Sunday, July 2, 2023

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."

Friday, March 31, 2023

Bad use of face recognition leads to week in DeKalb County jail

A local man was put in the DeKalb County Jail for almost one week, based on failed facial recognition technology, the New York Times reported on Friday.

In an article headlined "Thousands of Dollars for Something I Didn't Do," the newspaper tells the story of Randal Quran Reid, who was arrested based on warrants issued by Louisiana law-enforcement officials that concealed they had sloppily used surveillance technology.

Thursday, February 2, 2023

Two DeKalb County cities get federal roadway safety grants

Decatur and Doraville have received a total of $400,000 in grants from the U.S. Department of Transportation to improve roadway safety and lower traffic-related fatalities, the agency said Wednesday. 

A total of 20 such grants were awarded in Georgia totalling $6.53 million. About $800 million was awarded nationally.

Decatur and Doraville each received $200,000 "Safe Streets and Roads for All (SS4A) Action Plan" grant awards in the first round of funding.

DeKalb County did not receive a grant, though nearby counties are set to receive first-round funds. Gwinnett County was awarded $200,000, Fayette County was given $312,000, and Rockdale County was awarded a $240,000 grant. 

Roswell and Sandy Springs, both in Fulton County, received a total of $560,000.

The City of Atlanta received almost $30 million in an "All Implementation Grant."

"Action Plan Grants assist communities that do not currently have a roadway safety plan in place to reduce roadway fatalities, laying the groundwork for a comprehensive set of actions," the department said. "The awards also provide funding to communities that want to build upon an existing roadway safety plan."

The funds come from President Biden's 2021 infrastructure plan, which "provides $5 billion over five years for regional, local, and Tribal initiatives -- from redesigned roads to better sidewalks and crosswalks -- to prevent deaths and serious injuries on the nation's roadways."

Another $1.1 billion in awards are expected to be released in April.

Wednesday, February 1, 2023

Stone Mountain book illustrator recognized by Sibert Medal committee

A book illustrated by a Stone Mountain author has been recognized by the Association for Library Service to Children, a division of the American Library Association.

"Sweet Justice: Georgia Gilmore and the Montgomery Bus Boycott," written by Mara Rockliff and illustrated by R. Gregory Christie of Stone Mountain, was one of four Honor Books selected by the 2023 Robert F. Sibert Medal committee, which recognizes informational books for children.

Christie is an award-winning children’s book illustrator and lecturer and was the artist for the United Postal Service's Kwanzaa stamp in 2013. 

The announcement came during the ALA's "LibLearnX: The Library Learning Experience" held in New Orleans, La. The ALSC is the world's largest organization dedicated to the support and enhancement of library service to children.

DeKalb prosecutor, CDC specialist to be honored as Georgia State alumni under 40

A DeKalb County prosecutor and a Centers for Disease Control & Prevention employee will be honored in March as "remarkable" alumni of Georgia State University.

The GSU Alumni Association has included Tyshawn Jackson (B.B.A. '05), a senior assistant district attorney in the Office of the DeKalb County District Attorney, as part of its 2023 class of remarkable alumni under the age of 40.

Also on the list is Arezoo Risman (MBA '15), a data modernization program coordinator who has worked at the CDC for more than a decade. Risman was previously recognized as one of the University of Georgia's 40 Under 40 Class of 2019.

Tuesday, January 31, 2023

Millions of gallons in DeKalb County sewage spills in January

"Major spill" notices by DeKalb County Watershed Management indicate that millions of gallons of sewage went into rivers and creeks during the first half of January.

The department blamed the spills on January 3 and 4 on "rainwater." About 2 1/2 inches of rain fell at the Atlanta airport on those two days. A total of 8.48 inches of rain fell at Peachtree-DeKalb airport in January, almost twice the normal amount of 4.57 inches. 

Here is a list of "major spills" reported by DeKalb County during the first half of January:

Monday, January 30, 2023

Darnell Fullum, DeKalb County's Fire Chief since 2014, has Pennsylvania roots

DeKalb County Fire Chief Darnell Fullum dreamed of being a fireman while he was growing up in Beaver Falls, Pa., according to a profile in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

Fullum was appointed Dekalb County's fire chief by CEO Lee May in 2014 after 26 years with Fulton County's fire department. He replaced Eddie O'Brien, who had been with DeKalb County's first department for 25 years.

In his DeKalb County office, Fullum has a photo of a Beaver Falls fire station he walked past every day as a child. He says it helps "keep me humble in my quest to be the best I can be in my emergency management role."

Jackson named chair of DeKalb County Senate Legislative Delegation

State Sen. Kim Jackson (D-Stone Mountain) has been elected chair of the Dekalb County Senate Legislative Delegation for the 2023-2024 General Assembly.

"The citizens of Dekalb County share several concerns such as access to resources, cost of living, education and many more," Jackson says in a statement.

Jackson represents the 41st Senate District which includes portions of DeKalb and a small portion of Gwinnett County

Stone Mountain youth wins national classical string musician competition in Detroit

A Stone Mountain high school student has won the Detroit-based Sphinx Organization's national competition for young Black and Latinx classical string players.

Brandon Leonard, the 17-year-old winner of the 25th annual Sphinx Competition, has been playing the cello for eight years. Recognized as an All-State Principal Cellist, Leonard has also worked with the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra.