OCTOBER 2020 • VOL. 12 — NO. 10
Brookhaven Reporter AROUND TOWN
Oglethorpe professor brings ghosts to life
HEAD FOR THE HILLS PAGES 21-29
VOTERS GUIDE TO NOV. 3 ELECTION PAGE 12
A dog’s life
City creates Social Justice, Race and Equity Commission
BY ERIN SCHILLING
Presidential campaigns appeal to suburban fears
Druid Hills Road into the city and to rezone the area to allow for the mixed-use development. Surrounding property owners, including a Target store and a QuickTrip gas station, also requested annexation into the city. DeKalb County opposed the annexation to a state arbitration panel, which does not have the power to stop the annexation but can rule on zoning changes. On Sept. 3, the
The City Council approved the creation of a Social Justice, Race and Equity Commission on Sept. 22 as part of its commitment to starting a citywide conversation about racial injustice and police brutality. “We need a forum to have open conversations on race, diversity, social justice and equity,” City Councilmember Madeleine Simmons said in a press release. “I look forward to the commission’s discussions, proposed initiatives and recommendations.” Simmons and Planning Commission Vice Chair John Funny have played pivotal roles in creating the commission, which was first proposed by them in a June town hall meeting. Funny will be the chair of the commission. Commission members will come from the faith-based community, education leadership, business community, teens and seniors and the city’s different zoning character areas, according to the resolution. Members of the commission will be voted on at the Oct. 13 council meeting, according to the resolution. According to the resolution, the com-
See ANNEXATION on page 11
See CITY on page 20
A pastor’s quest for racial reconciliation P18
Libby the dog goes after a tennis ball after enjoying a swim in the Murphey Candler Park pool Sept. 12. Watching the fun are, from left, Ashley Sasser; daughter Sloan, 3; and Libby’s owner, Dana Reese. They were among many residents who brought their pets out for the annual “Doggy Dip Day,” when dogs are allowed to swim. For the pandemic era, this year’s version meant pre-registration, limited attendance and -- for the humans -- mask-wearing.
Annexation to move ahead despite county objections BY ERIN SCHILLING email@example.com
The Brookhaven Reporter is mail delivered to homes on selected carrier routes in ZIP 30319 For information: firstname.lastname@example.org
The city is set to annex about 27 acres near the intersection of Briarcliff and North Druid Hills roads to make way for redevelopment, despite DeKalb County attempts to intervene earlier this year. Related Group, a Miami-based firm, applied last year to annex 6.74 acres at 2601 Briarcliff Road near the intersection of North
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‘City Centre’ planning starts for area around MARTA station We call it home. DONA AND LEW KELLER Residents since 2014
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The City Council Sept. 8 approved a $309,384 contract to prepare the City Centre Master Plan. Out of 22 bids, the city chose HGOR, an Atlanta-based landscape architecture firm, to create a master plan for the area around the Brookhaven/Oglethorpe MARTA Station. The plan is set to be completed within a year and a half. The City Centre Master Plan will guide future developments in the area concentrated near the MARTA station, which will be considered the city center. It includes the commercial areas on Peachtree Road, extending south near Colonial Drive, east to Conasauga Avenue and north past Osborne Road, according to the scope of the project.
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City officials started to create the master plan process for the city center at their February retreat. City Centre’s spelling with an “-re” differentiates the project from other city center plans, according to the city. The city’s 2034 Comprehensive Plan calls for a “City Centre” to complement a longdiscussed redevelopment of the Brookhaven/Oglethorpe MARTA station. Chris Mutter, the HGOR principal in charge of the project, told the council the design team is based on three principals — communication, financial strategy and forward thinking. For the first few months of creating the master plan, the firm will get community input and engagement through various public input strategies and have some concept plans by the end of this year or the beginning of next, according to the firm’s plans. The council is set to vote on the plan in June 2021, according to the firm’s schedule. The master plan is set to include a study of current conditions, an evaluation of community needs, a review of the zoning code and suggestions for streetscaping and public art. Patrice Ruffin, the city’s director of community development, said the city awarded the bid to HGOR because of the diversity of the team and the members’ experiences. Ruffin said HGOR’s proposal also had good financial planning and transportation-oriented elements. City Manager Christian Sigman said the City Centre master plan “would define this
Our talented team is here to (safely) help answer all of your questions and provide expert personal service. Masks are required to enter. If you do not have one, one will be provided.
city probably more than any other master plan.” Councilmember Madeleine Simmons said she looks forward to a strong community engagement and public input process as the plans get underway.
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Councilmember suggests new site for library BY ERIN SCHILLING firstname.lastname@example.org
City Councilmember Madeleine Simmons is pitching a new library site as a possible resolution to a years-long disagreement with DeKalb County, which initially planned to put it at Brookhaven Park. During a Sept. 21 town hall, Simmons and DeKalb County Commissioner Jeff Rader discussed using a 2.5-acre plot owned by the city at 1623 North Druid Hills Road near the intersection of Lenox Park Boulevard. The plot, across the street from Cross Keys High School, is currently green space and covered with trees. Rader had some doubts about whether that plot would be viable and said some planning has already started at Brookhaven Park. “The biggest challenge is the geometry of the driveway that would allow access to the library on that site,” said Rader about the potential 1623 North Druid Hills location during the meeting. During a Sept. 22 City Council meeting, Mayor John Ernst and Simmons said they were disappointed by the town hall conversation because Rader had seemed more receptive to the newly proposed location in a private conversation with Simmons before the town hall. “We were going to pass a resolution today,” Ernst said in that meeting. “Unfortunately when it came time for the town hall meeting yesterday, Mr. Rader did a 180, which is kind of typical for Jeff.” Right now, the library is at 1242 North Druid Hills Road, and Rader said that location would be too small to have adequate parking. The county has some money saved to build the library, Rader said, but those funds are not enough to also buy land in the city for the building. The library has been in the works since around 2005 before Brookhaven incorporated. It was first proposed at the Brookhaven-Oglethorpe MARTA Station site as part of a redevelopment that did not happen, and then at Brookhaven Park, but city officials said residents would rather save the park’s green space than put the library there. The county has about $4.5 million allocated for the library, Rader said, which is not even enough for the new building, which he estimated would cost $6 million to $7 million. Simmons said the newly proposed corner location would be a good solution to the county’s funding problem. Brookhaven Park is owned half by the city and half by the county, and the city has been trying to purchase the county’s side for the past couple years. If the county sold that land, the library would be fully funded, Simmons said.
“If the city could help the county find a new location for the library, we can move forward with the purchase,” Simmons said. Rader said he had concerns about creating a crossing to get into the library site at the 1623 North Druid Hills location, but City Manager Christian Sigman said there’s also a back entrance to the lot that could be used. The county has started some space planning to put the library at Brookhaven Park, Rader said. “Up to this date, we have heard where the City Council does not want to see it, but we haven’t seen where they would like to see it,” Rader said. “Right now, it is the intention of the county to move forward with the Brookhaven Park site. It is a decision that could potentially be rethought.” Last year, the DeKalb County Library Board of Trustees wrote a letter to the city saying it wanted to build the new library at 4518 Peachtree Road, the back portion of Brookhaven Park owned by the city. Rader said he would want to ask the board before deciding on a new location.
A Google Maps view of 1623 North Druid Hills Road.
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Community | 5
Mayor accused of going maskless despite promoting citywide mandate BY ERIN SCHILLING email@example.com
Mayor John Ernst has been a prominent advocate of mask-wearing mandates as a public health necessity against the COVID-19 pandemic. But Ernst is sometimes going maskless himself at a private club’s Wiffle ball games, according to a fellow player who accuses the mayor of hypocrisy. Stephen Stern snapped a photo during a Sept. 15 game at the Brittany Club on Breton Circle near Silver Lake showing Ernst and two other players chatting, apparently less than 6 feet apart. They and the other seven people in the photo appear not to be wearing masks. Stern said he doesn’t wear a mask himself, believing coronavirus concerns to be “overblown,” but that the mayor should practice what he preaches. “He will put out executive orders about masks, but this is not the first time he hasn’t worn a mask at this Wiffle ball event,” Stern said. “He tells people one thing in order to get attention, and it’s been like this since the beginning.” Ernst said he was wearing a mask during the game and only briefly removed it to take a sip of his drink. Ernst said the mask was “dangling from my opposite ear” and not visible in the photo. He also noted that, as a private organization, the club is exempt from the city mask mandate. “Despite being at an establishment that has legally opted out of the mask requirement, I wore my mask outside during and after playing in a recreational Wiffle ball game that raises money for charity,” Ernst said in an email. The city has a mask mandate that requires people to wear masks in public places and in consenting businesses where they cannot social distance. The mandate exempts wearing masks while eating and drinking, and private businesses can opt out of the mandate. The Brittany Club does not opt into the mandate, Ernst said. The club did not respond to requests for comment. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends wearing a mask anytime a person is around people who aren’t in their household, especially when social distancing is difficult to maintain. Stern acknowledged that Ernst wore a mask for part of the event, but said the mayor had removed it for five to 10 minutes by the time he took the photo. Stern said Ernst attended previous games maskless and began wearing a mask only after Stern complained in a comment on a city’s Facebook post in June, which is when the Wiffle ball games started. “He started wearing a mask again after that but has gotten more free with not wearing one the more I have seen him,” Stern said. Stern said that, as the photo indicated, other players don’t wear masks, either. C
Ernst was defended by resident Danielle Blair, who called the Reporter shortly after the mayor confirmed he was in the photo. Blair said “a lot” of players wear masks, but not everyone because it’s an outdoor sport and people stay 6 feet apart. She said Ernst wears a mask every time she has seen him. “Anytime he’s been there, he’s had on a mask,” said Blair. “He doesn’t come to too many. If there’s too many people, he doesn’t come. Generally, in those games we do social distancing, so there’s not more than the number of people who are allowed to be together.” Ernst signed an executive order on July 9 for a citywide mask mandate, despite Gov. Brian Kemp’s previous order that did not allow cities to have those mandates. During a lawsuit between the city of Atlanta and Kemp regarding local mask mandates, Ernst said the city could “enforce disturbing the peace” in cases of mask disputes. “We all have to remember that we are neighbors and we will have to live with each other long after this pandemic abates. So let’s be nice to one another and wear the damn masks,” Ernst said in a written statement in July. Once Kemp did allow the mandate, the Brookhaven City Council approved a new SpringsDerma-PressAd-OctoberIssue.pdf
ordinance with less strict punishments that complied with the state guidelines on Aug. 26. At the beginning of the March shutdowns due to the pandemic, Ernst claimed the city was the first in the state to enact a shutdown of businesses and city facilities. Brookhaven was the first city known to have a city employee test positive for COVID-19, and City Hall also has a mask mandate. In late May, Ernst and the council had a two-hour discussion about how to safely allow organized sports during the pandemic, specifically looking at Murphey Candler Baseball youth leagues. The council hesitated about allowing outside sports to start back because of safety concerns but eventually allowed them. Ernst has said since that the leagues have done a great job in enforcing social distancing and mask wearing for spectators and coaches. Players on the field do not have to wear masks. 1
Mayor John Ernst, fourth from the left, talks to people at a Wiffle ball game at the Brittany Club on Sept. 15. (Stephen Stern)
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City to spend CARES funds on rent and utility help instead of ads and signs BY ERIN SCHILLING firstname.lastname@example.org
The City Council has added about $1 million of its COVID-19 federal relief funds to rent and utility assistance, taking the money away from a plan for business promotion advertisements and two city monument signs intended for branding purposes. About $2.1 million of the city’s $6.3 million in Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act funds will go to rent and utility assistance following the council’s Sept. 22 decision. The council unanimously approved about $998,000 for Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta medical expenses; $559,000 toward facility sanitization, infrastructure updates and personal protective equipment; $1.85 million toward salary and benefits for the city police department; $700,000 for technology updates; and $100,000 for commercial business support. City officials said the city is behind on distributing the CARES Act money because of delays from DeKalb County, which finalized an agreement on Sept. 8 for the city to get the funds. As of noon Sept. 28, the city did not have the money from the county, according to city officials. DeKalb County Commissioner Jeff Rader previously delayed the city’s portion of the funds a week and a half longer than the other local cities because of disagreement regarding tax abatements and annexation policies. “Whatever we don’t spend by Dec. 20, we have to give back,” city attorney Chris Balch said to the council during a Sept. 22 work session.
Decision to reallocate funds
During the work session, council upped the amount of funds for rent and utility payments by reallocating $1 million that was previously planned to go to Explore Brookhaven, the city’s convention and visitors bureau. Those funds would have gone to promotion materials for city businesses and restaurants, such as printing and distributing a Brookhaven magazine and purchasing advertisements, said Renee Areng, the executive director of Explore Brookhaven. The magazine, which would be a 30-page guide to local businesses and restaurants, is listed on the funding breakdown as a “Coffee Table Book” and had an estimated $370,000 set aside for its content, printing and distribution. In that plan, another $88,000 would have gone to two Brookhaven welcome monuments signs located in the newly annexed area of LaVista Park and near Briarcliff Road, Areng said. The city previously proposed paying for those monuments with money from the LaVista Park special tax district, which is intended to cover costs for infrastructure improvements promised by the city, but backed off after a complaint from a civic association leader. During the work session, Mayor John Ernst suggested putting the CARES funds for the Explore Brookhaven category into the rent and utility relief category in a move that was seemingly decided on earlier.
Community | 7
Voters Guide to Nov. 3 ballot questions BY JOHN RUCH email@example.com
Voters will face several ballot questions on Nov. 3, including constitutional amendments and statewide and local referendums. Their wording can be confusing. The following is a guide to what they mean in plainer English.
State Constitutional Amendments
Amendment 1: Dedicating fees and taxes to intended purpose This amendment aims to halt the state’s frequent practice of taking fees or taxes that are imposed for specialty funds and instead spending them elsewhere. The example that drove this proposal was fees charged to purchasers of tires and to governments for solid-waste disposal. Those fees were intended to pay for cleanup of dumps and landfills, but frequently are diverted to other spending. A “yes” vote would require such money to go to its intended purpose in most cases and barring an emergency. Amendment 2: Ability to sue government This amendment would allow people to sue state or local governments over the legality of their laws. It is a reaction to a controversial 2017 Supreme Court of
Georgia decision that “sovereign immunity” bars such lawsuits without the state’s consent; that case addressed a lawsuit filed by doctors against an abortion law. A “yes” vote would waive sovereign immunity in cases alleging a government official acted “outside the scope of lawful authority” or in violation of state laws or the Georgia or U.S. constitutions. A court could make a ruling, but damages or fees could only be charged in such a case with the General Assembly’s approval.
Tax exemption for real estate owned by charities A “yes” on this question would create a property tax exemption for vacant lots owned by registered nonprofit organizations “whose mission is solely to build and finance affordable homes at 0% interest loans,” said Rep. Matthew Gambill (R-Cartersville), lead sponsor of the legislation that is putting this question to the voters. It is specifically intended to help Habitat for Humanity, which had many vacant lots donated to it in the last recession. “This will help further the mission of organizations like Habitat for Humanity and others by allowing them to direct the dollars saved from ad valorem tax to constructing affordable housing,” says Gambill. Once the housing is built and given to
a homeowner, the property would go back on the tax rolls.
DeKalb County referendum
Board of Ethics reform A “yes” vote on this question would reform the DeKalb County Board of Ethics, which has been inactive since the Supreme Court of Georgia in 2018 ruled that its current board member appointment method is unconstitutional. The question is confusing because it talks about revising the board without explaining how. The current board was appointed by various officials and agencies, including such private groups as universities and the DeKalb County Chamber of Commerce. The majority involvement of private organizations is what the Supreme Court ruled unlawful. If successful, the question on the ballot would dissolve the board as of Dec. 31 and appoint a new one, with three members chosen by the county delegation in the state House of Representatives, three by the county delegation in the state Senate, and one by the county tax commission. Two alternates would be appointed by the clerk of the county Superior Court. The Board of Ethics is intended to independently review claims of improper conduct by public officials. This is the third reform to appear as a ballot question in five years amid concerns the board was not independent. In 2015, voters ap-
proved the current board that turned out to be unlawful. Last year, voters rejected another reform proposal amid concerns it again gave the county CEO and Board of Commissioners too much influence. The DeKalb Citizens Advocacy Council, a group that advocates for the Board of Ethics reform, opposed last year’s ballot question but is supporting the one on the Nov. 3 ballot.
Brookhaven special referendum
Removal of mayoral term limit Only voters in the city of Brookhaven will see this question, which would remove the current term limit for the mayor. Under the existing city charter, mayors are limited to two consecutive four-year terms. If that limit is removed, the change would apply to incumbent John Ernst, who this year began his second term in office and would be free to run again. The city government drew controversy with an attempt last year to remove the term limit solely by state legislation. Some state legislators balked and required that the issue go before voters. The question does not affect other restrictions on who is eligible to run for mayor, including residency and voter registration requirements.
WORTHWHILE CONVERSATIONS WHERE DO WE GO FROM HERE? THE LAST 12 MONTHS HAVE BEEN FULL OF TURMOIL IN THE ECONOMY AND MARKETS. IS TODAY UNUSUAL COMPARED TO OTHER MARKETS L&W HAS OBSERVED IN OUR NEARLY 50 YEARS? In our nearly 50-year history, we’ve seen a lot of markets that created financial uncertainty, which makes planning difficult. The “flavor” of each dish offered up by the markets is always distinct, but the basic ingredients are the same. The key to a successful outcome in personal financial health is not unlike following a healthy diet – get sound ongoing advice from someone who has your best interest at heart. WHAT DO YOU MEAN, “…YOUR BEST INTEREST AT HEART”? Linscomb & Williams had a new client who was unexpectedly early-retired from a downsizing. We explained it this way: ask someone, “What should I eat?” You likely won’t get the same recommendation from your neighborhood butcher as from a Registered Dietician. Your butcher might recommend the pork spareribs that just arrived, knowing you’ll find that recommendation appealing. The dietician, on the other hand, insists on a balanced program that will achieve your ultimate health goal, though it includes items you might not like. SO, HELP US WITH THE CONNECTION TO FINANCIAL ADVICE DURING MARKET TURMOIL? Much of what passes for financial “advice” today is equivalent to the butcher selling you the pork spareribs. The pork spareribs are what he has on hand to
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sell; he thinks they will work OK for you and that you’ll be happy. He’s not that concerned that it is the best option for your long-term health. Most financial advisors still operate outside a 100% pure fiduciary standard, and thus not always under a legal obligation to put your best interest above their own. PRESUMABLY, L&W FOLLOWS A DIFFERENT APPROACH? At Linscomb & Williams, we are like that Registered Dietician. Following the fiduciary standard, we are obligated to put your interest ahead of our own. This is always important, but most especially, in times of market turmoil -times when it makes sense to get a second opinion from an experienced firm with no products to sell. We have an experienced, credentialled team ready to deliver that second opinion right here, right now.
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Pandemic safety rules apply to trick-or-treating, cities say BY BOB PEPALIS As Halloween approaches, local cities say they will not impose any special pandemic rules on trick-or-treating beyond those already applying to public activity. But the city governments are adjusting or canceling their own events.
Brookhaven Brookhaven has no additional restrictions or changes to Halloween this year, said city spokesperson Burke Brennan. Residents should follow state and city health rules. “Maintain six feet distance, wear a mask, etc. -- but that is not just Halloween, it is every day until Nov. 30, when the current ordinance expires,” Brennan said. As organized gatherings of 30 or more people are prohibited, no citysponsored Halloween events are scheduled, he said.
Dunwoody “Historically, Dunwoody has not regulated Halloween, and we’re not going to start this year,” Mayor Lynn Deutsch said. “I’m confident that families can find a way to trick-or-treat safely.” People have a choice about participation, she said. Leaving your lights off is a signal you don’t want Halloween visitors. “Every bit of COVID-19 related research shows that large gatherings are a bad idea, so I’m discouraging Halloween parties,” Deutsch said. The city’s traditional Halloween Spooktacular Drive-thru at Brook Run Park on Oct. 29 from 6 to 9 p.m. will be modified to include COVID-19 safety precautions, city spokesperson Jennifer Boettcher said. Residents and other visitors can drive through a haunted display of spooky decorations, timed special effects and music. Decorated Dunwoody Police vehicles will promote the department’s annual “See & Be Seen on Halloween” campaign. Officers will give out clip-on flashers to make sure children are visible if they go trick-or-treating in the dark. Cars will enter Brook Run Park from Peeler Road and follow directional signage to the drive-thru. The event route wraps around the Veterans Memorial and ends near the driveway at 4770 North Peachtree Road.
Sandy Springs Mayor Rusty Paul said during an Oct. 6 City Council meeting that the city will leave trick-or-treating up to individual homeowners associations and
leave it in the hands of parents. Recognizing the COVID-19 pandemic, Paul said “We are not going to either outlaw or endorse Halloween.” However, the Sandy Springs Farmers Market at City Springs on Oct. 31 will have a Halloween theme and trickor-treating. Guidelines for social distancing and public health will be observed, including a mask requirement on city property, as children get to trick-or-treat in age groups. No purchase is necessary for children to receive treats. The schedule is: 9:30-10:30 a.m., ages up to 2; 11-11:30 a.m., ages 3-5; noon12:30 p.m., ages 5-7. Parents with children in multiple age groups should pick one time within their eligible grouping for the entire family. The Farmers Market will be open 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Photo backdrops in the form of Halloween-themed vignettes will decorate the City Green. A city-themed template will be available for free for families looking to carve pumpkins at home.
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Perimeter hotel market rebound could take more than a year
The Westin Atlanta Perimeter North hotel, left, in the Concourse Center as seen in 2017.
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BY BOB PEPALIS The hotel industry won’t get back to its 2019 occupancy and revenue numbers until the late 2022 or even 2023, a Sandy Springs hotel director told the city’s Hospitality and Tourism Board during its Sept. 24 meeting. As hotel revenues go down, so too does the revenue for Visit Sandy Springs, which gets its funding from hotel and motel taxes. Executive Director Jennifer Cruce told her governing board, the Hospitality and Tourism Board of Directors, that her staff continues to revise its revenue estimates. All marketing and social media has been brought in-house. She earmarked $200,000 that could be cut from the budget. And she was scheduled to discuss budget adjustments with Mayor Rusty Paul, chair of the board. In 2019, Visit Sandy Springs had revenue of $1.8 million. Initially for 2020, it budgeted for $1.7 million in revenues, but ultimately collected $1.2 million. The city receives a share of the tax revenue also. For fiscal year 2021, which started in July and runs through June 2021, Cruce said the agency budgeted $820,000 early in the pandemic based on forecasted occupancy rate and room rates. But she doesn’t anticipate receiving that much revenue, as those projections were from when public health officials said the pandemic would drop off with a possible spike in November. The Westin Atlanta Perimeter North adjusted its budget to 40% to 45% of 2019’s numbers, said John Visconti, director of marketing for the hotel and a board member. Businesses he has contacted want to get back to traveling, he said, but no travel is planned until next year. “I’m concerned but I’m optimistic about the second half of next year,” Visconti said. A lot of groups still plan travel in the second half of next year, he said. He expects corporate travel to resume by then. As dismal as it sounds, Visconti said Sandy Springs is in a good situation with hotels running at 40% to 45%occupancy. “I will tell you we have hotels in our company that are running 10% occupancy,” he said. Hotels in the city and across the country have adjusted rates. But that affects funding and revenue streams, he said. The Westin has booked some small weddings with 80 to 100 people instead of the 300-person weddings it had pre-pandemic. The Perimeter area may lose some hotels, but most of those lost in metro Atlanta will be downtown. Those hotels rely on the convention business. “The convention business takes a lot longer to come back because you have thousands of people in one place,” Visconti said. With the Perimeter area depending on corporate customers in much smaller groups, it’s recovery can be quicker. But traveling will be different, he said. Corporations will try to cut trips down to one or two nights at most. If a traveler has a lunch appointment, they’ll be expected to head back home that same afternoon. “I truly believe we will get back to the corporate market, the group market, the social market,” Visconti said. “People want to socialize, people want to connect. People want to share ideas.”
Community | 11
Annexation to move ahead despite county objections Continued from page 1 panel ruled that the Related Group development could move forward with its rezoning request but the other properties cannot be rezoned for another year. City officials considered the panel’s decision a win, but DeKalb County Commissioner Jeff Rader said it shows lack of recourse that counties have to stop annexations. Rader has criticized the city’s annexation policies for taking away money from the county’s tax base. Rader said part of the reason Related Group wanted to be annexed into the city is because of the city’s willingness to give tax breaks. The city recently granted a tax break worth up to $13.5 million to another mixed-use development on Dresden Drive, which Rader heavily criticized for diverting funds from the county and school systems. “Based upon my experiences, they were fishing for some tax abatements they didn’t receive from the county and must have gotten a better reception from the city,” said Rader, who said he discussed the prospect of the development with Related Group before the annexation request.
The potential development
The city Planning Commission is set to review the annexation request on Oct. 7, and the City Council is set to vote on it Oct. 27, according to city spokesperson Burke Brennan.
Votes were originally scheduled in February, but the arbitration panel and the COVID-19 pandemic delayed the process. “Now that this is behind us, we can all get down to progress,” Mayor John Ernst said in a written statement about the panel’s findings. The arbitration panel, appointed by the state Department of Community Affairs Feb. 10, said that the Related Group’s property could use the city’s zoning rules instead of the county’s, which did not allow for the density levels proposed in the development. The 6.74 acres at Briarcliff and North Druid Hills roads is currently owned by Scarlett & Associates. It includes the 1-story Briarcliff Station center, where several restaurants are located, including Café Bombay, Lucky Thai and Sheba Ethiopian Restaurant. The expansions of Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta and Emory University at the Executive Park I-85 and North Druid Hills Road interchange attracted the developer to the area. According to documents filed with the city, the redevelopment would include a 6-story, 382-unit apartment building; a 7-story hotel with 140 rooms; 25,000 square feet of general office space; 10,000 square feet of restaurant space; 10,000 square feet of general retail space; a 7-story parking deck with 837 spaces; and a surface parking lot with 40 spaces.
DeKalb County’s regulations allow for 24 units per acre, which the developer said “seems like a lost opportunity to address an increased need for housing spurred by the development on the Emory and CHOA properties,” according to the application. The surrounding properties that requested annexation include 2458, 2430, 2375, 2368, 2380, 2334, 2460 North Druid Hills Road and 2535 Briarcliff Road. Those properties must keep the county’s zoning guidelines for one year, according to the panel. The entire annexation request is 27 acres and will eventually be redeveloped, according to a city press release. The panel also recommended that the city notify nearby property owners in unincorporated DeKalb County about future annexation or zoning changes and notify the county and school district about proposed tax breaks. Those recommendations are not binding and come after the city Development Authority approved a tax break with up to $13.5 million for another mixed-use development called Dresden Village under the codename “Project X,” which Rader said shows the city knew the tax break was controversial.
Rader has acted as a longstanding opponent of the city’s policies on tax breaks and
annexations, which he considers an unnecessary drain on the county and school system. The Related Group rezoning request says it plans to request a tax abatement from the city. Rader said the developer and county were discussing redevelopment of the area, but because that area is in a tax allocation district, he did not want to grant a tax abatement. Tax allocation districts aim to spur redevelopment to revitalize areas using public dollars. “We can’t do a tax abatement first because this is a locally serving project,” Rader said. “This is not Footloose. You’re serving the local market.” Rader said city annexations also make it more difficult for the county to have landuse plans, and he hopes the city collaborates with the county on future plans for the area. The city also annexed the LaVista Park neighborhood south of North Druid Hills Road in December 2019. That area included 601 single-family residences, two apartment complexes and eight commercial parcels across some 330 acres. Part of the reason LaVista Park residents wanted to be annexed into the city is to have more input on the CHOA and Emory University campus developments at Executive Park, a development that was also an attraction for the current annexation request.
Senator Sally Harrell First Term Results: Fighting for Public Schools
In the Senate Sally fought against cuts to public schools. She sponsored the Permanent Classroom Act, to get kids out of trailers and into classrooms. She’s worked to increase recess breaks and reduce excessive graded homework for Georgia’s youngest kids. She’s brought attention to the need to slash university fees that increase the cost of college degrees.
Expanding Access to Healthcare
Sally is pushing for full Medicaid expansion so every working Georgian can be covered, and in her first term helped pass Medicaid expansion for new mothers. She’s the sponsor of a bill to create a PeachCare Public Option, allowing anyone, no matter their income level, to purchase a plan similar to Georgia’s popular PeachCare for Kids program.
Cleaner Air and Public Transit
Sally is working to pass an amendment to our state Constitution to allow gas taxes to pay for public transit expansion. This means cleaner air and more options for Georgia commuters.
Senator Sally Harrell: Fighting for Georgia’s Next Decade Don’t Wait! Make your plan to vote early starting October 12th. BK
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to key local races on the Nov. 3 ballot
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H E A LT H , W E L L N E S S & B E AU T Y
Many races will appear on the Nov. 3 ballot, including the U.S. presidency. The following are Voters Guides to candidates in some key local races. For full answers from the candidates and more election coverage, see ReporterNewspapers.net.
U.S. CONGRESS 5TH CONGRESSIONAL DISTRICT
Republican Angela Stanton King and Democrat Nikema Williams are competing to replace the late U.S. Rep. John Lewis. Stanton King did not provide Voters Guide answers.
nikemaforcongress.com What is motivating you to run for this office? As your congresswoman, I will build upon the legacy of Congressman John Lewis. Each generation has an obligation to move us closer to true equality for all. Our country, our state and our district are at a pivotal moment. Our district deserves a fighter to combat against the repeated attempts to strip away our rights, our dignity, and our ability to thrive. I will fight as I have throughout my career to make sure that everyone can live the full promise of America.
6TH CONGRESSIONAL DISTRICT
In the 6th Congressional District, former office-holder Karen Handel is challenging incumbent Lucy McBath. Neither candidate provided Voters Guide answers.
STATE SENATE DISTRICT 40
Democratic incumbent Sally Harrell faces a challenge from Republican Garry Guan.
www.townbrookhaven.net Conveniently located on Peachtree Road adjacent to Oglethorpe University.
What is motivating you to run for this office? Giving back to the country and the great state that provided me with liberty and opportunity to strive as an American by Choice, and seeing the threat of communist/socialist to this country. As someone born and grown up under Maoâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s China, I could not stand by without doing my part to preserve the core values of America. I also hope to help heal the divide of the people in the current poisonous political environment with love, compassion and understanding, and with my innate moderation of the Asian culture and heritage.
Sally Harrell sallyharrell.org
What is motivating you to run for this office? More than ever, people are realizing that who they elect to office, at all levels of government, can have major impacts on their personal lives. I have always believed that good government can help individuals, families and communities meet their highest potential. All our citizens deserve affordable healthcare; universal, quality public education; efficient transportation options; and clean air and water. I have enjoyed listening to and working for the people of Senate District 40, shaping an agenda that works to improve the quality of life in our neighborhoods and throughout Georgia.
Democratic incumbent Elena Parent is running unopposed.
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Community | 13
What is motivating you to run for this office? I want to continue my work for a more equal and just society. I believe in opportunity for all, and public investments we all make together through our taxes, like funding public schools, are a big part of providing that opportunity. Further, I believe government provides services that are necessary to lay the foundation for the success of the private sector. In this polarized era, I also take pride in being a voice that works to bring people together while not compromising the values that I hold.
continue the work I have accomplished reforming the fiscal management of DeKalb, improving procurement procedures, and strengthening ethics in government. I bring unique, financial expertise to the board, having worked as an actuarial consultant. My professional experience has enabled me to guide the board to improve financial reporting and accountability. Most importantly, I appreciate the opportunity to serve all the families, residents and neighbors throughout the district and the county. DeKalb is our home and where my husband and I have chosen to raise our three children. It is an honor to serve this amazing community.
Democratic incumbent Matthew Wilson faces a challenge from Republican Alan Cole. Cole did not provide Voters Guide answers.
Matthew Wilson matthewforgeorgia.com
What is motivating you to run for this office? Our work remains unfinished. While I am proud of the successes we’ve had in passing tax relief for Fulton and DeKalb homeowners and reestablishing the DeKalb Board of Ethics, our state has unfortunately continued its backslide under our current leadership. I am asking House District 80 to send me back to the Capitol so I can continue to fight for access to quality, affordable healthcare when so many folks have lost their jobs due to a mismanaged pandemic, and to repeal the unconstitutional, anti-choice forced pregnancy law the legislature passed last year despite my and many others’ strong opposition.
DEKALB COUNTY COMMISSION DISTRICT 1
Republican incumbent Nancy Jester faces a challenge from Democrat Robert Patrick.
nancyjester. com What is motivating you to run for this office? I am running to BK
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to fourth place for jobs for our residents, housing options and property values, and in opportunities for our residents and overall desirability of our community. The second factor is our aging infrastructure, which is holding back private investments that should be made in our communities. It’s difficult to encourage new residents, businesses and development to call DeKalb home when we have infrastructure that doesn’t meet the needs of our time.
DEKALB COUNTY SHERIFF
Democratic incumbent Melody Maddox faces a challenge from Republican Harold Dennis. Maddox did not provide Voters Guide answers.
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Why should voters choose you instead of the incumbent? My entire professional career has been devoted to helping people. I have worked in various positions that required me to be extra vigilant for my family as well as others. I have previously been a police officer, sheriff lieutenant, airline pilot and aircraft dispatcher. I understand the importance of professionalism, communication and leadership.
PUBLIC SERVICE COMMISSION The Public Service Commission is a state body that regulates utilities. Its members represent regional districts, but are elected by all voters statewide. This year, south Georgia’s District 1 and north Georgia’s District 4 are on the ballot. In District 1, incumbent Jason Shaw faces challengers Robert Bryant and Elizabeth Melton. In District 2, incumbent Lauren “Bubba” McDonald Jr. faces challengers Daniel Blackman and Nathan Wilson. Melton was the only candidate in either race who provided Voters Guide answers.
DISTRICT 1 Elizabeth Melton melton4georgia.com
What specific policy would you create or continue to lower utility rates for residential customers? I would require utility companies to bear the financial responsibility of cleaning up environmental problems that they have created rather than allowing those costs to be passed along to the ratepayer. I would require companies to bear the financial responsibility of dealing with the mismanagement of large-scale projects rather than allowing the ratepayer to be penalized. In times of crisis, such as a pandemic, in which devastating impacts are broadly experienced, I would require companies to absorb their share of those impacts rather than requiring ratepayers, who have also been disadvantaged, to have to make up the difference.
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COMMENTARY Presidential campaigns reach out to local suburbs with common theme of fear Presidential election contests are increasingly decided in the suburbs of major American cities. Whether discussing Bucks County, Pennsylvania; the “I-4 corridor” in Florida; Macomb County, Michigan; or Racine County, Wisconsin, suburbs are the site of the most pitched campaign battles for swing voters. So far, the 2020 race is no different. However, to the extent the electoral map has expanded — into places like Gwinnett County, Cobb County or north Fulton County — in the race between President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden, it is because of their competing appeals to these suburban swing voters. Suburbs are increasingly competitive because they are increasingly diverse. Whereas suburbs were once largely the domain of middle- and upper-middle-class Whites who voted in large majorities for Republicans, suburbs are becoming more socioeconomically and racially diverse. There are more working-class voters, who tend to vote for Democrats, and college-educated voters are moving slightly in the direction of Democrats as well. Additionally, the nature of candidate-centered campaigns and the decrease in party identification among suburban voters makes for the perfect concoction of swing and persuadable voters. In the 2020 race, the campaign appeals to suburban voters represent divergent views on who these potential voters are and what they want out of federal policy. It is often the case that Republican and Democratic campaigns use different appeals to attract would-be swing voters, but their differences are often marginal and often quite subtle. In the case of the Trump and Biden campaign efforts to appeal to suburban voters, this could not be further from the truth. The differing messages emerging from the Trump and Biden campaigns stem from a difference in conceptualizing what suburbs are and who lives there. The Trump campaign, as evidenced by the president’s tweets and statements at his rallies, sees the suburbs as havens for people who are fearful of crime and population density associated with major cities. The president’s statements about “suburban housewives” who want to be sheltered from “invaders” evince an image of the American suburb that may have been accurate a few decades ago but does not reflect most suburban residents today. However, beyond the surface level,
the president’s tweets and statements do strike at an important aspect of suburban living: housing and zoning regulations. As suburbs become denser, there is more significant attention on and response to changes to the regulatory environment. The Trump campaign’s calculation seems to be that these appeals will generate activity among those who would be most attuned to those changes, and these are the types of voters who they think are most likely to turn out to vote. Contrary to the Trump campaign, the Biden campaign focuses its message to suburban voters primarily on healthcare rather than on suburban living as such. Recent polls by the Kaiser Family Foundation and The New
ing communities. Conversely, the Biden campaign thinks suburban swing voters are going to be fearful about losing the guarantees for health coverage in the Affordable Care Act as well as the fear of the unknown regarding the ongoing pandemic. The question, again, turns on which of these campaigns is more accurately reflecting the mood and concerns of modern American suburban voters. We will not be able to answer that question until after November 3, 2020. Nonetheless, as the fall presidential campaign season heats up metro Atlanta’s airwaves, it is easy to see why. Metro Atlanta, like the long-watched suburban areas in Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Michigan and fellow Sunbelt
J. Benjamin Taylor is an assistant professor of political science at the School of Government & International Affairs at Kennesaw State University, where he researches American political behavior.
York Times/Siena College suggest that the Biden campaign may be on the right track. Suburbs and their residents are not monolithic, but KFF polling focusing on Sunbelt suburbs suggests healthcare access and costs are a top concern, while the New York Times/Siena College poll from Midwestern states shows housing and zoning are not top-of-mind for voters. Though Biden and Trump split voters’ sentiments on the economy — another top concern among suburbanites — Biden is viewed more capable on dealing with healthcare and handling the coronavirus pandemic. Though these conceptions of suburban voters and the issue they care about — zoning and lifestyle versus healthcare — diverge, the underlying theme among both campaigns is fear. The Trump campaign thinks suburban voters are fearful about the influx of new people and changes to their outly-
state North Carolina, has an increasingly diverse population. Coupled with the movement of college-educated voters drifting more towards the Democratic Party generally, we see the amalgam of people in the Atlanta suburbs are exactly those swing, persuadable voters campaigns so desire to target. The trick for both campaigns is to find those voters, mobilize them with their message of fear about what the other candidate will do, and make sure more of their preferred voters cast ballots than voters motivated by the other campaign. While these objects may seem straightforward, it takes a lot of effort and message repetition for a campaign to mobilize their voters. So, if you are tired of seeing campaign commercials on television and hearing them on the radio, settle in, because they are not going anywhere.
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Commentary | 17
Answers to life’s (food) questions I’ve been married for 25 years and I’ve raised four kids, but I still call my mother with food questions. On this particular evening, however, I started out very confident in my culinary abilities. The sky was storm-cloud gray outside and the wind was blowing the patio furniture from one side of the deck to the other, but the ominous weather didn’t deter me. I had a bag of frozen seafood, and I was going to whip up a week-night defying dinner of linguine with sautéed scallops. I had stocked up frozen seafood for my daughter’s return from college. She had a
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recently announced she was a pescatarian, and the rest of the family were the beneficiaries of her lifestyle choices. My hungry 14-year-old twins were already in their Boy Scout uniforms, prepared to go to their meeting that night, and in my own predictably last-minute fashion, I was starting dinner exactly 25 minutes before it was time to leave. I followed the package directions to quick-thaw the scallops, as butter melted and water boiled. Pasta went in, scallops began to sizzle, lightning flashed, thunder cracked, and then it
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happened — the power went out. “Oh, NO!” I cried. I really did not know what to do. The scallops were only partially cooked, and I didn’t want to waste them. They were the expensive bag — wild, not farmed.
Robin Conte lives with her husband in an empty nest in Dunwoody. To contact her or to buy her column collection, “The Best of the Nest,” see robinconte.com.
“We have a Coleman stove,” my eager little Star Scouts
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said from their perch at the breakfast bar. I dialed my cellphone. “Hello, mom? It’s me—is it rain-
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ing there? Well, I’ve got a quick food question. The power just went out here, and I just started cooking scallops.
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No, they were frozen, and I quick-thawed them. Yes, under cold running water. So I don’t know — can I put them
in the fridge now and finish cooking them later?”
I started going through the dark refrigerator, pulling out bread and jelly. “Boys, I guess you’re just going to have to eat peanut butter and jelly sandwiches tonight.” “We have a Coleman stove.” They had found their spelunker headlamps and were back at the barstools with the lights secured around their foreheads. I continued my cell phone food-crisis conference. “OK, but here’s the thing, Mom. I don’t know when the power will go back on or when I’ll be able to finish cooking them —“ I had found the lighter and was walking around the house, lighting Mediterranean-fig-scented candles. Meanwhile, my boys were on their own cellphone, informing the Scoutmaster about the power outage and discussing how that might
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affect their meeting. Still a bit dubious about the cooling power of my refrigerator and the staying power of the uncooked scallops, I addressed my Scouts, “Boys, I’m really sorry. This was going to be such a great dinner. But we’ll eat it tomorrow — I hope.” I had found a package of lunch meat that didn’t smell too strong and set that on the breakfast bar, alongside the strawberry jam. “Mom! We’ve got a Coleman Stove!”
Before I knew it, they were climbing back up the basement stairs, one carrying a lantern, one carrying the stove, and both wearing their spelunker type headlights. One took off his headband flashlight and put in on my head, the other set up the stove and lit both burners, and 10 minutes later, they were eating linguine with sautéed scallops. We looked like coal miners hovering over French cuisine. I drove my twins to the Scout meeting (which had not been cancelled), and on the way back I noticed that the lights were on in the house two doors down from my home. The blackout began at exactly the house before mine.
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I entered my own dark house, opened my kitchen windows to air out the smells of burnt butter and seafood, removed my headlight, relit the candles, and settled down with a glass of wine. Some things are better by candlelight, anyway.
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18 | Commentary
Carol Niemi is a marketing consultant who lives on the Dunwoody-Sandy Springs line and writes about people whose lives inspire others. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
In Luke 9, when Samarian villagIn ninth grade, it was his turn. With ers refuse to lodge Jesus and his disci50 cents from his mother, he made his ples and James and John want to pray for first solo shopping trip to the local conheavenly retribution, Jesus rebukes them venience store. for their anger. The passage ends simply: “I guess it took me a little too long “And they went to another village.” to choose between the chili cheese corn This passage defines the ismission chips and he said. “I got to the regCarol Niemi a marketingof consultant who lives on a thepie,” DunwoodySandy Springs line and of writes about people whose lives inspire being so happy with the Rev. William Givens, lead pastor ister and remember others. Contact her at email@example.com. the Buckhead Baptist Church, said to be my chips, the first time buying them on the only Black pastor leading a historicalmy own.” ly white Buckhead church. His joy was short-lived. Givens can’t confirm the claim, but he “The cashier asked me, ‘What else?’ I lives to confirm the passage from Luke. said I didn’t have anything else. The man He spent his early years in South behind her told me to empty my pockets Georgia, in a church-going family with a or he would call the cops,” he said. “We mother who taught love and acceptance didn’t have much but our name and our and a stepfather who was a preacher. word, so I emptied my pockets.” “We went to Black churches. White It was 20 years before he ate those people went to White churches,” he said. chips again and five before he told his For him, that was just how it was unmother. til sixth grade, when his two best friends, Flash forward a few years. With no Forrest, who was White, and Bubba, who intention of entering the ministry, he was Black, encountered racism head on. joined the National Guard and entered “They went to Forrest’s church togethcollege, where as “one of 11 Black kids on er, and the church asked Bubba to leave,” campus,” he frequently experienced subhe said. tle and overt racism. One day everything
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The Black pastor of historically White church leads with reconciliation changed for him. “At a church service where a pastor was praying for me, I saw a dove descend from the ceiling onto his hand,” he said. “I felt peace hit my body, forgave everyone for everything, and haven’t felt any animosity since.” In 2008, as the religious life beckoned, he and his wife Gloria, who is white, decided he should accept a scholarship for a master of divinity degree from Mercer University’s McAfee School of Theology. In 2010, he became an intern at Buckhead Baptist Church, then a predominantly White church. All was good until 2011, when he became associate pastor. Church members during that time remember turmoil. “Some wouldn’t attend if they knew he was preaching,” said Diane Irby, a member since 2008, “but when he preached, he always gave a great message.” In 2014, the congregation voted him lead pastor. “That’s when people walked out,” said Irby. “Now he’s drawing a lot of young families, and we’re very mixed.” A member of one of those families is Kamesha Gray “I’m in awe of his strength,” she said. “A congregation walked out on him because of what he looked like. But he kept preaching love, and Gloria stood by his side every single Sunday.” On Aug. 30, everything Givens stands for came to fruition during a Service of Reconciliation. To start, Thomas Hammond, executive director of the Georgia Baptist Mission Board, read an official apology by the Southern Baptist Convention dating from 1995 for its historical oppression of African Americans. According to a longtime White member of the church, Givens’ response was what everyone was hoping for. “I’ve heard of other reconciliation services that devolved into corporate guilt trips. This one was Biblically based,” said
Rev. William Givens.
J.C. Davis. “We resolved as a church to repent of the sins of our forefathers and work hand in hand with the mission of the Lord.” Like Jesus in Samaria, Givens called for moving forward to “the next village” and recounted the ways he has seen racism evolving, with examples from his own life, on which he expanded during a phone call with me. “A couple of years ago, I was deciding on whether or not to purchase a convenience store. That’s a long way from the ninth-grader with the 50 cents,” he said. “I genuinely believe good is happening now. We need to notice those things and be a part of that change.” Givens believes the answer is love, not hate, and there’s only one way to get there. “We covenant not to look back, but to move forward,” he said. Services at self-described “most loving church on the planet” are Sundays at 11 a.m. at 4100 Roswell Road and livestreamed on the website at buckheadbaptist.org.
Around Town Here’s a question for the Halloween season: How do you properly act like a ghost? Apparently, you just keep it real. Matt Huff figured that out a few years ago. He teaches theater at Oglethorpe University in Brookhaven, where he’s an associate professor, so for most of the time, he works with students to stage and study plays. But in recent Octobers, he’s filled another role: he directs ghosts. Actually, actors portraying ghosts. He works with the volunteers who portray the ghosts on the Capturing the Spirit of Oakland Tours at Atlanta’s historic Oakland Cemetery. His role is to help bring those ghosts, well, to life. Like many freelance jobs, this one started with an email. Huff said that seven or eight years ago, when the cemetery’s annual Halloween tour was growing rapidly in popularity, he was among a group of local theater people who were invited to direct the actors who appear during the tour in order to sharpen up the show. “I was the only one who said ‘yes,’” Huff said during an interview via Zoom. “I’m really glad I did.” During past tours, guides have led small groups through the cemetery, where they encounter actors portraying people buried nearby. This year’s tour is expected to be different because of the pandemic. The guides and ghosts will remain, but the tour is moving online, and the in-person tour may be cancelled, although that decision had not been announced by mid-September. The online tour will be opened to the public on Oct. 29. It will cost $15. For details see oaklandcemetery.com or facebook. com/OCATL. “I’m actually really excited about it,” Huff said. “This is a cool thing.” The annual tour is the biggest single fundraiser for the Historic Oakland Foundation, the nonprofit that takes care of the cemetery. But Mary Margaret Fernandez, special events & volunteer manager for the foundation, argues the October event offers something more than a fun way to support the cemetery financially. The tour provides, she said, an unusual way of looking at Atlanta history. The ghosts include both famous and relatively anonymous Atlantans, and the actors and their speeches “show what lies between those two dates you find on their headstones,” she said. One tour, for instance, featured a notorious 19th century madam. Another introduced a bi-racial couple who were married at a time their relationship was itself illegal, Huff said. “It’s amazing to see how the telling of these stories has breathed new life into the history of the city.” Fernandez said. “We’re preventing certain areas of Atlanta’s history from being forgotten.” BK
Commentary | 19
Joe Earle is editorat-large at Reporter Newspapers and has lived in metro Atlanta for over 30 years. He can be reached at joeearle@ reporternewspapers.net
Which ghosts will appear on the tour, Fernandez said during a phone interview, is a carefully guarded secret. “It’s different every year,” Huff said. “They change it up. There are a million stories at that cemetery, so they’re never going to run out. I’m always amazed at the stories they find.” Huff’s job, Fernandez said, is to coach the actors to make their performances “feel genuine. … It makes the performances feel like they’re being told to you by someone you know rather than someone very polished. He makes it very personal.” So, just what do you tell an aspiring ghost about how to address a tour group? Talk like you mean what you say. “You’re not speaking about the cemetery in the third person,” Huff said. “You have to speak the lines as if you’ve lived it.” Huff said one of the first things he suggested was that the foundation hire a professional playwright to script the tour so that the stories were presented consistently. Now the foundation uses two writers, who work with material from a variety of sources, including the families of the departed, to construct the stories the ghosts
He teaches Oakland Cemetery’s ghosts to come alive
tell, Fernandez said. “I’ve always looked for a creative challenge,” Huff said. “When I go there [to the cemetery] and I follow a group for a performance, when I see the whole thing in context, it really is a magical experience. … It is like his-
tory is coming to life right before you.” But, despite the fact these are ghosts and it’s the Halloween season, not necessarily a scary experience, he said. “It’s enlightening,” he said, “not frightening.”
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City creates Social Justice, Race and Equity Commission Continued from page 1
Annie Boland, NORTH GEORGIA BUYER AGENT c. 404.449.1179 | o. 404.874.0300 email@example.com atlantafinehomes.com | sothebysrealty.com
Blue Ridge, Georgia
I M AG I N E T H E E S C A P E . . . R I V E R L I F E , L A K E L I F E , M O U N TA I N L I F E
NEW CONSTRUCTION COMING SOON Left, Planning Commission Vice Chair John Funny. Right, City Councilmember Madeleine Simmons.
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mission will review Brookhaven’s public engagement policies for inclusivity and the police department’s use of force policies and accountability. The commission will meet for one year in public meetings. In a Sept. 8 work session, Funny said the commission may have about 29 members with a seven-person executive committee. “Having a commission of this size allows us to establish subcommittees to break out in topical areas so we can address issues simultaneously to accomplish more in a shorter duration of time,” Funny told the council. Outcomes of the commission may
include changes to the city charter, policies, procedures or organizational structures, such as evaluating to see if there’s any inherent biases in the city’s purchasing policies, Funny said at the work session. “We don’t know what will evolve from the initial unearthing of what’s on people’s minds,” Funny said. “We have to ask the question. That’s how we find out what’s on the whiteboard that we need to address as part of this commission.” The commission was created after the nationwide protests in early summer against racial injustice and police brutality.
Galloway students learn more than CHARMING CREEKFRONT CABIN | offered for $349,000 Annie Boland has been selling properties in the area for 16 years and is now a full-time Blue Ridge resident. Whether you are looking for a cozy little cabin, a mountaintop lodge or a turn-key investment property, North Georgia has something to offer for everyone. Let Annie put her knowledge of the area to work for you!
just core academic subjects; they learn about themselves, who they are, and what role they want to play in making our world a better place.
Annie Boland, Your North Georgia Connection. AGE 3 – GRADE 12 GALLOWAYSCHOOL.ORG
Atlanta Fine Homes, LLC fully supports the principles of the Fair Housing Act and the Equal Opportunity Act. Each franchise is independently owned and operated. Not all photos above are from the actual listing; some are conceptual.
Individual tours on Tues/Th or select Saturdays! Register at gallowayschool.org/visit. BK
Special Section | 21
OCTOBER 2020 ■ www.ReporterNewspapers.net
Mountain foliage will be ablaze with reds, oranges and yellows in late October BY COLLIN KELLEY If you’re looking for a socially-distanced weekend outing this fall, a drive through the North Georgia mountains or North Carolina to see the leaves changing color couldn’t be more perfect. According to the Fall Foliage Prediction Map at smokymountains.com, Oct. 12-19 will be optimum for peak color in North Carolina, while Oct. 19-26 will offer the brilliant reds, oranges, and yellows in North Georgia. At this writing, Georgia State Parks were still limiting access if parks become too overcrowded to maintain social distancing during the pandemic. Some activities in the parks have also been limited or cancelled, so check with the individual park before you go at gastateparks.org. According to the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, these are the parks to check out the best leaf color along with some recommended activities. Amicalola Falls State Park & Lodge – Dawsonville Just an hour north of Atlanta you’ll find the Southeast’s tallest cascading waterfall. A short, flat path leads to a boardwalk offering the most spectacular views. There’s also an easy-to-reach overlook at the top. For a tougher challenge, start from the bottom of the falls and hike up the steep staircase.
F.D. Roosevelt State Park – Pine Mountain Many people are surprised to find hardwood forests and rolling mountains south of Atlanta. The 6.7-mile Wolf Den Loop is a favorite section of the longer Pine Mountain Trail. For a touch of history, drive to Dowdell’s Knob to see a lifesize bronze sculpture of President F.D. Roosevelt and views of the forested valley. Ga. Hwy. 190 is a pretty driving route. Fort Mountain State Park – Chatsworth This park is best known for a mysterious rock wall along the mountain top, plus a variety of trails. For the easiest walk, take the 1.2-mile loop around the park’s green Continued on Page 22
A new life awaits in Asheville
Black Rock Mountain State Park – Clayton At an altitude of 3,640 feet, Black Rock Mountain is Georgia’s highest state park. (Brasstown Bald is the state’s highest peak.) Roadside overlooks and the summit Visitor Center offer sweeping views of the Blue Ridge Mountains. The 2.2-mile Tennessee Rock Trail is a good choice for a short, moderate hike. For an all-day challenge, take the 7.2-mile James E. Edmonds Backcountry Trail. Cloudland Canyon State Park – Rising Fawn One of Georgia’s most beautiful parks offers easy-to-reach rim overlooks and challenging trails. A favorite hike takes you down a staircase to the bottom of the canyon, where you’ll find two waterfalls. (Remember, you have to hike back up, but it’s worth it.) The 5-mile West Rim Loop is moderately difficult and offers great views of the canyon. BK
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lake. For a challenging, all-day hike, choose the 8-mile Gahuti Trail. Mountain bikers have more than 14 miles to explore. Hwy. 52 has beautiful mountain scenery and overlooks worth stopping to see. Moccasin Creek State Park – Lake Burton Georgia’s smallest state park sits on the shore of a gorgeous deep-green lake. Guests can choose from the 2-mile Hemlock Falls Trail or 1-mile Non-Game Trail with a wildlife observation tower. Hwy. 197 is a particularly pretty road, passing Mark of the Potter and other popular attractions. Smithgall Woods State Park – Helen Protecting more than 6,000 acres around Dukes Creek, this is the perfect spot for fly fishing while enjoying fall color. Day visitors can picnic near the creek, and overnight guests can hike a private trail to Dukes Creek Falls. A 1.6-mile loop climbs to Laurel Ridge and provides a view of Mt. Yonah once most leaves are off the trees. Smithgall Woods has some of the park system’s most sought-after cabins and is near wineries and Helen’s Oktoberfest. Tallulah Gorge State Park – Near Clayton Tallulah Gorge is one of the most spectacular canyons in the Southeast, and you can choose from easy or difficult trails. Hike along the rim to several overlooks with waterfall views, but hikes to the bottom of the gorge and climbing permits were still not being offered at press time. Unicoi State Park & Lodge – Helen Ziplines take you high above the forest canopy for a unique view of leaves. If you’re up for a steep hike, take the 4.8mile Smith Creek Trail up to Anna Ruby Falls. Unicoi offers a lodge and restau-
rant. Vogel State Park – Blairsville The 4-mile Bear Hair Gap Trail makes a nice day trip for experienced hikers, offering a birds-eye view of the park’s lake. For an easier walk, follow the Lake Loop to a small waterfall below the dam. The twisting roads around Vogel, particularly Wolf Pen Gap Road, offer some of north Georgia’s prettiest fall scenery. NORTH CAROLINA Cashiers Valley Leaf Festival At press time, the annual Cashiers Valley Leaf Festival at Village Green in downtown Cashiers was still on for Oct. 9-11. Artisans, food, entertainment and more are staples of the event, which will be happening just as the leaves are at their peak in western North Carolina. Visit Cahsiers411.com for more information. HIGHLANDS While most of the events planned for the fall (including the annual Highlands Food and Wine Festival) have been cancelled, Highlands still offers great shopping, dining, and the chance to explore the scenic surroundings. According to the experts, the second week of October will be peak color for the leaves. Visit highlandschamber.org for more information. ASHEVILLE There’s always something to do in Asheville, and while the pandemic has cancelled many annual events in and around the city, you can still enjoy dining, shops, visit the Biltmore Estate, take a ride on the Great Smoky Mountain Railroad, or have a drink at one of the breweries or distilleries. The leaves will be at their peak in Asheville during the fourth week of October. Visit romanticasheville.com for more.
Equal Housing Opportunity | Christopher Burell, Principal Broker and Chief Motivation Officer | All information believed accurate but not guaranteed. If you have an existing relationship with a Broker, this is not intended as a solicitation. BK
Special Section | 23
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OCTOBER 2020 ■ www.ReporterNewspapers.net
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Special Section | 25
THE PRESERVE AT
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Bringing Families Together
GlenCove community takes multigenerational approach to homes, amenities
BY COLLIN KELLEY The centerpiece of the GlenCove development near Cashiers, NC is 12-hole par-three golf course designed by Beau Welling, but the links are just a taster of what this new community has to offer for the entire family. The 160-acre development from Old Edwards Hospitality Group is embracing a “multigenerational” approach to its amenities and residences. Comprised of 33 cottages and 17 estate lots, GlenCove truly does have something for all ages to enjoy. According to operations director Jerry West, 21 of the cottages and four of the fiveacre estate lots were already sold by late September. Prices range from $1.3 to $2.3 for the cottages, which come in three different styles, and the estate lots are selling for between $500,000 and $900,000. “Our first residents moved into their homes in September and we’re expecting six more to move in by the end of the year,” West said. Once families settle in, they will find that there are activities for three generations to enjoy – at the same time or separately. Strengthening familial bonds and bringing families together is a prime directive of GlenCove. West said the golf course, called The Saddle, was designed by Welling with all ages and skill levels in mind. “We wanted to make the course fun and inclusive, so everyone can enjoy it.” Another big feature of GlenCove is an internal hiking trail system that runs for six miles – from flat areas around the lake to “severely strenuous” in the mountains on the property. Those who enjoy gardening and farming, will be drawn to the three-acre organic farm, which will have a CSA program available for growers to sell their produce. Kids will have plenty to keep them entertained year-round, including an event lawn for games of kickball, soccer, croquet or foursquare. The Entertainment Barn has a bowling alley, pool tables, ping-pong tables, video arcade, carnival games, a large dining room and kitchen, and the golf lounge and shop. Back outside there are two pickleball courts, hard surface courts for basketball, bocce ball area, a playground, four lane lap pool, and a splash pad. Those enjoying the outdoor amenities can enjoy food from onsite food trucks and dine under a pavilion adjacent to the pool area. Copper Lake is stocked with fish, plus there’s a beach area and a boat house where paddle boats are available. West said a wellness and fitness center is under construction and will include state-ofthe-art equipment, yoga and meditation areas, and more. For more information, visit glencovelifestyle.com.
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OCTOBER 2020 â&#x2013; www.ReporterNewspapers.net
RESIDENTIAL CONSTRUCTION ACTIVITY New amenities under construction $11+ million - combined value of homes completed $8+ million - combined value of new homes, currently under construction $15+ million - value of new homes scheduled to break ground H O M E S I T E S R E - S A L E
F R O M
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F R O M
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Nominated for Golf Digests "America's Best New Golf Course" 2020
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A Weekend in Asheville
The funky, walkable, artsy city is an easy drive from Atlanta BY SALLY BETHEA Asheville is the sort of place that you never tire of visiting—at least I never do. No matter your age, interests or style, there is always something cool and new to do in this funky, walkable, artsy, good-eating, brewery-rich, city—just a 3.5-hour drive north of Atlanta. The cool mountain air is an added bonus. On a recent visit, we appreciated the COVID-19 protocols, including the statewide requirement that masks be worn at all inside public places and outdoors where social distancing isn’t possible; the restrictions minimally affected our favorite activities. The Battery Park Book Exchange and Champagne Bar, located in The Grove Arcade, is always one of our first destinations—after checking in to a B&B or Airbnb within walking distance of downtown. Used books (in excellent condition, including first editions), fine wine or beer, and bistro-style bites are available in the comfortable space. On the dogfriendly patio, you can order larger meals. Information: batteryparkbookexchange.com. Second only to Portland, Maine—on the breweries-per-capita list—Asheville is considered one of the fifteen best beer cities in the world. The city’s walkability makes brewery touring easier and safer. Our favorite is The Green Man Brewery, located in the South Slope District near interesting art galleries and restaurants; it’s one of several dozen breweries with socially-distanced, outdoor seating. An IPA-lover, my draft pick is always the Wayfarer. Information: greenmanbrewery.com. If the weather is nice, head to the Blue Ridge Parkway, a popular unit of the national park system; the BRP’s visitor center is just a 12-minute drive from downtown Asheville (Milepost 384). From there, it’s a half an hour drive to a 360-degree mountain view at Craggy Pinnacle (Milepost 364). The 1.4-mile, round-trip hike to the top of the 5,892’ peak can
be crowded, so try to go early. Additional hiking opportunities are available on nearby Craggy Gardens Trail with its mile-high bald and panoramic views. Sections of the Parkway typically close in the winter. Information: nps.gov/blri/indx.htm. ►Locally known as Foodtopia, Asheville has more than 100 full-service restaurants in a five-square-mile area. Jettie Rae’s Oyster House, a sustainable seafood restaurant with tented, outdoor seating, is just a five-minute walk from the North Asheville B&B where we stayed and we’ll definitely be back. My Jumbo Lump Crab Louie Salad was delicious and my companion thoroughly enjoyed his Oyster Po Boy. Information: jettieraes.com. On our way out of town, we visited the 434-acre North Carolina Arboretum on the Blue Ridge Parkway to walk the forested hiking (and biking) trails along Bent Creek, a tributary to the French Broad River, and tour the cultivated gardens and extraordinary bonsai exhibit. An unexpected surprise was the Nature Connects®: Art with Lego Bricks traveling exhibit, featuring larger-thanlife-size sculptures, which runs through Nov. 1. Information: ncarboretum.org.
GGllee n Coovvee n C by Edwards by Old Old Edwards
A New Way of Life is emerging on the Plateau.
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Call 828.393.0328 to reserve your lot today. HighlandsCoveRealty.com | GlenCoveLifestyle.com BK
OCTOBER 2020 â&#x2013; www.ReporterNewspapers.net
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30 | Public Safety
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Police arrest statistics lacked ‘Hispanic’ category for years, merged data with ‘White’ BY ERIN SCHILLING firstname.lastname@example.org
In the wake of nationwide protests about racism and police brutality, the Brookhaven Police Department created a “Transparency Project” campaign that included publicizing arrest and use-of-force statistics by race. But the arrest statistics gave an unclear picture because BPD only reported Hispanic arrestees as White, a choice the department made despite the city’s large Hispanic population. BPD this year requires officers to record whether a person is “Hispanic” or “non-Hispanic” in arrests, which shows that Hispanic people are overrepresented in arrests compared to the city’s population. BPD’s explanation for the lack of the ethnicity category until this year was that state reporting guidelines didn’t have it, either, though local departments have always had the option to report ethnicity. Brookhaven covers part of the famous Buford Highway immigrant corridor, home to a large Hispanic popu-
lation as well as the BPD headquarters. Experts say that such variations in reporting are a common problem in arrest and use-of-force statistics. BPD has arrested 1,706 people in 2020 as of Sept. 30, according to data provided through an open records request. A majority of the White arrestees identified as Hispanic. Of the 986 White people arrested in 2020 as of Sept. 30, 63% identified as Hispanic and 32% did not, according to police data. For 2019 and earlier years, BPD only recorded race. Of the 3,066 arrests in 2019, about 61% of people arrested were White, 38% Black and 1% other, according to BPD’s “Transparency Project” report. That data does not give any information about arrests of Hispanic people, though Hispanic people make up 23% of the city’s population, according to U.S. Census estimates for 2019. White people are about 58% of the population, Black 10%, Asian 6% and other 6%. Hispanic people made up 37% of total arrests in 2020 as of Sept. 30.
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In the arrest data from 2019 and earlier, spokesperson Lt. David Snively said, Hispanic people are considered “White.” But officers record race by their perception of a person’s skin color, Snively said, and do not ask a person their race. Officers are now required to ask a person if they identify as Hispanic. Hispanic is defined as “a person of Cuban, Mexican, Puerto Rico, South or Central American, or other Spanish culture regardless of race,” Snively said. When BPD transitioned to an updated crime-reporting system at the end of last year, it started keeping track of ethnicity as well, according to Snively. “We decided to enforce ethnicity as a required field for our officers to include because we recognized that it would improve the quality of our reporting through increased precision of the data,” Snively said.
Inconsistent record keeping
The department has a different demographic breakdown for its use of force reports from 2019 and earlier, which does include a “Hispanic” category. The use-of-force reports are created by the department without using state or national guidelines, Snively said, which is why it has included an ethnic breakdown for at least the last four years. Of the 2019 arrests, officers used force in 251 incidents, according to the “Transparency Project” report. About 19% of incidents involved White people, 35% Hispanic, 44% Black, 1% Asian and 2% other, according to the report. The different categories make it difficult to compare the arrest and use-offorce reports and analyze trends of possible racial or ethnic bias. Snively said any racial or ethnic bias in use-of-force incidents are analyzed on a case-by-case basis, and only looking at the data does not show the circumstances of each use-of-force incident. “People who do not resist lawful arrest or offer violence towards police officers are least likely to have force presented or used against them, irrespective of their race or ethnicity,” Snively said. Inconsistent data-keeping is common in and across police departments, said Josh Hinkle, a criminology professor at Georgia State University. “From my research work, what I can say is that race and ethnicity is very often recorded by police departments and other agencies in ways that make it dif-
ficult to disentangle in analyses,” Hinkle said. “Ideally, they would be captured through separate measures.” Starting this year, ethnicity and race are in separate reports, Snively said. Ethnicity will have the categories “Hispanic” and “non-Hispanic,” and race will be reported as “Black, White, Asian, Indian and other.”
State crime-reporting guidelines
BPD did not have a reason why officers were not required to record a person’s ethnicity before 2020 other than the state crime-reporting guidelines. Local departments submit crime statistics to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, which then gives them to the FBI with the idea that researchers, law enforcement officers and members of the media would have consistent data to compare across departments. The FBI and state agencies are transitioning to a new crime-reporting system called the National Incident-Based Reporting System, which has guidelines on how to submit crime reports. Georgia transitioned to that system in October 2019, said Crystal Lockhart, a crime analyst with the GBI. Neither the NIBRS nor the former crime-reporting system requires ethnicity to be recorded, Lockhart said, but it has always been an optional field. Age, sex and race are required. Snively said the BPD changed to the NIBRS at the end of 2019. The transition to the new reporting system caused the department to start recording ethnicity, despite it not being a national requirement. “We did proactively and progressively recognize that ethnicity was an optional data element and voluntarily decided to mandate the collection of that data by our officers,” Snively said. “I expect this will distinguish us from many other agencies around the country to provide the most robots and informative description of our police-citizen encounters.” The federal Office of Management and Budget, which oversees federal agencies and administers the budget, creates the guidelines used to classify race and ethnicity. The OMB has five minimum categories for race — American Indian or Alaska Native; Asian; Black; Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander; and White. The minimum categories for ethnicity are “Hispanic or Latino” and “not Hispanic or Latino.”
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