Buckhead Reporter - May 2021

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MAY 2021 • VOL. 13 — NO. 5

Buckhead Reporter WORTH KNOWING

A legendary bookstore lives on



‘Hypersonic’ airplane company takes flight at PDK P20


‘Buckhead City’ legislation is filed as mayor ramps up opposition

Mountain Way Murals



New DHA president ponders Dunwoody’s future




Jagger Rogers, a second-grader at Bolton Academy, paints a mural on a pillar in Mountain Way Common on April 18. She was one of eight students who won a juried art contest, dubbed “Picture Your Path,” to create murals in the unique park beneath a Ga. 400 and MARTA overpass. See story and photos, p. 23.


Helping the arts recover from the pandemic

On-demand shuttle service may launch in August BY JOHN RUCH


The Buckhead Reporter is delivered via USPS to homes on selected carrier routes in ZIPs 30305, 30327 and 30342 It is available for pickup at local businesses. delivery@reporternewspapers.net

The launch of an on-demand, lowcost shuttle van service in central Buckhead’s business and residential districts is expected to come in August after a lengthy pandemic delay. “We’ve decided, based upon what we’re hearing from the offices here and the tenants, that if we bring that back in August, there will be enough folks that

will be interested in using the service,” said Jim Durrett, executive director of the Buckhead Community Improvement District, at the group’s April 28 board meeting. The BCID and Livable Buckhead are partnering on the shuttle, which would replace the existing, fixed-route “Buc” service. The on-demand van was supposed See ON-DEMAND on page 22

A legal process for Buckhead to separate into its own city has begun with the filing of state legislation under the name “Buckhead City.” Less than two weeks later, Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms made a rare local appearance to denounce the idea, targeting the crime concerns that have fueled it. “In creating a new city, you’re not building a wall around the city,” Bottoms said in a virtual appearance April 12 before the Buckhead Rotary Club. “You’re not locking residents in and keeping everyone out. It doesn’t address crime. The way that we address crime is to continue to work together as we have done for decades, as a city, as one city.” The Buckhead Exploratory Committee (BEC), the private organization advocating for cityhood, said papers were filed by two North Fulton state legislators, neither of whom represent Buckhead: Rep. Todd Jones (R-Cumming) and Sen. Brandon Beach (R-Alpharetta). Jones filed the legislation on Sine Die, the last day of General Assembly session, on March 31, putting it onto the 2022 session agenda, the group said. And Beach filed legislation with the Georgia Secretary of State, which could trigger hearing as soon as this summer, the group said. “Since our decision to pursue cityhood, the BEC executive team has been racing against the clock to make this legislative year count,” said a written statement BEC sent to See BUCKHEAD on page 16

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2 | Community

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Townhome project heads to City Council with affordability, school concerns BY JOHN RUCH A townhome proposal in Garden Hills has made its way to City Council review after a rare divided vote from the local Neighborhood Planning Unit amid concerns about housing affordability and impacts on two adjacent schools. Buckhead-based Silver Creek Redevelopment and Hedgewood Homes, the owner and developer, aim to demolish 20 of the 22 units at the Delmont Townhomes at Delmont Drive and Sheridan Drive. Replacing them would be 35 new luxury townhomes — down from 37 after a Garden Hills Civic Association (GHCA) review. The higher density requires a rezoning of the 2.5-acre site. The site is across the street from Atlanta International School, an attorney for which spoke in opposition, and Garden Hills Elementary School, which was said to have concerns at an April 6 meeting of NPU B. AIS attempted to buy the site itself for undisclosed plans. In a late twist that has allowed the plan to proceed, AIS bought one of the existing townhomes, also for unclear reasons, forcing two of the units to be split off from the main property and preserved. NPU B’s board ended up granting its approval for the rezoning on 10-7-1 vote that balanced property rights and sup-


port from the majority of a neighboring homeowners’ association with a bevy of other concerns. NPU B chair Nancy Bliwise told Laurel David, the developers’ attorney, that “you have a lot of conflict,” ranging from worries about water runoff and affordable housing to “concerns from Garden Hills Elementary School about whether they’ve had a seat at the table.” The plan won approval at an April 8 city Zoning Review Board hearing, with 19 neighborhood-suggested conditions. The conditions largely address maximum density, pedestrian amenities, and mitigations of traffic and stormwater runoff. The proposal is now under City Council Zoning Committee review. David said that the developers agreed to attach 21 conditions to the rezoning after the GHCA review, including: installing sidewalks around the perimeter, installing a crosswalk for use by students; limiting the maximum density of the townhomes; and contributing $20,000 to a traffic study within the next five years if the neighborhood decides to pay for one. The project drew support from the HOA at neighboring townhomes at 55 Delmont. Lynn Brown of the HOA told NPU B that “our residents are overwhelmingly in favor of this community” after agreeing to shared-use terms on an



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existing alley that will become a driveway. However, that through-way is outside of the rezoning application, David said, and a legal agreement about its use had yet to be completed. One 55 Delmont resident who declined to be named said in a later interview that he is not happy about increased traffic using the driveway FILE within 5 feet of the Part of the Delmont Townhomes complex on Delmont Drive. townhomes bedrooms and that it will lower propercost of the new townhomes as among the ty values. neighborhood changes she fears it will NPU board member Jason Kendall excause. pressed several concerns with the plan, Buckley said some of the existing personally and, he said, with the pertownhomes are rented to tenants paying mission to speak on behalf of Acorns to around $1,400 to $1,500 a month, while Oaks, a Garden Hills Elementary parents the new townhomes are estimated to cost group that in recent years completed ren$800,000 to $1.5 million each. “That is a ovation of a field, park and outdoor classproblem because it is exacerbating Buckroom at the school. “Some of their bighead’s existing housing crisis, affordgest issues were, all of this negotiation able housing crisis,” he said. Buckley said and commentary went on without bringhe and his wife, who is also an attorney ing all of the neighbors together,” Kend“can’t swing a $1.5 million house” and all said of the group. “They spent a quarthat replacing the Delmont townhomes ter-million dollars improving this area “with housing two lawyers can’t afford and this developer has not reached out to — that’s a problem.” them at all.” The discussion caused some disession Increased cars, the effects on students about the role of such groups as NPU B. walking to school, and possible stormwaBill Murray, the NPU’s longtime zoning ter runoff onto the field area are all concommittee chair, said that questions of cerns, Kendall said. He also called the affordable or workforce housing were project’s density “a tremendous grab” beyond its scope. “It’s not an NPU issue,” and that the GHCA approval was a “horhe said. rible mistake” because the conditions are Buckley, who previously served as a not tied to the site plan, leaving open the city of Atlanta planner and Board of Zonpossibility of a sale to another developer ing Adjustment assistant, said that’s not who will do something different. true and that NPUs are free to give advice David said “these conditions are very on any subject they choose. specific to the site plan and Hedgwood’s Humberto Garcia-Sjogrim, a Garden method of creating homes” and that Hills resident who sits on the AIS Board of any changes would have to go through Trustees but said he spoke only for hima neighborhood process. She said Hedgself, decried a “stunning lack of leaderwood would retain a position on the ship” among the civic organizations and townhomes’ homeowners association. elected officials. He said that the GHCA DeLille Anthony of the organization and NPU won’t tackle housing affordTrees Next Door noted the plan involves ability and City Councilmember Howard cutting down many large trees and said Shook typically supports whatever those the site plan includes relatively little groups approve, it’s a “fait accompli” that space for new ones, making for a longdevelopers “will determine the future of term canopy loss for the neighborhood. our wonderful neighborhood. No one’s The amount and flow of traffic was taking the high-level look.” another concern raised by some resiLater in the NPU meeting, member dents and Harold Buckley Jr., an attorney Robert Patterson, who also leads the who said he represented AIS. North Buckhead Civic Association, said Yet another concern was the shift the NPU should devote time — possibly from relatively affordable to luxury a special session — to discussing the ishousing, which may prompt long-term sue of affordable housing and approachdiscussions in NPU B about how to ades to it. Bliwise said she agreed the issue dress the issue in general. Elizabeth Gibis “coming to the fore” and worthy of disson, who said she is an eight-year tenant cussion. at the neighboring 72 Delmont and enjoys affordable rent, cited the increased

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4 | Public Safety

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Public Safety Briefs These public safety stories are based on preliminary reports that do not include all investigative material that police agencies may have. Details may change as the investigation continues. All suspects and defendants are considered innocent unless proven guilty in a court. Crime Stoppers of Greater Atlanta offers a reward up to $2,000 for the arrest and indictment of suspects. Anyone with information can call 404-577-8477 or see atlantapolicefoundation.org.

APD said its preliminary investigation said a third person “appeared to be involved in the incident” and may be the shooter. The shooting scene is about two blocks from APD’s Zone 2 precinct on Maple Drive. The incident comes amid a wave of gun violence and other crime that has sparked legislation to turn the neighborhood into its own city and led local business organizations to develop a “Buckhead Security Plan.”



Two people were shot and wounded April 17 at a Buckhead Village nightlife spot, according to the Atlanta Police Department. According to APD, the shootings happened around 2:52 a.m. at 3179 Peachtree Road, an address shared by the club Red Martini and the bar Moondogs. Officers found a male victim at the scene with several gunshot wounds and later learned of a second male victim who had taken himself to a hospital. APD spokesperson Officer Anthony Grant said the preliminary police report says the victims were shot while leaving that address but does not specify which business they visited.

A man was wounded April 19 in a shootout that followed an incident at a local hotel, according to APD. According to a preliminary APD report, the incident began around 10 p.m. at the SpringHill Suites Atlanta Buckhead hotel at 3459 Buckhead Loop, when a 28-year-old man named Qudus Ibiyemi arrived to “meet a female.” Ibiyemi was approached by Dasheen Tucker, 47, and an unidentified male suspect. The unidentified suspect shot at Ibiyemi in the parking lot, according to APD. Ibiyemi ran from the area, while Tucker and the unidentified suspect followed him in a vehicle, according to APD. Someone in the vehicle fired another shot at Ibiyemi, who “returned fire, striking Mr. Tucker,” according to the APD report. Tucker was found with a wound in the leg at 3393 Piedmont Road, a Hampton Inn hotel. He was hospitalized in stable condition, according to APD. No one had been charged in relation to the incident as of April 22, according to APD.

P O L I C E S EEK JEEP DR IV ER I N FATA L HI T - A ND- R UN Police are seeking the driver of a gray Jeep Grand Cherokee that killed a man in an April 3 hit-and-run and nearly struck another pedestrian. The hit-and-run happened around 3 a.m. at Piedmont Road and Lindbergh Drive. APD released a dashboard camera video from a witness that shows the Jeep speeding away after the collision, apparently giving off smoke or steam, and nearly hitting a person on Piedmont, who jumps out of the way. APD identified the man killed in the collision as Ethan McCallister, 28. Among McCallister’s friends was former “Real Housewives of Atlanta” TV series star Kim Zolciak-Biermann, who remembered him on her Instagram account as “always the life of the party” and “one of the most genuine, kind-hearted people I have ever known.”

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Community | 5


What local leaders have done a year after racial dialogue promises BY JOHN RUCH, SAMMIE PURCELL AND BOB PEPALIS In May 2020, the police murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis triggered historic nationwide protests. Some leaders in local governments, schools and the business community issued unprecedented statements of support for the Black Lives Matter movement and made calls for racial dialogue. A year later, what have they done to follow through on their anti-racism promises? The Reporter checked in with several to find out.

City governments

The cities of Brookhaven and Sandy Springs have formed official government bodies to examine issues of racial and class equity. Dunwoody, on the other hand, has made ad hoc efforts largely involving personal decisions by the mayor. Brookhaven’s Social Justice, Race and Equity Commission launched last year and is in the process of a year-long review of every city policy and procedure. The Brookhaven Police Department improved access to some of its arrest and use-of-force data, with the SJREC and investigations by the Reporter exposing some concerns about race and ethnicity in the data that are among the items under the commission’s review. Sandy Springs last year held a series of virtual community dialogues about race

and racism that drew around 250 participants. This year, it launched a formal Diversity and Inclusion Task Force to make policy recommendations. An early proposal to rename Lake Forrest Drive and Forrest Lake Drive, sparked by concern that it had a Confederate and Ku Klux Klan inspiration, has been tabled after counter-evidence that the “Forrest” may have been a real estate developer and children’s hospital co-founder. In Dunwoody, Mayor Lynn Deutsch expressed concern about racial disparities in COVID-19 cases and care, and pledged to increase the diversity of city boards and commissions. City spokesperson Jennifer Boettcher said Dunwoody provided federal CARES Act grants to nonprofits aiding underserved minority communities -- something other local cities did as well -- and noted a recent partnership with the nonprofit We Love BuHi to provide COVID-19 vaccines to non-English-speaking communities. She also said Deutsch generally “continues to have conversations with community members about issues of race and diversity” and attended a vigil for victims of March mass murders at metro Atlanta spas, most of whom were Asian. Boettcher said that Deutsch “followed through on her commitment” to diversify city bodies. “From 2019 to 2021, minority participation on city commissions, committees and boards increased 200%,” said Boettcher, but she could not cite the actual


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numbers or names of the members. Lydia Singleton-Wells, an activist who held Black Lives Matter protests in Dunwoody, said she has befriended Deutsch and continues to advise her. “Dunwoody’s leadership wasn’t diverse at all, and still isn’t very diverse,” said Singleton-Wells. “But the mayor and I are working very hard to diversify some of those channels, whether it be diversifying their social media, or diversifying the images that they have on their website [and] making sure that community events are well-posted so that more people can participate instead of the same few that have been participating for the last decade.”

Lovett School

In June 2020, a protest targeting prejudice in Buckhead’s private schools drew over 1,000 marchers to the neighborhood. Among the “Buckhead 4 Black Lives” organizers were brothers Franklin and Harrison Rodriguez, recent graduates of the Lovett School, which responded with a pledge of action. Lovett spokesperson Courtney Fowler pointed to the school’s website, where an August 2020 “Diversity, Equity and Inclusion” report lays out various strategies and policies. The focus areas are “Student Experience,” “Employee and Family Experience,” “Institutional Policy and Practice,” and “Pedagogy.” “Our commitment to Diversity, Equity

and Inclusion is forever, and our work is ongoing,” said Fowler.

Buckhead CID and Coalition

The highest-profile work last year by the Buckhead Community Improvement District, a self-taxing group of commercial property owners, and the Buckhead Coalition, a charitable nonprofit, was coordinating a “Security Plan” in response to rising crime that alluded to protests as reducing respect for law enforcement. However, the CID also stated its support for the Black Lives Matter movement. Jim Durrett, who leads both groups, said the Coalition has very intentionally increased the diversity of its membership” and will continue to do so as it adds new members through early 2022. As for the CID, Durrett cited its hiring of Walter Dixon as its first community programs coordinator. Dixon, who is Black, earned the opportunity through the Georgia Works program for chronically homeless men. “Personally, I have been trying to learn from people wiser than I am, by reading [Ibram X.] Kendi’s ‘How to Be an Antiracist,’ for example,” added Durrett, “and I have been working with other Urban Land Institute members both locally and nationally to address diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging within the organization and within the real estate industry.”

6 | Arts & Entertainment

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Food for Thought: Bringing books and wine to Buckhead BY KEVIN C. MADIGAN Lucian Books and Wine, a wine bar and bookshop that also serves food, plans to open in mid-May in Buckhead’s new Modera apartment building at 3005 Peachtree Road at the intersection with Pharr Road. Pratt Institute graduate Katie Barringer, formerly of Cover Books in the Westside, and sommelier Jordan Smelt, Cake & Ale’s former wine and beverage director, are the owners. The place is inspired by British artist Lucian Freud and reflects their own “fervent interests.” Barringer and Smelt explained the concept to the Reporter. First of all, what do you have in mind for the wine bar? Smelt: It will be in the neighborhood of 250 bottles when we open. You’ll be able to find chardonnay from the premier regions of the world right alongside something unexpected from Patagonia or South Africa or Australia. Most of the list will be dominated by European regions, but there will be plenty of things from the States, and all with organic farming as a baseline. A rotating list of by-the-glass options will completely turn over every two months. There will be grape-based spirits such as Brandy, Cognac, Armagnac -- things

that are meant to be sipped on after dinner as opposed to a full-on mixology program, and an abbreviated aperitif menu that will be kept very simple and clean.

tions from popping in for an early glass or two of wine, or a snack, to a full-on dinner.

You’re going to have “thoughtful and delicious food.” What does that mean?

Barringer: The last thing to say about the food is the sustainability factor. It’s thoughtful in the sense of the integrity of the ingredients, and the seasonality and the story of the food prior to it getting on the plate.

Smelt: Our chef is Brian Hendrickson, [an] alum of Cakes & Ale. In a similar way to Cakes & Ale you will see some Mediterranean influences. We’re going to open with a daytime menu from when we open at 11 until 4 p.m. -- light snacks that pair well with wine, so you can have a glass while you browse in the bookstore, and you can piece together a light lunch out of that as well. We do have plans for a lunch program but that will probably not come until fall. Our dinner menu will begin at 4 p.m. Barringer: We want a small concise menu ranging from elevated bar snacks to fullsize composed dinner entrees. We’re trying to think of the different experiences that people may come to Lucian for. It could be a glass of wine, it could be a group of friends, it could be a dinner, so we’re trying to provide a food menu with options for all of those scenarios -- a range of size and composition. Smelt: That’s part of the reason for beginning dinner service at 4. You have op-

Can you describe what you’re going for in the book shop?

Smelt: Katie is doing a mixture of known with unknown and I think that perfectly sums up an aspect of the wine program as well. Some household names will be on the wine list, but also a lot of small production wines that are absolutely fabulous that folks may not recognize but hopefully will come to love as much as we do. It’s definitely a place to explore and find some things you’ve never tasted or seen before.

Barringer: Nonfiction SPECIAL books with a strong emBarringer: Our favorite phasis on art architec- Lucian Books and Wine owners Jordan part of what we get to do Smelt, left, and Katie Barringer. ture, design and phois that process of introtography. There will be ducing something and a great collection of cookbooks and wine watching that process of discovery, and exand cocktail-related books, with a balance panding their experience. of classic, recognizable names as well as Smelt: It’s more fun to introduce a new small production artist books that you’ve wine or new beverage to someone that never seen before, and everything in behasn’t tried it before and just see their face tween. There will also be a smaller seleclight up. Whether it’s a wine or a book, the tion of magazines with a focus on internafeeling is the same. tional titles on similar subjects.


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MAY 2021

Food & Drink | 7


Quick Bites: Restaurant openings and news BY KEVIN C. MADIGAN Kid Cashew, a “fast-casual” grill joint offering Mediterranean classics, burgers and vegan dishes, is coming to 6090 Roswell Road in Sandy Springs. July 1 is the projected opening date, according to Ackerman Retail, the brokers involved in the project. With locations in North Carolina and South Carolina, this will be Kid Cashew’s first spot in Georgia. Film producer Martin Sprock is behind the venture. kidcashew.com ►The Big Ketch Saltwater Grill in Buckhead is introducing “patio party themes” such as Luau, Lobsterfest, Low Country Boil, and Fish Fry, with food and drink specials every Thursday through June 3, plus live music starting at 5 p.m. Known for its “handcrafted cocktails and coastal-inspired fare,” the eatery at 3279 Roswell Road will have $5 featured cocktails, $5 local draft beers, plus beer and seltzer bucket specials. New menu items include smoked salmon tostadas, Buffalo hot fish bites, and jumbo lump crab cakes. thebigketch.com

Beginning at Dusk

Chido & Padre’s at 128 East Andrews Drive in Buckhead has reopened with a new menu from executive chef Thomas Goss, who is putting a modern spin on traditional Mexican recipes, according to a spokesperson for parent company Southern Proper Hospitality. Goss will “create a spellbinding menu that blends envelope-pushing dishes with familiar favorites.” chidoandpadres.com Botanico Kitchen & Bar has closed its Buckhead location on Pharr Road, blaming an increase in crime in the area. A post on its website said the decision was made because of “criminal activity nearby and concerns about the safety and experience of our customers and employees.” Botanico’s owners previously told the Reporter they will be relocating to a new venue elsewhere in Atlanta to be announced at a later date. botanicoatlanta.com Pontoon Brewing and Porter Pizza & Brewery, both based in Sandy Springs, will join breweries in Roswell and Alpharetta as part of a marketing initiative called the Topside Tap Trail, aimed at drawing attention to several brewpubs and taprooms in all three cities. “The trail was established to ensure North Fulton’s beer culture along the GA 400 corridor gets the acclaimed recognition it deserves,” the organizations Visit Roswell, Awesome Alpharetta and Visit Sandy Springs said in a statement announcing their partnership. topsidetaptrail.tcom


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8 | Arts & Entertainment

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Arts events begin an in-person comeback BY JOHN RUCH With most of Georgia’s pandemic restrictions lifted by the governor and the accelerated rollout of vaccines, in-person arts events are slowly returning to local communities after a year of streaming and shutdowns. Some are coming back with a bang, like Sandy Springs’ decision to throw all COVID-19 precautions to the wind for an outdoor concert series. But many local organizations are proceeding with pandemic caution. And by and large, they aren’t coming back as fast as some of the bigger, wealthier institutions in Atlanta, like State Farm Arena and the Alliance Theatre, which are returning this month with outdoor shows or occupancy limits. For updates and more events, see our Rough Draft Atlanta calendar at calendar. roughdraftatlanta.com.

COMING SOON Chastain Park and Dunwoody art festivals The Dunwoody Art Festival, from Splash Festivals, returns May 8-9 in a new location at Brook Run Park. Mask-wearing and social-distancing will be in place. For those uncomfortable with possible COVID-19 risks, many vendors will be available online also. Info: splashfestivals.com. The Atlanta Foundation for Public Spaces is restarting its slate of festivals beginning with the Chastain Park Spring Arts & Crafts Festival on May 15-16. It also aims to bring back the Sandy Springs Artsapalooza in September. Info: affps.com. City Green Live This free outdoor concert series, held by the city of Sandy Springs at its City Springs civic center, raised eyebrows with the decision to open with a no-masks, no-distancing policy for its April 30 kickoff with Drivin’ N Cryin’, scheduled for April 30, after the Reporter’s deadline. Other shows in the series are: Cha Wa (May 14); Old Salt Union (May 28); Uptown Funk (June 11); Randall Bramblett & the Megablasters (June 25); Tribute (July 23). Info: citysprings.com. Concerts by the Springs Another free concert series from the city of Sandy Springs, this one held at the Heritage Amphitheatre on Blue Stone Road. Shows include: Super Deluxe (May 9); Bumpin’ the Mango (June 20); 7 Sharp 9 (July 11); Head Games (Aug. 8); Hot Licks & Rhetoric (Sept. 12). Info: citysprings.com.


City Springs Theatre Company This homegrown Sandy Springs professional theater company returns with a performance of “Mamma Mia!” May 7-9. But instead of its home venue at the Sandy Springs Performing Arts Center, CSTC is heading outdoors to the Ameris Bank Amphitheatre in Alpharetta. CSTC has announced a summer show as well -- “West Side Story” for July 9-18 -- but has not yet determined where that will be staged as the Performing Arts Center’s status remains unclear. Info: CitySpringsTheatre.com.

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Cadence Bank Amphitheatre at Chastain Park The Buckhead venue is starting to bring in some of 2020’s rescheduled shows this summer, starting with Anthony Hamilton (July 3); Alicia Keys (July 29); and Wilco and Sleater-Kinney (Aug. 14). Info: livenation.com Other clubs and halls Some local clubs and halls have already begun holding shows with pandemic precautions and a much lighter schedule than usual. They include the Buckhead Theatre (thebuckheadtheatreatl.com), the Sandy Springs jazz club Cafe 290 (cafe290atlanta. com), and the Punchline Comedy Club in Buckhead (punchline.com).

IN THE WORKS Some other local venues are keeping events largely virtual for now while seeing where the pandemic goes. The Atlanta History Center in Buckhead is open for visitors with pandemic precautions and limited capacity, but its large slate of author talks and other programs remain free Zoom programs. As part of a national “Go Public Gardens Days” this month, the museum will welcome the public into its gardens and hold an event called “Mimosas for Moms.” Info: atlantahistorycenter.com. Local theater groups continue to seek a way forward. Sandy Springs’ Act3 Productions (act3productions.org) intends to film a play on its stage and stream it in August as a fundraiser, with hopes of holding in-person theater in late fall. Dunwoody’s Stage Door Players (stagedoorplayers.org) aims to hold some performances in Brook Run Park this summer and hopes to have a return to indoor shows in July or August.

MAY 2021

Councilmembers hire ‘public safety investigator’ who intended to run against one of them BY JOHN RUCH In a quest for more details on high-profile crimes and alcohol-licensing questions, Atlanta City Councilmembers J.P. Matzigkeit and Howard Shook have hired a “public safety investigator” who had previously filed to run for Shook’s seat this fall. Jamie Christy is a Buckhead resident and lawyer who has worked both as a criminal defense attorney and as a member of the Los Angeles District Attorney’s Office, according to a City Council press release. Late last year, Christy filed paperwork declaring an intent to raise money for a campaign for the North Buckhead District 7 council seat that Shook holds. Shook, who is running for reelection, said Christy’s move to run against him was his introduction to her. “We had a conversation and gosh, I think very highly of her,” Shook said in an interview. “She’s got a ton of experience. She wants to learn. … So we had a nice conversation and this is where we ended up.” Shook said he and Matzigkeit are paying Christy $25 an hour on an ad hoc basis, with the cost split between their council discretionary funds. The hiring comes amid ongoing crime concerns in Buckhead that have sparked legislation to turn the neighborhood into its own city and led local business organizations to develop a “Buckhead Security Plan.” According to the press release, Christy will “investigate and report on the post-arrest outcomes of high-profile Buckhead felonies, as well as provide the due diligence needed to confirm that alcohol licensees are operating appropriately.” “I am honored to represent the Buckhead community by serving as public safety investigator,” Christy said in the press release. “My goal is to provide updates on violent crime and situations regarding the Buckhead bars that abuse their alcohol licenses.” “I think we all want to know,” Shook said of follow-up on major criminal cases. “When a person’s arrested, that’s good. And then it tends to disappear from public view.”


Public Safety | 9


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10 | Commentary

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Commentary Pandemic closures spotlight arts’ value to economy, communities During the past year of a global pandemic, people have turned to books, music, television and film for solace, distraction, entertainment and shared experiences even while apart. Yet the arts sector has been one of the hardest hit by COVID-19. Georgia’s budget has provided some funding for our arts organizations and adapted grant applications and needs due to these unforeseen circumstances. However, both the CARES Act and the American Rescue Plan from the federal government have designated a different, larger opportunity for muchneeded funding to support the recovery of the arts sector. Considering the size of the arts industry, the number of arts jobs that have been lost, and the importance of the arts to the overall economy in the state, it is clear why this additional recovery funding will be vital. The arts industry is not exclusively about entertainment. It is about jobs, economic development, and thriving communities in Georgia. The nonprofit arts industry in Georgia is made up of more than 2,800 organizations that support over 30,000 jobs with an annual economic impact of over $2 billion dollars. Americans for the Arts reports that Georgia’s arts sector is 4.3% of the state’s gross domestic product, which is roughly the size of the construction industry. Further, the nonprofit arts industry is part of a robust ecosystem of creative workers that move between sectors and drive innovation in our state. The creative industries bring together the not-for-profit sector with the for-profit creative sector such as film, digital entertainment, publishing and design. The creative industries in Georgia represent nearly 200,000 jobs, $37 billion in annual revenue, and an annual economic impact of $62.5 billion. Additionally, the arts industry is inextricably bound to other economic drivers, such as tourism, which generated $39.14 billion in direct spending in 2019, and film, which boasted a $2.9 billion in direct spending in 2019, while also anchoring the lively, exciting communities that attract businesses and skilled workers. The arts industry also provides a tremendous number of unseen services in the state that make our communities better places and improve the quality of life for all Georgians. For instance, teaching artists use the arts to explain science and math concepts to students. Art therapists work with children in homeless shelters and veterans with PTSD across the state to help them explore and address traumatic experiences. Other artists work with communities on murals and beautification projects that create pride in neighborhoods. These are the types

of projects funded by Georgia Council for the Arts through our grants program. Americans for the Arts reports that 59% of performance venues in the country remain closed. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the national unemployment rate in 2020 was 7.8%. Performing artists, though, had some of the highest unemployTina Lilly is executive director of the Georgia Council for the Arts, a ment rates of any secstate agency that promotes, funds tor during COVID: actors and advises the arts industry. (40.2%), dancers (45.6%) and musicians (27%). The Brookings Institution estimated that approximately 86,244 arts industry workers had lost their jobs in Georgia as of July 2020 – a number that is roughly the population of Buckhead in Atlanta. While artists and arts administrators are hurt by shuttered arts organizations, the closings are also problematic for nearby restaurants, shops and businesses that rely on the people brought in by performances, concerts, exhibits and festivals. The Shuttered Venue Operators Grant, funded through the American Rescue Plan (ARP), will provide $16 billion to theaters and performance venues across the country, the majority of which remain closed a year into the pandemic. ARP also provided $135 million to the National Endowment for the Arts, which will distribute 60% directly to arts organizations, and 40% will be split between state and regional arts organizations to grant to organizations in their territories. These funds, like the CARES Act funds, are intended to pay the most basic expenses for these organizations to preserve jobs and keep the organizations open: salaries and rent/mortgage expenses. The arts industry is the linchpin to moving our economy forward and getting people to travel for concerts, visit our small cities for unique festivals, and support neighborhood restaurants and shops. The federal funds will help this industry do what all small businesses want to do: retain jobs, keep their venues open, and go back to what they do best – finding creative ways to serve their communities.

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MAY 2021

Commentary | 11


Around Town

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

New homeowners association president asks, what is Dunwoody? What is Dunwoody? Turns out that’s a trickier question than you might suppose. “What is it now?” Bob Fiscella mused one sunny morning recently as we chatted at a table outside a coffee shop in Dunwoody Village. “When we became a city, a lot of people thought we were a real-life Mayberry. A lot of people still believe that. But as we change demographically, I think people want to see it be a lot more vibrant. Especially young people.” Fiscella’s new job requires him to consider how those various points of view fit together, if they do. He’s the new president of the Dunwoody Homeowners Association, the 51-yearold, 881-member group that promotes the city’s homeowners’ interests and claims to be “one of the most powerful associations of its kind in the United States.” The DHA board takes positions on zoning and development issues and the organization sponsors special family-centered events such as Dunwoody’s Fourth of July Parade, which it claims is Georgia’s largest. When considering the current role of the DHA, there’s a lot of history to take into account. Before Dunwoody became a city, the DHA functioned almost as an unofficial branch of government. Developers who wanted approval to build in Dunwoody or the surrounding area had to curry the group’s favor. The DHA had clout because of the votes it could command. And the homeowners’ group had a lot to do with the creation of the city of Dunwoody itself, in part as a strategy to thwart development of apartment complexes in the area. The city and the association were so closely tied at the beginning that the head of the DHA was elected the city’s first mayor. JOE EARLE Now that the city’s been around a Bob Fiscella, the new president of the dozen years, things have changed, of Dunwoody Homeowners Association. course. To explain the DHA’s current role, Fiscella said simply, “In a nutshell, our role is to improve the quality of life in Dunwoody and keep real estate values up.” Fiscella, who’s 61, came to his new post in a roundabout way. He’s a genial guy who sells real estate in and around Dunwoody these days, but his background is in TV sports. He grew up in Texas, studied broadcasting at the University of Texas and spent about 17 years covering sports for CNN. After that, he worked for another five years for Fox Sports. Along the way, he says in his online bio, he interviewed sports figures such as Tiger Woods, Peyton Manning and Arnold Palmer. “Broadcasting was always my thing,” he said. He ended up in Dunwoody after he married. At the time, he lived in Midtown and his wife lived in Roswell. “Dunwoody was the compromise,” he said. Once he started a family, the odd working hours required of a working sports reporter took their toll and he got out. He started selling real estate, he said. “Why I chose real estate, I don’t know,” he said. “I thought, ‘OK, there are a lot of nice houses in Dunwoody. That seems easy.’ But it’s a hell of a lot harder than it seems.” After the city incorporated in 2008, Fiscella wanted to get more involved in his community, so he ran for City Council a couple of times, but never won a seat. He says now he’s just as happy that he didn’t. “Losing that race was a blessing in disguise because those first councilmembers had to put in a lot of time,” he said. Looking ahead, Fiscella says he’s not planning any major changes, although he’d like to raise the group’s profile. He sees the job of the DHA as continuing to monitor zoning and land development in the area. Sitting at the Dunwoody Village coffee shop, he pointed out that the way the shopping center surrounding him was developed represented one of the DHA’s major past victories and that some proposals on how to revitalize the area could pit the homeowners against the city in the future. But he also said the association also needs to keep watch on the city’s schools. Dunwoody needs another high school, he said, because Dunwoody High “once was a neighborhood school and now it’s a mega-school.” “We do have to become a little more open about DeKalb County Schools. I think they are the biggest threat to keeping our property values up in Dunwoody,” he said. “How do we get our voice heard now with DeKalb County Schools? … I think we should.” If Dunwoody had its own school system, as some community leaders have unsuccessfully proposed in the recent past, “our property values would skyrocket because it would be the best school district in the state,” Fiscella said. “I think it’s still a pie-in-the-sky kind of dream,” he said, “but we have to push on DeKalb County schools whenever possible. I think we just need to keep our voice being heard. Can we exact any change? I don’t know. But we’ve at least got to try.”

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12 | Commentary

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

50 years later, a legendary indie bookstore lives on in Sandy Springs

This year will be notable for many Santini,” “The Prince of Tides” and “The things. One that most people may not noWater Is Wide,” all of which became movtice is the 50th anniversary of a muchies, with the first two earning multiple Osloved independent bookstore that once car nominations. nurtured some of Georgia’s most famous The book parties were Conroy’s idea to writers. help bring more business into the strugFounded in 1971 Carol andNiemi operated un-consultant gling little shop that sold used and rare is a marketing who lives on the DunwoodySprings line and writes about people at whose lives inspire til 1996 in a house onSandy Midtown’s Junibooks prices as low as 25 cents. Whenothers. Contact her at worthknowingnow@gmail.com.

Cliff Graubert, left, with author Pat Conroy in 1976.

Cynthia Graubert with two of her cookbooks.

per Street, the Old New York Book Shop became famous for its legendary invitation-only book parties and its most famous customer and the shop owner’s best friend, Pat Conroy, author of “The Great


ever an Atlanta writer got published, the shop would host a book-signing-andschmoozing party to celebrate. Book parties were the only time the shop sold new books.

During the 1970s and 80s, almost every serious Atlanta-based writer attended them, including not just Conroy but also Terry Kay, James Dickey and Anne Rivers Siddons, all of whom became lifelong friends and literary legends almost as big as Pat. No longer in the house on Juniper Street, the Old New York Book Shop still exists, still operated by its founder Cliff Graubart and his wife Cynthia Graubart -but in their house in Sandy Springs. Though the parties are over and most of the writers they celebrated have passed away, its original mission of buying and selling rare and out-of-print books re-


mains. Luckily, most Americans still read real books. According to a 2019 Pew Research survey, despite the popularity of e-books and audio books, 65% of U.S. adults said they had read a print book in the previous year. Some spend their lives not just reading books but collecting them, amassing personal collections of hundreds of books. So, what happens to these beloved collections when their owner passes away and leaves them to their heirs? Who has room for them? Yet, who would even think of throwing them in the trash? If a parent or dear relative dies and leaves their beloved book collection to you, what


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MAY 2021

Commentary | 13


“It’s really quite lovely. Families feel burdened by suddenly inheriting books from a loved one. He gives the books a new life.” Cynthia Graubert Author and bookseller

do you do? You can contact the Old New York Book Shop. If your collection sounds interesting, Cliff will make a personal visit to your home to see it. “I go look and usually buy some or all of the books,” said Cliff, who maintains an inventory of 10,000 individual books in his basement. Most of the collections are from es-

tates. Even if he buys an entire collection, he usually sells the books individually to different buyers looking for a particular book that may not necessarily be rare but merely hard to find. “I get orders from everywhere, including Amazon,” he said. He also gets calls from customers from the old days looking to sell. “I get calls all the time, asking, ‘Is this the same shop that was on Juniper Street?’” he said. Many of the callers give their name, as if hoping he’ll remember them. Sometimes he remembers. Often, they’re adult children living far away who have inherited book collections from their parents in Atlanta. He’ll consider anything that sounds interesting, even if it’s not his specialty of literary fiction. He remembers one call from a man in Alabama whose brother-in-law, a founder of a major Midwest science fiction convention, had died and left him his books. “He was connected to the great scifi writers of the 1950s and had a very extensive collection. It wasn’t my genre, but I bought the entire library,” Cliff said. “It came to a lot of money.” But in the end, it’s not just about the money. “Cliff still gets great joy from going on house calls and meeting people who want their books to live on in some way,” said Cynthia. “He hears the story of their collection and gets their books into the hands

of people who really want them.” Cliff misses the old days but says these days are “bittersweet.” “It’s really quite lovely,” said Cynthia. “Families feel burdened by suddenly inheriting books from a loved one. He gives the books a new life.” Both the Graubarts are published authors. Cliff has published a book of short

stories titled “The Curious Vision of Sammy Levitt” and is working on a memoir about Conroy. Cynthia has published 12 cookbooks, including co-authoring “Mastering the Art of Southern Cooking” with Nathalie Dupree. Her two newest books are being released this spring. For information, go to oldnewyorkbookshop.com and cynthiagraubart.com.

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14 | Community

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A year after Buckhead looting, mysteries remain BY JOHN RUCH, SAMMIE PURCELL AND BOB PEPALIS May 29 marks the first anniversary of a looting and vandalism spree that stunned Buckhead’s business districts and spawned still-unsolved mysteries about its motives -especially the possible involvement of out-of-state burglary rings. Coinciding with massive, peaceful protests downtown about George Floyd’s murder by Minneapolis police, some of the looting and vandalism there and in Buckhead appeared to be conducted by rioters who deviated from those demonstrations. But some of the Buckhead thefts had evidence of organized crime, and incidents at shopping centers in nearby Dunwoody and Sandy Springs added to the mystery. The mystery started May 28 with social media calls for looting at the Lenox Marketplace and Phipps Plaza malls, apparently in reference to looting happening at the time in Minneapolis during Floyd-related protests. Nothing happened that day, but those malls -- and many, many other businesses -- were looted and damaged the following night. Across Buckhead, large groups of people smashed windows of businesses and apartment buildings, set fire to several stores and restaurants, and stole items from shelves. Some damaged fire trucks. Police walled off the Lenox Square mall and Gov. Brian Kemp authorized a call-up of the National Guard. Meanwhile, police in Dunwoody said, about 150 to 200 vehicles -- many with obscured or out-of-state license plates -- showed up at Perimeter Mall in waves. But no looting happened or anything worse than shooting off of some fireworks. Dunwoody Police attempted to stop one driver whose vehicle had a flat tire, a Stone Mountain man who was accused of being unlicensed and fled on foot. There are no current court records about his case and his phone number is out of service. A Decatur woman named in a police report as a passenger in his vehicle declined to comment about what happened that night. And in Sandy Springs, just across the Buckhead border, there were two commercial burglaries and a gathering of people in a parking lot where two out-of-state men were arrested on such minor charges as loitering. Sandy Springs Police at the time expressed concern the gathering was related to the Atlanta looting, but did not respond to a recent comment request about that investigation. Back in Buckhead, stories soon emerged about organized burglars. Juanita Baranco, co-founder of Mercedes-Benz of Buckhead and other local car dealerships, said at a July 2020 Buckhead Business Association event that during the looting, one of her employees armed himself and confronted two men who had broken in and were taking keys for vehicles. The men left, she said, with one telling the other that the business was “not on the list anyway.” Chuck’s Firearms on Miami Circle had 42 guns stolen within 20 minutes by at least three groups of burglars, some wearing skull masks and using cars with out-of-state plates, according to federal investigators and store owner Jim Hinsdale. “Mine was not looting,” said Hinsdale. “It was planned, intended -- out-of-town people that saw an opportunity ... to enjoy time in the store without any disruption.” It was a case, he said, where “bad guys capitalized on the opportunity of not-peaceful protesting.” The federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) joined an industry group in offering a $15,000 reward for information about suspects, to no avail. “As of today, no arrests have been made and no one has claimed the reward,” said Cherice Williams, a spokesperson for the ATF’s Atlanta office, on April 23. Hinsdale said he was told two of the guns had been found -- one in metro Atlanta and one in New York state. The looting and vandalism had lasting effect in feeding crime fears already fueled by a local and citywide rise in gun violence. On presidential election day, Nov. 3, Lenox Square and other businesses boarded themselves up in fear of more rioting sparked by an apparently prank social media post circulated by Mary Norwood, the chair of the Buckhead Council of Neighborhoods and now a City Council candidate. Norwood said she was concerned that “we have May all over again.” Hinsdale said business is going well at Chuck’s Firearms due to “fear and paranoia” about the “lawlessness of society.” “I’ve got little old ladies in their 80s from both ends of the economic scale... saying, ‘I’ve lived here all my life and I don’t feel safe,’” he said.


MAY 2021

Community | 15


Metro Atlanta Chamber CEO urges ‘diligent study’ of Buckhead cityhood BY KEVIN C. MADIGAN

But Kirkpatrick sidestepped giving an opinion when asked about Major League Baseball’s decision to move its 2021 All-Star Game out of metro Atlanta following the passage of The Metro Atlanta Chamber of Commerce is not taking a stand on the move to make Georgia’s new voting laws, and the potential economic fallout. “I would say it’s too soon to Buckhead a city, according to president and CEO Katie Kirkpatrick, who encouraged study tell and we are certainly paying attention as an organization focused on economic growth of the move in an appearance before Buckhead Rotary Club members on April 26. to any indicators that would show negative impact,” she said. “We have not formulated a position because we are a regional entity. However, from my On the subject of public health, she said the Chamber is now focusing on providing reposition and the work that I’ve done, this is the most significant decision that will be made sources to businesses about hosting micro sites for vaccinations and how to register for at a municipal level in the history of Georgia,” Kirkpatrick told attendees on the Zoom call. appointments. “We’ve partnered with the Community Foundation of “I would encourage diligent study and looking for real datasets to unGreater Atlanta in a pretty big initiative around vaccine access and vacderstand what the impacts would be on the community if a new city cine hesitancy, as it relates to our underserved populations.” were created, from an annexation perspective.” Kirkpatrick then ran through a list of recent ACC announcements: She added, “I think we should all be really concerned about that conMicrosoft is going to have a 1,500-person cloud computing center in versation without having a full set of facts before us.” Midtown; Zillow revealed plans for 200 jobs in Dunwoody; Velux, a A nonprofit group called the Buckhead Exploratory Committee is Danish manufacturer of skylights, announced a 700-person headquarpromoting the idea of cityhood for the neighborhood and announced in ters in Sandy Springs; Papa John’s Pizza will relocate their headquarters March that a legal process has begun with the filing of state legislation. to Cobb County; Adecco, a Swiss staffing firm, will make a large invest“The traditional role of the Chamber is to be a job-creation engine by ment in Atlanta, and so will Google; Memphis-based ServiceMaster is recruiting companies to the region and helping those that are already relocating to metro Atlanta. “The fact that all those just happened in the here to expand and grow,” Kirkpatrick said. last year is a testament to the appealing nature of our region.” The Chamber also promotes international trade and goodwill, and She added, “The large cluster of headquarters is really important SPECIAL drives connections and resources to grow the innovation and entreprehere because you build out ecosystems around those brands. Small and BH Metro Chamber CEO neurship sector in Atlanta, she explained. “I think all of you here will mid-sized companies push big technology companies to come because recognize that over the last 10 years entrepreneurs have really had a mathe customers are here. It just feels like there’s a real opportunity here jor, positive impact on Buckhead and the city of Atlanta.” for your company.” Kirkpatrick hailed the work done by her organization in the passage of hate crimes legKirkpatrick took questions after her talk, and was asked by Kevin Glass, head of the Atislation and racial equity, environmental issues, public health and economic recovery. lanta International School, about the difficulty his many employees have in finding afford“We also host the Atlanta Sports Council, which is the favorite of mine because I’m a big able housing near the Buckhead campus. She offered to connect Glass with a group called sports fan,” she said. “In general the Council recruits major sporting events - the World Cup House ATL that works to create housing opportunities in the areas that people work. is what we’re pursuing right now for 2026. There’s the Super Bowl, college football championships, and the list goes on.”

WORTHWHILE CONVERSATIONS RE-THINKING ROTH IRAS… ROTH IRAS ARE NOT EXACTLY NEW. WHAT IS THERE TO “RE-THINK?” More to the point: Some people should re-think the use of Roth IRAs. Start by remembering two key differences between Roth IRAs and traditional IRAs. First, money contributed to a Roth has already been taxed. BUT, if you conform to the rules, everything you ever withdraw, including earnings that might be many times what was contributed, is completely tax-free. Second, unlike traditional IRAs, there is NO requirement to withdraw minimum distributions from a Roth IRA after reaching age 70-1/2. YOU SAID “SOME PEOPLE” MIGHT NEED A RE-THINK. WHO SPECIFICALLY? After 50 years of working with clients, we’ve now advised through the full cycle of IRA drawdowns for some of our longer-tenured families. Oftentimes, we encounter meaningful balances left in these IRA accounts when the estate passes to the next generation. Those clients were well enough positioned for retirement that they did not “need” all the funds in their IRA. That is the opportunity. SO, HOW DOES THAT CONNECT TO THE ROTH IRA? Phillip Hamman, CFA, CFP®, chairs our Wealth Planning Committee, a group of our professionals with multiple professional backgrounds, including attorneys and CPAs. He summarized the connection in this way: “Clients approaching or just starting retirement may forecast that IRA accounts will not be fully withdrawn during their lifetime, leaving a balance for heirs. Until seeing the numbers, it is difficult for them to imagine the potential wealth enhancement from a Roth conversion. The strategy of converting all or a portion of a traditional IRA and paying some tax now is counter-intuitive, but the savings accumulated over many

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16 | Community

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‘Buckhead City’ legislation is filed as mayor ramps up opposition Continued from page 1 supporters. “Thanks to all of your efforts, a major step forward in our quest to establish Buckhead cityhood was achieved yesterday. Encouragingly, over the many years that an independent Buckhead City has been discussed, this is the first time that such a movement takes a step towards the Georgia’s [sic] legislature.” Neither legislator responded to comment requests. But state Rep. Betsy Holland (D-Atlanta), whose district includes part of Buckhead, confirmed that Jones filed legislation. Holland, who has opposed the concept of cityhood, said she was not aware of the legislation beforehand. “Todd Jones definitely dropped legislation on Sine Die,” Holland said in an email. “He made a motion to suspend the rules to have the bill read for the first time and assigned to committee around midnight on Wednesday. Several folks (including me) objected to the motion and a vote to suspend the rules did not pass, so he was not able to have it immediately read and assigned. However, it will be in the hopper for the start of the 2022 session.” “I was not approached about the legislation, nor was [state Rep.] Shea Roberts (who represents the second biggest chunk of Buckhead after me),” Holland added. “Seems strange to have someone who represents Forsyth County dropping a bill about a community in Atlanta, doesn’t it?”

Sam Lenaeus, BEC’s president and CEO, provided the Reporter with the statement sent to supporters and a photograph of the first page of the legislation, but did not immediately respond to questions, including whether any Buckhead-area legislators are in support and how the “Buckhead City” name would work with an existing city in Morgan County called Buckhead. BEC emerged last year among concern about crime and uneven city services. While advocating for cityhood, the group has said it was also open to annexation into such adjacent cities as Brookhaven and Sandy Springs, or simply issuing complaints to Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms. In a virtual meeting in January, BEC members asked the public for $10,000 to $15,000 in donations so they could conduct opinion polling to see if people agreed with the cityhood advocacy. Lenaeus previously said that polling was conducted, but did not respond to questions about its results. The group also hired lobbyists, saying they were merely consulting experts. BEC’s effort has been strongly criticized by Bottoms and Buckhead’s major business community organizations as divisive at a time when they are working on social, economic and racial unity. Jim Durrett, who heads the Buckhead Coalition and the Buckhead Community Improvement District, has likened the effort to a child ceasing to share toys with others and warned that separate cityhood could bankrupt Atlanta.

The cityhood process would be legally complex, as it would involve de-annexing the neighborhood from Atlanta and then incorporating it as a city. In the Rotary Club appearance, Bottoms addressed crime concerns that have drawn challengers for her reelection and sparked legislation to turn the neighborhood into its own separate city. Bottoms blasted Buckhead cityhood as a non-solution to crime while acknowledging she is delaying a search for a permanent police chief in part to avoid election-year “political fodder.” Bottoms’ responses to two of last year’s national phenomena — a rise in violent crime and protests about racism and police brutality — have been controversial locally. The cityhood movement and a “Buckhead Security Plan” developed by private business organizations and the Atlanta Police Foundation are among the results. Bottoms placed Buckhead and Atlanta crime in the national context and attributed it to mental and social pressures of the pandemic. “We are experiencing what I call a COVID crime wave,” she said. “… I’ve heard some say it’s an excuse when you say it’s happening everywhere. It’s not an excuse. It’s a fact.” Citing her own crime-fighting plan, Bottoms said she has spoken directly with President Biden about crime and that he agrees about the pandemic being a factor. She said she expects the city to receive about $178 million in money from the federal Ameri-



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can Rescue Plan Act and that the Biden administration will allow it to be spent with “flexibility,” including on public safety. Political flashpoints in last year’s crime and policing controversies were Bottoms’ responses to two incidents where Atlanta Police Department officers used force that hurt or killed civilians. One was an incident where officers broke into a car and used Tasers on two college students alleged to be violating a curfew; Bottoms ordered the firing of the officers. And Bottoms’ quick condemnation of the police killing of Rayshard Brooks in Peoplestown led to the resignation of locally popular Police Chief Erika Shields and involved a temporary tolerance of armed protesters near the shooting site. That tolerance ended with the shooting death of a child in a passing vehicle. Bottoms briefly addressed some of those controversies, saying APD ranks had shrunken and added that “on top of that, I made a decision to fire officers that I felt needed to be fired. My understanding is that really was not the straw that broke the camel’s back, that the straw was the indictment of the officers. This is all anecdotal. Everyone has their own opinion.” Shields’ temporary replacement as chief is Rodney Bryant, a recently retired APD commander who came back at Bottoms’ request. Questioned by a concerned resident, Bottoms acknowledged that she is delaying a search for a permanent chief, while pushing back on the effect on policing and crime. “The short answer is no. I cannot say when a new police chief will be named,” Bottoms said when asked whether a search process is underway. One reason for the delay, she said, is that many cities nationwide are searching for chiefs, so recruitment is more difficult than usual. “And secondly, this is an election year…. I don’t want it to become political fodder,” Bottoms added of the search process. She said she is “very pleased” with Bryant’s work and that he has agreed to remain in the job as long as she wants, including the possibility of being the permanent chief. “Let me be clear, Rodney Bryant serving as the interim police chief is not the reason we are having an uptick in crime in the city,” Bottoms said. Bottoms acknowledged the effect of crime concerns, as well as pandemic-related pressures, in spawning the effort to make Buckhead its own city. “It has caused us in many ways to be very uncomfortable as a city because we’ve endured many challenges as a city. But I can tell you that the solution to this is not to create a city of Buckhead,” she said, adding that such an effort is a “very expensive proposition” with such questions as the establishment of a new school system. “I can tell you that the city of Atlanta very much values Buckhead,” Bottoms said. “We very much consider Buckhead a part of the city of Atlanta, and an important part of the city of Atlanta. And it has never been any intention from me personally or from our administration not to provide Buckhead with the services and the protection that it needs, just as we do across the city of Atlanta.” BH

MAY 2021

Arts & Entertainment | 17


Author Q&A: What Hollywood gets right and wrong about the South BY KEVIN C. MADIGAN From “The Birth of a Nation” to “Forrest Gump,” “Gone with the Wind” to “Green Book,” Hollywood has a long, complex and sometimes troubled relationship with depictions of the Deep South. Writer and historian Ben Beard, a Georgia native who now lives in Chicago, examines that legacy in his new book “The South Never Plays Itself: A Film Buff’s Journey Through the South on Screen.” Beard will appear in a free, virtual author talk hosted by the Atlanta History Center on June 3 at 7 p.m. See atlantahistorycenter.com for details. Beard answered some questions about what Hollywood gets right and wrong about the South. Can you name a movie about the South that you think gets it right, and why? I think a lot of films catch or capture aspects of the South, but the South isn’t a monolithic thing. “Magic Mike” keys into the beachy, druggy, hang-out Florida of late nights, diners, day-drinking, and sketchy people. It’s a great movie. (The sequel is wretched.) “Junebug” handles evangelical religion on its own terms, revealing generous, friendly people who are also standoffish and judgmental. It’s a great movie, too. “Moonlight” is a wonderful film, tak-

individual films that misfire or misrepresent: “Tobacco Road,” “The Alamo,” “White Lightning,” “Mississippi Burning,” “Sweet Home Alabama,” “Triple-9.” The list is long, really. A lot of the old films, pre-1950s, celebrate the Old South as a prelapsarian Eden, which is nonsense.

Ben Beard, author of “The South Never Plays Itself.”

ing viewers through the poor and Black areas of Miami. “God’s Little Acre” digs into the belligerent lunacy of a certain Southern type, the deluded country dreamer. “Conrack” follows a teacher working with Black students off the coast of the Carolinas. None of these movies have anything in common with each other. The South is a vast expanse of land and people. Name one that is egregiously short-sighted or just plain wrong. A lot of Southern movies get things wrong. One, they often use Southern accents as a shorthand for racism. Two, they


often use the South as a scapegoat for America’s racial sins. Three, they group the South together as one thing, which it isn’t. Four, back in the day they often left out Black characters. Five, nowadays they often reveal a binary place, of just Black and white people. Six, they often portray the South as more violent than the rest of the country, which is a complete and utter joke. (Except, maybe not: Louisiana is the most violent state in the Union, per capita.) As an aside, New Orleans is too complex and rich a locale for most films. I can’t think of a great New Orleans film -- not really. As to

You write about Hollywood’s “distorting lens.” Can you elaborate? I think American cinema is so good, we take for granted technical expertise and a wide array of film genres. I love old musicals, Westerns and film noir. I think Hollywood has a great track record with dramas, melodramas and romantic comedies, and a pretty good output of war movies, heist films and gangster pictures. But Hollywood is historically pretty bad at local color, local customs. Hollywood struggles with smaller, more personal films. And Hollywood -like New York -- is in love with itself and its own importance. The South is a complex reality and a complex idea. Hollywood isn’t good at dealing with either. So Southerners are often seen as dumb, ignorant reactionaries or sages dispensing folksy wisdom. I don’t look to Hollywood for nuance, but still, the overall picture of the South is pretty dismal, movie-wise.

18 | Special Section

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Special Section | 19


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20 | Doing Business

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‘Hypersonic’ airplane dreamers test their tech at PDK BY SAMMIE PURCELL The future of hypersonic air travel isn’t as far away as you might think -- in fact, it might be in your backyard. Hermeus is an Atlanta-based startup focused on bringing hypersonic air travel to the masses. Think the supersonic passenger airliner the Concorde, which flew from the 1970s to 2003 -- but faster. Founders A.J. Piplica, Michael Smayda, Glenn Case and Skyler Shuford started the company in 2018 and are now working on designing a hypersonic aircraft that could take passengers from New York to London in 90 minutes. To build a hypersonic plane, they need somewhere to test the engine. Shortly after Hermeus started, they chose DeKalbPeachtree Airport (PDK) to be their engine testing ground. The Reporter spoke to Case about hypersonic travel and why they chose PDK. Can you explain the background of Hermeus and how you got started? We were founded back in November of 2018. We were working for an aerospace company here in Atlanta at the time, but also working in the hypersonics world. We saw this incredible opportunity for commercial hypersonics and sort of jumped ship -- decided to jump off the cliff and try to build a plane on the way down.

What’s the goal that you’re working towards? Our end goal is to transform transportation by building Mach 5 aircraft. Mach 5 aircraft means around 3,300 miles per hour, or five times the speed of sound. It’s been pretty well studied that anytime humankind has increased their speed of travel -- be it from walking to horses, or horses to automobiles, to ships to aircraft -that a large economic impact follows suit. It’s a lot of economic growth in terms of trillions of dollars of real, new growth in economies. That’s one of the ways we really care to change the world -- by speeding up travel. Not only does it make your life a lot better, because of life lived on the ground and not the air, but it brings real, new growth and new economies to many parts of the world. How fast will that Mach 5 plane be able to travel in terms of going from one place to another? You’re looking at New York to London in 90 minutes. And that 90 minutes in-


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a regional-type place. Why is PDK the best spot for this testing facility? PDK is, of all the airports in the Atlanta area, definitely the best one to work with in terms of being able to attract talent. It allows us to make noise -- and that noise is well within the envelope that the airport currently operates under. No one’s heard us testing yet! It alSPECIAL Left, One of Hermeus’ prototype ‘hypersonic’ airplane lows us to run up jet enengines. Right, Hermeus co-founder Glenn Case. gines, which most places aren’t permitted for. PDK is cludes taxiing out, acceleration up, cruise obviously permitted for running up those and then deceleration and landing. types of engines. That really creates an international, inBut it’s also inside the Perimeter, in a tercontinental flight that is more along place that’s very accessible for folks that the lines of a regional flight today. I don’t live either in the Brookhaven area, or know about you, but I certainly don’t hesDowntown and Midtown, or where I live in itate to hop on a flight when I’m flying the north Alpharetta area -- it’s still very acfrom Atlanta to the Mid-Atlantic or somecessible. So we’re able to attract a full range where around there, where it’s only about of people -- folks that are young and might an hour-and-a-half [away]. I’ll take a weekwant to live closer to the city, or folks with end trip somewhere on a plane there, but families that might want to live in a litonce that aircraft flight hits six or sevtle north of the city with more yard. It’s a en hours, those trips have been fewer and great place that allows us to attract really far between. But think of what would hapgreat people, but also allows us to get our pen if that flight to Paris was more akin to job done in terms of the permitting and eva regional flight. That’s essentially what we erything associated with that. want to do. We want to shrink the world to

MAY 2021

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to launch in April 2020 before the pandemic lockdowns ended the possibility and changed commuting patterns. Hailed by an Uber-style app from a company called Via, the fleet of six free-roaming vans will take people anywhere in the general areas of the central business district, Buckhead Village and the Lenox Square and Phipps Plaza malls. In the original plan, the fare was to be $3 a ride – and free for any trip to or from a MARTA station. Durrett said CID staff will return to the board in July with an updated budget request. Durrett also sits on MARTA’s board of directors and said the transit agency is interested in ways to “integrate” the Via shuttles with its bus services.

Police bikes and water sellers The CID approved $310,000 in funding for Atlanta Police Department bicycle patrols in the area, with four officers pedaling Monday through Friday. APD Sgt. Daniel Funderberck told the CID board that the bike patrols have helped to tackle the issue of young people illicitly selling water on the street, a practice that has generated major citywide controversy. Buckhead’s Zone 2 officers have been more crackdown-oriented, while Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms put together a panel that advised finding entrepreneurial programs for the so-called water boys. “What can we do to make the water boys go away?” asks CID project manager Tony Peters, summing up much of the board’s sentiment. Funderberck said police crackdowns mostly just displace illicit activity. “We push crime [elsewhere]. Let’s just be honest,” he said, adding that “my plan of action is to just keep on seizing their product,” as they will eventually leave when they lack the bottled water to sell. Herbert Ames, a board member from the real estate company EDENS, suggested some type of educational campaign against the water-sellers. That led Funderberck to suggest policing alternatives. “You want to be careful about making these guys out to be scary guys, because they’re kids,” said Funderberck. But, he added, some people feel sympathetic toward the water-sellers even though some of them “have robbed people who haven’t given them a dollar for a bottle of water.” Funderberck suggested the CID consider making an area where water-selling could happen or a program where youths could learn other types of business. “MayJim Durrett be there is something we can create for Executive director, Buckhead them” and “harness this entrepreneurCommunity Improvement District ial spirit, because the criminal part will leave -- they’re not going to participate…,” he said. CID board chair Thad Ellis of the real estate company Cousins Properties said they could have further discussions about some existing programs.

“We’ve decided, based upon what we’re hearing from the offices here and the tenants, that if we bring that back in August, there will be enough folks that will be interested in using the service.”

Speeding up road projects The Buckhead CID and its counterparts in Downtown and Midtown will collaborate on a $100,000 study aimed at speeding up how they collaborate with the city on street and sidewalk projects. Durrett said the study comes out of frustrations with how long such projects can take. The Buckhead CID board agreed to contribute $30,000 to the study, which Durrett said would likely take months to conduct and examine practices at the state and other local cities as well. Durrett said the CID has been in touch with Josh Rowan, the commissioner of the city’s Department of Transportation, and City Councilmember Andre Dickens, who chairs the Transportation Committee. BH

MAY 2021

Community | 23


Young artists paint nature-themed murals in park BY JOHN RUCH Young artists painted nature-themed murals in April in Buckhead’s Mountain Way Common park, decorating some of the towering pillars that support the Ga. 400 and MARTA overpass that shadows the unique green space. The murals were created by eight students who won a juried art contest dubbed “Picture Your Path,” as the art is along a future section of the PATH400 multiuse trail. The contest was organized by Lovett School senior Katie Maier as a Girl Scouts Gold Star project. Several years ago, Maier won a similar mural contest from PATH400 operator Livable Buckhead, which helped coordinate “Picture Your Path.” According to Livable Buckhead, 75 young artists applied, with winners chosen by a panel that included Dianne Belk, the founding chair of the Girl Scouts-supporting Juliette Gordon Low Society; Katherine Dirga, MARTA’s director of art; City Councilmember J.P. Matzigkeit of Buckhead’s District 8; Livable Buckhead Executive Director Denise Starling; and teacher Fran Turner. The winners were Berkeley Dana, Danny Diulus, Elizabeth Dobrotka, Milan Everhart-Chappelle, Autumn Lundy, Jagger Rogers, Emma Stoll and Noa Tsur. They were organized into two groups that painted their murals on April 10 and 18. The photos here were taken during the April 18 painting.

Mountain Way Common is located at 4124 North Ivy Road, beneath the highway and train overpass. For more information, see mountainwaycommon.net.

Clockwise from top left: Elizabeth “Ellie” Dobrotka, a fifth-grade student at Bolton Academy, paints her mural. Autumn Lundy, center, paints her mural atop a ladder with help from her mom while Bolton Academy teacher Stephany Walls looks on. Livable Buckhead staff member Anna Sharp, left, who helped organize the contest, and Executive Director Denise Starling discuss some of the art. The future section of the PATH400 trail in Mountain Way Common with the murals going up in the background on pillars that support Ga. 400 and MARTA’s Red Line. PHOTOS BY JOSHUA CROWDER


MAY 2021



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