09-28-18 Brookhaven Reporter

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SEPT. 28 - OCT. 11, 2018 • VOL. 10 — NO. 20


Brookhaven Reporter



► City OKs $170K to get bigger bands at Cherry Blossom Fest PAGE 14 ► As 285/400 interchange expands, air pollution is a concern PAGE 6

Two cities take different paths on EMS delivery

Painting the park

BY DYANA BAGBY dyanabagby@reporternewspapers.net


Nikita Kunte, 14, was among the winners at the city’s “Paint the Park” event Sept. 23 at Blackburn Park. A large group of artists gathered to paint images of the park, many of which hung on a line for viewing (background), and winners will have their works displayed at City Hall and featured in the city’s 2019 calendar.

Battle against Tesla CEO is latest high-profile case for local lawyer Page 4

We have a moral obligation to be faithful stewards of Buford Highway’s heritage, while ensuring its sustainable growth for generations to come. JOE GEBBIA BROOKHAVEN CITY COUNCILMEMBER

See STORY on page xx

See COMMENTARY, page 10

OUT & ABOUT Welcome fall with Apple Cider Days Page 16

A DeKalb County public safety consultant’s statement that ambulance response times have no real consequence on a patient’s treatment and care has alarmed Dunwoody officials as they seek to create their own localized EMS zone to speed up arrival times. And while Brookhaven officials say they are also concerned about slow EMS response times in the city, they have decided to work with the county to put an EMS post on Buford Highway rather than support the creation of a new EMS zone. Brookhaven’s stance, announced by City Manager Christian Sigman at the Sept. 20 EMS Council subcommittee meeting, shocked Dunwoody City Councilmember Terry Nall, who questioned the city’s motives as it works out a nearly $200,000 agreement with DeKalb County to put a new EMS station in Brookhaven. He said there also appeared to be a disconnect between Brookhaven elected offiSee TWO on page 15

In DeKalb ‘no man’s land,’ residents debate annexation, new cityhood BY DYANA BAGBY dyanabagby@reporternewspapers.net

John Ziegler walked up the steep hill of the Enclave at Briarcliff condominium complex’s parking lot overlooking roaring trucks and massive cranes a short distance away. After living here for nearly eight years, the new noise isn’t too bad, he said with a smile. He looked across the DeKalb County line into Brookhaven where crews are buildSee IN on page 22

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Residents caught in crossfire of failed development deal BY DYANA BAGBY dyanabagby@reporternewspapers.net

Residents living on Bramblewood Drive at Buford Highway expected to make good money off the sale of their homes as part of a proposed townhome development. But negotiations between the developer and the city collapsed, leaving them with an uncertain future. Allen Lucas, 75, has lived on Bramblewood Drive since 1980. He said he has been wanting to leave the area for years. So when the Ardent Companies’ proposal came along last year, he jumped at it, as did all the other 29 property owners on the street. “At least four of us did [buy second homes],” he said. “And now we’re all stuck with two mortgages. My hopes are all dashed.” Ardent contracted with the homeowners in April 2017 to buy their homes to build a 197-unit townhome community on the property. The townhomes would be

priate for the site. Buford Highway is where city officials envision a place for high-density and mixed-use developments as well as diverse housing with different price points, including affordable housing. The city’s comprehensive plan also calls for a pedestrianfriendly corridor. Ardent wanted the proposed townhome development to be a gated community and asked the city to abandon the approximate two acres of right-of-way on Bramblewood Drive so the street could be closed off from the public. Neville Allison, managing director of Ardent, said his company’s appraisal for the right of way was right at $250,000. But Bramblewood is a public street and the City Council and city officials balked at abandoning the real estate. They priced the right of way at $2 million. Last year, the council voted in a rare 3-2 vote, with Mayor John Ernst breaking the tie, to deny Ardent’s request to build a wrought-iron fence around a 22-unit town-


Crew Heimer, left, and Allen Lucas at Brookhaven City Hall. The two own houses on Bramblewood Drive and are upset a proposed townhome development on the road was not approved by the city because they planned to sell their houses when the deal was finalized.

priced at about $300,000. Ardent’s purchase of the Bramblewood homes would only go through after the development was approved as part of the city’s zoning process, according to the contractual agreement. Lucas said he was so sure the deal would go through after the Planning Commission recommended approval in April, that he bought a second home in Stone Mountain the following month. He said Ardent was offering above market value for his home but declined to reveal the price. The homeowners’ contract with Ardent expired in June. Lucas said his future is now uncertain; he has health problems and cannot easily afford the upkeep of two homes. “I’m a very disgruntled homeowner,” he said. “All of us are.” The Bramblewood residents were caught in the crossfire of failed real estate negotiations between Ardent and the city on what kind of development was appro-

home development on Pine Cone Lane. Ernst said new gated communities prevent connectivity. The council later reversed the decision and allowed the fence because the process to deny the fence was flawed, according to the city attorney. When the council in June deferred voting on the proposed Bramblewood development for three months, several Bramblewood residents were there, saying the council was putting their lives in “limbo.” Many also said they had stopped making major repairs to their homes, including air conditioner repairs, as they anticipated selling their homes quickly. The deferral gave time for the city and Ardent to try to work out a new deal for a development. But city officials said Ardent’s demand for a massive $30 million tax abatement coupled with a dispute over how to define affordable housing blew up further talks. The development planned in these negotiations included 170 for-sale townhomes, 300 apartments and a five-story parking deck.

Ardent withdrew its original 197-unit townhome development on Sept. 5. As part of the negotiations, the city did say if Ardent paid $2 million for the rightof-way, the city would then reinvest $2 million in infrastructure for the development, including the parking deck. Crew Heimer, 64, who owns two houses on Bramblewood, said it sounds like there is a “lot of finger-pointing going on” right now. He also worries the controversy over

this deal could hamper future development on Bramblewood. “Will developers want to touch us now?” he said. “I would have loved if the deal had gone through. I would have all my mortgages paid off and money in the bank for my kids to go to college. “There may be something better than townhomes, but that may be years down the road,” he said.

Short-term home rentals may be restricted in new zoning code BY DYANA BAGBY dyanabagby@reporternewspapers.net

The city may restrict Airbnb and similar short-term home rental services in its new zoning code. A proposed draft of the city’s zoning ordinance rewrite bans short-term rentals in residential neighborhoods and only allows them through a special land use permit process in multifamily residential properties, in certain areas of the Peachtree Overlay and the proposed new mixed-use districts. But some Planning Commission members have said they believe homeowners ought to also have the right to list their property with short-term rental agencies like Airbnb as a way to make extra cash. City Councilmember Joe Gebbia is the father of Airbnb co-founder and namesake Joe Gebbia. The topic of Airbnb has never been discussed publicly by the City Council but may soon be on its plate as the zoning rewrite moves forward. In an interview last year, the councilmember said he is not an investor in the company estimated in value at $38 billion by Forbes. Gebbia said he did make a loan to his son to help start Airbnb, and the loan was paid back. He did say he regularly uses Airbnb himself when traveling and chastises friends who do not use the short-term rental agency. A new draft of the zoning rewrite is set to be discussed at the Oct. 3 Planning Commission meeting, including options on how to regulate short-term rentals in the city. Members said at their meeting last month they were concerned the city was considering banning them in single-home residential neighborhoods. “If we do not allow Airbnb in singlefamily neighborhoods, are we restricting the rights to the property owner legally?” asked Commissioner John Funny. Attorney Laurel Henderson, working for the city, said there is no appellate case law dealing with short-term rentals. There is case law upholding the prohibition of short-term rentals in neighborhoods because they affect the character of the neighborhood, she said. Case law does not back prohibiting such

rentals in places such as apartment and condominium complexes, Henderson added. Commissioner Bert Levy also noted the Super Bowl is coming to Atlanta next year, when thousands of people are expected to flood the city and will be looking for places to stay. “Are we having issues affecting neighbors? Especially in light of the upcoming Super Bowl?” asked Commissioner Bert Levy. “Because that’s when everyone will be paying attention to our policy.” Community Development Director Patrice Ruffin said the city has had a few complaints in the past year from homeowners saying a neighbor was renting out their home. One case, for a man who purchased a home on Brooklawn Road as an investment property to specifically rent it out through Airbnb, was taken to Municipal Court, she said. He was forced to quit renting the house out. Airbnb and other short-term rental agencies are part of a booming, and controversial, industry where people rent out a room or their home to make money to supplement their incomes or to make extra cash. People wanting to rent out their space register with a company like Airbnb, which then matches them up with short-term renters through its online service. Airbnb collects a fee for the service. Short-term rentals have been especially controversial in big cities, where they can act as significant competition with hotels while avoiding the same taxes and regulations. There are also concerns that shortterm rentals inflate local housing markets, making it harder for long-term residents to afford housing. In 2014, the tourist-heavy city of Savannah, Ga., cracked down on short-term rentals as zoning violations. But the suburbs of metro Atlanta have just recently started to deal with Airbnb when it comes to zoning regulations. Brookhaven’s current zoning ordinance states houses used as short-term rentals on a primary or consistent basis are considered a commercial application and therefore not allowed in a residential zoning. Funny noted that some homeowners often travel months at a time for their job and


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SEPT. 28 - OCT. 11, 2018 ■ www.ReporterNewspapers.net should be able to rent out their property. At a zoning rewrite community meeting on Sept. 22, Ruffin said city staff will provide several options on how to regulate Airbnb in October to the Planning Commission and City Council after studying what other metro Atlanta cities are doing. One option will include legalizing short-term rentals by establishing a regulatory system, she said, as done last year in Sandy Springs as part of its new Development Code. In Sandy Springs, owners of short-term rentals are now required to provide detailed records of rental activity to the city and give emergency contact information to everyone living within 500 feet. Registration and compliance will be contracted to a company called Host Compliance at a cost estimated by city officials at $21,000 a year. But a bill introduced in the General Assembly during the last legislative session would allow companies like Airbnb to pay taxes on behalf of their users without identifying them, making it difficult or impossible for Sandy Springs to know whether the rental units comply with fire codes and other requirements. Ultimately, Ruffin said, how to regulate Airbnb and short-term rentals will be a City Council policy decision. “We are trying to address the issues ... and will be providing multiple options,” she said.

Community Briefs ing to Parks and Recreation Director Brian Borden. The three tree houses will be installed in a triangular formation and connected by rope ladders. The master plan was undertaken CITY OF BROOKHAVEN by GreenbergCustom-designed ‘tree houses’ are included in the new Briarwood Farrow and Park Adventure Playground set to be installed early next year. the adventure playground ‘TR EE HO U SES’ concept was designed by KOMPAN. PA RT O F B R IARWO O D Briarwood Park is located at 2235 BriP LAYG R O U ND PLAN arwood Way N.E. Construction of the new Briarwood Park Adventure Playground including G R EENWAY CO NSTR U CT IO N custom-designed “tree houses” is set to B ID S AR E D U E O CT. 1 6 begin early next year. Total cost for the The city recently issued an invitanew playground is just over $314,000. tion to bid on the construction of the When developing the master plan for first phase of the Peachtree Creek Greenthe park, residents wanted something way known as the “model mile” between different than the normal, everyday playNorth Druid Hills Road and Briarwood ground and tree house concept, accord-

Road. The Greenway master plan outlines a series of nature trails, paved multipurpose trails and promenade trails that will connect Brookhaven’s portion into the 12.3-mile Peachtree Creek Trail project from Mercer University in unincorporated DeKalb to the PATH400 trail, the South Fork Conservancy Trails and the Atlanta BeltLine. The Greenway is intended to provide connectivity to areas beyond as part of a larger network of multiuse trails to residences, offices, restaurants, bike rental stands, coffee shops and picnic areas. The PATH Foundation will oversee the construction of the first phase. In March 2017, the City Council voted to engage the foundation for engineering of this section, which is the central link in Brookhaven’s 2.9 miles of the trail. The city recently issued $15 million in revenue bonds to pay for construction of the Greenway. Revenue is slated to come from hotel-motel taxes. The bid deadline is Tuesday, Oct. 16, at 10 a.m. Among the requirements for the project is completion within 270 days. More information can be found at brookhavenga.gov.

Property tax relief would not have “happened without Senator Millar. ” --M T , ceo d K c ichael hurMond

of e alb ounTy

Senator Millar Leads on Tax Relief. Senator Fran Millar believes that no homeowner should be forced to deal with massive changes in property taxes caused by large increases in assessments, which have often happened year after year.

• If a taxpayer requests information regarding their assessment values the Board of Tax Assessors must respond within 10 business days or the Board will face penalties.

In DeKalb Senator Millar’s legislation freezes the value of your home for city and county taxes. Large savings were realized in 2018 with the 100 % HOST assuming no assessment increase.

• The tax assessor must now meet with taxpayers within 30 days or the Board will face monetary penalties.

In Fulton Senator Millar cosponsored the legislation that caps the amount of the home value increase as respects your school tax (70 percent of the bill). He hopes to take this to Gwinnett and DeKalb.

• The taxpayer now has the right to request evidence that the county may use against them during a tax appeal hearing. It must be furnished 7 days before the appeal hearing and NO more surprises.

Bipartisan Leadership is Effective Leadership. VOTE NOVEMBER 6! EARLY VOTING STARTS OCT. 15 BK


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Battle against Tesla CEO is latest high-profile case for local libel lawyer BY JOHN RUCH johnruch@reporternewspapers.net

A dramatic rescue of a dozen boys from a flooded cave in Thailand this summer was followed by a bizarre sideshow: a world-famous billionaire inventor groundlessly smearing one of the rescue advisers as a pedophile. On Aug. 28, Tesla CEO Elon Musk doubled down, taking to Twitter to ask why cave expert Vernon Unsworth hadn’t sued him over the slur. “@elonmusk should check his mail before tweeting,” came a prompt reply illustrated with a photo of an intent-to-sue letter. That mic-drop tweet came from the fingertips of L. Lin Wood, a Buckhead attorney who has become one of the nation’s top libel warriors after using similar inyour-face tactics to defend the honor of such clients as Richard Jewell, who was falsely accused of the 1996 Atlanta Olympics bombing, and the family members of JonBenét Ramsey, the child victim of a notorious unsolved murder. “[The false accusations] change their life forever, because the shout of ‘guilty’ is never overcome by the whisper of innocence,” Wood said of his clients in a recent interview. Over the years, Wood has represented both sides in prominent sexual misconduct and assault claims. Current clients include casino mogul Steve Wynn, who denies several workplace misconduct claims, and 15 years ago Wood represented the woman who accused basketball star Kobe Bryant of rape in a case that was later settled without admission of wrongdoing. Such cases leave him with some strong concerns about the “#MeToo movement” and the social media era. While saying he is often the first to go to the “court of public opinion,” Wood is also concerned it “has no rules of evidence.” “I don’t know what the future of reputation is going to be. We have normalized, in so many ways, heinous accusations,” Wood said, predicting the court system eventually will tighten protections against defamation.

Early career and Richard Jewell

Growing up in Macon, Wood saw his family interact with the court system in one of the worst possible ways: his father killed his mother. “I grew up in a family household of domestic violence,” he said. While that was a factor in his decision to become a lawyer, he says his personal inclination to persuasion and advocacy was the prime motive. He recalls doing well as youth pastor for a day at his church at age 13. “Everybody was telling me I was called by God to be a preacher, and I said, ‘No, I’m going to be a lawyer,’ ” Wood says.

L. Lin Wood, left, and Richard Jewell at a 2006 event where Jewell was honored by Gov. Sonny Perdue as a rescue hero of the Atlanta Olympics bombing.

His career began with medical malpractice defense in Macon. Then he moved to Atlanta to advocate for patients in such cases. After working at various firms and other specialties, including Medicare fraud cases, he now runs his own boutique civil litigation practice in Midtown. Formerly a longtime Sandy Springs resident, he now lives in Buckhead’s Peachtree Park, close to his office, in a relatively modest home. He says what he likes best about his work is his personal connection with his clients, not material goods he can gather with the fees. “I don’t need a $5 million house. All I’d have is a lot of empty rooms,” he says, adding that he’s happy with his Buckhead neighborhood. “I love this part of the city. I love being surrounded by trees and the community.” Wood’s success in libel litigation — still a major focus of his firm — started with the extraordinary case of the Centennial Olympic Park bombing, which killed one person and injured more than 100. Jewell, a security guard at the park, was at first hailed as a hero for discovering the bomb and guiding people away from its blast zone. But an FBI investigation leak led to a media frenzy suggesting Jewell was himself the bomber.

Wood got the case as a referral from another lawyer who knew him as an aggressive courtroom advocate. Among the challenges: “I didn’t know anything about libel law at the time,” says Wood. He plunged in, learning as he went, in a case that “seems almost surreal” in retrospect. Jewell had “the two most powerful entities in the world trying to put him in prison with the death penalty”— the U.S. government and the media, Wood said. “Those are spooky days.” Wood said it is important to him that he believes his clients are innocent of the accusations against them, a decision he makes after reviewing the case and his “instincts” when talking to them. So his first meeting with Jewell — in a conference room that happened to overlook Centennial Olympic Park — was crucial, especially because Wood had counted himself among those suspecting him. “Finally I said, ‘Richard, I’ll represent you if you want me to, but first you’ll have to accept my apology. … I thought you did it. I believed what I saw on TV. I believed what I read in the papers.’ ” Wood’s fierce defense helped Jewell avoid prosecution and won some settlements, including from NBC News, and


some cases continued even after Jewell’s untimely death in 2007 at age 44. The real criminal was later revealed to be Eric Rudolph, a hate-driven terrorist who had also bombed an Atlanta lesbian nightclub and clinics that performed abortions in Sandy Springs and Alabama. But even Jewell’s vindication will not fully remove the cloud, Wood says, noting “his name does not appear in the [Olympic] park” and he never got a commendation from the International Olympic Committee or other Games organizers. “People are going to remember Richard Jewell as the guy falsely accused of bombing the Olympics,” says Wood. “Richard should be remembered as a hero of the Centennial Olympic Games. Richard saved hundreds of innocent lives. … He was a legitimate hero.” “I love Richard Jewell,” Wood adds. “I miss him every day.”

The Ramseys and presidential candidates

Wood soon was among the attorneys involved in another major media frenzy, the JonBenét Ramsey murder in Boulder, Colo., in 1996, where parents John and Patsy and brother Burke frequently involved in law-

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SEPT. 28 - OCT. 11, 2018 ■ www.ReporterNewspapers.net suits to clear their names. Over 20 years of sexual assault allegations that were still later, Wood is still representing John and under investigation at press time. Wood Burke Ramsey in a pending case. likened the case to his defense of Cain on The Ramseys had previously lived in TV talk shows: “I made the point it’s a slipthe Atlanta area; JonBenét was born here pery slope and I don’t think we want to and is buried in Marietta. Wood said he got decide who’s going to govern us based on involved in the case when Patsy Ramsey guilt by accusation.” heard about him after contacting a local More generally in the social media age, family whose child had been murdered. Wood said, “The pendulum has swung too “People don’t know this. Patsy would far in favor of the First Amendment” and hear about people who lost a child and he believes libel laws will be tightened – reach out to them quietly,” Wood said. though not in the way President Trump As with Jewell, Wood developed a persometimes calls for. “The change in the lisonal connection with the family, includbel laws and First Amendment laws … it’s ing Patsy, who died in 2006. “I was a pallnot going to come from legislation. It’s gobearer at Patsy’s funeral,” he said. ing to come from the court system” and As Wood’s libel-law experience grew, how it interprets the definition of a “pubhe found himself involved in presidential lic figure” who has less defamation proteccampaigns. “I always said I want to repretions, Wood said. sent somebody who could be president,” That could make Unsworth’s case Wood says, “but realized if I’m representagainst Musk tougher, Wood said, being them, they have a problem that might cause he gave media interviews criticizprevent that.” ing Musk’s proposal for using a miniature That was the case submarine for the with Herman Cain, cave rescue, and whose 2012 Repubthus might be conlican nomination sidered a public figattempt failed amid ure “as if he’s a pressexual misconduct ident or movie star… allegations that he and I think that’s just denied and fought wrong.” with Wood’s representation. He said The Musk he also successfully case represented anothIn taking on er Republican conMusk, Wood says he tender, Rick Perry, is once again repreby killing a pending senting a rescue hero Huffington Post sto— in this case, Unry that would have sworth’s knowledge reported some sort of the Thailand cave of allegations. system was crucial Other clients information for the have included fordivers who got the mer California Consurvivors out. L. LIN WOOD gressman Gary Con“Vern is as close dit, who was caught BUCKHEAD LIBEL ATTORNEY to Richard Jewell as up in a media frenzy I’ve seen in my pracover the still mystetice,” Wood says. “But rious 2001 murder of Chandra Levy; Perri for Vernon, I’m not sure that rescue could “Pebbles” Reid, manager of the R&B group have happened.” TLC; casino and newspaper owner Sheldon As for Musk’s comments, Wood says he Adelson; and “Dr. Phil” McGraw. has seen many defamation cases and, after working with ultra-wealthy clients, is faThe ‘#MeToo’ era miliar with the “billionaire mentality.” But The “#MeToo” movement of revealing he says he was still surprised by the novellong-suppressed stories of sexual abuse ty of a tycoon issuing a slur while making and harassment raises some concerns it clear he had no evidence, then essentially from Wood’s libel-lawyer perspective. inviting the target to sue. “I have a healthy respect for the “I’ve been through enough that it ‘#MeToo’ movement,” Wood says. He said doesn’t shock me. But what Musk did is that based on what he’s read, he would declose to shocking me,” Wood said. “You cline to represent Harvey Weinstein, the can’t make this up. There’s no good explamovie producer who is now charged with nation for what Mr. Musk did.” rape after scores of sexual abuse allegaNaturally, Wood expects to win the tions against him sparked the movement. now-filed lawsuit and secure damages in Wood also says he believes the accuser he the “tens of millions of dollars.” represented in the Kobe Bryant case was “If you got $20 billion,” Wood asks, “how the victim of a crime in an “egregious case.” much do you have to pull out of your pockBut Wood also spends some time on et to learn your lesson?” Twitter defending Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, who is the subject

People are going to remember Richard Jewell as the guy falsely accused of bombing the Olympics. Richard should be remembered as a hero of the Centennial Olympic Games. Richard saved hundreds of innocent lives. … He was a legitimate hero.

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As 285/400 interchange expands, air pollution is a concern spread vehicle exhaust similar to a smokestack, dispersing pollution over a larger area, but at lower concentrations.

Pollution types and mapping

An Atlanta Regional Commission map showing estimated levels of particulate matter pollution in the I-285/Ga. 400 interchange area in terms of average annual micrograms per cubic meter. High levels are red; low levels are green. All of the levels are within federal guidelines, but health officials say any level can cause illness.

BY JOHN RUCH johnruch@reporternewspapers.net

Air pollution is a little-discussed aspect of the state’s I-285/Ga. 400 interchange reconstruction and expansion projects, partly because planning studies said it essentially has a neutral effect by improving air quality in some ways and harming it in others. But the interchange area’s exhaust-related pollution is already among metro Atlanta’s highest, and the expanded highway lanes will have one new impact: dumping pollutants closer to homes, businesses and parks. The state’s current “Transform 285/400” interchange rebuild, and its plan to add toll lanes over the next decade, present various pollution tradeoffs, according to the Georgia Department of Transportation and air-quality experts. Faster traffic flow and possible Ga. 400 mass transit could reduce local air pollution; more traffic, ineffective transit and lanes closer to neighborhoods could increase pollution. GDOT’s environmental study for Transform 285/400 found it had no overall significant impact on air pollution and meets federal standards. But, regardless of federal guide-

lines, motor vehicle exhaust contains dangerous, tiny particles of pollution that the World Health Organization says has no known safe level of exposure. An Atlanta Regional Commission map of how such pollution spreads off highways shows that the 285/400 interchange is rivaled only by Atlanta’s Downtown Connector for concentrations of the dangerous particles. Relatively high concentrations of the pollution blows onto some Sandy Springs city parks and the Medical Center’s hospitals, among other areas, according to the map — and that’s only one type of air pollution. “Too much time spent in that area outdoors … is probably not healthy,” said Paul D’Onofrio, an ARC planner on air quality and climate change who worked on the map, about those higherconcentration spots. Transform 285/400 is expected to wrap up in 2020. The additional toll, or “managed,” lanes — four on each highway — are in the planning stages. According to GDOT’s website, environmental studies for the Ga. 400 toll lanes are underway with construction expected to start in 2021 and finish in 2024; the I-285 toll lanes have early studies underway and are expected

to start construction in 2023 for a 2028 opening. GDOT has committed to design transit bus access on the Ga. 400 lanes, and local cities are studying the possibility of some sort of I-285 transit as well. Brian Gist, an attorney in the Atlanta office of the Southern Environmental Law Center, said his advocacy organization has various air-quality concerns about the toll lanes. Those include whether transit will actually work on the lanes, whether they will use “clean” buses, and whether drivers who can’t afford tolls will boost pollution by sitting in congestion or using local streets instead. “The question is, if we want these [toll lanes] to benefit regional transit … are we really incorporating transit into those lanes?” asks Gist. His group also believes GDOT could do a better job of “taking a hard look at the aggregate impact of all these projects,” he said. Another new factor with toll lanes is the proposal for portions of them to run on elevated ramps 30 or more feet tall. That idea has drawn some local criticism about aesthetics and right of way, but it may have air quality effects, too. Gist said his group has yet to study the issue, but that elevated lanes could

Exhaust-related air pollution is broadly trending downward due to tighter fuel-efficiency standards and other regulations, Gist and D’Onofrio said, but remains a significant problem, and new transportation technology hasn’t solved it. Electric vehicles, which eliminate local pollution, are still a small factor, and such new developments as ride-sharing services and autonomous vehicles may increase congestion and pollution, Gist said. Fossil-fuel vehicles produce several types of air pollution, such as ozone, which can cause health problems, and greenhouse gases that SPECIAL contribute to climate change. They also produce “particulate matter” — tiny particles of pollutants that, when inhaled, can cause cancer and heart and lung disease, among other lethal ills. Metro Atlanta’s highway pollution was a major issue and legal battle in the late 1990s and early 2000s, Gist said, when the region was ruled out of compliance with federal air-quality standards. Various regulations, along with tighter federal fuel-efficiency standards, now have the region in compliance, Gist said. Road projects like Transform 285/400 are required to be built in ways that do not increase air pollution above those federal rules. But federal standards don’t tell the entire story about such dangerous pollutants as particulate matter. An example is a type known as “PM2.5,” meaning particles 2.5 micrometers in size — so tiny they can go directly into the bloodstream when inhaled. PM2.5 from vehicle exhaust usually falls out of the air within 300 to 500 feet of roads, Gist and D’Onofrio say. The federal limit for PM2.5 exposure is an annual average of 12 micrograms per cubic meter, which the metro area at least meets, according to Gist and D’Onofrio. But the World Health Organization recommends a practical standard of 10

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SEPT. 28 - OCT. 11, 2018 ■ www.ReporterNewspapers.net micrograms per cubic meter, and also says that any amount of PM2.5 air pollution has demonstrated illness-causing effects. “There is no evidence of a safe level of exposure or a threshold below which no adverse health effects occur,” the WHO said in a 2013 report, which estimated 3.1 million deaths from the pollution worldwide in 2010. To the ARC, even today’s lower levels of PM2.5 are a significant health concern. In 2016, the ARC produced the “Atlanta Roadside Emissions Exposure Study” to look at the local effects of PM2.5 pollution from vehicle exhaust. A major motive, D’Onofrio said, is informing governments that might build along roadways about pollution risks. “People shouldn’t be building schools right next to freeways. Playgrounds shouldn’t be next to freeways,” he said. The study includes a highly detailed map of how PM2.5 pollution is estimated to spread from metro Atlanta roadways, color-coded to show annual average concentrations of 1.2 to 7.1 micrograms per cubic meter. The map uses traffic, emissions, weather and physics modeling based on 2015 data that D’Onofrio said would not have changed significantly yet; an update is planned in about two years. On the map, the 285/400 interchange puts much of Perimeter Center into red and orange areas reflecting higher PM2.5 concentrations. The most intense estimated pollution is along I-285 in Sandy Springs between Long Island and Glenridge drives. Allen Road Park, featuring a playground and sports courts, is within that area; the city’s Hammond and Ridgeview parks are in higher-concentration areas as well. So are Dunwoody’s Georgetown Recreation Club and the publicly accessible green spaces in Perimeter Center’s Concourse and Ravinia skyscraper complexes. All of the “Pill Hill” hospitals — Northside, Emory Saint Joseph’s and Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta at Scottish Rite — are also in higher-concentration zones; Northside said it uses industry-standard air filtration and monitoring systems that would keep out pollutants. But air patterns make some results surprising. Fulton County’s Heards Ferry Elementary and Riverwood high schools are directly next to I-285, but in lower-concentration areas for PM2.5 — though they still get some, between 2 and 3 micrograms per cubic meter. D’Onofrio said that exhaust-related particulate matter is only about 30 to 50 percent of overall air pollution, so areas with higher PM2.5 concentration probably have other significant air pollutant levels as well. “You should be worried about any kind of air pollution in general,” he said.

285/400 impacts

When GDOT’s 2015 environmental study for Transform 285/400 reported “no significant impact,” that meant it will meet federal pollution standards. What that means at the local level has some nuances. The study broadly refers to what Gist calls the typically “give and take” concept of vehicle-caused pollution: If traffic moves through the area faster as intended by the project, vehicles will dump less pollution in any given spot; but the improved road might attract more drivers, which will boost overall pollution. The study does not quantify the assumptions and generally presented it as a canceling-out effect. The study predicted that Transform 285/400 will slightly reduce carbon monoxide emissions in the entire area, but may slightly increase around certain interchanges. Particulate matter pollution would continue to meet federal standards, and GDOT avoided doing a “hotspot” analysis of the effects after a state and federal review. Another type of pollution addressed by GDOT’s study was “mobile source air toxics,” referring to various particular pollutants, including cancer-causing substances. GDOT said there are no agreed-upon standards for measuring and controlling them yet and predicted the project would have “no appreciate impact” on their local levels. But that still meant a projected 9.4 percent increase in the interchange area by 2039. And, GDOT said, new lanes added as part of the interchange reconstruction would put such pollution closer to homes and businesses. GDOT also addressed “environmental justice” issues, saying that minority and low-income households within the project area were clustered along the western section of I-285. GDOT reported no project impact on that area, but it’s the zone that the ARC maps show as having the highest local concentrations of PM2.5 highway pollution. As GDOT begins planning the additional toll lanes, Gist said air quality should be a significant concern. The bus transit, which could reduce vehicle trips, will only work if the design doesn’t leave the buses “stuck in traffic like everybody else,” he says. There is also the possibility the buses themselves will produce pollution.

A closer look at the interchange’s particulate matter pollution in the Atlanta Regional Commission map.

“We strongly support clean buses,” Gist said, saying his group prefers compressed natural gas fuel over diesel, and electric power above all. Another concern is that drivers who cannot afford the toll lanes will be stuck in traffic and divert their trips onto local streets, increasing conges-

tion and pollution there. Pollution on local streets has a bigger impact, Gist said. “Where there are people walking and riding bikes and waiting for the bus,” he said, “they’re breathing that automobile exhaust.”

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8 | Education

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State school superintendent talks local control, start dates BY EVELYN ANDREWS evelyn@reporternewspapers.net

State Superintendent Richard Woods spoke on his support for local control, including on trade-oriented classes and school start dates, during a Sandy Springs Perimeter Chamber of Commerce luncheon Sept. 14. Woods, who took office in 2015 and is running for re-election this year against Democrat Otha Thornton, has focused his platform on decentralizing control, saying he thinks local districts should make the big decisions for their schools, including school schedules. Legislation was introduced in the General Assembly’s last session that would prohibit schools from starting prior to the third week in August. A state Senate study committee is researching how changing the school schedule could affect the travel and hospitality industries. Woods said he understands some industries could be helped by a longer summer, but the school calendar would have to be made up somewhere, either by ending later or cutting mid-year breaks, he said. He also believes the start date should not be mandated by the state. “I really believe in local control and I think they know what is best for their kids,” said Woods, who oversees 1.8 million students across 180 districts. About 90 percent of Georgia children attend public schools, he said. He also believes the importance of tests should be de-emphasized, Woods said at the luncheon, which was held in the City Springs Studio Theatre. “Success is not measured by test scores,” he said. “Our goal is to make sure our kids are ready for life.” Encouraging every student to pursue a college degree from a four-year university is also unnecessary, he said. There is a shortage of employees to fill manual labor jobs, including electrician and contractor positions, he said. “Those are good and honorable trades. They are things that we need,” he said. Shop classes have upgraded dramatically to fill that need in recent years, he said. Increasing local district decisions also includes creating programs focused on trades, Woods said. He has encouraged prominent industries to partner with their local districts to create coursework that could support that business, such as mining in North Georgia or entertainment industry needs. One of the major missing pieces in Georgia needed for the entertainment industry is people who write scripts, so they created new coursework for that, he said. “We want to make sure that we are listening to businesses throughout the state,” he said.


State Superintendent Richard Woods speaks with luncheon attendees at the end of the Sept. 14 event, which was held in the City Springs Studio Theatre.

Agriculture remains the largest industry in the state, he said, but entertainment jobs have grown rapidly as a state tax credit and other incentives draw film and TV productions to Georgia. “Opportunities like we have never seen are at the doorstep for our children,” Woods said. Large school districts in the north metro area should be leaders for smaller districts in the state, Woods said. “You are great incubators of innovation,” he said of Fulton County and other large districts in the area.


The Senate school safety study committee held its next-to-final meeting at Chamblee Charter High School on Sept. 18 as it begins to wrap up its research. The study committee has met with teachers, students, parents and local first responders across the state. Its members inSPECIAL clude local State Sen. Fran Millar. Sens. John Albers, who chairs the committee, Kay Kirkpatrick and Fran Millar. Following the meeting, where the committee heard mostly from Gwinnett County community members, Millar said he expects recommendations to center around needing more funding for safety improvements. That may include allowing schools to

use special purpose tax, or EPLOST, funds for the projects or initiatives, Millar said. “We have to make a safe environment for children,” Millar said. Millar does not support or expect any recommendations to arm teachers. “I don’t see that happening in the metro area,” he said. “It is more important to arm school resource officers.” The committee will meet a final time with community members in Savannah on Oct. 26 before reviewing the information in November at the state Capitol. The committee will then draft a report on its findings and recommendations for the Senate.


Graduation rates for DeKalb and Atlanta public school districts increased last school year while Fulton’s remained the same, according to state data. Statewide, the graduation rate rose to 81.6 percent in 2018 from 80.6 percent in 2017. DeKalb County School District DeKalb’s graduation rate for 2018 was 75 percent, an increase over 2017’s rate of 74 percent. Chamblee Charter and Dunwoody high schools are two of nine schools in the dis-

trict with rates above 80 percent. Chamblee Charter’s new rate is 83 percent, an increase over 2017’s 81.9 percent. Dunwoody’s is 86 percent, an increase over 2017’s 85.7 percent, according to the state. Cross Keys High’s rate fell to 64.4 percent. Last year, it was 68.7 percent. Fulton County School District The district’s rate remained the same at 86.8 percent, the highest graduation rate of all large metro Atlanta school systems, according to the district. North Springs Charter High School’s rate fell from 90.4 to 90.1. Riverwood International Charter School’s rose from 87 to 92.2, according to the district. Atlanta Public Schools Atlanta Public Schools’ rate increased to 77 percent in 2018. The rate in 2017 was 71.1 percent, according to the district. North Atlanta High School’s rate fell from 94.9 percent to 92.5, according to the state.


Three elementary schools that feed into Riverwood International Charter School have received International Baccalaureate certification, making Riverwood the first Fulton cluster to be completely certified.

Heards Ferry, High Point and Lake Forest elementary schools have been certified by the elite education organization, the Fulton County School District announced Sept. 14. Riverwood International Charter School was certified in 1999 and Ridgeview Charter School in 2009, the district said in a press release. IB certification is a long process that includes consultations and verification visits from the international organization. Becoming an IB school allows it to be part of global of network of schools that focus on the personal development of students and academic rigor, according to the website. Schools pay thousands in fees to apply and annual fees each year to be a member. There are also fees associated with the special tests administered to students, according to the website. Lib Roberts, High Point’s certification coordinator, said in the press release that the certification is expected to increase student performance and provide more opportunities for students after graduation. “The greatest benefit will be that entire generations of students will begin to see the world as a more connected place where people with varied heritages and cultures are able to celebrate and embrace our human commonalities rather than our differences,” Roberts said in the release.

Education | 9

SEPT. 28 - OCT. 11, 2018 ■ www.ReporterNewspapers.net

Riverwood International Charter School budget rises by $5M


An illustration shows the planned design for the new Riverwood International Charter School.

BY EVELYN ANDREWS evelyn@reporternewspapers.net

After expressing surprise and disappointment, the Fulton County Board of Education voted unanimously to increase the budget for a phase of the new Riverwood Charter International School in Sandy Springs by more than $5 million. District 5 Board Member Linda McCain said she understands that construction costs are rising nationwide, but is concerned that the Riverwood project has risen to encompass about 10 percent of the district’s capital budget for the next five years. “This is unbelievable,” McCain said. “Did we design this building to be one of the most expensive buildings we’ve done in Fulton County? That’s my only takeaway from this,” she said. The Fulton County School District staff attributed the increases to rising construction costs, particularly for such materials as cement and steel. The school, located off of Heards Ferry Road at 5900 Raider Drive, is being built in seven phases to allow the school to remain open during construction. That process is causing the construction time to be much longer than typical, another factor driving up costs, said Patrick Burke, the district chief operating officer, said during a presentation at the board’s Sept. 13 work session, which is archived in video online. Delaying approval of the “Phase 2B” contract increase, which totals $5,766,746, could affect costs and schedules, he cautioned. The total budget for Phase 2B, which includes roofing, doors, windows, interior finishes and landscaping, now comes to $29,580,046. To prevent similar increases for the following phases, Burke said phases 3 through 7 will be bid in a way that locks in the prices. District 2 Board Member Katie Reeves expressed disappointment and shock that district staff or the construction manager did not see the cost increase coming.

“Somebody should have caught this,” Reeves said. “I’m having a tough time trying to absorb that every single gut check along the way failed us.” District 4 Board Member Linda Bryant said that this is not the only project funded by the special purpose local option tax that has gone over budget. She renewed her call for an audit of SPLOST projects that gets into more details than the annual audit already done.

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10 | Commentary

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Commentary / A city’s approach to preserving Buford Highway’s community Stretching from the tony outskirts of Buckhead to a bustling I-285 and beyond, the Buford Highway Corridor stands at the precipice of an economic renaissance the metropolitan Atlanta area hasn’t seen since Atlantic Station opened for business in 2005. However, unlike the toxic brownfield that once sullied the north Atlanta skyline, the Buford Highway corridor has a lot that needs to be preserved and curated. Celebrated for its ethnic diversity, hundreds of businesses, large and small, call the corridor home and its collection of international restaurants can take diners on culinary adventures around the globe featuring exotic cuisine from Vietnam, Korea, Mexico, Columbia, Cambodia, China, Japan, Ethiopia and beyond. Mixed into the pocket communities that line the corridor are schools, parks, retail, multiuse trails, playgrounds, a movie studio, historic neighborhoods and other urban amenities. The dilemma for Brookhaven is how can the community and culture be preserved when redevelopment is a certainty? It’s a matter of when, not if. This conundrum is the impetus for the painstakingly deliberate approach Brookhaven has taken for the current zoning rewrite process, which codifies more than two years’ worth of citizen input into the zoning law that will shape this region’s future. On one hand, we have to set realistic and attractive standards that allow developers to build what the community needs. Things like mixed-use projects were not even addressed in DeKalb County’s zoning code a dozen years ago. Parking lots between buildings and the

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street used to be the accepted approach the corridor, and the 30 units of afto development, but not anymore. fordable housing included were a welOn the other hand, we have to encomed component. However, the acsure that these developments create the companying demand for a 30-year, 100 opportunity for the existing commupercent property tax abatement for all nities to remain in place, if they want 300 apartments and parking deck was to. This means we must address the afnot realistic. fordable housing/workforce housing The Buford Highway corridor issue. We must also have standards for has long been identified as a priorigreenspace and integrate multimodal ty redevelopment area, as outlined in transportation options at Brookhaven’s 2034 Compreevery opportunity. hensive Master Plan. I have An example of how always said that this area is this works successfully is prime for $3 billion to $4 bilBrookhaven’s partnership lion in development in the with Children’s Healthnext five to 10 years. Chilcare of Atlanta. Zoning dren’s Healthcare, Emory was put in place that aland the Atlanta Hawks allowed the hospital to beready get us halfway there, gin construction of its $1.6 but that’s on the other side billion campus, which inof I-85, and not a residential cludes a multimillion-dolarea. Buford Highway itself lar commitment to infrahas such a large population structure improvements, that it must be addressed in including transportation. represents District 4 on a holistic fashion. The zoning for Children’s The corridor continues Brookhaven City CounHealthcare is limited to a cil. His district in- to morph into much more specific area south of I-85 cludes the portion of Bu- than Atlanta’s melting pot, and the campus is purford Highway in the far beyond the cuisine and posefully oriented to concity of Brookhaven and international flair. Families the area where Chil- and young professionals are nect with the Peachtree dren’s Healthcare of At- being drawn to its laid-back Creek Greenway that will lanta is developing its charm and promise of ecoultimately connect Mernew hospital campus. nomic opportunity. cer University in unincorporated DeKalb through This is the Buford HighBrookhaven to the Atlanway corridor, with a perta Beltline. sonality, presence and promise like noAn example that didn’t work is where else. We have a moral obligation the recent proposal to build a townto be faithful stewards of Buford Highhome project in an assembled residenway’s heritage, while ensuring its sustial neighborhood off Buford Highway. tainable growth for generations to The developer’s proposed investment come. matched the character envisioned for

Joe Gebbia

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Commentary | 11

SEPT. 28 - OCT. 11, 2018 ■ www.ReporterNewspapers.net

Around Town

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

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One of the things that takes some getting used to as you get older is that you have so much more to remember. Not new things; you forget those. Old things. Something you see will set off a little Roman candle in the back of your brain and suddenly you’re remembering something that happened in 1969 or someone you knew in 1975. The confluence of recent high-profile funerals for John McCain and Aretha Franklin sparked in me the memory of the quite different memorial event that occurred a generation ago. I hadn’t thought about my friend Jim in a long time, but (although I was living half a continent away at the time, so I wasn’t present in person) stories I heard of his funeral stick with me all these years later. It was either the saddest or the most affectionate memorial I’ve ever heard of. And I still can’t quite figure out which it is. Jim was an old-fashioned newspaperman. He was a little guy, had a white beard and wore a coat and tie to work every day. He’d hacked his way for years around small-town papers scattered across the Carolinas. I knew him when I was just starting my career at the afternoon paper in my hometown and he was finishing up his as the daily columnist on the bigger morning paper. Jim was like other newspaper columnists I’ve known through the years — very little like the man his readers thought he was. In real life, he was a quiet guy who was friendly, but mostly kept to himself. He dated a woman on the copy desk and may have been married before, but he never talked much about his personal life or history. He smoked a lot of cigarettes and loved a cherry-flavored soft drink called Cheerwine that was made in his hometown and that he enthused over in print whenever he couldn’t think of anything else to write about. The person he appeared to be in his column was quite different. He came off as a complete extrovert, a friendly guy who loved to chat anytime, anyplace about anything. People who’d never met him thought he was a gabby, bubbly guy. He wasn’t. There were a few stories about him that made the rounds, of course. One time, the office wags said, Jim was sitting quietly in the newsroom when a call went out over the police scanner about an armed robbery that had just taken place. The dispatcher described the getaway car and Jim looked up, bemused. The car sounded a lot like his car. Then the dispatcher called out the license plate number and it was his license plate number. Then the dispatcher broadcast Jim’s address and said officers were being dispatched there immediately to arrest him. Jim scrambled to the phone to call the cops and say it couldn’t be him because he had been sitting in the newsroom all morning surrounded by fellow reporters and please don’t come arrest him. It must be a mistake. It wasn’t. It turned out the robbers had stolen it from a parking lot to use in the holdup. Jim was probably best known among us younger reporters for his group beach trips. He’d worked at a lot of papers and knew a lot of writers, so every year — sometimes twice a year — he’d gather a crew of 15 to 25 at the Cadillac Motel in Myrtle Beach for a long weekend of poker, drinking, fishing and eating seafood. Jim loved to play a game we called “monte.” A player started with a two-card or three-card hand and could improve it with several draws of replacement cards followed by betting. Best two-card or three-card hand won. Jim liked it because it moved fast and a lot of us could play at once. He also liked it because he won a lot. He didn’t drink alcohol, so he’d sit at the table with bottle of Cheerwine and quietly stack up the chips as the rest of us grew drunker through the evening. After Jim died, there was some sort of service, but his buddies held on to his ashes. A few months later, some of the beach trip regulars carried his urn along on a poker trip to the Cadillac Motel. At some point during the evening, someone called for a round of monte. They set Jim’s ashes at the head of the table, opened a bottle of Cheerwine and set it next to him and dealt him a hand. Jim won the hand. The players gathered the chips and put them in the urn with his ashes and raised a glass to him. The next morning, they dumped the ashes and chips into the ocean at a spot where Jim like to fish. There were no anecdote-filled eulogies or public outpourings of affection and grief that I ever heard about. Just a few guys sharing a last card game and a drink. Perhaps that’s sad. But I think Jim would have liked it that way. He always kept to himself.

Read Robin Conte’s debut book ‘The Best of the Nest’ “The Best of the Nest” offers 49 of Reporter Newspapers columnist Robin Conte’s witty essays on suburban family life, organized by seasons. They include some of the pieces that won Robin the first-place Lifestyle/Features Column award in 2017 and 2018 and first-place for Humorous column in 2018 from the Georgia Press Association.

Order the book at bestofthenest.net Follow Robin’s book-related appearances at robinconte.com.


12 | Community

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Pink Pony files for bankruptcy after lawsuits, shortened hours

Dennis Williams, CFO of Trop Inc., the company that owns the Pink Pony, said the Brookhaven strip club remains open after filing for chapter 11 bankruptcy.


BY DYANA BAGBY dyanabagby@reporternewspapers.net

Lawsuits and an earlier last call have forced the company that owns the Pink Pony to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, according to an executive of the strip club. Dennis Williams, the CFO of Trop Inc., the company that owns the Pink Pony, said the club remains open and the Sept. 19 bankruptcy filing allows Trop Inc. to “reorganize


our structure.” “We feel it’s necessary to do this to continue operating and to give us some relief,” Williams said. The Pink Pony has been losing nearly $30,000 a week since the city of Brookhaven began Aug. 1 enforcing its 2 a.m. last call on weekdays and midnight last call on Sundays at all clubs in the city. The strip club had been staying open until 4 a.m. seven days a week before the new hours were enforced. “This takes a bite out for everyone,” Williams said, saying bartenders and entertainers are also losing tip money due to the shortened hours. But the Pink Pony has also been “besieged” by lawsuits from former dancers over wage and hour complaints, he said. Filing for bankruptcy “gives us some relief from the attacking litigation,” Williams said. “We’ve lost a lot of business [because of shortened hours] and we are under siege from lawsuits,” he said. “With the loss of revenue and the costly litigation, [bankruptcy] is a way to reorganize our corporate structure.” On Sept. 17, the latest lawsuit against Trop Inc. and the Pink Pony was set to go to trial in U.S. District Court. But by filing for bankruptcy on Sept. 19, the lawsuit is automatically halted. The latest lawsuit, filed in June by Samantha Holdren and other dancers in a class action lawsuit, alleges the company did not pay them minimum wage, improperly collected a portion of their tips, and did not pay them overtime for working more than 40 hours a week. Because the company is in charge of hiring and firing dancers and keeping track of their schedules, the dancers argue they are employees. This current federal lawsuit is the latest of several federal lawsuits filed by former dancers against Trop Inc. and the Pink Pony alleging the company violated the Fair Labor Standards Act, or FLSA, by labeling the dancers as independent contractors rather than employees. The bankruptcy court filing shows Trop Inc. owes more than $1 million to a Covington, La., bank and more than $62,000 to Atlanta attorney Ainsworth Dudley, the lawyer who has represented dancers in past lawsuits and is representing Holdren in the latest lawsuit. Thousands more are owed to what appears to be former employees. Williams said the city’s decision to enforce its earlier hours at venues serving alcohol is also putting a major dent in the Pink Pony’s business and played a significant role in the decision to file for bankruptcy. Since 2014, the Pink Pony has been operating under an exit agreement with the city of Brookhaven. That exit agreement mandates the Pink Pony pay the city $225,000 a year to cover such resources as police costs. The agreement ends Dec. 31, 2020. As part of that agreement, the Pink Pony was allowed to operate until 4 a.m. seven days a week. But this year the city revised its alcohol ordinance, including rolling back last call to 2 a.m. The exit agreement between the Pink Pony and the city states that if the city rolls back hours at bars and clubs within its alcohol ordinance, then the Pink Pony’s annual $225,000 fee will decrease by $25,000 for each half hour of less serving time. Josephine, Medusa Restaurant & Lounge and XS Restaurant & Lounge, all blackowned clubs, sued the city alleging the city’s alcohol ordinance was discriminatory in part because it allowed the white-owned Pink Pony to stay open until 4 a.m. seven days a week and sell alcohol on Sundays. A federal judge said in a ruling it was unfair for some clubs to be forced to close earlier while the Pink Pony stayed open later. Rather than allowing all clubs remain open until 3 or 4 a.m. as the other clubs wanted, the city began enforcing the 2 a.m. last call to ensure all venues address the judge’s concerns and ensure all venues are treated the same. BK

| 13

SEPT. 28 - OCT. 11, 2018 ■ www.ReporterNewspapers.net


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14 | Community

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City OKs $170K to get bigger bands at Cherry Blossom Fest BY DYANA BAGBY dyanabagby@reporternewspapers.net

Brookhaven’s new Convention and Visitors Bureau is set to spend $170,000 on deposits alone to get high-profile music acts for the 2019 Cherry Blossom Festival after city officials acknowledged not getting the mainstream acts they hoped for at this year’s event. The actual performance fees will vary among musicians, officials say. The festival is scheduled for March 3031 at Blackburn Park. Officials hope to get bigger names and boost festival attendance from about 25,000 to 40,000. For the 2018 fest, the City Council approved spending $125,000 to bring in nationally known acts through the booking agency Live Nation. Live Nation agreed to negotiate on behalf of the city for Cherry Blossom Fest music acts for only a $1 fee. Live Nation was able to get country artists Keith Anderson and Craig Morgan to perform at this year’s fest as headliners. Edwin McCain also headlined, as did Grammynominee Five for Fighting. But the council approved the funding in February, only a month before the festival, and CVB members learned

at a recent meeting that was not enough time to secure the more mainstream, high-profile acts officials were hoping for with a broader following. Acts that were among those considered for last year’s fest, but were not able to be secured due to time constraints, included the Gin Blossoms and rock-and-roll icon Joan Jett. “Last year, because of how city governments work, we were not able to lock in anyone until after the first of the year,” CFO Steve Chapman told the CVB board at its September meeting. “That decreased our options for entertainment.” Live Nation is again working with the city for $1 to bring in musical acts for next year’s Cherry Blossom Festival, according to city spokesperson Burke Brennan. Live Nation Senior Vice President Rich Levy is the city’s CVB board chair. An open records request of CVB records show budget line items paid to the artists of the 2018 fest. They include $6,750 to Anderson; $13,500 to McCain; $40,500 to Five for Fighting; and $27,000 to Morgan. The fest cost about $260,000 this year and is expected to cost approxi-

mately the same next year, Brennan said. City spokesperson and CVB board member Burke Brennan said the city wants to build on the kinds of acts that performed last year with broad-based appeal as well as deliver more diversity. “We can refine our process and have more and better options,” he said of the $170,000 budget. “[This year] we had a narrow window for locking in contracts ... and some artists we were pursuing were already spoken for.” Securing acts earlier also allows more time to promote the musicians, he added. Last year, the city council budgeted $1 million for the new CVB. Funding for the CVB comes from the new revenue stream created in 2017 when the city approved increasing its hotel-motel tax from 5 percent to 8 percent. Raising the hotel-motel tax was done specifically to fund construction of the Peachtree Creek Greenway. The council recently approved $15 million in revenue bonds backed by the expected hotel-motel tax money to pay for the Greenway’s construction. The city has estimated the higher tax will add another $130 million a year

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to its coffers. State law requires half the money go to the city general fund and the other half must be dedicated to tourism and promotion. This new money prompted the city to form its own CVB after years of relying on and paying Discover DeKalb to market the city. Patty Hansen, project manager for the Cherry Blossom Festival, told the CVB board that attendance at the 2018 fest was estimated at 25,000 over the March 24-25 weekend. The crowds were significant on Saturday, but heavy rains on Sunday kept away the similar numbers. Despite the rain, the fest had its highest attendance in its four-year history, Hansen said. The city is also in talks with Decatur-based Lenz Marketing to help market the 2019 event, Hansen said. The city is expecting to bring in 40,000 people to the fest next year if there are no weather hiccups, she added. At the meeting, the CVB board approved paying $100,000 in invoices from Oglethorpe University for advertising. The CVB is cross marketing with the university for such events as theater productions, Alumni Weekend and music concerts. “All of those things bring people to Brookhaven,” Chapman said. Sharon Moskowitz, Oglethorpe University Director of Special Events, sits on the CVB board; she abstained from the board vote to pay the Oglethorpe bill of $100,000. The CVB also voted to pay Discover DeKalb $95,000 for its marketing of the 2018 Brookhaven Cherry Blossom Festival. Last year, before the city created its own CVB, Discover DeKalb spent $200,000 advertising the festival, including $45,000 on “digital influencers” to promote the festival on social media and more than $70,000 on outof-state billboards. Chapman said the city continues to contract with Discover DeKalb as its “destination marketing organization” to promote the city as a travel destination. Discover DeKalb also buys ads promoting Brookhaven in Delta Air Line’s Sky Magazine. Some of the Brookhaven ads in the magazine feature pictures of only city attractions, such as businesses on Dresden Drive. Other ads in the Sky Magazine, however, notably feature DeKalb County attractions, such as the laser show at Stone Mountain and the Dinosaur Plaza at Fernbank Museum.

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Public Safety | 15

SEPT. 28 - OCT. 11, 2018 ■ www.ReporterNewspapers.net

Two cities take different paths on EMS delivery Continued from page 1 cials and city administration. “Brookhaven City Council hasn’t formally taken a position on EMS, so it’s unclear why its city manager said anything at the EMS Council subcommittee,” Nall said. “It’s clear Christian Sigman spoke without having the policy direction of council, which would be a no-no in Dunwoody.” Brookhaven City Manager Christian Sigman batted away Nall’s disappointment. “It is unfortunate that Mr. Nall thought the city of Brookhaven would support the Dunwoody solution before the county could work the issue in a deliberate and holistic fashion,” Sigman said. The Sept. 20 meeting of the Region 3 EMS Council subcommittee was the third meeting of the group tasked with studying DeKalb County EMS response times and the possibility of creating new EMS zones. The final meeting of the subcommittee is slated for Oct. 4 when it is expected to make recommendations to the full EMS Council.

Do response times matter?

DeKalb County hired public safety firm AP Triton for $67,000 in June following Dunwoody’s declaration of an “EMS Emergency” in May. The Dunwoody mayor and City Council have complained to DeKalb for several years of AMR’s slow response times. Scott Clough of AP Triton said at the Sept. 20 meeting there is compelling evidence that “response times have no impact on patient outcome” except for a small number of patients with severe trauma or illness, such as a stroke. “Response times in all reality are [made] to ensure contractual compliance,” Clough said. Clough’s statement angered Nall, who has led the city’s effort to create its own EMS zone or at least create a separate EMS zone for DeKalb residents north of I-285 to possibly include other municipalities. “I’m appalled a consultant hired by this county is saying response times don’t matter,” a visibly frustrated Nall told subcommittee members. Nall said EMS response times are a public safety issue that Dunwoody elected officials have a “moral obligation” to address to ensure safety of the city’s 50,000 residents and the 150,000 employees working in the state’s “economic engine” of Perimeter Center. Nall noted that in 2016, it took an ambulance approximately 30 minutes to respond to the call of a woman with a head injury on Dunwoody Club Forest. He said DeKalb firefighters, who are often the first on the scene of an emergency but cannot transport patients to a hospital, were quoted on the scene as saying, “This lady needed to get to the hospital right away. Where is the damn ambulance?” The woman died at the hospital, Nall BK

said, and it’s not known if she would have survived if an ambulance arrived sooner. “Response times do matter,” Nall said. The current performance-based contract with AMR requires ambulances respond to calls in under 9 minutes for 90 percent of calls. Dunwoody and Brookhaven have documented many instances where responses times are longer, with Dunwoody citing some ambulances don’t arrive for 20 to 30 minutes or more. The county has fined AMR nearly $1.9 million for failing to meet the contracted response times. Sigman also took exception to Clough’s statement that response times don’t matter. “I don’t buy into that statement about response times,” Sigman said at the Sept. 20 meeting. “We’ll hold the county accountable.” The county and AMR argue the contract signed in 2013 is a bad one. Right now, for example, the county doesn’t pay AMR at all; instead, the company gives the county money for every response. Dunwoody officials say that set-up is backward and creates the wrong incentives. The contract expires at the end of this year and DeKalb officials said at the Sept. 20 meeting a new RFP likely would not be ready until early next year when the consultant’s report is finalized. The county is able to extend its contract with AMR on a month-to-month basis. Nall said DeKalb’s own slow response in waiting to address the bad contract until after Dunwoody declared an “EMS Emergency” is more reason for Dunwoody to have its own EMS zone.

Brookhaven to work with DeKalb and AMR

Sigman announced at the Sept. 20 meeting that Brookhaven was working with DeKalb County and AMR to put a new EMS post on Buford Highway and was not supporting Dunwoody in its quest to carve out more localized EMS zones. Nall said in an interview he had been told by Brookhaven City Council members Joe Gebbia and Bates Mattison they wanted Brookhaven to be part of Dunwoody’s decision to seek to create a new EMS zone because Brookhaven was also having issues with slow ambulance response times from the county. Nall added he was “stunned” to hear Sigman contradict what Gebbia and Mattison told him. “Either they have a problem with EMS or they don’t,” Nall said. “This is no way to be a partner for an adjoining city.” Gebbia said he and Mattison did discuss EMS response times with Nall in June at the Georgia Municipal Association’s conference in Savannah. However, Gebbia said he did not tell Nall that Brookhaven wanted to be part of a new EMS zone. Mattison did not return a call for comment. Instead, Gebbia said, he later learned Sigman was working with AMR and

DeKalb to address Brookhaven’s issues with slow response times by putting a new ambulance post at 3292 Buford Highway where a shuttered QuikTrip sits. Three ambulances are expected to be stationed on Buford Highway by the end of the year, Sigman said. The city purchased the QT site in May for $1.7 million to gain a foothold on Buford Highway and hopefully guide redevelopment there. Gebbia has said he’d like to maybe see a city welcome center there.

fere with the “money flow” from DeKalb to pay for the new ambulance post. Gebbia said Nall’s allegation was “irresponsible” and that he understood Nall has spent significant political capital in trying to create a new EMS zone for Dunwoody. “I think what we have is a very good outcome,” Gebbia said of the Buford Highway post. If after a year the response times are not satisfactory for Dunwoody and Brookhaven, Gebbia said Nall’s option to create a new EMS zone might be more vi-


Dunwoody City Councilmember Terry Nall, left, tells Brookhaven City Manager Christian Sigman at the Sept. 20 meeting of a state subcommittee that he was stunned Brookhaven is not supporting Dunwoody’s decision to create a new EMS zone in north DeKalb.

The new EMS post would serve all of DeKalb, but is also intended to provide quicker response times to the northern quadrant of DeKalb County, Sigman told the subcommittee. Brookhaven currently has no ambulance posts in the city. An intergovernmental agreement between DeKalb and Brookhaven for the new ambulance post is slated to be finalized in October. As part of the IGA, Brookhaven would front the approximate $170,000 cost to build out the former QT building so it can be used as an AMR post and DeKalb will then pay back the cost through a yearlong rental agreement, Sigman said. Nall said he wondered if Brookhaven’s decision to not support a separate EMS zone was because it did not want to inter-

able. Sigman said in an email following the Sept. 20 meeting that Dunwoody officials were aware of Brookhaven’s efforts to establish an EMS post on Buford Highway to improve response times in northern DeKalb. He said the Brookhaven City Council has not provided policy direction to city management to support a carve out for Dunwoody and that the mayor and council were aware of the efforts to establish an EMS post location on Buford Highway. “Only Dunwoody can decide what is best for their city,” Sigman said. “For Brookhaven, we believe DeKalb County Fire Rescue is working the issue in a professional manner with a deliberate pace.”

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16 | Art & Entertainment

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Sunday, Oct. 7, 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. New Orleans-based Lightwire Theater brings the story of “The Ugly Duckling” alive on a stage lined with electroluminescent wire and charged with a blend of puppetry, technology and dance. $12-$16. Morris & Rae Frank Theatre at the Marcus Jewish Community Center of Atlanta. 5342 Tilly Mill Road, Dunwoody. Info: atlantajcc.org/boxoffice or call 678-812-4002.


Sunday, Oct. 7, 4-7 p.m. The Atlanta Cajun Zydeco Association presents Carolina Gator Gumbo, a group of musicians from Charlotte, N.C. who mix traditional Cajun and Creole arrangements with touches of country and blues. Cajun/Creole food for sale. All ages. No partner necessary. $18; $14 active military; $5 students. Free beginners’ dance lesson at 3 p.m. Dorothy Benson Center, 6500 Vernon Woods Drive, Sandy Springs. Info: aczadance.org or 877-338-2420.


Friday, Oct. 12 to Sunday, Oct. 28 Act3 Productions presents a play adaptation of the 1967 romantic comedy film “The Graduate,” the story of a recent college graduate who is seduced by an older woman and then falls in love with her daughter. $15-$23. Act3 Playhouse in Sandy Springs Plaza, 6285-R Roswell Road, Sandy Springs. Info: act3productions.org.


Sunday, Oct. 7, 3-4 p.m. Join Bike-Walk Dunwoody on the first Sunday of each month for a community bicycle ride. The event starts at 2:45 p.m. at Village Burger on Dunwoody Village Parkway with a short pre-ride safety talk. Riders depart at 3 p.m. for a 4.5-mile loop around Dunwoody. All ages and abilities welcome. Helmets required. Free. Hang out after the ride for $1 custards, $1 off beers, and postride socializing at Village Burger, 1426 Dunwoody Village Pkwy., Dunwoody. Info: bikewalkdunwoody.org.


Saturday, Oct. 13, 7:30-11:30 a.m. Races begin at 7:45 a.m. The Sandy Springs Education Force hosts its fifth annual Peachtree Road Race qualifying 10K/5K and a new post-race Literacy Event featuring author and illustrator meet and greets, book signings and presentations, a book character dress-up parade and storytelling. Race fees vary. Literacy Event is free. City Springs Green, 1 Galambos Way, Sandy Springs. Info: active.com/sandy-springs-ga.


Through October The Dunwoody Preservation Trust presents a series of fun and educational events at historic venues. Among the highlights are an Oct. 6 guided tour of a burial ground of some of Dunwoody’s founding families; an Oct. 13 “Village Fest” at the 1870 Donaldson-Bannister Farm with musical performances, food and family activities; and an Oct. 20 genealogy seminar on tracing your family tree. Most events are free. Info: appleciderdays.org.

Friday, Oct. 12, 7 p.m.; Saturday, Oct. 13, 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. The Galloway Theatre Company presents a one-hour-long version of “Twelfth Night,” a romantic comedy by William Shakespeare characterized by mistaken identities, love triangles and emotional reunions. $10; $5 students. Chaddick Center for the Arts at The Galloway School, 215 West Wieuca Road. N.W., Buckhead. Info: gallowayschool.org.

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Art & Entertainment | 17

SEPT. 28 - OCT. 11, 2018 ■ www.ReporterNewspapers.net



Enjoy free admission and special programs on the second Sunday of each month.


Friday, Oct. 5, 5-9 p.m.; Saturday, Oct. 6, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; and Sunday, Oct. 7, noon to 5 p.m. The annual Spruill Center for the Arts Ceramic Bowl Sale offers pieces created by students and instructors of the center’s Ceramics Department. All proceeds benefit the Ceramics Department. On Friday night, a variety of chili can be sampled. Free. Spruill Arts Education Center, 5339 Chamblee-Dunwoody Road, Dunwoody. Info: spruillarts.org.


Sunday, Oct. 14, 12:30-2:30 p.m. Animal lovers are invited to Brook Run Dog Park for the Marcus Jewish Community Center of Atlanta’s Blessing of the Pets. Rabbis and pastors will give public and private blessings to people and leashed or caged pets of all faiths and backgrounds. Vendors, pet adoptions, low-cost vaccinations, microchipping. Free. 4770 North Peachtree Road, Dunwoody. Info: atlantajcc.org/pets.


OCT. 14 & NOV. 11 Designed for little kids, big kids, and the whole family, Second Sundays are for everyone. Visit us each month and experience new interactive, innovative family activities inspired by our collections and ever-changing exhibitions. Second Sundays are sponsored by the Lettie Pate Evans Foundation.

Sunday, Oct. 14, 1-4 p.m. The Chattahoochee Nature Center holds its annual outdoor food and craft beer event featuring food tastings from local chefs, samplings from local craft breweries, live bluegrass music and games. The event raises funds for the nature center’s urban farm which supplies more than five tons of fresh produce annually to the North Fulton Community Charities food pantry. $50 adults ($45 advance); $15 children; ages 10 and younger free. 9135 Willeo Road, Roswell. Info: chattnaturecenter.org/ special-events/fundraisers/harveston-the-hooch.



Mondays, Oct. 1 and Oct. 8, 7-8:30 p.m. Coming up next in a series of Monday fall lectures by North Fulton Master Gardeners at the Lost Corner Preserve: Oct. 1 — Learn about fruits that grow well in Georgia, even in small backyards; Oct. 8 — Composting. $10 donation requested. 7300 Brandon Mill Road, Sandy Springs. Info: friendsoflostcorner.org/master-gardenerclasses.

Continued on page 18


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18 | Art & Entertainment

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Continued from page 17


Wednesday, Oct. 3, 9:30 a.m. Artist and instructor Maureen Engle, who uses a fresh approach in her palette knife and watercolor paintings, presents the October program of the Dunwoody Fine Art Association. Refreshments and social time are followed by the program at 9:45 a.m. Open to all interested artists. Free. Spruill Arts Center, 5339 Chamblee-Dunwoody Road, Room 4, Dunwoody. Info: dunwoodyfineart.org.


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Wednesday, Oct. 10, 9:30 a.m. Daniel Tindol, owner of Floristique Weddings and Events, offers tips on designing a holiday wreath at the next meeting of the Dunwoody Garden Club. The club meets monthly on second Wednesdays from September to May. Free. New Pavilion at the Dunwoody Nature Center, 5343 Roberts Drive, Dunwoody. Info: dunwoodygardenclub.com.

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Author and editor David W. Blight discusses his biography of Frederick Douglass, who escaped from slavery in Maryland and went on to become one of the major literary figures of his time. $10, $5 for members. Reservations are suggested. Atlanta History Center, 130 West Paces Ferry Road N.W., Buckhead. Info: 404-8144150 or AtlantaHistoryCenter.com/Lectures.


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Saturday, Oct. 13, 10 a.m. Kids can make a bird feeder out of materials such as sticks, cardboard tubes and pine cones in this edition of the monthly Little Diggers family gardening series. Suited for ages 6-10 with an accompanying adult. Presented by Heritage Sandy Springs in partnership with the North Fulton Master Gardeners. Free. Heritage Sandy Springs Farmers Market, 220 Mount Vernon Highway at City Springs, Sandy Springs. Info: heritagesandysprings.org.


Saturday, Oct. 13, 6-10 p.m. The Community Assistance Center hosts its 16th annual Vintage Affair at Holy Innocents’ Episcopal Church. This year’s theme is the Golden Age of Hollywood and guests are invited to dress as their favorite Hollywood icons or in vintage Hollywood style. Food from local restaurants, wine tasting, auction. The Vintage Affair benefits CAC, a nonprofit that promotes self-reliance and helps people meet basic needs in the Sandy Springs and Dunwoody communities. $110; $200 couples. 805 Mount Vernon Highway N.W., Sandy Springs. Info: vintageaffair.org.



Community | 19

SEPT. 28 - OCT. 11, 2018 ■ www.ReporterNewspapers.net

Between Buckhead and Bankhead, life expectancy has a 25-year gap BY ANDY MILLER Life expectancy at an English Avenue neighborhood address, in a low-income section of Atlanta, is 63.6 years. But less than 10 miles away, an address in the affluent Margaret Mitchell area of Buckhead, named after the famous writer, has a life expectancy of 87.2 years. Such startling variations commonly appear in new data that break down life expectancy at birth — the average number of years a person can expect to live — for most of the census tracts in the United States, for the period from 2010 to 2015. A census tract is an area roughly equal to a neighborhood. We all have heard how life expectancy can vary from nation to nation. But this is the first statistical information of its kind that speaks to how our health in the United States is influenced by conditions in the localities where we live. The data was collected through a joint effort of the National Center for Health Statistics at the CDC, the National Association for Public Health Information Systems, and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, which funded the project. “This is really the first measure of health at the neighborhood level,’’ said Abbey Cofsky, managing director of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, which also helps produce health data by county in the County Health Rankings. The data comparing counties, she noted, “can mask differences between

neighborhoods.” Even a modest-sized county can have great internal diversity, and in some states, especially in the West, counties can be geographically very large.

What’s the problem? Life expectancy has been dropping in the United States over the past couple of years, though there is debate among experts about exactly why. The opioid epidemic may be a major reason for recent declines in Americans’ life expectancy, a new study said in August. Yet a second study found rising death rates among Americans ages 25 to 64, but cited a number of factors as potential causes, HealthDay reported. Nationally, average life expectancy at birth for the 65,662 census tracts studied was 78.8 years. Georgia’s is slightly lower, at 77.4 years, according to the tables. The report on neighborhoods, released in September, said that people in Vinings, an affluent area just outside the city of Atlanta, have the highest average life expectancy at birth in the state, at 87.6 years, while Georgians in Macon have the lowest average life expectancy at birth for the state, at 63.3 years. Factors influencing life expectancy can include access to stable jobs, good education, affordable housing and business investment in a community, Cofsky of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation added. “Some neighborhoods can be cut off from opportunity.’’ Areas with high poverty can lack access to healthy food, and may have safe-

ty problems for residents, she said. The life expectancy data can spark a conversation among stakeholders and community leaders about potential improvements, Cofsky said. The new resource is accompanied by an interactive tool that allows you to plug in your ZIP code or street address and see life expectancy rates in your own neighborhood and how it compares to county- and state-level data, as well as the national average.

Finding out who needs help

“Public health professionals have understood for a while that social determinants of health — the conditions in which people are born, live, learn, work, and age — are powerful predictors of one’s life opportunities and health outcomes, including life expectancy,’’ said Dr. Harry Heiman, a health policy expert at Georgia State University. In Atlanta, Buckhead and Bankhead are only a few miles apart, but the difference in life expectancy in the two neighborhoods is almost 25 years, he said. “Even in larger geographic areas whose health outcomes appear to be good, it is critical to assess disparities within the population or geographic area, particularly for disadvantaged groups — those with higher disease burdens, worse health outcomes, and shorter life expectancies,” Heiman said. The data should prompt a “call to action for state leaders and policymakers to not only address the gaps in our health care system, especially for low-

income and rural populations, but to also address the upstream, neighborhood-level social determinants critical to improving health and life opportunities,’’ he said. Tabia Akintobi, associate dean for community engagement at Morehouse School of Medicine in Atlanta, said the data “allow us to develop approaches that are more targeted’’ to individual neighborhoods ‘‘so we can target limited public health resources more equitably.’’ “In metro Atlanta and the broader state of Georgia, there are huge differences between communities,” said Akintobi, who’s also principal researcher for the Prevention Research Center at Morehouse. “These differences are not only related to individual behaviors, but, more importantly, the political investments, or lack thereof, in communities that result in poorer housing, lower community economic and workforce development and educational achievement. All of these issues result in the connection between where people live and how healthy they are.” Investment in neighborhoods with poor health outcomes is critically important to address health disparities and advancing health equity, she said. “We have to have strong alliances with businesses,’’ Akintobi said. Policy experts, researchers, government officials, community leaders and businesses and health care providers are all critical “to creating this culture of health that is a return on investment for all,” she said. This story was reported and published in partnership with Georgia Health News.

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e’re honored that Reporter Newspapers has won 24 awards in its division in the Georgia Press Association’s 2018 and 2017 Better Newspaper Competitions, which are judged by newspaper professionals from around the country.

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MAY 26 - JUNE 8, 2017 • VOL. 11— NO. 11


Sandy Springs Reporter


► New law is a boost to local beer, whiskey crafters PAGE 4 ► Cuban sandwich shop mixes tastiness with tenacity PAGE 5

Dawn of a new church



Dunwoody Reporter


Perimeter Business



► Eyed for trails, pipeline routes are serious business

Current City Hall site City proposes targeted for redevelopment $106 million

Little-known vet memorials | 8


The city is proposing a $106 million operating budget for fiscal year 2018, an increase of about a half-percent over the current year, officials said at a May 23

OUT & ABOUT Lantern Parade will light up the Hooch

Page 20 buys condos, displaces tenants

Page 16



Chairperson, Georgia Public Broadcasting

See Commentary, Page 14


OUT & ABOUT Storyteller ‘Rosie the Riveter’ comes to town Page 19


From documentaries on diversity and inclusion to community partnerships on autism awareness, GPB is an educational lifeline to millions of Georgia students, teachers and residents.






on ► MARTA’s CEO speaks response to I-85 disaster PAGE 5

► ‘The good, the bad the ugly’ of 2017 legislative session



City’s new medical center wants to grow

Mary Hall Freedom House, a nonprofit that helps women with homelessness and addiction issues, has bought 33 units of a Sandy Springs condominium complex for use as transitional housing and possible redevelopment into a larger facility or headquarters. One of the two dozen tenants currently renting those condo units is complaining about the “irony” of losing her home to an organization that helps the homeless. See HOMELESSNESS on page 22

I want to see a competition that celebrates our everyday Home Kitchen challenges. ... The Chairman would be the Original Iron Chef’s Mother-in-Law. Prizes are a month’s supply of lasagna and a spa weekend. A chef wins if her kids eat her food. Robin’s Nest, page 15

See CURRENT on page 22

DeKalb CEO: EMS response time improves BY DYANA BAGBY


Ambulance response times in the city are improving after changes were made by the private company contracted by DeKalb County to provide the emergency service, including hiring more staff, according to county officials. The City Council in December raised serious concerns with the DeKalb Fire & Rescue chief and the regional director of American Medical Response over ambulance response times in the city, noting there were numerous instances of ambuSee DEKALB on page 13


on April 8 as part Corporate Boulevard page 19. of Peachtree Creek around For more photos, see a bank of the north fork “Sweep the Hooch” event. Volunteers clean up Riverkeeper’s annual of the Chattahoochee

EXCEPTIONAL EDUCATOR Passing on her culinary passion Page 27

OUT & ABOUT Get grounded with Earth Day events I believe [President

Trump] is strong enough to force Congress to break through this nonsense and get something done. DAVID PERDUE U. S. Senator

See PERDUE, page 21.

Page 6

11 — NO. 5


Glowing for a cause

BY DYANA BAGBY spapers.net dyanabagby@reporternew

A developer plans to build two residential towers and an office tower at Perimeter Center East, where Dunwoody City Hall now is located. Representatives from North Carolina-based Grubb Properties described their proposal, which is still in the concept stage, to the board of the Dunwoody Homeowners Association on May 7. The company owns about 19.5 acres in Perimeter Center East, with three mid-rise office buildings, one of which serves as City Hall. The property is behind the Ravinia complex off Ashford-Dunwoody Road. The city is relocating to a new City Hall

16, 2017 • VOL.

Buckhead Reporter


BY DYANA BAGBY dyanabagby@reporternewspapers.n et

percent decline. The police department would get a budget boost of more than 9 percent to about $22.8 million. Part of that is a salAbove, a a bird’s eye view of the proposed redevelopment in ary increase to remain competitive as Perimeter Center East includes, residential towers and a new office to the left, two new tower. In the State Patrol pay boost is attracting offiremain and have retail on the ground center are two current mid-rise office buildings that would floor. To the right are two new apartment Inset, an illustration of what the buildings. cers away from the department, city offistreetscape might look like in the development. cials said. The boost also includes hiring

EXCEPTIO 11 See CITY on pageNAL EDUCATOR ss literature Teaching Homelessne through life nonprofit


Picking up at Peachtree Creek



VOL. 9 — NO. 8

Brookhaven Reporter


FY2018 budget

home of St. Joseph Maronite to the first Mass, held Sunday, May 14, at the new Rev. Dominique Hanna welcomes his congregation the former building of Apostles St. Joseph moved from an Atlanta location into Catholic Church at Glenridge and Hammond drives. attended St. Joseph’s debut. financial turmoil. More than 400 parishioners Church, a Lutheran congregation that closed amid

Pages 18-19

APRIL 14 - 27, 2017 •

► Buckhead company keeps ‘quirky’ old-school sodas fizzing

City Council meeting. The budget will take effect July 1. The council will hold public hearings on the budget on June 6 and June 20. The budget projects revenues of about $92 million, with money from a reserve fund balancing the expenditures. The revenue projection is about 1 percent higher than fiscal 2017. While most revenue sources are projected to increase, property taxes are expected to show a 2.2

EDUCATION Top of the Class






► Historic locomotive makes tracks to Buckhead PAGE 4 SPECIAL SECTIO N | P22-27

Buckhead ma ster plan to allow more input on big ideas

Wearing glow necklaces and Garden Hills shirts with in the Garden Hills/Pe second annual Family reflective shoeprints, adults, Flashlight Fun achtree Park kids of all ages, Run, held Sunday Friends Group strollers and PHOTO BY volunteers, PHIL MOSIER dogs take benefits Childre evening, Feb. 26. The nearly 1-mile to the streets of n’s Healthcare race, organiz of Atlanta. More pictures, page ed by 18.►




Classroom gam from math to es, Shakespeare

to the April 18 As the days tick down the open 6th Conspecial election to fill each of the 18 cangressional District seat, furiousPage are trying 28 didates in the large field from the pack. ly to separate themselves was at The latest public opportunity forum hosted by the April 9 candidate rs Association the Dunwoody Homeowne Dunwoody High at Crier and Dunwoody early voting in School. Voters are already seat that had been the election to fill the Tom Price, who reheld by Republican

See 6TH on page 18

reporternewspa pers.net


of Atlanta is seekChildren’s Healthcare along the Northing to have 11.4 acres into the city of east Expressway annexed 8-story office Brookhaven for a proposed massive expansion of building as part of a at North Druid Hills its new 45-acre campus includes buyRoad and I-85. The expansion ing out a church. city officials say is It’s just part of what redevelopment commajor medical-related to the Execuing after years of anticipation tive Park area. request with CHOA filed the annexation is asking for a spethe city on April 5. It also for some of the propcial land-use permit 8-story, 340,000the build to order erty in on land currently square-foot building also wants CHOA zoned only for five stories. to build a parking deck. SLUP requests are The annexation and up by the Planning expected to be taken Council in June. Commission and City is approved SLUP and “If the annexation See CITY on page 20

6th District hopefuls squareEXCEPTIONAL EDUCATOR off in debate


► New prog ressive attracts activ group ists

OUT & ABOUT A very

[Students need] special more ‘reallife’ education scenarios: finan es, investing, c- performance of budgeting. A lot of ‘The kids graduate Wizard of Oz’ and don’t know how to balan ce a checkbook, Page but know how 6 to do some math problem with only symbols.”

BY JOHN RUCH johnruch@rep orternewspape rs.net The Buckh ead master plan will keep on planning for a while. A Feb. 27 community meeting for the “BUCKHEAD REdeFINED” scheduled to plan was be the last, but now input will continue into April to hash out some controversial ideas, said Eric Bosma lead consul n of tant Kimley -Horn. Those clude ideas inlarge and small for Buckhead’s commercial core, from a new Ga. 400 terchange to ina neighborhood trail loop. A crowd of about 100 at the Atlant Internationa a l School receive ing, 90-min d a sprawlute presen tation that rowed some narearlier ideas, others, and elaborated introduced still more concepts, all new while mingli ng short- and long-term plans. Several of its steps” are alread recommended “first y underway, ing the PATH4 like finish00 trail along Ga. 400; some See BUCKHEAD on page 16

Massell: Buckhead getting bigger busier, wealth , ier




Residents grad on preparing e schools students for careers and civic life See COMMUNITY SURVEY Page 14

*Source: independent reader survey

www.ReporterNewspapers.net ■ Published by Springs Publishing LLC


Buckhead is big, busy and wealthy. And by 2020, it’ll be even bigger, wealthier. busier and So said Buckhe ad Coalition Sam Massel president l in his annual “State of the Community” address Feb. 23 at the City Club of Buckhe ad, hosted by the Buckhead Business Associa tion. Massell listed branding points” several “bragging and projecting the the neighborhood booms in ’s population, real estate See MASSELL on page 17

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In DeKalb ‘no man’s land,’ residents debate annexation, new cityhood Continued from page 1

crat and former state representative Sally He said he hopes the cityhood initiative tax approved last year that is now going to Harrell in November. Dunwoody residents makes it way through the General AssemDeKalb County for public safety and transing two new office buildings and a parkMike Wilensky, a Democrat, and Republibly next and the Vista Grove referendum is portation improvements. ing garage as part of Children’s Healthcan Ken Wright are vying for Taylor’s seat. placed on the November 2019 ballot. If so Marjorie Hall Snook is part of the group care of Atlanta’s massive development at Millar attended the Sept. 20 meetand if approved, the new city would hold DeKalb Strong that opposes new cities. the North Druid Hills Road and I-85 intering held at Embry Hills United Methodist city elections in March 2020. If people want to live in a city, Snook said change. The property of Ziegler and his neighbors is poised to be annexed into Brookhaven. But that comes only after backers of the proposed city of Vista Grove tried to bring the Enclave at Briarcliff into their struggle for what one observer calls DeKalb’s “no man’s land.” The debate between annexation and cityhood rages throughout metro Atlanta as local governments fight over millions in taxes PHOTOS BY DYANA BAGBY and fees. For Ziegler, Left, the proposed map for Vista Grove encompasses land below I-85 and includes approximately 61,000 residents. the decision to seek Middle, State Rep. Scott Holcomb, left, and state Sen. Fran Millar attend a recent community meeting to discuss the Vista Grove cityhood movement. Right, John Ziegler, a resident at the Enclave at Briarcliff condominiums, stands on the parking deck annexation into of the complex that overlooks Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta construction. Brookhaven is about eliminating uncerChurch. He said he supports Vista Grove But why not seek to have smaller arthey could move to one of DeKalb’s existtainty. because 61 percent of his constituents supeas annexed into another city, such as ing municipalities. “We voted in September last year to be ported LaVista Hills. Brookhaven, rather than creating a new Many Vista Grove supporters also supannexed into Brookhaven and then Vista “I said I would not sponsor a [new city city? ported LaVista Hills and Snook said this Grove announced its plans in November,” bill], but I will carry it in the Senate,” he Angela Barnett, an Oak Grove neighbornew attempt at cityhood is like the movie Ziegler said. “We want to be part of a city said. “As a legislator, I believe in giving peohood resident and Vista Grove supporter, “Groundhog Day” where the protagonist that is already known.” ple the right to vote.” said cities are not seeking to annex neighlives the same day over and over. The Enclave at Briarcliff was included He also said if he is not reelected to the borhoods like hers. “Enough already,” she said of the latest in the proposed city of LaVista Hills, which Senate, Vista Grove is likely to fail because “My area is predominantly residential Vista Grove initiative. “There’s a group that was rejected by voters by a slim margin in the General Assembly and DeKalb County … and nobody is trying to get us,” she said. doesn’t want to be deterred and can’t ac2015. Ziegler said he and many Enclave at delegation are tiring of cityhood efforts. “There is no big commercial district here … cept they lost.” Briarcliff residents opposed LaVista Hills. “And this is a political reality — if I’m like they have in Dunwoody and BrookhavAs a native DeKalb County resident, she Despite this, Vista Grove organizers includnot there in the Senate to push [the Vista en.” said she purposefully chose to live in unined the Enclave at Briarcliff in their newest Grove bill] it won’t happen,” Millar added, Sandy Springs initiated the north metro corporated DeKalb because she wants to be map. implying Harrell would not support Vista Atlanta cityhood movement in 2005 when part of the “broad diversity” of the county. The proposed Vista Grove has a populaGrove. 94 percent of voters approved breaking off “I don’t want to be pulled off into some tion of about 61,000 residents and includes Harrell said in an email Millar is “misfrom Fulton County. In DeKalb, voters apenclave,” she said. much of the LaVista Hills map including representing” her position on Vista Grove proved Dunwoody in 2008 and BrookhavResidents frustrated because they feel Lakeside High School, Briarlake, Sagamore and if elected in November she would lisen in 2013. they are not getting the services they feel and Oak Grove elementary schools, and ten to constituents and study the issue. Advocates for cities often tout the “three they deserve for the tax dollars they pay are Northlake Mall. “However, cityhood is not a simple anPs” for forming: improving street paving, the impetus for all cityhood movements. “We really have a historical opportuniswer,” she said. police and parks. Flake explained the Vista “That frustration builds up,” said Gaty to strengthen our civic ties and sense of She noted Gov. Nathan Deal this year Grove initiative is also about ensuring tranbriel Starling, a former Sandy Springs identity,” said Andrew Flake, a Vista Grove expressed his own unease with the citysit options such as trails, sidewalks, bike City Councilmember who has consulted organizer, at a Sept. 20 community meethood process when signing the controverlanes and multiuse paths, as well as having with other cityhood movements, including ing attended by more than 50 people. sial bill to carve out land from the existing a local say in zoning issues and community Brookhaven, Johns Creek and LaVista Hills. After the creation of eight cities in metcity of Stockbridge to create a new city of planning and economic development. “That section of DeKalb [below I-85] ro Atlanta following Sandy Springs’ apEagles Landing. DeKalb County has 13 municipalities is a no man’s land,” he said, because resiproval in 2005, the General Assembly in Deal asked the legislature to next year and 750,000 residents. The county prodents feel they don’t have someone on the 2016 mandated proposed new cities pay develop a “comprehensive, detailed and vides major services to most cities, like waDeKalb Board of Commissioners living in for financial feasibility studies. Vista Grove uniform process” for creating new cities. ter and sewer, but Flake said it is a “natural their area looking out for them. cleared that hurdle earlier this year. “Cityhood should not be rushed and progression” for smaller areas to break off For Flake, though, the area is more than The two-year process for Vista Grove there should be widespread consensus befrom the county. Fulton County is entirely a “no man’s land”; it’s prime real estate for to become a city was kicked off officially fore moving forward,” Harrell said. municipalized, he noted. a new city. in February when state Rep. Tom Taylor State Rep. Scott Holcomb (D-Atlanta) But cityhood opponents note that when “We’ve been a community for more (R-Dunwoody) introduced a bill to create and his GOP opponent Ellen Diehl also atthe affluent, mostly white communities than 50 years,” he said of the area. “Vista the city and state Sen. Fran Millar (R-Duntended the Sept. 20 community meeting. of north DeKalb break off, the rest of the Grove is a new name … but having our own woody) signed on to carry it in the Senate. Flake said the Vista Grove initiative is county suffers. city means we have the opportunity to deThe Vista Grove bill must be introduced a nonpartisan one and support is being If approved, for example, Vista Grove fine ourselves.” for a second time in 2019. But Taylor is not sought from legislators on both sides of the would start raking in about $9 million a seeking reelection and Millar faces Demoaisle in the upcoming session. year in the new special local option sales BK

Public Safety | 23

SEPT. 28 - OCT. 11, 2018 ■ www.ReporterNewspapers.net

Police Blotter / Brookhaven From Brookhaven Police reports dated Sept. 16 through Sept. 23. The following information was pulled from Brookhaven’s Police-2-Citizen website.

T H E F T A N D B U R G L A RY 3300 block of Buford Highway — On

Sept. 17, at night, an incident regarding theft by conversion was reported. Buford Highway/Clairmont Terrace —

On Sept. 20, in the afternoon, a woman was arrested and accused of shoplifting.

A S S AU LT 3700 block of Buford Highway — On

Sept. 16, in the early morning, a man was arrested and accused of family violence. 2900 block of Clairmont Road — On

Sept. 16, at night, a man was arrested and accused of battery. 2600 block of Buford Highway — On

Sept. 17, in the morning, a man was arrested and accused of aggravated assault. 1000 block of Barone Avenue — On

Sept. 20, in the early morning, a man was arrested and accused of aggravat-


ed assault.

100 block of Town Boulevard — On

3000 block of Clairmont Road — On

Sept. 16, at night, a woman was arrested and accused of driving with a suspended license.

Sept. 21, in the evening, a man was arrested and accused of aggravated assault. 3500 block of Buford Highway — On

Sept. 22, in the early morning, a man was arrested and accused of battery. 1900 block of North Druid Hills Road

— On Sept. 22, in the morning, a man was arrested and accused of driving unlicensed. 3500 block of Buford Highway — On

Sept. 23, in the early morning, a woman was arrested and accused of battery.

ARRESTS 3300 block of Buford Highway — On

Sept. 16, in the early morning, a man was arrested and accused of following too closely. 2600 block of Buford Highway — On

Sept. 16, in the morning, a man was arrested and accused of violating probation.

18, at night, a man was arrested and accused of driving unlicensed. 3000 block of Buford Highway — On

3200 block of Buford Highway — On

Sept. 18, at night, a man was arrested and accused of driving unlicensed.

Sept. 16, at night, a man was arrested and accused of driving unlicensed.

3500 block of Buford Highway — On

1000 block of Barone Avenue — On

Sept. 18, at night, a man was arrested and accused of driving unlicensed.

Sept. 16, at night, a man was arrested and accused of disorderly conduct.

2900 block of Clairmont Road — On

2600 block of Buford Highway — On

Sept. 17, in the evening, a man was arrested and accused of violating probation; another for failing to appear. 3500 block of Buford Highway — On

Sept. 18, in the morning, a man was arrested and accused of transactions related to drug paraphernalia. 1500 block of West Nancy Creek Drive

— On Sept. 18, at noon, a man was arrested and accused of possession of a Schedule II controlled substance. 3300 block of

Buford Highway — On Sept.

Sept. 19, in the early morning, a woman was arrested and accused of disorderly conduct. 3700 block of Buford Highway — On

Sept. 19, in the morning, a man was arrested and accused of overtaking and passing a school bus. 2600 block of Buford Highway — On

Sept. 19, in the morning, a man was arrested and accused of contributing to the delinquency of a minor.



24 |

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