell towers intended for our schools fit perfectly into a map revealed at the end of the legislative session as being the agreed upon map for a city of Lakeside.   So, the plan all along was likely the same  plan that had been rolled out in Brookhaven, the city most recently formed in our area.  That city has an e-911 system and cameras atop every traffic light.  The goal:  reduce overhead costs and back out of pension plan commitments with police officers and teachers.  Save yourself and leave the rest of the county to figure things out for themselves.  The zoning control was wanted so that they could place more towers around the area without the hassles of permits and protests, even though more and more research is showing evidence every day that there is a connection between cell phones and cancer.

If you have not been faced with this issue in your own neighborhood or your own school, do not blow it off as something that happens "somewhere else."  If you don't suspect it, you could very well be the next target.  Cell tower and antennae proliferation is happening all over the U.S. and it seems no one is heeding the warnings of medical professionals or even concerned about following the rules and limits put in place by the FCC.

Learn what you need to know now so that when and if this issue comes to your back yard, you will be prepared and you will know what to do.

Here's an insightful opinion from Steve Perkins, a member of the Democratic National Party in Georgia:  

In my opinion, The cityhood movement in DeKalb has never been an organic grassroots based, virtuous effort led by civically minded leaders wanting to organize for a unique municipal identity out of elements already in place. Were it that it would have been a far more inclusive movement. Boundaries would not have been drawn to exclude certain populations either for the immediate needs of passing the referendum or the logical long term interest of a definable community, let alone the fiscal viability of the maps that were drawn. 
There are logical boundaries of any community. That is why they call it "Community."  
The truth of it is if Lakeside had organic roots rather than AstroTurf, had it been defined by the magnets and barriers that typically define communities (shopping and schools and traffic patterns and a business district), I am not convinced it would have passed at all. Those elements, the things that naturally carve out a community, are why Dunwoody made sense and Brookhaven less so.
Grievance can be an element of community development as well, but grievance alone will never sustain a community and is certainly not a reason to rush into cityhood. 20 years hence, it if not ten, migration patterns would have likely meant that the LCA-defined map (and its multiple iterations) would have rendered Lakeside a complete anachronism. 
The problem with Lakeside is that it was driven by largely short term vision. and was always more about "self-determination" than than it was about community. It was problematic from the start when it tried to gobble up Tucker and stretched its borders well beyond a resolvable footprint and sought to exclude areas that were within it sphere. 
Any municipality has to be defined for the long term and not the short. Perhaps Lakeside leaders could have built that winning coalition through inclusive civic engagement of the community that shared schools and grocery stores and houses of worship, rather than political machinations and gerrymandering maps to achieve a particular outcome. 
Again "Shared grievance" alone is not enough to form a city particularly when the grievances are both transient and not solved through creating a non-nonsensical, formulaic, exclusive and inorganic. 
When we seek to define our geographic community and split election precincts and school district or say that people who shop a the same grocery stores are not part of our self-defined community such a municipal organism opens itself up to legitimate criticism. 
Lakeside has been about the grievance of the few, manufactured by a handful of people and stirred to full broth. It is not even that the grievances were wholly contrived and illegitimate, because at certain levels they were and perhaps are legitimate -- at least some of them. The problem is that the "City of Lakeside" was a reaction to a set of short term circumstances by a small subset of people rather than a dialogue between all those who share the same community. 
There was a lot of determination and a lot of "self" in the cityhood movement. Their grievances may well be completely legitimate. But this was not, as some would have you believe were the first shots fired at Lexington and Concord. It was Fort Sumter. It was a fairly transparent attempt to secede rather than build either coalition or community and was thus divisive rather than helpful. 
I think a City of Lakeside may ultimately be inevitable, but the Greater Lakeside Debate is Over. Thanks to Tucker and Thanks to Briarcliff. Lakeside will be much smaller. There are still political Shenanigans going on even with the latest map. We need to be vigilant. More so, we need to be organized. 
Ultimately this is going to come down to a referendum and that is going to mean political organizing as opposed to lobbying. I for one am all in!

Friday, March 21, 2014

DeKalb County, GA: Are We Dropping the Ball Here?

DeKalb County School Board to Hold Elections May 20, 2014

... and how "the state" is dropping the ball that was only recently placed so squarely in their court. 
Is DeKalb County and the state of Georgia
dropping the ball on education?

After nearly losing its school system accreditation, one would hope that  DeKalb County had finally charted a better course for itself.   Yes, one would hope.

Perhaps a little help from the state that was called to rescue the failing district, you ask?  Well, not this session, apparently.   The Georgia state Senate and House sessions ended yesterday, but did not pass a single bill that would do anything  positive toward preventing another governance backslide to take us and other districts right back into hot water.  They did not pass a single bill that would help parents and teachers warn the rest of the county if things start to go downhill again.  They didn't pass a single bill to address the SACS concerns or the corruption charges that the former superintendent pleaded guilty to in a plea deal.

We did nothing for kidsbut we passed a gunbill,” said Republican state Sen. Fran Millar.

Could another SACS review and yet another board removal be in our future?  Let's hope not, but hope is about all we have left.

What happened to "the state," you ask?  The helped education overall by promising a larger budget from state funds.  The largest in seven years, says Gov. Deal.  But, legislatively, they actually made it more certain that the system will remain exactly as it exists today.   Here are the ideas that came forth that we noted and what happened to them:

  • DeKalb Delegation Chairman Sen. Emanuel Jones:  There was no legislative support from Senate Republicans for a bill offered by Sen. Emanuel Jones that would have established clear ethics and appropriate sanctions for violation of those codes.  It didn't make it past crossover day.
  • Reassignment of Political Boundaries by Rep. Mike Jacobs:  A bill was offered to remove the two super-districts from the political zones, leaving some areas of the county feeling they have absolutely no representation whatsoever and creating the need for appointed members to run against each other in some districts instead of being able to continue the positive work they have accomplished together.  By design, the non-politically motivated appointees must now begin campaigning against others in the community, some former board members or spouses of former board members, and some must even become political opponents by running against each other, like it or not.  And regardless of who gets elected for the term starting in January, they will all be required to remain on the board until their terms expire at the end of the year.  This really can't be good in terms of their ability to focus on getting the job done, can it?  What do you want to be that there will be at least one disgruntled soon-to-be former board member on that board for seven months AFTER the election who will find it very difficult to agree with everything the rest of the group is doing.  
  • Sen. Fran Millar sought to incorporate more land:  And, in District 4, Central DeKalb County, morale and bitter dispute are ready and waiting for whomever gets elected.  This session saw three high schools (one former, two current) attempt to incorporate the same commercial land to allow them to become cities.  They all failed.  
A bill for a City of Lakeside got the closest to having a referendum approved, but their map went all the way up to the back side of rival Tucker High School and sought to incorporate 40% of their historical community.  Now, they must share a school district and pretend like the entire city squabble has been about things other than the desire for better schools.  And they must find a way to elect a school board member who will represent both of them equally.  Good luck with that!
Also, residents are now trying to determine how to justify our Tucker Parent Council's own President, Michele Penkava, who has more than a fair share of Lakeside allies to be completely unaware of the controversy her role as the sole Tucker representative has caused, while school issues were all but ignored.  Penkava was even found to be the finance manager for a Lakeside school board candidate who won the last election, Jim McMahan.  In a race that had two Tucker residents running for the office, the Tucker Parent Council President runs the campaign for a Lakeside candidate.  Go fig!  This is the same McMahan who later turned around and "forgot" that Tucker led the district in graduation rates for traditional schools at a meeting of the Northlake Business Alliance.   
There still remains lingering questions about why another group, Tucker 2014, who were the advocates introduced at the final information session held by Tucker business leaders turned out to be a paid FOR PROFIT consultant group. 

 Here is an article from the USA Today about this city controversy.  It all worked out okay in the end with no new cities, but it also distracted the entire county from concentrating on the school system.  Way to go, Lakeside City!

  • DeKalb Delegation House Chairman Rep. Howard Mosby offered a bill that would have created a study group to help DeKalb out of its troubles and assist the Interim CEO with his request to take a year break from cities and come back with a plan that would allow cities without harm being brought to the county as a whole.  It was not passed out of committee. 
  • Rep. Mary Margaret Oliver asked for her bill to be passed that would create a more clear process for cities to follow in the future.  It also did not make it past the critical crossover day.  
  • Sen. Tom Taylor sponsored a bill to allow cities to form new school systems, but he withdrew it amid the controversy surrounding the floundering cities and their squabbles.

Right back to square one, parents fear.  

The pitting of one area against another, one side of a neighborhood against the other, north against south, racial divisions, socioeconomic issues from the onset.... can't you see it all ahead?  Won't anyone do anything to stop it before it starts all over again??

One concern is the way the school board's election borders were not determined until the Friday before the qualification period would begin, leaving those on limited incomes with little or no time to raise funds in order to submit their names to election officials.

The most volatile and controversial topic in the county and, possibly, in the state was the Governor's removal of the school board and appointment of his own replacements through an appointed committee, with oversight by two controversial figures.  One of those figures being Brad Bryant, who was a former board member, former board chairman, former superintendent and former state superintendent.  His name may sound familiar because he also spoke recently in favor of Lakeside City, which explains why they had two people from their area placed on the appointed board.   Bryant even spoke about the fact that the Lakeside area actually has a large number of politicians already representing them.

Hours of hearing testimony was taken on the topic of new cities for DeKalb, by the House Governmental Affairs Committee without a single question about whether or not the schools might be affected.  No one mentioned that new cities will do exactly what SACS said is the problem - creating further divides in the county rather than encouraging communities to work together for the common good of the whole system.

Q:  What did the cities say about the schools?  
A:  Nothing.

Q:  What did the schools say about the cities?  
A:  Ditto.

And where was the appointed board and new Superintendent in the face of all this chaos?  Good question.  There were no comments made about how impossible of a job the school system will become when the bulk of its money is stripped away. There was seemingly little or no concern that the rest of the  unincorporated parts of the county will be forced to pay their own way and the way for the thousands of refugees brought to DeKalb each year.

Well, the climb up the ladder in the kiddie pool sure was fun.  How did you like it?  Now it's time for the ride right back down that giant slide into the great wide abyss of educational mediocrity.  After all, someone has some housing inventory they really want to turn over and they are the true constituents in our area and we all know it.

Misery and despair are so good for business, if your business is politics.  For everyone else, it's "better luck next time!"

Here are the candidates for the school board seats with our top choices (at this point) highlighted in bold.

DeKalb County Board of Education – Qualified Candidates
District 1:   Stan Jester
District 2:   Don McChesney, incumbent Marshall Orson 
District 3:   Jerrie D. Bason, incumbent Michael A. Erwin, Jarrod Jordan, Atticus LeBlanc, Willie R. Mosley, Jr
District 4:   Incumbent Karen Carter, incumbent Jim McMahan, John Oselette, Ella Smith
District 5:   Pia “Chaz Afzal” Bhatt, Jesse “Jay” Cunningham, R. Alexander Fitzhugh, incumbent Thad Mayfield, Vickie B. Turner
District 6:   Bridgeman Bolger and incumbent Melvin Johnson
District 7:  Kim Ault, Lee V. Dukes and incumbent Joyce Morley

Mobile Broadband Infrastructure Leads to Development (BILD) Act Passes House and Senate

Current Version: HB 176/AP*

Official Summary: A BILL to be entitled an Act to amend Title 36 of the Official Code of Georgia Annotated, relating to local government, so as change certain provisions applicable to counties and municipal corporations related to advanced broadband collocation; to provide for a short title; to provide for definitions; to make changes related to streamlined processing; to standardize certain procedures related to new wireless facilities; to place limitations on the time allowed for the review of new wireless facilities; to limit fees charged for review of wireless facilities; to provide for related matters; to repeal conflicting laws; and for other purposes.

Primary Author:   Don Parsons, House 44, R-Marietta

Co-authors:  (The House Clerk records only the first six bill sponsors)
 Stacey Abrams, House 89, D-Atlanta
 Richard H. Smith, House 134, R-Columbus
 Mike Dudgeon, House 25, R-Johns Creek
 Charles E. 'Chuck' Martin, House 49, R-Alpharetta
 Mark Hamilton, House 24, R-Cumming

2: LC 36 2249/a
4: LC 36 2280S/hs
6: LC 36 2330S/hs
8: LC 36 2428S/hs
9: LC 36 2428S/hcs
11: HB 176/AP*


Mar 4, 2014: Senate Passed/Adopted
Mar 4, 2014: Senate Third Read
Feb 21, 2014: Senate Read Second Time
Feb 20, 2014: Senate Committee Favorably Reported
Feb 3, 2014: Senate Read and Referred
Jan 31, 2014: House Passed/Adopted By Substitute
Jan 31, 2014: House Third Readers
Jan 29, 2014: House Postponed
Feb 28, 2013: House Withdrawn, Recommitted
Feb 21, 2013: House Committee Favorably Reported By Substitute
Feb 4, 2013: House Second Readers
Feb 1, 2013: House First Readers
Jan 31, 2013: House Hopper

- See more at:

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Cell Phone Towers Collapse in West Virginia, Killing 3

CLARKSBURG, W.VA. –  A 300-foot cellphone tower collapsed Saturday and minutes later a smaller tower fell, killing two contractors and a firefighter, authorities said.

The contractors were tethered to the larger tower when it collapsed in Clarksburg, State Police Cpl. Mark Waggamon said. A firefighter with the Nutter Fort Fire Department was killed when he was walking from his vehicle to the scene.

Two other contractors working on the larger tower were hurt and taken to a hospital. Waggamon described their injuries as serious but not life-threatening.

Waggamon said three of the workers were more than 60 feet up on the tower. One of those workers was killed along with a co-worker who was about 20 feet up when the tower toppled.

Two other workers at the site were not injured.

Waggamon said the weight of the collapsed tower put stress on guide wires to the smaller tower.

For More.... 

Or here:

Saturday, March 1, 2014

GTCO-ATL Standing Up Against Cities in Central DeKalb

Three cities are vying for prime properties in Central DeKalb, but GTCO-ATL followers have been following the money and know exactly who is behind all of the competing groups:  big business.  The efforts to launch a city started with a group calling themselves "Lakeside" after a high school in Atlanta.  By encroaching on a nearby community's borders and dividing well known neighborhoods based on political lines and school zones, they made a lot of people angry.  That led the community of Tucker to file their own city bill.  Now they are facing off against another group, Briarcliff, and making a mockery of the poorly run system for city formation, once thought to be the wave of the future when nearby Sandy Springs pulled it off after 30 years of planning.

But, GTCO-ATL is following this story for another reason - the dark money that may be funding all three groups and, you guessed it, telecomm contributions to the studies that were required by the legislature.  The donations came in rather quickly and have not been disclosed to the public.  Oddly enough, a person claiming to be a Tmobile employee was selected as Tucker's financial advisor even though the county residents have been strongly opposed to the practices of Tmobile in the process of trying to place cell phone towers next to schools.  Sandy Springs was started by a number of people, but one of them is a former ATT executive, Oliver Porter.  Porter said that overlapping borders are a problem and will need to be resolved.  He also suggested having a team that includes anyone who wants to volunteer, but these new groups are not taking that advice.

Some say they are ignoring the will of the people, which was initially to be left alone.  It will be interesting to see if that message is clear to the elected officials that the games played by the telecoms are obvious to the residents who have been affected by their "divide and conquer" system.  If they believe there is a true desire for cities, they may approve a voter referendum for this May.  If not, the city advocates will be forced to go back to their "virtual" drawing boards.

KPLC 7 News, Lake Charles, Louisiana