MAY 2021 • VOL. 12 — NO. 5
Dunwoody Reporter WORTH KNOWING
A legendary bookstore lives on P12
‘Hypersonic’ airplane company takes flight at PDK P20
SUMMER CAMPS P18-19
City to buy over 9 acres of new park land
New DHA president ponders Dunwoody’s future
BY SAMMIE PURCELL
A large lawn on a residential property that is slated to become a new city park.
Helping the arts recover from the pandemic
BY SAMMIE PURCELL
The Dunwoody Reporter is is delivered via USPS to homes on selected carrier routes in ZIP 30338 It is available for pickup at local businesses. email@example.com
As part of its master plan to improve school facilities and alleviate overcrowding, the DeKalb County School District has released preliminary reports showing the “educational suitability” of schools throughout the district, including six that serve the Dunwoody community. The educational suitability reports indicated that many schools, like Dun-
Six Dunwoody schools get preliminary facility scores
woody High School, are overcrowded and have classrooms that aren’t suitably sized. But a spokesperson for the school district said these reports are still a work in progress, and will not be finalized until late summer or early fall. The school district began working toward the creation of its “Comprehensive Master Plan” last August. The master
Dunwoody residents may soon see over 9 acres of new park land along Vermack Road. At an April 12 Public Facilities Authority meeting, the authority approved a purchase and sale agreement for $5.76 million for two parcels of land at 4809 and 4819 Vermack Road. The land includes about 9.3 acres with two houses, “open field and a wooded area,” according to a city press release. The Public Facilities Authority, which is made up of members of the City Council, functions mainly to enter into long-term lease agreements with different entities, but also has the potential to provide financing options, such as bond funding. The city’s Parks Master Plan, which was last updated in 2017, lists land acquisition and preservation as a priority for Dunwoody, said the press release. Before the sale becomes final, the city will have a 60-day due diligence period to inspect the property before moving forward, according to the press release. That process will include an environmental study, appraisal and title research.
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2 | Community
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City Council worries about approval process if zoning district changes BY SAMMIE PURCELL The City Council deferred a decision on a proposed change to the Planned Development (PD) zoning district amid concerns that criteria for what they could approve and what they couldn’t was not adequately addressed. At its April 26 meeting, the council considered an amendment to the PD district that would create two different minimum land requirements based on where a development was located. The PD district is a special zoning district that allows for developments that might otherwise not fit the city’s zoning code. To apply for the PD district, developers are required to have an Overall Development Plan (ODP) already in place. The ODP would override any conflicts with the city’s zoning code. The current minimum land requirement for the PD district is five acres. City staff initially recommended changing the land to one acre, but at an April 12 council meeting, the council expressed concern that too small of a minimum land requirement might infringe on residential areas. In response, city staff came back to the April 26 meet-
ing suggesting a two-tier system which had different minimum requirements for different character areas outlined in Dunwoody’s 2020-2040 Comprehensive Plan. For developments in the city’s suburban neighborhood and institutional/ campus character areas, the minimum land requirement for the PD district would be 200,000 square feet, or about 4.6 acres. For all other character areas, the minimum land requirement would be 1.5 acres. City staff also recommended one of the changes brought forth by the Dunwoody Planning Commission at its March 9 meeting, which would allow the commission to defer rezoning proposals to the PD district up to three times. The council expressed optimism at staff’s proposed changes, but many had concerns regarding the PD district’s criteria for approval and what developments they could choose not to approve and why. Councilmember John Heneghan asked if it would be possible to get more concrete language about how the approval process works and what that approval criteria is for the PD
district. Part of the city’s zoning ordinance states that a zoning proposal must be in accordance with the city’s comprehensive plan. Heneghan said since the PD district might differ from the comprehensive plan, he wanted more clarification on the approval process. “I want to make sure that we … know what we’re able to approve, and not approve and why,” he said. “I want to make sure that this does not set us up for a lawsuit when we were to deny something for whatever reason.” Heneghan said he also still worried about shrinking the minimum land requirement to such a degree and how that could affect adjacent landowners. City attorney Bill Riley said it would be up to the council to protect the “structural” integrity of surrounding properties. “You have the capacity to ameliorate,” Riley said. “You may ameliorate more on smaller plots than you would on larger ones, because they would be more of a growth in the middle of a residential area rather than this big planned development … that you could buffer all
around.” Councilmember Tom Lambert echoed Heneghan’s concerns about approval criteria. “When something comes before us, what is the criteria that doesn’t get us in trouble for turning it down if we’re not happy with the product,” he asked. “That’s my only concern at this point.” Mayor Lynn Deustch asked for city staff to clarify that approval process and bring the amendment back before the council at its next meeting. “The reason to shrink the commercial sites down is to get some meaningful, infill commercial stuff,” she said. “I think we need to better understand the process and also the ability to reject if it gets that far.”
Municipal Court to hold first of two forgiveness programs in May BY SAMMIE PURCELL Dunwoody Municipal Court will hold two amnesty programs this year, offering forgiveness for traffic citation fees and active warrants for failing to appear in court. The first program will take place in May and aims to settle outstanding violations and reduce arrests, according to a press release. The court has decided to offer two programs this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. A city spokesperson said the city has not decided when the second amnesty program will take place. According to the press release, if individuals pay their fines in full all other contempt fees will be forgiven. If the offense in question requires a court appearance, the person will be granted a future court date. All warrants and warrant fees will be cleared. To take part in the program, those interested must visit the court in person at 4800 Ashford-Dunwoody Road on Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday between the hours of 8:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. Cash, money orders, cashier checks, and Visa and Mastercard credit cards are acceptable forms of payment. Anyone with questions can call 678-3826973. DUN
Community | 3
Urban Redevelopment Agency seeks marketing help for last leg of Project Renaissance
BY SAMMIE PURCELL The Urban Redevelopment Agency is seeking a retailer to help market a 2.5-acre parcel that is part of the city’s “Project Renaissance” redevelopment plan. The city approved the Project Renaissance redevelopment back in 2012 as a way to revitalize its Georgetown neighborhood with parks, trails and commercial uses. The redevelopment area sits on about 35 acres along North Shallowford Road. The URA owns the land and is responsible for encouraging said redevelopment. Economic Development Director Michael Starling said this piece of land, which sits at 4400 North Shallowford Road, is the final piece of property the agency controls. The site has caused trouble for the agency in the past — a food hall was originally planned for the site, but in 2019 the developer, Crim & Associates, withdrew from the concept after they had trouble finding tenants. At the URA’s April 8 meeting, it approved a “request for qualifications,” or RFQ, which would invite experienced retail firms to apply to market the property. The URA would then select one of the firms to represent them to potential developers, said Starling. According to the RFQ, the selected firm would be responsible for helping the URA to identify an appropriate use for the site and with all marketing materials. The proposed RFQ required the firm to assist with a future sale contract, but the board amended that language to include the possibility of a lease. A ground lease is an agreement which allows a tenant to develop a piece of property during the lease period, which is usually more long-term. Firms that wish to apply are required to send in a description of their services, resumes of their team, any experience in commercial real estate marketing, references, a proposed marketing plan and a proposed commission fee. The board discussed the possibilities of what could be planned, with some board members highlighting the prospect of widening the scope of ideas for the site. But, despite the failure of the food hall concept, the board seemed optimistic about trying for a restaurant-centric development, but perhaps with fewer units. “We had one organization that tried to do these things, and they couldn’t pull it off,” said Chairman Ken Wright. “But as we get an agency to come in and represent us and the property and go out wide with this … personally I still think a restaurant play is extremely doable.” Starling said that the deadline for firms to submit would be three weeks after the RFQ is sent out. He said he should be able to send that out by April 13, putting the deadline in early May.
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Monday, July 5, 2021 Theme: Celebrating Our Heroes Grand Marshal: Frontline Workers Presented by:
Dunwoody Homeowners Association and the Dunwoody Reporter newspaper will host the annual Fourth of July Parade featuring marching bands, floats, clowns, animal units and local celebrities. In 2019 the parade attracted over 2,500 participants and 35,000 spectators! More information visit https://dunwoodyga.org/dunwoody-4th-of-july-parade/
4 | Community
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DeKalb County to lift water disconnections moratorium BY SAMMIE PURCELL DeKalb County plans to lift a five-year-old moratorium on water disconnections, which started in 2016 after residents complained about abnormally high bills. Current DeKalb County CEO Michael Thurmond announced he would lift the moratorium in an April 21 press release, saying the problems that led to those high water bills have been fixed. County officials previously said issues with outdated technology caused inaccuracies in billing. Former Interim CEO Lee May put the moratorium into effect
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to make sure residents wouldn’t have their water disconnected while they disputed the high bills. The moratorium is scheduled to lift on July 1. Extended payment time will be arranged for customers whose ability to pay has been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. According to the press release, over the past four years complaints about disputed water bills have decreased from 4,000 to less than 200. Other improvements include releasing 37,000 bills that previously could not be verified, replacing 82,000 defective water meters, outfitting 70% of customers with electronic transmitters for more accurate readings, and hiring and training about two dozen staff. “Restoring trust by understanding the root cause of the billing problems, taking corrective actions and being responsive to customer concerns has been our goal,” said Thurmond in the press release. “We have learned from past mistakes but we did not dwell on it. I was hired by the citizens of DeKalb County to fix a problem and that has been done.”
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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.
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.”
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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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.
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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.
Community | 9
City chooses new contractor for ‘Georgetown Gateway Project’ improvements BY SAMMIE PURCELL The city has chosen a new construction company to move forward with street improvements along ChambleeDunwoody Road in Georgetown after ending its agreement with the original contractor. At an April 12 meeting, the City Council approved a construction contract with Lewallen Construction Company in the amount of about $6.84 million for the Georgetown Gateway Project. The Gateway project includes landscape enhancements, traffic adjustments, and the addition of walking paths to the section of Chamblee-Dunwoody Road between Cotillion Drive and Peeler Road. The city initially approved a contract with the company SD&C for about $6.11 million in July of 2020, but had to wait on contract approval from the Georgia Department of Transportation. In light of upcoming, unfinished GDOT projects — in particular the addition of toll lanes at the top end of I-285 — the
city coordinated efforts on this project with GDOT. A spokesperson said GDOT received the contract in September of 2020 and executed the contract on Dec. 18, 2020. However, Public Works Director Michael Smith said, Dunwoody did not receive the contract until January of this year. A GDOT spokesperson said because Dunwoody opted to handle utilities on its own — something that is usually handled by GDOT — there was a “reduction in the scope” of the contract, which caused SD&C to withdraw their bid. However, Smith said the contract ended because SD&C said its subcontractors were going to be asking for a 10-15% increase over the original $6.11 million contract. “When the city asked in writing for SD&C to confirm that they would accept the contract with the original bid prices, they responded in writing that they would not be opposed to a decision by the city to declare the bid nonresponsive as long as the city didn’t
take any adverse action against SD&C,” Smith said. SD&C did not respond to a request for comment. Smith said the city moved on to the second bidder, Lewallen Construction, who was the second lowest bidder after SD&C when the original bids were made. Utility relocation, which has to happen before construction begins, was set to start in the fall of 2020, but Smith said the timeline has been delayed. “We’re going to lose a little bit of time on the project,” he said. “This project has a lot of utility relocation, and so we have been working with utilities. Atlanta Gas Light is getting geared up to start moving the gas main this summer and Georgia Power is working on getting their easements.” Smith said while the schedule has shifted a few months, construction is expected to start in 2022 and end in 2024.
“We’re going to lose a little bit of time on the project. This project has a lot of utility relocation, and so we have been working with utilities.” Michael Smith Public Works Director
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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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.”
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 email@example.com.
This year will be notable for many best friend, Pat Conroy, author of “The things. One that most people may not Great Santini,” “The Prince of Tides” notice is the 50th anniversary of a and “The Water Is Wide,” all of which much-loved independent bookstore became movies, with the first two earnthat once nurtured some of Georgia’s ing multiple Oscar nominations. most famous writers.Carol Niemi is a marketing consultant who The book parties were Conroy’s idea lives on the DunwoodyFounded in 1971 and operated to people helpwhose bring more business into the Sandy Springs line until and writes about lives inspire others. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org. 1996 in a house on Midtown’s Juniper struggling little shop that sold used Street, the Old New York Book Shop beand rare books at prices as low as 25 came famous for its legendary invitacents. Whenever 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 SPECIAL/JUST BARTEE house on Juniper Cynthia Graubert with two of her cookbooks. Street, the Old New tion-only book parties and its most faYork Book Shop still exists, still opermous customer and the shop owner’s ated by its founder Cliff Graubart and
50 years later, a legendary indie bookstore lives on in Sandy Springs
Cliff Graubert, left, with author Pat Conroy in 1976.
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-ofprint books remains. 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 collect-
ing 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 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.
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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
“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 estates. 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 sci-fi 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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Bills that local officials liked or loathed from this General Assembly session BY JOHN RUCH, BOB PEPALIS AND
Brookhaven); and officials from the
es within 10 years to a maximum of a
citizen’s arrests. “These updates were
cities of Brookhaven and Sandy Springs.
$1,000-$5,000 fine, one to five years in
long overdue and allow for greater fair-
SB 236: Permanently legalizing cock-
prison and treatment as a felony. “Mu-
ness and justice, while still granting in-
The Georgia General Assembly’s ses-
tails to go. A lasting legacy of the pan-
nicipalities around Atlanta, including
dividuals the right to protect themselves
sion ended March 31 amid nationwide
demic will be this practice of allowing
the city of Atlanta, asked legislators to
and their property,” said Albers. Add-
controversy over its passage of Senate
businesses licensed to sell mixed drinks
consider legislation that would make it
ed Holland, “It was particularly power-
Bill 202, an election reform package
to offer them as takeout in sealed con-
easier for law enforcement to manage
ful to pass this bill in the House just a
decried as voter suppression by advo-
tainers, an emergency move to help
the street racing problems in the area,”
few days after the one-year anniversa-
cates who swayed Major League Base-
struggling restaurants that can now be
said Holland. “This bill should meet
ry of Ahmaud Arbery’s death, knowing
ball into moving its All-Star Game out
part of post-apocalypse life.
some of those needs.”
that Ahmaud’s mother was watching the
of metro Atlanta. But that was just one of many pieces of legislation that passed this session addressing everything from takeout cocktails to street racing crackdowns. Several
ly voiced their opinions on bills they liked or loathed as they await Gov. Brian Kemp’s signature within 40 days of the session’s end. The following House and Senate bills were spotlighted in interviews and press releases from state Sens. John Albers (R-Roswell) and Elena Parent (D-Atlanta); state Reps. Betsy Holland (D-Atlanta), Mary Margaret Oliver (D-Decatur), Shea Roberts (D-Sandy Springs) and Matthew Wilson (D-
proceedings as they streamed.”
HB 534: Street racing crackdown.
HB 732: Permanent Atlanta Public
This bill does what a city of Atlanta or-
Schools homestead tax exemption. This
HB 465: Prohibiting security com-
dinance, later imitated by Brookhav-
bill would make permanent a property
panies from being fined for false bur-
en and Sandy Springs, mostly pretend-
tax exemption that is scheduled to “sun-
glar alarms. This bill was aimed at wip-
ed to do by allowing the confiscating of
set” at the end of the year. The change
ing out innovative laws in Brookhaven
street-racers’ vehicles in some circum-
would need to be approved by voters in a
and Sandy Springs that fined compa-
stances. Regarding racing and reck-
question that would appear on the Nov.
nies rather than customers for false
less stunt driving, the bill also hikes the
alarms in what was said to be a success-
fines; mandates prison time; calls for suspending driver’s licenses; makes repeat violations a felony; and at the state level outlaws organizing or “knowingly promoting” street racing. Under the bill, a first offense for reckless stunt driving would mean a fine of $300-$750 and imprisonment for 10 days to 6 months, escalating from there for repeat offens-
HB 479: Revising the citizen’s arrest law. Sparked by last year’s vigilante killing of Ahmaud Arbery, a Black man, near Brunswick, Georgia, this revision eliminates the ability of most people who are not police officers to make an arrest. Security guards, private investigators and some business owners can still make
ful attempt to quell false alarms. Sandy Springs won court challenges to its law and Mayor Rusty Paul (who also works as a lobbyist) says it will now lobby for Kemp to veto this bill. Brookhaven is also in opposition, said city spokesperson Burke Brennan: “When there are thousands of false alarms, it drains police resources, especially if these false
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Community | 15
alarms are uncompensated to any de-
messaging bill. I don’t support defund-
gree. Anything that inhibits law en-
ing the police, but nor is there any incli-
forcement from its stated goal to serve
nation that that’s going to happen.”
and protect does affect every resident of Brookhaven.”
HB 255: Statewide sexual assault kit tracking system. “This will grant our
HB 231: Victims of dating violence
law enforcement an additional tool at
can obtain temporary protective orders
their disposal to ensure that victims of
from a court. This was among measures
sexual assault receive the justice they
aimed at domestic violence that re-
deserve,” said Albers in a press release.
ceived bipartisan support. “Sometimes lost in the narratives about the work of our state legislature is how much we actually all agree on — especially in an area like victims’ rights,” said Wilson.
HB 655: Filling Brookhaven City Council vacancies. This bill would allow the mayor to appoint a replacement for a vacant City Council seat, with approval of other councilmembers. If the
HB 98: Authorizing virtual govern-
seat became vacant with more than 12
ment meetings. The COVID-19 pandem-
months left in the member’s term, the
ic sent local governments into Zoom
replacement would serve until a special
mode. This law clarifies their ability to
election; for shorter periods, the replace-
hold tele-meetings in times of emergen-
ment would serve until the next gener-
cy and guarantees public input in them.
al election. “We appreciate the General
HB 317: Short-term rental taxation.
Assembly passing the legislation, which
The bill makes the owner of a shortterm rental unit subject to state and local hotel taxes and responsible for paying them. HB 286: Limiting police department budget cuts. This response to the “defund the police” slogan in Black Lives Matter protests limits local governments to cutting police budgets by no more than 5% in one year and 55% within five years. The bill was criticized by some local legislators as unnecessary and unwise. “This bill was one of many this session where the majority party asserted state overreach at the expense of local control,” said Roberts. Added Par-
allows Brookhaven, a city with a small City Council, to ensure continuous operations in the event of a vacancy,” said Brennan. HB 146: Paid parental leave for some government employees. The bill would grant three weeks of paid leave to eligible employees of the state government
What can you learn about senior living at our upcoming event? A whole bunch.
and local school boards for the birth of a child or the placement of an adopted or fostered minor child. The employees
Ask questions. It’s casual, easy and you’re invited.
would be entitled to the leave regardless of whether they are eligible under federal law. “Approximately 250,000 state
employees will be affected by this bill,”
Thursday, June 3rd • 11:30am
ent, “It’s really just kind of a [political]
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16 | Community
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All-Star Game’s move may hurt local economy, divides elected officials BY JOHN RUCH AND BOB PEPALIS Major League Baseball’s decision to move its July All-Star Game and draft from metro Atlanta over a controversial voting reform law will hurt the local economy that week, says one of the few business organizations willing to weigh in amid a firestorm that has divided local elected officials along largely partisan lines. Quickly passed by Republican legislators and signed by Gov. Brian Kemp on March 25, Senate Bill 202 was a response to the GOP’s historic and national power-shifting losses in Georgia’s recent presidential and U.S. Senate elections. Republican leaders claim the law provides needed safeguards against fraud and note that it partly expands early and drop-box voting. Democratic leaders call it a voter-suppression law particularly targeting Black voters and based on the disproven “Big Lie” that Donald Trump won the presidential election but fell to manipulated vote systems. Since MLB’s April 2 announcement, the rapidly expanding controversy now includes such major local companies as Coca-Cola, which are blasted by both sides for variously criticizing the law or criticizing it too late. The game was to be held at Truist Park, the Atlanta Braves’ home stadium in Cobb County. Cobb Travel and Tourism, the coun-
ty’s convention and visitors bureau, has claimed the pull-out means a $100 million hit to the state’s economy at a time of COVID-19 damage, though the details of that estimate are unclear. The Atlanta Convention & Visitors Bureau, meanwhile, implicitly criticized the law, saying in a website statement that the ACVB stands “in opposition to any legislation or action that restricts the rights or impacts access for Black, Brown and underrepresented communities to participate in the democratic process.” Chambers of Commerce and CVBs in Brookhaven, Buckhead, Dunwoody and Sandy Springs have not issued statements about the law, and most did not immediately respond to comment requests. An exception is Discover Dunwoody, the CVB for a city whose Perimeter Center business district is roughly 8 miles away from Truist Park. Steven Schumacher, Discover Dunwoody’s interim executive director and sales manager, declined to comment on the politics of MLB’s move. But economically, he said, it will hurt the local market for that weekend. The city hoped to see overflow hotel bookings from Cobb County’s sell-outs, he said. Schumacher said he hopes an All-Star Game will return in a few years when the pandemic is over and the ballpark can have
100% capacity. “That’s the one silver lining I’ll take from it if we get it down the road. It’ll be a more normal — quote, unquote — All Star Game,” he said. Shavonne Reed, a marketing consultant who chairs the Dunwoody Perimeter Chamber of Commerce, declined to comment about MLB’s decision.
Elected officials are not so hesitant to speak on the matter. Kemp has said MLB’s decision “caves to the lies of the woke Left,” while the Democratic mayors of Atlanta and Brookhaven have criticized the law. Reactions from some local legislators fell along party lines, with Republican state Senators John Albers and Kay Kirkpatrick blasting MLB and Democratic state Representatives Betsy Holland and Josh McLaurin backing the league. “I am unhappy that the MLB commissioner got ahead of his skis,” said Kirkpatrick, whose district includes East Cobb as well as part of Sandy Springs. “He not only hurt our beloved Atlanta Braves but also the frontline folks in Cobb County who have suffered enough during the pandemic.” Albers and Kirkpatrick echoed a national Republican criticism that most states have more restrictions against early and ab-
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sentee voting than Georgia does. “How disingenuous that Major League Baseball, based in New York, a place with some of the most restrictive absentee and early voting ballot laws in the country, would announce that they are moving the upcoming All-Star Game,” said Albers, a Roswell Republican whose district includes part of Sandy Springs. “… Georgia just expanded voting while adding security and transparency. This decision by Major League Baseball is uninformed, hypocritical and pandering.” “I won’t even get into MLB’s relationships in countries where the vote is meaningless,” said Kirkpatrick. State Reps. Holland and McLaurin said MLB is taking an appropriate stance. “Rather than declaring the existence of a culture war, I wish the governor and other Republican officials would take a deep breath and listen to what MLB players and voters — particularly Black people — are saying,” said McLaurin, who represents part of Sandy Springs. “The MLB was listening to its players, just as we should be listening to our voters. And their message is clear: there was no legitimate reason to take action in SB 202 to limit access to voting in Georgia.” “I’m reminded of the story that when the Milwaukee Braves moved to Atlanta, the MLB required Atlanta to desegregate Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium in order to approve the move, and hence, the stadium ceased the practice of separating seating areas by race,” said Holland, who represents much of Buckhead. “Sometimes, we need a cultural institution to stand up for social change and demand that we do better.” Holland said she is “grateful” to business leaders who stood against the law. I’m sorry for the loss of economic opportunity surrounding the All-Star Game,” said Holland, “but I think in order to continue to be a prosperous city that attracts new business and new talent, we have examine the impact of bad, regressive bills flowing through the legislature.” Sandy Springs City Councilmember Andy Bauman, who is running for re-election this year, weighed in on Facebook with a thumbs-down to both sides. He called the law “premised on the ‘Big Lie,’” but that boycotting sporting events is “politically dumb” and will energize Republican extremists while turning off moderates. “First off, the Atlanta metro area, its voters and state legislators, are NOT the problem,” wrote Bauman. “The backward response of the Georgia GOP comes largely from rural areas of our state, but the economic and social impact will be felt entirely in metro Atlanta. Moreover, by continuing with these sporting events, it will provide a platform for athletes and media wanting to highlight the problems with the bill and other social issues that still exist in our state.”
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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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
Classifieds | 21
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22 | Education
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Six Dunwoody schools get preliminary facility scores Continued from page 1 plan is expected to provide the school district with a district-wide facilities plan through 2031. At a March 29 virtual public town hall, representatives from the architectural and consulting firms helping to formulate the master plan -- Perkins&Will, Jacobs Engineering Group and Cropper GIS -- presented the structure for the two main assessments used to grade schools. The Educational Suitability Assessment (ESA) and the Facility Condition Assessment (FCA) will be used to evaluate each school, and will be continuously revised based on feedback from the schools and principals, according to a spokesperson for the master plan. The school district has posted preliminary ESAs for each school in the district to its website. According to information from the March 29 meeting, the ESA evaluates program spaces in each school. Program spaces can refer to classrooms, office spaces, athletic spaces, media centers, cafeterias, and more. The ESA reports also evaluate aspects such as lighting, outdoor spaces, security and technology. Each school has received an ESA score, where a higher score on a scale up to 100 means the school performs better in terms of educational suitability. The ESA score is calculated in part by rating a number of different standards on a scale of one to five. The FCA report evaluates the physical state of all facilities within the district, both to find deficiencies that need immediate attention and issues that might arise down the road. Although those preliminary assessments were expected to be available to the public around early April, a spokesperson for the master plan recently said they would be posted by April 30, after the Reporter’s deadline. The current ESA reports and future FCA reports are subject to revisions for the foreseeable future, but a snapshot of what the ESA reports for six schools that serve the Dunwoody community looked like in April can be found below. Noel Maloof, the deputy chief operations officer for the DeKalb County School District, said during the town hall that the district aims to have the Comprehensive Master Plan finalized before November 2021, which is when the next special purpose local option sales tax (SPLOST) referendum will be on the ballot for a public vote. SPLOST, which finances capital projects in Georgia, is a main source of funding for the school district, and voted on by the public every five years. “If the referendum is passed at that time, we will take the Comprehensive Master Plan -- which will be produced
and published in its final form by that November 2021 referendum -- and then come back and work on development of a project list that will hopefully be funded by the SPLOST VI funding,” Maloof said.
Dunwoody Elementary School
Dunwoody Elementary School at 1923 Womack Road received an early ESA score of 74.8. This school was built in 2008 and serves about 934 students. There are about 60 classrooms and no trailers located on the property. The school scored low on two technology standards -- adequate technology charging locations and the amount of instructional technology available -- receiving a score of 2 out of 5 on both. According to the report, there is one smartboard per classroom in the school. The school also received a 2.5 out of 5 on the question of whether there were enough outlets in learning spaces. The school scored well on standards that involved classroom configuration, with the report stating that there are “multiple areas for different types of learning.” Music and visual arts spaces both received the comment that while they were in good condition, they were smaller than they should be. On the issue of accessible restrooms being available to special education spaces, the school received a 1 out of 5.
Dunwoody Elementary School Upper Campus
Dunwoody Elementary School’s upper campus, which is located at 1663 E. Nancy Creek Drive, received an early ESA score of 55. This school was built in 1970 and serves about 276 students. There are 28 classrooms in the building and no trailers located on the property. The school scored low on a couple of safety and security standards. On the question of if the school can host events at night without opening the entire school, the upper campus scored a 2 out of 5 with the comment that only the gym was accessible in that manner. The school also scored a 2 out of 5 on the standard of whether or not the school has key card access for all major entries. The upper campus also scored low on technology questions, particularly on the question of instructional technology available in classrooms and in large spaces, like auditoriums. According to the report, the school has one smart board or projector per classroom and there is no AV system in the gym. Visual arts and music spaces also scored low. According to the report, music classrooms are located in old kindergarten classrooms and the arts spaces are “small” with an “odd layout.”
Dunwoody High School
Located at 5035 Vermack Road, Dunwoody High School received an early ESA score of 69.4. The high school was built in 1972 and serves about 2,148 students. According to the data section of the master plan’s website, its ideal capacity would be 1,550 students. The high school has 79 classrooms in the main building, and 24 additional classrooms in six trailers located on the property. The high school received a 4 out of 5 on all of the outdoor spaces standards and also scored fairly well on all the technology standards. The high school assessment also asked whether the school is set up to adequately support different sports. Most sports received a perfect score for this question, except for swimming, volleyball and basketball. Swimming and volleyball both received a .5 out of 5 and basketball received a 3 out of 5. On the question of adequate classrooms, the report stated that some classrooms were undersized, particularly the science labs, and that there weren’t enough “team planning rooms.” The band classroom was also found to be too small, and the high school does not have a choir classroom at all. The report also found the cafeteria and the food serving area to be undersized.
Vanderlyn Elementary School
Vanderlyn Elementary School at 1877 Vanderlyn Drive received an early ESA score of 58.2. Vanderlyn was built in 1973 and serves 601 students. According to the data section of the master plan’s website, its ideal capacity would be 552 students. The school has 35 classrooms in the main building and 11 additional classrooms located in five trailers across the property. According to the report, the school does not have a conference room. The school scored low, 2 out of 5, on the amount of spaces that allow for “informal interaction,” and 2.5 out of 5 on the amount of learning areas that allow students to work independently. The report said there are no quiet spaces in the school other than the media center. For the standard that asks if the media center is easily accessible, the school scored a 2 out of 5. The report stated that while the media center has tall ceilings and looks “welcoming,” it is “hard to find.” The school does not have a music room, but does have a 1,020 square foot dance studio. For the standard concerning the setup of special education classrooms, the school received a 2 out of 5. According to the report, there are two special education spaces, both of which are under-
sized and do not offer direct access to bathrooms.
Austin Elementary School
Austin Elementary School, which is located at 5321 Roberts Drive, received an early ESA score of 89. This school was built just last year in 2020 and serves about 682 students. The school has 61 classrooms and no trailers. As of April 27, the report on the Comprehensive Master Plan’s website for Austin Elementary was missing a page. A spokesperson provided an updated report to the Reporter. According to that report, the school did not receive a score lower than 3 out of 5 for any of the standards listed. Austin Elementary scored perfectly on all standards involving non-instructional spaces, outdoor spaces, safety and security, and technology readiness. The school received a 3 out of 5 on questions of whether the building has adequate spaces for “informal interaction” and how well the media center supports opportunities for “quiet study.” All other standards received scores of 4 or 5.
Peachtree Charter Middle School
Located at 4664 North Peachtree Road, Peachtree Charter Middle School received an early ESA score of 72.7. This school was built in 2007 and serves about 1,477 students. According to the data section of the master plan’s website, its ideal capacity would be 1,230 students. There are 71 classrooms in the main building and 19 additional classrooms located in 10 trailers on the property. Peachtree Middle scored highly on questions of whether or not classrooms were appropriately sized, with mostly scores of 4 out of 5. The school also received mostly scores of 4 out of 5 on the question of whether special education classrooms were adequately set up and equipped with what they needed. Peachtree Middle also received scores based on their career and technical education (CTE) and “career connected learning” opportunities. On the question of whether campus facilities align with the school’s CTE programs, Peachtree Middle received a score of 3 out of 5 with no further comments. The school also scored fairly high on fine arts standards, and whether band, choir and orchestra classrooms were appropriately designed for those activities. However, the school received a 2.5 out of 5 on the question of adequate dance spaces, and received no score on the question of theater spaces.
Community | 23
City to buy over 9 acres of new park land Continued from page 1 If this acquisition goes through, the city will have more than 200 acres of park, according to the press release. According to DeKalb County property records, the properties were previously owned by the RE Poss Revocable Trust, which is connected with a person named Roy Eugene Poss. City spokesperson Jennifer Boettcher said the properties were already on the market when the city decided to purchase them “When I heard these parcels were available, I saw the opportunity to preserve this greenspace,” said Mayor Lynn Deutsch in the press release. “I look forward to working with the community to create something fabulous.” Poss’s daughter, Beverly Poss Bohan, said the properties -- which she called Warnock Farm -- have been in her family since 1934, when her grandmother and grandfather first purchased the land. She said she had the land appraised after her father passed in 2020, and although Dunwoody did not offer the most money, she still decided to sell to the city. “I felt that the city of Dunwoody was the best steward for the land for generations to come and would leave the legacy that our [grandparents] and my fa-
ther had wanted for the property -- it’s a win-win for Dunwoody and the Warnock Farm land,” said Bohan, who now lives in Charleston, South Carolina, in an email. “We will be able to bring our children and grandchildren for years to come, to see the beautiful park that the city will create and honor the land of our family and that it is due.” Boettcher said the city has not yet decided what to do about the two houses located on the properties. She also said no plans have been made for park amenities, but the city looks forward to working with residents to gather ideas. A spokesperson from the Vermack Swim and Tennis Sports Club, a neighborhood club that sits just across the street from the property, did not provide comment on the purchase agreement. The authority also voted on a funding method for the land acquisition. Instead of funding the purchase through the issuance of a revenue bond, the authority chose to move forward with the Georgia Municipal Association’s Bricks and Mortar financing program. The Georgia Municipal Association is a state organization that represents municipal governments in Georgia. According to City Attorney Bill Riley, the Bricks and Mortar program offers a lease-to-
Tall trees stand in a wild area of the future park property.
purchase financing structure that would give the city more flexibility than a bond would. A lease-to-purchase agreement allows a tenant exclusive purchase rights to a property at a later date. According to Boettcher, this lease-topurchase agreement would mean GMA would technically own the land and the city would lease it from them. Dunwoody previously used this method to purchase
its City Hall. “Our understanding is the GMA approach is a little bit cleaner,” said Councilmember Jim Riticher during the April 12 meeting. “So that’s why we’re going down that road. It’s how we finance City Hall, and that has worked for us quite well.”
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
Bill Kring, CFP®, MaryJane LeCroy, CFP®, and Sam Tortorici, CEO & Director, Cadence Bank, N.A., and President, Cadence Bancorporation, weigh the differences between traditional IRAs and Roth IRAs, and the importance of having a team of professionals to determine the right choice for you.
years can be substantial.” Each person’s situation is unique, and running the numbers is critical. WHAT ARE THE PITFALLS? Make sure you have experienced and well-trained eyes preparing the analysis. This is an area where it is essential to rely upon an advisor who is 100% committed to the fiduciary business model, which puts the client’s interest first. Do not rely on “analysis” from anyone with a product selling motivation. Our experienced team of financial professionals are ready to sit down to visit about the potential, either virtually, or in person, from any of our locations.
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