Friday, December 27, 2019

DeKalb County King Day parade to begin in Stonecrest

DeKalb County's 18th annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Parade, organized by the county's NAACP branch, will begin at Browns Mill Recreation Center in Stonecrest at noon on Monday, January 20, 2020. The parade will end at Martin Luther King Jr. High School.

The Grand Marshall of the parade will be Barbara Cross, a survivor of the 1963 bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama, where her father was the church pastor.

The theme of the parade will be "Remembering the Dream, Honoring the Dreamer." Registration to participate will end on January 3.

Wednesday, December 18, 2019

New cities would cost DeKalb County millions annually, Vinson study says

Incorporation of Greenhaven, Vista Grove or all of unincorporated DeKalb County north of U.S. Highway 78 would require higher county taxes or reduced DeKalb County services, according to an analysis presented to a county panel on Wednesday.

The $84,000 study, prepared by the University of Georgia's Vinson Institute of Government, was funded by the DeKalb County Board of Commissioners in February 2018 -- almost two years ago. Its work is guided by a "DeKalb Holistic Review Steering Committee" that includes county officials, state legislators, and officials from Brookhaven, Decatur and Stonecrest.

The presentation made to a county steering committee offered no specific policy recommendations regarding proposed new cities in DeKalb County.

Wednesday, December 11, 2019

Ex-DeKalb Sheriff loses Georgia law enforcement certification

Former DeKalb County Sheriff Jeff Mann has dropped his appeal over the revocation more than two years ago of his Georgia law enforcement certification, allowing a state board to finalize the action against him.

The Georgia Peace Officer Standards and Training Council suspended Mann's license on Sept. 27, 2017 after he pleaded guilty to charges of obstruction and prohibited conduct that stemmed from his May 6, 2017 arrest for publicly exposing himself to an Atlanta police officer and then leading the officer on a foot chase late at night in Piedmont Park.

Monday, December 2, 2019

TV report nudges City of Stone Mountain on sign replacement

A Stone Mountain resident says he has been waiting for more than two months for replacement of a speed-limit sign in the city that was damaged when a driver lost control, knocking down the sign and the resident's curbside mailbox.

According to the City of Stone Mountain's web site, maintenance of traffic signs is coordinated through the city's Public Works Department. Bern Sawyer told WGCL-TV (CBS46) he was told by city officials that DeKalb County would replace the sign.

CBS46 reporter Melissa Stern says she contacted the city but got no response. A few hours after she interviewed Sawyer, he texted her saying: "The piece of the metal pole is gone. Yay! Half the job is done..."

Sawyer says he is still waiting for the 25mph speed-limit sign on Sheppard Rd. to be replaced. "It's dangerous, kids walk by here on their way to school," Sawyer says.

DeKalb County water main leak floods couple's basement - report

WSB-TV reports today another instance of flooding from a DeKalb County water main break. The station showed video of knee-deep water in a couple's basement, damaging furniture and appliances.

When the woman called DeKalb County's watershed to ask for the water to be shut off, she was told "there was only one crew and they were on a job and wouldn't be able to come at the moment and would get to her when they could," WSB-TV reported.

A contracted cleaning crew was eventually dispatched to the couple's home. County officials said they had difficulties finding the break in the six-inch water pipe.

Despite being under a court-ordered consent agreement since 2010, DeKalb County in 2019 has surpassed its record for the number of sewage spills in one year.

Friday, November 22, 2019

Forgery claim in county small-business contract: report

WSB-TV reports there are questions about a DeKalb County program intended to help hundreds of companies owned by women and minorities.

A small business owner says her signature was forged on a contract where her business's name was used, the TV station says. She's complained to Decatur Police.

"They used us to get the bid and after they awarded the bid they feel like we do not need you anymore," the woman told reporter Richard Belcher.

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

DeKalb CEO urges new five-year ambulance contract with AMR

Despite persistent complaints about ambulance response times, DeKalb County CEO Michael Thurmond on Tuesday urged county commissioners to agree to a new five-year contract with American Medical Response.

Thurmond said a review of the county's emergency medical response system found fault with the contract that AMR obtained in 2013. That contract was scheduled to expire in 2018 but was renewed on a short-term basis in 2019.

Earlier this year, the county began relying on the county's medically trained fire and rescue personnel to supplement AMR to ensure that personnel and equipment arrive on scene as quickly as possible. Fourteen percent of DeKalb County firefighters are licensed paramedics, the county says.

In a lengthy presentation to commissioners at their regular meeting, Thurmond said that AMR was the highest scoring provider in an eight-month review that included representatives from the DeKalb County Fire Rescue Department, E-911, the DeKalb Medical Examiner’s Office and the CEO’s office.

"The emergency ambulance service provider recommendation is the product of public feedback, detailed evaluation, numerous meetings and discussions," Thurmond said in a statement.

Sunday, November 17, 2019

Legislators propose task force study of DeKalb Ethics Board

State legislators from DeKalb County plan to appoint a task force to suggest a solution for ethics reform in the county after the defeat of a ballot referendum to change the county's Board of Ethics.

State Sen. Emanuel Jones (D-Decatur) says the goal of the task force "will be to gather information and provide recommendations on legislation to be introduced in the 2020 Legislative Session."

"It is clear the DeKalb County delegation still has work to do to produce a reasonable solution to ethics reform in our county,” Jones says in a press release. “Doing nothing is not an option, as the Georgia Supreme Court has already ruled that changes to the DeKalb Board of Ethics must take place."

Stone Mountain 2020 budget suggests "taxation by citation"

The City of Stone Mountain is proposing a $4.62 million budget for the 2020 fiscal year, an eight percent increase from the previous year. The budget would be funded by $3.17 million in revenues from taxes, a slight drop from the previous year. Meanwhile, money collected from fines and forfeitures would increase eight percent from the 2019 fiscal year.

Under the city's proposed FY 2020 budget, fines and forfeitures would represent the second largest proportion of the city's revenue -- $840,974, or 18.2 percent, a level that the Institute for Justice, based in Arlington, Va., says "suggests the cities' fines and fees behavior goes beyond what is necessary to advance public safety -- and thus qualifies as taxation by citation."

Friday, November 15, 2019

Stone Mountain city parks committee meets Monday

The City of Stone Mountain's Parks & Recreation Committee will hold a special-called meeting on Monday, Nov. 18, at 7 p.m. at City Hall.

The recently formed committee is scheduled to discuss its pending review of the city's parks and the Rock Gym. It will also hear an update on the use of SPLOST funds.

There are four parks in the City of Stone Mountain: Leila Mason Park, McCurdy Park, Medlock Park and V.F.W Park.

Gun taken from student at Stone Mountain High School

DeKalb County School Police say an officer tackled a student in a classroom at Stone Mountain High School on Thursday and found a gun, WSB-TV reports.

Higher security was noted at the school on Friday, the day after the incident occurred.

School officials said a parent called the school to report a student was carrying a gun. The student was tackled by police officers and the loaded gun stuff in his pants was taken from him, witnesses said.

Wording approved for historical marker on local lynchings

The DeKalb County Board of Commissioners on Tuesday approved language for a historical marker at the DeKalb County Courthouse in downtown Decatur.

Language for the planned Equal Justice Initiative Historical Marker, approved by a vote of 7-0-0, had been submitted by the DeKalb County NAACP branch. The language mentions three lynchings in DeKalb County -- in 1887, 1892 and 1945. "Thousands of black people were the victims of racial terror lynching in the United States between 1877 and 1950," it will read.

"This is part of us acknowledging some past hurt, some truths that happened. And we want to make sure that's part of our memorialization and memory of the victims who were lynched. That we make sure we apologize and say that we're sorry for such a horrendous act," Commissioner Larry Johnson said.

Georgia DOT reschedules I-285/I-20 East open houses

The Georgia Department of Transportation has rescheduled two informal meetings to educate the public about proposed improvements to the interchange serving Interstate 285 and Interstate 20 East.

The open house public-information meetings are now scheduled for Nov. 19 for the Omega World Center on Snapfinger Parkway and Nov. 21 at the Lou Walker Senior Center have been postponed to allow time for further studies that are underway, DOT says. Both meetings are scheduled from 5 to 7 p.m.

"There will be no formal presentations," the department says. "A court reporter will be available to allow the public an opportunity to make verbal comments about the project."

The meetings were originally scheduled for September.
The project is one of the initial 11 large-scale Major Mobility Investment Program (MMIP) projects to improve transportation in Georgia's metro areas.

Written comments about the proposal will be accepted until Dec. 9. They should be sent to:
Eric Duff
State Environmental Administrator
Georgia Department of Transportation
600 W Peachtree St NW
16th Floor
Atlanta GA 30308

Final Memorial Drive economic plan to be presented Saturday

Five months after it began, the DeKalb County Department of Planning & Sustainability has, with little advance notice, announced the last of four public meetings for its Memorial Drive economic planning study.

The final "Memorial Drive Revitalization Corridor Plan" will be revealed in 30-minute presentations at noon and 2 p.m on Saturday, Nov. 16. The department has scheduled the meeting for the DeKalb Conference Center at Georgia Piedmont Technical College, 495 N. Indian Creek Dr., Clarkston.

Notice of the meeting was emailed to the public by the department on Thursday, Nov. 14, less than 48 hours before the meeting is scheduled.

There is a web site for the $175,000 study, being done by Pond & Company, but other than a mark-up map for public comments that was unveiled over the summer, it offers no information about the study's findings. It does not reflect any of the information that was gathered at meetings that began in June, nor does it explain the decision-making process that has gone into the final plan.

Thursday, November 14, 2019

Hearing set on Pine Lake city budget

Pine Lake has scheduled a public hearing on its FY 2020 budget for Tuesday, Nov. 26, at 7 p.m.

The city says budget proposal will be posted on its web site on Monday, Nov. 18, and will also be available at City Hall during normal business hours.

Last year, Pine Lake proposed a $1 million budget.

Transportation, crime are biggest problems, ARC DeKalb County survey finds

Transportation is the biggest problem in the metro Atlanta area, according to a survey of DeKalb County residents conducted for the Atlanta Regional Commission.
More than 23 percent of those in DeKalb County identified transportation as the region's biggest problem. That was lower than the overall figure of 28 percent for the 13-county metro Atlanta region, where transportation was also identified as the biggest problem.

Crime ran a close second in DeKalb County, with almost 20 percent of the county's residents calling crime the area's biggest problem. Human services ranked third, while taxes and public education tied for fourth place in DeKalb County.

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

DeKalb County sheriff to resign: media reports

DeKalb County Sheriff Jeff Mann is set to announce on Thursday that he is resigning later this month, after more than five years in the position, according to multiple media reports.
Mann pleaded guilty to obstruction and prohibited conduct two years ago after it was alleged that he exposed himself at Piedmont Park in Atlanta. He admitted that he ran from a police officer before he was arrested.

Doraville school one of Georgia's Places in Peril

A DeKalb County school is on the Georgia Trust for Historic Preservation's 2020 list of 10 Places in Peril in Georgia. It is the only DeKalb County site on the group's annual list.
The Cary Reynolds Elementary School, located at 3498 Pine Street in Doraville, was designed by the late architect-developer John Portman, the trust says. Originally named the Sequoyah Elementary School, the school was built in 1961.

Monday, November 11, 2019

Smith reappointed to Stone Mountain Memorial Authority

Attorney Ray Smith III has been reappointed to the Stone Mountain Memorial Association by Governor Brian Kemp. The apppintment was announced on Nov. 4.
Smith is the chairman of the association, according to its web site. Association member Carolyn Meadows was organization's chairman when the association met in September. Meadows was elected the president of the National Rifle Association earlier this year. She is also a vice chairman of the American Conservative Union.

Smith was vice chairman at when the SMMA met in September. At that meeting, the SMMA voted to bar shareable dockable devices from the park.

Tyson is interim DeKalb school superintendent -- again

The DeKalb County Board of Education has dismissed Superintendent R. Stephen Green after 4 1/2 years in the position.

Green, who had announced in May that he planned to resign after his contract ended on June 30, 2020, was dismissed by the board at its Nov. 11 meeting, according to the Reporter Newspapers.

Ramona Tyson, who has been with the school district for more than three decades, will serve as interim superintendent until the end of the school year. She held the same position in 2010 and 2011.

Police officials at next PRISM meeting

The next PRISM meeting will focus on crime. Guests will be:

-Police Chief Mirtha Ramos, who took office November 1st
-Asst. Police Chief Greg Padrick of DeKalb’s Uniform Division
-Major Craig Medlin, Commander of Tucker Precinct (east-central DeKalb}

The PRISM meeting will take place from 7 to 8:30 p.m. this Tuesday,
November 12, at St. Timothy United Methodist Church, 5365
Memorial Dr., Stone Mountain.

Pine Lake seeks grant for Rockbridge Rd. agricultural project

The City of Pine Lake is applying for a $10,000 grant for an urban agriculture project on Rockbridge Rd.

The orchard project may get assistance from the Atlanta Regional Commission and the non-profit Food Well Alliance if the city receives the grant, Mayor Melanie Hammet said at an Oct. 29 Pine Lake City Council meeting.

Sunday, November 10, 2019

Next step awaited on county ethics board

A group that successfully urged DeKalb County voters to reject a proposed revamp of the county's ethics board says it will soon announce its next step.

The DeKalb Citizens Advocacy Council urged people to vote against the measure that was on the Nov. 5 ballot, saying it would have gutted the board's independence. "The Ethics Board would be under the control of the same politicians whose conduct is subject to oversight by the ethics board," the group said.

Tuesday, November 5, 2019

Two Stone Mountain city council members voted out of office

Two of three incumbents on the Stone Mountain City Council were defeated in a Nov. 5 municipal election.

Gina Stroud Cox, a special education teacher, and Clint Monroe, a financial analyst, ousted incumbents and were elected to the council. Chakira Johnson, a civil engineer who was first elected to the council in 2007, was elected to another four-year term.

In unofficial but complete results from the county election office:

Friday, November 1, 2019

Closed Kroger will not become new charter school

Contrary to a report last year in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, a new DeKalb County charter school will not be moving into the former Kroger grocery store on Memorial Dr. at Hairston Rd. The site of the grocery store remains vacant.

Instead, the Community Academy for Architecture and Design says it will be located in the Village Square shopping center at Memorial Drive and Hambrick Rd.

The school had announced plans to open on Memorial Dr. in the fall of 2019. It now says it will open in the fall of 2020.

Monday, October 21, 2019

Roundabout proposed in south DeKalb

The Georgia Department of Transportation is planning to put a multi-lane roundabout at the intersection of Snapfinger Rd. and Panola Rd. at the DeKalb-Henry county line.

The DOT has approved the location and design of the project, which will replace an existing temporary signal.

The reconstructed intersection will take up about a half a mile on Snapfinger Rd. and one-fifth of a mile on Panola Rd.

Memorial Drive outdoor merchandise decision appealed

A merchant wants to use two parking spaces at the southeast corner of Memorial Dr and H. Hairston Rd. "to display outdoor merchandise." This is at 6007 Memorial Dr., the corner with the Exxon gas station-convenience store and the Angie's Place restaurant.

The DeKalb County Department of Planning & Sustainability has not yet posted the application made by Sabir Muhammad, who is appealing an administrative decision.

There will be a public hearing on his appeal before the DeKalb County Zoning Board of Appeals on Wednesday, Nov. 13 at 2 p.m. at the Maloof Building in downtown Decatur.

Sunday, October 6, 2019

PRISM meeting to discuss November ethics referendum

A proposal on the November ballot to make changes in the way ethics complaints are handled in DeKalb County will be the subject of the next meeting of PRISM (Pride Rings In Stone Mountain).

The meeting will take place from 7 to 8:30 p.m. this Thursday, October 10, in Fellowship Hall, St. Timothy United Methodist Church, 5365 Memorial Dr., Stone Mountain.

The meeting will feature three citizens who are concerned about Senate Bill 7, a measure passed during the 2019 General Assembly that would make changes to the DeKalb County Board of Ethics, if approved by voters. Mary Hinkel, Joel Edwards and Roslyn Allison will discuss the bill at Thursday evening's meeting.

Hinkel chairs a group of concerned citizens called the DeKalb Citizens Advocacy Council, which is warning voters that the measure on the November ballot "guts the ethics board."

"SB7 strips authority from the ethics administrator to conduct preliminary investigations of or file complaints based upon personal observation or anonymous claims via the hotline, or to report suspected criminal violations to state or federal law enforcement agencies," the group says.

A PDF of the legislation, which Gov. Brian Kemp allowed to become law without his signature, can be found at .

The DeKalb County ethics board has not met for more than one year because of a successful court challenge to the board's composition.

For voters in unincorporated DeKalb, the ethics referendum will be the only item on the November ballot. Voter turnout is expected to be higher in cities having elections for municipal offices.

PRISM's Oct. 10 forum will be one of the few opportunities to learn about and ask questions about the ethics law. We invite you to learn about this proposal so that you can make an informed decision when you vote on Nov. 5.

Tuesday, September 24, 2019

DeKalb Commissioners extend ambulance contract -- again

DeKalb County commissioners reluctantly voted Tuesday to again extend the county's ambulance service agreement with American Medical Response for another three months.

The current agreement, which covers emergency ambulance services and billing and collection, was to have ended at the end of this month. The extension means the agreement will be in place through the end of the year.

The vote was 6-1-0, with Commissioner Nancy Jester voting against the extension

"I'm very frustrated. It seems like it's gone on forever," Jester said. "No one's happy about this extension and I'm certainly very frustrated."

Interim DeKalb County Attorney Vivian Ernstes said legal and other matters could not be resolved in time to avoid the extension. While the legal issue was not identified during commission's vote, Commissioner Jester was able to obtain an acknowledgement from Ernstes that it arose "within the last month."

Stone Mountain proposes name change of street named after Klan leader

After originally planning to rename only one block, the city of Stone Mountain is now proposing to rename the entire four-block length of a street currently named for the white supremacist who was the city's mayor from 1946 to 1949.

Venable Street, in the heart of the city's historically black Shermantown neighborhood, is named after James Venable, who founded and was the Imperial Wizard of the National Knights of the Klan from 1963 to 1987. His Ku Klux Klan faction often marched through Shermantown as it held rallies every year on the top of Stone Mountain and on nearby land his family owned. Venable's family owned Stone Mountain and its granite quarry when work on the mountain carving began in 1923. Venable died in 1993 at age 92.

CBS46 News Atlanta (WGCL-TV) interviewed some of Shermantown's residents about the change, including William Woodson Morris, 91.

Monday, September 23, 2019

Zoning decision expected Tuesday on another fast food restaurant for Memorial Dr.

DeKalb County Commissioners are scheduled to vote this coming Tuesday evening on a request to put a fast-food restaurant in the parking lot of the Citadel Shopping Center at the corner of College Ave. and Memorial Dr., across the street from the Original House of Pancakes.

The proposed drive-through Popeye's would be replace the vehicle emissions inspection station currently located in the parking lot at 5100 Memorial Dr., which serves Office Depot and other businesses.
The proposed site plan is for a 2,400-square-foot building with a drive-through window. The developer proposes 18 parking spaces, including two handicapped spaces that would be connected by a new sidewalk to the sidewalk along Memorial Dr.

The county's Department of Planning & Sustainability is recommending approval of the application. The county's Planning Commission voted 7-2 in favor of the proposal during its Sept. 10 meeting. The District 4 Community Council had earlier voted in favor of the proposal.

Thursday, September 19, 2019

DeKalb County sets new annual record for sewage spills

This year, 2019, is a record year for sewer spills in DeKalb County.

There had been 184 spills in the county as of Sept. 1, 2019, according to a table accompanying a news story in the latest print edition of The Champion newspaper, the county's legal organ. At least three other spills have occured since then:
- There was a "major" spill of 18,840 gallons on Robert Nash Court in Tucker on Sept. 3. A blockage sent sewage into Lake Prestwick.
- There was a "major" spill of 217,800 gallons of wasterwater on Sept. 6 at 984 S. Indian Creek Dr. in Stone Mountain. Sewage flowed into Snapfinger Creek because of a structural defect in a 30-foot creek crossing, a county notice said.
- Four days later, on Sept. 10, there was a "minor" spill of 1,900 gallons of sewage on Carson Valley Dr. in Tucker.
Champion table of annual sewage spills through Sept. 1
Even though 2019 has more than three months to go, the total so far this year of 187 spills surpasses the total for the entire year of 2017, when 186 spills occurred. At the current rate, DeKalb County will have had 240 sewage spills by year end.

DeKalb Commissioners to discuss budget, MARTA and voting at Friday legislative retreat

The DeKalb County Board of Commissioners will hold a legislative retreat on Friday in the Maloof Auditorium in Decatur.

Among the items to be discussed:
- Budget and policy priorities for the 2020 Fiscal Year, including preliminary department budget targets
- Legislation in the 2020 General Assembly, including a report on this year's legislative session and identifying priorities for next year.
- Discussion of the latest amendment to the agreement between MARTA and local governments, including DeKalb County.
- Discussion of concerns about voter registration and voting, including ballot access.

The meeting is scheduled to take place from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Retreats are informational in nature and are less formal than regular commission meetings. They are usually held every three months and do not include a period for public comments.

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

DeKalb CEO Thurmond "exploring" U.S. Senate candidacy - reports

DeKalb County CEO Michael Thurmond says he is "exploring his options" regarding two U.S. Senate seats that will be up for election next year, the Associated Press reports.

Thurmond was a Democratic U.S. Senate candidate in 2010, losing to incumbent Republican Johnny Isakson by a 58 to 39 percent margin. Isakson announced last month that he is retiring from the Senate at the end of this year for health reasons.

An Atlanta Journal-Constitution article also lists Thurmond as among those "weighing whether to compete for Isakson's seat."

MARTA mulling development at Kensington Station

A developer has made an unsolicited proposal to MARTA for a Transit Oriented Development at Kensington Station at Mountain Drive and Memorial Drive, MARTA General Manager and CEO Jeffrey Parker told county commissioners on Tuesday.

Parker revealed the proposal at a Committee Of The Whole meeting of the Board of Commissioners. He said it is being reviewed by staff, which will make a recommendation to him. The MARTA board would then pass a resolution to issue a Request For Proposals.

Commissioner Lorraine Cochran-Johnson expressed concern about this process. "It sounds as if you would literally create an RFP if you like the proposal," she said. "To me that raises a little bit of a concern and a red flag."

She also noted that she and several other commissioners were not informed of the proposal earlier.

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Machines with personal voter data stolen from Atlanta precinct

The Associated Press reports two machines that hold detailed information about voters, including names, addresses, dates of birth, and driver's license numbers were stolen from an Atlanta polling place on Monday night. The machines, used to check in voters, were taken from the Grove Park Recreation Center, a voting site for a special election for a seat on the Atlanta Board Of Education

Monday, September 16, 2019

Countywide boil-water advisory lifted completely

DeKalb County on Monday afternoon lifted its boil-water advisory for the entire county.

"Authorities have confirmed that the water supply in all areas of the county is safe for consumption without boiling," the county said in a statement.

Two three-minute power outages on Friday night prompted DeKalb County to issue the boil-water advisory on Saturday morning. Thunderstorms were blamed for the outages at the Scott Candler Water Treatment Plant on Winters Chapel Rd., which treats water drawn from the Chattahoochee River.

Even though backup generators restored power within three minutes each time, the county's Department of Watershed Management was obliged to check water quality after water pressure dropped to dangerously low levels in parts of the system.

DeKalb County was under a three-day county-wide boil-water advisory in March of 2018 when a large water main broke along Buford Highway. A broken water main also caused a three-day county-wide boil-water advisory in July 2015.

On average, thunderstorms occur in DeKalb County on an average of 50 to 55 days every year. Storm-related electrical power outages are not uncommon.

Friday, September 13, 2019

Pine Lake adopting new zoning ordinance and map

The City of Pine Lake is holding a second public hearing on Tuesday, Sept. 24, on a new zoning ordinance and zoning map for the city. Residents are invited to attend the 7 p.m. hearing in the City Council chambers at 459 Pine Dr.

A copy of the proposed ordinance and map is available for public inspection in the City Clerk's office at 462 Clubhouse Dr.

DeKalb has first West Nile case for 2019

An East Atlanta woman in her 50s has become the first human case of West Nile Virus in DeKalb County this year. The DeKalb County Board of Health says it is going door to door is working to educate the public about eliminating mosquito breeding sites.

Earlier this summer, the health board announced it had trapped WNV-positive mosquitoes at 11 different locations in DeKalb County. West Nile Virus is transmitted to humans by mosquitoes. People 60 years of age and older have the greatest risk of severe disease from WNV, which affects the central nervous system and can be fatal.

There were two West Nile virus cases in DeKalb County last year, one of them was fatal.

Thursday, September 12, 2019

Pine Lake plans Peace Poles on Rockbridge Rd.

The City of Pine Lake plans to install Peace Poles on Rockbridge Rd. Peace poles are handmade monuments that carry the message "May Peace Prevail On Earth" in many different international languages.

The idea was started in Japan in 1955 by Masahisa Goi, who founded The World Peace Prayer Society in response to the bombings on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

The Pine Lake City Council approved spending $3,000 on the Peace Poles earlier this month after hearing information and plans from David Burt, who has a Masters degree in city planning and has served as an economic develeopment consultant to Hapeville and Avondale Estates

Business owners, churches, community members and residents will be involved in handcrafting each pole.

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

City of Stone Mountain abandons annexation plans

The City of Stone Mountain has abandoned any plans to expand its city limits beyond current lines, the city has disclosed.

"The City of Stone Mountain has no plans to propose any annexation," according to a one-line announcement in the city's monthly newsletter.

"We are not promoting, requesting, presenting or proposing any annexation," Stone Mountain City Manager ChaQuias Miller-Thornton told City Council members at their regular meeting this month.

Beginning in 2016, Stone Mountain floated a proposal to almost double the geographical size of the city and increase its population by a little more than 50 percent (from 6,109 to 9,235).  The city's analysis of that annexation proposal (a PDF file) can be found at .
Map of abandoned 2016 annexation plan
Nickel Works Consulting was hired by the city in 2017 to do surveys and outreach in conjunction with the annexation proposal. However, the city's annexation task force committee has not met since February 2018.

In 2000, Stone Mountain Mayor Chuck Burris proposed expanding the city limits to all locations that have a Stone Mountain postal address. The proposal, which failed to advance, would have increased the city's population to more than 20,000.

Thursday, April 4, 2019

EXCLUSIVE: Community activist ordered to shut down pirate radio station

Federal authorities have ordered a community activist and event-facility operator to shut down a pirate FM radio station that has been operating on 88.9 MHz since last August.

The Federal Communications Commission has sent a "notice of unlicensed operation" to Charles McCorkle and his GB Ministries, Inc., after finding that a radio station identifying itself as "The Community's Voice" was transmitting from 4225 Snapfinger Woods Dr. in Decatur.

Tuesday, April 2, 2019

DeKalb begins three-year water meter replacement program

DeKalb County has begun a three-year program to replace 102,000 water meters, partially funded by a legal settlement reached last year with a meter manufacturer.

The county has created an interactive online map where residents can to determine, by entering their address, if they will be receiving a new meter and in what month the replacement is scheduled.

Sunday, March 31, 2019

Stacey Abrams honored at Stone Mountain church

Stacey Abrams was honored with a Trailblazer Award at the Antioch African Methodist Episcopal Church in Stone Mountain on Sunday morning, as the church recognized women of DeKalb County during National Women's History Month.

Others honored with "Women On The Move Awards" included DeKalb NAACP President Teresa Hardy, On Common Ground News publisher Valerie Morgan and DeKalb County Commissioner Mereda Davis Johnson.

Saturday, March 30, 2019

Pedestrians targeted in Memorial Dr. safety crackdown

Authorities in DeKalb County have begun an effort to caution pedestrians crossing major thoroughfares who aren't using crosswalks or are distracted by their electronic devices. WSB-TV reports DeKalb Police were on Memorial Drive on Friday evening, giving warnings about the risks to pedestrians.

The crackdown by police is in partnership with DeKalb County Board of Health, which received a $30,000 grant from the Governor's Office of Highway Safety last year for a "Live Safe DeKalb" program. The state office says that about one-third of the of the 196 deaths related to motor vehicle crashes from 2014 to 2016 in DeKalb County involved pedestrians.

Friday, March 29, 2019

Dunwoody businesses complain of unfair property assessment hikes

DeKalb County officials say most of DeKalb County has not seen the sharp rise in commercial property assessments that has led to complaints by Republican leaders that Dunwoody businesses are being unfairly targeted for increases, according to the Reporter Newspapers.

"At no time did we unfairly target Dunwoody," the article quotes DeKalb County Board of Assessors chairman Robert Burroughs as saying. "We used the same standards across the county."

Tuesday, March 26, 2019

DeKalb BOC rejects slaughterhouse zoning application

The DeKalb County Board of Commissioners on Tuesday evening unanimously rejected an application to permit an abattoir behind a single-family home located on a 5 1/2-acre lot at 1676 Rice Rd., in Lithonia. The zoning application sought a rezoning from R-100 (Residential Medium Lot) District to RE (Residential Estate) [large lots] for the property just north of S. Deshon Rd.

The vote against was 6-0-0. (Commissioner Nancy Jester did not attend the zoning meeting.)

Decision on Porter Road mixed-use development delayed one month

The DeKalb Board of Commissioners on Tuesday delayed action for one month on an application to rezone 11 acres of property at the corner of Porter Road and Covington Hwy. from R-75 to MU-1 (Mixed Use Low Density) for 60 townhomes and unspecified retail. The applicant has changed the proposal several times and presented a January 18 site plan.

At the BOC zoning meeting, a spokeswoman for the applicant said retailers including Panera Bread and Cold Stone Creamery have expressed interest in the retail space. However, Derik Rinehart, in opposition, said he had spoken to the woman who would be the first point of contact at Cold Stone Creamery and she said she had never heard of the proposed development.

DeKalb County approves elections board audit

The DeKalb County Board of Commissioners on Tuesday unanimously approved an audit of the DeKalb County Voter Registration & Elections Department after hearing complaints from voters about the way last fall's elections were handled.

A resolution approved by commissioners in a 7-0-0 vote calls for the Office of Independent Internal Audit to coordinate and manage an external operational overview of the elections office that includes a fiscal and performance audit.

John Greene, Chief Audit Executive for DeKalb County, told commissioners that it would take a couple of months to determine the "scope, objectives and methodology" for the audit.

"It will become a high priority in our work plan," he said. He estimated that it would take "six months or less" for the audit to be completed.

Stone Mountain man arrested for robberies in two states

A 21-year-old from Stone Mountain is one of two men arrested in Mississippi for a series of robberies of fast-food restaurants in Mississippi and Alabama. WLBT-TV reports that Sharae Threadgill of Stone Mountain and Jaylen Benton, 18, of Ellerslie, Ga., were arrested near Vicksburg after a police chase. Brandon police say the two are also wanted for a murder in Georgia.

Coastal vote against new city may turn the tide

Voter rejection of a proposed city of Skidaway Island near Savannah last week may put a damper on legislative approval of new cities, writes Charlie Harper, the Marietta-based publisher of and executive director of PolicyBEST, which focuses on policy issues of business climate, education, science and medicine, and transportation.

Skidaway Island, a 6,300-acre island surrounded by tidal marshes and the Intracoastal Waterway, is in unincorporated Chatham County. About 63 percent of voters opposed the proposed new city. Of the island's more than 8,000 voters, 73 percent cast ballots.

Monday, March 25, 2019

Georgia gets failing grade for lead in school drinking water

Georgia is among 22 states that have earned a failing grade for their efforts to eliminate lead from drinking water in schools, according to an analysis by the Environment America Research & Policy Center and the U.S. Public Interest Research Group Education Fund.

The "Get The Lead Out" report said Georgia had no policies related to lead in schools' drinking water. "Outlets at 25 of 60 Atlanta schools tested found lead in water above 15 ppb," it said, citing a 2016 Atlanta Journal-Constitution story.

Stone Mountain college student's beach litter pick-up goes viral

A college student from Stone Mountain has been thanked by Miami Beach Police for picking up litter on a busy beach. His efforts have gained widespread recognition in social media.

Saturday, March 23, 2019

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Commercial zoning sought for residential lots on Deshon Rd. north of Rockbridge

A zoning application has been filed to rezone three wooded residential lots located about 1,000 feet north of the intersection of Rockbridge Rd. and Deshon Rd., where Deshon Plaza is located. The application asks for the zoning at 425, 433 and 441 N Deshon Rd. to be changed from R-100 (residential) to NS (Neighborhood Shopping) for unspecified "commercial uses."

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

DeKalb County is 16th healthiest in Georgia: report

DeKalb County ranks 16th in the state for health outcomes, according to the annual County Health Rankings & Roadmaps report conducted by the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute with support from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. Forsyth County nabbed the top spot as the healthiest county in the state.

Friday, March 15, 2019

Report: ARC official gets bonus after audit scuppers his spending

The Executive Director of the Atlanta Regional Commission official has received a bonus, the year after his profligate spending led the state to cut the agency's budget, according to a joint investigation by WSB-TV and the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Lithonia elected officials seek to vote themselves 40-percent pay hikes

City officials in Lithonia have scheduled a April 15 public hearing and vote on giving themselves an approximately 40 percent pay increase. The city of 2,000 residents has a mayor (Deborah Jackson) and five council members.

More late-night bars sought in central DeKalb

Two applications have been filed for Special Land Use Permits that would allow late-night establishments on Memorial Dr. and Rockbridge Rd.

Thursday, March 14, 2019

DeKalb legislators object to proposed new voting machines

Legislation that would call for new touchscreen voting machines in Georgia has been sent to Georgia's governor. The Georgia House passed a measure approved one day earlier in the state Senate, the Associated Press reports.

Public invited to DeKalb County SPLOST open-house meetings in April

DeKalb County officials plan three meetings on successive nights during the second week of April to answer citizen questions about the Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax approved by voters last November.

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

DeKalb County seeks new emergency ambulance provider

Less than a year after DeKalb County extracted a $596,000 cash payment, new ambulance units for Dunwoody and Stonecrest, and another $1.3 million in service improvements from American Medical Response, the county is now looking for a new emergency ambulance transport provider.

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Federal lawsuit over DeKalb election problems

A federal lawsuit has been filed in Atlanta over voter registration delays and problems that occurred in DeKalb County and three other metro Atlanta counties on Election Day last November, the Associated Press reports. The American Civil Liberties Union filed the lawsuit in U.S. District Court on behalf of the group Georgia Shift.

County tax assessor criticized in Dunwoody for business increases

Business owners in Dunwoody are seeing their property tax assessments quadruple unexpectedly because of a change in Georgia law, the chief of staff for DeKalb County Commissioner Nancy Jester has told a homeowners' association. The aide, former Dunwoody Mayor Mike Davis, says small business owners are being hard hit.

Monday, March 11, 2019

Development bringing higher costs to Doraville and Chamblee - report

Development is bringing rising rents to Doraville and Chamblee as affordable housing is being destroyed around the Atlanta Beltline and elsewhere, according to a article written by freelance journalist Adina Solomon. One resident says: "We're just all stunned by the sudden rise in housing prices, both cost of people's houses but then the impact of that on rent."

Wednesday, March 6, 2019

PRISM meeting postponed until April

Dear PRISM friends:

We had scheduled our next PRISM meeting for Thursday, March 7, at St. Timothy United Methodist Church.

However, the guests we had invited to speak at the meeting have suddenly become unavailable.

As a result, we are postponing our next PRISM meeting until April. We will let you know when we have a firm date.

We apologize for the inconvenience and for this short notice.

Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Sworn statements detail Georgia voting issues last November

More than 200 declarations spanning more than 700 pages detail problems with voter registration or voting mchines in last November's election, including in DeKalb County. The Associated Press reports the documents also detail long waits at polling places and problems with absentee ballots.

County's first blight demolition of year is south of Redan Rd.

DeKalb County has demolished an abandoned home south of Redan Rd., at 1264 Muirforest Dr., Stone Mountain. The county gained control of the property in October. It's located in the Muirfield subdivision, in county commission districts 5 and 7. This is the first demolition of the year as part of the county's blight remediation program, which demolished or abated 296 properties in 2017 and 2018. The county's 2017 budget included $3.8 million for dealing with blight and derelict properties.

Tuesday, February 26, 2019

DeKalb County approves 2019 budget

The DeKalb County Board of Commissioners this morning approved a $1.328 billion Fiscal Year 2019 budget for the county. The vote was 6-1-0, with Commissioner Nancy Jester voting against it.

"We're moving in the right direction," CEO Michael Thurmond told commissioners. "We've gotten our fiscal house in order."

County commissioners mull Memorial Drive economic study, Stone Mountain library renovation

Two spending items of importance to central DeKalb are to be considered at the county commission's Planning, Economic Development & Community Services (PECS) Committee meeting on Thursday morning. At this morning's Board of Commissioners meeting, commissioners voted to send the items to committee and then consider them at their next meeting on March 12.

Committee members will consider a proposed contract for the Department of Planning & Sustainability to spend $175,000 to study Revitalization of the Memorial Drive Commercial Corridor. Pond & Company, an engineering firm based in Peachtree Corners, is being recommended over Sycamore Consulting, according to a document signed by Planning Director Andrew Baker that can be seen at . Last year, Pond & Company was named Engineering Employer of the Year by the American Council of Engineering Companies of Georgia. The Memorial Drive study area study area bears a striking resemblance to the area that was unsuccessfully proposed for an Overlay Zoning District in 2017. A map of the study area and proposed meeting plans can be seen at .
Meanwhile, a proposed contractor has been identified for the renovation of the Stone Mountain-Sue Kellogg Library in downtown Stone Mountain. You can see the bid recommendation to use Alpharetta-based CT Darnell Construction at . The Request for Proposals that was issued last fall can be viewed at . CT Darnell Construction was chosen last year to design and build a judicial annex for the Butts County Administration Building in Jackson. Work to renovate the library branch is expected to take 4 to 6 months.

AJC: More subpoenas issued in federal Barnes-Sutton probe

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports that DeKalb County has received more subpoenas related to former an investigation of County Commissioner Sharon Barnes-Sutton. A federal grand jury has asked for budget requests or amendments from the year 2016 that affected Barnes-Sutton's district, which is now represented by Commissioner Steve Bradshaw. The subpoenas, which give the county a March 13 deadline, also specifically ask for correspondence and payment information involving the Bell & Washington law firm, which has in the past represented Barnes-Sutton and also represented ex-boyfriend and former campaign manager Warren Mosby after Barnes-Sutton accused him of domestic assault in 2014. The subpoenas also ask for information on county payments to Tetra Tech, Metals and Materials Engineers, and Environmental Consortium, in some cases dating as far back as 2008, according to this morning's AJC report.

Sunday, February 24, 2019

DeKalb Zoning Board of Appeals considers variance requests on March 13

The DeKalb County Zoning Board of Appeals will hear variance applications involving the following properties on Wednesday, March 13, at 1 p.m. in the Maloof Auditorium in Decatur:

2812 Lincoln Dr, Decatur: Reduce lot-width and lot-area requirements, waive lot merger requirement, restore three lots per a historic plat.

1393 Markan Dr NE, Atlanta: Reduce transitional buffer for a four-unit apartment building.

1383 Biltmore Dr NE, Atlanta: Increase lot coverage and reduce rear-yard setback for a proposed rear addition.

3103 N Decatur Rd, Scottdale: Allow two wall signs to be greater than 150 square feet.

775 Queen Ann Ct, Stone Mountain: Reduce interior, side yard and rear yard setbacks for a proposed two-car detached garage.

1788 Stephenson Rd, Lithonia: Reduce distance of a riding horse stable from adjoining property line.

1469 Fame Dr: Reduce side yard setback for new attached garage in the Fama Pines Community Overlay District.

733 Hillmont Ave, Decatur: Reduce front, side and rear yard setbacks and increase lot coverage to construct a home addition.

1610 Henrico Rd, Conley: Waive building materials requirement, Multimodal Access requirement, sidewalk requirements, requirement that build be located within 85 feet of property frontage, requirement for benches, trash bins and bike racks at street frontage, landscape strip requirement and requirement for loading and service area.

Copies of the applications have not yet been posted on the web site of the county's Department of Planning & Sustainability.

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Memorial Dr. extended-stay hotels among worst code violators

Four extended-stay hotels on Memorial Dr. are on a list of 12 extended-stay hotels in the county that were written a total of 2,397 code enforcement citations last year and paid $168,395 in fines, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports. The hotel with the most violations on the list was the United Inn and Suites at 4649 Memorial Dr., between I-285 and Indian Creek Dr. The extended-stay had 447 citations last year and paid $60,345 in fines, according to a report provided to county commissioners. Another extended-stay, the Haven Hotel at 4893 Memorial Dr., just east of Rockbridge Rd. next to Cash America Pawn, had 793 citations in 2017-18, according to DeKalb County's Code Enforcement division. Both hotels are now in compliance with the code, the report said. Four of the 12 hotels on the list are closing or have already stopped operating.

DeKalb Police Chief Conroy is retiring

DeKalb County has begun a nationwide search for a new police chief after the announcement that James Conroy is retiring at the end of April. Conroy, who has spent 30 years with the DeKalb County Police Department, became chief after the departure of Cedric Alexander. County CEO Michael Thurmond called Conroy "an example of the best DeKalb County has to offer."

Stone Mountain delays vote on Georgia Military College expansion

Stone Mountain officials have delayed action for one month on a proposal to allow Georgia Military College to more than double the size of its building in downtown Stone Mountain and eliminate parking spaces. The City Council voted for the delay at its meeting on Tuesday evening.

The Stone Mountain Downtown Development Authority, which owns the building, is seeking a zoning variance as part of an expansion that would allow seven classrooms instead of the existing two, increasing the size of the building from the current 2,600 square feet to more than 5,800 square feet. The variance request seeks permission to allow the building to be within six feet of Manor Dr., when zoning regulations normally require a 20-foot setback.

Motorist waits for an empty parking place in area where parking is to be removed
The expansion would eliminate existing parking spaces on that (north) side of the building. Not only would parking be reduced, but the city has already agreed to allow GMC students to park anywhere in the city for free, should Stone Mountain begin charging for its already limited public parking.

Parking is saturated, before proposed 250 percent increase in classrooms
GMC officials have been absent at public hearings on zoning matters related to the expansion. Neighboring property and business owners and residents have expressed frustration that GMC has never discussed the expansion with them or held a public meeting for community feedback.

Formerly a junior college, GMC, which has 15 campuses in Georgia, now offers four-year bachelor of applied science degrees. GMC's flagship campus is located in Milledgeville, Ga.

Monday, February 18, 2019

DeKalb CEO resists new rules governing county purchases

DeKalb County's CEO is resisting an auditor's recommendation that any contract over $1 million should be reviewed by internal auditors, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports. CEO Michael Thurmond says new rules for purchasing by the county are a "high priority," but he has other issues that are more demanding of his attention. Jeff Rader, presiding officer of the DeKalb County Board of Commissioners, says the county needs a  new procurement ordinance because "the fundamental lack of a law that puts every member of the staff in a very difficult situation."

Sunday, February 17, 2019

Five vie for vacant Stone Mountain City Council seat

Five people, including a former council member and an unsuccessful candidate, have submitted letters of interest in the Stone Mountain City Council vacancy created by the resignation of Councilman Steve Wells. The City Council is expected to vote on the position early next month.

Andrea Redmond, who served on the City Council from 2014 to 2018, says "revitalization and conservation are both needed" in the city. Redmond said she did not run for re-election last year for personal reasons but is "ready to devote my time and energy on the Council again."

Michael Rollins, a technical writer who was defeated in November by Diana Roe Hollis for Council Post #4, says "divisions and anger simmer beneath the surface of our community," but that he "can help smooth things out," citing his capabilities for "listening, thoughtful decision making and communication."

Three others, all political newcomers, have also expressed interest in the position in letters to the city.

Rebecca Butler, who says she has corporate leadership experience in financial, real-estate, insurance and non-profit areas, says she desires "to see the healthy growth of my community."

Clint Monroe, a senior financial analyst and accountant, cites a background of civic engagement in Stone Mountain. He says he would seek to manage costs and bring added revenues to the city, support transparent and open communication, and support public safety and single-stream recycling.

Bernie Waller, a retired distribution center manager for an international vehicle company, says he has the ability to "effectively communicate with people across all levels of experience to achieve common goals."

There are six seats on the Stone Mountain City Council. Members serve four-year terms. In a case where less than one year of a term remains for a vacated position, the city code says "the city council or those members remaining shall appoint a successor for the remainder of the term." The City Council is expected to vote on Wells' successor on Tuesday evening, March 5.

Judy Asher, who was was defeated by Jasmine Little for Post #6 in last fall's election, submitted her name, then withdrew it saying "there is so many that have already put their names in it would not be worth it to pursue."

According to U.S. Census Bureau 5-Year estimates, 76 percent of City of Stone Mountain residents are black or African-American, while 20 percent are white.

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

DeKalb school system withholds purchasing report, approves pay hikes that double earlier estimates

WSB-TV reports that the DeKalb County school district is refusing to release a report on its purchasing system, claiming the report is protected by attorney-client confidentiality. Meanwhile, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution says employee salary adjustments approved by the Board of Education will cost more than twice as much as estimates made in a study last summer.

Congressman asked to apologize for displayed book

State Senator Elena Parent (D-Atlanta) has called on Georgia Congressman Drew Ferguson (R) to apologize to "all of his constituents and the state of Georgia" after an 1897 biography of Gen. Robert E. Lee was found in the lobby of his office, the Associated Press reports. The book was opened to a page that said "the painful discipline [blacks] are undergoing is necessary for their instruction as a race." Ferguson says he didn't know the book was there and was "offended by the remarks ... as anybody would be," the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported. The 586-page book, "Gen. Robert Edward Lee: soldier, citizen, and Christian patriot," is available to read online thanks to the Internet Archive.

Changes to DeKalb County ethics board in doubt

A proposal to revamp the DeKalb County Board of Ethics that was unanimously approved by the Georgia Senate has run into problems. Senate Bill 7 was approved by the Senate in a 55-0 vote. The legislation, as approved, does not include a provision for a county residents to vote on it. In addition, State Rep. Vernon Jones (D-Lithonia) wants to limit the board's power. He told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that the new measure is "an old band-aid."

The ethics board has not met since the Georgia Supreme Court ruled last August that the board was illegal because it included members that were not chosen by elected officials.  The Georgia Supreme Court noted last year that four of the ethics board's seven members had been appointed by private entities who "do not answer to the people as required by our Constitution."

Under the bill approved by the Senate, two members would be chosen by the county's state House delegation, two members by the county's state Senate delegation, one member by the Board of Commissioner, one member by the county's Probate Court Judge and one member by the Chief Judge of DeKalb County Superior Court. Committee members would be limited to two consecutive two-year terms.

New book tells story of the Atlanta Public Schools cheating scandal from a teacher's perspective

One of the teachers appealing her 2015 conviction in the Atlanta Public Schools cheating scandal has co-authored a book on the criminal trial that led to the convictions of 11 administrators and teachers on racketeering charges. Former Dunbar Elementary teacher Shani Robinson and journalist Anna Simonton collaborated on "None of the Above: The Untold Story of the Atlanta Public Schools Cheating Scandal." They write that the scandal stemmed from an emphasis on student test scores, privatization of education and gentrification caused by new charter schools. The authors were interviewed for the television and radio program "Democracy Now."

Friday, February 8, 2019

Report: More subpoenas issued for Barnes-Sutton campaign and banking records

A federal grand jury has subpoenaed campaign and banking records of former DeKalb County Commissioner Sharon Barnes-Sutton, WSB-TV reported Thursday evening. The television station says multiple sources, including an attorney for Barnes-Sutton, have confirmed that subpoenas were issued covering records as far back as 2012. The action comes two years after a federal subpoena was issued investigating how Barnes-Sutton spent office funds just before leaving office, including payments of $22,289 to CAL Enterprises for communications services and a $9,100 payment for a self-promoting 21-page "transition report."

An attorney for Barnes-Sutton told WSB-TV reporter Richard Belcher that the subpoenas are an effort to discredit Barnes-Sutton, who was defeated by Commissioner Steve Bradshaw by a more than 3-to-1 margin in a 2016 primary. The attorney, Otis Williams, contends the investigation is in retaliation for Barnes-Sutton's successful lawsuit challenging the composition of the county's Ethics Board. The ethics board had been considering complaints that Barnes-Sutton abused her county purchasing card and misspent public money while in office.

DeKalb CEO seeks $9 million boost to pension fund

DeKalb County commissioners will consider later this month whether to spent $9 million annually over the next five years to bolster the county's pension fund.

“The proposal is a long-term strategy to strengthen and stabilize the employee pension fund and ensure financial integrity in the fund going forward," DeKalb County CEO Michael Thurmond said in a statement.

"Our pension fund is not in crisis," Thurmond told DeKalb County commissioners during a meeting on Tuesday morning. But he said the county was "taking a different approach ... in terms of creating more transparency."

Larry Jacobs, the county's Deputy Director of Finance and Risk Management, said the additional funding was part of a long-term plan to pay off pension liabilities over time. In a presentation to county commissioners, he said pension plan contributions by county employees went from 12.5 percent of pay to 1 percent of pay in the late 1990s. "The reduced contributions were not sufficient to pay for new benefits earned each year, resulting in depletion of the overfunded position. Additionally, significant changes were occurring in the investment markets," the presentation said.

Thursday, February 7, 2019

Central DeKalb residents inside I-285 strongly prefer unincorporated DeKalb over a new city, survey finds

More than two-thirds of residents in central DeKalb County near Emory University would prefer to remain in unincorporated DeKalb County instead of being part of a new or existing city, according to a survey of the Mason Mill and Victoria Estates neighborhoods that could be drawn into a proposed city of Vista Grove.

As well as Victoria Estates and Mason Mill, residents of the Clairmont Heights, Medlock Park and the Laurel Ridge-Shamrock neighborhoods overwhelmingly preferred to remain in unincorporated DeKalb instead of a new city. Feeling were mixed in the Leafmore, Lindmoor Woods, Briarcliff Woods East neighborhoods, while the North Briarcliff area overwhelmingly supported a new city.

The survey results were based on a total of 687 responses from central DeKalb County residents inside I-285, including 159 responses from the approximately 400 homes in the Mason Mill and Victoria Estates neighborhoods.

Neighborhoods that were surveyed were more supportive of being annexed into an existing DeKalb County city than a new one, if they could no longer remain in unincorporated DeKalb. Eighty percent of residents in Mason Mill and Victoria Estates would prefer to be annexed into an existing city instead of a new city, with Decatur and Brookhaven as their top choices. Residents of the Clairmont Heights, Laurel Ridge Shamrock, and Medlock Park neighorhoods expressed similar views.

A lengthy analysis of the survey results can be found at . Links to respondents comments about various scenarios can be found at .

Wednesday, February 6, 2019

County Planning Commission and Department listings updated

The DeKalb County Department of Planning & Sustainability has posted an updated list of members of the county's Planning Commission.  It can be found at: . The 2019 list indicates that Ed Patton will continue to serve as the appointee for County Commission District 7 under new Commissioner Lorraine Cochran-Johnson. All of the appointees' terms run through the end of 2020. The Planning Commissions list offers no way to contact planning commissioners, such as telephone numbers or emails.

Earlier this week, The DeKalb County Department of Planning & Sustainability posted an updated contact list for the department on its web site. It can be found at: .

Tuesday, February 5, 2019

Clarkston safer than Dunwoody, new analysis says

Decatur is the 20th-safest city in the state of Georgia, according to a new study by the National Council for Home Safety and Security, a national trade association of home security professionals. Clarkston ranked at No. 60 and Dunwoody was No. 64 in the tally, which was based on FBI Uniform Crime Reports for cities with a population of more than 10,000. Holly Springs, in Cherokee County, was recognized as the "Safest City in Georgia" for the third year in a row. The trade council, founded in 2006, combined crime rates and the size of each city's police force to get a safety score for each city.

A similar survey released late last year had different results. Dunwoody and Decatur were the only DeKalb County cities on a 2018 list of the 50 Safest Cities in Georgia released by SafeWise, a home-security system review web site. Dunwoody ranked No. 28 and Decatur was in 33rd place. SafeWise said its survey was based on 2016 FBI crime reports and population figures.

Saturday, February 2, 2019

Factcheck: Bill Clinton in Stone Mountain

Saturday's closing of Stone Mountain Park and the subsequent small demonstration in Stone Mountain prompted internet circulation over the weekend of a photo of then-Arkansas Governor Bill Clinton in front of a group of black prisoners. PRISM can't vouch for this particular picture, we didn't take it, we don't know its provenance.

However, President Bill Clinton was photographed in front of a group of mostly black probationers at the Stone Mountain Boot Camp on March 2, 1992, the day before an 11-state Super Tuesday primary with four Demoratic presidential candidates still in the race. California Gov. Jerry Brown campaigned at the Georgia Capitol the same day.

Later in the day, after seeing the photo, Brown said Clinton and U.S. Senator Sam Nunn looked like "a couple of white guys standing in front of them like colonial masters," and sending the signal, "Don't worry, we'll keep them in their place." In the heat of the campaign, Brown said the probationers looked like "a bunch of Willie Hortons."

Clinton responded that the probationers were getting education and drug rehabilitation and that he supported this type of program. At the time, there were almost a dozen prison boot camps around the state of Georgia. The Georgia Department of Corrections still operates a Probation Boot Camp in Forsyth that can put up to 100 male felons aged 17-30 in a military regimen.

Friday, February 1, 2019

Wade Walker Park gets new pavilion, toilets near tennis courts

A new pavilion and new restrooms have been installed near the tennis courts at Wade Walker Park on Rockbridge Rd. The installation is about 95 percent complete, according to DeKalb County's Department of Recreation, Parks and Cultural Affairs. The restroom building has four stalls and a "separate family stall access."

Harvard researcher says Atlanta ranks near bottom for upward mobility

A Bloomberg BusinessWeek article profiling Atlanta for the Super Bowl says the city is full of enterprising transplants and black entrepreneurs who have moved to the area. But it also says that a study co-authored by a Harvard University economist found Atlanta was the second-worst city for giving disadvantaged children the chance to move upwards out of poverty. The article, headlined "Atlanta Attracts Wealthy Black Transplants, But Locals Languish," quotes a Morehouse College professor as saying: “If Atlanta has progressed, it’s for a very small minority."

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

DeKalb animal control sergeant approved inflated overtime, internal probe says

A DeKalb County police sergeant has quit the county's animal control office after an internal investigation found he "approved inflated and inaccurate overtime sheets." Timothy Medlin is the third person to resign because of a year-long investigation into the abuse of overtime, according to a summary of a WSB-TV report in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Tuesday, January 29, 2019

Drenner is new chair of DeKalb State House delegation


State Rep. Karla Drenner (D-Avondale Estates) is the new chair of the 16-member DeKalb County House Delegation. She was chosen over Rep. Pam Stephenson (D-Decatur) by a vote of 9-7 during a meeting on Monday.

Rep. Michele Henson (D-Stone Mountain) was elected vice chair of the delegation. Rep. Becky Evans (D-Atlanta) will serve as secretary and Rep. Doreen Carter (D-Lithonia) is treasurer.

Drenner told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution the county's House members will work towards "making DeKalb the best possible place to live that we can."