Monday, February 12, 2024

Commissioners seek external audit of DeKalb County animal services

DeKalb County commissioners are considering asking the county's Chief Executive Officer to order an audit of services provided by the nonprofit company that has run the county's Chamblee animal shelter for the past decade.

The commission's County Operations committee last week recommended approval of a resolution, sponsored by Commissioner Lorraine Cochran-Johnson, which would have an external auditor review animal overcrowding, staffing levels, reporting, and procedures for dealing with stray animals and adoptions. 

Michael Thurmond, the county's CEO, said in October that conditions at a shelter in Chamblee were inhumane. LifeLine Animal Project Inc. has been repeatedly cited for violations by the Georgia Department of Agriculture during the past two years. 

"Georgia Dept. of Agriculture inspectors have identified problems with the Animal Shelter, including small dog cages, sanitation and housekeeping issues, and clogged air ducts," according to the resolution commissioners are considering.

DeKalb lawmakers propose naming bridge after longtime pastor Flippin

A DeKalb County legislator is proposing to name the Glenwood Ave. bridge over Interstate 20 for William E. Flippin, Sr., longtime pastor of the Greater Piney Grove Baptist Church.

State Rep. Saira Draper (D-Atlanta) has introduced a resolution in the General Assembly to dedicate the State Road 260 bridge as the Reverend Dr. William E. Flippin, Sr. Bridge "in honor of his achievements, accomplishments, and contributions to the State of Georgia."

"Over the past three decades leading The Greater Piney Grove Baptist Church, Reverend Flippin has established numerous programs and workshops which have improved the spiritual and educational growth of the church and the surrounding community, including annual holiday giving drives, NAACP partnerships, self-help programs, Alcoholics Anonymous services, HIV/AIDS resources, and COVID-19 testing and vaccinations," the resolution says.

Sunday, February 11, 2024

Contractor sought to update DeKalb County zoning code, sign regulations

DeKalb County has issued a Request For Proposals to update and "modernize" the county's zoning and sign ordinances and to streamline existing procedures.

The RFP asks for significant updates to the DeKalb County Zoning Ordinance, which was adopted in 2015, and a revamp of the county's sign ordinance, last updated in 2003, in order to reflect the county's 2050 Unified Plan, which includes the county's Comprehensive Plan and Comprehensive Transportation Plan.

"This update seeks to modernize the current Ordinance to meet contemporary and future land development needs and desires while balancing public health, safety, and welfare," the county says. "Furthermore, DeKalb seeks to modernize the Ordinance to include streamlined procedures, increased illustrations, and simplified language to increase public understanding."

DeKalb County commission to hold public hearing on property maintenance rules

The DeKalb County Commission will hear public comments on Feb. 27 on its plans to adopt the 2018 International Property Maintenance Code.

The International Code Council's code covers areas such as construction, safety issues and inspections. It also includes provisions concerning blight and property maintenance, including junk vehicles, high weeds and tall grass.

The Board of Commissioners will hold a hearing on the proposal at 10 a.m. during its Tuesday, Feb. 27, meeting at the Maloof Auditorium in Decatur. The notice of the hearing says it "may be continued or adjourned."

The International Property Maintenance Code requires buildings to be maintained in good repair, be structurally sound and not have any sanitary conditions that pose a threat to the public health, safety or welfare.

The Gwinnett County Board of Commissioners voted unanimously last year to adopt provisions of the code regarding building interiors after hearing complaints about landlords who do not maintain their properties.

Saturday, February 10, 2024

DeKalb legislators to hear Charter Review recommendations

Members of the DeKalb County Charter Review Commission, headed by former State Senator Steve Henson, are scheduled to meet with DeKalb County state lawmakers later this month to discuss the panel's recommendations for changes in the county's government.

The meeting will take place in Room 514 of the Coverdell Legislative Office Building at noon on Monday, Feb. 26.

The DeKalb Charter Review Commission began work in 2019, but was interrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic. It met frequently from mid-2022 until the end of last year. 

It has now issued a final report that has been shared with the County’s Chief Executive Officer, Chief Operating Officer, Board of Commissioners, and members of the DeKalb State Legislative Delegation. The report can be found at

If approved by lawmakers, the changes would need to be approved by voters in the general election later this year.

"Passage in November 2024 is timely and lays the foundation for a new relationship between the CEO and the commissioners," Mary Hinkel of the commission told a meeting of the Civic Association Network last month. 

Thursday, February 8, 2024

Ethics complaint against Stone Mountain councilman to be heard later this month

The City of Stone Mountain's Board of Ethics voted Thursday to hold a hearing on two complaints against City Councilman Gil Freeman later this month, but members voted unanimously to dismiss an allegation of misconduct by Mayor Beverly Jones.

Two letters sent to the city's Board of Ethics criticized Freeman for making broad Open Records Act requests last year as an individual, but later claiming they were made on behalf of the entire City Council. One letter alleges violations of the city's ethics code, the other alleges a violation of Georgia law. 

Ethics board members voted 4 to 2 to proceed with the complaints against Freeman and hold hearings on Feb. 22 at Stone Mountain City Hall.

However, the ethics board voted 6 to 0 to dismiss the complaint that accused Mayor Jones of "nepotism" and "solicitation of a bribe" for creating a new Parks & Recreation Committee and appointing all of its members during a Dec. 19 city council meeting.

The ethics board was reminded by city attorney Jeff Strickland that the mayor has authority to appoint all committees and committee chairpersons. The city code says committee members "shall serve at the pleasure of the mayor" and that "the mayor shall have the power to appoint new members to any committee at any time."

Wednesday, January 3, 2024

DeKalb Georgia House delegation hosts town hall Thursday

Members of the DeKalb County House Legislative Delegation will hold a pre-session town hall meeting on Thursday, January 4, 2024, at 7 p.m. at the Chamblee City Hall, 3518 Broad St., Chamblee.

The state representatives will recap the 2023 legislative and special session and preview the legislative goals for the 2024 session. Inquiries can be sent to

DeKalb House Delegation Chair Karla Drenner (D-Avondale Estates) is the Chair of the DeKalb House Delegation. Viola Davis (D-Stone Mountain) is the Vice Chair.

Friday, November 10, 2023

Housing price increases outpace wages in Georgia, report finds

Georgia has the eighth-worst disparity between wage growth and housing price growth, according to a state-by-state analysis by commercial real-estate marketplace MyEListing.

Wages have grown 22.7 percent in Georgia during the past five years, while housing prices increased 47.53 percent, the report says. The resulting 24.8 percent gap is lower than in Tennessee and Florida, but considerably higher than Alabama and South Carolina. The national average is 15 percent.

Wages rose $12,150 in actual dollars in Georgia between 2018 and 2022, while housing prices rose $107,500, the report states. In Georgia, housing prices outpaced wages by $95,350, the analysis says.

"The pursuit of affordable housing remains a critical issue for many Americans," MyEListing says. "Addressing the housing-wage growth gap is crucial for ensuring that residents can build wealth through homeownership, while maintaining a reasonable standard of living."

An report earlier this from MyEListing said Atlanta has had some of the nation's largest wealth gains from homeownership, increasing by 109 percent during the past five years.

Sunday, July 2, 2023

Taxpayers fund expensive, unoriginal logo for Memorial Drive East

Did DeKalb County taxpayers get their money's worth with the new Memorial Drive East logo unveiled last month by Commissioner Steve Bradshaw?

The logo unveiled at the final meeting of a Memorial Drive Community Rebranding Initiative was created by an Atlanta architectural firm that was awarded a $102,400 contract more than one year ago.

However, the logo is hardly original. Almost identical logos are in use by many other organizations. For example:

In fact, one stock agency (VectorStock) offers a standard license for the right to use this logo for $15:

Or, if you're feeling extravagant, another site offers an extended license to use this logo for $80:

Anyone tempted to conclude that the county paid too much for the Memorial Drive logo should remember that the architectural firm's contract also included coming up with a branding phrase (or "word mark" as they called it). Their idea? "Memorial Drive East." Surely, the logo and word mark together were worth $100,000 in tax dollars!

Nor will the architectural firm determine where two "monument" signs will be placed on Memorial Dr. According to a bid document, those locations are "pre-determined" by DeKalb County, a fact not mentioned in last month's online meeting.

Thursday, June 22, 2023

DeKalb Historic Preservation Commission lacks quorum

DeKalb County property owners seeking Certificates of Appropriateness will have to wait longer because members of the county's Historic Preservation Commission failed to attend an on-line meeting.

A scheduled June 20 meeting of the HPC did not occur due to a lack of a quorum, according to the DeKalb County Department of Planning & Sustainability.

The commission was set to consider requests involving these properties:

 - 1538 Emory Road

 - 483 Princeton Way

 - 1669 N. Decatur Road

 - 1352 Emory Road

 - 870 Clifton Road

 - 1895 Edinburgh Terrace

 - 1853 North Decatur Road (to demolish and replace a house)

The online (Zoom) meeting has now been rescheduled for July 6 at 6 p.m.

The next regularly scheduled meeting of the HPC is on July 17.

Tuesday, June 13, 2023

DeKalb County Ethics Board cancels June meeting

The DeKalb County Ethics board has, with no explanation, cancelled its monthly meeting for June.

The meeting had been scheduled for June 15. Five members resigned from the board earlier this year. New panel members are being sought.

In February, the Board of Ethics issued a public reprimand of Vaughn Irons, whose for-profit "community development firm" received money from a contract with DeKalb County after it paid former Commissioner Stan Watson as a consultant from 2012 to 2014.

Irons served as the Chairman of the DeKalb County Development Authority while serving as the founder and CEO of the for-profit, private corporation, APD Solutions, LLC. The board's action called for an indefinite suspension of Irons or any business he owns from contracting with DeKalb County.

The board's next scheduled meeting is on July 20.

Saturday, June 10, 2023

Property taxes set to increase countywide

School system and municipalities are proposing to increase property taxe rates this year. Clarkston, Pine Lake and Lithonia are all proposing increases of more than 20 percent.

The DeKalb County School District has tentatively adopted a millage rate that will require a 13.44 percent increase in property taxes. The millage rate would rise from last year's 20.345 mills to 23.08 mills. Taxes would increase $341.75 for a home appraised at $350,000 and $546.80 for a non-homestead property valued at $550,000.

That increase would be in addition to other millage rate increases proposed in DeKalb County, listed here in descending order of the increase: 

Tucker: 191.33 percent

Clarkston: 41.21 percent

Pine Lake: 26.70 percent

Lithonia: 23.02 percent

Doraville: 11.98 percent

Avondale Estates: 10.42 percent

Decatur City Schools: 9.49 percent

Decatur: 9.11 percent

Brookhaven 8.21 percent

Chamblee: 6.84 percent

Dunwoody has announced its millage rate will remain the same as 2022.

Commissioner Larry Johnson to host town hall meeting June 13

A presentation on DeKalb County's plans for a new Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax will be part of a town hall meeting hosted by DeKalb County Commissioner Larry Johnson at the Rainbow Park Amphitheater on Tuesday, June 13 at 6:30 p.m.

The theme of the meeting is "Bringing Hope In A Big Way." There will also be presentations from MARTA and the county's Department of Planning & Sustainability. A movie will follow.

The 1,000-seat, $1.7 million amphitheater, located at 3181 Rainbow Park in Decatur, opened last year. It was funded from 2001 and 2006 park bond issues.

Friday, June 9, 2023

$15 million property tax break for developer of Brookhaven apartment-office-hotel complex

DeKalb County's development authority voted Thursday to give a $15 million tax break to the developers of a mixed-use project on Briarcliff Road near North Druid Hills Rd. 

The property tax abatement was part of Decide DeKalb's actions in favor of a $180 million bond issue to fund the Manor Druid Hills Project near Children's Hospital of Atlanta. The development is set to include 381 apartments, 55,000 square feet of office space and a 140-room hotel.

The 5-1 vote for approval came over the objections of the Chair of DeKalb County's Board of Education and several DeKalb County commissioners, who said there was no need to subsidize the private developer of the Brookhaven project, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports.

Decide DeKalb claims the project, being developed by the Miami-based Related Group, will create 270 new full-time jobs, including eight related to the multi-family residential housing.

Thursday, June 8, 2023

Expensive logo and name for "Memorial Drive East"

An Atlanta architectural firm paid by DeKalb County to develop a "brand" for Memorial Drive has proposed a stylized letter "M" and "Memorial Drive East" as the logo and slogan for a five-mile section of the roadway outside of Interstate 285. 

Houser Walker Architecture LLC, which was awarded $104,000 last year to create identity graphics and branding for the corridor, presented its conclusions during a Thursday evening online meeting organized by the DeKalb County Department of Planning & Sustainability.

After the presentation, Commissioner Steve Bradshaw acknowledged that the proposed logo and signage would not change the perception of Memorial Drive, the primary goal of a county study a few years ago.

"In and of themselves they won't," he said. "If you want me to be candid about it, a sign by itself won't do that."