OCTOBER 2019 - Buckhead Reporter

Page 1


OCTOBER 2019 • VOL. 13 — NO. 10

Buckhead Reporter COMMUNITY

Chastain Park Playground opens P14



NYO marks 70 years of youth sports with new gym plan


Book festival brings celebrities P10

Starter opera P24


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The Buckhead Reporter is mail delivered to homes on selected carrier routes in ZIPs 30305, 30327 and 30342 For information: delivery@reporternewspapers.net

A drawing of the new gym and parking deck that the Northside Youth Organization is proposing at Chastain Park.

trict in January, in a new Buckhead Community Improvement District program one board member calls “revolutionary.” The fleet of four, free-roaming vans

Starting as an eminent football league in the 1940s, the Northside Youth Organization has grown to become one of the biggest youth sports programs in the country. Now NYO is celebrating its 70th anniversary by looking ahead to a major expansion of its hub in Chastain Park. “As part of the 70th birthday, we’re launching a new capital campaign to build an additional gym at the park, and a parking deck as well,” said Larry Bennett, vice president of the NYO board. An Oct. 6 “Homecoming” celebration was planned to “honor the volunteers of the past and look to the future” by kick-

See REVOLUTIONARY on page 21

See NYO on page 30

‘Revolutionary’ Uber-style shuttle vans coming to central Buckhead BY JOHN RUCH johnruch@reporternewspapers.net

On-demand shuttle vans hailed through an Uber-style app will begin offering free rides in central Buckhead’s business, residential and commercial dis-

BY JOHN RUCH johnruch@reporternewspapers.net


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After 10 years, Mountain Way Common leaders look forward to adding trail BY JOHN RUCH johnruch@reporternewspapers.net

The organizers of the Mountain Way Common are looking back on a decade of work to create the park – and looking forward to adding a long-awaited multiuse trail early next year. The 9-acre park in the area of North Ivy Road and Mountain Way beneath Ga. 400 came out of longstanding concerns about the conditions of the site. The forest area was plowed down in 1990 for Ga. 400 construction. For years afterward, it remained overgrown, and government agencies used it as a construction staging zone. But around 10 years ago, the community effort coalesced after an attack on a jogger in the area, according to the North Buckhead Civic Association. A series of cleanups began, and in 2012, the nonprofit Park Pride helped the community develop a vision for a park with more than $4 million in planned amenities. The vision aims to take advantage of the unusual space, which flanks Little Nancy Creek and is capped by the towering Ga. 400 and MARTA Red Line overpass. Working with a park friends group is the nonprofit Livable Buckhead, whose PATH400 multiuse trail is planned to extend alongside the park. In 2015, the Friends of Mountain Way Common achieved the first phase of construction on the master plan: a $250,000 pedestrian bridge over the creek. The latest cleanup, scheduled for Sept.

28, marked roughly a decade of park planning. Dan Weede, a board member of the friends group, says that coming next is a $150,000 multiuse trail. That second phase of construction is planned for the first quarter of 2020, he said. The rest of the master plan wish list ranges from play equipment to an amphitheater with a fire pit. The most unusual part of the plan aims to turn the hulking overpass into an asset by adding climbing walls around its “colonnade” and slides on the concrete slopes. For more information about the park, see mountainwaycommon.net.

Top, The master plan for amenities at Mountain Way Common. Above left, The pedestrian bridge being installed in 2015 as the first phase of master plan construction. Above right, Volunteers work on a cleanup at Mountain Way Common in 2014. Right, A view of the park along North Ivy Road. SPECIAL





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Faced with Buckhead’s ever-increasing traffic, the Lovett School is experimenting with an old-school alternative: buses. The private K-12 institution kicked off the 2019-2020 year with a pilot program offering paid school bus rides to and from its Paces Ferry Road campus for students on two select routes. Meredyth Cole, Lovett’s head of school, says the response has been good and, if it remains strong, will result in two more routes next year. “They’re just so relieved not to be sitting in that traffic,” Cole said of the response from parents. Lovett opened its current campus in the 1930s, when Buckhead was largely rural. Like many of the neighborhood’s private schools, it long assumed parents and students could get to the campus on their own. But with today’s population levels and commutes, traffic is the “recurring theme,”


Meredyth Cole, Lovett’s head of school.

said Cole, who took the head of school position last year. “We are always looking at traffic flow on our campus, and it occurred to me the best way to reduce traffic is to reduce the number of cars,” she said. As it happened, Lovett already owned two 40-seat school buses. The school just BH


Community | 5


didn’t use them for its own students. The buses were originally for Breakthrough Atlanta, a Lovett-based summer program for high-performing middle-school students from Atlanta Public Schools. Cole said Lovett was willing to “take a little bit of a financial hit” on operating the buses with its own staff members for its own students as well, if it meant reducing traffic. Plus, she said, the buses could serve as a “marketing tool,” since they were already painted with a Lovett logo. A survey of parents found support for paying an extra fee for school bus service. Lovett then looked at some other private schools in the region that offer buses, including Woodward Academy, which has campuses in College Park and Johns Creek, and schools in Charlotte, N.C., and Charleston, S.C.

They’re just so relieved not to be sitting in that traffic. MEREDYTH COLE HEAD OF SCHOOL Lovett officials plotted out two bus routes, each with two off-campus stops. One serves the North Buckhead and Brookhaven area, with stops at Peachtree Presbyterian Church and St. James United Methodist Church. Another serves the



Garden Hills and Morningside areas, with stops at Morningside Presbyterian Church and Second-Ponce de Leon Baptist Church. Besides regular morning and afternoon buses, there is a late activity bus based on demand. Annual fees are $1,200 for round trips and $685 for one-way trips. Cole says that amounts to roughly $3.50 per ride. No subsidies for those fees are currently available, but Cole said the school likely will offer needs-based aid, as it does for other programs, if the pilot program works and expands. So far, she said, it’s looking good. About 37 seats are occupied on each bus on each trip, she said. The school estimates that has removed about 53 private vehicles from the campus. It’s not Lovett’s only way of tackling

traffic. Cole said this year, the school also began working with Georgia Commute Options, an Atlanta Regional Commission alternative commuting incentive program. The school has arranged carpooling for about 40 faculty and staff members, Cole said. Like many other local institutions and residents, Cole said that Waze, a navigation app that provides real-time traffic information to drivers, has been a major force in increased congestion. “I keep joking that we should get a student to hack Waze,” she said. Cole responded positively when told about another, controversial idea recently proposed by the Buckhead Council of Neighborhoods: imposing tolls on some residential streets. “That would incentivize my bus-riding! That’s interesting,” she said.

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6 | Community

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neighbors have not been given the same


privilege as others to be briefed on the de-

The Sandy Springs City Council delayed a vote to choose a contractor to design plans for the “high-hazard” Lake Forrest Dam repair at a Sept. 17 meeting after some neighbors said they were not fully briefed on the plan.

Nicole Kounalakis, M.D. Surgical Oncologist

“We decided to back off and wait to speak to more residents,” City Councilmember Tibby DeJulio said. The state Safe Dams Program has or-

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dered repairs because of the dam’s condition and its placement on a list of “highhazard” dams, meaning that if it failed in a worst-case scenario, the flood would likely kill people downstream. The repair has been a slow process because of complex co-ownership among Atlanta and Sandy Springs governments,

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The state has the ability to take dam owners to court for lack of compliance







The Lovett School -Hendrix-Chenault Theater 4075 Paces Ferry Rd. Atlanta, GA, 30327

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with repair orders. But according to the program’s manager Tom Woolsey, the division has not filed any lawsuits to date. “The Environmental Protection Division continues to work to bring this dam into compliance,” Woolsey said. “Our in-

sign alternatives. “Only actual owners of the land under the lake and dam have been fully briefed on the plans despite our continued efforts since 2015 to be included,” McEnerny said. She referenced a page about the dam repair on the city’s website, which she also pointed out has not been updated since September 2017. The last update provided on the page said “design alternatives were presented to representatives of other dam owners. A meeting to present the alternatives to all dam owners will be scheduled.” “The neighbors on the east side of Lake Forrest and east side of the creek that the spillway will be filling into are directly impacted,” McEnerny said at the meeting. “Yet we have not been accorded the same opportunity to be briefed as…owners were.” McEnerny is also concerned with her and her neighbors’ property values decreasing. “Our property values are being diminished by our loss of views due to the construction of the dam and loss of the forest now covering it,” McEnerny said. Following McEnerny’s comments, District 5 Councilmember Tibby DeJulio motioned to remove the item. District 6 Andy

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BRAIN GAMES on FILM SUNDAY 10/20 The Lovett School

“Irresistbly Uplifting” - Variety Imagine a school where the cool kids are the chess team…welcome to I.S 318. Following their challenges in life and on the chessboard, the sting of losses and thrill of victories. Lefont Film Society presents Buckhead Pop-Up Cinema—a new, exciting, multi-layered experience watching movies in various surprise locations in Buckhead. We’re taking the show on the road and you never know where we’ll pop up! Our mission is two-fold: to curate film series on art, culture, education, and film history and to give back to the community by donating part of our proceeds to local organizations.

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contract that would create concrete box

culverts, which would construct tunnels

to carry the stream under Lake Forrest Drive, the option preferred by both cities.

City staff recommends Schnabel Engineering be awarded the contract for $756,800, according to city documents. The alternative would require Lake Forrest to be closed for construction, as the dam runs directly beneath it, but the timeline of the closure is unknown. The city has kept dam owners informed as part of the process with the Georgia Environmental Department of Protection, city spokesperson Sharon Kraun says. But now, another issue has been raised.

DeJulio said the decision was not di-

rectly tied to McEnerny’s concern, but he has heard from several residents that feel they need to be more involved in the decision-making process. According to city spokesperson Sharon Kraun, a meeting was held via the residents’ request on Sept. 23. A work session is also planned for the Oct. 1 City Council meeting, which will provide an overview of where dam owners and the state are with the project, Kraun says. It is still unclear when the vote will be brought back to the council or when repairs will begin.

Residents nearby feel they have been left out of the design process but should have a say since it will affect them, too. Karen Meinzen McEnerny, a former Sandy Springs City Council member who lives near the dam, called on the council to defer, saying she feels she and her BH





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8 | Commentary

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

Owning a small business is not for the the jewel of SCORE is the free one-to-one faint of heart. According to the U.S. Small mentoring it provides anyone who owns a Business Association, 30 percent of new small business or is even thinking of startbusinesses fail during their first two years, ing one. 50 percent during their first five, and 66 Metro Atlanta has two SCORE chapters: percent during their first 10. Atlanta and North Metro Atlanta. North Despite the risks, for many of us, ownMetro Atlanta has three branches, one of ing our own business theis aAmerican which Fulton, covering Sandy CarolisNiemi marketing consultant who livesisonNorth the DunwoodySandy Springs line and99 writes about people whose lives inspire Roswell, Alpharetta Dream. According to JPMorgan Chase, Springs, Dunwoody, others. Contact herare at worthknowingnow@gmail.com. percent of America’s 29.7 million firms and Cumming. small businesses, with 88 percent of them Until recently, Sandy Springs had no having 20 or fewer employees. In fact, designated SCORE meeting space, and small businesses drive our economy, proDunwoody had only a part-time space in viding over half of all private-sector jobs. a small shared office. The options were Luckily, since 1964 the SBA has offered long drives to SCORE offices in Atlanta or an amazing free resource to help. Called in Cobb or Gwinnett. But as of August 23, SCORE (Service Core of Retired Executhanks to an agreement between the city tives), it’s a totally volunteer organization of Sandy Springs Economic Development of experienced, mostly retired business exoffice and the North Metro Atlanta Chapecutives and small business owners whose ter of SCORE, the Sandy Springs Library only goal is to give back. now provides a room for mentors and cliWith more than 300 chapters across ents to meet. the country, it has provided free mentoring Sandy Springs Economic Development and advice to more than 11 million entreDirector Andrea Worthy credits SCORE preneurs. Besides its workshops, seminars, mentor Bruce Alterman, former co-owner webinars, courses and library resources, of the much-loved but now closed Brickery

Grill & Bar. Since becoming a SCORE mentor two “He made me aware of the benefits years ago, he figures he’s mentored hunSCORE could offer our small businesses,” dreds of people, some in business looking said Worthy. “The only problem was they to grow and some just starting. He currenthad no place to meet.” ly has 20 regular clients, including a restauAlterman also credits Marc Froemelt, rant. vice chair of the North Fulton Branch of the “Our typical client is a person with a North Metro Atlanta Chapter of SCORE, for passion for something and an ability to starting the discussions, and Carolyn Daimplement but missing the knowledge of vis, who worked with Anhow to run the business,” drea to arrange the deal he said. “Where I can help with the library. is, I’ve got bruises in places In fact, everyone I you’ve never even thought spoke to credited someone of and can offer perspecelse for the deal. Generositive.” ty seems to be in SCORE’s Like other SCORE menDNA. Nobody’s looking for tors, Alterman meets just fame or fortune. They’ve once or twice with some already “been there, done clients. With others, he that” and work for free. maintains a regular onAlterman, owner of a going relationship, often SPECIAL business that enjoyed 24 talking by phone or meetBruce Alterman. years of success, is a prime ing for lunch. He emphaexample of a SCORE mensizes that his goal isn’t to tor. tell anyone how to run their business. “My father was a SCORE mentor. I “I’m not a paid consultant. I don’t tell saw the value he got from it and parked them what to do. I pose questions that it away in the back of my mind. After we make them consider options,” he said. closed the Brickery [in 2015], people asked To learn more about SCORE, research me if I missed it. I always replied, ‘No,’” he mentors or schedule an appointment with said. “We loved what we did, but I was fulone, go to https://northmetroatlanta.score. ly retired. What we did miss was 24 years of org. people coming through our lives.”







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10 | Art & Entertainment

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Book Festival of the MJCCA brings big names to Dunwoody The 28th annual Book Festival of the Marcus Jewish Community Center of Atlanta (MJCCA) is set for Oct. 26 to Nov. 18, bringing some of the nation’s bestselling authors to Dunwoody. This year’s event features

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Candace Bushnell (Oct. 27); actor Henry Winkler and coauthor Lin Oliver with their children’s book “Alien Superstar” (Oct. 30); Jodi Kantor, one of the journalists who broke the story about movie producer Harvey Weinstein’s sexual assault allegations (Nov. 5); novelist Alice Hoffman (Nov. 10); New York Times opinion editor Bari Weiss (Nov. 16); and Nikki Haley, a former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations and a former South Carolina governor (Nov. 17). Festival co-chair Deena Profis said in a press release that this year’s festival “features everyone from acclaimed actors and renowned political figures, to historians and award-winning novelists, to authors presenting award-winning cookbooks and riveting memoirs. We truly have something for everyone.” Most events will be held at the MJCCA, 5342 Tilly Mill Road, Dunwoody. Individual tickets and series pass-

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Education | 11

OCTOBER 2019 ■ www.ReporterNewspapers.net

Graduation rates increase for Fulton, decrease for APS and DeKalb Graduation rates last school year increased for Fulton County Schools, while they decreased for DeKalb County and Atlanta public schools, according to data from the Georgia Department of Education.

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Statewide, the graduation rate rose to 82% in 2019 from 81.6% in 2018. The Fulton County School System’s rate slightly increased from 86.8% in 2018 to 87.2% in 2019, the highest rate it has ever been. Fulton continues to post the highest graduation rate for the metro area, according to the district. North Springs Charter High School, located on the Atlanta and Sandy Springs border at 7447 Roswell Road, had a 3.1 increase from 90.1% in 2018 to 93.2% in 2019. Riverwood International Charter School, located in Sandy Springs at 5900 Raider Drive, fell from 92.2% to 91.7%, according to the district. DeKalb’s graduation rate for 2019 was 73.4%, a decrease over 2018’s rate of 75%.

Primary Care of Brookhaven is a full-service primary care practice providing the highest quality care possible to families of the Brookhaven and the Atlanta Metro Area. Our board-certified physicians, Dr. Jennifer Burkmar and Dr. Jeffrey Reznik provide care for the whole patient, and offer a full range of family medicine services, including: • Primary Care for Patients of All Ages Including Newborns • Immunizations for Children and Adults • Acute Illness Care & Chronic Disease Management • School & Sport Physicals • Women’s Health Services • Preventative Health Consultations We take pride in serving each patient with personalized attention and care, accept most insurance plans, and offer same day appointments for sick visits.

Chamblee Charter High School, located on the border of Chamblee and Dunwoody at 3688 Chamblee Dunwoody Road, and Dunwoody High School, located in Dunwoody at 5035 Vermack Road, are two of nine schools in the district with rates above 80%. Chamblee Charter’s new rate is 82.7%, a slight decrease over 2018’s 83%. Dunwoody High’s is 88.9%, an increase over 2018’s 86.3%, according to the report. Atlanta Public Schools’ rate decreased to 77.9% in 2019. The rate in 2018 was 79.9%, which was an all-time high, according to the district. North Atlanta High School, located in Buckhead at 4111 Northside Parkway, fell from 92.5% to 91.1%, according to the report. — Hannah Greco

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Festival Gates Open 5:45 PM; Films Begin 7 PM No early entry allowed. Food, wine and beer available for purchase. Please bring a blanket or low-back chair for seating.


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12 | Education

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Local stakeholders express concern about APS superintendent change

Atlanta Public Schools Superintendent Meria Carstarphen speaking at a media roundtable on Sept. 11, following the Board of Education’s decision to not renew her contract.

BY HANNAH GRECO hannah@reporternewspapers.net

Local stakeholders have expressed concern following the Atlanta Board of Education’s Sept. 9 decision to not renew Atlanta Public School Superintendent Meria Carstarphen’s contract. District 4 Atlanta Board of Education member Nancy Meister, who represents most of Buckhead, says she supported an extension. “Stable, quality leadership is important for principals, teachers and most importantly students,” Meister said. “Meria has a stellar proven track record and determination to complete the work that has been started.” Meister said that, as the longest-running board member, she has seen a positive culture shift in the district since Carstarphen took the position and is concerned with the timing of the non-renewal. “The momentum we have worked extremely hard to build can easily and detrimen-

tally be stopped,” Meister said. “It is imperative to…not build a plan and expect a new leader, who is not involved in the process, to execute and implement it.” Sam Massell, the president of the Buckhead Coalition and a former Atlanta mayor, sent a letter to school board Chairman Jason Esteves before the vote asking the board to renew Carstarphen’s contract. Massell said the support aligned with the view of other prominent Atlanta figures. We also want recognition given the parents of present students who appreciate the responsible progress they see in the classrooms, for which much credit is due the superintendent.” Massell also says he worries about the board’s decision, saying it may be an avoidable risk. “Even the opponents of the contract renewal volunteered she had done a very good job, which signals us their plan to replace her is taking an unnecessary risk,” Massell said. At a media roundtable held on Sept. 11 following the Board’s decision, Meria Carstarphen says she has been “blown away” by the support from the community. “I am humbled and energized by the support,” Carstarphen said. Carstarphen says the school board will be holding several community meetings to discuss what parents want to see in their next superintendent but she is not sure if she will be directly involved in the hiring process. Carstarphen also says if it was up to her, she would stay. “I want to stay because I believe the work is not done,” Carstarphen

said. Carstarphen was hired in 2014 and awarded Georgia Superintendent of the Year in September 2018. Her contract expires June 30, 2020. Carstarphen says the decision was a surprise to her and the reason to not renew her contract is still unclear, but it seems to be focused on board feedback. “There are examples such as the budget, the philosophy behind the board’s policy as it relates to charter schools, among others,” Carstarphen said. Carstarphen wrote a post on her blog about the board’s decision. “I had a sincere desire for a contract extension so that…I could complete the vision and charge I was hired to achieve for the benefit of Atlanta’s children: Rebuild trust and restore pride in Atlanta Public Schools and position it for the future,” she said. Carstarphen also says she hopes to see more progress after her term expires and that there is a lot more work to be done. “Our children need all of us…to fight for them and to be their voice to have the best chance at choice-filled lives,” she said.

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Community | 13


Preserve and build middle-income housing to cut commutes, study says BY JOHN RUCH johnruch@reporternewspapers.net

Preserve it. Build it. And get to and from it in ways besides cars. That’s the key message about middleincome housing affordability in a longawaited study pitched, largely for purposes of political acceptance, as about cutting Buckhead’s commuter traffic. The idea is that the more workers can afford to live in Buckhead – and few can today – the less congestion there will be. “The best way to deal with a commute is to get rid of it,” said Denise Starling, executive director of Livable Buckhead, the nonprofit that joined the Buckhead Community Improvement District in commissioning the study. Dubbed the “Buckhead Housing and Commuting Study,” it was created by HR&A Advisors at a cost of $140,000. The study says that only 8% of Buckhead “workers” live in the neighborhood. The “vast majority” live in suburban areas and must commute there. The fastest-growing segment of the local workforce is middle-income, roughly meaning a household making $50,000 a year. But of the roughly 5,800 housing units under construction in Buckhead, about 90% are priced at higher incomes. The majority of new apartments in the pipeline are expected to rent for more than $1,875 a month, the study says. Housing Buckhead’s entire workforce would take an additional 61,000 units, the study estimates. That’s impossible both in terms of space and in people’s desire and ability to live there. So the study tried to estimate “capturable demand” – a realistic number of units that could be built or preserved to house a workers who can live in the neighborhood. The study figures a gap in demand of about 5,000 units for households making under $50,000 a year, and a gap of about 6,000 units for higher incomes. The study recommends three basic strategies for dealing with housing affordability and commutes, which are broken down into various details. Virtually all of them would have to be used, rather than a single magic answer. Making existing housing affordable is one strategy. Buckhead currently has about 1,500 apartment units priced at under $875 a month, and 9,600 under $1,250 a month, the study says. Tactics for keeping such housing including “preferred employer” programs, where workers from certain partner companies get discounts on rents, and having “missionoriented housing preservation investors” purchase properties. Last year’s displacement of hundreds of tenants from Peachtree Road’s Darlington Apartments for a luxury renovaBH

tion is the kind of scenario the study recommends preventing. “That came up and we’re like, ‘You’re kidding!’” said Starling. But the solutions can be tricky. As the study notes, preferred employer programs became controversial in Seattle for running afoul of federal nondiscrimination laws and for being used as perks for well-paid employees of such megacorporations as Amazon rather than to help lower-income residents. AMLI Residential already runs preferred employer programs in some Buckhead apartments, and Starling said such programs are “really key,” but acknowledged the potential legal and gentrification-oriented challenges. “When you’re using it just to recruit talent, it could go in the wrong direction,” she said. Building more “workforce” housing is another obvious strategy, but it’s not easy to do. Various methods suggested in the study are including it in transit-oriented development that may come to MARTA’s Lindbergh Center and Brookhaven-Oglethorpe stations; permitting such new housing types as microunits and coliving; and providing tax abatements and

City Homes

other incentives for mixed-income projects. Starling said she believes developers often have a misunderstanding that Buckhead’s land prices make it too expensive to build affordable housing. She said it is more cost-effective than many other places, because the neighborhood already has good infrastructure and institutions, such as employers, schools and hospitals, that make communities work and do not need to also be built from scratch. Starling says she also aims to “change the perception it’s just greedy developers out to make money” that are behind housing affordability challenges. She said the developers are often following the lead of investors who demand high returns. What is really needed, she said, is more “mission-based social investors” who will back mixed-income projects. The study’s third strategy is reducing car commutes for new workers. That could include a wide variety of alternative commuting options, building fewer car-oriented uses into new developments, and freeing residents from requirements

to buy or lease parking spaces. Buckhead needs to put all of those pieces together, Starling says, because it can’t just build its way out of traffic. “If we just continue to build all this stuff and continue to be filled with people who don’t live here, we’ve done nothing,” she said. The Buckhead Council of Neighborhoods, a coalition of civic and homeowners associations, is also working on traffic reduction recommendations, with housing affordability on its list. In fact, Livable Buckhead and the BCID spent an extra $10,000 to have their consultant make sure the study matched the BCN’s numbers. Starling said she’s “skeptical” of some BCN suggestions, such as tolling on residential streets, but agrees with most of them and sees a high point in cooperation on the commuting issue between the business district and the neighborhoods. “A lot of things the Buckhead Council is talking about now are things we’ve never had alignment on before,” she said. “People are like, ‘What? Buckhead wants transit now?’”

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Celebrating the completion of Chastain Park’s playground A small community celebration Sept. 14 marked the official opening of an expanded Chastain Park Playground. The upgrade to the playground, along Alex Cooley Parkway at Dudley Lane, includes a climbing structure, a sensory tunnel, additional musical equipment, toddler play houses and shade structures. Overseen by the Chastain Park Conservancy, the upgrade is the second phase of a project that debuted in 2016 by quadrupling of the playground’s area. The installation was made possible by a $100,000 grant from the organization Park Pride. The new section opened in early August, but the ceremony was held in September, with representatives of the Conservancy, Park Pride and the city of Atlanta on hand.

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Left, Cutting the ribbon on the new playground section are, from left, Georgia Brumfield, 4; Rosa McHugh, executive director of the Chastain Park Conservancy; and Reese Tetrick, 8. Below, Checking out the new play equipment is Winn White, 2, who was celebrating his birthday in the park. PHOTOS BY PHIL MOSIER






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Left, Cathy Raper of Farm Chastain, and a Chastain Park Conservancy board member, invites families to join a gardening program.

Right, City Councilmember J.P. Matzigkeit, left, who co-founded the Chastain Park Conservancy, talks with Jay Smith, a longtime board member who helped to lead the early efforts to renovate the playground.

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Commentary: For active shooters, throw out the rulebook Dr. DaShanne Stokes, an expert on American politics, culture and civil

where they are going and die from

cape available, fighting may be the only

smoke inhalation.

option. First, do what you can do to bar-

rights, once said “Thoughts and prayers

He went on to say that in 1980, while

ricade the door, even pushing against

won’t stop a speeding bullet.” Isn’t it

staying at the MGM hotel in Las Ve-

it as a last resort. If that fails, think



gas, the hotel caught fire. Faulty wir-

through the urge to panic and fight.

have to plan for

ing caused a fire that spread quickly to

Surviving is a powerful motivation,

this? But it seems

other parts of the hotel. Thick smoke

sidelining your panic if you recognize

we do. The num-

quickly filled the hallways. He saw the

the threat at hand. Listen for gunshots.



fire advancing, but when he opened his

Are they coming closer or fading? If

caught in mass

door, he saw nothing but smoke. He

they are fading, then it is time to make a

Atlanta INtown www.AtlantaINtownPaper.com

shootings in pub-

knew that unless he moved quickly, he

break for it. If not, do you have a chance

lic places in our

would die.

to surprise the shooter? Can you posi-

Atlanta Senior Life www.AtlantaSeniorLife.com

country appears

Published by Springs Publishing LLC 6065 Roswell Road, Suite 225 Sandy Springs, GA 30328 Phone: 404-917-2200 • Fax: 404-917-2201 Brookhaven Reporter | Buckhead Reporter Dunwoody Reporter | Sandy Springs Reporter www.ReporterNewspapers.net

C O N TAC T US Founder & Publisher Steve Levene stevelevene@reporternewspapers.net



He recalled the direction and step-

to be rising. There countless

count to the exit. He wet a towel that he are Steve Rose is a retired theo-

ries as to what goes through the mind of someone

Sandy Springs Police Department captain, a former Fulton County Police Department officer, and currently a freelance writer.

tion yourself alongside the closed door to surprise and jump the shooter?

wrapped around his nose and mouth,

Remember the Gun Goober who

and then proceeded to move quickly

likes everyone to know he has a gun?

along the hallway, feeling his way along

He just may be the guy who stops the

the wall while he counted steps. Even

threat -- or perhaps the one who gets it

though he was unable to tell the differ-

first because the shooter saw him and


willing to shoot

ence between doors, he stayed with the

his gun. Too bad for him, but you can

Managing Editor John Ruch johnruch@reporternewspapers.net

numbers of inno-

step count until he reached the magic

only play the cards you are dealt, so if

cent people he does not know. For you,

number. He felt the door. It was not hot,

that card means you have seconds to

why the shooter stalks and then shoots

so he opened it to discover the stairs.

move away from the threat, then fight

INtown Editor: Collin Kelley Editor-at-Large Joe Earle

innocent victims is not important. Not being one of those innocent victims is.

He moved down the stairway and

the urge to panic and freeze, and start

eventually to safety. Eighty-five people

moving until you have no other choice.

Staff Writers Dyana Bagby, Hannah Greco

This year has been an overempha-

were not so lucky and died in that fire,

Then you fight.

sis of that point. I’ve had my fill of so-

many trapped in their rooms. His point

Creative and Production

called experts and pundits offering

was simple. Have a doomsday plan.

Creative Director Rico Figliolini rico@reporternewspapers.net

mindless lip service rather than con-

Do you have a weapon with you? This might be a good time to use it to

To survive something, what would

stop the threat. If you have no weap-

you do? Survival is the bottom line

on, then remember: create movement.

Graphic Designer Julie Murcia

Three things that I know about ac-

of going home or not. That’s why you

Moving targets are hard to hit.

tive-shooter incidents. One, if you have

should think of nothing but creating

Do yourself a favor when you go


prepared in any way, your chances of

your action to survive. No rules—none!

out to dinner or a movie. Did you look

Director of Sales Development Amy Arno amyarno@reporternewspapers.net

surviving increases. Two, if you remain

Panic will kill you. You need to force

to find the exits? And did you think,

stationary, you will die. And three, pan-

it back by concentrating on what you

“What if?” Remember to react and do

ic will freeze you and you will die.

need to do to survive.

your best to move away from the threat.

Sales Executives Jeff Kremer, Janet Porter Office Manager Deborah Davis deborahdavis@reporternewspapers.net Contributors Robin Conte, Kevin C. Madigan, Phil Mosier, Carol Niemi, Judith Schonbak, Jaclyn Turner

Free Home Delivery

structive and productive information.

Prepare. I met a firefighter who told

Look at the options available. Are

The good news? Chances are that

me an interesting story. He said that

there windows and if so, are they locked

you’ll never have to experience such a

when he traveled and checked into a

or unlocked? How high up are you? Sec-

horrific event. But in the back of your

hotel, he paced his steps from his room

ond floor? If you jump, you may break

mind, in a particular environment,

to the nearest exit, counting each step,

an ankle or leg. If you have the choice

large store, movie, public gathering or

knowing that in a fire, the thick smoke

of injuring yourself or being shot, I

festival, it would be a good idea if you

blinds and disorients the victim search-

would say most of you would soon be

took a mental note of how you would

ing for an exit. They crawl around but


clear a dangerous area.

since they cannot see, they don’t know

If you’re trapped, with no other es-

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2018 © 2019 with all rights reserved

Publisher reserves the right to refuse editorial or advertising for any





reason. Publisher assumes no responsibility for information contained in advertising. Any opinions expressed in print or online do not necessarily

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Commentary | 17


A knife to remember, or forget I was summoned for jury duty over the summer, an occasion which happens with stunning regularity every five years. It reminded me of a situation that occurred decades ago, the first time I appeared for duty. After entering the courthouse with a stream of other ordinary-looking people and falling into the security line, I had put my purse and jacket on the conveyer belt for screening and waited my turn to pass through the metal detector. As I was waiting, I heard one of the security officers say to the other, “This one’s got a knife.” I gasped audibly, thinking to myself, “Who in the world would bring a knife into the courthouse?” Well. It was me. My Swiss Army knife was in my handbag. I used to carry it with me everywhere. I had purchased it while in college during my foreign-study jaunt through Switzerland, as a treasured reminder of cowbells and hot chocolate and train rides through green Alpine pastures to snow-capped mountains. It was a genuine Victorinox: a sleek red body, embossed with the white cross of Switzerland’s flag, that encased a wonderland of tiny tools. I remember deliberating at length over the variety of gizmo combinations available for purchase and finally settling on a nifty version that included two blades, a scissors, a can opener, a bottle opener, a corkscrew, a nail file and a pair of tweezers. Everything was made of quality stainless steel, except for an odd yellowish piece of plastic hidden in Robin Conte lives with her the end that I didn’t figure out was supposed to serve as a husband in an empty nest toothpick until a good 20 years later. in Dunwoody. To contact If you needed an apple peeled or a stick whittled, I was her or to buy her column your girl! If a screw was coming dislodged, I could tightcollection, “The Best of the en it with the top of my can opener! If you were lost in the Nest,” see robinconte.com. woods with nothing but a can of peas and a bottle of wine, I could free them both for you! If you broke a fingernail, I could provide you with a rough-edged piece of stainless steel that would help smooth it out a bit, after 30 minutes of rigorous filing! I think I even used it to carve a jack-o’-lantern once. I walked around with that thing in my purse for years, confident that I was equipped to field-dress an elk at a moment’s notice, should the need arise. It inspired in me an air of self-reliance, and, to be honest, a tinge of superiority, because, let’s face it, how many of my peers were packing such a useful, yet authentic, treasure? None were. That’s how many. It was as natural in my handbag as my lipstick and Tic Tacs. So natural that I hadn’t thought twice about walking into a courtroom with it. So natural that, never having learned my lesson, I forgot to remove it before I boarded a certain flight, and, crestfallen, I was forced to part with it forever. I did replace it, but, detached from the Alpine setting in which the original was purchased, the new knife was more utilitarian and less sentimental. Still, the security lines threatened it wherever I went until I finally removed it from my purse and tucked it into the console of my minivan, where it languishes still, because there aren’t all that many sticks begging to be whittled while sitting in traffic. But one day, that hidden toothpick just might come in handy.

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18 | Commentary

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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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They’re not exactly the latest thing in movies. Then again, that’s sort of the point. These films show where modern movies came from. And they show what movies used to be. That’s part of the reason Hylda Wilson comes to the Marcus Jewish Community Center of Atlanta to watch the movies shown through its Classics Film Club. “I like old movies,” she said. “They’re different. I don’t like the new movies. They’re not fairy tales.” Wilson’s 86 and says she’s been watching movies since 1937 or so. She lives in Sandy Springs now, but remembers going to see “picture shows – they weren’t called movies then” in small-town theaters when she was young. She was born in Atmore, Ala., a small town where her family ran a general store. The family moved to the larger nearby community of Valdosta, Ga., when she was a young girl and when they left, she said with a laugh, the Jewish population of Atmore dropped to zero. Movies were a big deal then. “I used to go to movies all the time when I was young,” Wilson said. “All we had to do was go to the movies.” But movies changed. She remembers seeing “Midnight Cowboy,” a 1969 classic about New York street hustlers, and being turned off. And that was just the beginning. “I don’t like bare butts and bare bosoms,” she said. “I don’t need to see ’em.” But she still like those old movies. She watches some on TV. And last year, she discovered the MJCCA’s Classics Film Club shows. The club started showing classic films in the fall of 2017 and now draws small groups of film buffs to its monthly Sunday afternoon gatherings. Andrew Hibbs puts the shows together. He usually works in the Marcus Center’s membership office, but when he heard that center staff members were thinking about showing classic films as part of the programming for people aged 60 or older, he volunteered to run the series. He’s a big movie fan. He started out wanting to be an actor. He did some acting, he said, “but the life of an actor is pretty tough.” In college, he started looking at movies more deeply, more like a director, he said, and got a deeper understanding of the artform. “Now, I’m more interested in the behind-the-scenes stuff,” he said. He picks the films the club shows and then researches them. He makes a short presentation on each film or on things going on in the industry at the time it was made. After the showing, he leads a discussion on the film. Last year, the club showed serious dramatic films, so this season, he decided to change things up a bit. “I wanted to do comedies,” he said. “I wanted to do something light and fun after having people sit through ‘Wild Strawberries’ and ‘The Bicycle Thief.’” For this round, he scheduled Buster Keaton’s “The General” for August; “Gold Diggers of 1933,” with song-and-dance numbers directed by Busby Berkeley, for September; the Marx Brothers’ “A Night at the Opera” for October; and director Howard Hawks’ “His Girl Friday,” BH


Commentary | 19


staring Cary Grant and Rosalind Russell, for December. One recent Sunday, about a half-dozen people, including Wilson and Hibbs’ dad, Stan, got together in the Marcus Center’s computer room for the screening of “Gold Diggers of 1933.” Hibbs used a computer to project the black-and-white film on a screen set against the wall. Although it’s included in the National Film Registry and was a hit in its day, “Gold Diggers of 1933” may be less well known now than the other titles in the Classic Film Club series. The film stars Joan Blondell, Ruby Keeler, Dick Powell and Ginger Rogers. It included lots of snappy repartee and stuffy rich men being outwitted by worldly, if impoverished, chorus girls. It ends with a song called “The Forgotten Man” set against images of marching World War I veterans being reduced to living on the streets and eating from soup kitchens. “That last piece,” Stan Hibbs said, “was really…” “Dark?” Andrew Hibbs said. “Yeah, dark,” Stan Hibbs agreed. “It was hard times and a lot of films weren’t talking about it,” Andrew said. That’s part of the reason the younger Hibbs chose the film for the program. It speaks of and for its time. And it still has lots of dancing girls covered with coins and singing “We’re In the Money.” “It’s one of those things that a lot of people who love film really love,” he said. “It’s kind of a ‘guilty pleasure’ movie. It does have some interesting things to say… about the Depression. It’s also very specific to its time, to the Busby Berkeley era. You don’t see movies like that anymore.”

Andrew Hibbs watches the screening of “Gold Diggers of 1933 in the computer room of the Marcus Jewish Community Center of Atlanta.

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20 | Community

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Practice makes perfect for Jr. Hawks wheelchair basketball

A The BlazeSports Atlanta Jr. Hawks wheelchair basketball team held their first official practice of the season Sept. 14 at Buckhead’s Shepherd Center, as they aim to continue as one of the nation’s top-ranked junior teams. Open to youths ages 5 through 18, the team is organized by BlazeSports America, the nonprofit organization created as part of the 1996 Atlanta Paralympic Games. The Atlanta Hawks pro basketball team is a sponsor, providing financial support, mentorship and more. The Jr. Hawks are affiliated with the National Wheelchair Basketball Association. They practice September through March, according to a press release, in a division where teams compete in regional tournaments and a national championship.



D A - Wildene Almond, 4, controls the ball.


B - John Harvey, 10, lines up and takes a shot.


C - The team in action during practice.





D - A player sinks the ball during practice. E - Jr. Hawks Coach Josh Loop talks with player Maria Surprenant, 13. Loop is the father of one of the players, Tanner, 13. PHOTOS BY PHIL MOSIER



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Community | 21


‘Revolutionary’ Uber-style shuttle vans coming to central Buckhead Continued from page 1

will replace the existing “buc” bus, an old-school commuter shuttle service that operates on limited routes only serving MARTA stations and two office complexes. The new service can take people anywhere in the general areas of the business district, Buckhead Village and the Lenox Square and Phipps Plaza malls. The idea is that trips directly to and from MARTA stops will always be free, but riders eventually may be charged a fee for other destinations. “I think this will be the beginning of something much bigger,” said Jim Bacchetta at a Sept. 25 meeting where he and fellow BCID board members approved the program at a cost of up to $687,000. “I really believe this is going to be something revolutionary.” The service will be operated by a company called Via, which runs similar systems across the country and around the world. Via’s shuttles in Arlington, Texas, are a particular model for the Buckhead version. The nonprofit Livable Buckhead will manage the program. Joel Mann of Stantec, a consultant hired by Livable Buckhead to come up with better shuttle options, calls the Via system “on-demand microtransit” and a “midway point” between a traditional shuttle bus and the app-based car-hailing services like Uber and Lyft. The decision by the BCID, a self-taxing group of commercial property owners, marks the end of the line for the “buc,” which Livable Buckhead has operated for 16 years. After service cutbacks in recent years, the “buc” now consists of two 24-passenger buses that exclusively connect two MARTA stations with two office complexes: Buckhead Station to Piedmont Center and Lenox Station to Lenox Park. The “buc” runs six hours a day, only during rush hours, and is free. The Via service will start with four 12-passenger vans, with a fifth in reserve if demand requires it. Via will run up to eight hours a day, including during the lunch hour. And instead of fixed routes aimed at office complex commuters, the vans will be available throughout the central area. Specific service boundaries have not been determined yet, but can be set and changed easily, Mann said. Much like Uber or Lyft, Via will use a phone app that allows riders to call for the van and see how long it will take to arrive. If the BCID eventually decides to start charging for rides to non-transit destinations, Mann said, Via can easily changing that, too. He said that, as a model for the study, he used an estimated fee of $3 a ride. Via would not take any cut of such a fee, which instead would go to the BCID. “The revenue is 100% yours,” Mann said. Via will cost the BCID more than the “buc,” whose current tab is $477,000 a year, of which Lenox Park’s owners pay $211,000. The Via service package will run about $615,000, including one-time start-up and marketing costs, and the reserve vehicle could cost up to $72,000 more if it’s needed. The general response from the BCID board was positive. “I think the overall concept is excellent,” said Robin Suggs, the general manager of Lenox Square and Phipps Plaza. She said it could help to cut car traffic in the shopping district. Board members briefly discussed whether to experiment with the service during more limited hours, but voted on the broadest package after BCID Executive Director Jim Durrett urged them to. “Don’t handcuff us to start with,” said Durrett, holding up his arms with his wrists pressed together. Bacchetta, who represents Highwood Properties on the board, was the most enthusiastic. He called Via a “supercharged Uber” that is “so much more efficient” than the single-passenger vehicles typically used by ride-hailing apps. He suggested the model will spread and could help with larger traffic issues, such as Cobb County commuting. “Imagine a bunch of these vehicles all over the metro area,” he said. Meanwhile, the “buc” is still running. The board also approved an additional $82,100 to extend the old shuttle’s contract through the end of the year. BH

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22 | Community

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Buckhead Council may suggest express buses, street tolls as traffic fixes BY JOHN RUCH johnruch@reporternewspapers.net

A 17-point list of ways to reduce cutthrough commuter traffic is in the works at the Buckhead Council of Neighborhoods, prominently including affordable housing, express buses and tolls on local streets. The draft resolution on transportation issues, presented at a Sept. 12 meeting, largely mirrors a previous BCN discussion in May. As in the earlier meeting, there was support for many of the proposals and particular criticism about the “congestion pricing” tolls on residential streets, though BCN chair Mary Norwood pushed hard for it as part of the strategy. City Councilmember Howard Shook called the toll idea “interesting,” but added, “We’re not going to be able, politically, to put up a wall around Buckhead.” “We can put up a fence,” Norwood replied. “A fence with a lot of holes in it.” The resolution’s language can still be changed and two-thirds of the neighborhood associations that make up the BCN must vote to approve it before it can be formally acted upon. The resolution is intended as recommendations that the BCN can advocate to transportation agencies and elected officials. Among those attending the meeting, held at Peachtree Presbyterian Church, were representatives from the Georgia Department of Transportation and the Atlanta-regional Transit Link Authority. Robert Patterson of the North Buckhead Civic Association, one of the BCN

members working on the resolution, described its approach as a “three-legged stool” of strategies under the categories of more affordable housing, more transit options and enforcement and safety improvements on residential streets. The affordable housing section has only one recommendation, an “EmployerAssisted Workforce Housing Program to enable Buckhead’s workers to live within Buckhead.” That largely refers to a study recently conducted by the nonprofit Livable Buckhead. The transit options section includes ideas as big as new rail lines and as small as shelters at bus stops. The most discussed item is a push for express buses from Cobb County to MARTA’s Lindbergh Center Station, running on what is now the I-75 HOV lane. Patterson said that Buckhead is the only major job center in the area to lack express bus service, unlike Downtown, Midtown and Perimeter Center. The entire goal is reducing and mitigating outside traffic on neighborhood streets. The recommendations aimed directly at those streets are also wide-ranging, from traffic-camera ticketing to “extensive networks of sidewalks and bike lanes.” The tolling of neighborhood streets is mentioned in two of the eight recommendations in the category, as are “parking taxes.” The congestion pricing would apply during rush-hour on two-lane neighborhood streets. Tolling is used in business areas of some major cities, including London. The earlier Buckhead discussions drew oppo-

I can try to end free parking [in the business district]. That will be World War Four, Five, Six and Seven. HOWARD SHOOK CITY COUNCILMEMBER

sition from such leaders as Sam Massell of the Buckhead Coalition. At the BCN meeting, several attendees also questioned tolling, particularly from the viewpoint that it amounts to wealthy residents attempting to impose a fee on service workers. “To put a tax on them to get to their jobs is something to be thoughtful about,” said resident Sadler Poe, adding that commuting workers would have limited options for getting through southern Buckhead. Norwood dismissed the criticisms, saying congestion pricing is “very important to me personally” and that she is “going to work very hard” for it if the member associations approve the resolution.

She called it a key tactic to “deal with our suffocation” as part of the overall multiprong strategy, which the BCN is calling “Let Buckhead Breathe.” In an interview after the meeting, Norwood emphasized the tolling would work in concert with the alternative option of new express buses, which she said could get commuters to Buckhead so fast it would feel like they arrive with a “boom.” “You’re talking about the future of ‘boom!’” she said. Two audience members also suggested attempting to work with the traffic app company Waze to avoid directing drivers onto residential streets. Shook told the attendees that the Buckhead business district could roughly double in density under current zoning and that many ideas for reducing or mitigating traffic are “tough choices” with tradeoffs. He touched on another form of congestion pricing, paid parking in the commercial district, and noted it could push parking out into neighborhood streets. “I can try to end free parking [in the business district],” he said. “That will be World War Four, Five, Six and Seven.” Shook suggested that traffic mitigation experiments focus on the “spine” of Peachtree Road, but Norwood said residential streets should be the priority, noting that the neighborhoods are the BCN’s focus. Norwood’s own neighborhood of Tuxedo Park recently raised about $50,000 to conduct its own traffic master plan, she said.

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24 | Art & Entertainment

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‘Frida’ comes to Sandy Springs as perfect show for opera first-timers Where authentic Christian mission and academic excellence aren’t mutually exclusive

Catalina Cuervo as the title character in “Frida.”



BY JUDITH SCHONBAK If you have thought about going to an opera, but have been hesitant or intimidated by the high art and foreign languages, the Sandy Springs Performing Arts Center has your chance to see what it’s all about. The Atlanta Opera’s “Discoveries” series, aimed at first-timers and audiences in search of new types of works, is coming to Sandy Springs Oct. 5-13 with “Frida,” the story of iconic Mexican artist, feminist and activist Frida Kahlo. “‘Frida’ is meant for a smaller venue,” said Catalina Cuervo, who sings the opera’s title role, in a phone interview from her home in Miami. “There is so much acting and it is important to be able to see facial expressions and hear the conversations in the story. Theaters like the Byers Theatre are perfect for this opera, and this venue is perfect for first-time opera-goers.” The series of which “Frida” is a part brings opera to alternative, smaller venues, like the Byers Theatre at the Performing Arts Center. And the Atlanta Opera offers tips to make your initiation into opera a pleasant occasion and, perhaps, a discovery that you really like everything about this genre of theater. First of all, wear something comfortable. There is no dress code. You will see a range of dress from jeans to evening clothes. Most audience members wear something in between, but if you want to strut your style, it’s your opportunity to do so. Operas are usually sung in foreign languages and often have complex plots. But, at virtually all opera venues, you will know what’s going on thanks to supertitles which the singing and action with English translations projected above the stage. One thing that may not be familiar to first-timers: If you arrive late, you’ll have to wait out the first act in the rear of the theater until intermission, when ushers will show you to your seat. The Atlanta Opera also recommends reading a synopsis of the opera beforehand to give you an understanding of the characters and story and what is happening onstage. “Frida” is a straightforward story that portrays the artist’s dramatic life from her youth to her death at 47 years in 1954. Kahlo is considered one of Mexico’s greatest artists, known for her folk art and surrealist style. She is equally known for her dramatic and tragic life, her affairs and her two marriages to famed Mexican artist/muralist Diego Rivera. “Frida was one of my heroes when I was a kid in Colombia,” said Cuervo. “My aunt, who was a painter and an artist in every way, introduced her to me and I learned about this woman, who, back in the 1930s and ’40s was living her life like a modern, independent woman.” With the role comes challenges and responsibility for Cuervo. “So many people


Art & Entertainment | 25


love Frida Kahlo,” Cuervo said. “She is Mexican. She is Mexico. Mexican people own her. Every time I sing this role, I need to be the best I can for Mexican women and for their country.” Cuervo said that when she steps onto the stage, “I am not Catalina. I am Frida, as a strong Latina woman and artist.” Known as the “fiery soprano,” Colombian-born Cuervo, made her Atlanta debut with The Atlanta Opera in 2017 as Maria in Piazzolla’s “Maria de Buenos Aires.” The biographical opera by composer Robert Xavier Rodriguez premiered in April 1991. It gained prominence in its revival in 2015 by Michigan Opera Theater with Cuervo as Frida. She performed the role again in 2017 with Cincinnati Opera. Rave reviews and sold-out shows continued for a number of shows in Florida this year. “Frida was pretty complicated,” said Cuervo. “She was probably bipolar and was very dramatic and intense. She goes against the rhythms of life, and Frida sings against the beat. The music incorporates all her moods and struggles, from love and happiness to confrontations and tensions. [Rodriguez] used all the tools of composition for the audience to feel all of this along with Frida.” Cuervo said she enjoys the musical challenges, too: “I love this opera. Its drama demands two voices for Frida – her romantic soaring soprano, the head voice when I go into ‘soprano-land,’ and her dramatic lower voice, the chest voice when I go into ‘contralto-land’. I sing three octaves during the performance.” But it’s also easy for audiences to enjoy. “This is not opera as you know it,” she said. “It is not Puccini, Verdi or Mozart. I think of it as a cross between opera and Broadway.” Cuervo said that at many performances of “Frida,” as much as 80 percent of the audiences are seeing opera for the first time. “There is big, beautiful opera singing, catchy music, and the story is easy to understand,” she said. “It is mostly sung and spoken in English and some Spanish with English supertitles. It is in an intimate space that allows a good experience. “I am excited to bring ‘Frida’ to new audiences, a new stage and a new city.”

A scene from “Frida.”



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26 | Art & Entertainment

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Friday, Oct. 18, 6:30-9:30 p.m. A haunted house event across the museum grounds, with gentler Halloween fun for the children in the main building. Tickets: $15 members, $20 non-members. Atlanta History Center, 130 West Paces Ferry Road, Buckhead. Info: https://www.atlantahistorycenter.com/ programs/haunted-halloween-6

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Friday, Oct. 25, 6:30-10:30 p.m. With live music, costume contest, food trucks, psychic readings, fire pit & s’mores bar, facepainting (6:30-8:30 p.m.), safe trick-or-treating, and screening of the movie “Beetlejuice.” In addition, actors with North Springs Charter High School offer tours of a nearby historic cemetery every 30 minutes. Free; cemetery tours $20. Heritage Green, 6110 Blue Stone Road, Sandy Springs. Info: heritagesandysprings.org


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Saturday, Oct. 26, noon-5:30 p.m. Featuring live music and German food, raising funds for the Sandy Springs Education Force STEAM program and treatment of injured veterans at Buckhead’s Shepherd Center. Tickets: $10 adults, $5 children, $4 food tokens. Heritage Park, 6110 Blue Stone Road, Sandy Springs. Info: sandyspringsoktoberfest.com


Thursday, Oct. 3 and Friday, Oct. 4, 6:30 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 5, 3 p.m. & 6:30 p.m. The Riverwood Theatre Department presents the classic play about Annie Sullivan and her student, blind and mute Helen Keller. Tickets: $10 Adults, $5 students. Riverwood International Charter School Auditorium, 5900 Raider Drive, Sandy Springs. Info: school.fultonschools.org/hs/riverwood/Pages/DramaTheatre.aspx


Saturday, Oct. 26, 5-7 p.m. Halloween event for younger children, with costumed characters, trick-or-treat stations, face painting and food for purchase. Free. Abernathy Greenway Park, 70 Abernathy Road, Sandy Springs. Info: https://www.visitsandysprings.org/spooky-springs/

Through Sunday, Oct. 13 The Stage Door Players perform the comedy about four Southern women, all needing to escape their day-to-day routines, who find themselves drawn together by fate. Tickets: $34. Stage Door Playhouse, 5539 ChambleeDunwoody Road, Dunwoody. Info: stagedoorplayers.net



Saturday, Oct. 26, 6 p.m. Decorate your bike and ride a portion of the Dunwoody Trailway before watching “Hocus Pocus” on the big screen. Bike ride at 6 p.m.; movie at dusk. Free. Brook Run Park, 4770 North Peachtree Road, Dunwoody. Info: dunwoodyga.gov


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Saturday, Oct. 19, 10 a.m-6 p.m Sunday, Oct. 20, 11 a.m.-5 p.m. The annual festival features a juried show of art from over 140 artists from across the country, a classic car show, children’s art section, live music, food and beverages. Free. Apple Valley Road behind the Brookhaven/ Oglethorpe MARTA Station, Brookhaven. Info: brookhavenartsfestival.com


Saturday, Oct. 26, 9:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m.; run at 7:45 a.m. The Sandy Springs Perimeter Chamber of Commerce’s Health and Well-Being Council hosts a day of healthy living in the community. At 7:45 a.m., the Sandy Springs Education Force will be hosting the Footprints for the Future 5/10K, followed by health and wellness vendors, fitness demonstrations and other activities. Free. City Green, 1 Galambos Way, Sandy Springs. Info: business.sandyspringsperimeterchamber.com

October 18, 19, 24, 25, 26 8 p.m. October 27, 2 p.m. Oglethorpe Theatre presents Spring Awakening, a groundbreaking, Tony-winning rock musical about adolescent love, the trials of puberty, and the friendships that young people build in the face of an uncomprehending world. Admission: $20. Conant Performing Arts Center, 4484 Peachtree Road, Brookhaven. Info: oglethorpeuniversity.thundertix. com


Friday, Oct. 4, 6:30 p.m. The final summer music concert features Joe Gransden and his big band performing music from Sinatra’s songbook. Free, no tickets required. Tables may be reserved starting at $40. City Green, 1 Galambos Way, Sandy Springs. Info: citysprings.com/events.


Saturday, Oct. 5, 6-9 p.m. Sojourner plays American roots music, plus food from local farms and prepared by Chef Chris McDonald of Marlowe’s Tavern Dunwoody. Tickets: $75 per person, advance reservations required. Donaldson-Bannister Farm, 4831 Chamblee Dunwoody Road, Dunwoody. Info and menu: dunwoodypreservationtrust. org/bluegrassfarmtotable


Public Safety | 27


Police Blotter / Buckhead The following information, involving events that took place in Buckhead Sept. 5 through Sept. 12 was provided to the Buckhead Reporter by the Zone 2 precinct of the Atlanta Police Department from its open data records.

AG G R AVAT E D A S S AU LT Piedmont Road/Buford Highway Con-

nector — Sept. 1 3000 block of Peachtree Road — Sept.

2 3100 block of Piedmont Road — Sept. 5 1500 block of Howell Mill Road —

Sept. 5 — Sept. 6

Sept. 3 Sept. 3 300 block of Peachtree Hills Circle —

Sept. 4 3500 block of Piedmont Road — Sept.

6 2500 block of Chantilly Drive — Sept.

7 3500 block of Piedmont Road — Sept.

3500 block of Peachtree Road — Sept.


R O B B E RY 2500 block of Piedmont Road — Sept.

B U R G L A RY-R E S I D E N C E 300 block of Manor Ridge Drive —

Sept. 2

6 2600 block of Piedmont Road — Sept.


1000 block of Lenox Park Boulevard —

Sept. 2

Buford Highway Connector/Monroe

Drive — Sept. 11

3600 block of Piedmont Road — Sept.

3 2100 block of Peachtree Road — Sept.

5 4000 block of White Water Creek

Road — Sept. 6

LARCENY Between Sept. 1 and Sept. 12, there

were 52 larcenies from vehicles reported across Zone 2 and 56 reported cases of larceny and shoplifting.


2400 block of Camellia Lane — Sept. 7

Between Sept. 1 and Sept. 12, there

2800 block of North Hills Drive —

were, there were 20 reported incidents of auto theft.

Sept. 10

B U R G L A RYN O N-R E S I D E N C E 3100 block of Roswell Road — Sept. 2

Woman shot to death in ‘domestic incident,’ police say A woman was shot to death Sept. 25 in Buckhead in what police are calling an “domestic incident” allegedly committed by her husband. Labarbara Milsap, 36, was found by police around 1 a.m. in the area of 55 Lakeland Drive with a gunshot wound to the abdomen. Witnesses heard an argument followed by gunfire, according to the Atlanta Police Department. Walter Milsap, 38, is accused of felony murder in the killing, according to the Atlanta Police Department. Police say he has turned himself in to the Rutherford County Sheriff’s Office in Tennessee and that they are in the process of extraditing him to Atlanta.


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28 | Community

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Cities differ on private council briefings targeted by transparency advocates BY JOHN RUCH johnruch@reporternewspapers.net

Local city governments vary widely in whether and how much they use a method of private, pre-vote briefings for city council members, a practice that transparency advocates say is a loophole in the state open meeting laws that should be closed. As the Reporter recently revealed, Sandy Springs regularly holds private staff briefings about significant issues for City Council members in groups that are smaller than a voting quorum. Sandy Springs offficials say such meetings are useful and in line with the state Open Meeting Act, which requires that gatherings of officials in groups constituting a quorum be opened to the public and advertised as such. The director of the Transparency Project of Georgia says quorum-avoidance is a legal loophole that enables government secrecy, and such meetings would be illegal under tighter laws in at least two others states: Massachusetts and Tennessee. The city of Brookhaven says it has an “occasional need” for such private briefings of council members, while Dunwoody’s city manager says his city “never has, never will” hold such private meetings. And the Atlanta City Council halted its practice of private committee member briefings, making them public instead, after a legal challenge in 2011. Matthew Charles Cardinale, a wellknown transparency gadfly who made that complaint, says he believes case law actually already bans such private briefings and could be used to successfully challenge the practice in Sandy Springs.

Dunwoody ‘never,’ Brookhaven ‘occasional’ In Dunwoody, City Manager Eric Linton said through a spokesperson that he has conversations with councilmembers from time to time. But in terms of private, fewer-than-a-quorum briefings, Linton said, “No, we don’t do that. Never have, never will.” However, city spokesperson Jennifer Boettcher declined to elaborate on why the city has such a strong position against private council briefings. “We’ll stick with that,” she said of Linton’s

statement. “…It’s just not done.” In Brookhaven, city spokesperson Burke Brennan said, councilmembers are typically briefed through public “work sessions.” Those non-voting informational meetings, typically held immediately before the regular council meeting in the same council chamber, are open to the public and are streamed online in live video that is also archived. “However,” Brennan added in an email, “there is the occasional need to brief more than one Councilmember (but always less than a quorum) on issues that impact two adjacent districts.” Brennan emphasized the legality of such private briefings and said they are necessary for efficient government. “The city of Brookhaven believes strongly in transparent government and lives up to the letter and the spirit of the Open Meetings Act. The Act does provide certain exceptions to allow for governments to run efficiently,” Brennan said. “Having an advertised public meeting every time background information is to be provided to an elected leader (or two) would slow otherwise routine operations to a halt. “In many cases an informational meeting [or] briefing does not have anything to do with policy items to be deliberated in a City Council meeting,” he continued. “For example, a briefing to the district representative and the mayor on the technical progress of the Murphy Candler Lake dredging permit with the U.S. [Army] Corps of Engineers is not a policy discussion or a policy decision.”

Atlanta’s transparency battle Cardinale argues that many private briefings are illegal due to a previous Georgia court decision, but no court has ruled on his interpretation of the law. Cardinale is the publisher of the Atlanta Progressive News and an activist on Atlanta City Council transparency. In 2012, he gained fame by winning a state Supreme Court case –despite being a non-attorney who represented himself — against the city for a secret vote the council conducted during a retreat on the issue of restricting public comment at committee meetings.

But that was not his only successful transparency battle against the council. In 2011, Cardinale sued the city over private council committee briefings. At the time, the council’s seven committees held pre-meeting briefings, often involving many top city administration officials as well. Sometimes a quorum of council committee members

Having an advertised public meeting every time background information is to be provided to an elected leader (or two) would slow otherwise routine operations to a halt. BURKE BRENNAN BROOKHAVEN CITY SPOKESPERSON

was present and sometimes not. In his lawsuit, Cardinale said he had learned that the briefings dated back 20 years or more and had evolved “to include numerous council members and executive branch members discussing city policy, often in private.” Cardinale said in the lawsuit that several officials told him that they would give public notice about the briefings if a quorum were in attendance, but that was often determined at the very last moment or would change during the course of the meeting. Such short notice would not meet Opening Meeting Act requirements and there was no practical way for the public to know about the policy in the first place. After Cardinale filed the lawsuit, he said, the city offered a settlement where the council would agree to hold the briefings only with a non-quorum

number of members. He says he refused that offer. The lawsuit was finally settled with terms that Cardinale said he could not fully disclose, but the bottom line was that all of the committee briefings became public. He helped to draft a 2013 city ordinance that codified the openness of the briefings. Today, five of the seven committees have stopped holding the briefings at all. Cardinale said he believes that is partly because he pushed for the meetings to be videotaped, and partly because a new crop of councilmembers saw no point in spending time on yet another meeting prior to a voting meeting. The two committees that still hold the briefings are City Utilities and Finance/Executive, and the meetings are posted on the city website. City Councilmember J.P. Matzigkeit, who represents Buckhead’s District 8, is the current chair of the City Utilities Committee. He said the pre-meeting briefing has some practical usefulness. “It’s really, frankly, to be sure we’re all on the same page in terms of what legislation is coming before the committee…,” he said, and who might be speaking about the legislation and “are there any issues [or] questions.” “Those meetings are open to the public and they’re fully publicized,” Matzigkeit said. The settlement of Cardinale’s 2011 lawsuit left the underlying legal arguments unanswered. Cardinale said the city did not admit the briefings had to be public. And no court ruled whether Cardinale was correct in his interpretation of a 1994 Georgia Court of Appeals case called Jersawitz v. Fortson. In that case, the court ruled that an ad-hoc meeting of a government body should have been open to the public, even though it did not include a quorum, because its majority of attendees were government officials. Cardinale said that decision applied to the council committee briefings, and he believes to such similar meetings as those involving the Sandy Springs City Council. “They view it as a voluntary thing, and that’s fine,” Cardinale said of the Atlanta council. “But in point of fact, there is case law that a legal advocate could use [to challenge Sandy Springs’ private briefings].”



Classifieds | 29




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Rare and Spacious 2 br/2ba 2300 sq. ft. Condo for lease in the heart of Buckhead. Secured access with 2 car inside parking. 24/7 resident manager. All utilities paid. Contact: Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage. Marshall Picow, Realtor. office 404-252-4908, Cell 404-805-4255

CEMETERY PLOTS Arlington Memorial Park - Three cemetery plots located in the Masonic section - selling for $6995 each. Call 404-403-5676.

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30 | Community

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NYO marks 70 years of youth sports with new gym plan Continued from page 1 ing off a capital campaign for the estimated $10 million to $12 million needed for the facility, Bennett said. The gym is intended to help meet the massive demand for basketball programs at NYO, which already uses dozens of facilities across the north Perimeter suburbs to serve around 5,500 children each year. That’s a little bit bigger than the football games Bob Blackwell started coaching in Chastain in 1949. “At the time, he was probably the most popular Pop Warner coach in America,” said Bennett, who is also the NYO historian. Blackwell won six national championships in the 1960s and was voted coach of the year in the U.S. several times, Bennett said. NYO’s Blackwell Field was dedicated to him by City Council resolution in 1969. The following year, NYO opened its first gym and started a basketball program. NYO grew in scale along with the north metro Atlanta population. “In the ’80s, enrollment doubled. In the ’90s, it doubled again. In the early 2000s, it doubled again,” says Bennett. Now the organization offers base-

ball, cheer and softball as well. It directly controls 11 different sites, including the 18 acres at Chastain Park. And it uses many more facilities at area churches and schools. Today it uses 28 baseball and softball fields, three football fields and a dozen gyms. Operating the program and coaching the teams takes a thousand volunteers. Despite the size, volunteers say, NYO retains a family feel. It’s common for former players to return and coach – a particularly impressive trend in a program where parents do not coach their own children. Ross Conway is one of those former players who has returned. The 29-yearold Buckhead resident got his start in baseball at age 6, and played football and basketball, too. Now he coaches football and baseball, and he also serves as the treasurer of NYO’s board. “I grew up in the little stone house [on Lake Forrest Drive] right across from the Field of Dreams,” said Conway. “I pretty much spent any non-school, nonsleeping hours over there until I was a

Youth basketball teams play in 1975 in a collage from an NYO yearbook. SPECIAL


MJCCA | 5342 Tilly Mill Road, Dunwoody |

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| bookfestival@atlantajcc.org | Tickets & Info atlantajcc.org/bookfestival or 678.812.4002 | Patrons 678.812.4143 BH


Community | 31


Top, a drawing of the interior of the proposed gym addition. (Special) Above left, NYO Bigs Leagues football players Ethan Holmes, left, and Robert Hunter wait with flowers to give the cheerleaders for their team, the Vikings, after the girls’ performance as part of this year’s kickoff event. (Phil Mosier) Above right, a drawing of the proposed gym as seen from above. (Special)

teenager.” “Number one, it was always very fun,” Conway says of the influence NYO had on him as a youth. “But it definitely taught me a lot of life lessons and turned me, probably, into a very competitive person. That probably translates well into work and life – competitive, and the ability to work hard and prepare.” NYO has been about family for Bennett, too, since he and Debbie, his wife, got involved with coaching 30 years ago. Their late son Chris is memorialized in the organization’s flag monument, and daughter Lauren plays softball. “My daughter loves it,” said Larry Bennett. “She will come back and coach one day as well.” While Chastain is a public park, the city’s only role in NYO is leasing the land. The organization has raised large sums for previous renovations, but the gym and parking deck are a bigger project. The plan calls for an addition to the west side of the existing gym on what is BH

now a gravel parking lot along Chastain Park Avenue. Bennett says that NYO believes potential donors will see what the organization has already accomplished and the need for more space. Big as NYO is, “We still turn away a lot of families, especially in basketball,” he said. This year, basketball was oversubscribed by 300 youths while the registration period was still open. “You never want it to be too big, but we have so much demand,” says Conway about NYO. “The gym will be a great opportunity for kids to experience what I experienced.” The Oct. 6 “Homecoming” event at NYO’s Chastain Park location will be an adults-only celebration, with former Executive Director “Miss Jane” Wilkins as “Homecoming Queen.” Admission is $40 per person and $70 per couple, with tickets available at NYO70th.splashthat. com. For more information about NYO, see nyosports.com.

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Saturday, October 19th 10am-6pm Sunday, October 20th 11am-5pm Classic Car Show on Sunday 1pm-4pm

October’s most anticipated Arts Festival in Atlanta SPONSORS

Over 140 Artists (from across the country) Classic Car Show Children’s Interactive Art Section Live Music Food and Beverages

Apple Valley Road (Behind the Brookhaven MARTA Station) 4047 Peachtree Road, Brookhaven, GA 30319 www.BrookhavenArtsFestival.com BH

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