Sandy Springs Reporter - May 2021

Page 1

MAY 2021 • VOL. 15 — NO. 5

Sandy Springs Reporter WORTH KNOWING

A legendary bookstore lives on



‘Hypersonic’ airplane company takes flight at PDK P20


City breaks ground for new fire station near City Springs

Cultural Center would be multiexhibit Holocaust museum



New DHA president ponders Dunwoody’s future P11



Breaking ground on a new Fire Station No. 2 on Johnson Ferry Road April 7 are, from left, City Manager Andrea Surratt; City Councilmembers Andy Bauman and Chris Burnett; Mayor Rusty Paul; City Councilmember John Paulson; Fire Chief Keith Sanders; and City Councilmember Jody Reichel. For more about the new station, see story, p. 9.


Helping the arts recover from the pandemic

Fire station, park and pay hikes in proposed city budget BY BOB PEPALIS


The Sandy Springs Reporter is delivered via USPS to homes on selected carrier routes in ZIPs 30327, 30328, 30342 and 30350. It is available for pickup at local businesses.

City Manager Andrea Surratt proposed a $108 million budget that includes funding the new fire station No. 5 in the panhandle, design and engineering for the proposed Veterans Park, and pay hikes for some city employees. Surratt discussed the funding during the City Council’s first 2022 budget

workshop on April 20, which covered the city’s budget philosophy and its capital improvement program. The fiscal year runs from July through June of the following year. The fiscal year 2022 budget is estimated at $108 million for the general fund, with an estimated $46 million in fund

A “Cultural Center” proposed at City Springs would largely house a multi-exhibit Holocaust museum and garden that could double as an official Georgia memorial, according to a member of the state commission that is planning the increasingly controversial facility in partnership with the city. Recent meetings about the roughly $3 million facility proposed at Mount Vernon Highway and Roswell Road have drawn skepticism from many residents and some councilmembers about the appropriateness of the site, the use of public funds, and competition with existing Jewish museums. Missing in the discussion has been a clear description of the center’s purpose, with proposed tenants and locations changing over the past year. Most recent city presentations have cited offices for the Georgia Commission on the Holocaust (GCH); a new home for its exhibit “Anne Frank in the World,” which has long been housed in a Sandy Springs shopping center; a gallery; and, significantly, a possible new home for a yet-to-be-determined state Holocaust memorial that the GCH is required to create. GCH member Chuck Berk revealed in a recent interview that the Cultural Center plan includes a full-scale museum that could fulfill the role of a memorial rather than a single marker or statue. The GCH is planning seven distinct exhibits and features, Berk said. That includes not merely

See FIRE on page 23

See CULTURAL on page 22

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2 | Community




Charter Review Commission members disagree on term limits for mayor, council


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The Charter Review Commission considered raising salaries for the mayor and City Council, and discussed term limits and the city’s millage rate at its virtual meeting on April 15. The commission is tasked with reviewing the city’s charter to make sure that the document that set up the city government is serving its purpose, and to determine if changes are needed. The first charter review was completed in 2011. Recommendations will be presented to the council and the city’s legislative delegation. The delegation members can submit changes for legislative approval, reject any or all, or make their own changes. Councilmember Andy Bauman offered his insight about the city’s charter and its operations and answered questions. Commission member Chip Collins asked Councilmember Andy Bauman about salaries and term limits. “If this commission does nothing else I think it should, as the prior commissions have done, is reset the pay and compensation for the council and mayor. And I agree, it is not so much compensation as its loss mitigation,” Collins said. He asked Bauman what he thought would be a fair amount of pay and what he thought about term limits. Bauman said any number he picked would be pulling it out of thin air. The initial salary for the part-time jobs of councilmember and mayor were $12,000 and $25,000 in 2006. The state legislature raised those to $18,000 for councilmembers and $40,000 for the mayor and added a provision for a cost-of-living increase. Rather than term limits, Bauman said, he thought the people who get elected need to set self-imposed limits on themselves while also developing a pipeline of leadership. After serving as a council member people get better at understanding policy. He said he struggled with the decision on running for another term this year. “Now the voters may decide to flip me out this year, which is fine,” he said. Setting term limits would take away the rights of voters to make that decision, Bauman said. As the commission went through the charter’s first two sections, Collins said he favors a two-term limit for mayor but none for City Council. Turnover for the council seats has been regular. “But the mayor position seemed to be one that’s harder to let go of,” he said. Blad said the 2011 Charter Review Commission proposed term limits of eight consecutive years for mayor and council. That proposal was not adopted by the legislature. “I think that decision should be made by the voters, and not by us putting some kind of cap ... in the charter document, that’s my feeling on term limits,” said Andrea Settles, another commission member. Commission member Tricia Gephardt favored term limits. “I do think that term limits are healthy. I agree with Chip that I think that a two-term limit for the mayor would be wise. I disagree a little bit on the City Council having no term limits whatsoever,” she said. Gephardt suggested a limit of three consecutive terms – or 12 years –for council. Council members could run again after sitting out for a term. “I guess we’ve been lucky enough to get this natural rotation where people step down and other people step up,” said commission member Melody Kelley, who is also a candidate for the City Council District 2 seat in the November municipal election. “But with no term limits, there’s no way to guarantee that we’re actually going to regularly generate new leaders, new faces. That inclusion we like to talk about, this severely compromises that if we don’t have term limits.” Sterling said he didn’t think the commission had a full consensus on term limits yet. More discussion will be held before members formulate any motions about term limits. Tochie Blad, the Charter Review Commission’s vice chair, asked about removing the provision of the charter that sets the maximum millage rate at 4.731. The City Council would set the millage rate based on budget needs and not an artificial rate, she said. The city has never lowered the rate, she said. “Personally, by removing the voters from that I think that’s a terrible idea. And I doubt you’d ever get the people in the legislature to do that,” Commission Chairman Gabriel Sterling said. Sandy Springs is unique that it’s up to voters if they want to raise taxes, he said. Passage of a referendum is required to increase the millage rate. The council can always lower the millage rate with nothing stopping them other than getting enough members to vote for it. Collins said if Blad was suggesting having a referendum every year on the millage rate it’s a non-starter. “I’m pretty sure Sandy Springs has to establish their millage rate every single year,” he said. The charter provision just sets a maximum rate.

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Education | 3

MAY 2021 ■

Fulton expands summer school, tutoring for students to recover academically from the pandemic BY BOB PEPALIS The Fulton County School system plans to spend $45 million over two years to boost students’ academic recovery from learning losses caused by the pandemic. The “FOCUS” plan will direct more students to summer school and extend learning time through one-on-one or small group instruction. Chief Academic Officer Cliff Jones and seven FCS principals, including Sandy Springs Middle School Principal Laurie Woodruff, explained the plan to the Board of Education at its April 23 pre-work session before a regular meeting. “Many of our students have been academically impacted by the conditions of COVID. In FCS, our students’ reading development has been impacted more than their math skills. And the data shows that the impact on learning has been greater for economically disadvantaged, Hispanic, Latino, English language learners and male students,” Jones said. He said FCS can boost academic recovery by expanding current practices through the FOCUS plan. Its two-year, $45 million budget is 60% of what FCS received in the federal Elementary & Secondary School Emergency Relief fund (ESSER), referred to as CARES 2 funds. A flexible use of extended time is being designed by two committees of the FOCUS team. One team focuses on summer school and the other is working on extended time plans during the school year and after the school day. “To say that this year has been anything less than challenging would be an understatement,” said Laurie Woodruff, principal of Sandy Springs Middle School and a member of the curriculum mapping team. She pointed out in the FCS FOCUS plan, an assessment of students’ success will be tied to accelerated learning programs, such as extended time for learning and one-on-one or small group tutoring. Teachers will be given sample schedules to help them increase the effectiveness of the programs intended to remedy learning loss caused by the pandemic and remote learning. Since FCS already has programs to get students back on track academically, the FOCUS team worked to use them to accelerate learning. “Creating opportunities and eliminating obstacles became critical to our mission,” she said. The budget for FOCUS was divided into five areas. The largest portion of the $23.35 million of federal funding budgeted for the extended time devoted to students will fund an expanded summer school program. Summer school in 2021 will be held at 35 sites, with 1,658 teachers and staff. Sessions will be held June 7-24 for elementary, middle and high school students, and July 1-22 for elementary and high school students only. “Extended time has the largest budget, because of the expanded scope of summer school. We are budgeting $10 million this year and $8 million next year for summer school,” Jones said. FCS will budget $9.5 million for its High-Dosage Small Groups plan, which uses paraprofessional support, Tutor Core, partners and volunteers. “They’re focused on creating systems and schedules and resources to ensure students who are multiple years behind grade level will have at least three 30-minute small group sessions per week,” Jones said. That creates a minimum of 50 hours per semester of “highdosage” learning for these students. FCS has 9,500 students judged to be 3 or more years behind, with 28,500 who are more than one year behind. Tutoring by paraprofessionals at elementary schools, paid tutors or tutoring services for middle schools and high school and adult volunteers are anticipated for high school students. A nationally normed Robust Assessment Strategy was budgeted with $1.2 million to find or create ways to assess students and capture information on their progress without adding to their testing burden. The school district will use its existing Professional Development staff, programs and budget to help train teaching staff to adopt accelerated learning methods, so none of the federal funding was used for this part of the FOCUS plan. To keep parents engaged, FCS budgeted $500,000 from the federal funding to create a parent hub that connects them to the FOCUS plan efforts. SS

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4 | Community ■

Incumbents, newcomers campaign for City Council seats BY BOB PEPALIS

District 1 race shapes up

More candidates have emerged in the campaigns for City Council seats, all of which will be on the Nov. 2 ballot.

Incumbent John Paulson announced plans on April 23 to run for reelection to the City Council District 1 seat. He is expected to face Megan Har-


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ris in the District 1 election. Harris filed her declaration of intent to campaign for the council seat on April 2. “The theme of my campaign in 2009 was ‘we are building a city: let’s hire an engineer’ and I believe this is still true today,” Paulson said. This would be his fourth term if reelected. He serves as mayor pro tempore for the city. A registered professional engineer and Sandy Springs resident for more than 25 years, he serves as president of Dison Contracting and Supply, according to his official bio on the city’s website. The consulting firm specializing in geosynthetics and reinforced soil structure design and construction. Paulson volunteers with the American Legion Post 140, is a past president of the Northridge Community Association and a board member of the Dunwoody Homeowners Association. The Chicago native earned his degree in engineering from the University of Illinois. He served as a U.S. Marine rifleman and is a Vietnam veteran. He and his wife Mary have two children.

New face to join City Council from District 2 Linda Trickey, an attorney with Cox Communications who has lived in Sandy Springs since 1996, announced her plans to run for election to the City Council District 2 seat. “Since 2005 I have had the pleasure of witnessing the remarkable transformation of the city from county management to the local control we have today, thanks to the tireless work of [founding mayor] Eva Galambos and others,” she said in her announcement. She is expected to face Melody Kelley in the District 2 election Nov. 2. Kelley filed her declaration of intent to campaign for the City Council seat early this year. Another challenger, Jason Hamilton, dropped out of the race. And incumbent Steve Soteres announced he doesn’t plan to seek reelection. Trickey said she has been active in Fulton County Schools since 2004 when her eldest child began attending Spalding Drive Elementary School. She’s part of the citizen group pushing the school district to replace North Springs High School with a new building through funding in the next E-SPLOST, an education sales tax voters would need to approve in November. “To continue making our city a desirable place to live we must work together to be inclusive, manage our growth and redevelopment, support public safety and traffic efficiency measures, and preserve the unique attributes of our city’s history,” she said. She has worked as an attorney with Cox Communications for 18 years.

Retired IT manager plans District 3 run Leslie B. Mullis, a retired information technology manager and volunteer with the Sandy Springs Education Force, has announced a campaign for Sandy Springs City Council District 3. Chris Burnett currently serves as the District 3 council member. He has yet to announce if he plans to seek reelection.

No challengers yet for Districts 4, 5 and 6 Incumbents Jody Reichel (District 4), Tibby DeJulio (District 5) and Andy Bauman (District 6) each have announced plans to run for reelection. As of April 23, no challengers had announced campaigns for those seats. SS

MAY 2021

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 ■

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.



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. ►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.

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.” 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. 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 ■

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.

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: 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: 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: 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:


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:

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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: 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 (, the Sandy Springs jazz club Cafe 290 (cafe290atlanta. com), and the Punchline Comedy Club in Buckhead (

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: Local theater groups continue to seek a way forward. Sandy Springs’ Act3 Productions ( 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 ( 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

Community | 9

City breaks ground for new fire station near City Springs BY BOB PEPALIS The city broke ground for its Fire Station No. 2 on April 7, the first new building for the Fire Department since the city formed in 2006. The fire station will be in the same location as a previous version occupied at 135 Johnson Ferry Road, at its intersection with Sandy Springs Circle. The City Council approved a $6.45 million contract with Reeves Young of Sugar Hill to construct the new building. The original building, which was demolished in August 2020, opened in 1969 and had served the city of Atlanta and Fulton County before Sandy Springs formed. The new fire station will have the latest technology and equipment for firefighters, especially to handle cleanup and decontamination of firefighters and their gear to reduce the impact of carcinogens at fire scenes, Fire Chief Keith Sanders said. A shower area in the “hot zone” and a sauna will help remove the smoke and other hazards that collect on their skin when they go into a burning building. A confined-space simulator and a rock-climbing wall will help firefighters stay sharp on using such equipment as rappelling gear needed to rescue win-


dow-washers trapped outside tall buildings, such as the King and Queen buildings at the Concourse center, Sanders said. He said Fire Station No. 2 has been the busiest in the city. Relocating crews to a temporary station on Mount Vernon Highway near the Roswell Road intersection hasn’t been easy. “It’s been difficult for those guys because we only have one truck responding out of there,” he said.

“And when we do have a fire out there it’s a large fire and minutes and seconds make all the difference in the world, whether it be a structure fire or whether it be a cardiac arrest,” he said.

Fire Station No. 1, now located at Spalding Drive and Roberts Drive, eventually will move to the city’s new public safety headquarters at 620 Morgan Falls Road. The city purchased that site, which

Other new stations to come

Meanwhile, design work has begun for Fire Station No. 5, which will be located on a 1-acre parcel at Mount Vernon and Spalding Drive in the city’s panhandle. The design and plans will be brought to the Planning Commission and City Council, with two public hearings for public comment. “Our fire truck is sitting in the city of Roswell Fire Station 7 on Holcomb Bridge Road. It is nine-tenths of a mile outside the city,” Sanders said. The Fire Department doesn’t have a big fire problem in the panhandle area that Fire Station No. 5 serves, but it does have a lot of serious medical calls in the area.

Councilmembers received ceremonial fire axes in commemoration of the fire station’s groundbreaking.

The city hopes to occupy the new Fire Station No. 5 by October 2023. The city has created a 10% improvement in its response times by implementing preemption software that changes lights to green for emergency vehicles when they get within 2,000 feet of a traffic signal, Sanders said.


also will house the police department and municipal courts, in October 2020 for $10.9 million. “Our highest-fire area is the North End in our older apartment complexes. That will help us improve response time with that relocation of that station as well,” Sanders said.

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@

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 ■

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

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 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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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

“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 and cynthiagraubart. com.

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14 | Community ■

City proposes spending $38.5M on a partial Hammond Drive widening BY BOB PEPALIS The city proposes spending $38.5 million to complete a portion of the Hammond Drive widening project, using revenue from a proposed transportation sales tax extension that voters would need to approve on Nov. 8. The widening project is one of nine projects on the first tier of a proposed Transportation Local Option Sales Tax II (TSPLOST II) presented to the City Council at its April 20 meeting. Residents attended two virtual information sessions on April 26 about the project list. Following the meetings, the presentation and proposed projects will be posted online at spr. gs/TSPLOST2021 for public comment until May 9. City residents can select whether they support, oppose or have no opinion on individual projects and offer comments about each project. City Council is expected to vote on the project list on June 2, with an intergovernmental agreement between 13 cities and Fulton County in July. The current five-year TSPLOST I is set to expire in March 2022. Without a

A concept illustration of how the widened Hammond Drive would look at the Boylston Drive intersection.

renewal, the city would have to forgo or find other money for future projects or finishing some major ones on the cur-

rent TSPLOST list, including widening part of Hammond Drive. Sandy Springs would receive $96.5


million in TSPLOST II revenue, according to Fulton County projections, said Allen Johnson, the city’s TSPLOST pro-


MAY 2021

Community | 15

gram manager. The nine projects in Tier One, which is set at 85% of projected revenue, or $82.2 million. The biggest project on the list was the $38.5 million projected for the Hammond Drive widening project. This adds on to the $16 million designated for design and right-of-way acquisition for the project in TSPLOST I. “The concept that’s been developed was from Roswell Road to Barfield, but this is from Boylston to Glenridge, basically the two-lane section. We’ll make it four lanes. This is also the area where we’ve done the pre-acquisition of right of way,” Johnson said. Johnson said the full cost to complete the project was $55 million. He said the challenge was getting the right of way from commercial property and the significant work needed to tie in the existing four-lane sections near Roswell Road and at the opposite end of the project from Barfield to Glenridge. In addition to the Hammond Drive project, the intersection at Boylston Drive and Hammond Road was included as a Tier One project. The project cost was set at just under $3 million and it will realign the intersection and construct a side path, which is a multi-use path beside the roadway. Legislation prevents cities from using TSPLOST funds for recreational trails but does allow multi-use paths for pedestrians and bicyclists alongside roadways for alternative transportation. The city proposed $12.1 million for sidewalk construction, the second largest project in Tier One. Johnson told a city resident during a virtual information session that fixing potholes is funded through a separate budget item in the city’s General Fund. Almost $9.7 million was designated for the Roswell Road North Boulevard project. Johnson said this would make improvements from Dunwoody Place north to the Chattahoochee River. It would include streetscapes, side paths, a median in Roswell Road and some intersection improvements. He told residents in an information session that the project will improve safety and should help traffic. Councilmember Andy Bauman said while he generally supports TSPLOST, he had difficulties in putting the boulevard project in Tier One. “It seems to me a piece of a plan, but it’s piecemeal and I’m not necessarily convinced it’s ready. When we have so many projects that can truly make a difference, a real difference, in real people’s lives all over the city, I’m just not ready,” he said.

Councilmember John Paulson disagreed with Bauman on the Roswell Road North Boulevard project’s placement in TSPLOST II. He said it’s part of the improvement of the North End. One reason he felt it should stay in Tier One is the pedestrian bridge being built by Roswell and Sandy Springs across the Chattahoochee River. The boulevard project would be a continuation of that work. He said transforming this stretch of Roswell Road into a boulevard look would be better for the community. “So I disagree with you, Councilman. I think that this is a good project,” Paulson said. “And after eight years of trying to improve things on the North End, this is one of those signature projects that shows we’re actually doing something.” The city allocated $6.2 million for enhancements to the Mount Vernon bridge over Ga. 400 as part of the I-285 project in an auxiliary lane project. The project includes an upgrade to a riverside bridge over a Chattahoochee River tributary.. Another intersection improvement project on Tier One of the project list was the $3.3 million in funding for Johnson Ferry Road at Peachtree Dunwoody Road. “This is an intersection improvement

What can you learn about senior living at our upcoming event? A whole bunch.

in the hospital area. If you’ve ever been through that intersection, it’s definitely

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a challenge,” Johnson said. The city plans to leverage $4.4 million designated for an extension of the


PATH400 multiuse path through that area for additional funds.

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funding we’re still continuing to request more federal funding,” he said. “Within the city of Sandy Springs, it’s a $20 million project, so it’s a huge project.” The Glenridge Drive from Hammond to Wellington Trace project, with $2.75 million allocated in Tier One, is a side path that goes from Hammond and ties into a side path that’s being built under I-285 as part of the I-285/Ga. 400 project. It will tie into a side path built as part of TSPLOST I on Glenridge to Johnson Ferry. “So this will get basically a side path all the way from Hammond to Johnson Ferry,” Johnson said. Approximately $2.4 million would fund an intelligent transportation system program, a fiber optics system to bring redundancy and reliability to traffic signals, closed circuit TV and other


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16 | Education ■

City’s diversity task force panel challenges ‘protected neighborhoods’ zoning BY BOB PEPALIS Sandy Springs should rewrite its zoning policies to allow more affordable housing in a challenge to the policy of preserving “protected neighborhoods,” a city Diversity and Inclusion Task Force committee said. “I believe that if we don’t get this one right, if we don’t ensure the presence of a very vibrant minority community in Sandy Springs, then the rest of our work is less important, because they may be displaced, they may not be here for us to receive the benefits of this other work,” Olivia Rocamora, who heads the Housing & Transportation committee, said during the task force’s April 13 meeting. Sandy Springs adopted changes to its comprehensive land use plan in 2017 that designated about 67% of the city’s land area as “Protected Neighborhood.” That is a local term for exclusionary zoning in single-family areas, where higher-density redevelopment is barred and limited to major road corridors and public transit nodes. “So the bottom line when we talk about housing affordability is that we are talking about apartments,” Ro-

camora said. “We are talking about rent because the vast majority of Sandy Springs minority communities reside in apartments. Obviously, this reality creates a lot of challenges in ensuring diversity and inclusion.” She said the term “affordable housing” has negative connotations, so she intentionally says “housing affordability.” Her committee recommended: ■ Debunking myths about housing affordability and building the public will to embrace it. ■ Increasing access to local newspapers. ■ Rewriting zoning policies to allow for more housing affordability. ■ Hiring a city staff person to exclusively oversee redevelopment from a racial equity and housing affordability lens. ■ Continuing studying housing affordability. ■ Identifying and incentivizing developers who will act on behalf of diversity and inclusion. ■ Anti-displacement housing policies

In zoning, Rocamora suggested the city enact anti-displacement housing policies, including rewriting zoning policies to allow for more affordable housing. Rezoning to allow more multifamily residential housing was another goal she suggested. Rocamora said 85% of the city’s residential land is zoned to not allow apartments even though 52% of the population rents. “This is one of the highest percentages in the nation,” Rocamora said, citing a New York Times article. Homeowners are not allowed to build a garage apartment, she said, which would enable them to help solve the housing crisis for one family at a time. Rabbi Joshua Heller, another task force member, questioned how the city could get more stakeholders to work for these goals. “I think there are a lot of stakeholders who in theory might be in favor of diversity and opposed to racism and so on, but when push comes to shove, don’t want more apartments in Sandy Springs,” Heller said. He cited the Sandy Springs Council of Neighborhoods, a coalition of home-

owners associations that is a prominent advocate for the “protected neighborhoods” zoning. “I’m wondering how we can engage them and get those parts of the population to understand what we’re trying to do here and have them come on board, rather than have their opposition,” Heller said. Rocamora pointed out that the Council of Neighborhoods limits membership to members of homeowners associations. She wants the city to hire a staff person to exclusively oversee redevelopment from a racial equity and housing affordability lens. This staff member would prioritize preserving existing apartment buildings with the idea of renovating while keeping rents low over razing them and building more expensive apartments. “I am a lover of nature. I love trees. The city of Sandy Springs has at least two people on staff that oversee the tree canopy when there’s construction to make to make sure to protect trees when there is more development,” Rocamora said. “The least we can do is hire one person who has the same responsibility, but for communities that are at risk of being displaced.”

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Another major issue in her committee’s presentation said the city offers incentives to developers to redevelop areas that are considered of lower value, including apartment complexes. This makes minority communities vulnerable to displacement. The Gateway project, a 21-acre mixed use development along Roswell Road across from Windsor Parkway, opened in 2015 and displaced more than 2,200 residents, with 85% of them people of color. The 1,448 Latino residents who lost their homes made up 64% of that total. The project replaced these apartments with retail experiences, office space, and luxury apartments with expansive outdoor patios. “There’s a connection here between development and the impact and displacement of minorities,” she said. The city should incentivize developers to redevelop low-value areas with a commitment to housing affordability, she said. One method Charlotte, North Carolina used was to create a fund to buy old apartment complexes. They purchase decades old apartment complexes to renovate them. Rents are kept steady. The apartment complexes turn a profit, though it isn’t large. SS

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 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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MAY 2021

Special Section | 19

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20 | Doing Business ■

‘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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Cultural Center would be multi-exhibit Holocaust museum Continued from page 1

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relocating the Anne Frank exhibit, but also creating a full-scale replica of the secret rooms in Amsterdam where she and her family hid for years from the Nazis during the Holocaust before they were discovered and she died in a concentration camp. “When we realized that that whole hidden place was only approximately 540 square feet, we said why don’t we build it here? And so we’re going to build the actual hidden place, working with the Anne Frank House,” Berk said. His personal opinion is that the entire plan by the GCH for the cultural center could be considered as the state’s official Holocaust memorial. But the GCH has not voted on that. City Manager Andrea Surratt presented a plan on April 6 for the city to build the $2.9 million to $3.3 million, 8,300-squarefoot Cultural Center. The GCH would pay back the construction costs by leasing 7,000 square feet of the building for $150,000 annually for 20 years, with a 20year extension option. The plan is just the latest version of a concept that, since its surprise announcement in 2018, has changed location, partners and mission. The city has already spent nearly $2 million on the concept, including an architectural design and the $1.8 million purchase of an auto repair shop on Hildebrandt Drive for a site that is no longer under consideration. After hearing opposition at a recent City Council meeting, Mayor Rusty Paul said the community “doesn’t understand and has “misperceptions” about the proposal. The city approved a resolution in September 2020 that supported the GCH and its Anne Frank project, set the location on the City Springs property and the GCH would work with the city attorney on 20year lease terms with options for renewals for its space. Only after the resolution was unanimously approved did the GCH start fundraising, according to Berk. But now it has raised more than $3 million in pledges or actual donations. The city wanted the funds raised before it would put the building project out for bid. Berk said its exhibits will be completely funded by private donations to the GCH. Admission to the exhibits will be free.

Seven exhibits planned by GCH

The first exhibit will be a new Anne Frank exhibit, which the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam is manufacturing for the GCH. “We’re going to have them adding to it so that we will put it in perspective of what was going on in Europe, what was going on in the world at that time,” Berk said. It will include an oral history from Mary Bos Schneider, a Marietta resident originally from Amsterdam who realized she had been a friend of Anne Frank, adding a Georgia connection to the exhibit.

The second exhibit will be a life-size replica of the hidden rooms, or “annex,” in Amsterdam. The third exhibit will present stories from Georgia survivors and liberators. David Birnbrey, chairman and co-CEO of The Shopping Center Group of Atlanta, has helped get this exhibit off the ground, Berk said. David’s dad, Henry Birnbrey, was not only a survivor for escaping Germany in 1938 at 14 years old. He also was a liberator as he joined the U.S. Army and served on D-Day. Another significant part of the exhibit is devoted to William Alexander Scott III, an African American soldier who served in a segregated unit in World War II. His battalion found the Buchenwald Camp and he was one of the Army photographers Gen. Dwight Eisenhower ordered to take photos of everything so people would know the atrocities happened. Visitors to the cultural center would be able to listen to oral histories of these survivors and liberators. The fourth exhibit replicates the National Holocaust Museum’s work to show what Georgians and other Americans knew about what was happening even before the major killings started by displaying newspaper and magazine articles form those times. The fifth exhibit was created by the Shoah Foundation at the University of Southern California, which recorded Holocaust survivors’ answers to every conceivable question anyone might want to ask. Through artificial intelligence, visitors can ask the survivors a question and get an immediate reply as if they were having a conversation. The sixth exhibit will be the Anne Frank Garden. It will feature what Berk said will be only the 12th shoot that grew from the remains of the chestnut tree that Frank observed while hidden away, gaining some hope from seeing birds on the tree and leaves coming up in the spring. Berk thinks the most important exhibit might be the seventh, which will raise questions with children who visit to learn about their rights and responsibilities living in a democracy. “What motivations compel the ordinary people to become perpetrators, collaborators, bystanders, rescuers, resisters – because it wouldn’t have happened just with the Nazis with the capital ‘N.’ It happens because all kinds of ordinary people did things or looked the other way for it to happen,” he said.

Councilmembers skeptical about cultural center plans

Councilmembers Jody Reichel and Tibby DeJulio are skeptics of the plan. Reichal said she supports the GCH’s mission and the message of justice for all people. But she couldn’t support using taxpayer dollars on the cultural center as it was presented. Reichel said the commission can imSS

MAY 2021

Community | 23

prove upon existing Anne Frank exhibits like what the William Breman Jewish Heritage Museum has on display through donations. “In my four years in office and my many years being an active member of our community, I have not heard my neighbors and constituents say they want taxpayer dollars to fund a cultural arts center,” she said. She said constituents call for trails, parks, athletic space, sidewalks, help with stormwater issues and smart development in the North End. DeJulio said he is hearing criticisms from the public and expressed concern that the “cultural center” program favors the Jewish culture alone in a city with a diverse population. “We are starting to hear from residents,” DeJulio said. “So far, I have received emails and telephone calls from numerous residents in the city opposed to this. I have only received one email in favor of it.” Paul said he thinks the conversation during the April 20 City Council meeting wasn’t well-rounded because supporters expected to discuss the project in May and did not attend the meeting. “There’s a perception that we’re doing this with taxpayer dollars, the Anne Frank exhibit is going to be done totally with private donations,” Paul said He acknowledged the city will provide some property for the cultural center. “But the construction of the building, the payments for that will be done through private donations,” Paul said.

Fire station, park and pay hikes in proposed city budget Continued from page 1 balance. An additional $10 million is anticipated by the end of fiscal year 2021 on June 30 to give the city roughly $56 million in fund balance. Surratt said the city will receive $16 million over two years from a new funding source, the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA). The largest capital expenditure proposed for fiscal year 2022 was the $5 million for Fire Station No. 5, planned for the northern panhandle at 7800 Mount Vernon Road. The city bought that property in February for $450,000. Bond funds were designated for this project. The city approved refinancing its City Springs bonds in the Series 2020 Refunding Revenue Bonds to fund its purchase of a future public safety headquarters at 620 Morgan Falls Road, as well as its renovation and to construct fire stations. Surratt proposed a one-time capital expense of $800,000 to bring city employees’ salaries in line with area market rates, with almost three-fourths of that going to public safety salaries. This capital expense is the result of the city’s pay and compensation study directed by City Council. In that study,

job titles were defined, job descriptions written and a pay matrix was created. A step program was set up for public safety for people who join the city. The new employees will be placed into the step program based on their experience and proceed through the pay plan as the years go by, she said. “It in particular brings the market rate of public safety employees up to a standard that allows us to recruit and retain employees significantly,” Surratt said. The expense for any increase in salaries from this one-time expense will be seen paid through the city’s General Fund in future years. City staff believes a design for a new Veterans Park can be completed in this fiscal year, which will keep it on track. The construction of the park between Mount Vernon Highway and Johnson Ferry Road across Roswell Road from City Springs is projected to start in 2023. The $4.6 million cost for the park and art within it is projected in fiscal year 2023. For the fiscal year 2021 budget, department heads were instructed to cut expenses by 20% in response to the pandemic reducing revenue. The police and

fire departments were excluded from those cuts. No such direction was given for fiscal year 2022 “As we prepared the capital program for this year, the departments were not given such a hard and fast cut [of] 20% or any kind of ultimatums,” Surratt said. The $22 million capital improvement program in the fiscal year 2022 budget will have almost $12 million brought over from the general fund, she said. Approximately $10 million comes from other funding sources, such as impact fees and bonds. The city’s pavement management program was proposed for $4.8 million, with part of that funding coming from the Georgia Department of Transportation Local Maintenance & Improvement (LMIG) grant program. A trail segment at Morgan Falls, part of the city’s master trail plan, was designated for $2.5 million in capital funds. The city will hold a budget workshop on May 4 on operations and the general fund. At a budget workshop on May 18, the City Council will receive the proposed budget. Two public hearings will be held on the budget, on June 1 and June 15.

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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MAY 2021



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