Brookhaven Reporter - February 2021

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FEBRUARY 2021 • VOL. 13 — NO. 2

Brookhaven Reporter



Calling All Campers! P18 and 19

LaVista Park and ‘Innovation District’ get development protections


General Muir comes to City Springs P7


Celebrating Civil Rights

Meet the mothers of Civil Rights icons





Locals donate plasma for COVID battle

Local resident Aaliyah Gurthrie, joined by dog Louie, listens to former DeKalb County CEO Liane Levetan give the keynote speech at city’s fifth annual MLK Day Dinner Jan. 18. The dinner was held as a pandemic drive-in event at the Brookhaven/Oglethorpe MARTA Station rather than its traditional home in the city’s historically Black Lynwood Park neighborhood. It was the first MLK Dinner following last year’s historic Black Lives Matter protests, as a result of which the city agreed to install historical markers in Lynwood Park.

City sues county over disputed Brookhaven Park land



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The city has filed a lawsuit seeking to make DeKalb County transfer ownership of the eastern portion of Brookhaven Park to the city. But a county commissioner says the land -- long pegged as a disputed site for a new branch library -- has never been part of the park. The city claims in its suit, filed on Jan. 11

in DeKalb Superior Court, that the entire 21acre property made up Brookhaven Park when the city incorporated in 2012, but the county only sold the western portion of the park to the city in 2017. The cost was $922, based on a state law that set the price for transferring parkland to newly incorporated cities at $100 per acre. But DeKalb County Commissioner Jeff See CITY on page 22

Brookhaven’s booming new medical area has a new name -- Briar Hills Innovation District -- and is joining newly annexed LaVista Park under the protection of development standards intended to preserve their unique characters. The City Council Jan. 26 adopted the “Gateway South” character area study for both areas. The Innovation District, at North Druid Hills Road and I-85, includes Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta’s hospital center and Emory Healthcare’s massive mixeduse redevelopment of Executive Park. The neighborhood of LaVista Park, just to the south, requested annexation into Brookhaven in late 2019, mainly in response to the Children’s Healthcare and Emory developments and expansions. The community was annexed in December of that same year, adding around 601 single-family residences to the city. The Gateway South project team asked community members to help name the two areas. The community supported keeping the name LaVista Park. “Briar Hills Innovation District” was put for as an option and ultimately decided on after online discussion showed disagreement around using the words “healthcare” or “medical” in the name. Public engagement meetings were held, see LAVISTA on page 22



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Councilmember Gebbia will not seek re-election; Park to run again BY JOHN RUCH District 4 City Councilmember Joe Gebbia will not run for re-election this fall, while fellow Councilmember John Park will seek to retain his District 2 seat. The announcements come as the City Council recently set candidate qualifying fees and dates for the Nov. 2 election. The council’s four seats are on the ballot in staggered terms, so that two seats are on the ballot every two years. Gebbia, a health-food entrepreneur, was a member of the city’s founding City Council in 2012. He won a full term in 2013 and a second term in 2017. “I announced when I first ran for office back in 2012 that I was a firm believer in term limits,” Gebbia said in a phone interview. “I was self-imposing a two-term limit on myself, and that magical day has come. I will not be seeking re-election. I will fulfill my promise.” “At this point, I have no intention of seeking further elected office,” Gebbia added, “but I will remain engaged in opining on policies as they affect Brookhaven, and on statewide and federal issues.” In a written statement, Gebbia said it was “a blessing and an honor” to serve the district and

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the city. “In eight short years, we have helped guide Brookhaven’s transformation from a neglected enclave in northern DeKalb County to a focused, visionary and responsive local government for the residents it serves,” he wrote. “In addition, we have become a leading force in economic development in the region.” Gebbia said in the interview that he is willing to mentor any candidate to replace him, a practice that he believes is important for passing along the city’s institutional knowledge and practices. He said the city has many strengths, including smaller government, low taxes, efficient spending and “high ethical standing.” Another important feature of Brookhaven government, he said, is “a very strong culture toward respect of opposite opinions. That’s a really sore

Top, Joe Gebbia Above, John Park

point in our national politics right now. I’ve been so committed that Brookhaven stays above the fray and sets an example.” Gebbia has served as the city’s mayor pro tempore, meaning he takes on the executive duties if the mayor is unavailable or incapacitated. Gebbia is the father of Airbnb co-founder Joe Gebbia Jr., a personal connection that occasionally came up in council discussions of short-term rental rules. District 4 covers much of southern Brookhaven, including the rapidly redeveloping Buford Highway corridor and Executive Park area. The district is also where the city is growing through recent annexations, where Gebbia has often taken a leadership role. Park, an IT systems engineer, won a special election for the council seat in 2014 and a full term in 2017. He confirmed in an email that he intends to run for re-election this year. District 2 includes many of the city’s east-central neighborhoods, including Ashford Park, Skyland Park and the north side of the Buford Highway corridor. Any would-be replacements for Gebbia or challengers for Park have some time to think about it. At its Jan. 12 meeting, the council set a candidate qualifying fee of $360 and filing dates of Aug. 18-20. -— Jasmine Floyd contributed



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4 | Community ■

Redistricting may ensure the blue wave’s Democratic dominance in local suburbs BY JOHN RUCH AND BOB PEPALIS City elections will be big news this fall, but around the same time, another political process will begin with even longer-lasting impacts: the redrawing of Congressional, state legislature and City Council districts. Redistricting could affect the makeup of councils that in most cases do not now reflect the racial and ethnic diversity of their populations. And, one expert says, the redistricting may cement the new blue-wave Democratic dominance in local representation in Congress and the General Assembly, even though Republicans will control the process. One certainty is that the once-a-decade process will be intensely political as it attempts to balance short-term incumbent protection against long-term game plans, says Charles Bullock III, a University of Georgia political science professor and author of “Redistricting: The Most Political Activity in America.” “If you get it right, you hold [the legislature] for 10 years,” said Bullock of the General Assembly GOP majority that will conduct the Congressional and state redistrictings. And in the digital age, they will be able to make finely detailed tweaks to district maps for political ends. “What’s often said is, the people [once] chose their legislators and now the legislators choose their

people,” Bullock says.

Drawing a district

A district is the territory that an elected official represents. At each level of government, districts can vary in shape and size, but must contain closely similar numbers of people under the U.S. Constitution’s requirement of equal representation. To maintain that equal representation, districts are redrawn every 10 years following the results of the U.S. Census, which most recently was conducted in 2020. Previously redistricting processes typically began around late summer. But the 2020 Census results have been delayed by the COVID-19 pandemic, missing the deadline for the “apportionment” data needed for redistricting, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. It remains unclear when that data will arrive, but Bullock said the process is likely to begin in late fall and last several months, with the aim of having new districts in place for 2022. The majority-GOP state legislature gets to draw its own districts as well as Georgia’s Congressional districts. Gov. Brian Kemp likely will call a special session of the General Assembly to focus on that task, Bullock said. As for City Council districts, that process will be up to local governments. “The timing and process of redistricting at the lo-

cal level is largely governed by city charters and local legislation,” said Holger Loewendorf, research manager for the Georgia Municipal Association. Officials in Atlanta, Brookhaven, Dunwoody and Sandy Springs indicated they are not yet sure how the redistricting will be performed. Brookhaven, which incorporated in 2012, has never redistricted before. When Sandy Springs last redrew council districts in 2013, the work was done by then City Councilmember Gabriel Sterling, who since has become internationally famous as overseer of Georgia’s historic 2020 presidential election and critic of former President Trump’s conspiracy theories. (Sterling has been tapped to chair the city’s Charter Commission this year.) At all levels, “Rule number one is, your districts need to have roughly equal population,” said Bullock. To avoid court challenges, Congressional districts need to be very close to equal. By law, state districts can vary up to 5% more or less, but legislators need to provide a convincing rationale, like keeping the district within the same county; a variation of 1-2% is more common. “Second rule would be, you don’t discriminate against minorities,” said Bullock. “If you have an existing minority-majority district, you probably don’t want to break it up -- ‘crack’ it, is the term they use.” Governments aren’t required to create

minority-majority districts, Bullock said, but they better have “some non-racial rationale” for why they did not if there were viable alternatives that someone sues over. He says that’s especially true “if a minority population is relatively compact and is in one part of the city, and instead of putting it in a district, you cracked it...” Within those two rules, there is plenty of room for gamesmanship on protecting incumbents, punishing the opposition and setting long-term partisan power plays in motion. But a tricky factor, especially in the north metro area, can be seen in the many close election results in so-called marginal districts, where neither major party dominates the electorate. Bullock says that marginal districts can be great for voters, as their representatives may be more responsive and moderate. But such districts are loathed by incumbents and parties, as a slight change in the political wind can blow them out of power. That’s what happened 20 years after a Democrat-led redistricting attempted to protect many incumbents by preserving their marginal districts. A conservative shift in national politics knocked out many of them. “If there’s a wave against you, you lose a lot,” said Bullock.



Doing Business | 5

Doing Business | Sandy Springs startup aims to revolutionize market research “Market research” and “customer engagement” are terms that may conjure up images of focus-group meeting rooms and dinnertime robo-calls. A Sandy Springs startup aims to revolutionize the industry with an app that instantly pays vetted users to answer questions in real time via their cellphones. In the 1Q system, companies cannot not only ask questions or offer surveys, but also ask for photos and videos, and target users based on their locations at the moment. Want to see where every user wearing a certain brand of sneakers is on a live map of metro Atlanta? Want to send a coupon to every user at the big game? Those creative uses and more are possible through the 1Q app. Meanwhile, every user who responds gets part of the $1-per-answer fee, either to their bank account or to their favorite charity. (Disclosure: The Reporter previously partnered with 1Q to conduct reader surveys on topical issues.) After several years of development, 1Q says it has over 1 million users and is in a higher-profile phase. The Reporter asked CEO and founder Keith Rinzler about the startup. For more information, see Tell us about the app. How does it work? 1Q is not simply a survey app. It’s a rev-

olutionary market research and customer engagement platform that is changing the way companies conduct consumer research and interact with customers. 1Q allows companies to engage with an audience in real-time based on who they are or where they are by sending questions, surveys, pictures, videos, polls or promotional offers to their mobile phones. Consumers love engaging with 1Q because we are the only company operating in the analytics and insights marketplace that pays consumers instantly per response. We started building 1Q nearly six years ago, but we’ve really taken off in the past two to three years. We’ve experienced incredible growth, are being used on a regular basis by many of America’s largest companies, and have over 1 million consumers who have signed up to be paid instantly for their responses. How did you come to be based here in Sandy Springs? My family has been in the Atlanta area for five generations, so starting a business here made all the sense in the world. There’s so much talent in the Atlanta area, and it’s only growing year after year. Thanks to Georgia Tech and initiatives like the Georgia Research Alliance, It’s

one of the best places to start a tech business anywhere in the country. As for Sandy Springs, it’s a terrific central location within the greater Atlanta area that’s easy to access for all of our team members.

the radical simplicity and transparency of our platform -- there’s clear pricing, no contracts, and literally anyone can use it to get answers to their questions by visiting The list goes on, including real-time responsWhat do you offer that es that produce meanother demographic comingful results in minutes panies don’t? instead of days, the abiliFor starters, even comty to re-contact the same pared to market research respondents to dig deeper competitors that have on insights, and the abilistrong demographic proty to get feedback on vidfiles of respondents, our eo, audio, image and even platform is particularly get consumers to send targeted and precise. But you pictures. On the othwe’ve been working on er hand, for people who SPECIAL the 1Q platform for years, answer questions, they Keith Rinzler, CEO and and every client has their love getting paid instantly founder of 1Q. own favorite feature. A for each question they annumber love our highly swer and they have the opsophisticated geotargeting capabilities that tion to donate the money they earn to charlet you zero in on customers who have visities. It’s a win-win for everyone involved. ited their stores within a specific time period. Others appreciate our commitment What types of businesses are using the to data quality and making sure there are service? no “bots” or professional survey takers on Our clients come in all shapes, sizes and the platform who are more concerned with sectors. They include Fortune 500 compamaking money than answering truthfully. And then there are those who appreciate Continued on page 6


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Continued from page 5 nies, market research organizations, advertising and marketing agencies, and management consulting firms. Just in the metro Atlanta area, companies like Delta, Coca-Cola, Ted’s Montana Grill, Bain and Kids2Grow use the 1Q platform. Unlike some competitors that force you to start at a very high price-point, we can scale up or down to solve a customer engagement and market research challenge. Our pricing is radically simple: $1 per response. Period. We provide solutions both for companies that have a few hundred dollars and a few hundred thousand to spend on market research. We’ve had companies testing Super Bowl commercials, asking consumers to take pictures of store shelves to see product placement, and inquiring about straightforward questions like eating habits, how they invest money, or political opinions.


How is the pandemic affecting the survey business? The market research industry has been challenged by the pandemic, particularly traditional market research companies that specialize in things like in-person focus groups. Obviously, gathering people in-person is a non-starter in the midst of a pandemic. However, similar to how the pandemic has led many employers to become more reliant on digital communication tools like Zoom and Slack, marketers and consumer research specialists have sought out digital research tools like 1Q that can quickly deliver results anywhere and anytime. We nearly doubled our revenue in 2020 compared to 2019, and we had our highest revenue month ever in September 2020.

The following businesses recently opened in Reporter communities. GOLFTEC Sandy Springs, golf instruction and club fitting center, 6329 Roswell Road, Sandy Springs. Hotel Colee, 3377 Peachtree Road, Buckhead. Indie Studios, workspace for designers and creative companies, 190 Ottley Drive, Buckhead. Orthopedic Cortisone Injection Center, orthopedic pain relief practice, 1705B Mount Vernon Road, Dunwoody. Village Supply, pop-up space for food and lifestyle brands, especially minority- and women-owned, Buckhead Village District, 272 Buckhead Ave., Buckhead.

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Food & Drink | 7

Food For Thought: The General Muir’s chef chats about opening in City Springs BY KEVIN C. MADIGAN An outpost of the popular Emory Point restaurant and delicatessen The General Muir opened its doors at City Springs on Jan. 13. The Rye Restaurants group, of which chef Todd Ginsberg is a partner, has five other eateries around Atlanta: West Egg Cafe, TGM Bread, Fred’s Meat & Bread, Yalla and Wood’s Chapel BBQ. Ginsberg, a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America, was a James Beard Foundation semifinalist for Best Chef (Southeast) in 2014 and 2015. His career began at the Ritz-Carlton in Atlanta and continued at the Michelinstarred Lucas Carton in Paris and Alain Ducasse in New York. Back in Atlanta, he helmed the kitchen at Bocado before launching the General Muir at Emory in 2013, which became an instant success. The General Muir is named after the vessel that carried co-owner Jennifer Johnson’s family, who were Holocaust refugees, to the United States following World War II. The restaurant serves pastrami sandwiches, matzo ball soup, burgers and bagel sandwiches, among other traditional Jewish delicacies, as well as fried chicken and spaghetti suppers. The new location is in Sandy Springs’ civic center at 6405 Blue Stone Road, Suite 240, at the intersection with Johnson Ferry Road. For more information, see

that reports to me and then we have executive chefs in each of the restaurants, and they have their sous chefs, and I oversee them all to avoid those balls falling in the gutter. That’s my goal: keeping those balls going down the alley until it ends. How is this new location in Sandy Springs different from the one at Emory? It doesn’t differ too much, other than we’ve done a couple things cosmetically. At the other General Muir, there are pictures of our families on the walls, and here we have pictures and some memorabilia of people that we’ve met over the years since we opened the first one. The menus are the same, but I think we’re going to be selling a lot more bagels, pastrami and corned beef than at the other restaurant. The fried chicken that we had available only on Friday nights at the other General Muir we are doing every night here, and we’re also doing brisket every night.

Todd Ginsberg, chef and partner at the General Muir.

You oversee seven restaurants as chef. How do you not go crazy doing that? We have a huge support team that ensures no one goes crazy, and that way we don’t drop too many balls or have things fall through the cracks. I have a culinary director


What’s been the reaction so far? Some of the people that I’ve talked to that have been to both restaurants say it’s very consistent, and that’s been great to hear. Our number one goal was to bring our product and our brand to a new space and we wanted to make sure that people are enjoying it. A lot of them live closer to here than the other spot, so this is just around the corner for them. The feedback has been great. The community has wanted us from day one and they’re supporting us and are happy that we’re finally here.

What else would you like people to know about your restaurants? That we are a friendly and safe environment for people to work in as well as eat in; that we take safety and precautions very seriously during these times; that we are protecting our staff as well as our guests. In addition to that, we’re doing things that everybody grew up eating and we just try to do them a little better than they remember them.






8 | Food & Drink ■

Quick Bites BY KEVIN C. MADIGAN Milkdrop, a pop-up specializing in biscuits and biscuit sandwiches, will open for business in February beside the Buttermilk Kitchen building at 4209 Roswell Road in Buckhead. Chef and owner Suzanne Vizethann oversees both ventures and describes this new one as “a chef-driven, made-to-order experience for our fellow Atlanta foodies.” Milkdrop was scheduled to begin taking pre-orders online starting on Feb. 1 for pick-up on Saturday, Feb. 6. Apt. 4B, a Caribbean restaurant and bar, is now open at 2293 Peachtree Street in Buckhead, in a space formerly occupied by 1 Kept. In charge is Haitian-born chef Dayana Joseph who “serves up inventive dishes like oxtail hummus and snapper ceviche that remix Caribbean standards with other global standouts to create something new, familiar and otherworldly, all at the same damn time,” according to Apt. 4B’s website. Botica has taken over the old Watershed locale at 1820 Peachtree Road in Buckhead with chef Mimmo Alboumeh, formerly of Red Pepper Taqueria, at the helm. Lebanese by birth, Alboumeh lived in Spain and Mexico, and his cooking is inspired by both countries. The menu features smoked meats and dressings, tacos, salsas, fish, cocktails and weekend brunch. Grand Lux Cafe has reopened after closing in 2020 due to the pandemic. Located at Phipps Plaza in Buckhead, it first opened in August of 2018. Other restaurants at Phipps were not so lucky: Davio’s Northern Italian Steakhouse has had to close for good due to COVID-19, and so has The Tavern. Also, Lovies BBQ on Piedmont Road in Buckhead has shut its doors permanently. Recess, a “vegetable-centric, fine-casual” restaurant at Krog Street Market, will open a second location at 3150 Roswell Road in Buckhead later this year. Part of the Castellucci Hospitality Group, Recess will be positioned next to another CHG property, The Iberian Pig, at Hanover Buckhead Village. Storico Vino, an Italian wine bar, will start pouring at Buckhead Village, 3065 Peachtree Road, in the middle of February. “This Venetian-inspired concept will provide a variety of regional wines and small bites,” says its website. Wing It On!, serving fresh, non-frozen, all-natural chicken wings and “bigger, juicier, hand-crafted chicken sandwiches” plus seasoned fries, just opened its first branch in Georgia at 8290 Roswell Road in Sandy Springs. CEO Matt Ensero said in a written statement, “Our dedication and commitment to exceptional wings, award-

A publicity photo of wings and other menu items at Wing It On.


winning sauces and a phenomenal customer experience is a perfect fit for local foodies and wing fans in Sandy Springs.” Plant Based Pizzeria launched on Jan.16 at 8540 Roswell Road in Sandy Springs. The vegan joint serves flatbreads, calzones, pastas, breakfast, desserts, and, of course, a variety of pizzas, just like their first location in Virginia-Highland. Plant Based Pizzeria also operates a food truck around town with the motto “Eat Figs, Not Pigs” emblazoned on its side. “Everything is going great,” owner Paul Jordan wrote in an email. “Hours will be extended soon once we have a full staff hired. Every new customer that has come in loves the pizzas and burgers.” Kathleen’s Catch, a seafood market, is now open at 3434 Clairmont Road in Brookhaven. The owner is fishmonger Kathleen Hulsey, who already has locations in Milton and Johns Creek. The place sells fresh oysters, clams, shrimp, salmon, tuna pokes, crab, sandwiches, salads, ceviche, chowders and smoked trout dip, as well as traditional New England lobster rolls.


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Food & Drink | 9

Food for Thought | Brewing up a good time during the pandemic challenge Iron Hill Brewery and Restaurant has opened its first location in Georgia at Lenox Marketplace, 3535 Peachtree Road in Buckhead, featuring an on-site brewery that can crank out 900 barrels of craft beer a year. Fare includes appetizers, tacos, pizzas, burgers sandwiches, salads, and entrees. A second location in the Perimeter Center area is in the works. Chief Operating Officer Joe Kopke provides details. For more information, see What challenges have you had so far? This is our first location in Georgia and we were slated to open in 2020. We had some construction delays due to the COVID pandemic. It definitely caused some constraints, and was the first roadblock in the process. Once we got into a position where we could move construction forward, we were then able to successfully open Iron Hill in Atlanta. You’re bringing quite a few jobs to the area as well, aren’t you? We are. You’re talking a hundred to a hundred-and-fifty per location. We will open at the Perimeter in the summer, it looks like, so definitely extending our footprint and looking for more potential sites as we grow. We start construction in February. Can you talk about the food and beer you

are serving? Iron Hill Brewery and Restaurant is a craft kitchen and scratch brewery. We operate with the freshest ingredients and make creative dishes but we also make beer from scratch. Our basis and foundation has always been a restaurant that pairs our scratch beer with our handcrafted food so that they go together. I love beer but if you can have a beer with a dish that complements it, it really just makes the whole experience even better. Obviously as the landscape has changed and the craft brewery scene is pushing forward, there are different trends. Philly Phavorite is our number-one-selling IPA and pairs well with our signature Philly cheesesteak egg rolls. We are always looking to be at the forefront of beer and we fully understand what that scope looks like. We don’t try to be the trendiest, but we’re very meticulous, serious and disciplined about our approach to making beer. And then also bringing the restaurant along with it. Iron Hill has a history of philanthropy. Tell us about it. We have our Triple Chocolate Hill dessert, which is a double fudge brownie and vanilla ice cream, then it’s got peanut butter and caramel sauce, chocolate sauce and whipped cream, and it’s tied to a char-

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Joe Kopke, chief operating officer of Iron Hill Brewery and Restaurant.

ity initiative across the company. For each one sold, we donate 75 cents to CureSearch, which is for children’s cancer, and another 75 cents to a local charity, the Atlanta Children’s Shelter. We’re always looking to do local fundraisers and engagement in the community and help out the best we can. What else should we know about Iron Hill? I think the people of Iron Hill are what make the brand. We have intelligent, incredibly hard-working brewers, we have talent-

ed chefs and leaders running the restaurant day in and day out with an intense focus on giving great hospitality and making amazing food and award-winning beer. Has the local reaction been good so far? It’s been great. A lot of beer is selling and we are fully ready to go, one guest at a time. It’s a hard time for everyone and we want to help people gather and get away from world problems, break bread and have a good experience in the restaurant. That’s really impactful in people’s lives.

2090 Dunwoody Club Drive Suite 107 Sandy Springs, GA 30350 770-396-0492

10 | Commentary

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Commentary / City annexations and tax abatements need reform Editor’s note: Annexations and tax breaks have become politically contentious issues between many county and city governments. DeKalb County and Brookhaven have been involved in recent legal disputes over both issues; in Atlanta, the city government and public school system have demanded more control over tax abatements granted by Fulton County’s development authority. The Reporter asked state Rep. Mary Margaret Oliver to explain a package of legislation she is proposing to reform annexations and abatements. The creation of the new city of Sandy Springs in 2005 after political control of the Georgia General Assembly shifted to the Republicans impacted the local governments of existing cities and counties throughout the Atlanta region. Since 2005, all of Fulton County has been municipalized with the creation of new cities of Milton, Johns Creek and South Fulton and the expansion of existing cities. In DeKalb County, the city of Dunwoody was created in 2008, Brookhaven in 2012, Tucker in 2016, and Stonecrest in 2017. Other new cities have been proposed, the voters have voted against a few, and legislation to create more municipalities will be filed in the 2021 session. In and around all these incorporations are related annexations and expansions of new city lines with and without opposition, and many lawsuits. For many of these political creations, opposition has been contentious and costly, whether it has come from citizens or businesses. It is also true, however, that the new cities are popular with most voters, and the annexations have benefited businesses and cities. What is not clear is whether these changes have benefited the larger number of citizens who continue to live in unincorporated portions of counties. None of these new cities or annexations has been examined in view of comprehensive planning or economic development of the counties impacted. And most have offered new forms of tax benefits to developers and property owners as inducements to annexations. My district, HD 82, includes parts of Decatur, Brookhaven, Chamblee and Tucker, and has been ground central

in a variety of cityhood and annexaamends the Title 36-36-111 et seq annextion proposals. Prior maps have includation procedure by requiring the notice ed my neighborhood of Druid Hills in of the filing of the annexation petition efforts to incorporate what remains of to disclose any proposed tax abateunincorporated DeKalb County. ments, rebates or other financial incenI have filed proposed legislation tives that a development authority of(House Bills 23, 24 fers the annexing and 66) to strengthproperty owners. en the two existing Finally, HB 66 statutes that progrants standing to vide oversight to anany local school sysnexations and issutem or other governance of bonds in tax ing authority petiabatement offerings tioning for revenue (OCGA 36-36-110 and bond validation un111, and OCGA 36der OCGA 36-82-77. 82-77). The purpose Recently, a DeKalb of these measures Superior Court judge is to provide greater granted standing Mary Margaret Oliver (D-Decatur) is transparency and alto DeKalb County the state representative for District 82, which includes part of Brookhaven. low participation by School District in a impacted local govbond validation proernments, including school systems. My ceeding over the objection of a developfirst priority is to create public discusment authority. sion for citizens and all the interested Since prefiling these bills in Nogovernments and stakeholders to provember, I have met with lawyers for pose how we can improve the statutory Brookhaven and DeKalb County and processes for annexations and new citrepresentatives from the Association of ies. County Commissioners of Georgia and OCGA Title 36-36-110 et seq provides Georgia Cities United, and I have solica procedure for a county to object to a ited advice from many others. From petition for annexation filed with a city these discussions, I have made changes and for the Department of Community to early drafts based on good and generAffairs to create arbitration panels to ous advice. I am ready to and hope we hear the dispute based on specific stancan continue these helpful discussions dards, and this procedure most recently in hearings before the House Governhas been used by DeKalb County to obmental Affairs Committee and its new ject to an annexation filed by the city of chair, Darlene Taylor. Brookhaven. My bill, HB 23, gives the loOur current systems for city crecal Board of Education ability to file an ation and the multiple annexation proobjection to an annexation and utilize cedures need reform to create greater the arbitration panel review process. transparency and participation. The companion proposal, HB 24,

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Around Town As Janice Rothschild Blumberg saw it, Jan. 6, 2021, started out as a very fine day. It was the day after the runoff election and, as the votes were counted, Blumberg was rooting for the two Georgia Democrats running for U.S. Senate.

Janice Rothschild Blumberg.


By early that afternoon, Raphael Warnock had claimed election as the first Black U.S. senator from Georgia and Jon Ossoff was on his way to becoming the state’s first Jewish member of the U.S. Senate. Taken together, their election meant the Republicans would lose their senate majority and Democrats would control the national government. “I am ecstatically happy,” Blumberg said during a phone chat early that afternoon. “It couldn’t be better. It’s wonderful.” Then, suddenly, the tenor of things seemed to change. As Blumberg and I talked, texts started to appear on my phone saying something shocking was happening in Washington. I hung up and watched TV news broadcasts fill with pictures of the takeover of the U.S. Capitol by an armed and angry mob. The mob called for the recent elections to be thrown out, for White supremacy to rise again, and for resistance to the U.S. government. Some in the group carried Confederate Battle Flags through the halls of the Capitol.


Commentary | 11

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

After a while, I called Blumberg back to get her take on what was happening. She was horrified. “Unbelievable,” she said. Yet she said she had not abandoned hope. It was still a good day. “Look at what happened last night,” she said. “Look at what happened in Georgia. There’s still hope out there.” She’s seen political upheavals before and weathered her share of them. During her long and active life -- she turns 97 this month -- she has been a writer and public speaker and has led and worked with Jewish charities and organizations. Her first husband, Rabbi Jacob Rothschild, was a public critic of segregation and supporter of the Civil Rights movement in the 1950s and 1960s and was spiritual leader of The Temple in Atlanta when it was bombed in 1958. The Rothschilds were friends of Atlanta’s Civil Rights leaders, including Martin Luther King Jr. and his wife, Coretta Scott King. Blumberg, who now lives in Buckhead, grew up in Druid Hills. “Atlanta was very different then, very different,” she said. “We were segregated Jewishly as well as we were racially.” She first met Rabbi Rothschild at the Standard Club, then a social club for the Jewish community that was located on Ponce de Leon Avenue. “Atlanta, and particularly the Jewish community, and particularly the Reformed Jewish community, was mostly the same people … Everybody knew everybody,” she said. She remembers the community was abuzz at the time about the new, young rabbi. “I saw him on a tennis court,” she said. “Someone said, ‘That’s the new rabbi. Want to meet him?’ He was being feted by every family with a young daughter… I think we knew [we belonged together] on our second date.” They told their family he proposed during a University of Georgia football game as they shared a poncho in a rainstorm, she said. Actually, she said, he had brought up the subject the night before by giving her a cartoon showing a man on bended knee who was saying, “It’s simple. You just ask.” They told her mother that night and the rest of the family the next day, after the game. She said she first met Martin Luther King through her mother. Her mother was hosting a European journalist who wanted to meet civil rights activists in Atlanta, so a dinner was arranged at Pas-

A changing Georgia echoes the Civil Rights years chal’s, a well-known restaurant. King dropped by to chat. A few months later, Blumberg recalled, King was arrested during a protest and Blumberg called Coretta to offer her sympathy. They hit it off. “As standoffish as she seemed to be with the public, somehow she talked to me like a sister,” Blumberg said. “I felt very big-sisterly to her.” They had much in common. Both had young children and were married to prominent men who took public positions that made them enemies who regularly threatened to do them harm. Blumberg said there were threats against her, too. The threats against Rabbi Rothschild turned into real-life harm on Oct. 12, 1958, when The Temple was bombed. Dynamite severely damaged the building, but no one was killed. The community rallied around the congregation and public figures from the mayor of Atlanta to the president of the United States quickly condemned the bombing. “A Republican president [spoke out against the bomb-

ing] on the eve of mid-term elections,” she said. “He answered from his heart, and what he did, he did from the heart. He sent in the FBI.” Yet no one ever was convicted for the bombing. And Blumberg believes echoes of those times continue today. Some politicians still offer support to right-wing extremists, including those who help stir up the mob that took over the Capitol last month. She thinks of Joseph McCarthy and others. “We’re living through some parallels to that time,” she said. I called Blumberg again on Inauguration Day. She’d watched on TV as the country had installed a new president. Georgia was being represented in Congress by two new senators. Was she hopeful? “You bet I am, I certainly am,” she said. “[There’s] a decent, kind person in there and I think he’s very smart and … he’s got really knowledgeable people around him giving advice.” It looked like things were changing. Look at what happened in Georgia.

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Dine-in Or Take-out 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

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Northside tal has announced an urgent need for COVID-19 convalescent plasma (CCP), the clear liquid part of the blood from recovered COVID-19 patients containing potentially life-saving virus antibodies. Granted Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) by the FDA last August, CCP is given to hospitalized COVID-19 patients as soon after diagnosis as possible and has helped more than 100,000 sick Americans. But demand is up, and supply is down. What gives? According to Carrie Cox, executive director of Atlanta Blood Services (ABS), a major local supplier of CCP, only 3% of eligible donors normally give SPECIAL blood. Dr. Lonnie Herzog, left, donates convalescent plasma while “We’ve also seen getting moral support from son and fellow physician Alex. a higher rate of cancellations [of donor appointments] because of potential illness,” Cox said, “and many people are staying home.” All that’s required to donate is that you: are age 17 or older; weigh at least 110 pounds; have had a positive COVID-19 diagnosis; are at least 14 days without symptoms; pass a hemoglobin test to assure a healthy iron blood count; have normal blood pressure, pulse and temperature; are in general good health and have not been vaccinated. “There’s no upper age limit,” said Cox, “but if you’re over 70, we’ll reach out to your doctor to be sure it’s safe for you to donate.” Prime donors are people who have recovered in the last 14 to 90 days because they have the highest level of antibodies. Most needed are blood types B and AB, with rare AB- the universal plasma donor. Surprisingly, since the virus is not transmitted through blood, you can donate even if you’re still COVID positive but no longer have symptoms. The whole process takes about two-and-a-half hours, with about two hours for the withdrawal. “There’s one big needle stick, and you have to keep your arm straight and still,” said Cox. “We keep you warm and feed you snacks while you watch a movie on a Kindle on a little TV cart.” For most donations, Atlanta Blood Services uses an apheresis machine, with one needle and two tubes that withdraw your plasma and return the rest of the blood to you. Unlike a whole-blood donation, which yields only one plasma dose per donaBK


tion, the apheresis machine yields up to four doses per donation, enabling one donor to help four patients. To find out more, I spoke with some recent donors, many of whom have donated multiple times. For some, donating is a family affair. Dr. Lonnie Herzog, an internal medicine physician, and his wife Kim and daughter Nikki donated their CCP to ABS together. His son, Dr. Alex Herzog, who had not had the virus, joined them for moral support. “We were fortunate to have mild cases and recovered quickly without any complications,” said Herzog. “It was important to be able to give as a family.” Dunwoody sales engineer Chris Germann, diagnosed in late July, was “wiped out for two days.” “I self-quarantined in the basement for 10 days. My wife opened the door and threw food down. When I was thirsty, I went outside to the sprinkler. Nobody else got it,” he said. A sense of humor helps. With AB- blood, Germann is a universal plasma donor, has donated CCP three times (plus more than 25 units of platelets since 2015) and considers donating personal downtime. “The hardest part is sitting still for two hours,” he said. “The needle doesn’t hurt as much as pulling the tape off, and you get to watch a movie, drink water or juice and eat junk food.” Sandy Springs marketing executive Sarah Anne Dickman was sick for eight days in December and has already donated and scheduled a second appointment. “I didn’t know about CCP till I read about it on Facebook,” she said. “It might seem intimidating, but it’s just a needle stick.” Dunwoody teacher Stacey Asher was sick for a week in July and has donated five times, sometimes while attending virtual faculty meetings. “It helps more people than you know,” she said. And do patients who receive CCP ever give back? Attorney Richard Morgan did. In November, hospitalized in the ICU at Northside with COVID-19 and double-pneumonia, his oxygen level “plummeted” so low he was told “it could go either way.” Within 24 hours of receiving CCP and other experimental medications, his body started fighting back. “The doctors were shocked at my fast turn-around,” he wrote in his newsletter. He’s now a CCP donor at ABS. Atlanta Blood Services has locations at Northside Hospital Sandy Springs and Marietta. For information, go to BK

Commentary | 13

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14 | Community ■

After historic Georgia elections, Democrats aim to bring blue wave to city races BY JOHN RUCH With Georgia’s historic presidential and U.S. Senate elections in the rearview mirror, the partisan political momentum is now driving toward this fall’s municipal elections in local cities. Democratic activists emboldened by victory say they will localize the blue wave by backing candidates in officially nonpartisan City Council or mayoral races. And campaigns could involve some of the local figures who stood out in Georgia’s national political spotlight, such as Gabriel Sterling, the Republican state election official who some observers say might be a good candidate for mayor in his hometown of Sandy Springs. Partisan politics has often played a role -- albeit a quiet one -- in municipal races in traditionally Republican local cities, where candidates may rely on the networking and parties may groom candidates for higher offices. But in recent years there have been flashes of more overt partisanship, as when state Democratic Party chair Nikema Williams -now a U.S. congresswoman -- boasted in 2019 of Lynn Deutsch’s victory in Dun-

From left, John Jackson, chair of the DeKalb County Democratic Committee; Lane Flynn, chair of the DeKalb County Republican Party; Brookhaven City Councilmember Linley Jones; Valerie Habif, co-founder of the Jewish Democratic Women’s Salon, Atlanta.

We don’t plan to let up until it’s all blue.” “I’m excited, now that we won Georgia... we can focus on local [elections] again,” said John Jackson, chair of the DeKalb County Democratic Committee. “... You still have Republicans in some municipal seats. So we’re definitely going to run some Democrats against Republicans.” Jackson said that the DeKalb Democrats also plan to boost their outreach to Latino and Asian American communities in the Buford Highway corridor after former President Trump saw significant increases in votes from such communi-

woody’s mayoral race, though Deutsch insisted she’s an independent. Now Democrats are coming on strong to field candidates, and maybe even sway more incumbents like Brookhaven City Councilmember Linley Jones, who confirmed to the Reporter that she quietly shifted affiliation from Republican to Democrat in recent years. “All of our focus will be put into finding good candidates to run in municipal races where we have a verified Republican running,” said Lewanna Tucker, chair of the Fulton County Democratic Committee. “We will contest every race there is, from dog-catcher to governor!

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ties in metro Atlanta and nationwide. The Jewish Democratic Women’s Salon, Atlanta (JDWS) is a large, grassroots progressive group formed by residents of Brookhaven and Sandy Springs nearly 10 years ago. Known for hosting forums for state and federal candidates, the group also has many members involved in political campaigns. Now, says co-founder Valerie Habif, the salon is ready to go local. “We have not previously seen a need to involve ourselves in municipal elections because they are of course traditionally nonpartisan,” Habif said. “Our position has changed in part because of the outsized role that the suburbs and exurbs played in our recent election. … We do feel that municipal leaders in Atlanta’s surrounding communities should reflect not only the diversity of their citizenship but also their concerns.” One JDWS member recently won office -- Tarece Johnson on the Gwinnett County Board of Education -- and the group is encouraging members to run for more, Habif said. JDWS won’t endorse candidates, but its members are likely to campaign for them, she said. Sandy Springs City Councilmember Andy Bauman, who was criticized as a “Democrat” by an unsuccessful opponent in his original 2013 campaign, has attended JDWS’s invitation-only forums. He has said he is undecided on a mayoral run or re-election campaign this year. For Republican officials, much of the focus will be on building state and county campaigns with an eye on 2022. Trey Kelly, chair of the Fulton County Republican Party, said he expects more overtly partisan campaign in city races this year. “In the terms of municipal races in Sandy Springs or any other North Fulton city this year, it would depend on the candidates,” Kelly said of his party’s involvement. “The cities of North Fulton are the envy of local governments throughout Georgia. This was achieved through good government and conservative solutions to local issues. We hope that continues.”



| 15

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16 | Community ■

Tree-cutting rekindles dispute about review of Murphey Candler Park improvements BY JOHN RUCH The unannounced felling of 14 trees in Brookhaven park starting the week of Christmas has rekindled neighborhood outrage over long-planned improvements that residents say are now unwanted and poorly communicated. The city says that the work at Murphey Candler Park on West Nancy Creek Drive is just carrying out a program approved by citywide voters in a 2018 bond referendum. “At this point, it appears the city is acting in a way to piecemeal the project to avoid scrutiny under some certain amount of secrecy,” said Juliet Cohen, a resident of Candler Lake East who lamented the permanent loss of trees for projects she believes neighbors might still stop or change. She complained about eight of the trees — at least one over 100 feet tall and 3 feet around, she said — coming down Dec. 23 in the holiday period; another six were felled Jan. 5, the day of the attention-getting U.S. Senate runoff election. Lee Croy, the city parks bond program manager, said in written comments through a city spokesperson that the tree-cutting is part of a “community green” project that has always been on the project list. Contractors actually intended that the trees come down sooner, he said. “The recent storms over the last several months that affected our area greatly affected the availability of tree removal contractors and their schedules,” Croy said. “The days chosen for tree removal were not determined to avoid public attention.” The $40 million parks bond came with a long list of improvements for all city parks. That includes $8.9 million in Murphey Candler projects, ranging from trail upgrades to a new community center. Work began last summer on some projects on the park’s east side, along Candler Park East, that included reopening a long-gated loop road, adding parking spaces and starting work on a playground. Surprised residents concerned about tree loss and traffic mobilized to attempt to stop the work, so far unsuccessfully. The latest tree-cutting is for an adjacent project described on plans as a “community green” and “open space.” Unhappy residents are calling it an “amphitheater,” which Croy says is not accurate, though the project does include a “small stage area” with electrical outlets but no lighting, he said. The area was called a “natural amphitheater” in the original parks master planning process several years ago by consultants who suggested its use for small concerts. “There is no amphitheater planned for Murphey Candler Park,” said Croy. “An amphi-


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theater is not in the master plan anywhere despite some residents’ attempts to characterize the community green as such. The green is not intended for large crowds and concerts. It is intended for small groups such as home-schoolers, neighborhood groups or family gatherings.” No further tree-cutting is planned related to the projects in that area of the park, according to city spokesperson Burke Brennan. Underlying the Murphey Candler debate is a classic public-works tension between a government focused on a current list of projects to build and residents who say they were unaware of those projects when they were developed years ago and that communication about them today is poor. Some details of projects remain in flux until construction is done. Further complicating the issue are transparency problems with the original parks master planning process and the parks bond project. As city officials have pointed out, Murphey Candler and others parks received master plans developed through a public process that wrapped up in late 2015. The Murphey Candler plan was revealed in a public meeting that year, where about 30 attendees applauded, though some raised concerns about the loop road. However, the consultants who developed the master plans said at the time that they likely would not post the plans online, where the many more residents who did not attend the meeting could view them, until the end of the public meeting process and maybe not all. The Reporter published all of the plans after obtaining them through an open records request. Specific improvement projects later became part of the parks bond that voters approved in 2018. Officials now say that publicly approved list will not be altered by the city and cannot be changed by the Park Bond Citizen Oversight Committee, a citizen group that monitors all of the projects for adherence to the plan. One important exception is some projects — including the Murphey Candler community center — that were slated to get further, specific public review before any construction. And in practice, officials and the committee previously changed a major park plan. In 2018, Mayor John Ernst and City Councilmember Linley Jones worked privately with the consultants to add a large water feature to the Lynwood Park master plan without general public input in a move that was not widely known until after the City Council approved it as part of the official list of bond projects. Amid controversy, that feature was changed by the committee at the city administration’s request. Cohen and other Murphey Candler neighborhood residents say they want that same kind of review and ability to change other significant projects in the park. “The master plan was conceptual. There was a series of drawings,” said Cohen. “…They’re picking and choosing what they want to accept public input about.” She noted in a Dec. 27 letter to Ernst and the City Council that, while the project list is presented as unchanging, the specific project designs do, and budgets for them are sometimes not yet approved. The construction timelines change, too. Playground construction that was part of last summer’s controversy, for example, has stalled and missed a previous November completion date. Croy said the playground delay was because the plan was “revised to fit the playground better within the trees on site” and that completion is now expected this month if weather allows. “The city failed to inform the neighbors of the change in timeline, and rushed to make irreversible changes to the park,” Cohen said of the playground delay. “All of this smacks of irreverence for public participation and transparency, and fails to show adherence to city rules and policy and the park bond terms.”

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Arts & Entertainment | 17

Author Q & A Meet the mothers of three Civil Rights icons BY KEVIN C. MADIGAN

something they didn’t necessarily receive themselves.

What would you like people to take away from reading your book?

Religious leaders Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X and author James Baldwin have become enduring icons of the Civil Rights movement. But what about Alberta King, Louise Little and Berdis Baldwin -- the mothers who raised them? The rarely discussed influence of those women is the subject of Anna Malaika Tubbs’ new book “The Three Mothers: How the Mothers of Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X, and James Baldwin Shaped a Nation.” A doctoral candidate at the University of Cambridge, Tubbs is a sociologist, anthropologist and expert in multidisciplinary studies. Outside academia, she is a diversity, equity and inclusion consultant. Tubbs will appear in a virtual SPECIAL author talk at the Atlanta HistoAnna Malaika Tubbs. ry Center on Wednesday, Feb. 10, at 7 p.m. Registration for the free discussion is available at AtlantaHistoryCenter. com.

I absolutely agree. They were trying to push the country generally to their ideals and a vision of what was possible, because they saw so clearly that it wasn’t true in the United States. They understood they had value and worth, that they and their children deserved respect and dignity, but each day they also saw examples of that being denied to them as well as to their children. They were constantly focused on their vision for the future, helping the world realize their own ability to see humanity in everybody. And so they commanded respect in their own households and it’s very clear that the sons knew how influential their mothers were. All three of the sons later spoke about how powerful and important their mothers were within those family units. Away from their personal connections, people were not paying them the honor and respect they were due.

The biggest thing is that we re-evaluate how we’re telling our stories and history so that it includes the people that are around all of us. So, less of this notion of unicorn figures who pop up out of nowhere and are messiah-like, as if they were just born with these inspiring ideas, but to see more realistically things that were part of generational movements. Then we get a better understanding of the continuance of the work, and of where we are as a nation, and the world. Beyond that, we are specifically focusing on the stories we are intentionally erasing, and these are just three examples. Again, the sons spoke about their mothers often, and if you go back through their works with that lens, you’re going to see the moms so much more clearly because the sons had no intention of erasing their mothers. It’s up to us historians to pay more attention and stop taking for granted the work that women have been doing on our behalf, especially Black women and Black mothers.

Why choose these women in particular for your book? There are so many women I could have chosen, but I wanted to highlight Black women’s stories and talk about Black mothers, so I chose these three because their sons are so often put in conversation together. When I entered my Ph.D. [program], I had just watched the “I Am Not Your Negro” documentary based on James Baldwin’s writings, in which he speaks about Malcolm X and MLK and of bearing witness to his friends’ work, and how he felt it was his job to speak the truth about what they were doing, what they were accomplishing for our country and our world, and from that point on I saw these three men as being in a constant conversation together. I felt their moms would add an incredible, beautiful layer to the story and help us understand how all three men approached their work so differently based on what they were taught in their own families. All three moms were born within six years of each other and the sons were born within five years of each other. That allowed me to have some really cool intersections in terms of their stories and their timelines, about what was happening nationally and internationally, and how it played out so differently in each of their lives based on their own access to resources, education, etcetera. It’s interesting that all three mothers taught their sons to command respect,




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BY COLLIN KELLEY Plans to hold summer camps for kids are, as one organizer put it, moving “full steam ahead” but with COVID-19 safety precautions still in place. While camps were cancelled or curtailed last year due to the pandemic, the vaccine and a better understanding of the safety precautions needed to hold camp sessions mean organizations can plan ahead. Registration is now open for most camp programs. Pace Academy in Buckhead will have a full slate of camps, according to Zach Slaney, the school’s director of auxiliary programs. “We are moving ahead at full steam with our programs for this summer,” Slaney said. “Pace will be offering athletic, academic, STEM, and specialty camp offerings for campers in grades K-8 for eight weeks between June 1 and July 30.” Registration opened in January at Pace and Slaney expects the slots to fill up quickly. Visit paceacademy. org. Similarly, Westminster in Buckhead will hold its

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summer camps with the “same COVID safety protocols in place that allowed us to safely host several of our day camps last summer,” according to the school’s communications assistant director Justin Abraham. “Some of those protocols include mask wearing for campers and counselors, temperature screening, scheduled handwashing times, social distancing, and extra cleaning and disinfecting of spaces and equipment throughout the day,” Abraham said. Along with day and sports camps featuring outdoor activities, there are a number of specialty camps being offered by Westminster including filmmaking, chess, coding, and even one for Dungeons & Dragons. Visit for a complete schedule and to register. In the City Camps will host summer sessions at two locations this year – Chabad Intown on the Atlanta BeltLine’s Eastside Trail and at the Weber School in Sandy Springs – for kids in kindergarten through 8th grade. Spokesperson Tali Benjamin said In the City Camps is working with medical experts to be sure about COVID-19 precautions for the summer. “We ran a modified version of our camps safely for four weeks last summer, so we do have a lot of experience with that this year,” Benjamin said. Benjamin said as much outdoor programming as possible was being scheduled so that kids won’t be cooped up inside a closed space. She said partnering with Chabad Intown would give campers plenty of opportunities to be outside on the BeltLine. Some of the camp offerings include basketball, magic, art, soccer, archery, cooking and more. Visit for more details. Budding actors can check out the Alliance Theatre’s series of in-person and virtual camps for all grade levels scheduled for spring and summer. Camps will be held not only at the Alliance’s home base of Woodruff Arts Center in Midtown, but in partnership with schools around the city. From performing on stage as part of a musical to working behind the scenes, there’s a camp for all interests and ages. Visit for details.

20 | Arts & Entertainment ■

2021 Atlanta Jewish Film Festival returns virtual and live


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A scene from “The Crossing,” a 2020 adventure story about a girl who treks across Norway’s wilderness to save two Jewish child refugees in World War II.

BY COLLIN KELLEY The 2021 Atlanta Jewish Film Festival (AJFF) will present its lineup virtually and live with a three-night drive-in experience at the Home Depot Backyard adjacent to Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Downtown. Set to take place Feb. 17-28, this year’s festival will screen 38 feature and 16 short films, including world and U.S. premieres. The film selection covers a range of genres, including documentaries “Howie Mandel: But, Enough About Me” and “On Broadway” comedies like “Shiva Baby,” the LGBTQ+ feature “Kiss Me Kosher,” and the drama “Asia.” It’s a big adaptation for a festival that, in the pre-pandemic years, drew more than 40,000 to several theaters and venues, including the Sandy Springs Performing Arts Center. “In a year of firsts and unprecedented challenges, AJFF has worked tirelessly to reimagine the annual festival in a way that preserves the most cherished qualities of this annual celebration of community and the cinematic arts,” AJFF Executive Director Kenny Blank said in a press release. “Though the experience itself will be undeniably different, the power of these films to connect and inspire us is more deeply felt and appreciated than ever. Our hybrid edition embraces all of the opportunities that virtual affords us while continuing our commitment to bring audiences ‘together through film’ in new ways.” The pandemic itself is addressed in the film “Atlanta: The City Too Busy to Wait,” a documentary about the local Jewish community’s response to the crisis. The 11-acre Home Depot Backyard will be able to accommodate more that 200 vehicles nightly for social-distanced drive-in screenings on Feb.18, 20 and 21. The live shows kick off with AJFF’s Young Professionals Night, followed by two campy, kitschy Hollywood classics: Mel Brooks’ sci-fi spoof “Spaceballs” and the musical comedy “Little Shop of Horrors.” Each drive-in pass can be purchased for $40 and accounts for parking for one car, regardless of how many people are in the vehicle. Food trucks will be on-site serving food for moviegoers to enjoy in their vehicles. For those watching from home, the lineup of films will be accessible via smart TV, home theater, tablet or mobile device. Requiring only a single ticket per film for each household, viewers will have a flexible 48-hour window to watch festival films at their convenience. General admission for virtual screenings is $16 per household (or $14 early bird pricing), and for special events, which include Opening and Closing Nights, admission is $36 per household. Film-lovers will also enjoy an expanded program of virtual Q&A conversations recorded with filmmakers, actors and other guest speakers. The “Virtual Lobby,” featuring a series of lunchtime Zoom sessions with facilitated discussion, will take a deeper dive into films on show during the festival. Ticket holders for the opening night screening of “Kiss Me Kosher” will receive a specially curated “Festival-In-A-Box” full of “tasty and cozy surprises.” Tickets went on sale in late January for members and will be available to the general public on Feb. 10. For tickets and a full lineup of films and events, visit


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22 | Community ■

LaVista Park and ‘Innovation District’ get development protections Continued from page 1 starting last summer, to get a sense of what residents’ needs were and what sort of development they were looking for in the community. Allison Stewart-Harris, community planning manager for the civil engineering company VHB, presented the council with the character area study, which featured development recommendations and proposed visions. The analysis recommended LaVista Park maintain its residential, community feel, consisting mainly of single-family homes and parks with some commercial buildings in transitional areas only. “People love the trees, the quietness, the nature, the greenery, the convenience,” she said. “Wanting to protect that character seemed like the top priority.” The study included implementation strategies for the city to help maintain LaVista Park’s residential vision. These included ensuring proper zoning protections are in place, such as buffers to non-residential uses, light reduction and sensitive noise controls. Other strategies included considering creative solutions to reduce cutthrough traffic, making sure the area has plenty of trees, and making the area bikefriendly. The study also suggested the city work closely with the LaVista Park Civic Associa-

tion and Brookhaven Police Department to mitigate safety concerns. For Briar Hills Innovation District, the main concerns stemmed from traffic congestion and finding a sense of community, Stewart-Harris said. The analysis recommended a mixed-use destination for working and living that could serve as a welcoming southern entrypoint into the city. “There’s excitement about the development happening there, but concerns about congestion,” Stewart-Harris said. “There were a couple of folks who were very adamant about [saying], ‘This is all great, but we really need an identity. We need a sense of place here.’” The study included implementation strategies, such as removing the area from the Buford Highway Overlay and adding a new overlay more in line with the area’s desired character. Other strategies included talking with Children’s Healthcare and Emory regarding development plans, improving pedestrian walkways that connect to neighboring areas, encouraging workforce housing in the new development, and integrating public art into the design. Councilmember Joe Gebbia, whose District 4 includes LaVista Park, thanked the Gateway South team for their work and stressed the importance of character area analysis in protecting neighborhoods from

A map of the city’s new Briar Hills Innovation District and LaVista Park character areas.

unwanted development. “We originally established the whole concept of the neighborhood character area analysis to send a clear message to developers about what they could do when they wanted to come in and do development,” Gebbia said. “I applaud you for this

effort. Good work.” Neither of the new areas includes the most recently annexed part of the city, a group of Briarcliff Road commercial properties just across the street from the Innovation District.

City sues county over disputed Brookhaven Park land Continued from page 1

Rader, whose district includes Brookhaven, said the portion of property the county kept never was part of Brookhaven Park, though the county allowed local residents to use the open space in that section. He said the property has a long-term lease to the Community Service Board, which operates a development disabilities center at the site. “To characterize that as part of Brookhaven Park is actually inaccurate,” Rader said. He said the section of land that includes the center is a separate parcel from the park and was subdivided before Brookhaven became a city. “So, I’m trying to convey that it’s actually not part of any park,” he said. Rader said by including a substantial sum in its General Obligation bond issue to purchase the property, Brookhaven had admitted that the eastern parcel wasn’t eligible for the property transfer at $100 per acre. But city officials say the park includes all the property. “Brookhaven Park has been a park and was enjoyed as a park for decades before Brookhaven became a city. Now DeKalb County claims the park isn’t a park, which is laughable,” said City Manager Christian Sigman. “At one time, the city of Brookhaven

offered approximately $2 million for the land, based upon an appraisal conducted by the county, and DeKalb verbally accepted the offer,” city spokesperson Burke Brennan said. The city was willing to offer more than $100 per acre for two reasons. First, the county argued it was not parkland and a lawsuit would have to be filed to settle that dispute. DeKalb officials also said the county was approximately $2 million short in building a new Brookhaven regional library building to replace the one on North Druid Hills Road. “Therefore, the hope was that they could use the $2 million from the park sale for a new building somewhere else in the city, which would benefit all residents,” Brennan said. “Per state statute, Brookhaven should pay $1,200 because it is approximately 12 acres.” Brookhaven and DeKalb shared more than 30 emails and had 10 meetings on the property purchase in 2020, he said. The last communication from the city to DeKalb asking on the status was in November 2020. The city said in a news release that the county prefers to use the parkland as leverage against the city in unrelated policy and political disputes. Rader said the county is considering a property owned by the city at 1623 North Druid Hills Road, near its intersection with Lenox Park Boulevard, for the new library building. City Councilmember Madeline

Simmons proposed the site during a September 2020 town hall meeting she hosted, with Rader attending at her invitationRader said the city initially proposed buying the property with the CSB building for $2 million and leasing a portion of it back to the county for a new library. But City Council later rejected that location for the library. Now the county’s Library Board of Trustees is getting an analysis done on the North Druid Hills Road property to determine if it is suitable for a regional library and can accommodate safe access to the site. Access would be from Lenox Park Bou-


A DeKalb County map shows the division of Brookhaven Park, with the left portion owned by the city of Brookhaven and the right side currently owned by the county. The county has long proposed building a new library in the park.

levard, because a blind curve makes access off North Druid Hills unsafe. He said if the analysis is positive, he thinks the opportunity will exist for the county to sell the property with the CSB center. Brookhaven would then need to subdivide part of it to lease back to the CSB so it can continue operations. BK


Community Briefs CHER RY B LO S S OM F ESTIVA L C A N C EL ED D U E TO PAND EM IC The city has cancelled the annual Brookhaven Cherry Blossom Festival planned in April for a second year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Brookhaven Cherry Blossom Festival is a music and arts festival that had been scheduled for April 17-18 this year. The Cherry Blossom Festival 5K road race also fell victim to the cancellation, the city said in a press release. “When we cancelled last year’s Cherry Blossom Festival, it was our sincere hope that COVID-19 would be eradicated in time for a successful event this year,” said Mayor John Ernst. “As that is clearly not the case, to prevent the obvious threat to the health of the general public, we will not be holding that event this year.”


The city is launching a public input process for a long-awaited rewrite of its tree ordinance. The ordinance, which aims to preserve the city’s tree canopy from development and other removals, was last updated in 2015. Many tree-cutting controversies have fol-


Community | 23 lowed, leading to momentum for a complete remake. Originally slated for review in 2020, the rewrite was delayed by the pandemic. The city has launched a website with an interactive presentation and comment mechanism. The site includes links to the current ordinance and other information. Public comments will be accepted via the site through March 1. The site is located at The city also will hold virtual public meetings to be announced on the website. The review process will include presentations and votes at the city Planning Commission and the City Council.


The winners of a St. Martin’s Episcopal School spelling bee are headed to the first round of a statewide competition. The Brookhaven school held its annual Middle School Spelling Bee Jan. 13 in a pandemic-altered version, according to a press release. The 24 contestants competed in the school gym, masked and distanced, while students, teachers and parents watched remotely on video. Sixth-grader Patrick Feagin won first place with a spelling of “voracious,” according to the release, while eighth-grader Drew Park took second place. They now move on to the Georgia Independent School Association Spelling Bee, scheduled for this month.



| 24

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