MAY 2020 - Brookhaven Reporter

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MAY 2020 • VOL. 12 — NO. 5

Brookhaven Reporter TO OUR READERS

This May issue of the Reporter is a digital-only edition. We made the decision not to produce the printed publication with the health and safety of our staff and suppliers foremost in mind. The Reporter will return to print in June, so look for your copy as usual next month.

Perimeter Business ► The big decision of

pandemic reopenings

► Working from home

shows positives PAGE 5-8

Winners of ‘Brookhaven Strong’ art contest announced


Voters Guide to June 9 primary election




Pandemic ‘victory gardens’ P12


Catching up with catchball P13

Check out our podcasts at

The Brookhaven Reporter is mail delivered to homes on selected carrier routes in ZIP 30319 For information:

City buys floodplain homes marked as permanent open space


The city has announced the winners of its “Brookhaven Strong” art contest, which elaborates its unofficial pandemic motto. Above is Terry Combahee’s firstplace work in the 19+ age category. For more winners, see story, p. 4. ►

Sole finalist for DeKalb superintendent is named BY RYAN KOLAKOWSKI The DeKalb County Board of Education has narrowed its superintendent search down to a sole finalist, bringing a monthslong search for new leadership to a close. Rudolph “Rudy” Crew, president of Medgar Evers College in New York City, outlasted a field of 68 applicants to become the lone fi-

nalist, the board announced April 23. Crew, who has previous experience as chancellor of the New York City Board of Education and superintendent of MiamiDade County Public Schools, is concluding his seventh year as president of the college. If hired, the Poughkeepsie, New York native would take on his first professional role in See DEKALB on page 9

Repeated flooding from a stream in the Ashford Park neighborhood has prompted a multimillion-dollar buyout plan of 11 homeowners whose properties would become permanent open space. The city recently approved the first two buyouts at a municipal cost of $128,000 through a federal matching-fund program. During a March 24 City Council vote to approve the buyouts on South Bamby Lane off Dresden Drive, Councilmember John Park recalled a resident there crying while talking to him the flooding impacts. “This is an important landmark for those residents that have suffered through years of repetitive flood events,” said Mayor John Ernst in a press release issued later. “While we declare victory here, there are still many more that are eligible for this voluntary buyout, and we will continue to work with them to give them an option to participate in this program.” The federal Hazard Mitigation Grant Program offers money to buy properSee CITY on page 17

2 | Community ■

Scenes from Brookhaven’s pandemic life As COVID-19 cast a pall over the month of April, Brookhaven remained active in some familiar ways -- from jogging on the Peachtree Creek Greenway to dining on Buford Highway -- but with some pandemic differences, too. Social distancing was common, though some people were willing to get closer to friends, and the recommended mask-wearing in crowded public spaces was about 50-50. PHOTOS BY PHIL MOSIER

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Bottom, walkers enjoy the Greenway on April 21, with some more distant than others, and some in masks.

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Top, a worker arranges a COVID-19 testing center at Peachtree Immediate Care at 4400 Peachtree Road at Hermance Drive on April 21. Middle, the parking lot at the Northeast Plaza shopping center on Buford Highway was virtually deserted due to pandemic closures. Bottom, a jogger passes a man in a mask guiding a child.

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4 | Art & Entertainment ■

City announces winners of ‘Brookhaven Strong’ art contest BY JOHN RUCH

vention and visitors bureau.

The winners in each age category included:

The city has announced the winners



■ Ages 0-5: 1st, Amelia Kime; 2nd, Elizabeth Ueda; 3r, Bowen Alder-


man; Honorable Mention,Lily Litner.

Strong” art contest, which elab-

■ Ages 6-10: 1st, Hollis O’Neal; 2nd, Emma Bartlett; 3rd, Natalie Tan-

orates its unofficial pandemic

zola; Honorable Mention, Md. Sipar.

motto. The




■ Ages 11-14: 1st, Alexandra Parr Stephens; 2nd, Brianna Carias; 3rd,

quired to contain the hashtag “#BrookhavenStrong”


Autumn Clark; Honorable Mention, Jon Soren UyHam.


■ Ages 15-18: 1st, Camille Thorpe; 2nd, Abigail Sowell; 3rd, Kayla Ack-

have a theme that was “patriot-

er; Honorable Mention, Kathryn Hood.

ic, uplifting, and/or feature[s] a

■ Ages 19+: 1st, Terry Combahee; 2nd, Ken Ueda; 3rd, Lola Okunola;

tribute for first responders, doc-

Honorable Mention, Vince Frankowski.

tors, nurses or anyone in the medical field, or those providing

To view all of the winning and honorable mention works, see the

crucial services, such as food de-

city’s website at

livery or sanitation.”

The contest judges included: Kelly Marsh of the Brookhaven Arts Fes-

The contest follows an April 2 virtual sing-along of the national





Lola Okunola’s third-place work in the 19+ age category.

tival and Brookhaven Arts Advisory Committee; Elizabeth Peterson Jennings, director of the Oglethorpe University Art Museum and a member of the arts advisory committee; Erin Warner, an art instructor at Mont-

“Brookhaven Strong,” hosted by the city. In another arts-themed response, the city commissioned a mural reading “We Are All Together” on a Peachtree Road wall. For the art contest, a panel of judges chose winners in five age categories, who will receive restaurant gift cards provided by Explore Brookhaven, the city’s con-

gomery Elementary School; Anne Irwin of Anne Irwin Fine Art and an arts advisory committee member; Victoria Sasine, an art instructor at Ashford Park Elementary School; and Katherine Watters, STEM coach at Our Lady of the Assumption Catholic School.

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MAY 2020

Perimeter Business | 5

Perimeter Business

Focusing on business in the Reporter Newspapers communities

Spring 2020 | Pandemic Impacts Businesses

Businesses ride the closing and reopening roller coaster BY JOHN RUCH

Shop, who has been cutting hair in Dunwoody for 42 years, 10 of them in the current 5064 Nandina Lane location. He and The coronavirus pandemic has been a barber Ron Whitehead served a slate of 20 roller coaster of rough decisions for many customers on the busy day, including 32local businesses, whose owners went from year client Jeff Raasch, who was getting facing shutdown orders in mid-March to that trim. figuring out whether and how to reopen in In accordance with new state safety late April. rules and suggestions, Smith wore a face Gov. Brian Kemp issued a surprise order mask while working, and served only one allowing the reopening on April 24 or 27 of customer at a time. The shop exceeded at certain businesses that had been shuttered least of the state suggestions; instead of due to close-quarters service and the likelispacing customers 6 feet apart in the waithood of COVID-19 transmission in them. At ing area, they took a number at the door press time, his statewide shelter-in-place orand were allowed in only one at a time afder was set to expire April 30, and bars and ter getting a call. The shop skipped some nightclubs remained closed. other suggestions, including that customKemp’s order was intensely controverers also wear masks and that barbers wear sial, seen by many medical experts -- ingloves and face shields. cluding the White House advisors -- as Plenty of customers were eager to show premature and dangerous, and by some up for a cut or trim. Among was Raasch, PHIL MOSIER owners and customers as a reasonable rewho said he simply needed a haircut. Ernie Smith, owner of Ernie’s Barber Shop in Dunwoody Village, gives a turn to economic life. Some local businessRaasch said he was used to the world trim to 32-year customer Jeff Raasch on April 24, the first day the business es allowed to reopen ventured into the new he grew up in during the 1960s and ’70s, was allowed to reopen under Gov. Brian Kemp’s controversial order. world of pandemic business, while many when workers stayed home when they others remained closed pending more testwere sick and others covered for them. He ing. said the pandemic disruption has been a “bizarre experience” and that “you can’t always live your life in fear of what might happen or nothing will be accomplished.” A barber returns to work He said he felt safe with Smith’s measures and suggested the pandemic can be defeated Ernie Smith expertly clipped a customer’s bangs on the afternoon of April 24, a month afwith good manners. ter coronavirus pandemic closure orders cut into his Dunwoody Village business. “I am very thankful for our loyal clientele,” said Smith, the owner of Ernie’s Barber Continued on page 6

Doing ‘essential’ business is essentially challenging BY JOHN RUCH

The shelter-in-place orders that had Georgia residents holing up through at least April 30 also gave them plenty of opportunities to patronize shops for food, booze, medicine and other “essential” services. But for workers and owners in pandemic conditions, doing “essential” business was essentially challenging. From pharmacies to construction sites, from pizza shops to liquor stores, businesses are forced to find new ways of doing nearly everything. Some deal with a crush of new customers; others face the disappearance of regulars. Workers aim to cut the coronavirus risk through precautions — or may be too scared to work at all. Legal verbiage like “essential,” “critical” or “minimum basic operations” doesn’t make any of them immune from the pandemic’s impact on every facet of life. The following are how some local businesses are dealing with it.

The pizza place

The ban on dine-in restaurant business

forced many to scramble to convert to takeout service. The local pizza place has the advantage of already being built around takeout and delivery. But it’s not immune from the economic ravages. Napoli New York Pizza Italian Kitchen & Catering operates at 276 Hammond Drive in Sandy Springs, along the oncebusy Roswell Road spine of the city. “We’re struggling like everybody else who managed to stay open, I assume, just because daytime — you see what rush hour is like now,” says owner Kenan Atli. “… It’s a ghost town… Rush hour, you can just, like, dance around in the middle of Roswell Road.” Nights used to be the slow time for Napoli, but now that home-delivery business is what the shop relies on, said Atli. “Obviously, we’ve lost all of our catering business,” he added. But the shop remains fully staffed — only now with the table server running the cash register and the delivery driver wearing a mask and gloves. “I just took this place over a few months ago,” said Atli. But the business itself is one

Top, a Choate Construction publicity image of work on the Hyatt House hotel on Peachtree-Dunwoody Road in the Medical Center area of Sandy Springs.

of those that has been there seemingly forever — Atli says the cook has worked there since 2000 and the pizza oven has been blazing since 1972. “We’re still around,” he said. “We’re still opening the doors, making sure the employees get paid.


The pharmacy

A pharmacy is a good business to be in during a pandemic. Getting items on shelves and safely into the hands of cusContinued on page 8

6 | Perimeter Business ■

Businesses ride the closing and reopening roller coaster Continued from page 5 “It’s [a] simple, common-sense approach to the situation!” said Raasch. “As I read once in a book written by Robert Fulghum, everything we need to know in life we first learned in kindergarten. Just be nice to each other! Respect one another! Play fair! Put things back where you found them! Wash your hands before you eat! Clean up your own mess! And most importantly, when we go out into the world, or even just cross the street, make sure we stick together and look out for each other!” Another reopening day customer was Terry Nall, a former member of the City Council and recently an unsuccessful candidate for mayor. Nall said in a text message that he felt “very safe. Ernie and Ron went beyond the guidelines by allowing inside only the current customer in the chair. They have enough waiting area to social distance, too, but opted to be stricter about the distancing.” Nall said he wasn’t a fan of the shutdowns in the first place. “I’m a ‘guardrails and guidelines’ leader instead of [a supporter of] outright closures,” said Nall. “The ‘guardrails and guidelines’ approach is much more rational, proportional and unemotional than responding with government closures. Business owners then have the choice of complying or closing and provid[ing] safe options for customers to achieve the same result of ‘flattening the curve.’ Government does a terrible job of picking winners and losers via closure orders.”

Restaurants wait

Battle & Brew, a gaming restaurant in Sandy Springs, and NFA Burger, a new restaurant in Dunwoody, are surely eager to get back in normal business while they eke through the pandemic on takeout service. So is Jason Sheetz, owner of the Sandy Springs restaurants Hammocks Trading Company and Under the Cork Tree as well as the Woodstock steakhouse Prime 120. But all are skeptical about Kemp’s timetable. Battle & Brew co-owner Soel Tran said management is still discussing the reopening possibility internally, but expressed safety and financial concerns. “While we would love to reopen fully to the public and hang out with all of our geek and gaming friends again, we have serious reservations on the feasibility/safety of the restrictions being lifted so soon,” said Tran in an email. And social distancing rules don’t fit with the gaming-oriented business model, meaning Battle & Brew could be in a “death limbo spot” if it reopened with full expenses but only a limited ability to make money. “It feels like a really dangerous gamble right now for people and businesses alike,” Tran said. NFA Burger owner Billy Kramer said he isn’t changing his pandemic mode of operations “until I feel it is safe for me, my family and staff. “I just got off the phone with a doctor who has spent the last month on the front lines and asked him the following ques-

tion: ‘Will you take your family out for dinner next week?’ His answer was an emphatic no,” Kramer added. “If a business or restaurant wants to reopen or expand their current operations, I have nothing against them and hope for the best,” said Kramer. “However, my family and I won’t be participating.” Sheetz says he closed his Sandy Springs restaurants on March 14 for safety reasons and isn’t sure how to rethink that plan be-

downs. Sheetz said that is the last business he would plan to reopen. “It’s almost more important for us to kind of finish the good work that the food pantry’s doing before we replace it with a business,” he said. “…A week or two’s not going to make the difference to us at this point. A week or two keeping the food pantry open will make a big difference to a lot of people.” Sheetz sounded a note of hope about figuring a way out of the shutdowns. “I think it’s as controversial a topic as exists. It’s beyond Republican and Democrat,” he said. “It’s just, do you open or do you not open? Is it safety or is it a business? Is it the economy or is it health? And it’s both. It’s everything. And just because we don’t have the answer right now doesn’t mean we won’t figure it out.”

Bowling and movies

Local operators of bowling alleys and a movie theater weren’t ready to reopen immediately, either. Brandt Gully, owner of the independent The SPECIAL Springs Cinema & Taphouse Justin Amick at the Painted Pin. theater in Sandy Springs, said he was “just kind of stunned and not fore Kemp issues specific rules. sure what to make of it” and that “it doesn’t “We certainly aren’t going to barrel forfeel right” to reopen. It also doesn’t make ward in trying to have all guns blazing by sense in the most basic way, Gully said: that time because, you know, we just won’t “One of the issues, and it’s not the main isbe ready,” Sheetz said in a phone interview. sue, but we don’t have content. There are “…It’s the safety of the employees and the no new movies.” guests. … We want to make sure that everyJustin Amick, president and CEO of the one is protected from everybody. And those company that operates Buckhead’s Painted rules are just very unclear. They haven’t Pin and the Westside’s Painted Duck highbeen stated.” end bowling parlors, also expressed sur“Are we going to fill up the dining room? prise and concern. “Although I couldn’t be Absolutely not,” he added. “Are there a few happier to have bowling solidified as one people who are going to want to come out of life’s most essential needs, I’m surprised and get out, yes. Is it the smart thing to do? by the accelerated timeline to be able to reI don’t know.” open our doors to the public,” he said. Even if safety was worked out, Sheetz Justin Amick elaborated on the consaid, the finances of running a restaurant cerns in a joint statement with his father still have to work. He noted that dining-in Bob Amick, owner of the Concentric Resbusinesses have a wide range of models, taurants group, which includes TWO Urfrom fast food to high-end, and require cerban Licks, Bully Boy and Parish. tain volumes of customers to pay the bills. “We are scared to death about the new Pandemic rules could affect that and take norms, strict limitations and guidelines long planning from restaurant owners. that will make it impossible to be financialThe sudden prevalence of takeout and ly viable,” the Amicks said. “A rushed redelivery is a new part of the financial equaopening could be the nail in the coffin for tion. “I know some restaurants that have many companies. We won’t risk the safety done real well with takeout. I know others of our staff, families and patrons, as their who think it’s a waste of time,” he said. well-being is of the utmost importance.” Sheetz said that, ironically, he and his “It honestly — it really puts us in a partners intended to reopen Hammocks tough position,” said Gully, the theater for takeout service as soon as this weekend owner, about Kemp’s announcement. “I’m after weeks of planning how to reconfigsure there’s intent there for the governure the business. “Now we’re pumping the ment to throw us a lifeline here and allow brakes on that, going, ‘Hold on,’” he said. us to reopen. But truthfully, I don’t really Sheetz’s other Sandy Springs restaulike the position I’m in. I closed before I was rant, Under the Cork Tree, has been entirerequired to close for the same reason I likely converted into the temporary Solidarity ly won’t open when I’m allowed to open.” Food Pantry, especially to serve restaurant “Obviously, I have some significant conworkers who lost their jobs in the shut-

cern over opening, and I think for certain we wouldn’t be opening on Monday,” said Gully, who closed the doors of his theater on March 17. Gully said that Hollywood studios are not planning to release major films for another eight to 10 weeks. He expected a reopening of theaters no earlier than midJune. Opening even earlier would mean finding other types of movies to screen, raising one of many financial viability questions. “We can’t just open. You have to have something to show,” he said. The unknown details of Kemp’s reopening order would matter a lot. Gully noted such factors as what level of occupancy the theaters could have, what safety rules would be required, and whether there would be any additional insurance liability. Meanwhile, like many business owners, Gully is using some of the idle goods and services for charity — selling beer growlers and giant bags of popcorn at curbside to benefit a children’s cancer organization.

Weighing the reopening odds

A hair stylist was among those worried about how to return to business and weighing their odds. Marla Whitmer, a stylist of 10 years’ experience who lives in Sandy Springs, will head back to work on Friday at a Salon Lofts location in Roswell. Not because she feels protected against the coronavirus. It’s that the salon is going to resume charging her and the other stylists rent on their spaces. Does she feel safe? “No. I don’t,” she said. “I think it’s too early.” For Whitmer, it’s not the first time the financial pressures of the pandemic crisis have forced her to compromise on safety since the salon closed a month ago. She said she recently began quietly making house calls for select clients “because I thought the unemployment would kick in a little bit quicker than it did. So I kind of had no other choice, really.” “I felt OK,” she said of the risks of going to clients’ homes. “I would pick and choose a few that I would allow” and made sure there weren’t “multiple people in a small room,” she said. Returning to the salon is a different story, she said, especially as Georgia’s COVID-19 reports continue to rise. She said she wishes the salon would wait two more weeks to reopen. Many of her clients have no such qualms. “Surprisingly, my phone, the day that Gov. Kemp announced that [reopening order], I was getting calls, texts, emails about scheduling immediately,” Whitmer said with a low laugh. Whitmer questioned whether some of the state-required safety items will be available in the pandemic market demands. And she said she thinks it’s “a little crazy that they don’t provide certain things if that’s what they want us to do. Because how do you go a month without pay and then have to invest in infrared thermometers and products and all that stuff?”

MAY 2020

Perimeter Business | 7

Many in Perimeter Center eager to keep working from home, survey says BY JOHN RUCH

The pandemic’s forced experiment in teleworking has many Perimeter Center employees eager to keep doing it at least part-time, according to early results of a survey by the Perimeter Community Improvement Districts. “This is, overall, a strange time,” but also “an opportunity in some ways,” said Johann Weber, manager of the PCIDs’ Perimeter Connects alternative commuting program, during the organization’s quarterly project update meeting held virtually on April 29. Weber helps local companies come up with commuting programs for their employees. The survey showed workers realizing many positives -- as well as some downsides -of working from home, said Weber. Even with some businesses returning to operations while the pandemic continues, there are also lessons for how teleworking and planning can help with safety requirements like social distancing, he said. The results are preliminary because the survey is still open. Weber said there were 405 responses so far, many from Cox companies, but with more than 50 employers represented. Respondents included executives, managers and workers, he said. Weber said employers should work now on formalizing a telework policy, including ways to track performance and health effects on employees and helping them to limit their virtual workdays. The PCIDs offers free help in drafting such policies through In Buckhead, the nonprofit Livable Buckhead offers similar assistance through During the pandemic, employers also should use part-time teleworking as a way to increase social distancing in the workplace, along with such measures as staggered departure and arrival times for employees, Weber said. He said the pandemic may have long-term effects on workplace design, reversing a trend toward higher-density spaces with workers clustered together.

Survey results so far

The survey found that 82.7% of respondents were now working from home five or more days a week, a result that Weber said would have sounded “crazy” at the start of the year. Prior to the pandemic, respondents said, only 4% worked from home that of-

ten, though 38% already did so one to two days a week. Another 19% had never worked from home. “Obviously, there are a lot of challenges, to put it moderately… but this is pretty spectacular,” Weber said of the teleworking. And many respondents like the experience, with 82% wanting to continue working from home one or more days a week, and 50% a majority of the week, according to Weber. Broken down further, a bit of 30% of respondents wanted to work from home one or two days a week, and a similar percenter wanted to work from home three or four days. A bit over 15% wanted to work from home five or more days a week. More money and time and less stress were among the reasons respondents liked working from home. Only 2% reported no positives from the experience. The top choice among positives was saving money by not commuting, chosen by 66.4% of respondents. A little over half cited decreased stress from the lack of a commute. Other physical and psychological health benefits included getting more sleep and spending more time with family and friends (both chosen by 43.2% of respondents) and increased exercise and healthier eating (30.6% of respondents). On the work side, 33.6% of respondents felt they were more productive when working from home, while 7.9% felt less productive. The negatives were less pronounced but significant. Weber said they centerd on the “massive meshing of work and home life, and those are things that aren’t always conducive to each other,” where distractions can range from “startled dogs” to “moody teenagers.” About 28% of respondents said their home workspace isn’t the same quality, while 27.2% citied a lack of proper equipment and 20.7% reported having internet access issues. Frequent distractions at home were cited by 17.5% of respondents; 16.8% said it’s difficult to stay motivated, and 14.3% felt lonely. Of the respondents, 22.7% said they have trouble unplugging from work. With the pandemic as a backdrop, 33.8% of respondents said they were anxious about it and 22.7% said they were worried about their job or the health of their company.

8 | Perimeter Business Continued from page 5 tomers are the new challenges. At Tuxedo Pharmacy & Gifts, an independent store at 164 West Wiecua Road in Buckhead, pharmacist Dawn Sasine says there have been a lot of new customers due to neighborhood and social media buzz. “The community has definitely been rallying for small businesses,” she said. “…I think people feel more comfortable coming here than maybe a big chain or a grocery where they do have to go inside.” The biggest challenge, she said, is finding suppliers to keep up the inventory. “Everything from the essentials — wipes, gloves, masks, etcetera — to the things that are keeping people home and occupied, [like] puzzles,” she said. Yes, the “gifts” side of the business is booming, too, with what Sasine says is “tremendous” demand for puzzles and games. The pharmacy has ordered “hundreds and hundreds” of puzzles to refill the stock, she said. The demand has the pharmacy staffed at normal levels, but working in a new world where customers come for curbside pickup only. “We’re just running around shopping for them,” Sasine said. Also new in the pandemic era are demonstrations of local support. “We are overwhelmed and touched by the support of small businesses and the community,” said Sasine, describing people as dropping by to offer food, cards, positive comments “and just love.” ■

The liquor store

If a pandemic makes you want to throw back a few, you’re not alone — beer, wine and liquor stores have stayed open throughout the various shutdown and shelter orders. But you might want to raise a glass to the folks going through the challenge of selling the stuff at places like Cambridge Bottle Shop in Brookhaven’s Cambridge Square shopping center at 2036 Johnson Ferry Road. “Business is OK, but we have to close early,” said manager Kenny Chaudhri. “There is an employee issue. Nobody wants to work.” The staff members, he said, are worried about catching COVID-19 in the aisles. “They’re scared. They don’t want to come,” he said. Chaudhri said he and his wife are running the store for now, letting customers in one at a time, or offering curbside pickup. “It’s hard,” he said. “You know, it’s hard, not like normal times. This is a bad time.”

The construction crews

While doctors and nurses battle COVID-19 in the hospitals of Sandy Springs’ Medical Center area, work continues virtually next door on a new Hyatt House hotel. Overseen by the Sandy Springs-based national firm Choate Construction, it’s just one of scores of construction projects forging ahead in the pandemic, either because outdoor work is exempt from restrictions or the work is considered “critical” to public interests. But doing that work in the pandemic

era takes many special steps — even for an industry used to following safety rules. “Our industry by its nature — we are safety-conscious more than a lot of industries,” said Michael Hampton, Choate’s chief administrative officer. “As an industry, it’s on our mind constantly.” Now safety includes social distancing, masks, face Top, Tuxedo Pharmacy & Gifts. (Google Maps) shields, gallons of Above, Napoli New York Pizza Italian hand sanitizer, temKitchen & Catering. (Google Maps) perature checks for all workers, a ban on where workers may have to handle tasks indoor meetings. Even the roll call is done as a team, Hampton acknowledged that without the customary passing around of might not be 100%, either. a clipboard, Hampton said. “I wouldn’t say if I walked on any site “I keep seeing creative ways of how that I couldn’t find two workers possibly in guys… are setting up wash stations on projclose proximity, but in a lot of these situaects where they don’t even have running tions they’re family members,” he said. water yet,” he said. In figuring out new ways of doing busi“So we’re doing everything we can to ness during the pandemic, Hampton said, make that sure that, while our essential contractors are all in it together. business continues, that there’s no risk to “And one of the nicer byproducts of this the workers on site,” he said. is the collaboration that’s happening beThat also means projects may not be at tween contractors because, you know, this “100% efficiency,” he said, but the compaisn’t a competitive advantage,” he said. “So ny aims to follow the safety guidelines, and we are sharing our best practices with our “that’s what the workers want as well.” competitors and they are likewise.” Asked about the feasibility of maintaning social distancing on construction sites


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Education | 9

MAY 2020 ■

DeKalb Board of Education names sole finalist for superintendent Continued from page 1

Georgia. “We heard from the community that it was paramount that the candidate have deep experience as an educator, an administrator and a partner to parents, teachers and students,” DeKalb school baord chairman Marshall Orson said in a press release. “We are excited to not only have found a finalist who meets these criteria, but also has more than a quarter-century of experience in leading school districts, including a strong record in heading two of the nation’s largest urban districts.” As superintendent in Miami-Dade County, Crew oversaw a district of 353,000 students. As chancellor in New York City, he worked in a district of over 1 million students. Now, he is likely to take on Georgia’s third-largest district, serving 102,000 students across 140 schools and learning

Rudolph “Rudy” Crew.


centers. “I’ve had the rare opportunity to explore a diverse career path that led me from classroom teacher to K-12 administrator and, most recently, to higher education,” Crew said in the press release. “What this experience has taught me about myself is the heart I really have for helping to shape the lives and educational outcomes of our younger students in a K-12

setting. I’m excited to get back to that important work and DeKalb is an outstanding school district where I believe my experience would be of great benefit.” Crew attended Babson College in Wellesley, Massachusetts for his undergraduate degree in education. He holds master’s and doctoral degrees in education from the University of Massachusetts. In the press release, DeKalb schools lauded Crew’s experience of progressive and innovative education policies. In Miami, Crew organized schools into districts based on student need rather than geography in an effort to improve performance, and the American Association of School Administrators named him the 2008 National Superintendent of the Year, the release said. In New York City, he helped to introduce additional learning opportuni-

ties like the Math and Science Institute, featuring after-school and Saturday programming. “The district has made tremendous strides in recent years,” Crew said. “It successfully restored its accreditation, improved its financial situation, and, most importantly, continues to elevate its academic programs and improve student outcomes.” In accordance with Georgia law, the school board must wait 14 days after naming its sole finalist before making the appointment official. The district expects Crew to sign a contract in May and succeed Ramona Tyson, who took over the superintendent role after the DeKalb Board of Education dismissed R. Stephen Green last November. Tyson is scheduled to retire June 30.

10 | Commentary

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Commentary: Lessons on what worked, and what needs to change The coronavirus pandemic has forced enormous changes on society. The Reporter asked local experts in various fields -- from arts to religion, urban planning to politics -- what lessons the pandemic has taught them about what works well in a crisis, and what needs to change. The participants included Rabbi Spike Anderson of Sandy Springs’ Temple Emanu-El synagogue; Dunwoody Mayor Lynn Deutsch; Ryan Gravel, the founder of the Atlanta BeltLine and consultant on Atlanta’s urban design plan; and Alison Hamil, who painted a pandemic mural for the city of Brookhaven.


Artists have been hit hard by the COVID-19 crisis. In an industry that was already undervalued, artists are struggling now more than ever. But there is a silver lining – society is no longer able to ignore the socio-economic problems that are being exposed by the crisis. Considered “non-essential” workers, artists have to constantly fight to prove their relevance and benefit to society. Most artists struggle to meet their basic needs because of a lack of public arts funding and an underlying belief that art should be free. Study after study shows the massive economic value of the arts, but we’ve been making that argument for years and it’s gotten us nowhere. Maybe it’s time to reevaluate some of our basic assumptions about what makes a good life. Should economic growth and accumulation of wealth always be the end goal? What about fun, beauty, and enjoyment of the present moment? Artists have a knack for helping us experience all of those things. Let’s take this opportunity to shift our values and elevate artists to the level of respect and dignity they deserve. This is our chance to rebuild the industry in a way that will allow artists to flourish. Now is a great time for institutions to invest in public art, which can unite and uplift the community while also employing artists who may otherwise be out of work. Going forward, artists need opportunities to create and display their work without having to worry

about keeping a roof over their heads. Whether through the private or public sector, artists need continued support and a safety net to get through times like these. It is time for us to take care of each other, and to say goodbye to the myth of the starving artist once and for all.


A recent hot-take from the Twittersphere is that COVID-19 will turn the tide on a decades-long movement of re-urbanization. Some people suggest that our short-term need to be physically distanced from each other will remind us why we love low-density, car-oriented sprawl. I think that’s an overreaction, of course, but it speaks to at least one underlying truth. While urban living comes with many advantages, sometimes we just want some space. When the crisis of this pandemic is behind us, I don’t think it will change whether we want to live in cities, but I do hope it will change how we live in them. I’ve written before that I’m living my dream – that my Atlanta BeltLine thesis is slowly becoming real and I’m lucky to live and work on its route. The difficulty of getting people to not use it as much, and to physically distance themselves when they do, speaks volumes about the kinds of infrastructure we need to en-


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dure crises like this. The fact that it’s so congested, even during a global pandemic, illustrates a pent-up demand for a public realm that is designed for our increasingly crowded urban life. We need to finish the BeltLine, of course, but we also need more public spaces – more and wider sidewalks and massive new regional parks where we can really get away from each other. Cities need both active and passive open spaces. They serve different purposes. Large, expansive natural parks that are not filled with sports fields, playgrounds, splash pads and other highly programmed areas are just as important because they give us a chance to get away from other people – something that is really important in times like these. Every great city has great open spaces and oftentimes, they’re what we love and remember most about our experiences there. Think of Paris without the Tuileries or New York City without Central Park. We know intuitively that investing in an infrastructure of wide open spaces will come with significant costs – but also with multiple benefits. In addition to making us stronger and more resilient, those open spaces will also make our city the kind of place we want to live. The need to physically distance ourselves from each other is essential during COVID19, but it’s also just a good metric for designing the cities we love.




MAY 2020

Commentary | 11


We have never experienced anything like coronavirus as a society. Our synagogue, like religious institutions everywhere, is made up of individuals who are increasingly experiencing real angst and fear related to their jobs, their health and that of their loved ones, and feelings of isolation. In short, the “unknown” looms more distinctly than it has for us in living memory. I believe that, in some ways, our synagogue was built for times like these. If our mission is to bring light into a darkening world (hope and goodness), and provide an avenue for spiritual development with like-minded people, now is the time when these strengths are most poignant. Temple Emanu-El has always been “high touch,” as opposed to “high-tech.” One of our first challenges was how to do both. If we could not bring our people to their Judaism, we would have to find a way to bring Judaism to our peo-

ple, wherever they were. Clearly, our millennial Rabbis were invaluable in helping us make the vital changes, as well as to acclimate our congregants as fast as possible. Our in-person daily classes now were to be conducted and attended via Zoom. Our Friday night Shabbat services, now conducted in an empty sanctuary, were to be experienced via Facebook live. Our social interactions were now “face-to-face” from the safety of our own homes. Pastoral care, which I always think is best faceto-face, was now screen-to-screen. Not surprisingly, the numbers of congregants who attend through these new mediums has doubled, and in some cases, tripled. Ample time plus acute need has led to increased engagement. A saving grace has been the mobilization of groups of congregants who make daily calls to others in our congregation. This type of outreach ensures that no one falls through the cracks and we can be there to help them if they need food or medicine. As important, these daily

phone calls bring connection, even if it is with congregants whom they do not (yet) know. There is a Hebrew expression attributed to the prime minister of Israel, Golda Meir, as she led her country against enemies that pressed its borders: “Ayn Brayra,” which translates as, “There is no choice.” Religion (paired with science) is what will get us through this plague. It offers hope, connection, and the understanding that we are all part of the human experience, even if this is new to us. The hope is for better days, soon. The connection is with one another, and God. And the link to human experience allows us to see ourselves as something greater, and thus, far from alone.


As mayor, I have been incredibly proud of Dunwoody staff’s ability to transition rather seamlessly from a traditional office setting to a virtual scenario. The city continues to move forward and has actually been able to expedite some public works proj-

ects as a result of the reduction in vehicle traffic. I am impressed with the quality of work that continues to happen, permitting, inspections, park construction and more are signs that Dunwoody is open for business. As we continue to travel through this challenging time, I expect that the next step for Dunwoody, like many businesses, will be a hybrid of some work occurring in the office and some work continuing to be conducted virtually. We’ve learned to be flexible and creative, but we haven’t forgotten the importance of face-to-face communication. Our officers are on the streets. Our public works and parks teams are on-site. Our public meetings are more meaningful and productive when we can actually see and interact with the public. We can only do so much for so long virtually. That’s why I look forward to reopening City Hall when the time is right and in a way that’s safe for all. Because of this pandemic, things might look different. But our commitment to this community is unchanged.

WORTHWHILE CONVERSATIONS WHEN CAN WE UNBUCKLE THE SEATBELTS? THE LAST 4-5 MONTHS WERE FULL OF TURMOIL IN FINANCIAL MARKETS. IS THIS UNUSUAL COMPARED TO OTHER MARKETS L&W HAS OBSERVED OVER 49 YEARS? In our 49-year history, we’ve seen a lot of markets that created financial uncertainty, which makes planning difficult. The “flavor” of each dish offered up by a market is always distinct, but the basic ingredients are the same. The key to a successful outcome in personal financial health is not unlike following a healthy diet – get sound ongoing advice from someone who has your best interest at heart. WHAT DO YOU MEAN, “…YOUR BEST INTEREST AT HEART”? Linscomb & Williams has a long-tenured executive client who was recently and unexpectedly forced to retire early from the hospitality industry. We explained it this way: Ask someone, “What should I eat?” and you likely won’t get the same recommendation from your neighborhood butcher as from a Registered Dietician. Your butcher might recommend the pork spareribs that just arrived, knowing you’ll find that recommendation appealing. The dietician, on the other hand, insists on a balanced program that will achieve your ultimate health goal, though it includes items you might not like. WHERE’S THE CONNECTION TO FINANCIAL ADVICE DURING MARKET TURMOIL? Much of what passes for financial “advice” today is equivalent to the butcher selling you the pork spareribs. The pork spareribs are what he has on hand to sell; he thinks they will work OK for you and that you’ll be happy. He’s

Bill Kring, CFP®, and MaryJane LeCroy, CFP®, discuss the Fiduciary Standard and placing the client’s best interest first with Sam Tortorici, CEO & Director, Cadence Bank, N.A., and President, Cadence Bancorporation.

not that concerned whether it is the best option for your long-term health. The majority of financial advisors today still operate outside a pure fiduciary standard, and are under no legal obligation to put your best interest above their own. PRESUMABLY, L&W FOLLOWS A DIFFERENT APPROACH? At Linscomb & Williams, we are like that Registered Dietician. Following the fiduciary standard, we are obligated to put your interest ahead of our own. This is always important, but most especially, in times of market turmoil -times when it makes sense to get a second opinion from an experienced firm with no products to sell. We have an experienced team to deliver that second opinion right here, right now.

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12 | 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

In the pandemic era, locals plant ‘victory gardens’

Carol Niemi is a marketing consultant who lives on the DunwoodySandy Springs line and writes about people whose lives inspire others. Contact her at

Matthew Webster’s sons -- from left, Daniel, 7, Evan, 5, and Austin, 3 -- keep their eyes on the new family garden.

During World War I, patriotic Americans planted victory gardens. They were so popular during World War II that home, school and community gardens produced 40% of the nation’s fresh fruit and vegetables.


In the coronavirus pandemic, victory gardens are back -- and many residents of Dunwoody and Sandy Springs have planted one. Their reasons vary from worrying about job security and the stability of the nation’s food supply to having time on their hands and wanting to teach their children important values. Many are first-timers with small gardens consisting of neat rows of raised beds, containers of varying sizes, small spaces in flower beds and even a mobile garden. Others are more experienced gardeners using the quarantine to rediscover gardening. “I’m planting one to teach my kids and be less dependent on the grocery store supply chain, get some exercise, spend time outside and build something,” said Steven Simms of Mill Glenn, a consultant whose office is currently closed and whose job “may be at risk if the economy doesn’t recover soon.” Simms is growing a wide variety of fruits and vegetables in his three SPECIAL Blueberries in Lisa Stacholy’s garden. newly constructed raised beds.


Steven Simms considers his brand-new raised beds his family’s “insurance plan.”

“Fewer trips [to the grocery story] mean less chance of exposure to the virus,” he added. “Times like these remind me that the great convenience our freemarket economy provides can easily get disrupted, so providing some of our own food is an important part of our family ‘insurance’ plan.” Concern about a food shortage is motivating other more experienced gardeners. “I decided to plant a garden when we started hearing reports of food shortages,” said Dunwoodian Jennifer Carabacca, who has a small backyard garden. “I’ve had a garden on and off, but this year is bigger with more variety.” Cliff Gott, of Sandy Springs, has planted his entire garden in a 7-cubic-foot dump cart, which he is incorporating into his children’s homeschool curriculum. “My wife and I try to expose our kids to ‘life skills,’ and being able to garden is an important [one],” he said. “The COVID-19 quarantine just so happened to align with our plans for a spring garden.” One life skill he’s teaching is practicality because his wheeled garden solves the problems of too much shade and too many hungry deer. During the day, he moves the cart into the sun, and at night he moves it into the garage to prevent the deer from getting “a late-night snack.” Dunwoodian Matthew Webster also credits the pandemic for his garden. “I always liked having a veggie garden but hadn’t had time with three young

kids or a spot with enough sun close to the house -- until recently,” he said. “The whole pandemic thing provided me with both the time and the motivation to get going again. Also, I’m expecting inflation and possible shortages of quality produce.” He tries to involve his boys -- Daniel, 7, Evan, 5, and Austin, 3 -- as much as possible. “They help some, but it’s not always easy to keep them focused,” he said. Some people have victory gardens they started after other threatening events. “We’ve done a victory garden every year since 9/11,” said Lisa Stacholy, a Dunwoody-based architect, whose two children were very young at the time. “The enemy was clear and known, but the ‘waiting for the other shoe to drop’ was the PTSD type of event that we wanted to shield our young kids from,” she said. Despite the pandemic, gardeners are clearly happy people “Planting a garden is a great way to create lasting memories,” said Gott, the mobile gardener. But what if you live in an apartment? Try the Dunwoody Community Garden and Orchard, at Brook Run Park, where 4-by-8 plots cost $60 a year. Though all are currently taken, the wait list is wide open. The DCGO sells plants at its greenhouse daily 11 a.m.-2 p.m. and offers classes at “the barn,” currently on hold till the city reopens the park to group activities. Information is at

MAY 2020

Commentary | 13

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

Around Town

Catching up on catchball

It looks a lot like volleyball when it’s being played. cludes four teams and about 80 players, Gurvitch said, Two teams of six women each line up on either side and players say other teams have sprouted in nearof a net dividing a court laid out on a gym floor. The by communities. Most of the players are between age players send a brightly colored ball back and forth 30 and age 50, said Carissa Mindt, a 29-year-old staff above the net, continuing until the ball hits the floor member at the MJCCA who never played catchball, but and a point is scored. Players can spike the ball to the now coaches it. floor or block shots at the net. The new teams have attracted a variety of types The game differs from volleyball because these playof players. Debi Tzuberi first heard about the sport ers don’t hit the ball back and forth. Instead, they catch through her husband, who’s Israeli. “When I was in it and then throw it. That’s why this young sport is high school, I was athletic,” she said, “but I never cared called catchball. about volleyball. It’s hard to hit the ball. I gave [catchAnd it’s, um, catching on. At least it is in and around ball] a try and I thought, ‘This is really fun.’ … My first Dunwoody. season, they call me ‘Crash.’ I went through about three Catchball was devised in Israel sometime during the pairs of knee pads.” past decade, local players say. In fact, the game is so asDuring the last weekend of February, four catchball sociated with that country that a recent American nateams from the MJCCA traveled to Las Vegas to comtional tournament brought in a pair of Israeli refs just pete in the fifth annual USA Catchball Games. The to be sure everything was on the up and up. “It’s a big tournament drew teams from from California to St. thing in Israel…,” said 47-year-old Dunwoody player Louis to Washington, D.C., Gurvitch said. The Atlanta Yael Matana, who grew up in Israel but moved to the teams finished somewhere in the middle of the pack, U.S. before the catchball craze started. “It’s meant for Mindt said. women. Volleyball is harder [to play]. I love catchball They hope to do better next year. In the meantime, JOE EARLE and I hate volleyball.” they’ll keep trying to improve their skills – when the Rachel Gurvitch, center, attacks as Shiri Tzuk prepares to Like many of her Dunwoody teammates, Rachel MJCCA was closed recently to try to hinder the spread block the shot and Hagit Yehuai, Dana Zvi and Debi Tzuberi Gurvitch first heard about catchball from friends in Isof coronavirus, Mindt sent team members drills they prepare to enter the fray during a recent catchball practice rael or among the local Israeli community. Talk about could work on home. at the Marcus Jewish Community Center of Atlanta. the game started turning up on social media or in chats Gurvitch sees part of the appeal of the sport is that it with family and friends, she said. gives women something to do outside their homes and Gurvitch, who’s 44 and who teaches at Georgia State University, grew up in Israel but families. “In earlier years, when we were young mothers, we didn’t have time to think moved to the U.S. about a decade ago, before catchball got going. Once she heard Israeabout much more,” she said before a recent practice. “As kids grew up, we are a comli friends describe the game, though, she thought it would be a good sport for American munity, and it’s our time to switch back to [work on] ourselves. Catchball allows that, in women, too. She and some friends started organizing their own teams. that it can fit everyone. We don’t have to be a super-athlete to be on the team.” Gurvitch said they checked around with local churches, Ys and other places where And unlike other sports, the game is easy to learn, she said. Sports such as basketball volleyball was played regularly, and ended up at the Marcus Jewish Community Center or softball or even volleyball can be hard to learn and new players can find it’s difficult of Atlanta after pointing out to leaders there that the game offered a new sport for womto make older bodies perform properly on the court or field. en that they could add to the center’s activity schedule. Gurvitch said there’s really only one skill required to start playing catchball: “You That was about three years ago. The program has grown steadily since and now inhave to be able to catch the ball.”


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14 | Community ■


Atlanta History Center asks residents to save, donate materials about historic pandemic BY JOHN RUCH

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The coronavirus pandemic is a disaster that will be long remembered — and the Atlanta History Center is asking area residents, business owners and others to start preserving items now for posterity’s historical record. In a new initiative called the “Corona Collective,” the Buckhead-based museum is seeking stories and materials of various types that preserve experiences of this desperate and challenging time. That includes physical items, though the History Center will not accept them during social distancing measures. “Contemporary collecting is basically predicting the future, and someone in the future I’m sure will wish we had thought of something to save right now,” said Sheffield Hale, the History Center’s president and CEO,’ in a written statement. “A great example are artifacts from the Spanish Flu pandemic in Atlanta [in 1918-1919]; there were similar restrictions then, but few artifacts representing that.” The initiative launched April 7, and within two weeks had received materials from more than 100 people, ranging from personal essays to photo collections to videos. Paul Crater, vice president of collections and research services at the museum, said donated items include a 26-year-old woman’s account of how she nearly died of COVID-19 and a Google Docs file describing ways to help shuttered restaurants and their employees. Then there are more whimsical artifacts. “We received a short documentary about this band who played social distancing shows in Ormewood Park before the stay-at-home order, and they’re being tugged around in boat by a truck and they’re playing to people while people are sitting on their porches, and it’s really fun,” he said. On the History Center’s website, Collections Manager Erica Hague gave an overview of the effort. “We are living through historic times—times that we need your help to document,” she wrote. “At Atlanta History Center, it is our mission to preserve and interpret the history of the greater Atlanta area for future generations—and we’re reach-

MAY 2020

Community | 15


Opposite, bike messenger Chad Pack and a companion pose in masks downtown. Above, a sign promotes social distancing on the Atlanta BeltLine.

Right top, a “quarantine” sign on a truck at a J.B. Hunt trucking facility in Lithia Springs. Right, chalked messages on the steps of the North High Ridge Apartments on North Avenue.

ing out to you for help. “… Though you may not realize it, you’re already documenting this time of constant change. You create the historic record when you take a photo of something that makes you feel more connected while self-isolating. Maybe you’ve seen a sign, received an email, or in some other way have connected with the rapidly changing world in the wake of [the] coronavirus. Perhaps it was the empty toilet paper aisle at Kroger, a furlough notice, the cancellation of a planned trip, emails from your child’s school, or a note to an at-risk loved one. Maybe it’s the receipt for a donation you made to support a local small business or essential employee.” Hale noted that commonplace items can be valuable now, because they are often lost in the long run, not preserved because they were seen as not special at the time. “That which is most common shall be least common,” he said, citing a common phrase in the History Center’s Civil

War collecting. Crater said that similar efforts from the DeKalb History Center and the Senator John Heinz History Center in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, were among the inspirations for the “Corona Collective.” A particular model for gathering history as it happened, he said, was a similar program by the Missouri History Center during the 2014 Ferguson police-shooting protests. Choosing which items to preserve in the museum’s collection -- and even how to preserve such items as that Google Docs file with its hundreds of hyperlinks -- are among the challenges of the effort, Crater said. “But I’ve always had this aspiration to do something like this and to be nimble like this,” he added, and the opportunities are big, too. One goal is to use the material as starting points to solicit donations of physical items and oral histories when it is safe to do so. Another possibility: pop-up ex-

hibits highlighting some of the neighborhood-oriented artifacts and inviting residents of those areas who might never have visited the museum before. The museum chose to seize the moment and collect history in action that affects everyone, Crater said, and the submissions so far show a “sense of civic involvement and humanity that is really compelling to me.” The History Center will consider materials from residents of cities in the immediate metro Atlanta area, including Brookhaven, Dunwoody and Sandy Springs. Residents of other areas will be directed to local historical societies elsewhere, said spokesperson Howard Pousner. The museum’s staff is taking photos in the neighborhoods as part of the collection as well, with many of the images available on the website at The website includes

details about what types of materials will be accepted, copyright and other usage rights, and other information about the “Corona Collective.”


The following organizations also are seeking pandemic items and memories from metro Atlantans. DeKalb History Center “The COVID-19 Chronicles” Heritage Sandy Springs “COVID-19 Community Journal Project” Georgia Historical Society “COVID-19 in Georgia”


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MAY 2020

Community | 17

City buys floodplain homes marked as permanent open space Continued from page 1

FEMA funds; $32,000 came from the state; and $128,000 came from the Stormwater Fund. The program is voluntary, meaning that homeowners can’t be forced to sell and eminent domain will not be used. The program ends on March 31, 2021, by which time all deals would have to be done. The terms of the grant agreement requires the demolition of all houses purchased in the deal within 90 days of the real estate closing. The program requires the properties to be deed-restricted as “open space in perpetuity.” It remains to be seen exactly what kind of open space that will SPECIAL be in this case, as the The 11 properties on Dresden Drive and South Bamby Lane, city has made no decishown inside the red box on a Google Maps image, that are eligible for buyouts in under a federal flooding mitigation grant. sions yet, according to spokesperson Burke ties in floodplains. The idea is to demolBrennan. ish houses or other structures on the Under the program terms, “open properties and make them open spacspace” can include: parks; wetlands es so that future flooding won’t damage management; nature reserves; cultivaanything, while the current owners get tion; grazing; camping, if evacuation their market value. from flooding is possible; unimproved Last year, the city applied and was or unpaved parking lots; buffer zones; approved for a grant for the 11 Ashford or any use consistent with keeping an Park properties — nine on the west open floodplain. Any new structures side of South Bamby and two on Dresmust also stick to that principle, with den. The city did not respond to quessuch exceptions as restrooms or opentions about how those 11 were chosen sided park buildings. and whether other properties around The 11 properties eligible for buythe city might be the subject of similar outs and their appraised values in the buyout plans in the future. city grant application include: The total amount of the Ashford Park property purchases would be ■ 1756 Dresden Drive, $340,000 $3,667,800. Of that, the Federal Emer■ 1764 Dresden Drive, $370,000 gency Management Agency would pay ■ 2652 South Bamby Lane, $385,000 $2,750,850; the city would pay $550,170, ■ 2658 South Bamby Lane, $250,000 using its Stormwater Fund; and the state would pay $366,780. ■ 2662 South Bamby Lane, $240,000 The first properties whose purchas■ 2668 South Bamby Lane, $255,000 es were approved were 2652 South ■ 2674 South Bamby Lane, $270,000 Bamby from Benjamin and Julie Copan ■ 2680 South Bamby Lane, $270,000 Mizell, for $385,000 plus closing costs; ■ 2686 South Bamby Lane, $200,000 and 2668 South Bamby from Carolyn Wright, for $255,000 plus closing costs. For those particular purchases, according to the city, $480,000 came from

2692 South Bamby Lane, $395,000

2696 South Bamby Lane, $340,000

City commissions mural saying community is ‘together’


Artist Alison Hamil, left, and Mayor John Ernst pose with the completed mural.


“We are all together” is the message of a pandemic-crisis mural commissioned by the city of Brookhaven that went up in mid-April along MARTA’s Gold Line tracks on Peachtree Road. Mayor John Ernst said the mural is based on an idea he had after seeing photos on Facebook of children creating stained-glass-style chalk art for Easter. The mural has a similar stained-glass style with a circle in the center containing the “We are all together” message. “Last time I looked, it was just a big gray spot,” Ernst said, announcing the mural at an April 14 City Council meeting. “Hopefully it brings a little bit of joy to everyone.” The city paid artist Alison Hamil $2,000 for the mural, which she is painting on a MARTA retaining wall roughly halfway between Dresden Drive and Osborne Road. Hamil is a metro Atlanta artist whose mural work includes Buckhead’s Blue Heron Nature Preserve, where she is also artist in residence. “I jumped all over it,” said Hamil in a phone interview. “Because of the pandemic, … most of my projects have been postponed or canceled, so I was available. And painting murals is my favorite thing to do. And actually I was looking for a way to get involved and help out and do something to help people. “It’s been an awesome project so far. I’ve really enjoyed working with the city of Brookhaven,” she added. Hamil lives in Marietta, but she has a local connection: Her parents, she said, are from the area and met while students at Cross Keys High School. Ernst said the mural is intended to tie into the city’s pandemic theme of “Brookhaven Strong,” whose other arts-related programs included an April 2 national anthem sing-along and an art contest. The mural moved quickly from concept to execution. Ernst said that, after viewing some of the Facebook photos, “I thought, you know what, let’s do something. So I quickly drew something up, a concept.” He said council members and City Manager Christian Sigman approved of the idea. Ernst consulted Sally Epstein, a member of the city’s Arts Advisory Committee, to find an artist, according to Hamil. The city did not get formal permisHamil works on the mural on April 16. sion from MARTA to paint on its wall, Ernst indicated. “I just informed MARTA we’re doing it,” he said. The mural is intended to be temporary, he said at the council meeting. MARTA chief of staff Melissa Mullinax spoke with Ernst about the mural. “MARTA welcomes Brookhaven’s temporary mural intended to lift spirits during this tough time,” Mullinax said through a transit agency spokesperson. The city has long had a general concept of murals along the Gold Line retaining wall, which runs in segments for about 1.5 miles along Peachtree Road. A sticking point has been a metal fence atop the wall, which leaves streaks of rust that would spoil permanent artwork, according to city spokesperson Burke Brennan. Ernst said the current mural is intended as a response to the pandemic, not a new effort toward decorating the entire wall. “This is not about something larger,” he said. “We’ll see what comes out of it, if anything.” — Ryan Kolakowski contributed

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to key races on June 9 ballot Many races will appear on the June 9 primary and special election ballot.

The following are Voters Guides to candidates in some key local races. For full answers from the candidates and more election coverage, see

DEKALB COUNTY BOARD OF EDUCATION DISTRICT 1 Anna Hill and Andrew Ziffer are competing for the DeKalb County Board of Education District 1 seat, which represents Dunwoody and part of Brookhaven. Incumbent Stan Jester is not running for re-election. Ziffer did not provide Voters Guide answers.

Anna Hill

What is motivating you to run for this office? As adults, we must all be responsible stewards of our children’s education dollars. Overcrowding is rampant, facilities are not well-maintained, teachers are teaching in moldy trailers and some do not even have their own classrooms. We need to ensure every single dollar is making it to the classroom. I believe we can do better than we are now. As a mom of a DCSD graduate in 2019, a CPA and a taxpayer, I simply cannot look the other way as the financial accounting difficulties continue. There was no choice for me except to run for District 1, Board of Education.

DEKALB COUNTY SHERIFF A nonpartisan special election will be held to fill the DeKalb County sheriff position following last year’s retirement of Jeffrey Mann. Incumbent Melody Maddox, who was appointed to the office, faces challengers Geraldine Champion, Harold Dennis, Adam Gardner, Tod Golden, Antonio “Block” Johnson, Kyle K. Jones, Carl Mobley and Ruth Stringer. Champion, Golden and Mobley did not provide Voters Guide responses.

Harold Dennis What is motivating you to run for this office? My motivation to run for sheriff is to provide service, dedication and protection to the citizens of DeKalb County. I have the heart for the people, and I care for the well-being of citizens and employees of DeKalb County.

Adam Gardner What is motivating you to run for this office? My family and I love living in DeKalb County and I am genuinely concerned for the safe future of DeKalb. It is everyone’s right to feel and to be safe. This is the main reason why I have decided to run for the office of DeKalb County sheriff. I want to fight to ensure everyone has that right. I also have an extraordinary vision for a safe and secure DeKalb County.

Antonio “Block” Johnson

What is motivating you to run for this office? I am running for the Office of DeKalb County Sheriff to make a leadership difference and restore community trust while making the office one of the best in the state. ■

Kyle K. Jones

What is motivating you to run for this office? Break the former sheriff’s (Thomas Brown) stronghold on the Sheriff’s Office budget, bonding process and operation. To conduct a forensic audit; identify and prosecute individuals involved in corruption; restore the citizens’ trust; reform bail by ending the monopoly the current bonding companies have; address the staffing issues and inmates’ conditions in the jail; screen for mental health and drug addictions in the jail so inmates receive treatment and not incarceration; crosstrain all deputies and detention officers; improve courthouse security; and work with the police departments in DeKalb to develop a joint comprehensive plan to reduce crime.

Ruth Stringer What is motivating you to run for this office? I was appointed to serve as the interim sheriff for 40 days when the elected sheriff was suspended by the governor. I observed various contracts that caused me to realize that the Sheriff’s Office had become less of a law enforcement agency for the citizens of DeKalb and more of a money-making enterprise for former officials. The current leadership will continue the pipeline of tax dollars to contractors/vendors to the pockets of former officials. I am a grassroots candidate and do not have those obligations or attachments. I want to restore the integrity and structure of the agency.

DEKALB COUNTY COMMISSION DISTRICT 1 In the race for the DeKalb County Commission’s District 1 seat, representing Dunwoody and part of Brookhaven, Democrats Md Naser, Robert Patrick, Ben

Truman and Cynthia Yaxon are vying for the right to challenge Republican incumbent Nancy Jester on the November general election ballot. Another Democrat who filed to run, Breeanna Bellinger, said she dropped out of the race.

MD Naser

What is motivating you to run for this office? I come from one of the poorest countries on Earth, Bangladesh. I know what it is to struggle to make ends meet, to work dawn to dusk, to battle to get an education, to overcome the difficulties facing a person of color, and finally to emigrate to the greatest country in the world, the USA, to realize the American Dream. I identify with people who need a helping hand. I will bring that perspective and the compassion and genuine feeling for all of DeKalb citizens and families I learned in my journey to realize my own hopes and dreams.

Robert Patrick What is motivating you to run for this office? First, I am concerned about the future of DeKalb County. Looking at growth projections, DeKalb falls behind Gwinnett and Cobb counties in population growth. That means DeKalb falls to fourth place for jobs for our residents, housing options, property values, in opportunities for our residents and overall desirability of our community. The second factor is the water and sewer system. I believe that what is holding our communities is the lack of infrastructure investment from DeKalb County. It is difficult to encourage new residents, businesses and development to call DeKalb home when sewage overflows into our parks, backyards and communities.

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therefore, I am focused on ensuring that justice is attained by all. Over the years, I have encountered individuals who scoff at the idea that everyone can actually receive justice. Too often, fairness and equality only applied to the rich and powerful. Too often the poor and vulnerable are treated unfairly and with bias. The ideal towards fair and balanced justice motivated me to run for this office.

Running to replace retiring DeKalb County Superior Court Division 3 Judge Clarence Seeliger are Roderick Bridges, Aaron Chausmer, Vincent C. Crawford, Yolanda C. Parker-Smith and Melinda Pillow. The nonpartisan race will be decided in the primary. Bridges, Chausmer and Pillow did not provide Voters Guide answers.

Ben Truman

What is motivating you to run for this office? My main motivation for running for office is to improve the functioning of the county government.

Vincent C. Crawford

What is motivating you to run for this office? I am motivated to run for Superior Court Judge because I am currently and for the past seven years sit by designation in DeKalb County Superior Court. When designated to sit in Superior Court, I preside and conduct trials as well as hearings in Criminal, Civil and Accountability Courts and Family Law matters.

What is motivating you to run for this office? What is motivating me to run is that I want to see “change,” but a positive change. I believe that those who can have a civil duty to ourselves and each other, whether it is on a local, state or federal level, in order to promote positive change. I understand the value and the importance of being connected to issues that surround my county, district and community as well as my county. I understand government, policy, legislation and the Constitution. I have given of myself to others when they were in need and found a passion to keep helping.

What is motivating you to run for this office? My commitment to justice having grown up in an environment where too often the concept of justice is missing in everyday lives;


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Thank you Brookhaven, for the continued support of our restaurants! We are open for curbside and delivery and look forward to seeing you back in the restaurant soon!

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