JUNE 2020 - Buckhead Reporter

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JUNE 2020 • VOL. 14 — NO. 6

Buckhead Reporter WORTH KNOWING

Women veterans find online home P18



Atlanta plans its reopening Tree fund questions may affect protection ordinance



On pandemic politeness


contained or a vaccine is found? How long will neighbors and city inspectors have patience for seating snatched from parking spaces and sidewalks? Experts and local restaurateurs say the pandemic could push the industry to a trend of building in more outdoor dining and drive-thrus. “As a longer-term trend, I think ‘alfresco’ and outdoor seating has always been a

As a draft of a new Tree Protection Ordinance heads to a City Council presentation in late June, a rabble-rousing advocacy group is raising questions about tree-replanting funds that could shape the new code. Tree Next Door, co-founded by Buckhead resident deLille Anthony, who heads a similar committee of the Buckhead Council of Neighborhoods, is a well-known critic of the tree ordinance. Now the group is claiming misspending of Tree Trust Fund money on salaries and a recent landmark purchase of a southeast Atlanta forest. Some city councilmembers and Trees Atlanta, the nonprofit that helps with many of those tree-planting projects, are among those listening closely. The tree fund consists of money collected from developers who cut down trees and is intended to pay for planting new ones, acquiring forested areas and a certain amount of related support services. Tree Next Door alleged in an April report that $3.3 million was misspent on salaries and benefits in 2009-2019 and that interest is being spent elsewhere. Those claims led City Councilmember Matt Westmoreland to request an internal audit whose results are coming in July or August, roughly when a final draft of the new tree ordinance might be up for a vote. Meanwhile, the council in April and early May spent some of that tree fund money

See RESTAURANT on page 31

See TREE on page 5


A hike down memory lane


The ball fields in Frankie Allen Park along Pharr Road remained closed on Memorial Day weekend. A phased reopening of city facilities is in the works. Story on Page 2 ►


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Restaurants seek elbow room for distanced dining BY JOHN RUCH johnruch@reporternewspapers.net

From picnic tables in parking lots to dining on strips of shopping center landscaping, restaurants returning after pandemic shutdowns are looking for room to spread out for social distancing. And no one knows how long that will last. Or how long it can last. Can restaurants survive with the lower capacity as they spread tables apart until the pandemic is


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Mayor says Atlanta will follow five-phase reopening plan BY COLLIN KELLEY AND JOHN RUCH Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms says that the city was following a five-phase reopening plan outlined in a report issued by her advisory committee. Speaking in a May 21 City Council briefing, Bottoms the city is already in phase one of the reopening, which encourages residents to stay at home, social distancing, and using takeout and delivery at restaurants. Phase one also includes monitoring of statistics and following a recommended 14-day downward trend for new cases, deaths, and hospitalizations. “The reopening of Atlanta will be informed and driven by data,” Bottoms said. Bottoms said there was concern about the integrity of the COVID-19 data being reported by the Georgia Department of Public Health after a series of high-profile errors inflated or lowered various statistics. She said the city was working with John Hopkins University to create a dashboard on the ATLSTRONG.org website that would include figures and insights. Bottoms said she believed the city might soon be able to enter the second phase of the reopening plan as early as next week. The “easing phase” would require proven metrics on diagnostic testing and contact tracing. The second phase would also allow small, private gatherings of 10 people with social distancing. As for the reopening of City Hall, Bottoms said she was still in no rush and was resisting pressure to do so. Bottoms said she was worried that reopening City Hall would have an impact on communities of color and medically fragile who work and do business there. “We may not reopen until July, but we are monitoring the situation weekly,” she said.

Reopening report

The report from the Advisory Council for the Reopening of the City of Atlanta does not include specific timelines, but instead suggests metrics and policies for setting them. It also compiles results of a public opinion survey that found the vast majority of respondents unwilling to go to various kinds of businesses, and more than 65% unwilling to return to their own workplace. The report’s recommendations are intended as voluntary extra measures working alongside federal and state legal orders. “The advisory council’s recommendations are based on the current available science on the virus, which we know is rapidly evolving,” said Advisory Council co-chair Robert Ashe III in a press release. “The council stressed that as the city establishes metrics and guidelines for reopening, the guidance should be reevaluated and amended as the science and facts are updated and made available to the public.” The advisory council was established by Bottoms through an administrative order on April 20. The 60-person council is composed of experts from across Atlanta’s business, nonprofit, healthcare and government sectors.

The report outlined three core focus areas for Atlanta’s reopening strategy. One is that the city establish and track clear metrics to signal to residents and businesses when they can more safely reopen, what safety measures they should take, and how their operations or routines may need to be adjusted. Suggested metrics for the first phase of a multi-stage reopening include: the daily number of new COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations trend downward for 14 consecutive days; more than 50% of hospital and intensive care unit capacity is available; hospitals have a greater than 90-day supply of personal protective equipment for personnel and patients; the capacity to conduct 30 diagnostic tests per 1,000 residents per month; have 30 contract tracers per 100,000 residents; and establish a percentage of school and childcare facilities that must be open. The report says metrics will also enable the city, in partnership with the Georgia Department of Public Health and other agencies, to quickly identify resurgences of COVID-19, and provide an early warning system to the public in the event safety measures and restrictions need to be reimposed. Another recommendation is that the city supplement the state’s reopening criteria with additional, voluntary guidelines. The council outlined five sequential phases for reopening, providing specific metrics that should be achieved to advance to each next phase, and voluntary guidance for individuals, businesses/nonprofits and the city for each phase. The third core recommendation is that the city continue to work with public and private partners to address cross-cutting and sector-specific considerations for reopening, many of which cannot be addressed by a single actor or sector alone. In addition to the insights from members of the advisory council and other leading health experts, the report also drew from the findings of a resident survey asking Atlantans how they were approaching and interacting with various businesses and venues during the COVID-19 pandemic. It was conducted between April 28 and May 4 with over 15,700 respondents. An overwhelming majority of survey respondents indicated that, at the time of the survey, they felt unwilling to go to most businesses and venue types. Parks and other outdoor public spaces were the only category that most respondents were willing to attend, with 33.8% unwilling. Of the respondents, 65.2% were unwilling to return to their own workplace. Approximately 97% of survey respondents indicated they will not feel safe going out to various venues after reopening without taking their own protective measures, such as wearing a face mask, hand-washing, avoiding crowds and wearing their own personal protective equipment. Respondents overwhelmingly indicated that, if required to wear a mask by a workplace or business establishment, they would be willing to do so.

Pedestrian bridge project begins; intended to link major trail systems BY JOHN RUCH johnruch@reporternewspapers.net

The Confluence Bridge, a pedestrian span over Buckhead’s Peachtree Creek, had a groundbreaking May 8 for what is intended to be a link to major trail systems. “Our goal has been to uncover and restore the natural habitat of this beautiful urban waterway and provide ways for people to connect with our natural systems, often hidden from view by neglect and overgrowth,” said Conservancy board president Glenn Kurtz in a press release. “The Confluence Bridge will help provide new connections.” The 175-foot-long, $2.8 million bridge will run along the west side of I-85 behind the Lakeshore Crossing apartments off Piedmont Road. It will connect a trail created by the South Fork Conservancy — the group building the bridge — with PATH400’s route along Adina Drive. Ultimately, the bridge is intended to connect those trails with the Atlanta BeltLine and an extension of the Peachtree Creek Greenway, the first disconnected mile of which recently opened in Brookhaven. The city of Brookhaven once planned to contribute $200,000 to the bridge effort, but later decided not to. Construction is expected to be completed in the fall, according to the Conservancy. The bridge will be built in a wooded area not from where a section of I-85 collapsed in an infamous 2017 fire.


JUNE 2020

Community | 3


Budget cuts to services for mental health, people with disabilities alarm patient advocates BY ANDY MILLER “The safety net is stretched to the max.’’ Judy Fitzgerald, commissioner of the agency that oversees mental health and substance abuse services, gave that stark assessment in January to state legislators who were considering budget cuts to her department. Now, even deeper cuts are on the table. Georgia’s budget plans of just a few months ago have been overturned by the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. The state Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities (DBHDD) last week outlined $172 million in budget reductions for the upcoming fiscal year. The recommendations come as state agencies respond to Gov. Brian Kemp’s mandate to find ways to reduce spending by 14%. Georgia Senate budget subcommittees will take up the recommendations from agency leaders this week. “We have to deal with the cards we have on the table right now,” said the new Senate Appropriations Committee chairman, Blake Tillery (R-Vidalia), according to the Capitol Beat News Service. The cuts loom even as the coronavirus crisis has sparked new mental health stresses among Americans. A Kaiser Family Foundation poll found more than half of Americans — 56% — reported that worry or stress related to the outbreak has led to at least one negative mental health effect. Another report, from the Well Being Trust, said the pandemic could lead to 75,000 additional “deaths of despair” from drug and alcohol misuse and suicide due to unemployment, social isolation and fears about the virus. The DBHDD budget includes reductions of: ■ $6 million for school-based Apex mental health services. ■ $3 million for the Marcus Autism Center. ■ $10 million for adult mental health services. ■ $13 million for family support services for people with developmental disabilities. The budget recommendations as outlined “will increase the costs down the road for increased ER visits, homelessness, institutionalization and incarceration,’’ said Susan Goico, an Atlanta Legal Aid attorney. The properties of closed hospitals in Rome and Thomasville will not be adapted for other use but will be left idle, for a savings of $2.5 million. Agency employees will have furloughs of 24 days. Dozens of jobs will be eliminated, but it is believed that many of these positions are currently vacant. Advocacy groups, when asked about the recommended cuts, predicted many negative consequences. “We know that prior to the pandemic, more than 40% of children and youth were not able to access the mental health services they need, and many kids with developmental disabilities likewise struggled to access services and supports,’’ said Polly McKinney of the Atlanta-based advocacy group Voices for Georgia’s Children. “The state, however, was starting to make significant progress in addressing these needs with school-based health and school-based mental health, both of which improve kids’ life trajectories, are more cost-effective, and actually save lives.’’ Many children and youths will return to school while dealing with mental health challenges, McKinney added. “We just hope that as our lawmakers wrestle with this economic downturn that they will keep kids front of mind” when they work through the budget. Georgia’s renowned peer services for mental health will see significant cuts, as will drug treatment courts. “Social isolation, unemployment, loss of health insurance, food insecurities and other precipitating risk factors will likely exacerbate mental health [needs] for more Georgians and increase the number of individuals who will need treatment and crisis support to address suicide and substance abuse,’’ said Jewell Gooding, executive director for Brookhavenbased Mental Health America of Georgia. For people in substance abuse recovery, a range of services will be pared, including residential beds for people in treatment. “They are Death Star-like blows to the Georgia recovery community which will cost lives, increase crime, hurt families, weaken the workforce and threaten jobs,’’ said Neil Campbell, executive director of the Georgia Council on Substance Abuse. Isolation is the No. 1 factor that hampers recovery from addiction and mental illness, Campbell said. “Combined with stress, anxiety, and uncertainty, it is essential Georgia address the inevitable mental illness and [addiction] recovery issues which will grow exponentially as a result of the current pandemic,’’ she added. “There are over 800,000 people across Georgia in recovery from addiction who can attest to the benefits of the types of services and supports that are apparently on the chopping block.’’ This story was reported by Georgia Health News and published in a partnership with Reporter Newspapers. BH


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The shift to virtual working and education forced by the coronavirus pandemic is here to stay, says former Georgia Tech president and current Regents professor George “Bud” Peterson. “I don’t think we’ll ever get back to the old normal,” said Peterson, speaking May 21 as part of the Dunwoody Perimeter Chamber of Commerce’s “Return to the Perimeter” virtual discussion series about post-pandemic business. The lingering challenge of developing a COVID-19 vaccine or similar medical measures is one reason the “old normal” isn’t coming soon, said Peterson. But the changes will SPECIAL be even more long-lasting than that, George “Bud” Peterson. he said. “But the main reason I say… I don’t think we’ll return to the normal is that we’ve all changed. We’ve changed in a lot of ways. We’ve learned to live virtually,” Peterson said. “There are a lot of 50- and 60-year-olds that today know how to communicate the way 15-year-olds do, and three months ago they didn’t,” he said. Like many other economic sectors, higher education faced major challenges in responding to the pandemic. Georgia Tech was positioned well for the move to online instruction when the University of Georgia System closed all campuses, said Peterson, but it still wasn’t easy. “About six years ago we started an online master’s program in computer science,” and expanded offerings from there, said Peterson. Since then, Georgia Tech has produced about 10% of all online master’s graduates in computer science in the country, he said. But the shutdown two-thirds of the way into the semester and just a week before spring break was a big change for Georgia Tech. Peterson said if you had told Georgia Tech, the University of Georgia and Georgia State University that you wanted them to teach all courses online in pre-pandemic times, it would have taken years to plan and implement. This year they made that transition in two weeks. “It was a disruptive change,” he said. The impact on higher education and business show that not everything can be done virtually, but a lot can, he said. The transition “helped us realize how important these personal interactions, these face-to-face interactions were,” Peterson said. What’s made distance learning so successful and adopted widely is the comfort level students have working in the virtual environment, he said. “I’m 67 and joke I don’t have any friends I haven’t met,” Peterson said, but that is different for his students. The big question is, will the students return for the next semester? And will the colleges still be there? “Some folks postulate that we’re going to see a decrease in the numbers of institutions nationally,” he said. He pointed to Arizona State University, which has a 75,000-student population in the Phoenix-Scottsdale area. But they have another 80,000 students enrolled in online degree programs. Technology entrepreneurs are another important sector to Georgia Tech. Peterson said that in the wake of the pandemic, he expects venture capital will decrease with the hit the economy is taking.


JUNE 2020

Community | 5


Tree fund questions may affect protection ordinance Continued from page 1 acquiring the 216-acre Lake Charlotte Nature Preserve. The cost was about $4.7 million for acquisition and around $3 million more for security, “stabilization” and maintenance. Tree Next Door says hundreds of thousands of those dollars might be improperly spent under the tree fund’s restrictions. Buckhead-area Councilmembers J.P. Matzigkeit and Howard Shook were among the “no” votes on the maintenance spending as a result. Matzigkeit and others have filed legislation to cap such tree fund spending. It remains to be seen whether Tree Next Door is accurate in its claims. The report about the tree fund spend was conducted by an attorney and an accountant -- not a CPA -- who work at a film and TV industry

media service firm run by a friend of a Tree Next Door member. The city did not respond to comment requests. Shook said he’ll trust the city’s audit, but that he has long shared the skepticism about tree fund spending. “It has always bothered me, and I’ve been saying and voting publicly for years to support my contention… that every penny of tree recompense money that goes into that trust fund needs to be spent on planting trees -- every dime,” said Shook. “I think the average fee-payer has no idea that a lot of it is, in my view, siphoned off to defray departmental expenses.” Trees Atlanta said that the points Tree Next Door raised can, at least, help to clarify the language in the new tree ordinance. In a written statement from spokesper-

City approves resolution on closing streets

son Judy Yi, Trees Atlanta said the city’s forthcoming tree fund audit is a “good next step.” “The Tree Trust Fund report is timely, and we think the outcome of their research can help to add clarifications to the current rewrite of the Tree Protection Ordinance,” said Trees Atlanta spokesperson Judy Yi in a written statement. “Overall, the ordinance would be improved with clearer language, updated standards, and more provisions for reporting and public access to data.” The city’s forthcoming tree fund audit is a “good next step,” she wrote. Trees Atlanta strongly supported the Lake Charlotte land acquisition, estimating it will save 60,000 trees, but agrees that definitions of maintenance spending could be clearer. “Trees Atlanta recommends that maintenance should include site stabilization and restoration for forested land that is acquired with the Tree Trust Fund,” the statement said. “The cost of maintenance should be estimated based on acreage and scope of work.” The city released a new draft of the longdelayed tree ordinance in March, only to have its schedule derailed by the pandemic. But Westmoreland says it appears to be back on track for review and a vote by August. Meanwhile, Tree Next Door is a critic of the draft as well, saying it lacks a master

plan, measurable goals and increased penalties, among other issues. To see the draft Tree Protection Ordinance and related materials, see the “Urban Ecology Framework” page on the city’s website.

It has always bothered me, and I’ve been saying and voting publicly for years to support my contention… that every penny of tree recompense money that goes into that trust fund needs to be spent on planting trees -- every dime HOWARD SHOOK CITY COUNCILMEMBER

A study of emergency care involving victims of severe brain trauma is to be performed in this area. Atlanta Streets Alive

BY COLLIN KELLEY The Atlanta City Council unanimously approved a resolution May 18 requesting that the Commissioner of the Atlanta Department of Transportation (ADOT) close select streets and/or traffic lanes to vehicular traffic and open them to pedestrians and cyclists. Councilmember Amir Farokhi, who introduced the bill along with Councilmembers Natalyn Archibong and Jennifer Ide, said the bill is an important public safety measure during the ongoing pandemic. “Traffic is down, walking and biking are up, and folks need more space to move around safely,” Farokhi said. “Opening up select streets for pedestrians and cyclists during the pandemic makes smarter use of our public space and allows for social distancing. This resolution urges our Department of Transportation to act to meet the moment for public safety and enjoyment of the city.” The bill gives Neighborhood Planning Units (NPUs) the opportunity to weigh in


on street closures in their jurisdiction. It also asks that ADOT Commissioner Josh Rowan look for “long-term opportunities to repurpose streets and lanes” beyond the immediate crisis. “The pandemic presents an opportunity to rethink how we allocate street space and what we want our city experience to be. This opportunity has been embraced by cities near and far, large and small, and, if we are serious about evolving into a city where it’s safer to walk and bike, we should be acting with more urgency and creativity right now,” Farokhi said. “I think we all want a city that’s safe for all of us, especially right now.” The resolution coincides with Atlanta Streets Alive marking its 10th anniversary in May. Created by the Atlanta Bicycle Coalition, Atlanta Streets Alive regularly hosts events closing the city’s main streets to vehicles and opening them to pedestrians and cyclists.

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Emory University is conducting a research study to learn if either of two strategies for monitoring and treating patients with severe traumatic brain injury in the intensive care unit (ICU) is more likely to help them get better. Because head injury is a life threatening condition requiring immediate treatment, some patients will be enrolled without consent if a family member or representative is not rapidly available. Before the study starts, we will consult with the community. We welcome your feedback and questions. For more information or to decline participation in this study, please visit boost3trial. org or contact our study staff at 404-778-1762. Primary Investigator: Dr. Jonathan Ratcliff, MD Study Coordinator: Nicholas Stanley, MS

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BeltLine’s Northeast Trail gets a Buckhead route; construction could take years BY JOHN RUCH johnruch@reporternewspapers.net

After years of planning, the Atlanta BeltLine’s Northeast Trail finally has a course set through southern Buckhead, where it will connect to MARTA’s Lindbergh Center Station and PATH400 and other trail systems. But the expense and complexity of its meandering path, involving bridges and a tunnel, mean construction will take many years more, with an opening likely coming no sooner than 2026. “Good news is, they have an alignment. Bad news is, it will take forever,” said Denise Starling, executive director of Livable Buckhead, the nonprofit supervising PATH400, as she described the conceptual route at a May 27 meeting of the Buckhead Community Improvement District. The BeltLine is a proposed system of multiuse trails and an accompanying light rail mass transit line that would encircle intown Atlanta, largely using old railroad corridors. The transit has yet to be built, while several segments of the trail are already open, including the Northside Trail in Buckhead’s Tanyard Creek and Atlanta Memorial parks area. The Northeast Trail segment would connect the existing Eastside Trail from Monroe Drive in Virginia-Highland to Buckhead’s Lindbergh Center MARTA Station. Between Virginia-Highland and I-85, the Northeast Trail is routed or along an existing railroad right of way. A map of the selected route for the Northeast Trail in southern Buckhead. But between I-85 and Lindbergh, it must navigate a dizzying maze of uses, restrictions and challenges. The Armour Yard railyard, the existing MARTA Red and Gold lines, PATH400, the Peachtree Creek corridor and the future Clifton Corridor light rail line are among those complexities. Atlanta BeltLine Inc. held a community meeting in June 2019 to show five alternative routes through the Buckhead maze. The final choice, unveiled May 14, is a variation on what was called “Alignment B.” From the perspective of a traveler heading into Buckhead, the BeltLine trail and transit line would split at an existing Y-shaped branching of the railroad at Ansley Golf Club, where rail bridges cross the Buford-Spring Connector. The transit line will use the northern branch of the Y and run on existing railroad right of way directly to Lindbergh Center Station. The Northeast Trail will use the southern branch and begin its meandering course through the neighborhood. After crossing I-85 and the rail line, the trail route follows the perimeter of the commercial district on Armour Drive. It runs behind the Buzzi Unicem cement plant to Peachtree Creek, following its course behind Passion City Church, then running along Garson Drive A conceptual illustration of a Northeast Trail bridge crossing Peachtree Creek and a rail line. to Lindbergh Center Station. The route includes two spurs. One continues following Armour Drive past the cement

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plant and over the rail line into the Armour Yard area. The other runs along Adina Drive to connect to PATH400, which in turn connects to the South Fork Conservancy’s Confluence Bridge under construction there and a trail network intended to link to Brookhaven’s Peachtree Creek Greenway. Near the cement plant, the Northeast Trail eventually would connect to another BeltLine segment, the Northwest Trail. “It’s going to be such a critical juncture with its connection into PATH400, Peachtree Creek Greenway, the South Fork Conservancy’s trail,” said ABI spokesperson Jenny Odom. “It’s going to be such a cool part, so we definitely have a lot of great opportunities in that spot.” It’s also a complex juncture. The tunnel and the bridges are expense items. Conceptual illustrations show tube-like glass covers over the bridges; some similar barrier is required for safety reasons by Norfolk Southern Corporation for bridges over its railroad lines. And right of way negotiations will involve many different players. ABI doesn’t expect construction to begin until 2023 and it likely will take two to three years to complete, said Odom. The budget is unknown, she said. but it likely will be the BeltLine’s most expensive section so far. At last year’s community meetings, consultants gave a broad estimate of $10 million to $15 million per mile to build the trail in that area. The chosen alignment is very roughly 2.5 miles. Starling, who has direct experience in trail-building with PATH400, said the “price tag on it is very, very large… It’s not going to be easy to raise that money.” She said she expects it would not open until 2026 or 2027, much longer than she had hoped for connections to PATH400. In the shorter term, Starling said, she is looking for easier BeltLine connections to create, possibly in the area of Piedmont Hospital. In the meantime, some work has begun on the section of the Northeast Trail south of I-85. Georgia Power is working there and will pave a section of trail. However, it would still need to be finished off by ABI, and would lack connections in the short term, so ABI is considering when and how to open that piece, according to Odom. For more about the Northeast Trail design and presentation, see beltline.org/meetings. ABI accepts feedback at engage@atlbeltline.org. BH

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10 | Art & Entertainment

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High school students give poetry a voice BY JUDITH SCHONBAK

He is a strong advocate of Poetry Out Loud among teachers and students alike and has been involved with POL for 15 of his 16 years Fourteen high school students from the greater Atlanta and cenas a teacher. “POL can help change the culture and perspective of tral regions of the state gathered on stage at the Kennedy Theatre poetry when students get emotionally invested in interpreting and at the Atlanta History Center on March 1. They had come to present performing poetry in high school and beyond,” he said. their selected poems in the regional finals of the annual national Breite is a poet in his own right. He has published a chapbook Poetry Out Loud program. The three or four students with the highof poetry, The Knife Collector, and more than 100 poems in the last est scores would go on to the state finals, held at the Atlanta Histoeight years in various journals. ry Center, and, ultimately, to the national finals in Washington, D.C. He encourages his students to go for the POL experience. “At It was a full house in the intimate theater with an audience of the class level, it’s not unusual for even shy students to try it. Some SPECIAL family, friends and teachers to support them. Also in-house were students hope to improve public speaking skills through POL, and From left, Catherine Wang and Jesse Breite. four judges charged with evaluating the students’ performances on many succeed in that,” he added. “The more surprising element,” he each of two poems. said, “is that male athletes also join the competition. It can be a cool thing to do and the enAmong the contenders was Catherine Wang, a Yale-bound senior at The Westminster ticement of extra credit motivates many students.” Schools in Sandy Springs. It was her second year participating in Poetry Out Loud. She was Choosing a poem from the anthology may sound daunting. Wang said it helps that the chosen for the 2019 state finals that first year. collection is categorized. Last year she chose message-driven works, but this year searched Each year thousands of students across the country take on POL’s rigorous, exacting for poems with strong visual imagery. Her choices were contemporary works: “Dragons” by and competitive effort all about poetry. For Wang, her enthusiasm for poetry blossomed Devin Johnston and “A Certain Kind of Eden” by Kay Ryan. in a sophomore creative writing class, heightened by recitation of poetry in English class. For students, the effort is demanding. They must recite from memory, and Poetry Out She does not write poetry, she said, but loves reading and interpreting it. Presenting it Loud has a set of judging criteria based on “accuracy, physical presence, voice and articulavia POL has been her way of sharing and furthering others’ enthusiasm. “POL has been a tion, evidence of understanding, dramatic appropriateness, and overall performance.” Exgreat way to meet people from other schools and communities, too,” she added. perts and Instructors from the literary and performing arts serve as judges. Poetry Out Loud begins in the classroom in the fall semester in schools that have reg“The poem must speak through you,” said Wang. “Understanding every single word in istered to participate. School instructors judge the presentations on the same POL evaluathe poem is critical,” she emphasized. Plenty of practice is a must too. Wang practiced with tion criteria used throughout the levels of competitions. Wang said about 10 of 14 students hand-writing the work, voice recordings, videos and performing for her family. “They will in her senior class participated this year. She was the only one selected to go on to the allsee things like gestures and speech that you don’t catch yourself.” school level. The 2020 GA POL state finals were scheduled to take place at the Atlanta History Center For all levels of the Poetry Out Loud competition, a student chooses works from an anin mid-April, but the fast-spreading COVID-19 pandemic put a halt to those plans. GA POL thology of more than 1,000 classic and contemporary poems. At least one poem must be 25 opted to hold the state finals virtually. Nine state winners submitted videos of their presenlines or fewer and another must be written before the 20th century. For regional finals, two tations to the judges. Traditionally, the state champion would go on to represent Georgia at poems are required; for state and national finals, three poems are required. the national Poetry Out Loud finals in Washington, D.C., but the finals were canceled beThe anthology assembled by POL spans the spectrum of subjects. “The selection is dicause of the coronavirus. verse enough to give everyone a voice,” said Jesse Breite, Upper School Language Arts inPoetry Out Loud is a partnership of National Endowment for the Arts, Poetry Foundastructor at Westminster Schools. tion, and state arts agencies. In Georgia, it is Georgia Council for the Arts.

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Community | 11


Robber breaks 84-year-old woman’s arm, police say



Mayor extends water bill, towing and beer/wine sales orders BY COLLIN KELLEY

A robber broke the arm of an 84-year-old woman on a street in Brookwood Hills May 4, according to the Atlanta Police Department. APD is seeking a suspect who was seen on surveillance video. According to an APD report, the victim was attacked in the area of 55 Montclair Drive around 2:30 p.m. while walking from a CVS store to her daughter’s home. She said she was pushed from behind by a person she did not see and fell to the ground. She then realized she was missing her purse, which contained a phone, credit cards, a checkbook and $200 in cash. The victim required surgery for three fractures in her left arm, according to the APD report. While the victim did not see the robber, APD says it identified a suspect in surveillance video. The suspect is described as a black male wearing a surgical mask, a white T-shirt and pants that were green or black. The suspect was seen driving a 2018 or 2019 Honda Accord, dark blue or black in color, with a paper drive-out tag. Crime Stoppers Atlanta offers a reward of up to $2,000 for the arrest and indictment of a suspect. Anyone with information about the case can call 404-577-8477 or submit a tip online at AtlantaPoliceFoundation.org.

Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms has reissued three administrative orders to assist Atlanta residents and businesses with water bills, car-towing and beer and wine sales during the COVID-19 pandemic. The orders will remain in place through June 30. Administrative Order 2020-12 directs the Department of Watershed Management to refrain from taking any action which would result in the termination of water services to any DWM customer due to non-payment. Administrative Order 2020-13 directs all parking enforcement officers to refrain from taking any action to enforce parking regulations which would result in the towing or immobilization of vehicles in restricted areas of the city’s right of way. Administrative Order 2020-14 directs the Atlanta Police Department (APD) to refrain from taking any action to enforce any prohibitions against the sale of unopened wine and/or malt beverages by the package for off-premises consumption by restaurants and other eating and drinking establishments licensed for the sale of those beverages.


North Atlanta High School Class of 2020!

Thanks to the ongoing dedication of our students and families committed to public education, along with our top-notch administration, faculty, volunteers and program offerings, we have great news to share about our seniors this year. Stats as of 5/12/2020 (final stats will be available from NAHS in August)

• $25,275,212 in Scholarships awarded to date (not including HOPE/Zell) • Scholarships include: 4 Posse Foundation Scholars, 1 ROTC National Scholar and a National Merit Scholar Finalist • 100 Zell Miller Eligible and 174 HOPE Eligible Seniors (54% of seniors) • 86% of the 509 graduating seniors applied to college • Admitted to 34 of the Top 50 National Colleges and Universities (according to U.S. News) including: Harvard University, Yale University, Columbia University and Brown University • Admitted to 28 of the Top 50 Historically Black Colleges and Universities (according to U.S. News) including: Spelman College, Howard University, Hampton University and Morehouse College

• Appointment at United States Air Force Academy and United States Naval Academy, our 12th and 13th Service Academy appointments in 7 years • 35 Admitted to Georgia Tech and 65 Admitted to University of Georgia • 18 NCAA, NAIA and NJCAA Athletic commits for Football, Soccer, Lacrosse, Cross Country, Baseball, Wrestling, Tennis and Basketball including 14 NCAA athletic scholarships • 65% of Seniors took advantage of International Baccalaureate, Advanced Placement or Dual Enrollment classes

North Atlanta High School, the oldest International Baccalaureate school in the Southeast, offers well-rounded academics, a variety of extra-curricular activities, fine & performing arts, competitive athletics, study abroad, and more. Students must earn significant community service hours, to further engage in the wider world that awaits them at graduation.


Thank you to the residents of our community whose tax dollars support the students at NAHS and our APS North Atlanta Cluster!

12 |

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Community | 13


Lenox Park townhomes win Brookhaven City Council approval

A map of the left-turn lane proposed on Lenox Park Boulevard as shown in an application filing.



A developer won approval to build 62 townhomes in the Lenox Park neighborhood from the Brookhaven City Council May 26. The Brookhaven Planning Commission approved the recommendation of a real estate developer’s application to build 62 townhomes in the Lenox Park neighborhood in a 5-1 vote during a virtual meeting on May 6. Developer Minerva USA’s request to rezone the Lenox Park Boulevard property on the Buckhead border from “officeinstitution” had similar approval from the Brookhaven Planning Commission on May 6. The approval included variances for rear-yard setbacks of 10 feet rather than 30 for three units; and to waive requirements that garages be less than 50% of the facade, to install two-car garages in the narrow townhomes. Brian Davison, a managing partner at Minerva, said the development company was working with community members on specific design elements of the new townhomes, including “classic, yet fresh and modern architecture” and “lots of windows and outdoor space.” The development would also provide a point of connection with nearby Lenox Park. Davison acknowledged the ongoing concern from residents of the nearby Arbors neighborhood about the creation of an additional left-turn lane into the Minerva development site, which would be directly across the street from the Arbors. That was a concern for the City Council as well, but the project was approved with it. In the public comment portion of the planning commission meeting, residents voiced concerns that a new turn lane would reduce space in the median for pedestrians waiting to cross the street, potentially violate Americans with Disabilities Act crosswalk guidelines, and require the removal of several trees. Davison said in his opinion the turn lane was unneeded as well, but he left it up to city planners. Public Works director Hari Karikaran said the recommendation for the lane


was to ensure driver safety in the hightraffic area. Commissioners stressed the need to find a balance between pedestrian and driver safety. Commissioner Kevin Quirk recommended that an existing crosswalk be moved to the eastbound median to avoid any interaction with the left-turn lane. The application was recommended for approval with that condition, as well as with an amendment urging the developers to replant trees where possible.

CONGRATULATIONS CLASS OF 2O2O! 258 offers of admission from 130 different colleges and universities in 31 states, the District of Columbia, Canada, and Scotland!

14 | Education

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Celebrating the Class of 2020 The coronavirus pandemic threw many graduation ceremony traditions into disarray. Car parades of teachers, students and parents became a popular stand-in for the traditional diploma walk-through. The following are the valedictorians and salutatorians of the class of 2020 as they were announced by the Reporter’s press time. For updates, see ReporterNewspapers.net. Chamblee High School Nevin Aresh and Hattie Carter (V), Md Alam and Rachael Jackson (S) Cross Keys High School Kristy Nguyen (V), Kitty Leung (S) Dunwoody High School Sophia Gavalas (V), Justin Jasper (S)

Pace Academy Aidan Gannon (V), Sophie Lettes (S) Riverwood International Charter School Hayes Miller (V), Chandler McCleskey (S) St. Pius X Catholic High School Nicole Gresham (V), Daniel Buckley (S)

The Weber School Caroline Schneider (V), Isaac Goldman (S) The Westminster Schools Anup Bottu and Lauren Kennedy (V), Albert Liang and Laura Sams (S)

Clockwise from top picture, The Class of 2020 is celebrated in a May 16 car parade sponsored by the Dunwoody North Civic Association. The parade had two dozen graduates and more than 30 vehicles. Dunwoody Police vehicles lead the May 16 parade. Eighth-graders at St. Martin’s Episcopal School were celebrated in a May 21 car parade on the school’s Brookhaven campus. An in-person ceremony was scheduled for July 30. A North Atlanta High senior waves from a May 13 car parade through Buckhead and Brookhaven that celebrated students from various local public and private schools at various grade levels. SPECIAL

Holy Innocents’ Episcopal School Nick Reddy (V), Matthew Raeside (S) The Lovett School Sarah Packman (V), Lily Siegel (S) Marist School Lucas Gonzalez (V), Charlie Callahan (S) North Atlanta High School Emily Song (V), Soleil Golden (S)



JUNE 2020



3:57 PM

| 15


congratulations, lovett

class of


Blaise Achecar Michael Agard Jeremiah Allen Vaghul Anbil Cole Arndt Katie Atwater Ava Ault Julia Balser Cal Barwis Sam Becker Henry Beery Jones Bell Lauren Bernard Tom Bethea Mackenzie Boden Paige Bogard Jackson Borden Clyde Bresnahan John Thomas Brooks Davis Burch Elise Burns Aiden Camillo Anna Carroll Luke Casey Maggie Chambers Nathan Chang Jenny Chen Conner Chevalier Taylor Cohen William Collier Hannah Crenshaw Clayton Cross Will Cumbie Charlotte Dalke Baird Daniel Dobbs Davie Savannah Dean Blake Degner Emma D’Emilio Price Doherty Anna Eiland Hunter Fankhauser Gus Feinour Emilio Ferrara Harper Finch James Fite Colin French Virginia French Ellie Friedman Alex Garcia-Civita Jake Garrett Kaitlyn Garrett Barnett Gibson Kasey Goldenberg Ralston Goldfarb


Lanier Gordon Riya Govin Matias Gowens Kendall Greene Joshua Gregory Nichelle Haley Stewart Hammond Robson Harber Chauncey Hill Cammie Holmes Will Houk Molly Hubbard Hudson Huffard Brett Hull Isabelle Johnson Dotsie Jones Mary Eliza Kamerschen Christian Kelley Gray Kelly Nick Kemether Thornton Kennedy Palmer King Penny King Elizabeth Kleinknecht Jordan Knotts Kofi Lacefield James Lewallen Camille Lewis Margaret Lindsay Caroline Long Chandler Love Frank Lummus Sarah Grace Madden Alex Maner Brooks Mauldin Blaine McAllister Evelyn McCrady Carter McIntosh Caroline McPherson Ben Metcalfe Jonathan Molner Dailey Moog Lillie Moore Rhys Morgan Rankin Mori J.T. Mulcahy Tyler Neville Jahaan Nijhawan Justin Novellas Nate Olmstead Catherine Olsen Erin O’Shaughnessy Sarah Packman Michael Panos Duncan Park

Riya Patel Carter Pavloff Laura Pencea Cole Pisowicz Kate Pitfield Charlotte Pollard Liza Pope Brooke Preisinger Ellis Prigge Lindsay Pugh Cory Riley Mary Alyson Rogers John Russ Hannah Saad Harrison Savage Sloane Saxon Emma Schimpf Mary Katherine Schmersal Pierce Schmidt-Fellner Towner Schunk Mattie Schwieger Mary Pearce Seawell Liza Sharpley Catherine Sherling Olivia Sidman Lily Siegel Robinson Smith Sanci Smith Hailey Staton Ethan Tai Reeves Taylor Chloe Titelman Campbell Tomlin Paxton Trevett Stefano Ulrich Justin Umeri David Underwood Dominique Valles Mike Valls Fritz Van Winkle Sally Vaughan Stockton Vohs Casey Wade Luke Wahl Claire Wallace Cyrus Walls Alicia Walters Pross Watts Lillian Whittle Ritter Windom Jonathan Wolle Luke Wooddall Patrick Woodward Noah Young Haley Zoellick

www.lovett.org BH

16 | Commentary

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Commentary: Who had the best branding in the pandemic? Editor’s Note: As the pandemic crisis struck local communities, leaders emerged, volunteer programs multiplied, and efforts to boost morale spread. In the terms of business and politics, many of these were partly efforts of branding and profile-raising. But which ones worked, which ones fell by the wayside, and will any have impacts after the immediate crisis is over? Down the road, will anyone still say “Brookhaven Strong” or remember that a local restaurant donated food? The Reporter asked professors of marketing, business and politics for their perspectives on some local examples.


Jason Scott Kofke, the original artist of the mural soon raised copyright objections, placing the Dunwoody effort on hold, while marketing his own “Everything Will Be OK” products. An agreement was reached, but the nonprofits soon ended the sign-selling.

The “Army Strong” recruiting slogan introduced in 2006 inspired a trend toward using “X Strong” to highlight the resilience of communities affected by natural disasters or acts of violence, or to show support for a health or social cause. While many people think of “Boston Strong” due its wide publicity following the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing, its usSPECIAL age is now ofAn work by Terry Combahee was among the ten more localwinners of the “Brookhaven Strong” art contest. ized. It would be interesting to know what associations the city was seeking to leverage by using something recognizable versus using something more generic, like “Together Brookhaven.” The strength of “Brookhaven Strong” is that it is not simply a slogan, but an umbrella for a number of citywide initiatives and programming to bring interested people together and show support in this time of great anxiety and uncertainty, and suffering for some. Their focus is correct; it’s about making sure they’re a community and that those who need support feel that they’re not alone. It will be interesting to see what, if anything, sticks. There’s no reason to think they couldn’t retain some of the new community building programming once we get through this. And, if yes, does the slogan stay with it as a reminder of its roots? A challenge is that there is usually a segment of the population who wants closure, to move on after the healing is done, though perhaps that is more for natural disasters or acts of violence.

Years ago, my daughter was given the “Everything Will Be OK” slogan on magnets from the Spruill Center for the Arts. There was no attribution to the artist, Jason Kofke, so I always attributed it to the center. When I encountered the signs throughout my neighborhood recently, I found them relevant, encouraging and uplifting. Now all of that is going away and we will all be worse off for it. Dunwoody’s “Everything will be OK” yard sign fundraiser is a textbook example of good intentions gone awry. Create Dunwoody was established to enable local artists to enrich the lives of the local community, and this can be of huge value: We need organizations that mutually reinforce a dynamic between the arts, education, community, and commerce. Local artists understand the heartbeat of the community and can inspire us to see our circumstances and our possibilities differently. During this unprecedented pandemic, we need their perspectives more than ever. Unfortunately, this partnership suffered from a fatal incentive problem: artists must remain anonymous and, as evidenced with Jason Kofke, they may not be compensated for their creative work. An artist’s reputation and creativity is the cornerstone for commerce; a partnership that stifles financial growth and opportunity is doomed from the start. It’s unfortunate that these fatal missteps have cost all of us inspiration from local artists. Moving on to a better “new normal” requires us to not waste the learnings from this crisis. Let’s commit to building better, win-win partnerships that benefit artists and educators and strengthen our communities in the days ahead.

The city of Brookhaven promoted this phrase, including as a social media hashtag, and connected it to two events: a virtual community sing-along of the national anthem and an art contest.

— Douglas Bowman, professor of marketing at Emory University’s Goizueta Business School, where he teaches product and brand management

— Sandy Jap is the Sarah Beth Brown Professor of Marketing at Emory University’s Goizueta Business School and the author of “Partnering with the Frenemy”


This phrase appears on a popular mural in Dunwoody and has been adopted as a quasi-official motto. During the pandemic, the nonprofits Create Dunwoody and Spruill Center for the Arts began selling yard-sign versions of the mural as a fundraiser for out-of-work artists, at first to great success. However,


Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms.


Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms emerged as a prominent critic of Gov. Brian Kemp’s reopening orders, including in national media appearances.


The “Everything Will Be OK” yard signs.

While there are even more prominent Kemp opponents — former gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams immediately comes to mind — none are as well-positioned to make the case against the governor. Like her counterparts in big cities across the country, Mayor Bot-

represent the views of Reporter Newspapers or Springs Publishing, LLC. BH

JUNE 2020

Commentary | 17


toms has hands-on experience in managing the response to viral outbreaks. But unlike those other mayors, she has had to contend with a governor who isn’t on the same page with her. Whether she would have sought the role that was thrust on her by the governor’s order, she certainly has embraced it, appearing frequently on national media platforms to voice her concerns. While I have no doubt that her concerns are authentic and heartfelt, it is still reasonable to consider the political consequences of the role she is playing. In the first place, there is no downside for her. She runs no risk in her city or her party for criticizing Kemp. And the governor is smart enough to know that he can’t retaliate against the city that is the engine of Georgia’s economy. As for the upside, we can think about statewide and national consequences. Right now, Abrams could have the Democratic nomination for any statewide office she seeks. As the state becomes more competitive (as it’s reasonable to expect that it will), we have to remember that Abrams can hold only one office at a time and that she likely has her eyes eventually on a national office. Mayor Bottoms is a plausible contender for any office that Abrams doesn’t seek or that she leaves behind. A few years ago, I would have said that big-city mayors aren’t cut out for the national political scene. Someone from a big city playing on the national stage wanted to be — I would have guessed — Housing and Urban Development secretary in a Democratic administration. But geography and demography make metropolitan areas the core of the Democratic coalition, and Bloomberg and Buttigieg showed that mayors can be players. I’m not arguing that we should expect Keisha Lance Bottoms to aspire to the Oval Office. But a successful mayoralty, together with a national profile, could launch her into statewide contention. — Joseph Knippenberg, professor of politics at Oglethorpe University


Early in the pandemic, there were nonstop announcements of restaurants donating food to hospitals/first responders and breweries making hand sanitizer. Locally, two restaurants temporarily converted into food pantries. Amidst the horrors of the pandemic, individuals and organizations have also found creative ways to maintain civic connection to one another. Among these are the dozens

of local restaurants that have opened their arms and their doors to deliver food to frontline workers or turn their kitchens into food pantries. These are examples of what social scientists have coined “social infrastructure,” or those physical spaces (including small businesses) that bring people together to achieve collective goods or simply provide a safe place to gather. In crisis, such infrastructure can be a key source of mutual aid and resiliency. For example, one of the entrepreneurs in our Start:ME accelerator, Springreens Community Café, has provided more than 5,000 free hot meals in the East Lake community since late April. It is possible that such generous acts may provide benefits down the road as patrons see that restaurants are so much more than places to eat. The pandemic has shown that restaurants and other small businesses also comprise the connective tissue that holds communities together in times of crisis. But shifting to a food pantry or developing a delivery service also builds goodwill in a community, produces innovative revenue streams, and keeps some key employees working. FILE Are there downsides to The Sandy Springs restaurant Under the Cork more restaurants jumping Tree was converted into a food pantry. onto the giving bandwagon? Probably not so long as neighbors need food and local farmers and other suppliers need reliable income. However, giving away supplies for free in a makeshift food pantry is not sustainable. It is a distinctive display of the incredible resilience and generosity of our city’s food industry, but also reveals the broken system of food distribution that has only been exacerbated by the pandemic. — Wesley Longhofer, associate professor of organization and management, Emory University’s Goizueta Business School

WORTHWHILE CONVERSATIONS WHAT NOW? WEALTH PLANNING AFTER COVID-19… DOES THE COVID-19 EXPERIENCE MEAN THAT WEALTH PLANNING IS NOW TOTALLY DIFFERENT? No, not necessarily. Market and economic conditions continue to change, but good wealth planning comes from being consistent in making sound decisions. HOW CAN YOU MAKE SOUND DECISIONS WHEN THE FUTURE IS SO UNCERTAIN? In nearly 50 years of wealth planning, we have worked with families who can personally recall terribly uncertain conditions. In 1962, the United States and the Soviet Union were staring each other down over nuclear missiles in Cuba and plenty of people felt it could be the end of civilization. In 1974, a sitting U.S. President resigned from office in disgrace and the average citizen’s faith in our government reached an all-time low. There have been times, of course, when the future looked bright. In 2000, we ushered in a new Millennium amidst great optimism, following a decade that saw the fall of the Iron Curtain and a peace dividend.

during the month of the Cuban missile crisis, you were 30% richer one year later. If you put money to work in U.S. stocks during the month Richard Nixon resigned the Presidency, you were 250% richer ten years later. If you waited for the turn of the Millennium to put your money to work in U.S. stocks, you were 35% worse off two years later.

SO, WHAT IS YOUR POINT? Certainty or uncertainty about the future is an unreliable basis for building wealth. Ryan Patterson, CFA, CFP®, our Chief Investment Officer, puts it this way: “When everyone is feeling good about the future, the prices of financial assets are higher, reflecting that feeling. When few people feel good, prices are discounted and opportunities are greater.” If you invested in U.S. stocks

SO -- THE MORE THINGS CHANGE, THE MORE THEY STAY THE SAME? Circumstances may change but financial behavior should be disciplined, not reactive. Most families benefit from the coaching of an experienced, 100% fiduciary wealth advisor. That is the model we follow at Linscomb & Williams. We have the credentialled and experienced team ready to sit down and formulate a plan for your success right now, right here.

Bill Kring, MaryJane LeCroy, and Phillip Hamman discuss how to adjust wealth planning during uncertain market conditions following COVID-19. (Left to right: Phillip Hamman, CFA, CFP®; MaryJane LeCroy, CFP®; and Bill Kring, CFP®)

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18 | Commentary

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

Sisters in arms find an online home in Georgia military women group

If you picture a typical military veteran, is your image male or female? If it’s male, you’re not alone. “When we tell people we’ve served, they think we’re the spouses of service members, not that we have served,” said

We are not a support group. No drama, politics or religion allowed. Just ladies hanging out with others who know what it is like to serve.

Carol Niemi is a marketing consultant who lives on the Dunwoody-

retired Army Sgt. 1st Class TanyalineSmith ofabout Dunwoody. Sandy Springs and writes people whose lives inspire others. Contact her at worthknowingnow@gmail.com.

“When I first started making civilian friends and told them I had jumped out of airplanes, they would go, ‘What?’” said Carmen Morales of Brookhaven, the first woman in the Georgia Army National Guard to reach the rank of com-

mand sergeant major, the highest an enlisted soldier can achieve. These are but the tip of the iceberg for women military


The Georgia Military Women logo was temporarily altered for the pandemic with an image of the coronavirus and a social distancing message.

vets transitioning to civilian life. For most of them, serv-

called “GA Military Women,” open

ing in the military wasn’t what they did. It was who they

to all of the state’s female veterans,

were and still are - women committed to leadership, self-

who number nearly 93,000, according to the Georgia Depart-

discipline and personal accountability. And for years they

ment of Veterans Services. “We are not a support group. No drama, politics or religion

lived and worked with people who defined themselves the

allowed. Just ladies hanging out with others who know what it

same way.

is like to serve,” is the group’s self-description on a public Face-

In addition to the challenges facing their male coun-

book page for the group.

terparts -- finding employment and a place to live, getting healthcare and understanding their benefits -- some studies

The club has no dues or budget. It’s a private place online

in the early 2000s suggested they are more likely to be fac-

where the almost 4,000 members can get vital information

ing them alone due to lower marriage rates and higher di-

about veterans services, ask and answer questions, share suc-

vorce rates.

cesses and disappointments, help members in need, and organize member events throughout the state.

One veteran who learned that the hard way is former

“Women vets are natural leaders,” said Stevens. “I have more

Navy Lt. Amy Stevens, who holds a doctorate in education

than 50 leaders around the state [who organize events].”

and is a licensed professional counselor.

“We’re all welcome at all events,” said Morales.

After 11 years of active duty and a medical discharge, she

Stevens posts ceremonies, concerts and other public events

began work at Johns Hopkins University on her master of science degree. The single mother of a special-needs child, with no one to help with childcare, no health insurance and

Tanya Smith of Dunwoody, Army sgt. 1st class (ret.).


on the public page. Especially popular before the pandemic were the free veterans’ tickets to the Atlanta Opera. Lately, the group has been discussing coronavirus-related is-

medical bills of $30,000, she and her son survived by being

sues like using the Veterans Affairs services, National Guard

“essentially homeless” for six months.

call-ups, and making surgical masks.

“I sold my house and my nice car, bought a used car, rented a room from a church lady and had my son stay with a

“It’s where we connect with our sisters in arms,” said Smith.

friend,” she said.

“A lot of people appreciate people who serve but think we

She came to Atlanta for a job with the U.S. Department of

joined because we didn’t have any options,” said Morales. “But

Labor, where she worked for 11 years, along with two part-

we wanted to serve. Everybody in ‘GA Military Women’ gets

time jobs to pay off her medical debts. She eventually re-

this. You don’t have to feel weird.”

connected with the military as the director of psychological

“I wouldn’t change the trajectory of my journey at all,” said

health for the Georgia National Guard, where she provided

Smith, who gave up her position as director of New Jersey’s larg-

counseling sessions.

est juvenile male offenders program to join the Army as a military intelligence linguist.

“People told me everything,” she said. And what she

As civilians, all three women are continuing their life of ser-

heard was often troubling.


When she left the National Guard in 2012, she decided to provide a resource for women veterans and invited a few

Morales is a program analyst at the Social Security Adminis-

women friends from the Guard to join her “in a little Face-

tration. Smith travels the world as a leadership consultant and

book group” called “Georgia Military Women.” It grew into a private, members-only Facebook club

Carmen Morales of Brookhaven, Army command sgt. maj. (ret.).


author. Stevens serves as a Red Cross disaster mental health


JUNE 2020


A hike down Memory Lane, and toward the pandemic’s end He was my high school boyfriend. I hadn’t seen him in decades (I won’t say how many), but we reconnected on Facebook because I had jumped on social media to peddle my book (“The Best of the Nest” — get your copy now!), and he contacted me last September when he and his wife happened to be in town. We had a double date for lunch, each of us with our spouses, and we talked to each other of our lives, our kids, and our plans for the future. As we chatted over our Thai food, I congratulated my teenaged self for dating such a nice guy. And I recalled that somehow back then I knew that, great as he was, he wasn’t quite right for me. Of course, I wasn’t right for him, either, a point which became even more glaringly clear as our conversation progressed and they discussed their plans to through-hike the Appalachian Trail together. Wow. Talk about a goal! I mean, I like to walk, but there are limits. I did my bit on the AT when I was young, when my shoulders were sturdy and my back was strong and I Robin Conte lives with her didn’t even know that knees could “go bad.” I did it at a husband in an empty nest time when, if I knelt down to get something off the floor, in Dunwoody. To contact I didn’t groan when I got back up. her or to buy her column But they were determined. They had done their recollection, “The Best of the search, making plans and preparations for more than a Nest,” see robinconte.com. year, all of which heightened their enthusiasm to undertake this ambitious trek. They embarked in late February, documenting their journey with photos and mile markers. I followed them from the comfort of my laptop as they hiked in the rain and the snow, water dripping from their rain gear and smiles beaming through spattered camera lenses. And I gawked in amazement at her. There she was, filtering creek water and pitching tents! She was eating her own dehydrated spaghetti! She was balancing her way across rivulets on fallen logs while carrying a 30-pound pack on her back! She was sleeping in shelters infested with mice! MICE! I’m all for nature, but I don’t want it nibbling on my feet while I’m trying to sleep. I viewed their posts, and two thoughts took hold in my mind and stayed there for a while: 1. Whew! Dodged that bullet! and 2. She’s a boss. I also considered, as I followed their adventures on Facebook while watching the world shutter in peel-off fashion, that they picked a good time to stay away from civilization, to hike up and down mountains in relative isolation and enjoy expansive views of the ranges of our East Coast. I was happy for them, and I imagined that they must feel grateful to be enjoying the world in separation from the havoc caused by a sinister virus. Then I heard that the AT was closed. And my heart broke a bit for them, as it breaks every day for the small business owners who watch their life savings being swallowed up by the lockdowns and the employees who sink into the quicksand along with them and the doctors and nurses and all in their field who brave each day to meet our medical needs. The couple had made it into Tennessee, had traveled for 37 days and hiked almost 400 miles. They had persevered as long as they were able, even as their fellow hikers left the trail and the hiker towns became more deserted. They hiked until ultimately, at the beginning of April, it became illegal to continue, and, understanding the safety measures being put in place, they had to abandon their trip. They were proud of what they had accomplished, as well they should be, and they are hopeful that one day they can return to pick up where they left off and ultimately fulfill their dream. I wish that for them, and I wish that for all of us.

Robin’s Nest


Commentary | 19

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Around Town On Mother’s Day, shortly after the governor of Georgia lifted his statewide shelter-at-home order for most Georgians, David Schulman spotted a group of his neighbors gathered around an ice-cream truck parked near a playground in his Sandy Springs condo community. “What really amazed me was there was nobody wearing masks, nobody standing 6 feet apart,” he said. It looked like little had changed from the days before the world stopped in place to slow the spread of COVID-19. “Unfortunately, there were too many people around,” Schulman said. “It went against the governor’s guidelines.” Schulman, who’s 57, thought this crowd could and should have done a better job of following the rules set by the state. He saw little evidence that the group followed any of the state’s social distancing recommendations, even though a sign was posted nearby asking that residents “please keep social distancing.” He thought it seemed kind of bizarre. And it bothered him. “I’m taking the ap-

proach – I have from early, early on — that I try to minimize risk as much as possible,” he said. Schulman didn’t report the gathering to local officials, but he said that when he went out to walk his dog, he took a few photos of the crowd, and later posted a comment on Facebook. Others who have questions about recent social gatherings have contacted local authorities. Representatives of Sandy Springs, Brookhaven and Dunwoody all said those city governments in April or May had received complaints — not many, but a few — about people who are not following the state guidelines for public gatherings or business closings. Some complaints went to city officials through emails or public comment channels, such as city call centers, or cropped up on social media. Others went directly to police. City officials usually responded by checking out the size of the gathering and asking people to abide by the rules. Violation of the social distancing rules can be prosecuted as a misdemeanor, accord-

When safety comes down to politeness and self-policing ing to the governor’s order, but local city officials said they knew of no arrests for violations. For the most part, Sandy Springs spokesperson Sharon Kraun said, people “are doing the right thing” when they get together, so there appear to be relatively few gatherings to complain about. “It’s really self-policing,” she said, “and folks are doing a good job with it.” But if neighborhood gatherings don’t embrace social distancing rules, then residents themselves become the eyes of the community on social distancing enforcement. Neighborhood scolds who not so long ago might have been complaining on social media about school issues or cracked sidewalks now are replaced by folks raising red flags about too many kids playing in the park. That puts some of us in an uncomfortable position. If you’re worried that too many people around an ice cream truck can be a breeding ground for coronavirus, then you’re put in the position of being the one who breaks up the party. That’s no fun.

Who wants to be the neighbor who called the cops on kids eating ice cream? “My biggest concern was that people weren’t taking this seriously,” Schulman said. “Pray to God there were no viruses spread. This is how it happens — just like in California, from a church, where somebody with the virus [attends] and that’s all it takes. I err on the side of caution and expect the community to do the same.” He argues he shouldn’t have to force others to follow the rules. It’s a community issue, he said, and we all have to look out for one another. Following the social distancing guidelines is nothing more than a way of politely acknowledging the concerns of other people who are worried about the spread of a deadly disease. “To me, it’s very simple,” he said. “To do things a little more safely, with more respect for the neighbors.” So, show a little respect. And, of course, remember to stand 6 feet apart and to wash your hands.

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Special Section | 21


SPECIAL SECTION Parks and Recreation

After weeks of sheltering-in-place, crowds head to Georgia state parks BY COLLIN KELLEY Even at the height of the pandemic, Georgia State Parks remained open to offer a change of scenery, a place to stretch your legs, and a brief respite from the onslaught of virus-related news. With the shelter-in-place order lifted, some parks are experiencing large crowds on certain days and admission may be limited to ensure social distancing and protect the health and safety of the public and park employees. But don’t let that stop you from going, especially if you want to get some mountain air, take in the view, or go on a hike. Before you head north, be sure to check gastateparks.org for the latest updates on what is open. As the state continues to loosen restrictions, more park amenities will

wild (Headwaters, Dawson Forest and other sections) as it winds through national forests and state wildlife management areas to rural and even urban. The river is home to more Native American fish weirs than are found on all other Georgia rivers combined and historic sites, including the Etowah Indian Mounds State Historic Site, dot its banks from Dawsonville to Rome. The river passes through three state wildlife management areas (Dawson Forest, McGraw Ford and Allatoona) the Chattahoochee National Forest and numerous local parks. For more information, visit etowahwatertrail.org. Cloudland Canyon ► Located on the western edge of Lookout Mountain, Cloudland Canyon is one Continued on page 22

A new life awaits in Asheville become available to the public once again. Amicalola Falls ▲ At 729 feet, Amicalola Falls is the tallest cascading waterfall in the Southeast. Visitors have choices on how to best view the tumbling waters, ranging from an accessible pathway to a challenging trail with staircases. An 8.5-mile trail leads from the park to Springer Mountain, the southern end of the famous 2,175-mile Appalachian Trail. The park’s picturesque lodge is open for stays and is taking health and safety precautions amid the COVID-19 outbreak. For more information, visit gastateparks.org/ AmicalolaFalls. Etowah River Water Trail With the exception of the upper reaches of the river (Hightower and Etowah Falls sections), Etowa is rated as a Class I river with occasional small shoals and rapids, which makes it suitable for novice paddlers. Scenery along the river ranges from BH

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Continued from page 21

passes some of the most outstanding scenery in the Blue Ridge Mountains. Roadside overlooks provide spectacular 80-mile vistas, and four hiking trails lead visitors past wildflowers, streams, small waterfalls and lush forests. The park’s small lake is popular with anglers and circled by an easy walking trail. The park has reported some busy days, so staff may limit the number of visitors to the overlooks, trails and lake area. Visit gastateparks.org/BlackRockMountain for updates.

of the largest and most scenic parks in the state. Home to thousand-foot deep canyons, sandstone cliffs, wild caves, waterfalls, cascading creeks, dense woodland and abundant wildlife, the park offers ample outdoor recreation opportunities. Hiking and mountain biking trails abound. The most popular hiking paths include the short Overlook Trail, strenuous Waterfalls Trail and moderate West Rim Loop Trail. Mountain biking is available at the newly developed Five Points Recreation Area and along the Cloudland Connector Trail. Guests seeking an overnight experience can choose from fully-equipped cottages, quirky yurts or several different types of camping and backpacking options. Reservations are required. Visit gastateparks. org/CloudlandCanyon. Hardman Farm ► Georgia’s newest state park, which opened in 2015, is the 173-acre Hardman Farm located in historic Sautee Nacoochee, just south of Helen. The farm is best known for a favorite landmark: The gazebo-topped

Nacoochee Mound, a burial site probably used long before the Cherokee inhabited the area, which sits in the middle of verdant cow pasture. At press time, the house was still closed for tours, but the trails through the park

are open. For updated information about the farm, visit gastateparks.org/HardmanFarm.



Black Rock Mountain Georgia’s highest state park encom-

Tallulah Gorge ▲ Visitors can hike rim trails to several overlooks but permits to access the gorge floor and for climbing were suspended at press time. A suspension bridge sways 80 feet above the rocky bottom, providing spectacular views of the river and waterfalls. Tightrope walkers have twice crossed the gorge, and visitors can still see towers used by Karl Wallenda. Officials have reported heavy visitation and the park often closes after reaching capacity due to social distancing. For more, visit gastateparks.org/TallulahGorge.

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Scenic Drives

Committed To Excellence

Take a mountain daytrip and see the sights safely from inside your car BY GIANNA SMITH BEDFORD AND COLLIN KELLEY If you’re hankering to get out of town, but also mindful of the COVID-19 outbreak, these scenic drives through North Georgia, Pine Mountain, and North Carolina make for the perfect social distancing daytrip.


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Traveling through White, Towns and Union counties, the nearly 41-mile RussellBrasstown Scenic Byway looks onto gorgeous vistas surrounded by the Chattahoochee National Forest. Wind through the mountain gaps and valleys of the Southern Appalachians, stopping for Instagram moments along the way. One of the best is atop Brasstown Bald, the highest natural point in the state and an ideal spot to watch the leaves turn brilliant colors in the fall. On a clear day, you can see Atlanta from the peak of Brasstown Bald, even though it’s more than 100 miles away. If you feel like some exercise, tackle the nearly two-mile round-trip hike to Dukes Creek Falls or a portion of the famed Appalachian Trail at the Hogpen Gap trailhead before hopping back in the car to continue your scenic drive. Spanning from Cohutta to Ellijay, the 56-mile Cohutta-Chattahoochee Scenic Byway travels through the Chattahoochee National Forest, plus a number of charming towns. At Prater’s Mill in Dalton, observe a working 19th-century gristmill and cotton gin and pick up goodies at the general store. Don’t miss the many Civil War sites in and around town. After leaving Dalton, drive east to Chatsworth, where you can break for lunch and see the Chief Vann House Historic Site, a restored mansion built in 1804. This town is also home to Fort Mountain State Park, a great place to stretch your legs on a trail (there are more than 3,700 acres of them).

Cullasaja Falls

Continued on page 26

JUNE 10 - JUNE 23, 2016



Special Section | 25

26 | Special Section

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North Carolina

If you want to go a little further, head into North Carolina for to see the Cullasaja River Gorge, which offers a spectacular scenic drive along the Waterfall Byway between the towns of Franklin and Highlands. The fast-moving Cullasaja River tumbles down three major waterfalls alongside the 61-mile road that winds through the Nantahala National Forest. Visitors can drive their vehicles beneath the 120-foot Bridal Veil Falls and walk behind the roaring water at Dry Falls. The tallest falls are the Cullasaja Falls, which drop 250 feet. Cullasaja means “honey locust place” in the Cherokee language. The gorge is part of the trail followed by Spanish explorer Hernando DeSoto in 1540. The gorge and its waterfalls can be accessed along U.S. Highway 64/State Road 28 between Highlands and Franklin, which is part of the Waterfall Byway. The road is winding and narrow.

Pine Mountain

Scenic mountain views aren’t limited to North Georgia or North Carolina. A couple of hours south of Atlanta, the Pine Mountain Highway-Scenic Heights Road ( State Route 190) runs from Manchester to Callaway Gardens through F.D. Roosevelt State Park. There are numerous parking overlooks with gorgeous views overlooking the valley below and hiking trails. Stop at Dowdell’s Knob to see the view that President Franklin D. Roosevelt loved so much that he had a brick oven and picnic area installed so he could dine there when he was at the nearby Little White House in Warm Springs. For more information on these scenic drives, visit ExploreGeorgia.org, blueridgeheritage.com, or gastateparks.org/FDRoosevelt.

Mountain Activities

▲The Biltmore Estate in Asheville, NC has reopened its park spaces, including the gardens and grounds with more than 20 miles of walking, hiking, and biking trails. Be sure to visit biltmore.com for details and admission information. The Nantahala and Pisgah National Forests in North Carolina are open, but at press time, most campgrounds remained closed. The forests are open for hiking, mountain biking, fishing and for scenic drives. Visit fs.usda.gov/nfsnc for updates. If you want to go glamping (that’s a mashup of glamourous and camping), then you’re in luck because Under Canvas is welcoming guests who want to add a touch of luxury to their outdoor getaway in the Great Smoky Mountains. Located near Gatlinburg, this ecofriendly site offers luxury canvas tents, daily housekeeping, on-site dining and more. Visit undercanvas.com for details. Coral Hospitality, which operates lodges for Georgia’s State Parks, has reopened Brasstown Valley Resort and Lodge in Young Harris, Unicoi State Park Lodge and Amicalola Falls Lodge, along with the restaurants. Social distancing will be in place to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Visit coralhospitality.com for details and reservations.

JUNE 10 - JUNE 23, 2016


Special Section | 27

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Masked gunman fires on officer and civilian BY JOHN RUCH johnruch@reporternewspapers.net

A masked gunman opened fire on a courtesy officer and a civilian at a Buckhead apartment building, then escaped after a foot chase, on May 15 in one of three mysterious gunfire incidents that day that were more serious than police revealed at the time. No one was injured, according to an Atlanta Police Department incident report that detailed the dramatic crime, previously described by APD only as officers checking the scene. Meanwhile, a resident says that yet another gunshot was heard at the comSPECIAL plex the following day, but it appears The Allure in Buckhead Village apartments, that no one called the police. outlined in blue, at 360 Pharr Road at the intersection of Grandview Avenue, as seen APD previously said officers were on in Fulton County property records. “high alert” after the mysterious string of “shots fired” calls and gunfire evidence on May 15 at the Allure in Buckhead Village apartments at 360 Pharr Road. The first call came around 4:30 a.m., for shots fired in the building’s parking deck. Officers could not locate anything related to gunshots, according to APD. The second report came around 9:50 a.m., for shots fired at a particular fourthfloor unit. APD said at the time that officers found bullet holes in the door and awoke some occupants of the unit, who turned out not to live there. The full incident report gives more details of that encounter. The door had 11 bullet holes, according to APD. The tenant whose name is on the lease was not there, and no one answered the door when a group of officers knocked repeatedly. The officers then encountered a woman who said she was at the unit to see her boyfriend, whom she called. The door opened and officers found three men inside the unit. The men said they were visitors who had arrived the previous night with a group of other people. They said they awoke to the gunfire and were too scared to call the police. Officers allowed all four people to leave after they were checked for warrants and issued a criminal trespass warning from the property manager. The final shots-fired report on May 15 came around 2:50 p.m. At the time, an APD spokesperson said only that “officers checked the area and located shell casings.” But a resident at the time reported seeing about 15 officers, some armed with rifles, racing to the area, and the incident report explains why. The incident began with a request for a courtesy officer to escort a man to the same fourth-floor apartment. A courtesy officer provides security for an apartment complex, and is typically a sworn law enforcement officer who lives in a unit; in this case, APD could not immediately clarify the Allure officer’s status. The officer escorted the man, a New York City resident who said he need to retrieve several items from the apartment. The New Yorker was not the tenant and also was not among the men found in the unit earlier that day. When the officer and the man he was escorting exited the unit, a “tall black male wearing a black mask, dreads and dark clothing shot twice” toward them, according to the incident report. The officer chased the gunman through a stairway and onto Grandview Avenue. Reports from various witnesses indicate that a man ran to a bank on Pharr Road and got into a sedan with at least two other men, which sped away toward Peachtree Road. The incident report describes a massive police response, with those on the scene including Maj. Andrew Senzer, the commander of Buckhead’s Zone 2 precinct. A search warrant was executed later at the property, according to the report. A resident who wished to remain anonymous told the Reporter that at least one other gunshot was heard at or near the property the following day, May 16, and was discussed among some other residents. The resident did not call 911, and APD said it received no shots-fired reports for that property that day.

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A teenager is charged with felony murder in the May 16 shooting death of a man on a Buckhead sidewalk. Police say they believe the killing followed a robbery attempt. Kevin Humes, 36, was found dead of a gunshot wound to the chest outside the Tremont Apartment Homes at 3645 Habersham Road. The unidentified 15-year-old male suspect was arrested May 23, according to the Atlanta Police Department. “Investigators are still searching for other suspects and more arrests are expected,” according to APD. Humes was from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He reportedly had recently moved to Atlanta to work at Sandy Springs-based United Parcel Service. “We extend our deepest condolences to Kevin’s family and friends,” said Matthew O’Connor, UPS’s senior manager of public relations, in an email. “We respectfully defer further comment to his family and the responding authorities.” A total of $13,000 in reward money was offered for the arrest and indictment of suspects in the case. Besides the usual $2,000 offered by Crime Stoppers Greater Atlanta, an anonymous donor contributed $8,000 and the Buckhead Coalition contributed $3,000.


A bicyclist was injured and cited in an accident with a car May 25 on Peachtree Road. The bicycle and an Infiniti sedan collided around 2:20 p.m. on Peachtree Road near Sardis Way at Charlie Loudermilk Park, according to the Atlanta Police Department and a witness. The cyclist, a woman in her 50s, received minor injuries to a shoulder, according to APD. She was cited for improper lane usage.


Police officers found shell casings in the area of Grandview Avenue and Pharr Road in the early morning of May 26 after reports of gunshots. The incident came 11 days after a string of mysterious gunshots — including a masked gunman firing at a security officer — at an apartment complex at that intersection. Maj. Andrew Senzer, the commander of Buckhead’s Zone 2 precinct, “is confident it was not related to the previous incidents in the neighborhood,” according to an Atlanta Police Department spokesperson. According to resident reports, gunshots were heard aroudn 2:45 a.m. on May 26 in the area of Lookout Place and Pharr and Peachtree roads. APD said its full report on the incident was not yet available.


Two Buckhead arrests were among 44 the Atlanta Police Department says were made May 16 and 17 in a crackdown on street racing. Racing in sports cars has been a common complaint on many streets — including Peachtree Road — for years. But the practice has grown more freewheeling during the pandemic due to lower levels of traffic, especially on Downtown and Midtown highways and on Ga. 400 in Sandy Springs. Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms recently floated the idea of having a designated spot for street racing. But APD moved for a crackdown instead, in cooperation with the Georgia State Patrol, the city Department of Corrections and the sheriff’s offices of Clayton and Fulton counties. According to APD, 44 people were arrested, largely on minor charges like public drinking or “laying drag,” but some for serious offenses, with four firearms seized, including a semi-automatic rifle. Officers issued 114 tickets and impounded 29 vehicles, according to APD. The two Buckhead arrests both came on May 18. One was a suspended license charge at 3255 Peachtree Road, and the other was a marijuana possession charge at 3434 Peachtree Road. “We pledged to deal with these speeders and reckless drivers who have shown a complete disregard for the safety of others with these dangerous antics,” said APD Chief Erika Shields in a press release. “This weekend, with the help of our law enforcement partners, we made inroads. We will continue to impound, arrest and seek costly fines for those individuals who choose Atlanta for this senseless behavior.” BH


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30 | Community

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Chattahoochee national park’s temporary leader steers through pandemic BY BOB PEPALIS

“Our law enforcement staff and maintenance staff are essential staff and have been working throughout the pandemic,” she said. The temporary boss at the Chattahoochee River National RecreOther staff either teleworked from home or are on-site. ation Area’s took on her duties just as the park was about to close for Otherwise it’s been business as usual for the staff as they track health reasons due to the pandemic. their budget, develop projects and otherwise handle resource man“We’ve dealt with natural disasters and government shutdowns,” agement. But now they’ve added examining specific jobs to detersaid Acting Superintendent Ann Honious, “but nothing that is healthmine if modifications are needed as park access increases and all related and pandemic. And that is a different response.” employees return to working on site. Honious came to Georgia from the nation’s capital, where she Getting to know the Chattahoochee River NRA was her first priserves in her permanent posting as the deputy superintendent at Naority. She said a park tour and participating in a ride-along with law tional Capital Parks East in Washington, D.C. Her 120-day temporary enforcement officers on river patrol gave her insight into those asposting began in mid-April and ends in mid-August. pects of park operations. She’s filling in temporarily for the superintendent’s position. AfHonious has been working with the park’s partners, including ter the position is advertised a permanent superintendent will be communities adjacent to it, the friends group and other partners chosen. Until then, acting superintendents fill the role on temporary whose relationships she’s trying to maintain. assignments. “I bring my skills and experience from other parks and am able to Longtime Superintendent Bill Cox retired on Jan. 3 after a 40-year SPECIAL apply them to the National Recreation Area,” she said. Ann Honious. federal career. He had actively recruited by the National Park Service She started working with the National Park Service as a historito serve as the superintendent for the Chattahoochee River National an. Recreation Area in 2013, the National Park Service reported. “I’ve always liked history. And I found that the park service is a great way to share Cox set up partnership projects and helped develop the Friends Group – the Chattathe history of America, and the great resources that we have like national parks,” Hohoochee Parks Conservancy – to where it now provides philanthropic support to the nious said. park. He increased awareness for the Chattahoochee River NRA among local cities and People immediately think of parks like the Grand Canyon when you mention the Naorganization. And Cox helped educate the community on watershed management’s imtional Park Service. But the Chattahoochee River is also a national park, Honious said, portance and the economic benefits the park brings. and is a place where you can get out to enjoy the country and its natural resources. The biggest challenge Honious has faced in her short tenure has been the pandemic She worked in Dayton, Ohio, home of the Wright brothers, at the Dayton Aviation and park operations with COVID-19, “and developing an adaptive recovery to increase Heritage National Historical Park. She also has worked at the St. Louis Gateway Arch access for visitors in the park, keeping park visitors and employees safe.” National Park. At National Capital Parks East in Washington, D.C., she helps manage None of the Chattahoochee River NRA’s employees were furloughed due to the coromore than 8,000 acres and 90 parks, including the Washington-Baltimore Parkway, Annavirus, she said. Around 30 people work for the park, with numbers fluctuating beacostia Park, Frederick Douglass Park and Civil War Defenses of Washington. cause seasonal maintenance employees come in during the summer.


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JUNE 2020

Community | 31


Restaurants seek elbow room in the pandemic’s distanced dining

Continued from page 1 popular component to any restaurant location,” said Scott Amoson, the director of research at the Atlanta office of the real estate firm Colliers International. “I would think going forward, however, this will be an even more important aspect to incorporate into a restaurant’s location.” But another long-term social distancing trend could hit restaurants hard, and it’s completely out of their control over their square-footage and chairs. The lower attendance in offices as employees shift to teleworking will be “real hurt” if it becomes a new normal that eats into the lunch-catering business, said Richmond Green, director of operations at the Atlanta-based quick-casual chain Gusto. “That’s one area where we’re not sure things are going to return to normal,” said Green. “A lot of businesses have discovered that working remote is not just some futuristic thing that only Google does. ... There may never be a time where people gather in offices for hundred-person lunches. And it may be a long time before businesses take the risk of bringing people back to the office when they can safely work from home.”

blocked off. And we’re letting people order food and sit out there as they please,” said Manuel Gonzalez, general manager of the restaurant. Verde is in a mixed-use building that shares parking with other businesses and residents. Gonzalez said the restaurant owners were in discussions with the tenant association about the temporary setup. Amoson said jerryrigged seating solutions likely can continue, with any rulebending overlooked, while the pandemic comeback continues and restaurants attract potential customers for neighboring businesses. But, Starling said, some friction eventually will take hold, as other businesses will eventually want to use parking spaces, too, among other possible conflicts.

Moving outdoors

A distanced future?

Gov. Brian Kemp allowed dine-in restaurant service to return in late April. Under the current language of his emergency order, which was scheduled to run at least through June 12, restaurants are limited to 10 patrons per 300 square feet and 10 patrons per table. Michael Starling, the economic development director for the city of Dunwoody, said those rules boiled down to one message: “you have to find more space.” That’s because even 50% occupancy would not be enough for most restaurants to survive. Outdoor seating is a popular solution both to increase the footprint and because the open air is considered generally lower-risk for coronavirus transmission than indoor spaces. The cities of Dunwoody and Brookhaven quickly offered temporary permits to allow certain forms of outdoor dining. But restaurants and customers locally and around the metro area were already adapting on their own with ad hoc solutions. Amoson said he saw many examples in his home area in Atlanta’s southern suburbs, where standalone locations of chains like Outback used strips of land outside their stores for tables with umbrellas. “ I’ve also noticed people in general (including my family) have purchased their food to-go and then gone to sit on walls, or throw a blanket out on public spaces nearby,” said Amoson in an email. Earlier on, my family would purchase to-go and then have a picnic in the back of my truck in the parking lot. It was at least something different than eating at home and got us out.” Verde Taqueria in Brookhaven Village was among those that quickly moved outside. The restaurant has a patio, but already had converted it into a pickup spot for takeout orders. So to make outdoor seating, the restaurant put three picnic tables in parking spaces marked off with traffic cones. “We just got parts of our parking lot BH

Will the pandemic mean long-term changes to the way restaurants operate? While uncertainty is the pandemic’s main trait, flexibility in design seems to be the main answer. For Darren Benda, the PHOTOS BY PHIL MOSIER new owner of El Azteca in Top, outdoor dining in the pandemic on May 23 at Louisiana Dunwoody Village, it’s not Bistreaux Seafood Kitchen on Piedmont Road in Buckhead meant tables spaced apart and a server in a mask and face shield. an abstract question. He took advantage of the pan- Above, red X’s of tape mark tables as off-limits to maintain social distancing at the HOBNOB Neighborhood Tavern in Town Brookhaven on May 24. demic closures to speed up interior renovations of the restaurant. He says that the interior will not be changed specifically to prepare for any prolonged pandemic fallout, but that flexibility remains a design principle. “The beauty of our space is that 95% of the seating and tables can be rearranged for various patterns and occasions. So we will adjust whenever the rules and regulations allow for that,” he said. For Gusto, the pandemic is a test of the old normal, as the chain had the unfortunate timing to open its new “Chastain” location in Buckhead’s Roswell Wieuca Shopping Center on May 8. The restaurant opened as scheduled, but in a low-key fashion to avoid drawing crowds and with its roughly 50-seat dining room still unused. Green, Gusto’s director of operations, said that the quick-casual business model allowed the opening to do decent business, since it already had takeout and delivery built in -- though delivery takes a bigger cut of the revenue -- and the Chastain location has patio seating. After an initial hit, the chain’s counter business is back to near normal, said Green, with customers including nurses from nearby Piedmont Hospital flocking to the original location on Peachtree Road in Brookwood Hills.

But seating is an important part of the business and its intent to be a “destination” for customers. And that loss of office catering is a significant one that has the chain strategizing. And social distancing may have some longterm impacts on the way the chain does business. “I don’t think we’re going to do away with dining rooms when we’re looking at space in the future. I think we will look for more drivethrus,” said Green, adding that the Chamblee location has done the most consistent pandemic business because it has one. Gusto is also thinking about increasing the size of patios, as well as working with shopping center landlords to create “community spaces to eat outdoors” that could be used by a number of restaurants. Then there’s the biggest X factor of all: customer demands. Green said Gusto is already seeing customers without masks and hearing demands to open the in-store seating. Public tolerance for new ways of doing business may wane. “We’ve been telling our guys… that for a couple of months, the restaurant industry earned a lot of grace and earned a lot of sympathy,” said Green. But after that period with “zero customer complaints,” he said, “as people are starting to feel safer, we’re going to get less grace.” — Bob Pepalis contributed

JUNE 2020

| 32


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