JANUARY 2020 - Buckhead Reporter

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JANUARY 2020 • VOL. 14 — NO. 1


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Local newsmakers take a look at what’s ahead P10

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Section Two


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Buckhead Reporter COMMENTARY

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Sandy Spring s


City Council to revive tree ordinance rewrite

New police commander takes charge

20 Under 2 Runn0e rs Up PAGE 36

BY JOHN RUCH johnruch@reporternewspapers.net


the 4499 Garmon Road mansion also ended in a court hearing and a fine, only to resume this summer under a new operator. It remains to be seen what the future holds for the mansion, which officials say has unclear ownership, and now is listed for sale on online real estate sites. One certainty was a legal outcome for the latest operator, Olutosin “Tosin” Odu-

A new Tree Protection Ordinance will come in 2020 one way or another, some City Council members say, as they vow to move ahead despite the administration’s still-mysterious halt of a revision process in November. “I want to pass a new tree ordinance in 2020,” said J.P. Matzigkeit, who represents Buckhead’s District 8. “To me, we need to get something on the table and start to look at real legislation.” He and At-Large Councilmember Matt Westmoreland say they intended to reintroduce a 2014 draft rewrite as a starting point. “I certainly have expectations that something will be acted on in the next calendar year,” said Westmoreland, adding that, by the end of the first quarter, “I would like to have a first draft.” The tree ordinance has been in a rewrite phase for months – or years, through various processes – amid concerns that clear-cutting remains too easy in a city that prides itself on its urban forest. The process stalled Nov. 7, when the Department of City Planning abruptly canceled a Buckhead community meeting with virtually no notice or explanation. The immediate cause was negative reaction from a crowd – including many Buckhead residents – at a

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See CITY on page 22

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Maj. Andrew Senzer, the new commander of Buckhead’s Zone 2 police precinct, speaks to community members at a Dec. 5 meeting at Peachtree Road United Methodist Church. Story page 16 ►

Party mansion controversy ends in fine, jail sentence BY JOHN RUCH johnruch@reporternewspapers.net

The latest chapter in the saga of controversial commercial events at a local mansion ended in December with a court injunction, a hefty fine and a 30-day jail sentence for the operator. A year ago, a similar string of parties at

Don’t settle for Ordinary jewelry this year ORDINARY ( See Page 8 )


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2 | Community

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Community Briefs RO BBER W IT H RIF LE STEA L S $ 5 0 0 F R OM MA N AT S H O PPI N G C EN TER

A rifle-carrying robber stole $500 in cash and other items from a man using an ATM at a local shopping center on Dec. 17, according to an Atlanta Police report. The victim, a Buckhead resident, reported that he and his wife arrived by vehicle around 7:15 p.m. at the Peachtree Battle Shopping Center at 2333-2365 Peachtree Road in Peachtree Hills. He withdrew $500 from a Bank of America ATM. When he was returning to the vehicle, a male approached him with “what appeared to be a black semi-automatic rifle,” according to the police report. The robber said, “Give me your cash.” After taking the $500, the robber also took the victim’s phone and debit card with PIN number, according to the police report. The suspect left the shopping center and headed south on Peachtree Road. The report says that police officers notified the Loudermilk Video Integration Center, the hub of the police department’s network of thousands of video and license-plate reader surveillance cameras. The center “was unable to pro-

vide any footage of the incident or suspect,” according to the police report. Anyone with information can contact police at crimestoppersatl.org.


Mayor Keisha Lance bottoms is ordering that records of minor marijuana possession charges be restricted from employers’ background checks and other “public view.” Her administrative order, issued Dec. 16, includes offenses of possession of 1 ounce or less of marijuana. It also covers offenses under a law repealed 12 years ago that criminalized being in the area of illegal drug sales with the intent to use them. The order calls for restricting the records of such offenses to only “law enforcement for criminal justice purposes,” according to a city press release. “The fact remains that communities of color are disproportionately affected by the lingering stigma of victimless, minor offenses — even long after the accused have paid their debts,” said Bot-

toms in the press release. “This outmoded practice deprives our communities and workforce of brilliant and promising minds, all because of an unfair justice system that can and will be coursecorrected.” The order calls for a process for restricting the offenses to be in place by Feb. 1. The officials directed to coordinate the plan include the chief operating office, the city attorney, the city solicitor and the chief judge of the Municipal Court of Atlanta.


Atlanta Fire Rescue Department personnel will get pay raises in a $15.6 million plan announced Dec. 11 by Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, a response to concerns about hiring and retention. The raises will be spread over the next three-and-half years, according to a city press release. The city press office says that, in combination with 3.1% raises from the last two budgets, the total will amount to a 25% increase in base pay for firefighters. The money will come from “a combination of budget reprioritization, repurposing of one-time items and baseline revenues,” the press release said. The raises will appear in paychecks Jan. 31,

backdated to Jan. 1. The effort followed a study commissioned by the Atlanta Fire Rescue Foundation and concerns that other nearby departments were offering better pay. “As first responders, Atlanta’s firefighters are on the front lines of danger each and every day,” Bottoms said in the press release. “When an independent study confirmed they were underpaid, it was this administration’s duty to respond in the urgent and meaningful manner they deserve. With this significant investment, our compensation will be competitive to support and enhance AFRD’s recruitment and retention rates.” Department Chief Randall Slaughter in the press release praised the move as a “historic day.”


Two youths — one 11 years old and one 18 — were wounded in a Dec. 14 shooting in Buckhead, according to the Atlanta Police Department. Police said in a written statement that the victims are thought to be “members of a group involved in an ongoing feud with students attending the same local school who were targeted by the shooters.” Police responded to the shooting call at 9 Peachtree Ave. in Garden Hills around 8:20 p.m. The 11-year-old had a gunshot wound to a leg and the 18-yearold was wounded in the abdomen and an arm, according to police. Police described both victims as “stable, alert, conscious and breathing” when they were transported to hospitals.


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The Atlanta-Region Transit Link Authority board on Dec. 13 approved a $27 billion transit expansion plan for metro Atlanta, the authority announced, the first step in seeking some federal and state funding. The new authority is coordinating service and expansion of 10 transit systems in 13 metro Atlanta counties. One goal is to seek funding in a more coordinated way. The “ATL Regional Transit Plan” approved by the authority’s board is a list of all locally approved transit projects, with some cost-benefit analysis, evaluation and prioritization. The plan includes all of the projects submitted by DeKalb and Fulton counties following earlier public processes. MARTA’s major service expansion within the city of Atlanta is already proceeding under its own sales tax, but the authority’s plan includes some related projects, such as the Clifton Corridor rail line between Lindbergh Center and Emory University. BH


Community | 3


Transit authority official’s app idea gets momentum, raises concerns BY JOHN RUCH

laws, policies and standards and be transparent in its operations to ensure that their trust is not compromised,” Johnson said in As a board member for the new metro an email. Atlanta mass transit authority, Steve DickMeanwhile, the ATL is seeking a federson is successfully swaying some peers, eral grant of about $430,000 to create an elected officials and neighborhood groups app that would unify ride-planning and with his public and private advocacy of a fare payment across metro Atlanta’s tranuniversal cellphone app tying together varsit agencies. ious transportation modes and payment On the ATL board, Dickerson represystems. At the same time, Dickerson runs sents District 3, which includes Dunwoody a private company to build and large sections of Bucksuch an app and is suing head and Sandy Springs, as Uber and Lyft for allegedly well as part of Cobb County. infringing a patent it holds, The Sandy Springs resident a position that one watchwas elected to the board by dog groups says is a conflict a group of mayors and other of interest. officials last year over such “It’s never in the public candidates as Fulton Couninterest for an elected ofty Commission Chairman ficial to use their office for Robb Pitts. A former Georgia personal gain,” said Sara Tech professor, Dickerson Henderson, executive direcSPECIAL was a pioneer of vanpoolSteve Dickerson. tor of the government ethics ing in the 1970s in Sandy advocacy group Common Springs and Peachtree City. Cause Georgia. “This is clearly an example At Georgia Tech, he developed softof that practice and it’s something that the ware combining ride-hailing and autoAtlanta Transit Link Board should seriousmatic payment that he says is similar to ly investigate, as the public’s faith in boards that used by modern “ride-share” servicsuch as these is imperative and should be es. The school secured a patent in 2001 protected. that is now held by his company RideApp. Dickerson and the Atlanta-RegionLast year, he sued Uber and Lyft for alal Transit Link Authority or “The ATL,” leged patent infringement, and recently where he serves as an elected board memsued the service Juno as well. Dickerson ber, say there is no conflict, in part because has said he hopes a monetary award would the authority requires him to recuse himhelp to establish a statewide transit app. self from certain votes that might affect his Dickerson promotes RideApp, which has business. Dickerson said that he wants the no product yet, as a potential public utility. state to build and operate the universal app However, it is far from certain that Dickand related services he is promoting, but erson will win the lawsuits – the main one that he may do it himself with his private is under appeal – and the patent in quescompany if the state does not. tion will expire soon under a 20-year limit. “I’ve tried over and over again to conWhile that makes potential funding sourcvince government officials – GDOT [the es for a statewide app unclear, Dickerson Georgia Department of Transportation], said, he believe it also clears up any potenMARTA, ATL – to take some of these things tial conflict of interest. and put them into practice,” Dickerson said “We absolutely don’t have a conflict and in a phone interview. “Well, there can’t be one of the reasons is, the patent is about a conflict [of interest] if they decide they to run out,” he said. And for now, he has can’t put them into practice. That’s the way pledged not to take any royalty for the use I look at it. Now, there is a chance that I of that patent in Atlanta or Georgia. If there will start an activity that implements one was such a royalty, he said, “that could or more of those concepts, but under the cause a conflict of interest, but I would say conclusion that the public authorities just there’s no conflict. You can quote me on won’t do it. That’s my point of view. I would that.” much rather GDOT, MARTA and ATL do The limited app that the ATL is considwhat I would call the right things.” ering creating, called “ATL RIDES,” would Deidre Johnson, a spokesperson for be based on open-source software, accordthe ATL, noted that Dickerson declared ing to the federal grant application. his ownership of the Sandy Springs-based In his role as an ATL board member, company RideApp in his financial discloDickerson has advocated the app concept, sure filing with the Georgia Government along with expanded vanpools and highTransparency and Finance Commission. occupancy toll lanes. One such presentaShe said ATL officials have “formally adtion, to the Buckhead Council of Neighborvised” Dickerson that he must recuse himhoods on Nov. 14, was well-received. self from votes relating to Uber, Lyft and Dickerson said that even for a private his “business competitors,” and that the aubusiness, creating a universal app is a “pretthority will not enter into any contractuty rough road,” but one he continued to al agreement, “monetarily or gratuitous,” urge the ATL toward. with his company. “I might start another company to do “The ATL and its board of directors some of the things that are in that writetakes the public trust of its constituents up that you have [from the November BCN very seriously and will continue to commeeting],” he said. “But it could be RideApp. ply and adhere to all applicable laws, byWe’ll see.” johnruch@reporternewspapers.net


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4 | Education

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APS superintendent continues to express tax break concerns BY HANNAH GRECO hannah@reporternewspapers.net

Atlanta Public Schools Superintendent Meria Carstarphen continued to express her concern with tax breaks for projects in “overdeveloped” areas at a Dec. 10 North Atlanta Parents for Public Schools meeting. Parents were interested in her concerns and raised some themselves. “The TADs are not managed well at all,” Carstarphen said at the meeting, which was held at E. Rivers Elementary School in Buckhead. “If you know [the area] is already overdeveloped, why are we giving money?” TADs, or tax allocation districts, are intended to spark development in underserved areas that would not be developed without the designation of the tax dollars. Projects in TADs are approved for tax abatements during their construction period and essentially get to spend their property-tax money on themselves to theoretically speed development. Carstarphen said $21.2 million of APS’ tax revenue was abated in 2019, a 56% increase from $13.2 million in 2018. Carstarphen said certain projects, such as luxury apartments or boutique hotels in Buckhead, do not pass the “but-for” test, meaning they likely would be built without tax breaks as an incentive. “That hotel is going to be built,” Carstarphen said. “But we have got to stop. At least ask the question and have people answer it.” Carstarphen’s presentation raised questions with North Atlanta parents about the process. “When [the abatement] ends, do [developers] supposedly pay?” one parent asked. “I know [the developers] do not have to pay school taxes, do they still have to pay all of the other city taxes?” another parent asked. “How can we help?” another parent asked. HANNAH GRECO Atlanta Public Schools Superintendent Meria Carstarphen expresses her concerns with Carstarphen did not have definite answers on the specific questions parents development tax breaks at a Dec. 10 North Atlanta Parents for Public Schools meeting. raised. She recommended that NAPPS have Tom Tidwell, a Buckhead resident who is on the Fulton County Development Authority, the group that votes on the “but for” test. TADs, to speak at a future meeting. At an Oct. 10 BCN meeting, Carstarphen suggested a neighborhood tax-abatement Carstarphen also encouraged residents to pay close attention to who commissionreform “task force” and it was quickly taken up by the organization. ers are electing to be put on the development authority boards. Carstarphen’s main focus at her appearance at a BCN meeting in 2018 was tax incen“Analyze who puts people on these things,” Carstarphen said. tives, saying the loss of revenue could devastate the district. This is not Carstarphen’s first time speaking on her concerns with tax breaks that At the Dec. 10 meeting, Carstarphen also reviewed her progress in boosting the graddirectly affect APS. uation rate and other metrics since she took the job in 2014 in the wake of an infamous Carstarphen also blasted tax breaks at a Nov. 20 Northwest Community Alliance test-cheating scandal. The Atlanta Board of Education decided in September to not exmeeting and praised the Buckhead Council of Neighborhoods for launching a new taxtend her contract, which runs through June 2020. Carstarphen did not discuss her conreform task force she inspired. Tidwell was in attendance of the NCA meeting and said tract at the NAPPS meeting. he is questioning some of the deals that are given abatements because they do not pass

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Community | 5


GDOT to hold local input meetings for top end I-285 toll lanes projects BY JOHN RUCH johnruch@reporternewspapers.net

The Georgia Department of Transportation has announced a series of January open houses to discuss its top-end I-285 toll lanes. The series of meetings includes locations in Dunwoody and Sandy Springs and near the borders of Brookhaven and Buckhead. In October, GDOT said it is delaying the construction timeline for the controversial toll lanes by years, with the earliest start date sometime in 2023, to get more competitive bids from contractors. But the agency said the public input process would remain on track and that some free lanes would be built sooner. Those free lanes will be part of the presentation in the open houses. The open houses will not have a formal presentation, but will have information and officials available to answer questions, according to GDOT. Also still ongoing is property acquisition for right of way, one of the biggest controversies of the toll lanes proposal. GDOT previously said the Ga. 400 project alone will take more than 40 houses and other buildings in Sandy Springs, and more than 300 properties could be “affected” by the I-285 toll lanes. Among the areas already known to be impacted are residential areas of Sandy Springs and Doraville’s Assembly site, and residents of the Georgetown neighborhood of Dunwoody fear their area could be on the list. The open house schedule includes: Jan. 21, 11 a.m.-2 p.m., Chamblee First United Methodist Church, 4147 Chamblee-Dunwoody Road, Chamblee. Jan. 23, noon-2 p.m. and 4:30-7:30 p.m., City Springs, 1 Galambos Way, Sandy Springs. Jan. 28, noon-2 p.m. and 4:30-7:30 p.m., St. Luke’s Presbyterian Church, 1978 Mount Vernon Road, Dunwoody. Jan. 30, noon-2 p.m. and 4:30-7:30 p.m., The Gallery at Cobb Galleria, 1 Galleria Parkway Southeast in Cobb County. GDOT is planning to add toll lanes on Ga. 400 and I-285 as part of a proposed metrowide system that already includes parts of I-75, I-85, I-575 and I-675. The new section running through the Perimeter Center and Buckhead areas would run on roughly the northern half of I-285 above I-20, and on Ga. 400 roughly between I-285 and Alpharetta.

Part of the Ga. 400 toll lanes would carry MARTA buses, and a similar system has been proposed for the I-285 lanes. The toll lanes project is separate from the I-285/Ga. 400 interchange reconstruction project that is currently under construction. That project, known as “Transform 285/400,” began in 2017 and is expected to wrap up in late 2020. However, the toll lanes would run through the interchange area and connect with it. In the revised timeline, the Ga. 400 lanes north of the North Springs MARTA Station are to start construction in early 2022 and open in 2027. The I-285 project was split into two sections with different construction timelines. The “East Metro” section — between Ga. 400 and Henderson Road, and including Ga. 400 south of North Springs Station – would start in 2023 and open in 2029. The “West Metro” section, between Ga. 400 and Paces Ferry Road, would start in 2026 and open in 2032. While the overall toll lanes projects are delayed, GDOT said it will build certain parts of their proposed systems sooner to get ahead of the game and offer some traffic improvements. Those projects include: I-285 westbound collector-distributor lanes: The dedicated lanes for interchange-users would run from Chamblee-Dunwoody Road to Ashford-Dunwoody Road in Dunwoody. They would be extensions of similar lanes being built now for the Transform 285/400 project. Construction would start in 2022 and open to traffic in 2024. I-285/Peachtree Industrial Boulevard interchange: Improvements to the interchange near eastern Dunwoody include adding collector-distributor lanes. Construction would start in late 2021 and finish in late 2023 or early 2024. I-285 westbound extra lane: The new lane would come from widening I-285 in Sandy Springs between Roswell Road and Riverside Drive. It is intended to serve drivers going between interchanges so they don’t have to weave through traffic, but anyone will be able to use it. The project also includes replacing the Mount Vernon Highway bridge over I-285. Construction would start in mid-2022 and finish in late 2024. GDOT’s overview of the toll lanes and related projects is available at majormobilityga.com.

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Assisted Living and Memory Care


6 | Commentary

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Carol Niemi is a marketing consultant who lives on the Dunwoody-Sandy Springs line and writes about people whose lives inspire others. Contact her at worthknowingnow@gmail.com.

Exercise pro takes her fitness students to the water Doon you ever wonder why some peoCarol Niemi is a marketing consultant who lives the DunwoodySandy Springs line and writes about people whose lives inspire ple seem naturally impervious to agothers. Contact her at worthknowingnow@gmail.com.

Our assisted living is accredited for two reasons. You. And your family. Because having the confidence and peace of mind of accreditation is important. That’s why The Piedmont at Buckhead is accredited by CARF International, an independent organization that sets exceedingly high standards for care and service. It’s a lot like an accreditation for a hospital or college. Or a five-star rating for a hotel. So if you’re looking for assisted living services, take a good look at The Piedmont. We think you’ll find that our CARF accreditation is only one of the many reasons you’ll like what you see.

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ing? To find out, I recently spent time with Marlene Colon, a seemingly ageless local fitness instructor. If you’ve taken an aerobics or dance-based fitness class at any of the top fitness clubs in Dunwoody or Sandy Springs during the past 30 years, you’ve probably encountered her. Certified in Zumba and LaBlast, both dance-based high-impact forms of exercise, Colon was trained by “Dancing with the Stars” fan favorite and fitness expert Louis van Amstel. She also studied adaptive physical education at Georgia State University and has worked as a choreographer and performer in local dance productions. For years, Colon seemed to be evMarlene Colon. erywhere, teaching classes and leading demonstrations at local festivals with students of all ages, including one who at age 104 took her chair-based fitness class at an assisted living facility. But years of jumping up and down can take their toll. In 2002, Colon had surgery to replace both hips. She could have legitimately quit the fitness gig right then. But instead she took to the water and got certified in Aqua Zumba. “If I didn’t do water, I wouldn’t be walking,” she said. “I won’t say I have no pain, but I keep moving. They call me the Energizer Bunny.” The next year, her leg muscles had become so strong she was able to cancel planned knee replacement surgery. Now she teaches at a variety of health clubs in the area, including the Marcus Jewish Community Center of Atlanta, the Concourse Athletic Club and a host of other smaller clubs. Still, as a lifelong swimmer and gym rat who regularly works out with weights, I doubted Aqua Zumba could be much of a workout. So, Colon invited me to take her class at the MJCCA to prove me wrong. Her class of 19 ranged in age from 60-ish to 93. Her deaf student was absent that day, but her student with dementia was there. Her energy and high-powered music quickly got everyone moving according to the best of their ability. You can’t imagine how many ways you can use water resistance to work your muscles. Because she adds special touches to the Aqua Zumba routine, she calls her class Aqua Fusion. In one of her modifications, which she calls Aqua Beat, students use drumsticks to beat on and through the water to hyper tunes such as Queen’s “We Will Rock You.” “The men love it,” she said. She discovered the drumsticks at one of the many fitness conferences she attends and wanted to incorporate them into her class immediately. But fearing the price of $50 a pair would be cost prohibitive for retirees who take the class for free through Silver Sneakers, she decided to make them herself. “I wasn’t going home without stopping at Home Depot to find something I could


The December “Worth Knowing” column incorrectly reported the employment of “Georgia Gang” panelist Janelle King. She is vice president of external affairs at Osprey Management and is a contracted government relations officer for MARTA.


Commentary | 7


make drumsticks out of,” she said. “I had a vision, but didn’t know till I went to the store what was available.” In the plumbing department, she bought 20-foot lengths of white plumber’s pipe, 160 plastic caps in packages of two, and tubes of glue. She had the store cut the pipe into 14-inch pieces. The next day, she and her young granddaughter sat in her yard and glued the caps on the sticks to make 80 watertight drumsticks for her students. Her goal is always to make her classes so much fun her students will keep coming back, something she learned early in her fitness career when she trained with the charismatic 1970s fitness guru Richard Simmons. Based on what her students told me that day, she has succeeded. “I’m 77, but feel like I’m 37,” said Galima, from Russia, who recovered from a pinched nerve in weeks thanks to Colon’s class. “It was 100% a miracle.” “I’ve taken water Zumba for 30 years. She’s the best teacher I’ve ever had,” said Louise. “Before this class, I walked with a cane,” said Jayshree. “Now I can sometimes walk without it.” Like some of the other students, Jayshree can’t swim. By email, student Susan, who has been “profoundly deaf” since birth, told me she has no problem not hearing the

music because she follows the movements, which Colon enthusiastically makes very obvious. “She’s very warm and friendly and wants us to follow through,” said Susan. “I love that about her.”

“People live to take her class,” said student Sarah. As for me, the gym rat, my muscles were sore the next day.


Marlene Colon, seen in the second row, second from the left, leads an Aqua Fusion class with drumsticks.


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8 | Community

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Contest entrants imagine I-285’s future with a monorail, forests and more BY JOHN RUCH

Some of the idea were improbable fun, like turning the highway into a “lazy river” ride or a 64-mile Porsche test track. Others were within the realm of the possible, such as a monorail line similar to A ring of urban forest. A 64-mile-long river. The world’s versions proposed over the years by such officials as Sandy Springs longest zip line or biggest skate park. Monorails and bus Mayor Rusty Paul. The Stuckey’s store company weighed in with a lanes. concept for Georgia-grown produce sold in its stores at every exit. Those were just a few of the 50 ideas for the future of The contest comes as the Georgia Department of Transportation I-285 displayed Dec. 6 in a contest operated by Atlanta Beltis planning its own major change to I-285: adding “express lanes,” or Line founder Ryan Gravel. The contest was intended to be toll lanes, over the next 15 years, which could carry both private veplayful and far-out, Gravel said, but also a way of “trainhicles and mass transit buses. Gravel previously said the toll lanes ing people to think differently” about the massive Perimewere not an inspiration for the contest, but that he would prefer a ter highway’s social and cultural possibilities. After all, he “serious” transit plan. Regarding the content, GDOT spokesperson noted, the idea of a park/transit/trail loop on old Atlanta Scott Higley said, “GDOT welcomes all forms of public input and railroad beds was once pretty wacky, too. encourages community engagement,” but also thinks its toll lanes The submissions were displayed at Generator, Gravel’s plan is a good one. urban-planning nonprofit in Atlanta’s Poncey-Highland “The benefits of express lanes are proven – and not just for usneighborhood. He gathered a panel of influential locals to ers of the express lanes,” Higley said. “Motorists and transit riders serve as judges, including Atlanta BeltLine Inc. CEO Clyde on I-75 and I-575 have been experiencing the very real benefits of Higgs; City Planning Commissioner Tim Keane; Marian the Northwest Corridor Express Lanes for well over a year, enjoyLiou, founder of Brookhaven’s We Love BuHi and now an ing greatly reduced travel times and speed limits during rush hour Atlanta Regional Commission analyst; Rose Scott of WABE up by an average of 20 mph even in the general purpose lanes. ExNews; Thomas Wheatley of Atlanta Magazine; Bem Joiner press bus transit is currently in use in those and all express lanes as SPECIAL of the creative agency Atlanta Influences Everything; Tim A monorail was among the concept in the I-285 contest. it will be on the I-285 Express Lanes.” Schrager of Perennial Properties; and Bithia Ratnasamy, a Transit was a common theme of the contest, with gondolas and city project manager on affordable housing policy. dedicated bus lanes among the options. Liou later said her top pick was 8-year-old Scarlett Partrain’s “The Zipline” – winner in One proposal called for tolling all exit ramps and using the money to fund MARTA. “Is it the contest’s “Best Utopia” category – and its depiction of a giant version of the ride where legal? Maybe. It is contentious? Certainly,” mused that proposal. people slide down a cable. “Atlanta’s Forest Ring” envisioned the Perimeter’s lanes – narrowed thanks to the as“My favorite was the ‘Zipline,’ because I love seeing children rethinking infrastructure sumed precision driving of future autonomous vehicles — separated by grass and trees. and our built environment with joy and fun in mind. We need more of that,” Liou said. The “HydroLoop ATL” would place a multilane waterway along the Perimeter, including Gravel said he received 47 public submissions for the contest, and tossed in another that lazy river, speedboat lanes and a “recycling chute”; it also proposes a riverfront hotel in three himself to make an even 50. That matched one inspiration for the contest: 2019 is both Dunwoody and a year-round version of Sandy Springs’ Artsapalooza festival. the 20th anniversary of his Georgia Tech thesis paper that proposed the BeltLine and the 50th anniversary of I-285’s completion. johnruch@reporternewspapers.net

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Community | 9


Authority rejects developer’s $2.2M tax break request amid citywide debate BY JOHN RUCH johnruch@reporternewspapers.net

A major local developer’s request for a nearly $2.2 million tax break for a Buckhead Village tower got a rare rejection from a county authority Dec. 3 amid citywide debate about such incentives in hot real estate markets. The request for the 359 East Paces Ferry Road project came from the Loudermilk Companies, the historic firm credited with starting Buckhead’s highrise boom in the 1960s and whose family patriarch, Charlie Loudermilk, is honored with a statue in a customized namesake park nearby. The Development Authority of Fulton County board’s rejection of the request came on the same day it approved a half-dozen others across the county. “This is the first time ever that anyone can recall DAFC’s board turning down a tax abatement, so it’s a big deal,” said Julian Bene, a prominent critic of tax breaks and other incentives. Bene noted the rejection came amid debate over $1.5 billion in public financing and incentives for redevelopment of the Gulch downtown, and shortly after developer’s withdrawal of a request to another authority, Invest Atlanta, for a controversial $22.5 million tax break for a project along the Atlanta BeltLine. “The public is more aware now that developer welfare comes at a high cost to residents,” said Bene. “We now have elected officials and members of key boards who will not rubber-stamp breaks for luxury projects in hot markets that will happen regardless. Progress at last!” “I don’t want to comment on that,” said Charlie Loudermilk III, the Loudermilk Companies’ director of development and investments. “There’s a lot of scrutiny going on right now with the program, so I don’t think that would be wise to comment on.” However, another employee said briefly that the company would reapply for the incentive. Tax incentives and abatements have long been criticized by some local leaders, such as Buckhead resident and Fulton County Commissioner Lee Morris. But the

deal for the Gulch, which CIM Group intends to remake into a massive mixed-use site called Centennial Yards, thrust the issue into the spotlight last year. A group of activists called Redlight the Gulch, of which Bene is a member, sued to challenge the legality of the deal in a case that has an appeal pending. And Atlanta Public Schools Superintendent Meria Carstarphen became a prominent critic of existing deals, saying that reform is needed to stop cutting the school district out of revenue and shifting tax burdens to homeowners. Carstarphen – who once briefly served as a Fulton Development Authority board member -- has repeatedly brought her concerns to the meetings of local community groups, including the Buckhead Council of Neighborhoods, the Northwest Community Alliance and North Atlanta Parents for Public Schools. Carstarphen’s advocacy led the BCN to form a resident “tax force” to study and recommend tax incentive and assessment reforms. Tom Tidwell, a former BCN chair who once hosted Carstarphen as a speaker on the tax incentive issue, is now a Fulton Development Authority board member. Earlier this year, he was in the minority voting against another controversial tax break for a luxury apartment project at 99 West Paces Ferry Road. In a letter to fellow board members at that time, Tidwell wrote that “Buckhead, Midtown and areas near the Beltline are the hottest real estate markets in the county, probably in the state. I am pretty sure we do not need to ‘stimulate’ economic development in those areas.” Tidwell declined to comment about the 359 East Paces Ferry vote. That site is currently a temporary parking lot where Loudermilk Companies tore down an office building. In its place, the company proposes a 12-story office-and-retail tower. According to Development Authority documents, it has an “economic impact” estimate at roughly $1.5 billion and would “create” 850 permanent office jobs and 50 permanent retail jobs, along with 100 temporary construction jobs. In a standard deal, the company asked the Development Authority to issue $45 million in bonds for the project – meaning the authority would technically hold title to the property for 10 years in exchange for funding it. The benefit to the company is an estimated $2,180,473 in property tax savings over that period. The company would take ownership again afterward and go back to paying full taxes.

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10 | Commentary

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Commentary / Looking into the political crystal ball for 2020 What does the new year – and new decade – have in store for local communities? We asked local leaders to dust off a crystal ball and predict the biggest local issues in 2020 and how they might play out. For more of what each had to say, see ReporterNewspapers.net.

Andy Bauman

Bob Ellis

We will continue to face many consequential local and regional issues in 2020, including the impact of countless infrastructure projects, managing growth, and, for many, rising cost of living (particularly housing and healthcare). In my view, however, the biggest challenge will be the political polarization, tribalism and incivility that permeates into our daily lives. The 2020 national and statewide elections, I fear, will only exacerbate the divisions within our society. In our own lives, whether as family members, friends, neighbors, co-workers, or serving in leadership roles within our community, we can practice and model civil discourse, and we can listen to opposing views with respect, courtesy and empathy. This should not be construed as a call for complacency in the face of injustice, or an abandonment of principles or vigorous political debate and advocacy. But we have a lot of issues to work on, and we will all be better off when we can work on them together.

Property taxes have long been a significant concern of Fulton County residents, and we have made great strides in reducing the tax burden on our citizens. I was very pleased that the Board of Commissioners voted to reduce the millage for the fourth year in a row, and I look forward to realizing further reductions in coming years. Residents also saw significant tax relief through a cap on property tax increases implemented in 2019, while our senior citizens realized additional tax reductions with the expansion of their homestead exemptions. Lastly, we were successful in resolving Fulton County’s property tax litigation with the state Department of Revenue in the favor of Fulton taxpayers. Our efforts will not stop there, as we are looking to identify additional opportunities for property tax relief in 2020. Among other things, the county will work with the Georgia Legislature to simplify and improve the homestead exemption and appeals process. Plans are also in place to expand educational programs to help property owners better understand the process and protect their homeowner rights.

Sandy Springs City Council

Mayor Lynn Deutsch Dunwoody

The update of the Dunwoody Village Master Plan will be completed shortly. The city has had record-breaking participation in our public input process. Our community is ready for changes to the area. I am hopeful that citizens will have confidence that the city is moving in the right direction with the Village and other commercial areas by the end of 2020. Dunwoody will take over the old Austin school property in early 2020. The old Austin site will become a park shaped by an extensive public input process. We are working with neighboring cities to connect our various trail systems to enable residents the ability to walk or bike between our communities. The biggest challenges facing our community are related to the DeKalb County School District and the I-285 managed lanes project. I have begun conversations with leaders across DeKalb about the need to work together to make improving the school system a priority. I will continue to advocate for Dunwoody with the Georgia DOT to mitigate the impacts of this massive project.

Fulton County Commission

Mayor John Ernst Brookhaven

In 2020, I’m looking forward to conversations on how to accomplish the recently adopted ATL’s Regional Transit Plan so we can move forward on increasing transit options and reduce traffic in our region. Also, as a parent of two public school students, the DeKalb County Schools redistricting will be a topic of conversation in 2020. As for local Brookhaven issues, 2020 will bring many traffic intersection improvements and park construction projects. Motorists who may be inconvenienced during construction periods will be rewarded with better commute times afterwards. Sidewalks and paths are also included in these projects so we will have more walk-bike options to get around. Park improvement projects will occur throughout Brookhaven’s park system in 2020 as we work to complete our Park Bond projects at a rapid pace. Highlights include the new pool facilities at Briarwood Park that will be completed by summer 2020 and Lynwood Park master plans will be finalized with community input.

State Rep. Betsy Holland D-Atlanta

The most pressing issue facing the state Legislature is the state budget. Our only constitutional requirement as legislators is to pass a balanced budget each year. We have to find a way to responsibly fund critical programs throughout the state, even in the face of the governor calling for deep cuts in spending. School safety counselors, foster care, correctional facilities, public health agencies and domestic violence centers are just a few of the places where these cuts could have devastating impacts. My personal priority will be talking about affordable housing – how can we reduce the burden of property taxes, manage development responsibly and help seniors stay in their homes? It’s bound to be a long, complicated path, but I’m convinced the state, county, city and school system can work together to find solutions. By forging a path to more affordable housing in our community, we can reduce traffic congestion and strengthen our local businesses.

Linley Jones

Brookhaven City Council As metro Atlanta continues to grow, I expect our biggest issue in Brookhaven will be traffic volume and congestion. Our mayor and City Council will continue to proactively address these issues by implementing the traffic studies created by traffic consultants and city staff based on broad citizen input. Much progress has already been made in improvements based on the AshfordDunwoody Corridor Study, such as intersection improvements like those at Nancy Creek Drive, and more improvements are on the way throughout the corridor The traffic challenges mount as we are surrounded by increasing density, but here in Brookhaven we are succeeding at smart growth and planning by following the feedback of the community as reflected in the character areas adopted last year. This ensures that any development is in keeping with the community’s interests to the greatest extent possible.

State Sen. Jen Jordan (D-Atlanta)

Georgia’s minimum wage is $5.15 and the federal minimum wage is $7.25. BH


A Georgia resident needs to earn approximately $18 an hour to afford a modest two-bedroom apartment (on average statewide). This gap between wages and ability to find housing continues to grow. Efforts to take millions from our public school systems persist, while our teachers remain underpaid and class sizes increase. And instead of providing healthcare to almost 500,000 of our uninsured residents, the state is pursuing a waiver so that it won’t have to comply with the protections of the Affordable Care Act, because of purely political campaign promises. These are real problems that affect so many in our community, but there are ways to battle them. Raising the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour (and allowing local governments to do more if voters want them, too), fully funding public education, and expanding Medicaid are all a start.

State Sen. Kay Kirkpatrick R-Marietta

I think we are going to be spending a lot of time on the budget this year. Based on disappointing tax revenue, the governor has asked agencies to cut 4% for this fiscal year and another 6% for next year. Since education and Medicaid are exempt, that leaves a significant challenge for the other programs. There will also be a significant conversation about gambling in its various forms. I have significant concerns about the impact of destination resorts on local communities, especially arts and culture, in addition to the baggage that can come with these gambling destinations as we fight an epidemic of gangs, trafficking and addiction. We made a lot of progress on healthcare and insurance last year and we will continue to work on improving healthcare delivery throughout the state and our general state of health in Georgia. We have seen some indications of more competition in the individual market that should drive down prices in combination with the waiver programs being submitted to the federal government.

Sam Massell

President, Buckhead Coalition It has been 50 years since I left office as mayor of Atlanta, yet I have to report that the main issues facing my community are pretty much the same as they were then -- and they are nationwide in major urban cities. Thus, there will be no surprise to the reader when I list crime, taxes, and traffic. This is not to say there is nothing being done to improve the conditions where we find fault, or how the eventual outcome will be. 1) People complain about crime when there are incidents in the neighborhood or where they know the parties involved -- repeated incidents that can be avoided with BH

Commentary | 11


new initiatives; 2) taxes when new assessments are delivered -- offset where political boldness of kept promises is exercised, and 3) daily increased traffic -- visibly improved by action taken on yesterday’s plans.

J.P. Matzigkeit Atlanta City Council

Restoring trust in city government is the biggest issue facing Atlanta in 2020. Trust is the foundation upon which everything rests. Citizens deserve to know that their government is honest, open and worthy of their confidence. We want to trust all public servants, but it’s essential we verify that. It’s why I’m focused on implementing an office of Inspector General for the city of Atlanta. In 2019, Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms and City Council put together a Task Force for Promotion of Public Trust made up of leading state and local jurists and chaired by retired Georgia Supreme Court Justice Leah Ward Sears. Chief among its recommendations was the establishment of an Inspector General position “independently overseeing the city’s investigative operations” and working “to prevent wrongdoing before it occurs.” The Inspector General’s Office would have the jurisdiction and power to identify and investigate fraud, waste, corruption, abuse and misconduct.

Lee Morris

Fulton County Commission A major county issue facing my constituents in 2020 will, again, be property taxes. While my Sandy Springs constituents will continue to benefit from the “floating homestead” exemption for all three elements of their property tax (Fulton County, Sandy Springs and Fulton County Schools), so that any increase in value will result only in modest increases in tax, my constituents in Atlanta will not. I believe 2020 will see more conversation about this issue and, hopefully, some action. Commercial properties must be valued fairly for tax purposes. 2020 will see the General Assembly attempt to level the playing field, and the county will continue its efforts to give the Board of Assessors the resources it needs in this effort. 2019 saw growing media and public attention focused on the tools local governments use to foster development, such as tax allocation districts and property tax abatements resulting from “bonds for title.” That attention will continue in 2020, hopefully resulting in only the truly deserving developments receiving subsidies, lessening the burden on homeowners.

Mayor Rusty Paul Sandy Springs

Our biggest issue as we head into 2020 remains managing transportation as the Georgia DOT projects along Ga. 400 and I-285 will be a disruptive presence through 2032. While the end result may alleviate some of our traffic woes, getting to that end will mean some disruption that will intensify congestion over the interim. The challenge is managing through the process. Also, we still have the unanswered questions on how to fund the rapid transit components that are supposed to accompany the managed (toll) lanes being added. The recent decision by GDOT to extend the construction phase means a two-year delay in bringing a funding plan to the voters.

Jeff Rader

DeKalb County Commission The stimulative extension of the economic expansion has led to higher costs for public safety, infrastructure construction, and other expenses. At the same time, warning lights are flashing for state revenue collections and other indicators. In 2020, DeKalb must balance these pressures on meeting service delivery expectations against necessary preparation for a downturn. Housing costs have likewise been escalating, requiring a policy response that preserves and improves the condition of DeKalb’s affordable housing stock. Finally, we must maintain our partnership with immigrant communities in the face of an increasingly hostile federal climate, or public safety will be placed at risk.

State Rep. Deborah Silcox R-Sandy Springs

One of the biggest issues facing Atlanta and Sandy Springs is traffic congestion. As chairman of the Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Oversight Committee, I am hopeful that in spite of the governor calling for budget cuts, the General Assembly can pass a budget in 2020 that more fully funds and empowers the Atlanta -Region Transit Link Authority (also known as the “ATL”). The goals of the ATL are to oversee and promote the transit plan for the our 13-county area, to promote collaboration between current (including MARTA) and future transit partners, and to partner with regional stakeholders to plan for more mobility. We need more transit and coordination of existing transit than ever before. Additionally, I am calling for a management audit of MARTA to be completed in 2020. With payments of more than $629,000 in taxpayer dollars going to out-

side lobbying firms and excessive payments of overtime to employees totaling more than $12.5 million dollars as shown in the 2019 Annual Report to the MARTOC Committee, MARTA can and must do better.

State Rep. Mike Wilensky D-Dunwoody

Two of the most important issues for State House District 79 in 2020 will be healthcare and ethics reform. Medicaid expansion: There are two options - the governor’s plan or full Medicaid expansion. The better option is full Medicaid expansion, which covers 490,000 Georgians, would be cheaper, and provide federal government funding of a 9-to-1 match. It would be fiscally irresponsible to miss out on Georgia receiving billions of federal dollars. Opioid Crisis: Addiction to opioids is having a critical impact on our state. For years, we have heard legislators say this is a problem. It is about time we start doing something about it. That is why I pre-filed HB 744. This bill helps fight against overprescribing of Schedule II narcotics (i.e., opioids). DeKalb Ethics Legislation: I believe the people of DeKalb County, including House District 79, deserve an ethics bill with teeth to make sure DeKalb County officials are looking out for the interests of their citizens. This year I will work towards passing such a bill.

State Rep. Matthew Wilson D-Brookhaven

In DeKalb County, we’ll have to immediately address the unconstitutional appointment process to the county Board of Ethics. I have already announced a bill I will file with a clean fix to immediately get the board up and running for the first time in over a year. In Fulton County, I’ll continue to work with Atlanta and Sandy Springs to find solutions to the ongoing affordable housing shortage and property value crisis. I found it incredibly disheartening last year to see our state divided so spitefully by those in power under the Gold Dome. I fear we’ll spend this session once again locked in a culture war, perhaps over yet another proposal to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. I am also wary of the tenor of our national politics, the blame for which I lay squarely at the feet of this intolerable president. It would be an understatement to say the 2020 election is the largest political moment in recent history.

12 | Commentary

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Around Town

Joe Earle is editorat-large at Reporter Newspapers and has lived in metro Atlanta for over 30 years. He can be reached at joeearle@ reporternewspapers.net

William Makepeace knew it was time for a change. He was in his forties, getting a divorce, and after years in the financial industry, he wanted to work with his hands. So the ex-Marine and father of two decided to become a sculptor. “I hit the reset button,” the 50-yearold Buckhead artist said one recent afternoon, sitting in his sculpture studio and surrounded by things he’d made since his change of direction in 2015. “I 100 percent hit the reset button.” He believed he could handle his new direction. He felt it was in his DNA. For generations, he said, members of his family had made things: food, shelter, clothing. His great-great grandfather, greatgrandfather and grandfather ran millwork companies in North Carolina. When his ancestor George Makepeace moved his branch of the family south in the 1830s, he came because he knew how to run a textile plant. “He was,” Makepeace said, “the Yankee with the textile know-how.” “I’ve always been a creative person,” Makepeace said. “Not necessarily making art, but just in everyday life, I’ve able to connect the dots. I pay attention to what’s going on around me and within me. I connect those feelings … through art.”



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From the Marines to mastering art

In his studio, William Makepeace is surrounded by artworks he’s made.


One of the first pieces of sculpture Makepeace made was a wooden paddle. It now hangs on a wall of his studio at the ACA Sculpture Studio of SCAD, located in Midtown next to the High Museum. The paddle doesn’t really look like other pieces he’s made. Several are fabricated from metal or use everyday objects, such as Coke bottles, to make their points. But the paddle is personal. It comes with its own backstory. Makepeace made it in memory of a wooden paddle his father had ordered him to make at the family’s millwork business when he was about 7. The young boy had gotten in trouble during a family gathering. Once he finished the paddle, his dad used it to spank him. Makepeace titled his recent piece “direction.” But it has a second meaning, he said. “People say, ‘You’re up the creek without a paddle.’ I have a paddle,” he said. “It’s right there.” He joined the Marines when he was in college. He hadn’t intended to, he said. A roommate called a recruiting hotline “and volunteered me as a joke.” When a recruiter called, “we told him it was a joke, but he kept calling me.” Eventually, Makepeace signed up. “I have always been somewhat spontaneous and the more it was explained to me, the more it sounded like a good idea,” he said. “So, I just went for it.” It stuck. He served 24-and-a-half years, most of it in the reserves. He spent six years on active duty in posts scattered from Iraq to Bolivia to Europe. Many of those years, his regular job was working as a financial advisor. About a year ago, he needed a change and decided to try his hand at art. He signed up for classes at the Savannah College of Art and Design and is working on a master of fine arts degree in sculpture. A few months ago, he thought up a way to combine his background in business and the military with his new interest in making art. Starting this month, he plans to open a temporary gallery at American Legion Post 140, located at Chastain Park. He’s calling it an “art party.” He’s been a member of the post for 13 years, he said, and thought it seemed like a good place for Buckhead art fans to see new works by local artists. He’s invited other students from SCAD and from Kennesaw State to show their works at the legion house. The gallery will be open on 10 consecutive Wednesdays, starting Jan. 15 and ending March 18. Anyone who wants to show and sell their works is invited to join via his website at makeartlovepeace.com. They’re being asked to donate 10 percent of their sales to the legion post. “It is open to any artist,” he said. “It’s an open studio.” What draws an ex-Marine to making art? “To me, it’s first and foremost for pleasure,” he said. “I enjoy doing this. I enjoy the process. I enjoy making art. It’s process-driven.” Besides, he comes from a long line of people who make things. He’s settling back into what he sees as an update on a family tradition. “I just see my art as a collection of my life experiences, the different buckets you can draw from,” he said. “Anything I’ve ever done in my life, somehow, in some way, comes through in the art.”

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Commentary | 13


I’m optimistic that we’re all optimists I am a victim of my own optimism. That’s what I thought as I scrutinized the unlabeled, undated plastic container of frozen brown gunk that I found in the bottom drawer of our freezer. That’s what I think every time that I slide into a meeting 10 minutes late, due to the fact that I was sure that I could do just one more thing before I left and still arrive on time. That’s what I think when I’m still wide awake at 3 a.m. because I drank that after-dinner cup of coffee anyway. Optimism brings with it an unflappable faith in the self and others and, for that matter, life in general. It’s what keeps me hanging on to a small collection of unmatched socks because I am sure their mates are bound to turn up. It’s what convinces me every time that the repairman will arrive within the stated two-hour window of time. It’s that tiny voice in my head that insists that those little specks in the rice are not moving. Often, optimism starts small, like a tender sprig of lilac hopefully peeking up through the earth before it’s crushed by the heavy boot of reality. To illustrate: for years I was awakened nightly by hunRobin Conte lives with her gry infants, teething toddlers and crying preschoolers, and husband in an empty nest I stumbled through my days eagerly anticipating the point in Dunwoody. To contact when I would no longer have to drag myself out of bed in her or to buy her column the middle of the night to tend to a child. After about a decollection, “The Best of the cade, the opportunity for eight hours of uninterrupted sleep Nest,” see robinconte.com. was finally realized. But just when my kids finally started sleeping through the night, I stopped doing it. Such is the irony of optimism. In my opinion, optimism is what gets us out of bed each day, keeps us trying just one more time, allows us the generosity to give someone else a second chance. Optimism, I believe, powers the world.

Witness the mother who every summer is convinced that things will calm down when school begins, and every school year can’t wait until school ends so that things will ease up in summer again. That constant cycle of optimistic energy is what keeps her going, like a self-charging hybrid. I believe, in fact, that we are all essentially optimists. To prove my point, I have made a handy list of telltale signs that you, too, are an optimist: ■ You buy orchids. ■ You think that if you circle the parking lot just one more time, a spot will open up. ■ You have faith that you can cozy up on the sofa with your laptop at the end of the day and stream the entire next episode of your current favorite show with out it buffering at the climactic moment. ■ You think that someone else will take the initiative to empty the dishwasher today. ■ You’re sure that whatever you’re about to do will only take 15 minutes. ■ You’re certain that you can make a tasty dinner out of a can of stuffed olives and an old bag of gnocchi.

Robin’s Nest

■ You honestly believe that that pair of snakeskin pants will look good on you. ■ You think that the pain in your back/neck/shoulder will go away on its own. ■ You’re confident that you can make the box of your favorite snack last until the end of the week (rather than the end of the day). ■ You’re sure you’ll remember And your security questions.






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Quality of life was a major theme in Buckhead in 2019, from such perennial issues as ever-increasing commuter traffic and crime to such unusual situations as a “party mansion.” Also in the news were the interconnected issues of Atlanta Public Schools leadership and tax breaks for luxury real estate projects. 2020 will be the year some of those issues shake out and new policies may emerge.


Controversy erupted in September when the Atlanta Board of Education confirmed it would not renew Atlanta Public Schools Superintendent Meria Carstarphen’s contract. At various community meetings, Carstarphen drew support from Buckhead residents and made it clear she’d like to keep the job – at one point saying she was “called here by God” – while not ruling out a run for elected office. With Carstarphen’s contract expiring June 30, whether the board will find a way to keep her or bring in a new superintendent will be one of the big local decisions in 2020.


State Sen. Jen Jordan, center, discusses property tax reform at the Nov. 14 Buckhead Council of Neighborhoods meeting where the new Taxes/TADs Task Force debuted its work.

b u c k h e a d


Buckhead help to put a critical spotlight on tax incentives for high-end real estate developments as part of a citywide push by activists and elected officials. The Buckhead Council of Neighborhoods formed a “task force” to study and make policy recommendations about tax breaks and commercial collections, which will continue into the new year. The Development Authority of Fulton County, which hands out some of the tax breaks and now has Buckhead resident Tom Tidwell as a board member, said no to a major project on East Paces Ferry Road. And various local officials say they will propose legislation that may change the authority to make tax breaks and shift more of the revenue burden onto commercial property owners.



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The Atlanta History Center’s historic Cyclorama painting of the Civil War’s “Battle of Atlanta” went on display in a new wing following a two-year restoration. The unveiling drew national media attention and widespread acclaim for the surrounding exbibit about the war’s myths and realities. In 2020, the center will debut another major presentation: a remade version of its exhibit about the 1996 Atlanta Summer Olympics.


After losing the bruising 2017 mayoral election, Mary Norwood cemented her political comeback in 2019 by winning the position of chair of the Buckhead Council of Neighborhoods, an umbrella group of neighborhood associations. She ran the organization much like a city council, producing policy “resolutions” on such issues as transportation and crime. Norwood secured reelection to the position, ensuring she can keep a public profile into 2020.


A controversy that began in late 2018 over Holy Spirit Catholic Church and Preparatory School’s campus expansion plan from Buckhead into Sandy Springs boiled over in 2019. At a tense community meeting in April, some residents said they might sue over BH


Community | 15


an old legal agreement that might ban the project, while Holy Spirit revealed it had considered libel lawsuits against neighbors who put up yard signs opposing them. By midyear, the proposal had dropped out of the city review process, but may yet return.


The safety of pedestrians and wheelchair-users on local sidewalks got official attention, though not always immediate solutions. The Georgia Department of Transportation’s decision to move some power poles into the sidewalk on Peachtree Road drew debate and highlighted jurisdictional disputes, as did new negotiations over a five-yearlong streetlight outage on Sidney Marcus Boulevard at Buford Highway. In October, a group of Atlanta City Council members, state traffic engineers and other officials took a mile-long wheelchair ride on Peachtree Road to see hazards of existing conditions and of motorized scooters.


Green spaces grew in Buckhead, with the opening of a new PATH400 multiuse trail segment in October and the formation of a friends group for the new Loridans Greenspace park on Loridans Drive. Coming soon is the addition of a trail to another community park, Mountain Way.


Ever-increasing commuter traffic sparked many local discussions, including a new effort to replace the “buc” shuttle in the business area with an Uber-style, on-demand

van that would serve anyone. Livable Buckhead issued a study that proposed improving and stabilizing affordable housing as a way to cut commuter traffic by letting Buckhead employees live closer to work. An effort to bring an experimental self-driving shuttle to Lenox Square mall, however, was brushed aside by skeptical business leaders.


Massive parties at a palatial mansion on Garmon Road, once home to music star Kenny Rogers, drew major controversy in 2018 until a zoning citation appeared to end the noise and traffic complaints. But this summer, the parties were back under a new operator. This time, the city went nuclear with the response, getting a court order banning commercial events there and hitting the operator with citations that resulted in a $7,500 fine and a 30-day jail sentence. The city is now working on legislation to further crack down on “party houses,” which may emerge next year.


Concerns about Buckhead crime – largely involving car break-ins and residential burglaries – caused finger-pointing among local officials. At Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms’ crowded town hall in Buckhead in February, Police Chief Erika Shields blamed prosecutors and courts for letting criminals off the hook. Prosecutors and courts said most of the criticisms weren’t true. The Buckhead Council of Neighborhoods backed such local efforts as a “adopt-a-judge” program to press for tougher sentences. Meanwhile, the former police commander said residents could help reduce car breaks by not leaving guns and other valuables in their vehicles. A new commander for Buckhead’s Zone 2 precinct, Maj. Andrew Senzer, took over in November and promised a “zero-tolerance” approach to crime hotspots.

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16 | Public Safety

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New police commander to target crime hotspots with ‘zero tolerance’ BY JOHN RUCH johnruch@reporternewspapers.net

The new commander of Buckhead’s Zone 2 Atlanta Police Department precinct got a welcome at a Dec. 5 community meeting, where he said he’ll target crime spots with a “zero tolerance” approach. “Y’all are quickly becoming my favorite zone with all the welcome and support,” said Maj. Andrew Senzer to a group of about 40 residents gathered at the Peachtree Road United Methodist Church. Senzer took command of the precinct in November following the retirement of former commander Maj. Barry Shaw. The welcome meeting was organized by City Councilmembers J.P. Matzigkeit and Dustin Hillis. “I was actually honored because I know how challenging Zone 2 can be,” Senzer said of taking the command. Asked by an audience member what sort of challenges are involved, he said, “Well, traffic is one. It’s hard to get from point A to point B quickly.” Originally from Long Island in New York State, Senzer came to Atlanta in 1995. He said he and current Police Chief Erika Shields were in the police academy together. He previously served on the department’s Red Dog unit, a controversial anti-drug squad that was disbanded in 2011 following a raid on the Atlanta Eagle bar and allegations of illegal strip searches, which did not involve Senzer. He then served on the SWAT team for eight years. Senzer said he liked the “camaraderie” and “culture” of the SWAT team, with a focus on team communications rather than various watches and units operating in “silos.” “I like to bring that everywhere I go,” he said. That service also gave him some memories of some of Buckhead’s most notorious violent crimes. He referenced the 1999 mass murder spree committed by Mark Barton, and said that John “Rick” Sowa, an officer murdered by a domestic violence suspect in 1997, was a “a good friend of mine.” “I like to be very proactive,” he said of his policing style. “I hated to be bored when I was a [patrol] cop.” Speaking after the meeting, he elaborated on the strategy he will bring to Zone 2. He said he beats with beat officers to hear in detail about “hotspots” of crime, then works with watch commanders on a “master zero-tolerance list” of places that will get extra patrol attention between 911 calls. He calls it “just basic policing. I’m not reinventing the wheel.” “Zero tolerance,” he said, means strict attention on such activities as loitering outside stores and “heavy traffic enforcement,” on the principle that most criminals live elsewhere and are roaming around. Questions from the audience addressed some common issues, including security cameras, crime prevention and the level of beat patrols. Tom Watson of the Peachtree Heights West Civic Association expressed concern that, while crime is relatively low in his neighborhood, patrol cars are seen “less than Santa Claus.” “That’s an easy fix,” said Senzer, as patrols can be directed to drive by there more frequently. Each of the three “watches” or shifts has 11 beats, and the precinct can “pretty

much” fill every patrol car with current staffing levels, Senzer said. Senzer promoted security cameras as a way to fight the car break-ins and thefts that make up the majority of Zone 2’s crime, because they are committed by “transient criminals, for the most part.” “Just speaking as a cop, when we’re able to review video and look at LPR – license plate reader – hits, it becomes a game-changer for us,” he said. Asked by Gordon Certain of the North Buckhead Civic Association about some of his board member’s privacy concerns on cameras, Senzer said, “If you’re a responsible citizen doing the right thing, you have nothing to worry about.” Another solution to car-related crime, police frequently say, is on the prevention side. Senzer gave some numbers reflecting that issue. “Last week, we had 11 vehicles stolen,” he said. “Six of those had keys in the vehicle, two of which were left running.” Another two were stolen from valet parking. “In a sense, we are giving some cars away,” he said.

Senzer speaks with audience members after the Dec. 5 community meeting.


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Art & Entertainment | 17


Young Sandy Springs cousins win the right to sing at Carnegie Hall BY JUDITH SCHONBAK

Sarah Serena Thompson, right, and Phoebe Rose Claeys, below, sing at Carnegie Hall.

What does it feel like for a singer to step onto the stage to perform in Carnegie Hall? Two young cousins from Sandy Springs set foot in the historic New York City venue for the first time to do just that in mid-December. AMERICAN PROTEGE INTERNATIONAL VOCAL COMPETITION/ Phoebe Rose Claeys, 8, and Sarah Serena Thompson, CARNEGIE HALL 12, were winners in the 2019 American Protégé International Vocal Competition. Winners in the competition won the honor of performing at Carnegie Hall. Claeys admitted to being a little frightened at first as she looked out at all the people in the iconic recital hall. “But once I started singing, I was into the music. It was fun,” she said. She followed advice from the girls’ longtime instructor Adriana van Rensburg not to get distracted by the three crystal chandeliers. “She knows I like sparkly things,” added Claeys. Thompson said she was pretty calm. “The emcee gave me good advice. ‘You’ve already won. Just have fun and enjoy singing in this beautiful hall,’ he said.” The performances were held in Weill Recital Hall, one of three performance spaces in the 128-year-old Carnegie Hall, a world-renowned classic music venue. Claeys, who performed on Dec. 14, chose “Matchmaker” from the musical “Fiddler on the Roof.” The following day, Thompson took the stage to perform “I Could Have Danced All Night” from “My Fair Lady.” Van Rensburg accompanied both of them on the piano. The cousins had in the audience a proud contingent of family members from Atlanta supporting them and cheering them on. “With a full schedule of lessons and performances, driving has always been a family affair,” said Caroline Claeys Thompson, Serena’s mother. “We are lucky to have so much support.” She and her husband Mark share transportation duties with the cousins’ grandparents, Suzanne and Robert Claeys and Mark Thompson’s mother, Carole Parks. All were in

New York, along with Alice Sue Claeys, Phoebe Roses’s mother, for the big event. It was the cousins’ first time entering the singing competition, which is open to solo vocalists and vocal groups of all ages, nationalities and countries. Claeys captured first place in the Young Singers group, ages 5-10, and Thompson took second place in the Junior level, ages 11-14. Singers from 14 countries applied for this year’s competition: the United States, Canada, Costa Rica, Germany, Russia, Kazakhstan, the Republic of Georgia, China, India, Thailand, Singapore, Taiwan, Malaysia and Australia, according to the competition’s website. Taped auditions for the competition were held in June. She taught music for 26 years in Atlanta public schools working with elementary, middle, high school and college-level students, and she also served as an adjunct professor of music at Georgia State University. She teaches in her studio in Smyrna and privately in clients’ homes. The journey to Carnegie Hall began some years ago when the girls were not yet in grade school or even kindergarten. Claeys started taking piano lessons when she was 2 years old and voice the following year. Thompson began her studies in piano and voice at age 4. They both currently study classical and Broadway voice, piano and music theory with Van Rensburg weekly. More recently, both young sopranos have taken an interest in opera singing. The girls also take ballet lessons. Over the course of the years, they have sung in a number of competitions in Atlanta and elsewhere. It is an experience that Van Rensburg said is important in learning discipline, focus and how to perform artistically. “There is so much involved in teaching youngsters,” said Van Rensburg. “Even if they have good motor skills, they do not have the emotional maturity to understand the nuances and the artistry required…. Part of my work is to inspire them not only to play well, but to see what music can be.”

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18 | Art & Entertainment

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Monday, Jan. 20, 10 a.m.-5:30 p.m. Performances, programs, and historical simulations that highlight contributions and stories of African Americans in Atlanta. Free. Atlanta History Center, 130 West Paces Ferry Road NW, Buckhead. Info: atlantahistorycenter.com.

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Monday, Jan. 20, 9 a.m. to noon Volunteers are needed to plant trees and daffodils at Brook Run Park or join other public service projects as part of the Dunwoody Parks and Recreation Department’s annual Day of Service. Volunteers are asked to preregister at http://bit.ly/dunreccatalog. Checkin for all projects will be at Brook Run Park at 4770 N. Peachtree Road beginning at 8:15 a.m.


Friday, Jan. 24 through Sunday, Feb. 16 The Stagedoor Players perform the Tennessee Williams classic about a young man, Tom, living with his controlling mother and introverted sister Laura, who lives in her own world of make-believe. Tickets: $34, $31 seniors, $24 students. Stagedoor Playhouse, 5339 Chamblee-Dunwoody Rd, Dunwoody. Info: stagedoorplayers.net. Visual Arts

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Monday, Jan. 20 1-4 p.m. The city of Sandy Springs hosts its inaugural Martin Luther King Jr. Day Art and Film Festival, a family-friendly event that will feature interactive art projects and showings of the Emmy-nominated animated film “Our Friend Martin” (at 1:15 and 2:45). Free. Studio Theatre at City Springs, 1 Galambos Way, Sandy Springs. Info: sandyspringsga.gov.


Monday, Jan. 20, 5:30-7 p.m. The city of Brookhaven’s annual event and dinner. Tickets $10. Lynwood Park, 3360 Osborne Road, Brookhaven. Tickets: 404-6370542.

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Saturday, Jan. 18, 4 & 8 p.m. The Off-Broadway hit comedy based on the book by John Gray. Tickets: $60. Studio Theatre, City Springs, 1 Galambos Way, Sandy Springs. Info: citysprings.com.

Wednesday, Jan. 8, 9:30 a.m. The Dunwoody Fine Art Association features Eric Bowles of the Georgia Nature Photographers Association presenting a collaboration where DFAA artists create paintings based on GNPA photos. Free. Dunwoody North Shallowford Annex Room 1, 4470 North Shallowford Road, Dunwoody. Info: dunwoodyfineart.org.


Friday, Jan. 10 – Sunday, March 1 30 travel photographs by Jane Robbins Kerr, a Mississippi native and Atlanta resident who has traveled the world photographing people and places. Admission $5. Oglethorpe University Museum of Art. Lowry Hall, 3rd Floor, 4484 Peachtree Rd NE, Brookhaven. Info: museum.oglethorpe.edu.


Art & Entertainment | 19



Friday, Jan. 17 through Friday, Feb. 28, 10 a.m.5 p.m. The Fulton County Arts & Culture and Dunwoody Fine Art Association present a Southeastern regional art show juried by Susannah Darrow at the Abernathy Arts Center. Opening reception Saturday, Jan. 25 and gallery talk, Saturday, Feb. 1, both 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Free to view; artwork available for purchase. Abernathy Arts Center, 254 Johnson Ferry Road NW, Sandy Springs. Info: 404-613-6172.


Wednesday, Jan. 8, 7 p.m. Buckhead Heritage is launching a one-year project to find living “sentinel trees” dating to the Creek Native American Nation. Cost: $10 members, $15 non-members. The Cathedral of St. Philip, 2744 Peachtree Street, Buckhead. Info: buckheadheritage.com.



Saturday, Jan. 18 through Tuesday, June 30 A touring exhibit explores the African American struggle for full citizenship and racial equality that unfolded in the 50 years after the Civil War, featuring historical artifacts, art, photographs and other visuals. Created by the New-York Historical Society in collaboration with the National Museum of African American History and Culture, and expanded with locally relevant materials from the collections of local museums. Tickets: $21.50, $18 students, $9 youths. Atlanta History Center, 130 West Paces Ferry Road, Buckhead. Info: atlantahistorycenter.com. Music

Wednesday, January 8, 2020 at 9:30 a.m. Eve Nuemeister of the North Fulton Master Gardeners will discuss “Success with Succulents.” Free. North Shallowford Annex. 4470 North Shallowford Road, Dunwoody. Info: dunwoodygardenclub.com.


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Saturday, Jan. 11, 10:30 a.m.- 12 p.m. Join Sue VerHoef, director of oral history and genealogy at Atlanta History Center, discusses how to manage your files and organize your research as a family historian. Cost: $10 members, $15 non-members. Atlanta History Center, 130 West Paces Ferry Road NW, Buckhead. Info: atlantahistorycenter.com.

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Sunday, Jan. 12, 2-3 p.m. Turn over a new leaf in 2020 and learn some simple tips on how to incorporate sustainability into your lifestyle. Bring your own container to make an Earth-friendly household cleaner. Free, RSVP required. North Woods Pavilion at the Dunwoody Nature Center, 5343 Roberts Drive, Dunwoody. Info: dunwoodynature.org.


Friday, Jan. 24, 8 p.m. Atlanta native and jazz pianist Joe Alterman and his trio, with a guest appearance by jazz vocalist Karla Harris. Tickets: $25. Studio Theatre at City Springs, 1 Galambos Way, Sandy Springs. Info: citysprings.com.

Saturday, Jan. 18, 8-10:30 a.m. A family-friendly guided bird walk from Overlook Park to historic Morgan Falls Dam. Binoculars will be available to borrow or bring your own. Children 16 and under must be accompanied by an adult. Free. Morgan Falls Overlook Park, 200 Morgan Falls Road. Register: registration.sandyspringsga.gov.



Friday, Jan. 17, 7:30p.m. Screening and panel discussion about “Ali’s Comeback,” about the little-known politicians and businessmen who brought Muhammad Ali back into the boxing. Cost: $5 members, $10 non-members. Atlanta History Center, 130 West Paces Ferry Road NW, Buckhead. Info: atlantahistorycenter.com/programs.

Friday, Jan. 17, 9-10:30am Enjoy a short winter hike into the forest and build a fort out of fallen tree branches. Warm up afterwards by the fire pit overlooking Bull Sluice Lake, and add a few sticks from the fort. Free. Morgan Falls Overlook Park, 200 Morgan Falls Road. Register: registration.sandyspringsga.gov.




20 | Art & Entertainment

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Q&A with Karen White Local bestselling author joins trio in historical adventure novel BY JOHN RUCH johnruch@reporternewspapers.net

Karen White is a bestselling author in her own right in the mystery and Southern women’s fiction genres. And the Milton resident is part of a trio of authors – along with Beatriz Williams and Lauren Willig – who have co-written the bestselling historical adventure novels “The Glass Ocean” and “The Forgotten Room.” The novel-writing team is back together for “All the Ways We Said Goodbye,” a romantic drama about three different women’s adventures at the Ritz Paris hotel during both world wars and the 1960s. While Williams and Willig live in the Northeast, all three authors will visit White’s backyard together on Jan. 13 at 1 p.m. for a book event at the Sandy Springs Branch Library at 395 Mount Vernon Highway NE in Sandy Springs. Via email, the Reporter asked White about her inspirations and the new novel, which hits the shelves on Jan. 14. Q: Writing fiction in a trio is unusual. What is the best part of writing as a team? What is the most challenging? A: The best part of writing as a team is the

shared creativity. When perience it all over again. writing solo, only crickThat is the feeling I want ets answer when we ask to give to my readers; “what if” when stuck on an unputdownable read a plot point. But with with characters that lintwo other brains in the ger long after they turn mix, it becomes an entire that last page. well of possibilities. The Q: Do you have any famost challenging aspect vorite local bookstores is not living geographior other literary spots? cally close to each othA: We are extremely er. We’re great friends lucky here in the Atlanta as well as writing partmetro area to have some ners and it would be a really fabulous booklot more fun to meet for stores! They’ve all been SPECIAL coffee to chat plot points Karen White. such great supporters of and characters (among mine, and do a terrific other things) if we did live in the same job of recommending books and authors corner of the world. to readers, and hand-selling Q: You have mentioned the Nancy Drew mysteries as an early inspiration. How does she continue to influence your work? A: I remember how excited I would get to find a new Nancy Drew book in the library or bookstore, and how I would stay up in the wee hours of the night reading because I couldn’t put the book down. And then I would re-read the book to ex-

books. FoxTale Book Shoppe in Woodstock is a favorite, as is Bookmiser and The Book Exchange, both in Marietta. Q: The new novel is set in the Ritz Paris hotel. What was an interesting fact you learned about the hotel in the historical research?

A: There were many! The most interesting was that the hotel was used as the headquarters for the Luftwaffe, the Nazi Germany air forces, during World War II, as well as the permanent residence of fashion designer (and suspected Nazi agent) Coco Chanel. Oh, the stories those walls could tell! Q: You’ve said that your grandmother Grace Bianca was an early influence on your interest in storytelling. What sort of stories did she tell? A: I remember spending hours beneath my grandmother’s kitchen table in Indianola, Mississippi, and listing to her, my mother, my four aunts, and an assortment of extended female members of my family talk about life, about their gardens and fruit crops, about local gossip, and also reminiscing. My favorite story is how my grandfather, who owned the first car on the street, would pile the family into the car in the middle of a hot summer day (this was before air conditioning!), and drive around town with the windows down so they could catch a breeze.

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22 | Public Safety

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City Council members say they plan to revive tree ordinance rewrite Continued from page 1


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meeting the previous day in South Atlanta over both lack of detail and unhappiness with what details were presented. Administration officials did not respond to repeated comment requests about the reason for the rewrite’s stall and its current status. Matzigkeit and Westmoreland said they haven’t gotten any further information, either, and that is part of why they and other council members will move ahead with legislation on their own. “They haven’t provided details to me about that or what [the planning department] is planning to do,” Matzigkeit said. “Our preference would be to work with the administration to get something in place, but we want to get something in place.” But what kind of ordinance will be drafted? The previous rewrite effort in 2014 stalled amid opposition from developers who said it was too restrictive. Meanwhile, the current version is widely criticized as confusing in detail and difficult to enforce in some parts, while tree advocates say its basic mechanism of allowing the cutting of many trees in exchange for a fee is too permissive. “If we came out of this and we really had legislation that clamped down hard on clear-cutting lots, that is number one,” said Matzkigkeit about his ideas. “And number two, [legislation] that would allow people on densely wooded lots to take down a tree or two. I think that’s OK.” “And we need to hold ourselves as a city to the same standard as we do our residents,” he added, referring to tree removals on such public lands as parks. Westmoreland said that the effort will be, as usual, to strike a balance between tree preservation and the growth of real estate development. “I don’t think those are mutually exclusive,” he said. In pushing for a ordinance written outside the Planning Department and resurrecting the 2014 draft, the council members are echoing calls from such activists as deLille Anthony of The Tree Next Door, who also chairs the Buckhead Council of Neighborhood’s tree canopy subcommittee. “The problem is, trees are coming down every month,” said Anthony about the tree ordinance rewrite at the BCN’s Nov. 14 meeting. “We’ll write it ourselves. We’re tired of waiting on the city.”

She also advocated “quick fixes” on clearing up language in the existing code that she called inconsistent or vague. At the BCN meeting, Anthony presented tree-removal data she said she obtained from city records, whose contents the Reporter could not confirm. She said the data showed that nearly 16,000 trees were cut down in the city in fiscal year 2019, of which more than 9,000 would not be replaced. In her presentation, she said that illegal tree removals skyrocketed between fiscal 2018 and fiscal 2019 from 276 to 601. Roughly half of trees reported cut were dead, dying or hazardous, which don’t have to be replaced, she said. Anthony and other advocates have been critical of the rewrite drafts, particularly for a provision allowing homeowners to remove one tree a year and for the continued appearance of a pay-to-remove system. At the same time, there has been criticism that the presentations, based on work by consulting firms Biohabitat and Canopy Works, have remained a series of PowerPoint slides rather than draft legislation. Westmoreland said he liked that the process was “zooming out to a bigger picture” with conceptual slides. But, he said, “I’m not sure why it’s taken six or seven months from when I thought we would be delivered a draft in our hands.” While administration officials did not respond to questions, City Planning Commissioner Tim Keane recently was quoted in Bill Torpy’s Atlanta JournalConstitution column as saying the city essentially halted the rewrite because it did not like what the public was saying. “They can only win if everyone else loses. It’s only their perspective that matters,” Keane was quoted as saying about tree activists. At the BCN meeting, Anthony and Westmoreland had a different take. Anthony called the Nov. 6 meeting in South Atlanta a “revolt” against an essentially unchanged presentation despite months of waiting. Westmoreland told the BCN audience that he attended that meeting and agreed. “I stood up and apologized for wasting everybody’s time in the room,” Westmoreland said. “We have not done this process right. …We’ve got one chance to protect our canopy.” BH


Community | 23


Party mansion controversy ends in fine, jail sentence Continued from page 1 wole, who pleaded guilty to several code violations in city court Dec. 13 and was hit with a $7,500 fine and a 30-day jail sentence. Combined with a separate court order banning commercial events at the mansion, City Councilmember J.P. Matzigkeit said, the sentencing should spell the end of problems, at least for now. “To me, the wheels of justice grind slowly, but they worked today, and our neighborhood is going to get the peace and quiet it deserves,” said Matzigkeit on the day of Oduwole’s Atlanta Municipal Court trial, which the councilmember attended. Formerly owned by star musician Kenny Rogers, the mansion drew the city’s attention in 2018 for a string of massive parties, which ended late in the year with a $1,000 zoning violation fine imposed upon a woman who claimed to be the property’s new owner. However, Oduwole became a tenant in June of this year and began advertising the mansion for event rentals. Parties resumed this summer, leading to a new series of citations against Oduwole, security guards, a DJ and others. The events generated significant controversy and led Matzigkeit and Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms to draft legislation to crack down on “party houses,” which is still working its way through the City Council process.

On Dec. 9, a Fulton County Superior Court judge granted the city’s request for a court order placing a permanent ban on commercial events at the mansion, though it remains unclear whether that will attach to other owners or operators. Attorney Ray Humphrey was appointed by the Municipal Court to represent Oduwole in his trial for a string of alleged code violations. “He apologized to the court for any issues or concern or stresses he caused the neighborhood,” said Humphrey in a phone interview from the Atlanta City Detention Center, where he was waiting to visit Oduwole in jail. “He acknowledged this had gone beyond where it should have gone.” Online real estate listings show the mansion is for sale for $7.995 million. Humphrey said he understands the mansion went on the market in late November, and said Oduwole says he now lives in New Jersey. Humphrey said that information likely will come “to the delight of his neighbors, but that doesn’t make up for the last six months of residency there.” Oduwole still faces a court ruling on charges related to interfering with water


The 4499 Garmon Road mansion and estate as it appears in an aerial photo from Fulton County property records.

devices and unpaid water bills. Still at issue, Humphrey said, is what Oduwole is responsible for, because he was a tenant, not the owner, and the exact identity of the owners remains unclear. Regarding the water-related cases, Humphrey said, “I’m praying for a nominal fine – fingers crossed on that.” When Oduwole went to trial on the water-related cases Dec. 13 before Chief Judge Christopher Portis, according to Humphrey, he had a total of 15 other city citations pending, of which seven were dismissed. Oduwole pleaded guilty to the remaining eight citations, Humphrey said. Oduwole reported to the jail later that day to begin serving his sentence. He will have to pay a total of $10,527 when the

base fine is combined with fees and surcharges, according to court spokesperson Tialer Maxwell. A number of city department officials and local residents appeared to court to testify, Humphrey and Matzigkeit said. “It’s an extraordinary case in Municipal Court to have something going on that long and have the city invest that much resources into it,” said Humphrey. “It was a pretty stern closing that Judge Portis gave about enforcing the laws and making sure people know we would not put up with something [like that] in the city of Atlanta,” said Matzigkeit. Humphrey said he does not know whether anyone else is living in the mansion at the moment. “The water’s shut off, that’s for sure,” he said.

James Shepherd, co-founder of Shepherd Center hospital, dies at 68 BY JOHN RUCH johnruch@reporternewspapers.net

James Shepherd, who co-founded Buckhead’s Shepherd Center rehabilitation hospital after receiving a paralyzing spinal cord injury in 1973, died Dec. 21 at age 68, according to the hospital. He was an Atlanta native and graduate of Buckhead’s Westminster Schools and the University of Georgia. He was injured in a body surfing accident. Frustrated by the lack of rehabilitation hospitals in the Southeast, he co-founded the Shepherd Center in 1975 with his parents Alana and the late Harold Shepherd and Dr. David Apple. Today, the 2020 Peachtree Road hospital is among the nation’s top rehabilitation and research facilities. James Shepherd long served as chairman of its board of directors. “This is an enormous loss for Shepherd Center and the community,” said Shepherd Center president and CEO Sarah Morrison in a press release. “James was a dedicated and passionate advocate for people with disabilities. We will miss seeing him in the halls at Shepherd, during his visits with patients and staff, and most deeply, in our hearts.” “For nearly 45 years, James devoted his life to ensuring our clinical teams could take the so-called impossible cases and help people put their lives back together,” Morrison said. “James often said that Shepherd Center was the bridge between ‘I can’t’ and ‘I can.’ Thanks to him, thousands of patients and families found a pathway to independence, hope and dignity. James was committed to doing everything in his power to rebuild the lives of the people in our care. There wasn’t a day that went by that you could not feel and see his influence.” He was known as a public advocate for accessibility and rehabilitation. Locally, he was involved in the recent push to improve accessibility conditions on public streets. BH








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20 Under 20 Runners Up PAGE 36

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20 20 UNDER

Noah Daly, 17

Dunwoody High School Noah was studying late one night at a local restaurant when he saw employees loading unsold bakery items into a company truck. He went online and discovered that at the end of each day, the restaurant donated unsold baked goods to local hunger relief and charitable organizations. Other restaurants, he discovered, threw away perfectly good unsold food because they had no way to transport it to food pantries. He decided to do something about that. Once Noah could drive, he contacted a couple of restaurants and offered to transport useable food they otherwise would toss out to the Community Assistance Center in Sandy Springs. Since 2018, Noah has been responsible for the donation of 11,400 pounds of bakery and other food items to the CAC, reported Deanna deRoux, a school counselor at Dunwoody High, where Noah is a senior.

Honoring students who give back to the community With more than 80 nominations this year, narrowing down our slate of 20 Under 20 honorees was more difficult than ever. But we think you’ll agree that this year’s honorees – along with runners up – are doing extraordinary things to make world a better place to live. As in previous years, we asked public and private schools along with service organizations and the general public to nominate students who have been active volunteers in their communities. These students have accumulated thousands of hours of volunteer time, traveled to other countries, created nonprofits and worked with the underprivileged as part of their service. This year, we noticed a trend among many of the honorees – their interest and passion for the environment and social justice causes. Many of the students are actively working at school and in the community to combat climate change and homelessness as well as mentoring refugees and underserved minority communities around the city. There has been an incredible uptick of students creating nonprofits to help raise funds not only from the community, but from corporations as well. We hope these uplifting stories will inspire you to find ways to give back to the community.

Francesca, who goes by “Frankie,” says she got her first taste of community service when she was in the eighth grade and joined Creating Connected Communities, an organization the provides ways for teens to volunteer with children in need. “Doing something for people I didn’t know made my heart feel whole,” she wrote. So, she kept volunteering. She stayed with CCC and branched out into other forms of service. At The Weber School, where she’s now a senior, she and a friend formed the Green Team, a club that pushed for recycling of utensils and plates in the school cafeteria. She has raised money for the Georgia Ovarian Cancer Alliance and traveled to the Dominican Republic for a marine and coastal conversation program. Last summer, she said, she helped restore a school building in a village in Fiji. “I truly love helping my community and I find it rewarding,” she wrote. “Through community service, I want to make an impact on the world. Though I feel that I have been on this journey of helping through community service for a long time, I do not see an end in sight. I think when given the opportunity to help, one should take advantage and lend a helping hand.”

Francesca Grossman, 18 The Weber School

George Corbin, 17

The Westminster Schools The junior has created a project called Technology Opens Doors that addresses the technology needs of men transitioning out of homelessness with the guidance of GivingPoint’s Social Innovators Academy. After a visit to GeorgiaWorks! and observing men seeking employment, but without adequate technology, tools and training, George knew he could help. He surveyed the men at GeorgiaWorks!, met with the director and men to listen to their needs, but also to understand their capacity and skills they already possessed. Using this information, George started involving his peers, his school community and others to work with him to fulfill his project goals. George plans to apply for nonprofit status for Technology Opens Doors so that he can obtain funding and continue to provide assistance to those in need. He’s also found time to volunteer with Habitat for Humanity, Salvation Army Bellwood Boys and Girls Club, and more. “Age is not a barrier when it comes to helping improve peoples’ lives,” George said. “I learned to always keep looking for different ways to find a solution. If your first idea does not work, approach it from a different angle but never give up.”

Education | 27

JANUARY 2020 ■ www.ReporterNewspapers.net

Kennedy is founder and CEO of Aid the Journey, a nonprofit she started with money from her tutoring work to provide medical supplies, hygiene kits and educational materials to refugees. She also made time to volunteer more than 100 hours at Emory St. Joseph Hospital and this summer Kennedy is parMarist School ticipating in the Harvard Medical Science program and the Hispanic Scholarship Fund Youth Leadership Institute at the University of Chicago. She also will participate in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Disease Detective Camp, and attend an Inspiring Girls Expedition for 12 days in Anchorage, Alaska. “Although I feel perpetually tired, every time I hand deliver one of my medical kits to a refugee I am energized,” Kennedy said. “Maya Angelou’s quote was right: ‘People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.’”

Kennedy Elise Walls, 17

Be Greater. Be an individual. Be part of a community. Be strong in faith. Be challenged academically. Congrats to Lizzie Joiner, Reporter’s 20 under 20

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After participating in a Covenant House “Sleep Out” to raise funds to combat youth homelessness, the seniors were so moved by what they witnessed, that they applied for and were accepted into the organization’s Scholars in Service program. For four months, Spencyr and Maya learned about philanthropy, fundraising, conducting service projects and developing their voices to speak about homelessness. They approached local businesses and large corporations alike to educate others about youth homeless and solicit donations. In the end, they raised more than $50,000 for Covenant House Georgia, won the $2,500 Scholars in Service scholarship award, and presented one of CHGA’s college-bound youth with a matching $2,500 scholarship. Three weeks later, the girls reached out to say that they decided to donate their scholarships back to Covenant House to launch the Post-secondary Education Fund fulfilling a long time dream of CHGA’s program staff to have funds dedicated to helping young people overcome their barriers to accessing college. “No matter how big or insurmountable any problem seems, there is always something that can be done to help find a solution,” Spencyr said about her work as a volunteer. Maya echoed that sentiment: “Through my work with the Covenant House, I have seen how even a little bit of help can make a huge difference in someone’s life, from giving someone a roof over their head to providing them with the opportunity to access an education.”

Spencyr Aronson and Maya Kaplan, 18 Pace Academy

Riverwood International Charter School

Ruthie started a Culture Club at school and volunteers with the Agape Youth & Family Center, but found her volunteer calling working with immigrant children in DeKalb County. After completing a project on Syrian refugees for her 10th-grade history class, Ruthie laid out a plan to work with young immigrants in Clarkston, the DeKalb County community where scores of refugees have settled. For her Girl Scout Gold Award, Ruthie put together a program through the Clarkston Community Center. In summer 2018, refugee children at the center drew and wrote in “Journey Journals” Ruthie created to share their cultures, to document things they found important and to improve their English writing and speaking skills. “In light of the local, national and global plight of refugees, I wanted to make a difference and felt this organization and community was a good place to start,” Ruthie wrote in her final project report. “Using my talents in art and education, I wanted to develop a program to give these children respect and a voice through a project that could be shared with other refugee centers.”

Neha is the founder of nonprofit ASA (Aspire, Serve, Achieve), an organization that helps support and raise funds for underprivileged children. Her inspiration for the organization came after a trip to India and after she discovered there were also exorbitant levels of child poverty in Georgia. The organization has grown to 100 ambassadors and chapters in Georgia, Texas, Michigan, and India. Currently, Neha is working to help a group of children in Michigan who are impacted by the Flint Water crisis as well as a school in India for blind children in need of Braille books. Local initiatives that ASA is currently organizing include a donation of food to the Community Assistance Center and support for the Sandy Springs Mission. At school, she developed the Riverwood United alliance to bridge the gap between students of distinct cultures. “My volunteer work has made me aware of the little things in life that make the biggest difference, the vitality of uniting a community to pursue a cause that makes a difference in peoples’ lives, and the significance of receiving emotions that can be cherished for a lifetime.”

Holy Innocents’ Episcopal School

Neha Devineni, 17

Ruthie Reid, 18

Amanda Houston, 12 Marist School

When she was 7, Amanda was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes, an autoimmune disease in which the body doesn’t produce enough insulin and that requires regular injections of insulin for blood-sugar control. But she hasn’t let the disease slow her down. Soon after her diagnosis, she wrote thankyou letters the nurses and doctors at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta who treated her. She also wrote letters offering hope and comfort to other children diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes and to their families. She has continued writing those encouraging letters to patients and their families every year on the anniversary of her diagnosis. She also has helped raise thousands of dollars for JDRF, a charity that funds research into diabetes and provides support for people dealing with the disease. Amanda’s Army, her JDRF One Walk team, has raised more than that $45,000 for the charity over the past five years. In addition to her One Walk team, Amanda has introduced speakers at the JDRF Type One Nation Summit, attended a research event and lab tour at Georgia Tech as part of a JDRF-funded research update, and, since 2015, has volunteered as a Youth Ambassador for JDRF.

Education | 29

JANUARY 2020 ■ www.ReporterNewspapers.net

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20 under 20

Where authentic Christian mission and academic excellence aren’t mutually exclusive

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Inspiring girls (grades 6-12) to find their own unique voice and use it in leading lives of purpose.



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CONNECTING LEARNING TO LIFE AT EVERY LEVEL. ABOUT THE PHOTO: Last summer, Upper School students explored Ghana and Botswana through an Isdell Center for Global Leadership (ICGL) study tour.



At Woodward, we provide the compass.

Lizzie works to help disadvantaged people both in Atlanta and abroad. She teaches Vacation Bible School, has assisted in New Birth Missionary Baptist Church’s community services iniGreater Atlanta Christian School tiatives, and helped distribute more than 5,000 shoes through a back-to-school drive. She also helped create more than 50,000 meals for families in Kenya. This fall, Lizzie and a fellow student created a campaign to collect donations of necessities such as canned goods for victims of Hurricane Dorian in the Bahamas. “Viewing everyone as equal, volunteering becomes an act that improves the lives of those who may be in need,” Lizzie wrote. “True volunteers do not help beUNDER cause others have less; they volunteer so that everyone can obtain exactly what they need to survive and thrive. I have learned that a true volunteer serves best when combined with deep respect, encouragement and motivation. That is what I strive to offer each time I volunteer.”

Lizzie Joiner, 17

20 20

Sophie’s passion is the environment. As a sophomore, she travelled to Ghana, where she watched women craft beads out of recycled materials to support their families. Upon her return, Sophie was selected to serve on Pace’s Isdell Center for Global Leadership Council, a student group that works to improve Pace’s environmental practices, lower its carbon footprint and educate the student body regarding Pace Academy waste reduction in their daily lives. Through that organization, Sophie led an initiative to redirect Pace’s cafeteria waste through composting, an effort that has kept thousands of pounds of food waste out of landfills. In addition, Sophie has helped coordinate hands-on activities ranging from making homemade toothpaste and fabric food wrap, to charting the lifecycle of items from orange peels and laptops, to hosting a bulk “candy shop” for Halloween. Sophie is now one of four students who spend the school year diving deep into the ICGL annual global theme. This year that theme is “waste.” “My passion for the environment is a great start, but I cannot hope to influence others unless I combine that passion with knowledge,” she says. “Hopefully, this venture will lead me toward similar programs in college and beyond and even help shape my career.”

Sophie Lettes, 17

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With Los Niños Primero (LNP), a kindergarten readiness program for Latinx preschoolers, the senior has logged over 300 hours of service. As a fluent Spanish speaker, she has been actively involved in the program for four years. She has been selected for three years as one of 10 Teen Ambassadors who reflect the values of LNP within the organization as well as in their community. As part of her Girl Atlanta Girls’ School Scout Gold Award project, she created a campaign to address the issue of organ donation with teen drivers at Atlanta Girls’ School and beyond. “Through my volunteer work in and out of my local community I have developed empathy and respect for intellectual and cultural differences in regard to race, ethnicity, and socioeconomic status,” she said. “Throughout my time with Los Niños Primero, the students constantly show me the power of forgiveness and inclusion. Watching them put these practices into action at such a young age reminds me to employ them in my own everyday life, and gives me hope for the future.”

Caroline Sellers, 17

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As a ninthgrader, Channing was nominated to participate in a leadership development and philanthropy program run by the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. Over a seven-week period, she managed a team of nine students and Wesleyan School raised over $64,000 for the charity. She coordinated a lacrosse clinic for Wesleyan students and asked friends, family members and local corporations to help her meet her goal. Now a 10th-grader, Channing has continued her involvement with LLS. She serves on the organization’s Student Leadership Team in Georgia and mentors other students on how to raise money for LLS. She has worked with the national LLS team and helped develop training materials for students nationwide. Channing also is a member of the National Charity League and has received awards for significant levels of volunteer work in her community.

Channing Stall, 16

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The senior’s focus on activism, sustainability, and citizenship has seen her serve as Georgia’s representative for the Student Worldwide Sustainability Protest, which organized last year’s Youth Climate Strike. Kendall also curated a nonprofit art gallery at the Center for Civil and Human Rights to unite performers, painters, sculptors, and poets to discourage the idea that young people need to be isolated from one another. She worked on this project for months in partnership with the City of Atlanta. In terms of future projects and endeavors, she is integrating her love of community gardens and sustainable initiatives with yet another partnership with Atlanta native musician and artist, Raury, to create a community garden and art center in Stone Mountain. This long-term project will inform her Lovett senior capstone project in the spring as well. “Through volunteering, I’ve learned the importance of showing up consistently. I’ve found strength in compassionately serving others and following through on my commitments, regardless of how tired I may be from school. I have learned to prioritize volunteer work and creating opportunities for people to come together. The service work that I have had the ability to do has exposed me to not only the realities and injustices of the world, but the solutions.”

Through the Young Men’s Service League, Robert shares his time and energy with all sorts of people. He volunteers with senior citizens, cancer patients, at-risk elementary school students and teens with disabilities. And during each of his four years with the YMSL, he’s contributed 50 to 100 hours of volunteer time in the community. He’s helped develop the organization, too, by serving as its president, secretary, chairman of philanthropy and historian. “He is very proud of these accolades,” St. Pius X counselor Arline Umpierre wrote. “However, this is not why he remains enthusiastic about giving back to his community. He truly enjoys calling bingo games for his senior friends, making and serving meals for cancer patients at the Hope Lodge, working with at-risk elementary school students and playing basketball with the Titan [wheelchair team] teenagers.”

Kendall Greene, 17 The Lovett School

Ty Thompson, 17

Riverwood International Charter School On the volleyball court, Ty is known to be as a team player. Off the court, she’s helping lead the way to better awareness and positive change in her community. The senior’s list of community service projects includes working with Hands on Atlanta and founding and serving as president of the Riverwood Black Student Union, a group that encourages minority students to take leadership positions at the school. She’s also co-founded RICS United, which works to improve race relations at Riverwood, and founded an organized called Building Relationships in Dialogue Gets Everyone Speaking, or BRIDGES, to promote communication among teens.

Kaelyn Bannon, 15

Holy Spirit Preparatory School

Robert Weir, 17

St. Pius X Catholic School

Through book drives organized as part of her Silver Award service project for Girl Scouts, Kaelyn collected reading material for children who might not otherwise have ready access to it outside school. She contributed nearly 1,000 books to the Cobb County Juvenile Court System, and she and her dad made two brightly colored bookshelves to hold the material. “Some kids who end up in the waiting room may not have [books] at home,” she said, “and these bookshelves can serve as a distraction from their reasons for being there.” When delivering the books, Kaelyn told a crowd of judges and other court staff members: “Our hope is that children will have the opportunity to find interest in literature, and be able to read and learn, even in the most unlikely places, no matter their circumstances.”

Isha works with the Community Assistance Center’s food bank and thrift shop to help families in need in Sandy Springs and also is involved in many school-based leadership positions, including the North Springs Be The Voice anti-bullying campaign and in the North Springs Principal/Student Advisory Committee. She takes part in the North Springs “High 5 Friday” program, through which student athletes go to Woodland Elementary and cheer their students on for making positive choices. She also volunteers as part of the Student Association of Sandy Springs, a collaboration between the students of North Springs High and Mount Vernon School to strengthen the community through service and to build a bond between public and private schools.

Isha Perry, 17

North Springs High School

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“A preparatory preschool providing preschool age children an environment of warmth and acceptance to grow socially and academically within the framework of Judeo Christian principles.” thedayschool-sscc.org

Announcing the EPSTEIN EAGLE MOVER Transpo ation System for the 2020–2021 School Year THIS FREE SERVICE WILL COVER:

Emily began helping others in the seventh grade when she organized a clothing, book and toy drive for students at Lomas del Rio school while serving on a mission trip to Costa Rica. Since then, the junior has logged more than 500 volunteer service hours as a tutor and mentor at Buckhead Church, Los Ninos Primavera, Camp All American and Woodson Park Academy. Emily parNorth Atlanta High School ticipated in GivingPoint’s Social Innovators Academy, where she started a group called Smart Brown Girls at Woodson Park Academy. Through the club, she mentored a group of fifth grade African-American girls focusing on issues of self-esteem, self-image, leadership and challenges associated with living and learning in underserved communities. She also raised money to purchase clothes, toiletries, school supplies and backpacks for students at the Academy. She also recently organized a volunteer project with her volleyball team to raise money for St. Jude’s Children Research Hospital. For her volunteer work, Emily was recently awarded the President’s Volunteer Service Award. “A person shouldn’t volunteer because they have to, but because they want to serve someone else in their community. The love to serve others makes the service more impactful and has a greater impact on the people or organization you are serving.”

Emily Demps, 16

• Intown/Morningside/No h Druid Hills • Dunwoody • Brookhaven/Buckhead Bus stop locations will be based on proximity to enrolled students’ homes.


A busy senior at AJA, Tali’s list of volunteer initiatives and efforts would never fit this space, but Atlanta Jewish Academy highlights include sitting on the board of the Leadership Development Program for nonprofit Creating Connected Communities (CCC), which serves underprivileged children around Atlanta. Tali oversees CCC events including spring and fall festivals and afterschool programs. She’s also a member of the Teen Leadership Council for the Atlanta Ronald McDonald House (ARMH), where she raised enough money through school and synagogue fundaisers to host a family at the ARMH for an entire week. Tali also volunteers at the Childrens Hospital and at the Jewish Food Bank. She was selected to participate in the MLK ADL Summit, which educates high schoolers on tolerance, acceptance and non-violence. With plans to become a pediatric cardio-thorasic surgeon, Tali’s advice for others who want to volunteer is simple: “Even the smallest acts of kindness make the biggest difference.”

Tali Feen, 17

If you have questions or want to schedule a tour, contact Director of Recruitment & Enrollment Laura Weiss at laura.weiss@epsteinatlanta.org or 404.250.5607.

Please fill out our interest form by March 1 at www.EpsteinAtlanta.org/EagleMover

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Registering now for 2017 > Ages 12 mos. through Kindergarten > Ages 12 mos. through Kindergarten > Hours: 9:00 – 12:30; Kindergarten

The senior designed a video game called “Race,” creating the concept, characters and animations to highlight marginalized groups and promote inclusion in the video game industry. He was recognized for his achievements last spring when he received the Rochester Institute of Technology Creativity and Innovation Award. Along with his involvement at school, including serving on the Student Council and co-leading the Student CulAtlanta International School ture Club, Robert Luke initiated a project and has volunteered his time over the last year at Campbell-Stone Assisted Living Facility creating a fundraising calendar for the residents. “It may seem counterintuitive, but once you really become a dedicated volunteer towards a specific program or project, it can often take real patience and perseverance to make the difference you are committed to. There are no shortcuts or quick fixes, and the nuances to contributing to social change involve hard work, dedication, and resilience, inside of the honor of seeing a job through.”

Robert Luke Joseph, 17

enrichment 2 days until 2:30pm > Hours: 9:00 – 12:30; Kindergarten enrichment 2 days until 2:30pm > Early Bird Drop off at 8:30am > Early Bird Drop off at 8:30am

> Discovery Days After School Program

> Discovery Days After School enrolled in until 2:30pm for students Program until 2:30pm for students 3-yr old class or older enrolled in 3-yr old class or older

> ASPIRE After School ages 4-11,

> Accredited by AdvancEd Until 6pm (formerly SACS)

> Accredited by AdvancEd

> Certified School of Excellence by (formerly SACS) N. GA UMC Preschool Association

> Certified School of Excellence by > Developmentally Appropriate N. GA UMC Preschool Association Curriculum > Developmentally Appropriate > Community Registration for Curriculum 2017-18 in January 2017; tours begin in October!

> Community Registration for 2020-21 in January; Tours available!

Limited spaces available in the current year

For more information call 404-250-9455 85 Mt. Vernon Highway, Atlanta 30328 | www.ssumc.org | email: nnadolski@ssumc.org

Kindergarten Open House! Jan 16, 9:30 am!

Limited space available. For information call 404-250-9455

6150 Sandy Springs Circle, Atlanta 30328 | www.ssumc.org | preschool@ssumc.org

Learn. Lead. Serve. Serving grades 7–12, Marist School provides an education where achievement exists within a spirit of humility and generosity. Students are challenged by an extensive college-preparatory curriculum while an array of extracurricular activities inspire exploration and uncover hidden talents. Through it all, students gain a unique strength of character and skill and a joy of serving others that prepares them to be compassionate, confident leaders.

Apply now for Fall 2020

Come visit to experience Marist’s spirit yourself.

Family Farm to Forest Tours, check website for details

Learn more at marist.com An Independent Catholic School of the Marist Fathers and Brothers

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BEYOND CONFIDENT At Galloway, students are inspired to be fearless learners, to embrace challenges, and to discover more about themselves and the world around them. Pre-K —Grade 12.

Schedule a tour today at gallowayschool.org/visit

for college for life forever Holy Spirit Prep embraces the traditions of Catholic education to form students of deep faith, advanced intellect, and heroic virtue. COME VISIT RSVP for a weekly tour at holyspiritprep.org/visit. APPLY ONLINE Start your application at holyspiritprep.org/ apply.

An independent Catholic school in Chastain Park, forming students 6 months-12th grade. holyspiritprep.org

20 20 UNDER

RUNNERSUP OLIVER DAVIDSON Oliver’s passion is Spanish, both the language and the culture. Through Los Niños Primero in Sandy Springs, Oliver taught Latino youths to help them in school. Through the Spanish National Honor Society, Oliver participated in Hispanic-based community service and encouraged his peers to join him. As co-founder of the Riverwood International Charter School Spanish Club, Oliver spearheaded service projects, programs about Spanish politics and culture, and supply drives to benefit school and community Latino families. Oliver also co-founded the ESOL Tutoring Program at Riverwood and he has helped rebuild homes and facilities in Spanish-speaking countries. MICHAEL FU As one of the top chess players in state, the Pace Academy junior co-founded Scholarly Chess, a non-profit organization to promote chess and host regular chess tournaments. He also co-created VEMS, an app designed to help track student volunteer hours that received the LexisNexis championship award. DEV JOSHI AND EMAAD DAYA The Westminster duo educate people on the environmental crisis through their social impact project called The Carbon-12 Project, which raises money for carbon capture technologies and a variety of climate projects that reduce carbon emissions. SARA GELBER Sara, captain of Dunwoody High School’s fencing team, finds time for many local charities. She has organized her team to make sandwiches for the homeless, has taught fencing at summer camp and has volunteered to coordinate children’s activities through Creating Connected Communities. She also planted daffodils in a local park in remembrance of children lost in the Holocaust and made biscuits to be donated to Furkids Animal Rescue & Shelters. MAANIT MADAN The Atlanta International School senior captains the school’s iHOT Robotics Team and has been instrumental in leading the team to the quarterfinals in

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is division in the World Championships for three years in a row. He also plays bassoon in the AIS band and co-founded two tech startups. CHANDLER MCCLESKEY Whether Chandler is serving as president of his class president or the student government, overseeing the Riverwood International Charter School math tutoring program, serving as head tutor at the Raider Writing Center, teaching STEM to elementary school students, representing the school in both lacrosse and football, or representing the school as a Riverwood Ambassador, he is helping all of the students and future students at Riverwood. Chandler also volunteers at Hands Across Atlanta to feed the homeless; donates school supplies and toys; and organizes craft workshops.

We cultivate a love of learning Trinity, Atlanta’s only private elementary-only school, serves children age three through Sixth Grade by design. We believe this configuration best supports children’s growth and development. Our entire focus—expertise, facilities, resources—is devoted to these young learners and helping them flourish. Discover Trinity School firsthand at our January 15 Open House. Begin your child’s journey at trinityatl.org/admissions 404-231-8118

TELISSA REYNOLDS An aspiring physician, the Westminster Schools senior created an outreach program, Gene Shorts, that exposes inner city students to the field of genetics. “When the students see me, a black girl who’s excited about biology, they realize that they too can become the future doctors, nurses, and scientists of the world.” JULIA RHEE In 2017, Julia Founded Double Play ATL, a nonprofit organization developed to help underprivileged youth obtain the necessary equipment to play organized sports, which has since collected nearly 5,000 pieces of equipment and put 90 percent back into the community. Double Play has grown to involve sustainability projects as well. The Westminster Schools student also made time to volunteer her time at Threads, the Atlanta Food Bank, Agape, L’Amistad, Atlanta Children’s Shelter, My Sister’s House and many more. SARAH STREET The Westminster Schools junior has raised money and served more than 500 hours at organizations including LaAmistad, Operation Gratitude, Covenant House, Buckhead Christian Ministries, UNICEF, Changing Lives in Guatemala, PowerMyLearning, Hospice Atlanta, Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, and City of Refuge. RUSSELL WYATT The Holy Spirit Preparatory School 8th grader volunteers every weekday after school at Jacob’s Ladder Neurodevelopmental School and Therapy Center. His sister, Mae, has cerebral palsy, and he’s helped her and other students with communicating their needs and expressing themselves through art and yoga.


Springmont School offers an authentic Montessori experience, where individualized learning inspires students to become creative, independent thinkers. EXTRAORDINARY BY DESIGN. SCHEDULE A TOUR TODAY! 404.252.3910 OPEN HOUSES JAN 9 & 26


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Exceptional Educator Greg Morris, Brandon Hall School

From left, Brandon Hall School students Que Howard and Risa Shinozuka clean gravestones during a field trip to the Georgia National Cemetery in Canton, Ga. on the 18th anniversary of 9/11.


BY HANNAH GRECO Hannah@reporternewspapers.net


Greg Morris has been working hard to have his students more actively engaged in the community, from cleanup projects to water testing experiments. Morris teaches science at Brandon Hall School, a Sandy Springs private school serving grades 6-12, and started in 2017. Before he became a teacher, Morris was in the Army and worked for the Lilburn Police Department, which inspired his school field trip in September. To honor the 18th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorism attacks, Morris brought the middle school class to the Georgia National Cemetery in Canton, one of the 135 national burial sites in the United States, to clean service members’ headstones. “I hope my students can learn from me how to be a good citizen and care about the community they live in,” Morris said. For a new project, Morris is raising money for each student to have a test kit to examine the quality of public drinking water.


Tomorrow calls for a new kind of leader. Every day, we connect bright, curious students with opportunities that expand their vision and help them meet their greatest aspirations so that they can lead positive change in the world. Let us show you how. Learn more at westminster.net.

WESTMINSTER Love. Challenge. Lead. Change.



From left, Brandon Hall School students Timothy McReal, John Ogbeni and Annabelle Langlais take a golf cart around the Georgia National Cemetery while cleaning gravestones during a field trip on the 18th anniversary of 9/11.

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Q: Why did you decide to become an educator? A: When I worked as a police officer, I had the opportunity to teach a fifth grade anti-drug DARE program. I really enjoyed teaching the kids, so I started going to school while still working nights as a police officer. Once I graduated, I started working in Gwinnett County and found my way to Brandon Hall.

Q: What do you like about teaching youths? A: I like teaching the middle-schoolers new ideas. I like seeing the newness of that knowledge in their eyes.


Greg Morris, a middle school science teacher at Brandon Hall School.

Q: What inspired the trip to the National Cemetery? A: I received an email from the Veteran Affairs asking for volunteers. These kids have no idea about 9/11, so I thought it was a good idea to get them out there to see people who have given their lives so that they can go to school.

Q: Why did you think the trip was important?

Blessed Trinity Catholic High School - 11320 Woodstock Rd., Roswell, GA 30075 - (678) 277-9083 - www.btcatholic.org



A: It was a history lesson seeing the generations of people that are buried there that have fought in different wars. We saw people who fought in World War I up to Afghanistan.

Q: What is next for you and the students? A: My students are very excited to find out what is in the water we are drinking. Our school counselor showed me a video at the beginning of the year

Tours can be scheduled at www.btcatholic.org/Admissions Blessed Trinity Catholic High School invites prospective students and their families to tour our facilities, meet our students, and speak with our teachers and coaches. Applications due February 1, 2020

about water quality. We see on the news all the time about big cities with water problems and we haven’t heard anything about Atlanta.

28 Advanced Placement classes ~ Curriculum delivered on an A/B block schedule that maximizes instructional time ~ The 245 members of the class of 2019 earned more than $32.7 million in college scholarship offers in addition to Georgia’s HOPE and Zell Miller scholarships ~ A fully funded Fine Arts program that includes band, chorus, visual arts, and theater program that performs four first-class productions each year, including a musical, and one of the most highly honored dance programs in the state ~ A student-teacher ratio of 13:1; average class size of 19 ~ A comprehensive community-service program ~ An athletic department that fields more than 50 teams in 22 sports, and has won 44 state championships

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