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MARCH 2020 • VOL. 14 — NO. 3

Sandy Springs Reporter COMMENTARY

Local leaders react to GDOT’s toll lanes plan P10

Section Two



Sandy Spring s Dunw oody


piano man in a department store P25 ►Donna Lefont helps keep film history alive P25 ►STAR students and teachers P33

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Hammond Drive widening could bring roundabouts, green space, demolitions


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Residents may fight loss of homes for I-285 toll lanes

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The pirates who bring Mardi Gras to Buckhead P12








After learning that the Georgia Department of Transportation’s I-285 top end project might take down their homes, residents of new townhomes have sent a letter in opposition and are considering legal action against the department to fight to keep their property.


It’s time again to get counted P20

In Sandy Springs, properties facing significant displacement include a house at 374 Mount Vernon Highway; two townSPECIAL

A rendering of a roundabout proposed for Hilderbrand Drive as part of the design concepts for the Hammond Drive widening project that were presented at a Feb. 26 meeting.

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two buildings in the Sierra Place apartments on Northwood Drive, according to maps revealed by GDOT in January.


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homes off Lake Forrest Drive at I-285; and

The city has revealed design concepts for a long-anticipated Hammond Drive widening project that include expanding the twolane road to four lanes with a grassy median; adding two large roundabouts at major intersections; and putting a pedestrian walkway underneath the road. The design could affect 80 properties with either displacement or right of way takings, according to city officials.

Rebecca Trumbo and Kalen Wheeler,

The concepts were presented at a Feb. 26 meeting at City Hall, where a 15-minute presentation was given by Allen Johnson, manager of the city projects funded by a transportation special local option sales tax, followed by an open house where residents could look at renderings. The conceptual design likely will come to the City Council in a nonvoting work session in April, according to city spokesperson Sharon Kraun. There, the council advise planners on whether to go forward with the conceptual design and what still needs to be looked at. A public comment

two townhome owners targeted for dis-

See HAMMOND on page 2

See RESIDENTS on page 22

placement at the Parc at Chastain on Taylor Way, learned of the plan from the Reporter and said they were not contacted by GDOT. “These are new-construction townhomes. I just closed in April. A lot of us did,” Trumbo said. “So we haven’t even lived here a year.” “Well, I hope they are offering me a lot



(See Page 8)


2 | Community ■

Hammond Drive widening could bring roundabouts, green space, demolitions Continued from page 1 period runs through March 13. Comments can be emailed to The conceptual designs, created by Gresham Smith and Partners, run from the intersection of Roswell Road and Hammond to Barfield Road and Hammond. The design would make Hammond Drive four lanes, adding a lane in each direction. The design would also create two large roundabouts at the intersections with Hilderbrand Drive and Brookgreen Road/Lorell Terrace. The intersection with Glenridge Drive would be widened and improved. The designs propose six new cul-de-sacs and private access roads along Hammond to give some residents easy access to their neighborhoods as well as protect them from cut-through traffic. The design also proposes a pedestrian underpass that would run underneath Hammond on Kayron and multiuse bicycle and pedestrian paths along Hammond, as well as green space. Houses and businesses could be torn down for the project. The concepts have 18 properties marked for potential displacements, including: 300, 310, 316, 336, 504, 514, 534, 544, 576 Hammond Drive; 509 Hilderbrand Avenue; 6026 and 6029 Kayron Drive; 636 and 643 Lorell Terrace; and 5995


A city map of the widening concept for the section of Hammond Drive between Hilderbrand Drive at left and Brookgreen Road/Lorell Terrace at right. Those intersections become large roundabouts and new cul-de-sacs are added for neighborhood access.

and 6000 Roswell Road. City spokesperson Sharon Kraun said some of the houses listed as potential displacements are properties the city has already bought in anticipation for the project. The city has spent around $9 million on 26 houses, according to Johnson. Police officers currently live in some of the houses in a city pilot program for affordable housing.

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ognize that other residents could suffer from the potential project. “My gain is others loss,” Chadwick said. “The people on Hilderbrand and Brookgreen that get the roundabouts, and then seeing Kayron sealed off -- they are going to get more traffic.” The final design phase is expected to take 18-24 months, Kraun said, and the construction will take 24-36 months. The design and early property acquisitions were funded by a TSPLOST that will soon expire. According to Johnson, the city would need to wait until the next TSPLOST to go forward with construction, which is estimated to cost around $34 million. The project could go on the ballot for the next TSPLSOT election in November 2021, Johnson said. The Hammond widening concept goes back many years and predates the city’s incorporation in 2005. Most of Hammond has been widened over the years, but the section between Roswell Road and Glenridge Drive in the Glenridge Hammond neighborhood remains two lanes. According to the city, the current and growing traffic demand along Hammond has led to an increase in neighborhood cut-through traffic and adversely impacts adjacent roadways. The decision on whether to perform the widening has not been made, officials have said, and would follow public reaction to the presentation. In August, the City Council authorized a SPECIAL contract with Gresham A rendering of a pedestrian underpass to wrap up a design preproposed at Kayron Drive. sentation for a public meeting for $47,500. The design and right of way pre-acquisition has are an urban area and urban areas have a been included as part of the T-SPLOST reflot of traffic. The people from Cobb [Counerendum passed in 2016. ty] are going to get home however they get To date, the city has spent $9.1 million of home.” the current $14.4 million T-SPLOST budget Jeff Chadwick, who lives on Kayron, and has $5.3 million left. was pleased with the concepts, but did recThe concepts also have several properties marked for potential right of way or temporary easement acquisition. Kraun said the lines seen on the conceptual plans are worst-case scenario and as the designs become finalized, the city will minimize the impacts as much as they can. “We always provide a worst-case scenario because you’d rather give residents better news as you go along rather than [say], ‘Oops, we made a mistake and need more,’” Kraun said. According to Johnson, 80 properties could be impacted one way or another, and the remaining right of way required is estimated to cost $15 million to $18 million. Residents had mixed feelings about the conceptual plans presented. “I’ve been adamantly opposed to the widening since they first started talking about it,” a resident said at the meeting. “The problem is [the] Roswell Road and Hammond [intersection], and this will just cause more traffic.” “I think one of the issues that a lot of people are grappling with is this is not suburbia anymore,” another resident said. “We


MARCH 2020

Community | 3

City to study affordable housing BY HANNAH GRECO

In the wake of skyrocketing rents and home prices, the city plans to pursue an affordable housing study. The study was discussed at a Jan. 23 City Council retreat. “The greatest source of family wealth is your house,” Mayor Rusty Paul said at the retreat. “We’ve got a whole generation of young families and singles that are not able to buy homes.” Paul said the city needs to focus on making sure both rental and buying opportunities are present for working-class families. The new city manager, Andrea Surratt, has both interest and experience in housing affordability. Bozeman, Montana, conducted an affordable housing study while Surratt was its city manager. That city is


still in the works of creating a policy, Surratt said, but the report recommended a community-wide stakeholder group to help develop the policy and hold the city accountable for it. “The consultant said ultimately, the best way to implement this is to make sure there is involvement across the community,” Suratt said at the retreat. “Take it out of city government and it lives in another group.” There is no timeline on when the Sandy Springs study will be pursued. Paul said he wants the study to look at both the current housing situation in the city and how it may change. “It’s not just telling us what is, but we’ve got to use it as a process to figure out what can be,” Paul said. Paul said he also wants to see the turnover in the housing market, both in apartments and houses, as part of the study, to

be able to better gauge the needs of the community. “There’s barely a week that goes by when you get an apartment complex that isn’t sold,” Paul said. “You know that rents are going to go up, but how much and what will be the impact of that? There’s a whole wide range of questions.” City Council members were supportive of the initiative, agreeing that it should be a priority for the city. “I think the first big step is saying that it is important,” City Councilmember Andy Bauman said at the retreat. “We have to ask ourselves ‘What do we have today?’ and ‘Where do we go from here?’” City Councilmember John Paulson said. Affordable housing has been a concern in the city for years. In 2017, the city announced it would be implementing inclusionary zoning into its Development Code, but decided at the last minute to kill the idea. In 2018, the city formed the North End

Revitalization Task Force. One of the objectives of the group was to propose an affordable housing policy, but one was never produced. Affordable housing advocacy group Sandy Springs Together, formed by longterm residents David and Melanie Couchman, have been pushing for the city to conduct a study for over a year. On Feb. 12, SST sent out a newsletter urging the community to encourage the city to consider an affordable housing study before redesigning the shopping centers in the North End. “Why not take the simple step to do a housing impact study before we redesign shopping centers in Sandy Springs,” the newsletter said. The city currently has two pilot workforce housing programs with local apartment complexes. It has worked out 10-year agreements that require units be set aside for workforce housing, which is intended to ensure housing for primarily middle-income, but also lower-income, households.

4 | Community ■

City has cited 130 short-term rental owners in threatened regulation system BY HANNAH GRECO

The city has been enforcing its regulation of short-term home rentals for a year by issuing citations to residents who have not yet complied. Since the regulations went into effect, nearly 130 properties have either been issued warnings or citations, and about 54 properties currently are registered for short-term rentals. Mayor Rusty Paul says the regulations provide peace of mind of residents, but new legislation could take away the power. “These local controls contribute to the preservation of our neighborhoods,” Paul said in an email. “It is very much worth the time and effort.” An effort was recently revived during the legislative session as House Bill 523, which would prohibit cities from creating regulations for short-term rentals. Paul does not agree with that restriction. “It’s a situation where we’re running into this divide with the legislature where there’s no understanding of the unique situation that more densely populated parts of the state face,” Paul said at a Feb. 4 City Council meeting. In February 2018, the City Council passed rules requiring owners of shortterm rental properties listed on sites like Airbnb to receive a business license and pay hotel taxes. The ordinance went into effect in May of 2018, but the city did not

start enforcing it until January 2019. By mid-January 2019, only two properties had registered. By mid-February 2020, the city had around 54 rentals registered with the city, city spokesperson Sharon Kraun said in an email. According to records obtained through an Open Records request, since January 2019, about 86 warnings have been sent and around 38 citations have been issued. The city uses a third-party vendor called Host Compliance to monitor short-term rental activity. According to a city memo, the city pays $21,101 per year for Host Compliance’s services. Host Compliance’s CEO and founder Ulrik Binzer said that his company uses software to check registrations against rental sites. “We help them identify the addresses of the short-term rental operators in the city by scanning all of the short-term rental websites every couple of days,” Binzer said. Binzer said the company mails notices to people who are found to be in violation, using a template from the city. Paul said the city chose to enact the ordinance to maintain community neighborhoods. “Our residents have a right to know who is renting the property next door and that measures are in place to maintain community neighborhoods in the residential framework in which they were created,” Paul said in an email.

Sandy Springs explicitly allowed shortterm rentals for the first time in its new zoning code, which went into effect in late 2017, and passed the registration and license requirements to create some regulation. Owners of short-term rentals are required to pay all hotel/motel taxes and $125 in fees for the business license, which must be renewed annually at the same price. Other requirements include notifying adjacent property owners and homeowners associations, providing detailed records of rental activity to the city, and giving emergency contact information to everyone living within 500 feet. Property owners must also post the city’s noise ordinance and be inspected for compliance with all building and fire codes. Complaints about short-term rentals can be made to the city’s Call Center at 770730-5600 or Metro Atlanta cities and local governments across the nation are working on how to regulate the rental properties, which have become controversial, especially in big cities like Atlanta, where they can compete with hotels while avoiding the same taxes and regulations. The Brookhaven City Council voted in late 2018 to completely ban short-term rentals in many residential neighborhoods as part of a rewrite of the city’s zoning code. Airbnb has been involved in lawsuits

with larger cities trying to regulate shortterm rentals. In San Francisco, the company sued the city in 2017 over a decision the city made to fine short-term rental companies $1,000 a day for every unregistered host on their websites. But so far, no legal action has been taken against Atlanta or metro Atlanta cities. “Airbnb has and continues to work with jurisdictions and government officials across Georgia on fair and reasonable regulations that allow all to fully realize the benefits of home sharing, while providing our host community with clear and effective paths to compliance,” a spokesperson for the company said in an email. State legislation introduced in 2017’s lawmaking session threatened to wipe out any local control on short-term rentals, drawing remarks from Jim Tolbert, Sandy Springs assistant city manager that the bill was “frightening” and “dangerous.” The bill stalled and did not get a vote. Now, a similar bill has been introduced that would prohibit local governments from creating regulations for short-term rental properties and would not allow cities to require licenses. It would also make the distinction of short-term rentals being up to 30 days and long term being past 30 days. The bill is currently in the House and further action is expected during the legislative session.


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6 | Commentary ■

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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The Sisters of Mercy, founded in Ireland in 1831, were often called “walking nuns.” Instead of staying cloistered, they walked the streets, caring for the poor. Today they “walk” the world, including Atlanta, where in 1890 four Sisters of Mercy founded Atlanta’s first hospital, known for years as St. Joseph’s Hospital, currently Emory St. Joseph’s. Though the hospital is now secular, the Sisters of Mercy have long held leadership roles. One of them is Sister Jane Gerety, Ph.D., who was senior vice president at St. Joseph’s for 17 years (19922009) before leaving to serve as president of Salve Regina University in Rhode Island. Last year, she retired from academia and anSPECIAL swered the call to return to Atlanta as chief mission officer of Mercy Care Atlanta, a network of Top, Mercy Care Chamblee, a comprehensive healthcare community healthcare centers offering compreclinic, was paid for entirely hensive care for the poor. by grants and donations. “I didn’t want to retire-retire,” she said. “AtlanAbove, Sister Jane Gerety, ta had been home for me, and I had friends here. chief mission officer of Mercy Care Atlanta. It seemed natural to come back.” It was also natural for her to join Mercy Care, as it had been part of St Joseph’s Hospital during her tenure there. Incorporated as a nonprofit in 1985, Mercy Care was an outreach of St. Joseph’s that sent teams with tackle boxes of medical supplies into the streets to treat the homeless. Since 2012, when St. Joseph’s joined Emory Healthcare, Mercy Care has paid its own way with funding from Emory Healthcare; public and corporate grants; private donations; and patients, who pay on a sliding scale based on their income. Despite having to regroup and build its own internal systems from scratch, Mercy Care has grown into 10 primary care locations throughout metro Atlanta, including six freestanding locations, four mobile clinics and multiple Street Care teams. It offers services for both children and adults, including primary, specialty, mental, vision and dental care, along with financial counseling, pastoral and recuperative care and much more. Like God’s mercy, Mercy Care is for everyone. In 2018, 75% of its patients were uninsured and living below the Federal poverty line; 60% were homeless. Medicare, Medic-

MARCH 2020

Commentary | 7

aid and most insurance plans are accepted. Mercy Care Chamblee, which opened in 2017, is an amazing 45,000-squarefoot, state-of-the-art facility at 5134 Peachtree Road that I was privileged to tour recently. Notable in the lobby is a large plaque listing the donors who made it all possible. Many of the names are familiar to us all. Everything at this location is exemplary, from the abundant natural light to the colorful furniture and walls, spotless floors and cheerful, welcoming staff. Many fancy Atlanta clinics could take lessons! As chief mission officer, Sister Jane is responsible for keeping everyone on mission -- which is compassion, commitment to the poor, excellence, integrity, justice, stewardship and reverence for the dignity of each person. “I’m involved with employees as they’re carrying out the mission,” she said. “I give them structures for seeing their work as sacred. It’s God’s work, whatever their religion.” One of her “structures” is the daily reflection she sends to everyone. She’s also learning how to address the “compassion fatigue” that affects people “surrounded by so much challenge and sorrow.” “I’ve never seen so much joy at serving as I’ve seen at Mercy Care,” she said. “Part of my role is to listen and help them find balance and boundaries without giving up their heart.” And then, there are the patients. “I’ve never been so close to people who have so little,” she said. “I want to listen, learn and be close to them.” With only four Sisters of Mercy in Atlanta and the numbers of religious dwindling everywhere, she feels her ultimate goal is “keeping the flame lit” among the lay people. Unlike the nuns many of us remember from childhood, Sister Jane wears normal street clothes. Though she wore a traditional habit for eight years after joining the Sisters at age 17, she no longer owns one. “The old habit was off-putting,” she said. “Dressing as lay women makes us more accessible.” Like lay women, she lives in her own apartment in Brookhaven, very near the three other Sisters of Mercy, one of whom lives in an apartment across the street and the other two in the convent behind St. Joseph’s Hospital. They “live in community” by meeting several times a week for dinner and caring for one another.. “We’re a virtual community,” Sister Jane said. Mercy Care accepts both financial and in-kind donations. For information, go to

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8 | Community ■

Residents concerned with Verizon 5G towers; cities consider filing suit BY HANNAH GRECO

Residents of a Sandy Springs neighborhood are raising concerns because Verizon has started digging up their yards to prepare for a plan to install over 1,000 new poles in the city in preparation for 5G, the newest generation of wireless technology for cellular networks. But city officials say they cannot interfere because of a new law that passed last year restricting local control on cell towers. In response to the new law, some cities are deciding to join a lawsuit against the Federal Communications Commission. One resident of Derby Hills, a neighborhood near Peachtree Dunwoody and Windsor Parkway in Sandy Springs, said he does not think Verizon communicated with anyone in the neighborhood before beginning the process of digging up yards for pole placement. “I can clearly tell there wasn’t any planning in this,” the resident said at a Feb. 4 council meeting. “There was no kind of conversation or correspondence with the neighborhoods.” Matt Hartley with Verizon spoke at the meeting, admitting that the company did not properly notify residents of the pole installations. “We dropped the ball on that,” Hartley said at the meeting. “We did not follow what we had discussed with the city permitting office as far as notifications for residents.” The installation of poles will continue, Hartley said, but Verizon is trying to avoid placing poles in front of houses and front doors at all costs. According to Assistant City Manager Jim Tolbert, there are over 1,000 applications for such poles in Sandy Springs. Mayor Rusty Paul is unhappy with the legislation and is concerned with the amount of power it gives telecom companies. Paul said at a Feb. 4 meeting that the city fought against the bill last year, but the major telecom companies went to the legislature to be able to avoid local concern. “They went to the legislature and then they went to the Federal Telecommunications Commission to be able to bypass local governments because they see us as a problem,”

Paul said at the meeting. Sandy Springs is now considering joining the coalition of cities suing the FCC and will discuss the idea further at an upcoming council meeting. Brookhaven joined the lawsuit last year, which cost the city a $5,000 flat fee. “The primary reason we joined is because we had a number of complaints from citizens about small cells in front of their homes and messing up their viewshed,” said Brookhaven City Attorney Chris Balch in a recent interview. In 2018, the FCC issued an order for a “one-size-fits-all” solution to small cell deployment and curtailed what the city could do in its own right of way, he said. “When we joined the FCC fight, we said our citizens want to protect what their streets and sidewalks look like,” Balch said. “The FCC says we don’t have that power anymore.” Crown Castle is the country’s largest provider of wireless technology and owns many of the cell towers and fiber infrastructure used by companies like Verizon. Kimberly Adams, the company’s government relations manager for the area, said last year the state bill keeps wireless providers from having to meet different regulations in different cities and simplifies the process of getting high-speed internet access across the state. In March 2019, the Sandy Springs City Council passed a law that required companies to install new antennas on existing poles if possible and that set fees in preparation for the new legislation. The application fee for collocation is $100. Replacement poles will cost $500 and new poles $1,000. The fee for using the city’s right of way is set at $100 per year for collocation on an existing or replacement pole, $200 per year for new poles and $40 per year for collocation on a city pole, according to the ordinance. In December 2018, Brookhaven’s City Council approved its own small-cell legislation that determined the fair market value for use of city right of way is $1,000 for each wireless antenna, or small cell node. In 2015, the Dunwoody City Council approved a small-cell ordinance limiting the height and size of nodes. — Dyana Bagby contributed

MARCH 2020

Community | 9

Councilmembers and mayor want art, vets memorial in ‘Gateway Park’ BY HANNAH GRECO

City Council members and Mayor Rusty Paul concurred at a Feb. 4 work session that a proposed “Gateway Park” across from City Springs should have a veterans’ memorial as part of the project, as well as art and landscape elements. “I don’t think any one of the three concepts are necessarily mutually exclusive,” Paul said. “I think there’s an opportunity to be creative in that way and see elements of all three there.” Architect firm Barge Design Solutions has designed three concepts for the park, pegged for a vacant triangle of land at Mount Vernon Highway and Roswell and Johnson Ferry roads. One concept is centered around the landscape, one is for a veterans’ memorial and one is a public art space. “Since the original planning of City Hall, we have considered that to be a veterans’ memorial park and I think there’s been a lot of support for a veterans’ memorial park,” City Councilmember Tibby DeJulio said. “But I think it might be interesting to see a combination of a veterans’ memorial park with art.” “Having a veterans’ park on that side of the street I think is a good idea, I’d rather we do it that way,” City Councilmember John Paulson said. “I like the idea of having water on both sides of [Roswell Road].” “Having a memorial park, definitely art,” City Councilmember Chris Burnett said. “The topography is...perfect terrain to do a waterfall down into a water feature, so I think we can incorporate all three.” “I like the combination,” Paul said. “We’ve always talked about that being a veterans’ park and I think that’s very appropriate and necessary, but I like the incorporation of art into it.” City Councilmember Andy Bauman stressed the importance of accessibility with the park being in a busy part of the city. “This is the middle of a really busy intersection,” Bauman said. “So, I’m all for it...but in particular what I’ll focus on is the accessibility then we’ll have some opportunity to


be creative.” The city bought the land several years ago for the project, once dubbed “Triangle Park,” and for a reconstruction of the Mount Vernon/Johnson Ferry intersection. In 2017, former city manager John McDonough said the future park may include flags and some type of veterans’ monument. The idea for a park reappeared in the city’s comprehensive plan for the recreation and parks system, which was released in February 2019. The city has long aimed to spruce up the area with a park and paths, but projects have been stalled due to a lawsuit over booting three billboards from the property. A legal case between the city and the owner of the billboards, OutFront Media, has continued for over a year. In November, a judge issued an order that allowed the city to take down the billboards. But OutFront filed an appeal and the city has been waiting for a new ruling since. On Jan. 17, the city filed an “emergency order” in the Fulton County Superior Court for the billboards to come down. That was shortly after the city announced a plan to open a temporary fire station on an adjacent lot at 6189 Roswell Road, a former car rental business, which the council approved purchasing in December for $1.2 million. The site would be a temporary location for the aging Fire Station Two at 135 Johnson Ferry Road while a replacement fire station is built there. The city says that traffic is too bad for fire trucks to enter and exit the temporary site on Roswell Road. Instead, the city proposes creating a new driveway that would cut through the triangle of land where the billboards stand. The city says the billboards must be removed for that plan. According to city spokesperson Sharon Kraun, the city will keep the property in their possession after the new fire station is built because some of the land is needed for right of way for the proposed park design. Kraun said the city does not know the timeline on the park and whether it will include the property needed for the temporary fire station.

10 | Commentary

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Commentary: Local mayors and a resident react to I-285 toll lanes concept The Georgia Department of Transportation recently released more detailed concepts for its proposed I-285 top-end toll lanes project, so potential effects on local communities are easier to see. The designs show that more than 150 properties in Sandy Springs, Brookhaven and Dunwoody and other nearby cities could be affected or demolished by the project. GDOT also proposes adding access points that would allow drivers to enter the new lanes from city streets. Among those following the project closely are Dunwoody Mayor Lynn Deutsch, Doraville Mayor Joseph Geierman and Dunwoody resident Robert Wolford. The Reporter asked them what they thought of the latest proposals. Now that the proposal is a step closer to reality, what do you think of it? Deutsch: Having watched the visualization of the managed lanes, I am amazed by the scale and scope of this project. It will forevDunwoody Mayor er change the landLynn Deutsch scape of metro Atlanta. I still remain unconvinced that this project will impact traffic in a meaningful way. Geierman: My thoughts about this project have not changed. Research has proven that adding more lanes to freeways does not solve traffic congestion. I think the taxpayer dollars being earmarked for this project would be more effective if they were spent building out other forms of mobility – including mass transit and bike/ pedestrian paths. That said, this project is going to move forward no matter what I personally think about it. My responsibility is to ensure that whatever gets built has a minimal negative impact on (and hopefully benefits) the city of Doraville. Wolford: I think that the “Advanced Improvement Project” proposal [to build some related non-toll lanes and ramps sooner] is very reasonable. However, I think that the toll lanes project is a colossal waste of time and money. Most people probably don’t realize, yet that the GDOT proposal is actually two different proposals for the I-285 corridor. The first, called the AIP, consists of collector-distributor lanes and rebuilding the Chamblee-Dunwoody Road bridge. It is all grade-level construction and it will serve Georgia well as a positive improvement on the top end Perimeter highway. The second, called toll lane expansion, involves elevated toll lanes that are above grade, take land unnecessarily, cost too much and won’t solve traffic problems long term. Is there anything that you see in this version of the plan that surprised you? If so, what was it? Geierman: I had been concerned that the toll lanes would require even more right of way acquisition along I-285 than they did and was a little surprised that relatively few businesses along the corridor were affected. I was disappointed to see businesses that I personally patronize -- like Tucker Castleberry Printers and Rob Mello Acting Studio – in the path of destruction.

Wolford: What surprises me about these proposals is not what is in them, but rather what is not in them. These proposals do not include any studies. There are no sound barrier mitigation proposals. There are no greenway or multi-model pathway proposals. There are no environmental studies, including any air and water quality impacts, storm water run-off impacts, noise impacts. There are no open and honest communications occurring between GDOT officials and citizens in communities affected and impacted by GDOT proposals. Deutsch: The city of Dunwoody is losing an entire neighborhood. We have been aware of this for a while, but we learned at the recent meetings that an office building and three buildings at an apartment complex will be destroyed to make space for the project. There are additional impacts not yet clearly defined on other properties as well. How can GDOT best mitigate any damage the lanes will cause local communities? What do you think they can do? Wolford: GDOT must, at a minimum, build sound barrier protection walls prior to any construction and maintain those barRobert Wolford rier walls during all construction. GDOT must also include greenways and pedestrian pathways between their expansion projects and impacted communities, as well as including greenways and pathways on the reconstructed Chamblee-Dunwoody bridge. And GDOT should pay for the greenways and pedestrian pathways in the impacted communities. Deutsch: Noise walls must go up before construction begins, even if they are relocated during the process. For Dunwoody, we need the space and infrastructure to install a multi-purpose trail along I-285. When the Chamblee-Dunwoody bridge is rebuilt, there must be room for a multipurpose trail as well as landscaping. Geierman: I would like to see GDOT give more serious consideration to how huge infrastructure projects like the top-end toll lanes negatively impact communities. I hope that as part of this project, the state helps local governments overcome this by building in bike and pedestrian access in the affected footprint and ensuring that

these new lanes do not cause more traffic problems than they were designed to solve. Once the work is done, will the project make driving in local communities better or worse? Do you think the long-term changes it will bring will be good or bad for local communities? Deutsch: The collector-distributor lane between Chamblee-Dunwoody Road and Ashford-Dunwoody Road should make commuting to the Perimeter area easier for Dunwoody residents. Along with other improvements the city of Dunwoody is already planning to make, this collector lane should help the flow of traffic on ChambleeDunwoody Road in the Georgetown area and beyond. Dunwoody is already well situated for commuters who travel by car and those who use transit. The addition of rapid bus transit as an east-west transportation option will provide some new options for our residents. This project, though, isn’t being built for metro residents who already live close-in. Rather, it is designed to benefit those who live further away from the job centers. Geierman: I do not think that the toll lanes on their own will do anything to solve Atlanta’s traffic problems -- the Doraville Mayor only thing that will Joseph Geierman do that is getting people out of their cars and to use other forms of transportation. I do think there’s an opportunity to utilize the toll lanes for bus rapid transit, which would provide some benefit to reducing traffic. This is not currently part of the plan, but I am hoping it makes it into the final draft. Wolford: The Advanced Improvement Project C-D lanes will make driving better, but the toll lanes will not make driving any better long-term. The only changes that can have any long-term significant improvements to the top end Perimeter traffic challenges must include rapid transit options. Bus rapid transit and light to medium rail are the only hope for long-term good for our communities. That is why Senate Resolution 654, the resolution authored by state Sen. Sally Harrell [calling for a state Constitutional amendment to allow gas tax money to be spent on transit], is so important. SR654 will allow GDOT to fund the transit projects necessary for Georgians to live, thrive and survive. SS

MARCH 2020

Commentary | 11

Burning through the tea kettle curse Everyone has flaws and endearing peccadillos; mine is that I have an inexplicable tendency to burn water.


It started with a Michael Graves tea kettle that was a gift from my uncle and looked like a piece of artwork, it was so brilliantly designed. It had a whistle shaped like a little red bird, so it was a perfect “Robin” kettle. It came to me when the kids were toddlers, and it met its demise one busy morning when it sat on the stove with its little Robin-bird whistling her heart out as I ignored it while tending to a screaming child until the water burned out completely and the cute little whistle-bird melted into the pot itself. I was crushed because I loved that tea pot and doubly crushed when I went to replace it and discovered its cost. I received a replacement Michael Graves kettle for Mother’s Day, and I got to enjoy it for only two months before I burned that one. As a punishment to myself, I did not replace it but boiled my tea and French-press coffee water in

Robin’s Nest

Robin Conte lives with her husband in an empty nest in Dunwoody. To contact her or to buy her column collection, “The Best of the Nest,” see

a basic pot on the stove instead. However, since a plain old pot does not come equipped with a whistle, it’s even easier to burn than a tea kettle. I burned four perfectly good 1.2-quart pots until I decided it was time to go back to kettles. By then I had saved up enough money to buy another Michael Graves kettle that I so loved, and I gave it to myself for Christmas, with the silent pledge that if this one burned, I would not replace it.

You guessed it. This one burned, too. But it wasn’t by me this time! It burned on a babysitter’s watch. I put it on the cabinet-top ledge where it stood as decoration with its fallen brothers. And I decided it was time to go the route of electric tea kettles. I was well-chuffed with a glass version that boiled water efficiently and expertly, until after a year, it suddenly stopped. I replaced it, and its replacement broke. I replaced it once more and, true to my rule of three, gave up the electric tea kettles when the third one broke. By this point, it had been about a decade since my burning-curse began, and I’d lost at least 10 pans and teapots along the way. The electric-kettle interlude lasted long enough for me to rekindle my hankering for old-fashioned kettles, and as karma would have it, I found the most perfect one on sale at HomeGoods. It was a nice solid shape, with strong shoulders and a hefty base, plus it was robin’s egg blue, so it became my new perfect-for-Robin tea kettle. It was a color so unique and so wonderful that the ladies in the checkout line with me gushed over it, while I stood in smug satisfaction because I had snagged it for myself. Every day when I walked into my kitchen and saw it perched there in its spot smackdab in the middle of the stove top, complimenting my kitchen décor with ease, I felt a light lift of spirit. I had a new favorite, and I didn’t even think it was possible. How long did it take me to burn this one? Exactly eight months. This time, I truly

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mourned because I had completely fallen for it. I disciplined myself with plain old pots again and went online searching for a replacement, with the sinking feeling that its charming color had been discontinued. And

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I decided that I’d start scouting HomeGoods again, just in case. I found a stainless-steel kettle that looked dashing on the HG shelf, and I bought it, but I never could bring myself to use it because it was so lackluster in my own home. When I returned it, I scoured the store once more, and lo and behold, I spotted my very same blue kettle, high on a shelf and on clearance because its lid was lost. Eureka! Fortunately, even though my first blue kettle was useless, I had not moved it because I couldn’t bear to walk into a kitchen bereft of its cheery blue self, and thus I had a lid that perfectly fit this new topless kettle. Sometimes, things work out. And maybe, just maybe, this one will last. SS

...or maybe it won’t.

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12 | Commentary ■

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The pirates who bring Mardi Gras to Buckhead Things started with David Moffett. He wanted a way to get to know his neighbors in the Club Forest subdivision better. Club Forest had several community clubs and social events through which women could meet, he said, but nothing similar for the men. “The women all knew each other, but none of the guys knew each other,” he said. JOE EARLE Moffett grew up in Lake From left, Krewe du Foret members Ryan Schultz, Charles, Louisiana. and Jamie Walker, Kurtis Fahn and Craig Hyde show went to Tulane, so he had their inner pirates in their Buckhead neighborhood’s a fondness for Mardi Gras, annual Mardi Gras parade on Feb. 23. the traditional no-holdsbarred party on the final day or days before Lent, a season of fasting for Christians. He thought Club Valley Drive, the main drag through his neighborhood in the Historic Brookhaven area of Buckhead, looked like a good place for a Mardi Gras parade. Why Mardi Gras? “Why not?” he replied. Mardi Gras parties and parades usually are staged by groups called krewes. Moffett and neighbor John Greiner launched the Krewe du Foret to bring Mardi Gras home. Greiner, it turned out, had a pirate costume, so the new krewe adopted a pirate theme and started putting together a parade. That was eight years, and eight parades, ago. Krewe du Foret now claims 50 or more members, all men, and puts on two to three social events a year, its members said. And it’s brought together men of Club Forest around a common interest. “I wouldn’t know any of these guys if we didn’t do something like this,” said Moffett, a 55-year-old banker who wore a Tulane cap and New Orleans Saints’ jersey with his pirate suit.. “It’s a great way to get our neighborhood together.” On the last Sunday in February, about 25 to 30 members of the krewe, maybe more, donned pirate costumes and joined in the Mardi Gras parade on Club Valley Drive. Some had grown beards just for the event and some wore elaborate costumes with thigh-high boots or fancy jackets and hats. “It’s a good experience to dress up like a pirate,” Mark Hanna, 46, a physician had said the day before when he joined a dozen or so members of the krewe to rebuild the floats that are stored at Moffett’s house during the winter. Most of the pirates in the parade rode on one of three colorful, pirate flag-decked floats built on top of trailers and pulled by pickups. Some rode atop an antique fire truck, while others walked alongside the string of vehicles, which included a convertible carrying the krewe’s queen for the day, resident Judy Jones. A New Orleans-style band called 2nd Line Atlanta played from one of the floats. Families lined the street and caught beads the pirates tossed from the floats as they rolled along. Marc Rosenkoetter stood out among the parading pirates. He walked on stilts and towered above the crowd in his pirate getup as he tossed Mardi Gras beads to clamoring kids. “It’s for the kids,” the 40-year-old management consultant said of the party as he helped decorate floats the day before the parade. “Honestly, it is.” Besides, he said, it helps give Club Forest an identity. “It really pulls the neighborhood together,” he said. “It sets the neighborhood apart. In a world of fences and walls and security cameras, its nice to have a neighborhood that can come together for something like this.” Lori Hicks waited in her driveway to see her husband parade past. She was joined by her mother-in-law, Charlotte Hicks of St. Marys, and sister-in-law, Shannon Hicks of Chattanooga. “It’s my favorite day of the year in Club Forest,” she said. “I think it’s incredible that they pull this off and pull it together for everybody on the cul-de-sac.” Why is it her favorite day? She thought the question over for a moment. “Maybe it’s my favorite day because the men are in charge and the families have so much fun,” she said. “That’s why. I just figured it out.” It took just 10 to 15 minutes for the revelers to pass. The parade ended at a cul-de-sac at one end of the block, where the pirates and their families and friends could dance and eat gumbo at a neighborhood party. Bill Selvey, who’s 58 and said he works as a head-hunter for doctors, has lived in his home in Club Forest for 26 years and has taken part in every Mardi Gras parade. He, too, calls Maris Gras parade day his favorite day of the year. “You dress up like a pirate and throw Moon Pies and beads to people,” he said. “Free beer. Free gumbo. What’s not to like?” SS

MARCH 2020

Public Safety | 13

New police shooting details reveal different narrative; AG’s office says city was wrong to withhold reports BY HANNAH GRECO

Fulton County prosecutors recently released police reports about a May 2018 police-involved standoff and shooting in Sandy Springs that paint a different picture of what led up to the incident than the one police publicly displayed at the time. The state Attorney General’s Office said that, under Georgia law, Sandy Springs city officials were wrong in their refusal to release the reports, which the Reporter eventually obtained from county prosecutors. City officials in 2018 said the shooting followed a burglary gone wrong. In a press release issued at the time, police said a 15-year-old burglary suspect was shot several times after a three-hour standoff with police that ended when he tried to flee. During the standoff, the teen threatened suicide several times, police said, and at one point fired on officers. The teen was taken to a hospital in stable condition, the release said. But the newly released reports, filed by Sandy Springs officers at the time but withheld by the city for 20 months, said the May 11, 2018, shooting followed a gathering attended by several teenagers who had permission to use a friend’s apartment. The apartment leaseholder’s son gave the teens the apartment fob and permission to stay there while his family was away on vacation. Marlon Jones, 15 at the time, and three other underage males were drinking beer, smoking marijuana and throwing water balloons at construction workers at the Modera apartment complex at 6125 Roswell Road before the shooting, the reports say. “What [the apartment leaseholder’s son] did not give permission for the offenders to do was take $15,000 in cash, $6,500 in coins and $5,000 in jewelry that were hidden in the master bedroom closet,” the report said. When they were arrested, two of the teens held large amounts of cash and coins, police reported at the time. According to the report, officers on scene told officers headed there that one suspect, Jones, fled, ran out of his shoes, dropped a marijuana pipe and scaled a fence behind the Animal Emergency Center at 228 Sandy Springs Place. “Upon scaling the fence, Jones, who was armed with a silver-in-color handgun, discharged the firearm one time,” the report said. Once he was confronted by multiple officers, Jones placed the gun to this head and sat against the south wall of the anSS

imal hospital, the report said. His action activated the North Atlanta Metro SWAT team and the North Atlanta Metro crisis negation team. After hours of negotiations, Jones placed the gun several feet away from his body, but then was able to retrieve his gun and point it directly at several SWAT officers, the report said. “As a result of pointing the gun at the officers, Marlon Jones was shot in the arm and leg,” the report said. The Fulton County District Attorney’s office still is reviewing the police shooting, along with two others that occurred in May 2018 and March 2019, to determine whether they were legally justified. It is unclear when the investigations will be completed. Jones, now 17, pleaded guilty in Fulton County Superior Court on Jan. 7, 2019, on seven counts of aggravated assault; seven counts of felony obstruction; possession of a firearm under 18; discharge of a firearm on property; reckless conduct; possession of drug paraphernalia; and possession of alcohol by a person younger than age 21,

according to prosecutors. Jones was sentenced to 10 years and will serve five years as an adult, District Attorney’s Office spokesperson Chris Hopper said. According to the Georgia Department of Corrections website, Jones is serving his sentence at the Burruss Correctional Training Center in Forsyth. According to Hopper, two of the other juveniles have pleaded guilty, served their time and, under Georgia’s First Offender Act, their records are sealed and restricted. The third juvenile pleaded guilty for an underage alcohol offense and served three months, Hopper said.

Open Records law The district attorney’s office, responding to a request from Reporter Newspapers under the state Open Records Act, released the initial Sandy Springs police reports in February. City officials in Sandy Springs had twice refused to release the reports, actions which a state assistant attorney general said did not comply with state law. The Attorney General’s office oversees enforce-



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ment of the state’s Open Records Act. “I can contact the city attorney and let him know that somebody there needs some training,” Assistant Attorney General Jennifer Colangelo said in an email. She said she would write to city officials to remind them of the rules on release of public records. In January, the City Clerk’s office did not provide the incident reports for the two May 2018 cases, citing an exemption for cases being under investigation by an outside agency. City officials maintained that refusal after David Hudson, an attorney and board member of the Georgia First Amendment Foundation, said that under Georgia’s Open Records Act, the exemption does not apply to initial incident reports or arrest records. Assistant Attorney General Colangelo also said the city should have provided the initial police reports. “Sandy Springs should have given you the initial incident report, regardless of whether there was an investigation or who was doing an investigation or prosecution,” Colangelo said in a Feb. 7 email.

14 | Community ■

In tax-break debates, turf wars arise between local and county authorities BY JOHN RUCH AND DYANA BAGBY

mated value of the tax abatements it provides. For years its agendas did not Tax breaks granted to developers even list the location of many projects. by bodies called development authoriDecide DeKalb cut one tax-abatement ties are under growing scrutiny in metdeal in a local city last year that it refusro Atlanta’s hot real estate market. But es to divulge. “We do work for the pubbehind the issue of when to grant tax lic but some companies don’t want to be breaks is another question: Who should named until they announce,” said Degrant them in local cities – local authorBarr. ities or their county versions? And what Both county authorities say they happens when one says no to a developmake deals that “create” -- often meaner and the other says yes? ing relocate -- jobs, and in DAFC’s case, The Development Authority of Fulsome affordable housing units. But they ton County is facing a call from Atlanlack mechanisms to confirm that those ta’s authority to stay out of its turf and goals are met and there appear to be no state legislation that would bar the way for the authorities to get full taxes DAFC from operating within cities withpaid if the developers don’t hold up their out local government approval. The deend of the bargain. velopment authoriIn contrast, city dety in DeKalb County, velopment authoriknown as Decide ties in Brookhaven and DeKalb, has better reSandy Springs have lationships with locreated “payment in cal cities now, but four lieu of taxes” agreeyears ago stirred conments that get some of troversy with the city the abated money back of Brookhaven for lack for city purposes, such of notice on major tax as building new streets abatements that hit its or acquiring land for budget unexpectedly. city facilities. “It is not in the inCitizens may not terest of a city’s resibe aware of the tax dents to allow develbreaks, or have difficulopers to play a county ty in discovering why development authoria particular authority ty off against that city’s granted them. Sandy SPECIAL development authoriSprings in recent years State Rep. Derrick Jackson. ty for tax breaks. That promoted the developis what happens now,” ment of a new downsaid Julian Bene, a critic of tax breaks town area with luxury apartment comand a former board member of Invest plexes that have been both lauded as Atlanta, that city’s development authormodern and criticized as traffic-generaity. “A city development authority tends tors. Of five new apartment complexes, to be more accountable and responsive four have received tax abatements – two to the needs of its residents and protecfrom the city and two from the county. tive of their tax burden.” Leaders of the county authorities disTax break powers agree. Development authorities are govern“Overall, DAFC serves an extremement-created, but independently operly important purpose in Fulton Counating and self-funding, bodies that can ty, as its focus is on economic developoffer incentives and property tax abatement that benefits Fulton County as a ments in a variety of ways. Fulton and whole and the needs of all of its resiDeKalb counties have development audents and not just those in one particuthorities, as do many local cities, includlar municipality in isolation,” said DAFC ing Atlanta, Sandy Springs, Dunwoody Executive Director Al Nash in an email. and Brookhaven. A powerful deal-mak“We always look forward to solidifying ing ability authorities wield is to issue and strengthening our partnership with bonds on behalf of a developer, using the municipalities to ensure economic its tax-exempt status to grant a partial development continues within Fulton property tax abatement for a period of County.” time, usually 10 years. The general ra“We are extremely intentional to cotionale is to promote economic developordinate with cities,” said Dorian Dement. Barr, the interim president of Decide The DAFC has been targeted with DeKalb. “[We] don’t want developers to criticism for years for granting abategame the system.” ment deals on luxury projects in such But the details of county authorihot markets as Buckhead and Midtown, ty tax breaks can be opaque. Only last where there appears to be little need to year, after decades in operation, did the spur economic activity. Atlanta Public DAFC start publicly releasing the estiSchools Superintendent Meria Carstar-

phen, herself a former DAFC board member, is a fierce critic of such deals, with the controversy ballooning to major proportions again over the past two years. Carstarphen has said various tax breaks cost her system tens of millions of dollars in lost revenue each year. In fiscal year 2019, the Fulton County School System lost $6.2 million in “potential revenue” from various abatements and incentives, and $4.8 million in fiscal 2018, according to Chief Financial Officer Marvin Dereef. In 2019, the DeKalb County School District lost $3.9 million to tax abatements, according to interim Chief Financial Officer Robert Morales. The county authorities say that the developments they assist boost the tax base enormously. Critics argue that many of the developments would have happened anyway, so the abatements are giveaways of money. Brookhaven and Dunwoody have good relationship and communications with Decide DeKalb, according to city spokespersons. And in Sandy Springs, Mayor Rusty Paul, a professional marketer and lobbyist, has had the DAFC as a client for about 15 years. He said that when the DAFC contacts city government, it does so through the city manager in a process that does not involve the mayor.

Turf wars

Relationships are more strained in the Atlanta area, where the DAFC cuts far more local tax abatement deals than Decide DeKalb does. Last year, Invest Atlanta’s president and CEO, Dr. Eloisa Klementich, sent Nash a letter asking DAFC to stop cutting bond-based tax abatement deals within the city limits. She questioned the legality of such deals; said her board is more representative of local taxing jurisdictions; and noted a divergence in the two authorities’ policies on affordable housing. She also raised the issue of “perspective” from the local point of view. “We think it is essential to be at the table for the conversation and the future development in the city,” she wrote. The recently incorporated city of South Fulton was the scene of another tax abatement dispute last year. Major controversy erupted over whether the local government’s authority or the DAFC should grant a tax break for a major commercial project. Controversy within the city government dragged on for weeks, as the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported, at one point threatening to remove South Fulton Mayor Bill Edwards and a City Council member from office. As a result, a state legislator has filed a bill that would bar the DAFC from granting such breaks within cities with-

out the approval of local governments and school boards. State Rep. Derrick Jackson (D-Tyrone) said he filed House Bill 986 to promote conversations between the DAFC and local leaders. “You would think that would happen naturally, but unfortunately it did not,” he said. “… The whole goal is to make sure development authorities touch base with local municipalities.” Paul, the DAFC lobbyist, said before the bill’s filing that he was aware of its general approach. He called it “more punitive than policy-setting. It singles out DAFC and leaves the other development authorities operating in the county out of the proposed regulation.” Paul said he understands the intent was to “start a conversation about the relationships among the cities and the two school boards [in Fulton and Atlanta]. That discussion is healthy and I look forward to it.” One provision of Jackson’s legislation would bar an elected official from chairing a development authority, to avoid what he called “tension and confusion” about political roles. But local input is his main goal, he said. The bill would bar the DAFC from acquiring property, granting any tax abatements or “undertak[ing] any project” within cities without the “approval” of the local board of education and the city government. “Although it’s great the county can come in… the county may not be familiar with their comprehensive plan, the land use, just the whole arch of having a particular vision for that city,” Jackson said. Nash said that DAFC’s perspective has its own advantages. “The need to have a development authority that crosses city lines and takes into consideration Fulton County as a whole cannot be overstated,” he said. “People oftentimes reside in one part of Fulton County and work in another part. In addition, proposed projects may be located in multiple cities [or] jurisdictions, which is something DAFC is well-equipped to handle and has done so in the past.” Jackson noted that abatements can affect local governments and school system revenues, where people have elected representatives to oversee the operations. “Keep responsibility and accountability where they belong,” he said.

LOCAL PROJECTS WITH TAX ABATEMENTS A full list of over 30 projects can be found online at SS

MARCH 2020

| 15

Committed to Fulton I am running to be a Fulton County Superior Court Judge because I believe Fulton County residents deserve to have fair, efficient, effective and excellent judges, who have a deep commitment to serving this County and its residents. My husband and I decided to make Fulton County our home fourteen years ago, and I am committed to making my community proud. I have dedicated my legal career to the service of Fulton County residents and organizations. I have served as legal counsel to several of Fulton County’s bedrock institutions, including Grady Memorial Hospital, MARTA and the Atlanta Housing Authority. In 2017, I was honored to be appointed as the 1st Chief Judge of the City of South Fulton’s Municipal Court, and efficiently and effectively built the judicial system for the third largest city in Fulton County in record-time, 40 days! While there, I developed effective programs, such as the “Be What You Can See” youth shadowing/ mentorship program, which allowed middle and high school students an opportunity to shadow Court officers during Court sessions in order to expose them to careers in the justice system. Currently, I serve as a Pro Tem Judge in Union City’s Municipal Court. My commitment to Fulton County and its judicial system is unwavering, and if elected, I will work every day to make you proud. I humbly ask for your support in my endeavor to become the next Fulton County Superior Court Judge. Early voting begins April 27, 2020, and the election is May 19, 2020.


South Carolina State University, B.A. Political Science, summa cum laude, 2003 University of Georgia School of Law, J.D. cum laude, 2006

Judicial Appointments

Chief Judge, South Fulton Municipal Court (20172019) Pro Tem Municipal Court Judge- Union City, Forest Park and Riverdale (2019-present)


POLITICO’s 2018 Woman of Impact 2018-2019 Law and Justice Woman of the Year, Georgia’s Most Powerful and Influential Attorneys 2018 Atlanta Women of Distinction Finalist

Professional Memberships

District Five Representative, Council of Municipal Court Judges Executive Committee Member, Atlanta Bar Association Judicial Section Member, Georgia Association of Black Women Attorneys Member, Gate City Bar Association Member, Elizabeth Baptist Church Member, Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc.


Honorable Debra Bazemore GA House of Representatives District 63

Dr. Craig L. Oliver, Sr., Senior Pastor Elizabeth Baptist Church

Tiffany Tiffany Carter Sellers Candidate, Fulton County Superior Court


Dr. Walter L. Kimbrough Cliftondale United Methodist Church

Thomas Gatewood Sampson, Sr., Managing Partner Thomas, Kennedy Sampson & Tompkins, LLP

16 | Community ■

Riverfront event space plan thwarted by City Council denial BY HANNAH GRECO

A property owner’s plan to revive a proposal for a riverfront event space has been thwarted by the City Council voting to deny a change in the Development Code. Residents and a councilmember said the change would go against the city’s comprehensive plan and not protect neighborhoods as promised in the code. The proposal would have allowed commercial uses on two riverfront properties that are in the Residential Estate character area map, a zoning district that currently prohibits them. The owners would need to seek a conditional use permit, which is a request to change or expand the existing use allowed in the Development Code. The proposal involved two properties both adjacent to the Chattahoochee River which the city identifies as “gateways,” with one near the Roswell Road bridge in the north and the other at the Johnson Ferry Road bridge in the west. William Odrey, the owner of one of the properties, 9755 Roswell Road, spoke in favor of the change at a Jan. 11 Planning Commission meeting and spoke about a plan to build a riverfront event space. This is not the first time Odrey expressed his interest in building an event space along the Chattahoochee. In 2016,

he had a proposal to build a four-story riverfront event facility served by motorized trolleys. A brief description filed with the city from 2016 included a 30,000-square-foot facility with a 5,000-square-foot observation deck on the Chattahoochee River at the corner of Roswell Road and Roberts Drive. Customers and guests would access the facility via a trolley service operated by Odrey, according to the statement. The plan required rezoning from residential to commercial use, and that, along with increases in traffic, concerned residents. Odrey’s plan involved replacing his own ranch house with the event facility, designed by Sandy Springs-based Restaurant Consulting Group in what he called a “Frank Lloyd Wright-ish” style with staggered stories and stone exterior. It included a 5,000-square-foot observation deck overlooking the Chattahoochee River. It is unclear whether Odrey wanted to implement the same plan from 2016 or if he had a new one. Odrey and Pete Hendricks, the attorney representing the property owner in 2016, did not respond to requests for comment. City spokesperson Sharon Kraun said city officials had not been in talks with Odrey because he did not file with the city an official plan for the project.


Increasing access to the Chattahoochee River and activating the city’s gateways was a priority of The Next Ten plan, a 10year vision for the city that informed a new Comprehensive Plan and zoning code, as well as part of the plan for the city’s North End redevelopment. But protecting neigh-

the ironies of this text amendment is it bypasses that and that concerns me.” “Any other property in Sandy Springs would have to go through if they wanted to change their zoning,” Paulson added. The council unanimously denied the text amendment change. Smith referenced the Planning Com-

A rendering of the event facility on the Chattahoochee River at Roswell Road and Roberts Drive proposed by William Odrey in 2016.

borhoods was another priority of the Next Ten, some residents argued. Ronda Smith, the president of the Sandy Springs Council of Neighborhoods, spoke in opposition to the change. “River activation, as desired in the [Comprehensive Plan] and within the revitalization plan, will not be an easy undertaking and must be achieved with sensitivity to both community and environment,” Smith said. “The allure as a recreational amenity is powerful, but the engagement of the river cannot come at the imposition of or the impact to protected neighborhood quality of life.” Resident Tochie Blad also spoke in opposition to the change. “This is going to open up that barn door and allow encroachment into the neighborhoods with commercial,” Blad said. “If your intent is to activate the river and increase North End redevelopment, there are other ways to go about this without adopting this text amendment that goes against one of the principles Next Ten plan.” City Councilmember John Paulson, whose district represents the Roswell Road property, recommended denial. “This is actually kind of a difficult decision because on one hand, when the Comprehensive Plan was passed there was verbiage in there [that] addressed this for residential properties right on the river,” Paulson said. But, Paulson said, he chose to move against the change because in the Development Code, it says if a parcel is going to be rezoned, it must go through a process of the character area map being amended and approved. “That was done for a reason so that we had diligence and time that goes into making decisions about changing character of different properties,” Paulson said. “One of


mission meeting where Odrey spoke in favor and talked about his plan to create a riverfront event space. “While one would like to imagine a public-serving facility, the support at the Planning Commission for this amendment on private property rings a for-profit business approach,” Smith said. The Commission voted to recommend denial of the change because of the “encroachment on a protected neighborhood” and that commercial-type usage should not be allowed. The Commission felt the change would benefit one property owner which conflicts with one of the review criteria in the Development Code. The Commission also said it could set up precedence for future issues regarding one property and special legislation to change one property in the Development Code. The city has long wanted Chattahoochee River Access and it has been deemed as one of the priorities of the forthcoming North End redevelopment. In September 2019, the city awarded a contract to Heath and Lineback Engineers to conduct a feasibility study for trails and access along the Chattahoochee River, including the identification of possible locations and methods to create access. The study will also look at how to connect to the city’s Master Trail Plan, which is underway. Public meetings are expected in midJune and fall 2020 and the study is expected to be complete by the end of 2020, according to the city. According to the city, the staff was tasked with looking into a proposal that would increase the recreational activity potential of property in these prescribed areas. SS

MARCH 2020

| 17


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18 | Community ■

Residents test new voting machines BY DYANA BAGBY

Local election officials were busy providing free demonstrations to the public on how Georgia’s new voting machines work before they are rolled out statewide for the March 24 presidential primary. During a Feb. 13 demonstration of the machines at the Dunwoody Library, DeKalb Voter & Registration Elections official Nytia Harris walked dozens of people through the new system. The system includes electronic check-in on a machine similar to an iPad, selection of ballot choices electronically via a touch screen, and a paper record that lists in text the voter’s choices. The paper also includes a QR code. The paper is inserted into a scanner, STEP STEP STEP the size of a large garbage can, that reads the QR code to count the votes. The scanner also stores the paper ballot. “Truthfully, this is not a whole lot different than what we were using before, except PHOTOS BY DYANA BAGBY now we get a piece of paper,” said Shelagh Clegg, who tested out the new machines at the Step 1: Shirley McAllister of Dunwoody, left, checks in electronically with her library. “At least we have a record with the paper.” driver’s license to vote during a Feb. 13 demonstration of the state’s new voting machines at the Dunwoody Library. Other forms of ID are also accepted. The General Assembly approved purchasing the machines for the entire state for more than $100 million following legal challenges to the state’s electronic voting system. Step 2: McCallister makes her choices on a mock ballot via a touch screen. The nearly 20-year-old former system required people to check in to vote by checking in to vote by filling out a piece of paper. The voter would then get a plastic card that would Step 3: DeKalb Voter & Registration Elections official Nytia Harris, left, be inserted into a touch screen machine that would then record the ballot selections. shows Shelagh Clegg how to insert her paper ballot with a list of her Voters have complained for years there was no way to ensure the machine recorded selections into a scanner. The scanner reads a QR code on the paper to the correct votes on the plastic card. A paper printout with the QR code of a voter’s selectabulate the ballot. The paper remains locked in the scanner. tions as part of the new machines is supposed to alleviate those concerns. Questions raised during the Dunwoody demonstration about the new voting machines included how to ensure voter privacy; accuracy of the ballot counts; and if there


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Community | 19

would be enough help at each precinct in case there are slowdowns created by people confused with the new machines. Partitions are to be placed around the touch screens to provide privacy, Harris said. DeKalb County plans to add several more poll workers at each precinct to assist voters than in the past to limit potential backups. There will be one scanner for every 11 touch screens, which is expected to meet voter demand. None of the devices used to vote are connected to the internet, so no hacking can occur, Harris said. The machines don’t keep track of the ballot, Harris explained. It’s the scanner that reads the QR code from the paper that counts the ballot, she explained. The paper ballot is stored in a large ballot box attached to the scanner and if an audit of an election is needed, voting officials can unlock the ballot boxes to retrieve the paper ballots.

MARCH 6-15

MARCH 24 IS PRESIDENTIAL PRIMARY, ATLANTA SPECIAL ELECT ION DAY March 24 is Election Day statewide for the presidential primary races. The city of Atlanta also will hold a special election that day, seeking to reauthorize a 1% sales tax. In the primary election, voters can choose their favorite among the majorparty contenders for president in advance of nomination votes at national party conventions. The Democratic ballot has a dozen candidates, some of whom have already withdrawn from the race. The Republican ballot has only incumbent President Donald Trump. Georgia holds open primary elections, meaning that a voter is free to choose either the Democratic or the Republican ballot, regardless of their political affiliation. Advance voting was scheduled to begin March 2. Within Atlanta, a ballot question seeks to extend the 1% Municipal Option Sales Tax, or MOST, that funds water and sewer projects. The MOST is set to expire later this year. Primary voters will have the MOST question on the same ballot. Nonpartisan voters also can choose a ballot that has only the MOST question. For more information, see the Georgia Secretary of State’s “My Voter” webpage at

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WORTHWHILE CONVERSATIONS ARE WE STILL OK AFTER THE SECURE ACT? IS THERE REASON FOR CONCERN IN LIGHT OF THE RECENTLY ENACTED SECURE ACT? No, most people should continue to feel secure (pardon the pun). The financial media has enjoyed a field day describing the SECURE Act, which affects retirement accounts, as a game-changer. We have received questions from clients, but the group of people who need to modify their planning is a relatively small number. Although a bit of an oversimplification, it really boils down to just two main things. WHAT ARE THOSE TWO “MAIN THINGS”? The age at which you must start drawing down your retirement balances has been moved back to age 72. It was 70-1/2 previously. The new starting age applies to anyone not already 70-1/2 at the end of 2019. The later start improves planning flexibility for people who might retire before age 72 but, because of other income sources, may not actually need immediate withdrawals from their retirement accounts. Phillip Hamman, CFA, CFP®, heads our Wealth Planning Committee. He describes it as: “They can develop an ‘optimization strategy’ for drawing down these accounts”. YOU SAID THERE WERE TWO “MAIN THINGS”… The other important item generally affects beneficiaries of IRA accounts who are NOT the surviving spouse of the deceased account owner. Before the SECURE Act, these inheritors could slowly draw down these retirement accounts in installments over their entire lifetime. That offered some great

Sam Tortorici, CEO & Director, Cadence Bank, N.A., and President, Cadence Bancorporation, discusses the SECURE Act with Linscomb & Williams team members MaryJane LeCroy, CFP®, and Bill Kring, CFP®

income tax planning flexibility. The SECURE Act generally shortens the withdrawal period to a maximum of 10 years. In certain cases, where families fully expect that retirement assets will pass to the next generation, planning should likely be updated. IS THERE A “BOTTOM LINE” HERE? Everyone needs good planning around configuring cash flow in retirement. If you have not focused on this area, we recommend sitting down with a financial advisor who is a fiduciary 100% of the time, like Linscomb & Williams. We have an experienced and fully-credentialed team and are available to meet in our office right here in Atlanta.

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20 | Community ■

How to respond to 2020 U.S. Census questions arriving in March BY DYANA BAGBY

Residents are expected to begin receiving information from the U.S. government in mid-March asking them to participate in the 2020 Census, part of a national headcount that takes place every 10 years. The numbers are used to determine how to distribute annually some $675 billion in federal funds to local, state and tribal governments. According to a recent George Wash-


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ington University study, Georgia receives about $2,300 a year per person based on Census figures. The numbers also determine how many seats a state gets in the U.S. House of Representatives and are used to draw legislative and school districts. By April 1, known as Census Day, all homes across the country are scheduled to have

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Census questionnaires. There are no citizenship questions on the Census. Federal law protects Census responses and information from being shared with law enforcement or U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE. Sample questionnaires and more information about the Census are available at For the first time, people will be able to answer Census questionnaires online via a website portal that launches March 23. People also will be able to answer the Census questionnaire by phone or by mail. Households will begin receiving invitations to respond online to the 2020 Census be-

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tween March 12 and 21. Reminder letters and postcards will be sent out through March and April. Beginning in May and continuing through July, Census workers will go doorto-door to households that have not responded.

What the Census does State, county and city governments use the federal money distributed based on Census data to fund schools, hospitals and emergency services. The results also inform how billions of dollars will go to programs like Medicaid, Head Start, block grants for community mental health services, highway construction, school lunches and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, known as SNAP, according to the Census Bureau. Developers and business owners also use Census data to decide where to open new

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restaurants or factories or where to build new office buildings.

Local government sources Local officials use various methods to inform people about the importance of being counted. Officials are holding community meetings, launching social media campaigns and hosting public events where they can hand out Census swag, such as tote bags and water bottles. The city of Atlanta has a website at to provide information about

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how to participate in the Census. It is estimated that 35% of Fulton County’s population will be hard to count, so the city is recruiting Neighborhood Ambassadors on the website to reach out to friends and neighbors to get the word out. This is the first Census for the city of Brookhaven, which incorporated in 2012. The city has budgeted $70,000 to try to reach all residents and ask them to take part in the Census. Special attention is being made to reach the city’s Latino and Hispanic residents living in apartments on or near Buford Highway. More than 24% of the city’s approximately 54,000 residents identify as Latino or Hispanic. The city’s outreach also includes ads on Telemundo and partnering with groups such as the Latin American Association and Los Vecinos de Buford Highway, according to Patty Hansen, who is organizing the city’s efforts. The city is hosting a March 14 festival at Northeast Plaza on Buford Highway to raise awareness about the Census. In Dunwoody, the city is planning an April 1 Census Day event at the Dunwoody Li-

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brary where iPads will be available for people to fill out Census questionnaires. Other outreach events include a “Kids Count” event at the Farmers Market on April 4 to make sure young children are counted and an April 19 event at Crossroads Church. The church is trusted by many in the Hispanic community, said city spokesperson Jennifer Boettcher. The Refugee Women’s Network also is collaborating with the city to target local apartment complexes, she said.

MARCH 2020

Community | 21

While city plans, new restaurant and thrift store coming to North End BY HANNAH GRECO

Architecture firm TSW is working on designs of four shopping centers in the

North End to push for the redevelopment of the area, including the Northridge and

While the city is in the midst of redevelopment conceptual planning for the North End, two of the shopping centers targeted for redevelopment already have prominent new tenants coming, including a car-themed restaurant and a Goodwill thrift store. A Goodwill of North Georgia store and donation center will open in the Northridge shopping center, Tenee Hawkins, the director of public relations, said in a Feb. 10 email. Hawkins said the store does not have an opening date yet. Caffeine and Octane at the Garage, a car-themed restaurant shop/restaurant/TV studio hybrid, received a tax break from the city at a Feb. 4 meeting and plans to open by this summer in the North River shopping center. The project comes from Bruce Piefke, a long-time resident and CEO of Sandy Springs-based company High Octane Events that stages the “Caffeine and Octane” exotic car shows at Perimeter Mall.

North River shopping center, which both have upcoming concepts. In January, the city appointed a North End Advisory Committee to advise and review the forthcoming conceptual plans. It is unclear what the exact format and duration of the committee will be. The committee met for its first public meeting on Feb. 10, city spokesperson Sharon Kraun said. According to a draft version of the meeting minutes, the committee introduced themselves and heard about the North End redevelopment plan. TSW team members asked members about their preferences and concerns with development. The city will host a community input meeting for the conceptual planning of redevelopment in the North End on March 5. The meeting will be held at City Hall at 1 Galambos Way at 6:30 p.m. There will be a brief presentation, followed by a community engagement session, according to a press release.


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22 | Community ■

Residents may fight loss of homes for I-285 toll lanes Continued from page 1

of money,” Wheeler said when she first heard about the conceptual plans. The townhomes are on Taylor Way, a street near Lake Forrest Drive that dead-ends at I-285’s embankment. While only two of the five townhomes are marked for displacement, the owners fear all five homes on the road will have to come down. “We don’t see how they can’t tear down all five. They’re townhomes with mutual


Left, resident Rebecca Trumbo’s townhome immediately adjacent to I-285. The home is now for sale because of the impending toll lanes project that may demolish her home. Right, two of the three townhomes on Taylor Way marked for displacement are connected by a mutual wall.

walls,” Trumbo said. Trumbo said the homeowners plan to band together to hire a lawyer to fight the potential taking.

right of way acquisition, no direct outreach has occurred.

“We are discussing hiring a lawyer all together to fight this because none of us have heard from GDOT,” Trumbo said.

“The Public Information Open House [in January] was the first opportunity for the general public to view concept layouts for the proposed express lanes project and allow

While Trumbo said she plans to fight the plan and does not want to move anytime

the general public to submit formal comments on the project, and also why we work

soon, she has chosen to put her house up for sale because she fears the property values

hard to publicize the meetings and encourage attendance,” Higley said. “Based on pub-

may drop.

lic feedback, the department will continue to refine the concept over the next several

“I put my house on the market…on the advice that it can’t hurt to try,” Trumbo said. “Now, I can get out of it without a loss, but who knows what will happen in two years? It’s a gamble.”

years, so elements of the I-285 Top End Express Lanes may change.” Higley said it is possible that the amount of required right of way could shift based on the evolution of the concept as more project information related to land surveys,

Scott Higley, the director of strategic communications for GDOT, said because the townhomes were identified as potential impacts and have not been approved for early

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Community | 23

be affected or demolished by the project, according to new maps of the toll lane concepts unveiled during an open house in January. In October, GDOT said it is delaying the construction timeline for the controversial toll lanes project by years, with the earliest start date sometime in 2023, to get more competitive bids from contractors. The toll lanes projects are 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

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would run through the interchange area and connect with it. City Council members expressed their concern with the plan displacing residents at a Jan. 24 retreat. City Councilmember Chris Burnett asked GDOT Program Manager Tim Matthews if the department will be having a meeting with the displaced residents in Sandy Springs for this project. Matthews said GDOT already had the one meeting they plan on having for the top end project, involving a concentrated area of I-285 around Chamblee-Dunwoody Road that was expected to have around 20 displacements. “Generally, you don’t have to do any dedicated outreach when someone is displaced,” Matthews said at the retreat. “There was only just that one concentrated area.” Sorren Thomas, the homeowner of 374 Mount Vernon marked for displacement, said GDOT already took part of his home for a previous project. “If they take any property from my lot, I have no home left,” Thomas said in an email. “[The] house was cut off where kitchen and living room is.” Thomas could not be reached for further comment. Sierra Place apartment complex residents could not be reached for comment. Trumbo said she plans to fight GDOT but is not too optimistic regarding the outcome. “It’s disappointing but it sounds like there isn’t anything for us to do,” Trumbo said. “I understand what they have to do for the city but it’s just unfortunate.”

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A department store pianist in the key of entertaining customers

BY JUDITH SCHONBAK Music is Von Maur’s trademark at its department store at Perimeter Mall in Dunwoody. On any given day, the sounds of skillfully played piano music carries throughout the three floors. The piano and the musician at the keys sit at the foot of the escalator bank on the first floor, with an area of comfortable chairs nearby. Pianist and composer David Reeb plays a broad range of tunes from classical to Broadway during the midday hours four days a week. The Georgia native is marking his eighth year playing for Von Maur customers and store employees alike. His fingers move surely over the keys without a pause even when a shopper


Pianist David Reeb sits at his instrument in the Von Maur store at Perimeter Mall.

Continued on page 28

Cinema Paradiso

Donna Lefont seeks to keep film history alive with pop-up screenings BY LAUREN LEATHERS When Donna Lefont was 8 years old, her father worked at a local movie theater. As a single dad, he often took his children to work with him, where they would run freely around the theater. Lefont’s favor-

ite place to explore were the projection rooms. She recalls peeking out from behind the machinery and seeing a dark room full of people, their faces lit up by the screen. “It was kind of like a Cinema Paradiso,” she says, namechecking the classic Italian film about a Continued on page 29


26 | Art & Entertainment ■

Author Q&A: Thriller novelist Harlan Coben on suburban secrets and Netflix hits BY JOHN RUCH

where “Tell No One” was made into an acclaimed 2006 film. Coben entered the filmmaking business himself as a writer and producer, creating the British mystery series “The Five” in 2016. Now he is adapting his works for international audiences on Netflix, where a British production of “The Stranger” debuted in January. His local appearance is part of the year-round programming for the Book Festival of the MJCCA, a major event every November. It wouldn’t be a Coben event without a plot twist – in this case, two bestselling novelists for the price of one. He will appear “in conversation” with Emily Giffin, a Buckhead resident and author of such hits as “Something Borrowed” and “All We Ever Wanted.” The Reporter recently asked Co-

Harlan Coben enters his 30th year of authorship as a master of the plot-twist thriller, with such bestsellers as “Tell No One” and “The Stranger.” He’ll deliver some more thrills to local fans by appearing for a discussion and book-signing at the Marcus Jewish Community Center of Atlanta on March 18, the day after the debut of his latest mystery, “The Boy from the Woods.” The new novel, about a man who was found living feral and orphaned in the wild and who now goes in search of a missing girl, is one of Coben’s standalone thrillers. He’s had success in the series format, too, with the adventures of ex-basketball pro Myron Bolitar and his morally challenged pal Win Lockwood, and three young-adult thrillers starring Myron’s nephew. European film and TV has been very Coben-friendly, especially in France,

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ben about the appeal of suburban evil, the challenges of writing technothrillers and more. Q: Dark secrets behind suburban life is a theme in many of your books and seems to show up in the new one, too. What is that fascinates you about suburban life in that way? A: The suburbs is the home of the socalled American Dream – a nice house, a picket fence, two cars, two-point-four kids, peace, security, etc. -- but a dream is fragile. How far will you go to protect it? That interests me. Q: You’re having a string of success with Netflix productions based on your books. How involved are you in those productions? Is it challenging to hand your written babies over to a different medium?

A: I love doing these adaptations with Netflix, including the most recent, “The Stranger.” If you think about it, I’ve chosen to spend most of my life alone in a room by myself. To get out of that room and collaborate with tons of talented people – cast, crew, writers – has been a wonderful change. I compare the bookwriting to winning a tennis or golf championship. You celebrate alone. The TV adaptations are more like being captain of a team. We celebrate together. We rise and fall as one. Oh, and I’m very involved with the Netflix series. I really wouldn’t have it any other way. Q: You use technology in a lot of your plots. When you’re writing that type of thriller, do you try to write in a way that will hold up in 10 years, or are you happy with it being a snapshot of the moment?

I write contemporary novels. They are a snapshot of that moment. That’s how it should be. That’s how it is, if you think about it, with almost every novel. What must be universal is in the emotion and themes – the humanity -- not the trappings of time or locations. Q: You seem to be back to writing standalone novels rather than series. Is there something drawing you in that standalone direction? Any plans to bring some of your favorite characters back in the series form? A: Not really. Since 2000, I’ve written a Myron Bolitar novel every five or six years. My last Myron novel was “Home” in [2016], so that’s about right. Will I write more Myron and Win books? That’s the plan. I never force it. I wait until the idea comes to me and then I’ll see whether it will work for the series or not.

Q: In your local book festival visit, you’ll be in conversation with Emily Giffin, one of our local star novelists. Do you know her or have opinions about her work? A: I’m a huge Emily Giffin fan and – don’t be envious – I’ve already read an advanced copy of her upcoming release, “The Lies That Bind.” Ooh boy, is it great. I think it’s her best. Emily is also a wonderful friend and absolutely hilarious. It will be a fun event, I promise.

Harlan Coben in conversation with Emily Giffin Wednesday, March 18, 7:30 p.m. Tickets $35 (includes new book “The Boy from the Woods”) Marcus Jewish Community Center of Atlanta 5342 Tilly Mill Road, Dunwoody

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28 | Art & Entertainment ■

A department store pianist in the key of entertaining customers Continued from page 1 stops to ask for directions or make a comment on the music. The Reporter talked with Reeb and as he played at Von Maur. And, yes, he did play a request: “Clair de Lune” by Debussy and a jazz medley. Q: When did you start playing the piano? A: I was 4. My parents bought a piano for my 10-year-old sister so she could take lessons. I loved that piano right away and after hearing her play “Chopsticks,” I sat down and played it by ear. I played “Chopsticks” a lot and my parents probably got tired of it. They told me to stay away from the piano and said it is not a toy. Finally, I sat down and played a song all the way through from memory, by ear. It was a song from church: “Jesus Loves Me.” They were impressed, and from then on, I could play when I wanted to. I actually did not take lessons until I was 16. But I loved practicing and wanted to practice rather than play outside or do almost anything else.

With dining this good, your friends may show up at lunchtime and stay through dinner. Once upon a time, dining at a retirement community did not bring forth words of praise. But not so any more. At The Piedmont at Buckhead the reviews for our restaurant-style dining are in, and they range from wow! to yummmmmm! Call us to set up a time and taste for yourself.

Lunch & Learn

Wednesday, March 11th • 11:30am

Join us for a complimentary lunch learn more about the engaging lifestyle offered at The Piedmont. To reserve your place, please call 404.381.1743.

It’s a great way to get to know us.

Q: Did you have a preference for a certain genre of music once you started lessons? A: Not particularly. I loved playing everything. I am classically trained from my private lessons and continued that love and expanded styles and genres to include jazz, standards, popular music and Broadway while training at Gordon State College in Barnesville, Georgia, and the University of Georgia. Q: When did you begin playing at Von Maur? A: I began in 2012. This is my eighth year playing for Von Maur. Right now, I am playing four days a week, though the schedule changes occasionally. Two other musicians also play here: John Ivey and Elizabeth Carey. Q: Do you get a lot of requests as you play? A: A few. People seem to like to take a break from shopping or wait to meet someone, so mostly they sit and listen. This is a good meeting place because of where I am located in the store. It’s easy to find. When I do get requests, it’s usually a favorite song or it may be seasonal, like a special Christmas tune. Q: There is no sheet music on your piano. Do you know all your repertoire by heart? A: I have about 3,000 pieces in my head, from classical and jazz, to Broadway, standards through the decades and those popular today. I keep some sheet music in my briefcase just in case, but mostly I practice new pieces all the time. Even though I play a lot every day, I still love to practice and add to my repertoire. Q: Do you have occasion to meet people and play for them at Von Maur? A: Sometimes people will ask me about playing for a private event they are planning. As for playing at the store, I did have a wonderful experience this past December. I had just finished my shift at Von Maur when a young woman in an evening gown and her parents stopped at the piano. It turned out that she is the current Miss Georgia and her talent in the beauty pageant competition was singing. I played for her and she sang. She has a beautiful voice, and, in fact, she went on to win the talent competition in the most recent Miss America pageant. Q: Where else do you play? A: I play five nights a week for singers at open mic sessions and sing-alongs at Stone Mountain Public House, Olive Bistro in Midtown and Buckeye Room Bar & Grill in Chamblee. I also play at for weddings, receptions, parties and other private events, and I currently teach two students.

I n de p e n de n t & A s s i s t e d L i v i ng R e s i de nc e s

650 Phipps Boulevard NE • Atlanta, GA • 404.381.1743 AN SRG SENIOR LIVING COMMUNIT Y


Q: You are also a composer. What have you written? A: I have written music for several theater shows. One was “Teachers: The Musical.” It premiered in Acworth, Georgia to rave reviews. I did a YouTube video for the Christmas season called “Mozart’s Two Front Teeth.” It’s a take-off in Mozart style of Christmas songs. Included are “Mozart Wants a Hippopotamus for Christmas” and “Mozart Got Runover By a Reindeer.” I made up a whimsical story for each one. Q: What would Mozart think? A: I think he would laugh. He had a sense of humor and played around with music like throwing in a lot of unexpected notes in his works.

MARCH 2020

Art & Entertainment | 29

Cinema Paradiso

Donna Lefont seeks to keep film history alive with pop-up screenings Continued from page 1 young boy who escapes life in his war-torn village at the local movie house. “The theater was my home away from home and I got used to it.” The Lefont name is legendary in Atlanta because Donna’s ex-husband, George Lefont, owned for 40 years a chain of independent cinemas in the city that still loom large in movie-lover’s minds. The chain included The Silver Screen, The Screening Room, Garden Hills Cinema, Lefont Sandy Springs and Plaza Theatre. Lefont Theaters were the place to see foreign, independent and documentary films. George opened his first theater, The Silver Screen, in Buckhead circa 1976. Lefont Sandy Springs -- now the Springs Cinema & Taphouse -- was the last theSPECIAL George and Donna Lefont at the Academy ater he owned before retirAwards in an undated photo. ing in 2017. Donna has made it her this day and age with all the technology mission to not only continue George’s available, we need to stay connected.” legacy, but continue her passion for cuThe movies Food Film Music screens rating films, connecting the communiare hand-picked and curated by Lefont. ty, and teaching the relevance of cineShe says researching the films is her ma she first experienced as a child. favorite part, because she’ll often go The Lefont Film Society was creatdown a rabbit hole of discovering moved in 2012 to “bring back a version of ies she’s never seen prior. After picking the Lefont programming and nostalthe film, Lefont researches the distribugia without having a physical location tion rights or contacts distributors to again,” and has since become integratrequest screening rights. ed into Food Film Music (foodfilmmu“Hidden history is what I’m trying to, a series of pop-up style screendiscover and find new ways to connect ings. “The pop-up idea came to me — food, film, and music pretty much because it kind of allows for curated connect all of us in some way,” she says. programming, specific to the neighborNext on the Food Film Music docket hood audiences.” is a double feature of “The Mindfulness Lefont says the pop-up cinemas – Movement” and “Tashi and the Monk” which will take place in various locaon Saturday, April 4, from noon to 4 tions including yoga studios, local thep.m. at the Cinevision Screening Room aters, restaurants, boutiques, and more in Chamblee. – will provide the opportunity to hold Lefont is also collaborating with tight to the city’s film history, provide Emory University’s Cognitively-Based education opportunities, and fulfill Compassion Training, which focuses her passion for film. It also provides a on practicing attentional stability, anchance for movie-goers to collectively alytical reflection, and increased emoshare emotion and exchange dialogue tional awareness, at future movie and about the films. meditation events. She also plans to “If you’re watching something and host a film screenwriting camp in June you’re crying together, with your pupils for 5th to 9th graders to teach screensniffling next to you, and you’re trying writing and storytelling. To Lefont, a to hold it back, or people are busting a great story will remain timeless. gut laughing,” Lefont says. “You’re shar“There’s so many production camps ing emotion with people, and I think in and workshops available, but let’s back

it up to storytelling,” she says. “We have to retrain our minds to not consume so much all the time, and to actually be mindful and slow down and really appreciate this visual motion picture art form for what it is. Without that, you’re going to lose film history.” As with many aspects of media in this digital age, there is a looming shadow over the fate of the traditional movie theater due to distribution rights, the convenience of streaming entertainment, and the influx of film that is changing Atlanta. “I think it’s going to take reaching a plateau that people are going to want to connect back in the dark auditorium with strangers,” Lefont says. “Sure, you can have comfortable seats in your home, but that’s not the same as having this huge screen take over your whole life. You have to make the effort to appreciate the art form, no different than going to see a live band versus listening to it online.” While Atlanta has become Hollywood adjacent with Tyler Perry Stu-

dios, Pinewood Studios, and EUE/ Screen Gems and dozens of big budget film and television shows constantly in production (from the Marvel universe films to “Stranger Things”), the city’s growing film economy hasn’t phased Lefont. She’s focused on conserving the vast film history the city holds. “There’s so much growth going on in this city and I think it’s important to hang on to the history and to keep sharing it even as people are moving here,” she says. “Everybody’s trying to get into the [film] business and I don’t even know if they understand the history of it.” Part of understanding that history is keeping George Lefont’s passion for cinema alive in the city. “The Lefont Film Society built such a great following all those years and I can’t let it disappear, because all the hard work would have been in vain,” she says. “It’s getting back out into the community and talking about the Lefont Theaters film legacy, the Atlanta film legacy.”

Photo: ING Photography

EXHIBITION EXTENDED On view through April 25, 2020

4681 Ashford Dunwoody Road, Atlanta, GA 30338 Gallery Hours: Tuesday—Saturday: 11am-6pm, Monday: by appointment

30 | Art & Entertainment

H I G H ■


Enjoy free admission and special programs on the second Sunday of each month.






Saturday, March 21, 3 p.m. Riverwood International Charter School Dramatic Arts department presents the movie-based musical about a teenager rebelling in a town that has banned dancing. Tickets $15, students $10. Riverwood International Charter School, 5900 Raider Drive, Sandy Springs. Info: fultonschools. org/RiverwoodHS.



Friday, March 20 and Saturday, March 21, 7 p.m. Saturday, March 21 and Sunday, March 22, 1 p.m. Roswell Dance Theatre performs a onehour production of “Cinderella,” followed by Atlanta Dance Theater presenting a one-hour production of “Aladdin.” The Saturday matinee features a meet-and-greet with both casts. Princess costumes welcome, with costume contest at each performance. Tickets $20-$35. Byers Theatre at The Sandy Springs Performing Arts Center, 1 Galambos Way, Sandy Springs. Info:




MARCH 8 • APRIL 12 Designed for little kids, big kids, and the whole family, Second Sundays are for everyone. Visit us each month and experience new interactive, innovative family activities inspired by our collections and rotating exhibitions. Generous support for Second Sundays is provided by the Lettie Pate Evans Foundation.

Saturday and Sunday, March 28-29, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. The annual music and arts festival will feature an arts & crafts market and children’s play area, with headlining performances from Rachel Platten (Saturday) and Better than Ezra (Sunday). Free. Blackburn Park, 3493 Ashford-Dunwoody Road, Brookhaven. Info:

Friday, March 6-Sunday, March 15 A comedy about a man who tries to get the family fortune by jumping the line of succession by any means necessary, performed by the City Springs Theatre Company. Tickets: $30-$65. Byers Theatre at The Sandy Springs Performing Arts Center, 1 Galambos Way, Sandy Springs. Info:


Friday, March 6 and Saturday, March 7, 8 p.m. Sunday, March 8, 3 p.m. Capitol City Opera Company opens its 37th season with opera by composer Charles Gounod, based on William Shakespeare’s famous tragedy. Performed in French with English supertitles. Tickets: $30-$40. Conant Performing Arts Center, Oglethorpe University, 4484 Peachtree Road, Brookhaven. Info:



Thursday, March 12-Sunday, March 22 Jerry’s Habima Theatre, featuring actors with special needs as well as professional actors from the community, will presents the musical comedy using ABBA’s greatest hits to tell the story of a young woman’s search for her birth father. Tickets: Nonmembers $45 (children $15); memebrs $25 (children $10). Marcus Jewish Community Center of Atlanta, 5342 Tilly Mill Road, Dunwoody. Info: or 678-812-4002.


Thursday, March 19Saturday March 21, 6:30 p.m.


Sunday, March 22, 4-7 p.m. Celebrate World Water Day with Georgia River Network, featuring live music, beer, food from gourmet food trucks, a silent auction and raffle. Tickets $30, children $15. Pontoon Brewing, 8601 Dunwoody Place, Building 500, Suite 500, Sandy Springs. Info:


Saturday, March 21, at 7:30 a.m. Peachtree Road Race qualifier and a fundraiser for Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta. Registraton: $25. Blackburn Park, 3493 Ashford-Dunwoody Road, Brookhaven. Info:


Friday March 13-Saturday, March 14, 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Sunday March 15, 11 a.m.- 1 p.m. The Sandy Springs Society’s longest-running fundraiser and sells gently used items of designer clothing, high-end accessories, jewelry, antiques, books, furniture, upscale home decor and more. Free; Thursday preview party $35. In former Chastain Preschool building, 4967 A Roswell Road, Sandy Springs. Info:


Saturday, March 28, 6-11 p.m. Benefit for the Sandy Springs-based nonprofit TurningPoint Breast Cancer Rehabilitation, with live and silent auctions, live entertainment, a seated dinner and open

MARCH 2020

Art & Entertainment | 31

bar. Tickets $200. Intercontinental Hotel, 3315 Peachtree Road, Buckhead. Info:


Saturday, March 14–Sunday, April 26, 2020 The Georgia Watercolor Society (GWS) presents its juried show open to all watercolor artists across the United States. Tickets $5, students/children free. Oglethorpe University Museum of Art, 4484 Peachtree Road, Brookhaven. Info:


Sunday, March 15, 4 p.m. “Creating Harmony in Classical Proportions,” featuring works by Hazo, Persichetti, Schubert, Zdechlik, Heed, Fillmore, Reed and more. Free. Ahavath Achim Synagogue, 600 Peachtree Battle Avenue, Buckhead. Info:



Thursday, March 5, 7 p.m. Matt Matternes, an expert in the history and archaeology of cemeteries, speaks to the Buckhead Heritage Society about the cemetery at Buckhead’s New Hope Church. Free; reservations requested. New Hope Church Sanctuary, 3012 Arden Road, Buckhead. Info:


Saturday, March 7 through Sunday, March 29 The three-week-long festival celebrating Atlanta’s cultural and historical resources will showcase 100 “preservation partners” offering over 200 events, including guided walking tours, lectures, storytelling, open houses and more at various sites, including in Buckhead. Free. Info:


Wednesday, March 11, 9:30 a.m.-noon Carol Brooks and Pat Price of the North Fulton Masters Gardner’s will discuss “Shade and Shade Gardening.” Free. North Shallowford Annex, 4470 North Shallowford Road, Dunwody. Info:


March 11, 6-8 p.m. The Sandy Springs Education Force hosts its 10th Annual STEAM Showcase, a handson technology and arts exhibition. Free. North Springs Charter High School, 7447 Roswell Road, Sandy Springs. Info:

Sunday, March 15, 6 p.m. 20th anniversary concert with pianist Roberto Plano performing works from Ottorino Respigh, Frédéric Chopin, Franz Liszt, Heitor Villa Lobos, Alberto Ginastera and George Gershwin. Tickets: 10-$25, Studio Theatre at The Sandy Springs Performing Arts Center, 1 Galambos Way, Sandy Springs. Info:


Tuesday, March 10, 6-7 p.m. The author of “The Temple Bombing,” “The Underdogs” and other nonfiction books and distinguished writer-in-residence at Agnes Scott College speakers in a presentation sponsored by the Friends of the Northside Branch Library. Carl E. Sanders Family YMCA, 1160 Moores Mill Road, Buckhead. Info: northside.branch@fultoncountyga. gov.


Monday, March 30, 7-8 p.m. Jennifer Renee Blevins’s debut memoir about her personal and family experiences in a fat-phobic world and critiquing the “obe-

sity epidemic.” Oglethorpe University Museum of Art, 4484 Peachtree Road, Brookhaven. Info:


Friday, March 13, 9-10:30am Rock collecting class. Free. Big Trees Preserve, 7645 Roswell Road, Sandy Springs. Info:


Saturday, March 7, from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. Discover the best deals and sell your unwanted items at the Brookhaven Parks and Recreation Department’s annual Community Yard Sale. Free to Attend. Tables to Sell: $20 or $30 for two tables. Briarwood Park Recreation Center, 2235 Briarwood Way, Brookhaven. Reserve a table: 404-637-0512 or


Through Wednesday, April 15 The Community Assistance Center, serving Dunwoody and Sandy Springs, offers free tax return preparation and filing to moderate- to low-income households earning up to $55,000 in 2019. For an appointment please email or call (770) 552-4889 ext. 241.

32 | Education ■

Teaching historical photography at Lovett BY HANNAH GRECO


Karey Walter has been teaching both analog and digital photography at the Lovett School for 24 years. Walter’s work is unique because she is teaching in ways that have been forgotten by many: historical photo printmaking. While many schools have moved to digital photography and teach only Photoshop or other finishing software elements, Walter’s students learn black-and-white film photography, printmaking with ultraviolet light, daguerreotype and other historical methods of printing photography.


Easter Services

Holy Week

Palm Sunday

9:15am Sunday School 10:30am Worship

Maundy Thursday

7:00pm Communion Service

Good Friday

7:00pm Tenebrae Service

Easter Sunday

Northwest Presbyterian Church

9:15am Sunday School 10:30am Easter Celebration 11:45pm Easter Egg Hunt

4300 Northside Drive Drive,NW, NW 30327

Childcare Provided.

404-237-5539 

Everyone Welcome!

Easter Sunday April 12, 2020

6:45 AM

Outdoor, sunrise worship with Communion

8:45 AM

10:55 AM

Traditional worship Traditional worship with choir, brass, with choir, brass, and Communion and Communion

ALL are welcome!

4400 Peachtree Dunwoody Rd Atlanta, GA 30342 | 404.261.3121

Easter at Misty Creek Palm Sunday

April 5 - 10:30am in the Stone Chapel

Good Friday

April 10 - 7pm Service in the Stone Chapel

Community Easter Sunrise (Easter message: Reverend David Shivers)

April 12 - 6:30am Arlington Memorial Park Sandy Springs

Easter Services

9am & 10:30am at the Stone Chapel with a dramatic presentation

March & April Sermon Series: Resurrection Stories

590 Mt. Vernon Hwy NE, Sandy Springs GA 30328 w w w.mist

Lovett School senior Kendall Greene, left, and fine art photography instructor Karey Walter pose in front of their works selected for Manifest Gallery’s 10th annual exhibit “TAPPED: Artists and Their Professors,” a showcase of works by current and former teacher/artist pairs in Cincinnati, Ohio.


Walter also helps her students enter their photographs in competitions. In January, Walter and Lovett senior Kendall Greene displayed their works at Manifest Gallery in Cincinnati, Ohio, in the 10th annual exhibit “TAPPED: Artists and Their Professors,” a showcase of works by current and former teacher/artist pairs. “The relationship between artists and their current or former instructors can be a powerful one,” an excerpt from Manifest Gallery’s website reads. “All of us who have been students carry forward our teachers’ legacy in one form or another.” “I was more than excited to see that my months of shooting with a medium-format film camera, processing rolls of color negative film by hand, editing and scanning had paid off,” Kendall said of her work being displayed at Manifest. “I am so lucky to be learning from Ms. Walter and learning the fundamental skills of photography.” Q: How did you get started with photography? A: My journey in photography started with my love of horses as a 12-year-old attending summer camp. I would photograph with disposable cameras and I become fascinated with capturing my life experiences. While in high school, I had the opportunity to learn the darkroom process with black-and-white film. Studying the arts in high school led me to explore the arts in college and eventually receiving my master of fine arts from the University of Utah. Q: How did you become the instructor of fine art photography at Lovett? A: After graduate school, I returned to the South and was unclear about my goals as a photographer. I decided to hike the Appalachian trail with my dog to discover myself. Along the way, I met another photographer who informed me of a job opportunity teaching photography at the Lovett School. My trail experience was at a time before cellphones, so I hiked to the Nantahala Outdoor Center to use a payphone and called Lovett. They wanted me to come to Atlanta for an interview, so I left the trail and landed the job. Twenty-four years later, I am grateful to be educating students and exploring many techniques in the photographic arts with generous support in the arts at Lovett. Q: What inspired you to begin teaching students about historical methods of photography versus the more common digital photography methods? A: While in graduate school, I studied a variety of historical photo processes from the 1840s through the 1900s. In addition to historical processes, I am trained as a darkroom photographer and skilled in a variety of analog film and printing processes. Lovett is unique because we still operate a fully functional analog darkroom that allows me to educate the students in a variety of photographic processes. Twenty-first-century learners are intrigued with making and tactile materials, so the darkroom is a magical place to explore and to understand the complexities of photography. We also introduce the students to digital photography and learning Adobe editing, but being behind a computer all day does not have the same experience as the analog process. Q: What is next for you and your students? A: My advanced photography students are studying a photography project called PhotoArk, created by Joel Sartore, a photographer for National Geographic. The PhotoArk’s imagery is a documentary series highlighting animals and where they currently stand with extinction. We are traveling on an overnight photo retreat to the White Oak Conservation Center in Yulee, Florida, to photograph a variety of animals and research the sustainability efforts of this organization. White Oak researches and breeds several animals such as rhinos, okapi, zebras, cheetahs, giraffes and Pere David’s deer. Offering experiential learning gives the students a real-life documentary photoshoot, which allows them an interactive experience while photographing on location.

Education | 33

MARCH 2020 ■


very year, the Professional Association of Georgia Educators Foundation, known as the PAGE Foundation, identifies top students at public and private high schools across Georgia. The foundation says its Student Teacher Achievement Recognition program, or STAR student and teacher honors, has highlighted the achievements of more than 25,000 students since it started in 1958. The program identifies high school seniors who post the highest SAT scores for their schools and rank among the top 10 percent or top 10 students in their class in grade-point average. Each STAR student then chooses her or his STAR teacher. Once school winners are selected, regional STAR students and teachers are chosen to compete for the state title. Here are STAR students and teachers for high schools located in Reporter Newspaper communities. Atlanta International School

Maanit Madan Star Student

Brandon Hall

Catalina Ghercioiu Star Teacher

Chih-Chun (Vivian) Lin Star Student

The Galloway School

Nicholas Hungria Star Student

Matthew Keagle Star Student

Marist School

Charles Callahan Star Student

Ethan Shi Star Student

Nicole Chapman Star Teacher

Melody Cannon Star Teacher

Eliza Bruno Star Student

Holly Isserstedt Star Teacher

Manny Yepes Star Student

Erica Hiers Star Teacher

John Gresens Star Teacher

Ricardo Ruiz Star Student

Rod Schopke Star Teacher

Jenny Chen Star Student

Susan Wingate Star Teacher

Pace Academy

Ezra Midkiff Star Student

Aidan Gannon Star Student

Grady Stevens Star Teacher

St. Pius X Catholic High School

DeAndre Johnson Star Student

Riverwood International Charter School

Ann Graham Star Teacher

The Lovett School

Amanda Thornhill Star Teacher

North Springs High School

Yaron Bernstein Star Student

Justin Heo Star Student

North Atlanta High School

Amy Choi Star Teacher

Amber Player Star Teacher

Dunwoody High School

Holy Spirit Preparatory School

Mount Vernon School

Jose Gregory Star Teacher

Kimberly Kassis Star Student

Chamblee Charter High School

Holy Innocents’ Episcopal School

Cheryl Despathy Star Teacher

Atlanta Girls’ School

Laura Romero-Mondragon Star Teacher

Daniel Buckley Star Student

The Weber School

Caroline Schneider Star Student

Olivia Rocamora Star Teacher

Maria Kepler Star Teacher

Margherita Ceccagnoli Star Student

The Westminster Schools

Anup Bottu Star Student

Claire Chen Star Student

Laura Drewicz Ewing Star Teacher

Carrie Stockard Star Teacher

34 | ■

Horse Lovers Summer Camp Chastain Horse Park - convenient Buckhead location! Boys and girls ages 4-8 – Mon-Fri 8am-1pm Many weeks to choose from during Summer 2020 Camp activities for our younger riders include horsemanship instruction (grooming, safety and more), riding lessons, crafts and games! Contact us at (404) 252-4244 ext.1001 or More information regarding summer schedule dates and registration form can be found at, select Riding Services, then select Summer Camp!

Play your part!


on sale now!

REGISTER TODAY! 404.733.4700 12 8 0 PE ACH T REE S T NE , AT L A N TA GA 3 0 3 0 9

Creative Arts, Ages 5 & 6

Performing Arts, Ages 7-10





After-care available. Satellite locations: Alpharetta Arts Center • The Galloway School Kennesaw State University • Lovett School The Museum School • Oglethorpe University First Presbyterian Church of Atlanta Tapestry Public Charter School

Visual Arts, Ages 7-10

Studio Arts, Ages 11-14

Register Today! Visit or call 770.394.3447 for more info 404-252-4244 ext.1001

MARCH 2020

| 35

discounted rates available

Until April 30th

camp dates and locations INTOWN: June 1 – June 19, 2020

SANDY SPRINGS: June 22 – July 31, 2020

NORTH FULTON: July 6 – July 24, 2020

Mary Lin Elementary School 586 Candler Park Dr. NE Atlanta, GA 30307

The Weber School 6751 Roswell Rd. Sandy Springs, GA 30328

The Standard Club 6230 Abbotts Bridge Rd. Johns Creek, GA 30097

JUNE 8 – AUG 7, 2020

AGES 5 – 17

Sports | Music Technology & Production Fun & Games | SAT/ACT Prep College Essay Start-Up | After Camp Care

36 | ■



Morning Supervision Swim Lessons Transportation

Preschool Camp (2s–PK), Adventure Camp (K–6th) and CIT (7th–8th) • Returning favorites include Art, Circus Camp, Drone Camp, Drama, Sports, Coding, Musical Theater and more • Weekly themes for Preschool include special visits from Horses, Puppets and more!

• Before and After Care available • Lunches available for purchase • Multi-Week discount • Half Day or Full Day programs

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June 1–26 Monday–Friday 7:30 AM–4 PM Limited Offerings July 27–31

4301 Northside Parkway NW | Atlanta, Georgia 30327 404-231-8117 |

MARCH 2020

| 37



Things are heating up outside—and inside—the studio. This summer, we’ll explore dance from ballet and tap to jazz and hip hop. Plus, arts, crafts and dance-themed games. Camps run from June through July for dancers of all ages and skill levels. Come dance with us! Enroll today at THE EXCHANGE AT HAMMOND 5962 Roswell Road, Sandy Springs, GA 30328 ELITESTUDIOSATL.COM 404.500.1738 © 2020 Elite Studios, LLC

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May 26–July 31

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38 | Education ■


DeKalb County Board of Education member Stan Jester has announced he will not seek re-election for the District 1 seat. Andrew Ziffer of Dunwoody previously announced a challenge to Jester for the seat and is now running unopposed. Ziffer has said his agenda includes creating an atmosphere of collaboration between school officials and the community rather than one of division. “I know there are many people who are frustrated and feel ignored by the Board of Education and DeKalb Schools,” Ziffer said. “I will continue to focus my campaign on delivering a positive message, reaching out to the different neighborhoods and communities in District 1 to hear their thoughts.” The seat represents parts of Dunwoody, Chamblee, Brookhaven and Doraville. The election is May 19. “I’m tired and I’m getting spread pretty thin,” Jester said. “I don’t want my obligations outside of work to affect my ability to prepare for board meetings effectively.” Jester was first elected to the school board in 2014. In November, Jester said he was planning to run for a third term. He has been outspoken and critical of former Superintendent R. Stephen Green and his administration on issues ranging from spending to redistricting. “I think it’s important to recognize Stan Jester’s service to our community for the last 6 years,” Ziffer said. “He shined a light on many issues and helped many families.”


Two North Springs Charter High School students have been named Governor’s Honors Program semi-finalists. Grace Kirschner, junior, has been nominated for communicative arts and Matthew Szabo, sophomore, has been nominated for theatre. Both candidates will now have a final state-level interview in hopes to be selected as a finalist. SPECIAL If selected, Kirschner and Szabo From left, Grace Kirschner and Matthew Szabo. will spend four weeks this summer at Berry College in Berry for the GHP Summer Intensive program. The GHP is a residential summer program for gifted and talented high school students who will be rising juniors and seniors during the program, according to the Governor’s Office of Student Achievement. The program is designed to provide students with academic, cultural, and social enrichment necessary to become the next generation of global critical thinkers, innovators and leaders, according to GOSA’s website.


A Riverwood International Charter Scool senior Neha Devineni has been named one of Georgia’s top two youth volunteers of 2020 by the Prudential Spirit of Community Awards. In 2017, Neha founded the nonprofit ASA that now encompasses more than 100 young people in several states and overseas who are working to improve the lives of children in need, particularly in the areas of nutrition, sanitation and education. On a trip to India, Neha saw unimaginable poverty. “What I witnessed was heartbreaking,” Neha said in a press release. “Children younger than me were going to work in fields and factories and living in makeshift tents on the sides of the street.” As a state honoree of the Prudential award, Neha will receive $1,000, an engraved silver medallion and an allSPECIAL Riverwood International expense-paid trip in early May to Washington, D.C., where Charter School senior she will join the top two honorees from each of the other Neha Devineni. states for four days of national recognition events. During the trip, 10 students will be named America’s top youth volunteers of 2020. The award, now in its 25th year, is conducted by Prudential Financial in partnership with the National Association of Secondary School Principals. Prudential is a nationwide program that honors young people for outstanding acts of volunteerism.


For the fifth time in six years, a team from Saint Jude the Apostle Catholic School in Sandy Springs has won the Future City Regional Competition and represented the state in the National Championship in Washington, D.C., according to a press release. Future City is an engineering education program and tasks students with researching, designing and building a city to showcase their solution to a citywide sustainability issue. This year’s theme, “Clean Water: Tap into Tomorrow,” challenged the students to identify a threat to their city’s water source and design a resilient system to maintain a reliable supply of clean drinking water. The city would exist at least 100 years in the future, and the engineering solutions had to be innovative, futuristic and scientifically plausible, the release said. At the competition, teams presented their vision of the future through a virtual city design using “SimCity” video game software, a 1500-word essay, a scale model of their city built with recycled materials and a short oral presentation to a panel of STEM professionals. There was a spending limit of $100 to complete the task. Saint Jude’s team, named Team SMART Springs (an acronym for Safe MetropolisActive Resilient Thriving), consists of sixth-graders Adam Doulby, Anna Duffy, Barbara Guaderrama, Robbie Mahan, Ryan Quinnelly, Josh Tippen and eighth-grader Will Mahan. The students were guided by the faculty STEM advisor, Eleonora Straub, and parent coach, Banesa Guaderrama. In addition to placing first in the region, Team SMART Springs also won Best Research Essay, Best Virtual City, Accessible City Award and a special award presented by NCEES for Best Land Surveying Practices, the release said.

MARCH 2020

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