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CrossRoadsNews

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May 8, 2010

If you compare apples to apples, DeKalb is quite similar in size and stature to other area counties. That’s not a very exciting story.

County staffing report fails in several key comparisons 2346 Candler Rd. Decatur, GA 30032 404-284-1888 Fax: 404-284-5007 www.crossroadsnews.com editor@crossroadsnews.com

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“Never let a few facts get in the way of a good story.” That old witticism among politicians and journalists comes to mind today. A trusted, venerable institution named Georgia State University just completed a study on DeKalb staffing. It made a big splash in the news, decreeing that DeKalb County was overstaffed, that 909 people had to be fired, and that DeKalb has twice the paid staff of Gwinnett and Cobb counties, which have comparable populations. From a storytelling standpoint it was a hatchet job, although I’m not sure why it played out that way. The troubling thing to me is the way the misinformation was dealt as though DeKalb, Cobb and Gwinnett are all identical commodities, and by virtue of paid staffing levels, Cobb and Gwinnett are somehow more efficient than DeKalb. It specifically cited that Cobb had 4,600 employees, Gwinnett 4,800 and DeKalb 8,077. When you look at the break-

If I can find a 1,500-person discrepancy in 10 minutes, what else is askew in this report? Why would Georgia State University rush to promote skewed data? Eugene Walker

down, it’s a lot closer. Cobb and Gwinnett have some outsourced services, like watershed management and sanitation. DeKalb County operates its own services in these areas. We can argue the relative merits of privatizing government services another day, but one thing is certain: There are human beings picking up the trash and fixing the water lines in Cobb and Gwinnett. It is not being performed by animals, machines or extraterrestrials. The taxpayers of Cobb and Gwinnett are paying for these human beings to do these jobs (and possibly others). The difference is they may be paying a private contractor or entity separately, or they

are paying through the county, and the county is paying the outsourced staff. Either way, there are employees and they are being paid. But the study contemplates zero people in both departments in Cobb and Gwinnett. So if we are comparing apples to apples, you have to take out De­Kalb’s watershed and sanitation, right? Then De­ Kalb’s staffing level falls to 6,563. Take away the 820 employees that are taking the county’s early retirement package, and the total drops to 5,743. Now we are down to about 1,000 paid staff that separate De­ Kalb from Cobb and Gwinnett, and that’s just with two glaring errors found in a side-by-side compari-

son. There are other areas that may be outsourced on a smaller scale. In the case of Gwinnett, the study showed that zero people were fixing county-owned cars and trucks. Again, I can guarantee you that someone is repairing those vehicles, and taxpayers are paying them to do it. If I can find a 1,500-person discrepancy in 10 minutes, what else is askew in this report? Why would Georgia State University rush to promote skewed data, and why would the Atlanta papers be in such a hurry to copy an unvetted propaganda piece? If you compare apples to apples, DeKalb is quite similar in size and stature to other area counties. That’s not a very exciting story. But if you spin it so it looks like government run amok, then that tall tale might make the front page of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Dr. Eugene P. Walker represents District 9 on the DeKalb County School Board.

School system’s move raises questions about priorities When I read in CrossRoadsNews [May 1] that the DeKalb County School System had relocated as of March 19 to new Stone Mountain offices in the old Cub Foods building on Mountain Industrial, well, I was almost speechless. Reportedly, the renovation process cost $31 million. How can that be when there is a budget shortfall and proposals on the table for school closings? One of the reasons stated for moving to the new facility was that “DCSS believes the new location will prove economically efficient through a streamlining of facility operations.” Another reason given was “such an environment will aid the district in creating and maintaining successful business protocols.” It sounds like a bunch of “useless words” to me. Seemingly the focus is not on the education of our children. It seems like the administration is

We believe that our communities should not be robbed of our schools on an educational administration’s whim that puts buildings before children’s learning. Miriam Knox Robinson

waving their “magic wand,” i.e., instead of pulling a rabbit out of a hat, they are pulling money out a “supposedly” depleted budget when it fits their so-called “wants.” When will they focus on the educational future of our children and find ways to keep our schools open? While they believe in “economically efficient buildings,” etc., I think most people believe in “the educational future of our children.” We believe that our communities should not be robbed of our schools on an educational administration’s whim that puts buildings before children’s learning. It is a sad day in the neighborhood when

Quick Read

Relatively few seats to be decided in July primaries

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South DeKalb voters will be headed to the polls in July to pick winners in only six DeKalb County races.

Retirement savings exceed goals 3 The gross savings from the 836 employees who are leaving DeKalb County government on May 31 will be more than twice what county commissioners had hoped for.

‘Town hall’ in Belvedere

Glad to see Chamber get involved

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DeKalb Commissioner Larry Johnson is taking his next town hall meeting on the road – literally.

material structures take precedence over the child’s right to go to school in their own community. Attending a school outside their community would mean busing the children there, causing a hardship on the parents too. This is not a progressive move but a regressive move back to the 1950s, when black people were struggling for equalized education with the opposite color. What excuses do we have now other than a “budget shortfall” or a “renovated building,” etc., when we impose such disparities on our own children? Miriam Knox Robinson lives in Decatur.

Klan rumor spurs activists 5 If the Ku Klux Klan shows up in downtown Conyers on May 8, there will be a crowd to tell them they are not welcomed.

I am one DeKalb citizen who is so thankful that the DeKalb Chamber of Commerce and other concerned business leaders have stepped forth to address this “disaster of a school board” that we have in DeKalb County. As to many other county officials, from the CEO to the Board of Commissioners, where have they been? We must ask ourselves if these other elected officials are leading DeKalb County to a “better place” or “a deep dark hole.” Jerry Myer Jackson Jr. lives in Decatur.

Lupus patient who defied death will join fund-raiser 7 Eleven months ago, Shiroya “Kiki” Cornelious stared down death and lived to talk about it.

Clinic puts heart specialists on site at Lou Walker Center 6 Johnson calls for hearings 8 Patrons of the Lou Walker Senior Center can now walk down the hall to see a heart specialist.

U.S. Rep. Hank Johnson has raised concerns about the proposed merger of United and Continental airlines,.

Conference looks at health literacy

Business community to help shepherd education 9

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Residents and health professionals can learn how reading, understanding, and acting on health care information is important for improving health.

A group of 21 concerned parents, DeKalb citizens, businessmen, and governmental officials came together to seek quality school board leadership in DeKalb County.

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