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OCTOBER 12 - 25, 2018 • VOL. 10 — NO. 21


Brookhaven Reporter



► Sexism is a problem in politics, elected officials say PAGE 6 ► Anatomy Fashion Show lends hearts and hands to charity PAGE 8

A new place to play

Pages 14-15

Parks bond heads to Nov. 6 ballot with support, skepticism BY DYANA BAGBY dyanabagby@reporternewspapers.net

An organized effort to urge potential voters to approve a $42 million parks bond referendum is ramping up as the Nov. 6 election nears, but a swell of opposition is also forming. A “Yes for Brookhaven Parks Bond” group formed several weeks ago. It is headed up by former Mayor Rebecca Chase WilSee PARKS on page 23 DYANA BAGBY

Among those cutting the ribbon on the city’s new $3 million Skyland Park Sept. 29 were Mayor John Ernst, with scissors; City Councilmember Linley Jones to his left; state Rep. Scott Holcomb in the back; and City Councilmember Bates Mattison at far right. Located at 2600 Skyland Drive, the new park features amenities not found in any of the city’s other parks, including solar-powered charging stations for electronic devices, sand volleyball courts, a playground that blends in with the natural setting and contemporary restroom structures.

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Definitely. With stakes this high, I wouldn’t miss it. A 37-year-old voter

Are you more likely to vote in the November election than in past elections?

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TH 14 !


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City grapples with electric scooters, bikes BY DYANA BAGBY dyanabagby@reporternewspapers.net

City leaders are being forced to find ways to regulate “dockless” rental electric scooters and bikes that have started appearing on local streets and are raising safety concerns from City Council members. Where people are parking the scooters is rapidly becoming a serious issue in the city. There are currently no permits for dockless bikes or scooters in the city. A draft ordinance on dockless bikes and scooters is slated to be discussed at Nov. 13 work session. Meanwhile, the city is imSee CITY on page 10



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INTER SECTI O N WO R K C O M ING T O ASHFO R D -D U NWO O DY /W ES T NA NC Y C R EEK Work will begin in November on adding turn lanes and making traffic signal improvements at the busy intersection of Ashford-Dunwoody Road and West Nancy Creek Drive. The City Council last month approved a $250,000 contract with CME LLC to install new left-turn lanes on West Nancy Creek Drive in the eastbound and westbound directions. Other improvements include upgraded traffic signals with left-turn arrows in every direction of traffic. This is the first major intersection project that was approved by the council in 2017 as part of the Ashford-Dunwoody CorriGOOGLE EARTH dor Study folWork is slated to start in early November to add turn lanes on West lowing public Nancy Creek Drive at the Ashford-Dunwoody Road intersection. input. The additions are expected to alleviate the severe congestion that occurs at the intersection. The project will only use the city’s existing right of way, according to city officials. There are some landscaping bushes and trees in the right of way at 3900 Ashford-Dunwoody Road that will be removed, Public Works Director Hari Karikaran said. Some of the existing sidewalks at the intersection will also be torn up as part of the work, but will be replaced with five-foot-wide sidewalks, he added. Karikaran said the construction schedule for the project was extended to 90 days to try to avoid congestion and backups during peak travel times. Crews will not be able to work between 7 a.m. and 9 a.m. or between 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. and crews will only work one lane at a time, he said. Workers with be on site to help direct traffic during construction.


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The Brookhaven Planning Commission has recommended to the City Council that an affordable housing mandate, known as inclusionary zoning, be included citywide and not just in the proposed Buford Highway Overlay District. The City Council will consider the zoning rewrite Oct. 23. The current draft of the zoning rewrite mandates 10 percent of multi-unit developments in the Buford Highway Overlay be affordable. Chair Stan Segal and the commission recommended the affordable housing mandate also be included in areas such as the Peachtree Road and Ashford-Dunwoody Road. The recommendation is not in the form of an actual text change in the zoning rewrite, Segal explained. Rather, commissioners are urging the council to take up the affordable housing mandate as a policy decision that warrants more discussion. “If the council agrees to this broader inclusionary zoning, the consultant and the legal staff will have to develop the text. It was not advisable to develop this wide-ranging text without the legal and consulting expertise,” Segal said. The affordable housing mandate, called workforce housing in the zoning rewrite, calls for 10 percent of new multi-unit developments to be affordable. Affordable is defined as making no more than 80 percent of the median household income for metro Atlanta and using federal Housing and Urban Development income tables. Currently that median income per household is about $42,000 for one person or $60,000 for a four-person household. At 80 percent area median income that means an efficiency apartment should cost no more than about $1,000 a month and a two-bedroom apartment should cost no more than about $1,300, according to HUD figures. Affordable housing advocates say that the average median income for those now living around Buford Highway is closer to $24,000, according to Census figures. BK

OCTOBER 12 - 25, 2018

Community | 3


C IT Y PROP OSES $ 47. 5M 2019 B U D G ET

The mayor and City Council got their first public look Oct. 9 at the city’s proposed 2019 budget, totaling $47.5 million. Last year’s budget was approved at $40.7 million. General fund revenues that cover day-to-day operations of the city total $27.7 million, City Manager Christian Sigman explained. Other revenue sources include an estimated $3.6 million in hotel-motel taxes, more than $3 million in federal and state grants and new this year is an estimated $7.26 million in special local option sales tax. No funding is included in the proposed budget for any parks master plans projects, Sigman said. Last year’s approval of the DeKalb County SPLOST eliminated the city’s homestead option sale tax which was the primary funding source for major parks projects, he said. The City Council in July approved $40 million in parks master plan projects to be put on a parks bond referendum. The parks bond is on the Nov. 6 ballot. If approved by voters, the parks bond would cover the cost of about half of the city’s parks master plans and debt would be paid off over 30 years.


A pedestrian crossing Buford Highway was recently killed after being struck by a vehicle, according to Brookhaven Police and Georgia State Patrol reports. The incident occurred Sept. 14 at nearly 8 p.m. in the 3400 block of Buford Highway in Brookhaven and near the Papa John’s Pizza restaurant. The victim, Francisco Panameno, 36, of Duluth, was struck by a Marietta woman driving a silver Lexus. He died while being transported by ambulance to Grady Hospital, according to a Brookhaven Police report. Buford Highway is a state road and accidents and other incidents including pedestrian fatalities are investigated by the Georgia State Patrol. No charges were filed against the motorist, according to GSP. Witnesses told GSP officers that Panameno “darted” and was “running” east across Buford Highway and into the path of the woman driving the Lexus, according to police report. The driver said she did not have time to react to Panameno and struck him with the front of her car. She denied using any electronic devices or being otherwise distracted, according to the GSP report. GSP notes in its report that a nearby crosswalk controlled by a pedestrian signal was in working order. The report notes state law mandates pedestrians yield to vehicles when walking across a road and that pedestrians are required to use crosswalks. The speed of the motorist is not included in the report. The speed limit on Buford Highway is 45 miles per hour.

The Education Senator. Bipartisan Support

Senator Fran Millar

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8 Authored no significant legislation her 4 Got us out of Cynthia McKinney’s six years in the majority. What success Congressional District. can she possibly have in the minority? 4 Led effort to save DeKalb school 8 Voted to rename Memorial Drive to accreditation. This benefited students “Cynthia McKinney Parkway.” and preserved property values. 8 Endorsed by Congressman Hank Johnson – one of his more infamous 4 Authored property tax cut and quotes – “The nation of Israel is like freeze in DeKalb and capped values a bunch of termites.” for school taxes in Fulton. 4 Killed Marta Tax increase and police 8 Believes tax cuts are a “scam.” pension charges in DeKalb where we 8 “Will fight for a single payer have our own city police. (government run) healthcare.”

“Today, more than ever, DeKalb needs the continued experienced collaborative leadership provided by Senator Fran Millar.” -- LIANE LEVETAN, FORMER DEKALB COUNTY CEO

“The $600 million transportation, police, and fire safety improvements and property tax relief would not have happened without Senator Millar. Bipartisanship is essential for our continued success in DeKalb County.” -- MIKE THURMOND, CEO OF DEKALB COUNTY

“I have known Fran almost 40 years and his help was invaluable to our community in the development and construction of the Berman Commons assisted living facility and the sidewalks on Tilly Mill Road for synagogue attendance and the community center.” -- JOE RUBIN, RETIRED


4 | Community

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Phil Kent, left, and Tharon Johnson, right, debate issues and governor race predictions at the Sandy Springs Perimeter Chamber luncheon on Oct. 9.

BY EVELYN ANDREWS evelyn@reporternewspapers.net

Two hosts of Fox 5 TV’s weekly political talk show “The Georgia Gang” predicted moderate and women voters to be key to winning the race for governor during an Oct. 9 Sandy Springs event. Hosts Tharon Johnson and Phil Kent also discussed key issues, including transportation and crime, and made predictions for the next legislative session. Johnson is a Democratic consultant who has advised U.S. Rep. John Lewis, former Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed and President Barack Obama’s re-election campaign. Kent is a Republican who publishes the InsiderAdvantage and JAMES political magazines. They spoke at a Sandy Springs Perimeter Chamber of Commerce luncheon. Both said the candidate of their party, Democrat Stacey Abrams and Republican Brian Kemp, will need to capture the independents and moderates that may be swayed by national factors such as President Donald Trump and the recent U.S. Su-

preme Court confirmation hearings. If Abrams can rally her base while also capturing moderate and women votes, she has a strong shot at defeating Kemp in the Nov. 6 election, Johnson said. “I’m very optimistic. I think Stacey Abrams has the money, she has the message and she has the grassroots campaign strategy to really make this race very competitive,” Johnson said. Her move to more moderate positions will help her get those votes, Johnson said. “She’s definitely fired up,” Johnson said. “She made, I think, a very smart pivot towards the middle, to be more moderate in her message without running away from her true progressive beliefs.” Kent agreed moderates are key in this election and said both Republican and Democrat bases are “energized.” “The Republican base right now is especially energized after witnessing the leftwing mob rule and character assassination in the U.S. Senate,” Kent said, referring to the hearings to confirm Brett Kavanaugh as a U.S. Supreme Court justice.

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“Here in Georgia, I think there is a unique opportunity for Brian Kemp to reach out to those moderates and independents just like Stacey Abrams is trying to do,” Kent said. Johnson believes women voters will be key and their opinions of Trump may swing their vote toward Democratic. “I truly believe, as we sit here in Sandy Springs, there are a lot of college-educated, suburban, white, Republican women that I think are really taking a second and third look at the Abrams candidacy,” he said. If Kemp is able to keep those voters and consolidate his base, he will “probably become governor,” Johnson said. And Georgia’s long history of Republican dominance puts Abrams in a position to easily lose the race with any mistakes, he said. “She has to run a very perfect campaign because Brian Kemp, being a Republican in the red state of Georgia, is in the driver’s seat,” Johnson said.

Key issues

Community | 5


The two agreed that transportation, criminal justice reform and healthcare are the three key issues in the governor race. Kent added that crime, especially gang violence, is playing a big role, saying it has been correctly described as a “crisis.” “I don’t care if you’re a suburban housewife or someone in rural Georgia, the gang problem is out of control,” he said. “The problem is liberal, permissive judges that keep putting people back on the streets.”

Kent said he and Johnson often agree on transportation topics, including the state’s recent approval of a new authority overseeing all metro Atlanta transit called “The ATL.” Kent encouraged the use of more public-private partnerships that get more private sector funding poured into transit and transportation infrastructure. He said “managed lanes,” which charge drivers demand-based prices and are planned for the Ga. 400/I-285 interchange, are “the wave of the future.” Johnson said the push to expand MARTA farther north, past its current end at the North Springs station in Sandy Springs, should continue. Doing that will include clearing the hurdle of the racist opinions about the service, Johnson said. “One thing I’ll say as an African-American male, sitting in a room of a predominately white crowd, is that we’ve got to get over this whole connotation around crime and race when it comes to MARTA,” he said. He said Sandy Springs has been a bright spot in the push for expanding transit and that Mayor Rusty Paul and the City Council deserve credit for taking “bold” steps. In the upcoming legislative session, Kent predicted more transportation measures to be introduced, in addition to the return of “religious liberty” bills, healthcare reform and more efforts to assist rural Georgia. Johnson agreed and said he also expects medical marijuana and gambling legalization measures to return.


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Sexism is a problem in politics that should be confronted and changed, some local elected officials and former candidates said at a forum held by The Galloway School. One of the attendees, recently elected state Sen. Jen Jordan, said she did not expect sexism to be so prevaSPECIAL lent in the General AssemState Sen. Jen Jordan speaks at the Oct. 1 “All Politics bly. is Local” forum conducted by The Galloway School. “One of the things that surprised me about the state Senate is that it’s really like 1950 there,” she said in a video recording of the forum posted by the school. The Oct. 1 “All Politics is Local” forum featured elected officials who are alumni of Galloway or parents of current or former students, according to the school. Participants included Jordan; Peter Aman, a former Atlanta mayoral candidate and a Buckhead resident; Sandy Springs City Councilmember Andy Bauman; Brookhaven Mayor John Ernst; Atlanta City Councilmember Amir Farokhi; Fulton County Commissioner Lee Morris; and Shea Roberts, a candidate for the local state House District 52 seat. The moderator was Michelle Maziar, the director of the Atlanta Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs. SPECIAL Shea Roberts, a candidate Jordan, a Democrat who reprefor House District 52. sents parts of Buckhead and Sandy Springs, said she was surprised by the “advice” she was given by a committee chair. She said he repeatedly called her into his office and told she needed to “smile more” and should bring her children in so people “could relate to [her] better.” He asked why she got “so agitated,” Jordan said. “Every time, I kept thinking to myself, ‘Am I getting “Punk’d”?,’ ” SPECIAL she said, referring to a prank TV Brookhaven Mayor John Ernst. show. When asked by Maziar what advice she had for men, Jordan said to not perpetuate gender stereotypes and that it is as simple as treating women equally. “If you’re a leader in a community people are watching how you treat young girls, how you treat women,” she said. “It does matter.” Bauman, the Sandy Springs councilmember, said that he would like to see more women run for office because they can bring a different perspective and may be more willing to work across the aisle. “I talk to people, both Republican and Democrats, where I say, ‘I think we would all be better off if, frankly, we did nothing but elect women for the next couple of elections,’ ” he said. Morris, the Fulton commissioner, said, “We certainly need more women in government and all that is changing for the good.” When asked by Mayor Ernst if Jordan thought younger generations were less

OCTOBER 12 - 25, 2018

Community | 7


likely to make sexist comments, she said the committee chair referenced in her story was in his 40s. “It’s not generational, and by God I wish it were, but that’s why it’s so important that we keep pushing,” she said. Roberts, a Democrat who is running for the House District 52 seat SPECIAL against Republican incumbent Rep. Deborah Silcox, said women need Fulton County Commissioner Lee Morris. more voices in the General Assembly and to vocally oppose sexist statement. “We just have to call them out when we hear them and change the impression of what women can and should be doing,” she said. Jordan said the hearings on the sexual assault accusations against Brett Kavanaugh, who was later confirmed as a U.S. Supreme Court SPECIAL justice, make it even more imporSandy Springs City Councilmember Andy Bauman. tant to listen to women. “Especially after last week, it may be particularly important to make sure women feel like they are being heard,” she said. The forum also included discussion on such topics as affordable housing, police, election security and transit. To watch the video, visit youtube.com/user/GallowaySchool.

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Anatomy Fashion Show lends hearts and hands to charity

BY JUDITH SCHONBAK The house was packed, the music of DJ Khaled’s “No Brainer” with Justin Bieber, Chance the Rapper and Quavo blared from the speakers, and the models strutted their stuff down the run-

way, decked out in original designs depicting bones, muscles and organs. This was not your mother’s fashion show. It was the third annual Anatomy Fashion Show held Sept. 28 by Phi Delta Epsilon, the pre-med professional fraternity at Brookhaven’s Oglethorpe

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Left, striking poses as the skeletal system are Denae Douglas-Ocasio, left, and Natalia Pierre-Paul. Above, Ally Benisek walks the runway in an outfit depicting the lungs and other parts of the respiratory system.

University. And those original designs? They were the systems and organs of the human body. The event was a fundraiser for Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, a member of the national Children’s Miracle Network. The show got its start at OU in 2016 with a committee of three, including PDE president Benjamin Hopper, who presented the welcoming speech for this year’s show. In an interview, he said that, inspired by seeing other chapters’ renditions of the Anatomy Fashion Show, “We thought it would be something that the community on our campus would appreciate and vibe with well.” He added that it has caught on so well that it is now a signature event, hosted annually during OU’s Family Weekend. Students, two at a time, modeled — front and back — various systems and organs of the human body, 11 in all. Art-

fully and realistically done, the designs were painted on leotards and, in some cases, the skin of the models by more than 20 students in Oglethorpe’s art department. The more complex systems, such as the skeletal, muscular and circulatory, took as many as 18 to 20 hours to paint, while the more compact systems, such as the digestive and reproductive, took two hours or fewer. An enthusiastic audience of more than 200 gathered in the Turner Lynch Student Center, which had been transformed into a fashion show venue. The audience included students, especially from the social and professional Greek groups, parents and relatives visiting for OU’s Family Weekend, OU alums, Phi Delta Epsilon alums and medical personnel from Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, Emory Hospital, Shepherd Center and other medical centers in metro Atlanta.

Making a Difference | 9


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a mix of the two as a hospital educator. At 21, she has aged out of Children’s, and is receiving therapy at Buckhead’s Shepherd Center, where she is on the adaptive ski team and sometimes volunteers to talk with patients. Since CMN’s founding in 1983, the network has raised more than $5 billion, most of it $1 at a time through the charity’s Miracle Balloon icon campaigns. Funds raised within the community remain with the local member. Throughout the evening, a donation jar was passed around. The goal of the fundraiser was to top the 2017 total of $1,500. With donations coming in after the event, the sum reached $1,700, said Benjamin Hopper. A hot competition percolated among the Greek societies to see which one could raise the most money for Children’s that night. In wrapping up the evening Hopper announced the winners of the Anatomy Fashion Show: Ms. Body – Ariana Jimenez, Alpha Phi Omega, Circulatory System; Mr. Body – Tyler Stridiron, Alpha Phi Alpha, Digestive System; and Best Artist – Chrysta Avers, Digestive System. He ended with the news of the group that raised the top funds, Alpha Phi Omega with $135.

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A large screen at the head of the runway flashed detailed pictures of each body system and organs as students modeled them. The students had the runway moves down and virtually all the pairs had choreographed their performance, much to the appreciation of the audience. First to take the runway was the duo depicting the skeletal system, followed by models showcasing the muscular, nervous, circulatory and endocrine systems, each a complex, full-body, and often, colorful, work of art. After an intermission came the respiratory, lymphatic, digestive, excretory and reproductive systems, and the last was pregnancy. During intermission, the college’s Khayos dance troupe performed, most of them sporting a painted body part. The intermission speaker, Amelia Holley, 21, shared her story about her lifetime of medical care at CHOA, her “second family,” she said. Born with hydrocephalus, a build-up of cerebrospinal fluid on the brain, she has endured 41 surgeries in her young life. Holley is now an English major at Oglethorpe and expects to graduate in 2021. Her goal is to be a child life specialist, a high school English teacher, or

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City grapples with electric scooters, bikes Continued from page 1 pounding scooters that are left in the public right of way. The scooters and bikes — most prominently owned by companies Bird and Lime — are rented most commonly using a smartphone app. They can then be parked at any location rather than at a fixed site and are usually only available for use during daytime hours. Using a tracking device, company workers can earn a fee by finding the scooters, charging them up at night, and putting them back on the streets the next day. “Parking is the biggest issue,” city planner Allison Stocklin told the City Council at a recent work session where dockless bikes and scooters were discussed. Code enforcement officers in recent weeks have impounded more than a dozen Bird scooters parked in the middle of sidewalks and in the city right of way. Several were picked up on Redding Road near Caldwell Road close to Ashford Park and many scooters are also being picked up by code enforcement at and near Briarwood Park. Parking the scooters in the middle of sidewalks impedes pedestrian access, especially for those using wheelchairs or with strollers, Stocklin said. A Bird spokesperson said the company is addressing some of the issues. “Bird is committed to working with the cities in which we operate to educate riders about safe riding and parking practices to protect the public right of way,” the company said in a written statement. “To help address parking concerns, we require all riders to take a photo whenever they park their Bird at the end of a ride. This will prompt our users to think of others when parking and create a log of every rider’s parking history to help ensure that rules can be appropriately enforced.” Stocklin said Brookhaven was in an advantageous position because many other cities are already finding ways to regulate the scooters and bikes, including Atlanta, al-


City code enforcement officers have recently impounded numerous “dockless” Bird electric scooters that were found parked in the middle of sidewalks and impeding pedestrian access.

WEEK 2018


OCTOBER 12 - 25, 2018

Community | 11


Sandy Springs 5975 Roswell Road, Suite A-103 Sandy Springs, GA 30328 (404) 236-2114 NothingBundtCakes.com 10/31/18

FALL WEATHER IS HERE! lowing the city to “pick and choose” best practices. Some options to regulate where the scooters are parked include geofencing that uses GPS or cellular technology to essentially create a “virtual” boundary. An alert or notification is sent to a user when they enter the boundary. The city can also prohibit the scooters and bikes in certain areas, she said, noting that Atlanta has banned parking the scooters at Piedmont Park. Another possibility is to permit only a certain number of scooters in the city, Stocklin said. Councilmember Linley Jones said her law office in Buckhead is at “ground zero” where she regularly sees people on scooters zooming on sidewalks and between cars in heavy traffic on Lenox and Peachtree roads. Daily accidents are common, she said, and the new scooter phenomenon is “worrisome,” she said. “As a personal injury lawyer, they are really dangerous,” she said. The scooters top out at 15 miles per hour and typically cost $1 to unlock and about 15 cents to ride per minute. “The biggest concern for the community and citizens is just their interaction with cars; they can be tricky for drivers not used to seeing small scooters. And the number one issue is where they’re going to get left. That will be our challenge as policy makers,” she said. The scooters provide a transportation alternative, especially for people seeking “last mile” connectivity from public transportation to their job or school, Councilmember Bates Mattison said. And as Brookhaven and metro Atlanta battle with traffic congestion, these kinds of alternatives are crucial in getting cars off the roads, he said. Data shows in DeKalb County, more than 70 percent of workers drive alone to work while less than 10 percent use public transportation, Stocklin said. She said that 7,500 scooters can pass through a single 10-foot-wide lane, about the average size of a street lane, in one hour while only 600 to 1,000 cars can do the same. Riding bicycles on sidewalks is prohibited by state law, but how that applies to scooters is still up in the air. Building safe infrastructure is crucial to making the scooters and bikes a viable mode of transportation for people seeking to get out of their cars, Mattison said.

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12 | Community

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An intergovernmental agreement between DeKalb County and the city to post three ambulances at a shuttered gas station on Buford Highway has been delayed as the city works to close on the land purchase. The IGA was expected to be approved by the DeKalb Board of Commissioners last month, but the city is still working to finalize the purchase of a former QuikTrip property at 3292 Buford Highway. The City Council approved buying the vacant gas station and convenience store for $1.7 million in May. The posting of ambulances on Buford Highway is part of a collaborative effort between the city and the county to speed up ambulance response times in north DeKalb. Currently, there are no ambulances stationed in Brookhaven. City Manager Christian Sigman said the city will front the $170,000 needed to build out the QuikTrip building to be used by AMR or another ambulance service provider. The county would pay back the money through a lease agreement for the property through a future IGA. Plans were originally to have the new ambulance station up and running by the end of the year. That date is now uncertain because of the time it is taking the city to finalize the real estate purchase. “It remains a goal but not a guarantee,” spokesperson Burke Brennan said. DeKalb and its contracted ambulance service provider, American Medical Response, are under fire from the city of Dunwoody for slow response times. In May, Dunwoody declared an EMS emergency to the Region 3 EMS Council

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Community | 13


announced at last month’s subcommittee meeting the city was going to work with DeKalb Fire Rescue officials to find ways to speed up ambulance response times in north DeKalb. At an Oct. 4 meeting of a state subcommittee tasked with reviewing DeKalb EMS service and ambulance response times, members said it was apparent AMR was struggling to meet standard national response times of under nine minutes for 90 percent of calls as mandated in its contract with DeKalb County. “There is a problem in DeKalb,” said Clayton Deputy Fire Chief Richard Elliott, chair of the subcommittee. “If not, we would not be to the point where we are today.” Dunwoody’s mayor and City Council have complained over the past several years of slow response times in the city, sometimes up to 45 minutes and longer. The concerns were initially raised by res-

idents who told council members of bad experiences. The Dunwoody elected officials in turn requested AMR representatives and county officials to attend council meetings in 2016 and 2017 to address their concerns. In Brookhaven, though, there has not been an outcry from residents concerned about slow ambulance response times. The mayor and City Council have not discussed the issue in public meetings. Instead, they have allowed the city manager to work behind the scenes with DeKalb County officials to address any EMS concerns. Subcommittee members and county officials acknowledged at the Oct. 4 meeting a major cause of slow response times is the county’s current contract with AMR that requires all calls be responded to in under nine minutes regardless of whether the call is for a serious illness or

minor injury. “It was doomed to failure,” said Eric Nic, Cobb County Medical Director and ER physician, at the Oct. 4 meeting. Fullum said the new contract would include standard response times for calls that require a paramedic with an advanced skill set, and “tiered” response times for calls that are not life-threatening. “We know there needs to be a new contract,” Fullum said. The contract between DeKalb and AMR was signed in 2013 and expires Dec. 31. The county is currently working with a consultant to come up with a new request for proposal. That RFP is not expected to be finished by the Dec. 31 deadline, however. No plan on what to do when Dec. 31 comes has been stated, but the county Board of Commissioners can extend the contract with AMR. Brennan said AMR officials will be

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visiting the Buford Highway property in the next two weeks for detailed design for build-out of the vacant QT building. The posting is expected to be in the new RFP for ambulance services, he said. “Whether or not the winning bidder turns out to be AMR remains to be seen,” he said. “It is a competitive bid process. Having said that, the build-out of the facility is generally the same regardless of vendor, since we will be using industry standards.” If DeKalb’s next ambulance provider wants to tweak the design or make changes, they can do so on their dime, Brennan added. The next meeting of the full Region 3 EMS Council is Nov. 8. The subcommittee plans to meet again Feb. 7 and determine if there is a need for a new EMS zone in Dunwoody. The full council then meets again Feb. 14 to consider the recommendation.

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14 | Community

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to key races on Nov. 6 ballot For full answers from the candidates, see ReporterNewspapers.net


Republican incumbent Karen Handel and Democrat challenger Lucy McBath are competing for the 6th Congressional District seat. McBath did not provide Voters Guide answers.

KAREN HANDEL Karenhandel.com

What is motivating you to run for Congress? The people of the 6th District, our great state and this exceptional nation are my motivation. The citizens here know me and know my deep commitment to working on their behalf. My business roles, public service and my own personal experiences — along with my nearly 25 years as a resident of the 6th District — give me a unique perspective and broad understanding of the issues facing our community. As a first-term member of Congress, I have helped to deliver meaningful results on important policy matters — reducing taxes, creating jobs and helping to combat opioids and end human trafficking.





Democrat Sally Harrell is challenging Republican incumbent Fran Millar in the state Senate District 40 race.


In state House District 80, Republican incumbent Meagan Hanson is challenged by Democrat Matthew Wilson.


What is motivating you to run for this office?

What is motivating you to run for this office?

We are at a crucial moment in Georgia’s history — a time that calls on us all to embrace our future. I believe that government is an integral part of making that happen. All our citizens deserve affordable healthcare; universal, quality education, including affordable child care and debt-free higher education; efficient transportation options; and clean air and water. I look forward to working with the people of Senate District 40, shaping an agenda that works to improve the quality of life in our neighborhoods and throughout Georgia, now and in the future.

As your state representative, I have brought significant positive change to our community through transit reform, increasing education funding and leading the charge to keep Georgia free from hate and discrimination. This past year, I co-authored game-changing transit legislation to transform and unify the multiple transit systems serving the Atlanta metro area under one banner, the “ATL,” and expand service to areas like Cobb and Gwinnett. But there is more work to be done. My next legislative task is to reform transit funding to meet the needs of our communities.





What is motivating you to run for this office?

What is motivating you to run for this office?

I helped give people the right to vote on cityhood in Fulton and DeKalb. I have authored legislation on education reform, various disabilities, infrastructure and tax relief. In DeKalb, I am the last Republican and help stop bad legislation such as increasing the MARTA tax or repealing my property tax freeze. I have worked on similar legislation in Fulton. I have been endorsed by six of the seven mayors and a large amount of our local elected officials (Democrats and Republicans) because, unlike my opponent, I have actual accomplishments, not sound bites and slogans.

I’m running because I’ve seen firsthand how our state legislators haven’t been working for the people who elected them, but instead for the special interests and corporate PACs filling their campaign war chests. For many people, the 2016 presidential election was a wakeup call that signaled we all need to do more. For me, that meant stepping up to run for this seat so we can have better representation in north Atlanta.


OCTOBER 12 - 25, 2018

Community | 15



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Republican Ellen Diehl is challenging Democratic incumbent Scott Holcomb for the House District 81 seat.




What is motivating you to run for this office? As a 44-year resident of DeKalb County, and a product of our public schools, I was saddened to see elementary schools with a failing score in our district. We can do better for the future of our children. In 1996, I started selling health insurance to small businesses and have seen the devastating impact of increase after increase. Now the cost of individual insurance is also unsustainable and I am ready to lend my 20-plus years of real experience in the field to implementing solutions. My parents modeled servanthood for me growing up.

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What is motivating you to run for this office? I have a strong commitment to public service that precedes my time in politics. I like to help people and solve problems, and I find public-sector problems to be the most challenging that we face. Specifically, I’m interested in improving Georgia’s performance on several issues, including healthcare, education, infrastructure and transportation/transit. I also want to continue working on issues of sexual and domestic violence. I’ve been the driving force on major legislation over the last few years to help end the backlog of untested sexual assault kits and to provide greater protections to victims of domestic violence.

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16 | Commentary

Reporter Newspapers 

Our mission is to provide our readers with fresh and engaging information about life in their communities. 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 Atlanta INtown www.AtlantaINtownPaper.com Atlanta Senior Life www.AtlantaSeniorLife.com

C O NTA C T US Founder & Publisher Steve Levene stevelevene@reporternewspapers.net Editorial Managing Editor John Ruch johnruch@reporternewspapers.net INtown Editor: Collin Kelley Editor-at-Large Joe Earle Staff Writers Dyana Bagby, Evelyn Andrews

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Community Survey / Divided politics make for eager voters Turnout for the November election could be high, if the voters follow the lead of respondents to a Reporter Newspapers community survey. About six in 10 of the 200 respondents said they are more likely to vote in the November election than in past elections. And more than a third of the people who responded that they weren’t more likely to vote this time said that was only because they vote in every election anyway. The survey was conducted by 1Q.com via cellphones to residents in Reporter Newspapers communities. The results are not scientific. Why do so many plan to vote this November when they otherwise might give the ballot box a pass? “The U.S. is in a mess,” a 34-year-old Buckhead woman said. Dozens of other respondents appeared to agree, and they offered a variety of reasons for their beliefs. In fact, responses illustrate just how divided our politics is now. “There’s so much noise from extremists that level-headed, thinking people need to step up and exercise their right to vote to keep things on track and moving forward,” a 64-year-old north Atlanta woman said. “I want to be sure and express my preference for intelligent public servant leadership and not power-hungry career politicians!” Others were more bluntly partisan in their responses. Many said they planned to vote because of their feelings about President Donald Trump. “I will vote Nov. 6,” a 46-year-old man said. “[I] didn’t vote in previous years, but we need someone to offset what Trump is doing.” However, a 33-year-old Sandy Springs woman wrote she would vote because “I want to keep Republicans in power.”


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Respondents to the survey were fairly evenly divided among political parties. About 30 percent were Republicans, about 27 percent Democrats and about 30 percent independents. About 13 percent identify as “other.” When asked to name the issue that most motivated them, respondents, taken together, provided a list that touched on just about every imaginable political debate. Their responses ranged from the economy to immigration, from healthcare to welfare reform, from gun safety to women’s rights, from international trade to local education, from impeaching President Trump to keeping Democrats out of office. Several respondents listed the controversy over the appointment of Judge Brett Kavanaugh to the U.S. Supreme Court, while others said they were interested in the election of a new governor in Georgia. And a 37-year-old Dunwoody woman said she was motivated by “every single issue.” Several respondents who said they were no more likely to vote this election than in past ones said they thought casting a ballot was pointless. “Voting has little effect on actual legislation,” a 41-year-old Atlanta man wrote. “Republicans and Democrats are on the same team against our freedoms.” And a 52-year-old north Atlanta man said, “I’m so disillusioned with our political process that by and large, I’ve stopped paying attention.” But many respondents seemed eager to head to the polls. This election, several said, would count more than others had in the past. One 19-year-old Sandy Springs woman noted the reason she was more likely to vote in the election this November than in prior ones was simple: “Because I’m finally old enough to vote.”

Here’s what some of the other respondents had to say when asked whether they were more likely to vote in November than in past elections “The Left is getting ridiculous and it scares me to see how they want to throw away the fundamental tenets of our civilization, such as truth, jurisprudence and free speech.” – 50-YEAR-OLD SANDY SPRINGS MAN

“I’m not ‘more likely’ because I always vote. I think voting is a privilege and you should exercise that privilege every opportunity you get, regardless of the current situation or your desired results.” – 52-YEAR-OLD SANDY SPRINGS BUCKHEAD WOMAN

“No. The media has ruined politics.”


“Yes, I always vote, but these midterms are especially crucial in ensuring our administration is checked and held accountable, and that human rights are protected.” – 23-YEAR-OLD BUCKHEAD WOMAN

“Trump and the Republicans are lunatics.”


“I believe it is even more important to vote now to protect the civil liberties that our so-called president and the right-wing members of Congress wish to roll back.”


“Definitely. With stakes this high, I wouldn’t miss it.”


“I feel that the Republicans must maintain control to advance our conservative agenda. Things are going very well with the economy and I am fearful of what will happen if the Democrats take control. If you can ignore all of the noise coming from the media about the discontent of America, I think the reality is that most people are happier and more optimistic about their economic position today than they were four years ago.” – 40-YEAR-OLD ATLANTA MAN

Letter to the Editor


I just wanted to thank you for the outstanding article on air pollution from traffic in north Atlanta. (“As 285/400 interchange expands, air pollution is a concern,” Sept. 28.) Your report highlights the urgency for us to transition to electric vehicles while greening the grid. Hopefully your reporting, coupled with the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report (and many others) will spark much-needed action to reduce pollution. Tina Wilkinson Chairperson, Solarize Dunwoody and United Methodist Church Earthkeeper

OCTOBER 12 - 25, 2018

Commentary | 17


Taking a spin on the Wheel of Worry

Robin’s Nest

Everyone from Christ to Buddha and from Bob Marley to Pinterest preaches about worry, and I hear the same “Don’t Worry, Be Happy” theme played regularly. I don’t mean to discount any of them. And I may be teetering on sacrilege here, but I do imagine that the Blessed Mother worried a bit about Jesus. I think that all moms have a Wheel of Worry. I think it comes with the territory. You have a kid, you begin to worry. Yet I will add that nothing compels me to prayer most sincerely and frequently and often than my Wheel of Worry. I will spin the wheel, and wherever it lands will be the focus of my prayer — and action — for the day. If it satisfies the preachers and Rastafarians out there, I can call it “concern.” I have a healthy concern for my kids and their well-being, as we all do. And when I’m in a calmer mood, I will spin my Carousel of Concern.

2 W To GA 018 in p Pr & ne C e 2 r ol ss 0 um A 17 ni ssn st !

I have a Wheel of Worry. It came into existence with the birth of my first child, and it started small. It spun to topics such as HIGH FEVER, WHY WON’T HE STOP CRYING? and STRANGE RASH ON BABY’S CHEST. I had more children, and the wheel grew. It got bigger as the children did, and its topics became more varied, ranging from to WHAT DID SHE JUST SWALLOW? and THEY’RE TOO QUIET UP THERE to CROSSING THE STREET and WILL THEY MAKE FRIENDS? By the time the last two children hit adolescence, the wheel was pretty substantial. It spun between KIDS LEARNING TO DRIVE, KIDS DRIVING ALONE, MY KIDS DRIVING THEIR FRIENDS, THEIR FRIENDS DRIVING MY KIDS, KIDS DRIVING TO A PARTY, KIDS DRIVING TO ATHENS … driving took up a full half of the wheel, with what was happening at the destinations occupying the other half. As my kids got older and became more adventurous, the wheel began to spin to increasingly esoteric, but nevertheless valid, matters. When the daughter was working in Nicaragua for a year and our weekly Skype conversations with her were regularly interrupted by the bat that lived in her house grazing her head, my wheel spun consistently between MALARIA and RABIES. Robin Conte lives with One son was studying in China and not advised until too her husband in an emplate to get a particular inoculation, so the wheel rested for ty nest in Dunwoody. To months on JAPANESE ENCEPHALITIS. And naturally, the son contact her or to buy her with severe allergies to stinging insects loves to hike for weeks new column collection, in remote wooded locations. Spin the wheel to ANAPHALEC“The Best of the Nest,” TIC SHOCK ... spin again to BEAR ATTACKS. Both twins love see robinconte.com. bouldering and rock climbing, so FALLING OFF A CLIFF is a regular resting spot on the wheel. The son who hitchhiked across Europe kept the wheel spinning to topics I can’t even bring myself to print. Why do they do this to me?

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

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

18 | Art & Entertainment

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Fridays and Saturdays, Oct. 19, 20, 26, 27, 7-10 p.m. The 33rd annual Halloween Hikes at the Chattahoochee Nature Center are non-scary guided walks into woods dotted with costumed nature characters. After the hike, there’s hot chocolate, cookies, popcorn, s’mores and family fun events. All ages. $12; children 2 and under free. Save $2 off admission during the first weekend. No ATM on site; cash is needed for drinks and snacks. Chattahoochee Nature Center, 9135 Willeo Road, Roswell. Info: chattnaturecenter.org.




Thursday, Oct. 18, 7-9 p.m. Cultural critic Greg Garrett, author of more than 20 books, including “Living with the


Friday, Oct. 26, 6-10:30 p.m. Heritage Sandy Springs announces the return of a night of eerie entertainment including live music, psychic readings, fire pit and s’mores bar, costume contest with cash prizes, and a movie screening of “Hocus Pocus.” Also returning are the Haunted Hikes on cemetery tours featuring North Springs Charter School’s Thespian Troupe #4389. Pizza and cocktails available, with beverage proceeds benefitting the Heritage Sandy Springs Museum. Free; tour tickets $15-$35. Heritage Sandy Springs Museum at Heritage Green, 6075 Sandy Springs Circle, Sandy Springs. Info: heritagesandysprings.org.


You have seen their story on Narcos on Netflix- now hear the stories of Capturing Pablo Escobar live with DEA Agents Javier Pena and Steve Murphy, who were tasked with investigating the world’s most notorious drug trafficker.



Saturday, Oct. 27, 3-9 p.m. Boy Scout Troop 477 presents trick-ortreating, a Halloween-themed farm tour, food court, games and s’mores as part of Dunwoody’s month-long Apple Cider Days. Free. Donaldson-Bannister House and Gardens, 4831 Chamblee-Dunwoody Road, Dunwoody. Info: appleciderdays.org.



Saturday, Oct. 20, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Sunday, Oct. 21, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Featuring musical performances and more than 140 artists with works of fiber, glass, jewelry, mixed media, painting, photography and sculpture, this 14th annual festival will be held behind the Brookhaven MARTA station. Food, kids’ activities and on Sunday there’s a classic car show. Free. 4047 Peachtree Road N.E., Brookhaven. Free parking in the MARTA lot. Info: brookhavenartsfestival.com.


Saturday, Oct. 27, 3-10 p.m. This first annual family-friendly event will in-

Living Dead: The Wisdom of the Zombie Apocalypse,” will be featured in a Jane Baird Lecture at the Cathedral of St. Philip. Garrett will discuss how zombie stories such as “The Walking Dead” are retelling some of the most powerful secular and sacred stories. Free. 2744 Peachtree Road N.W., Buckhead. Reserve a seat: connecting.episcopalatlanta.org/events.


Thursday, Oct. 18, 7 p.m. Author Amy Stewart discusses her book “Wicked Plants: The Weed That Killed Lincoln’s Mother and Other Botanical Atrocities.” Book-signing and a reception will follow this Cherokee Garden Library Lecture at the Atlanta History Center. $25. 130 West Paces Ferry Road, Buckhead. Reservations required: 404-814-4150.

clude daytime games, beers and food for purchase and a lineup of bluegrass, folk, Americana and roots musicians, including Sailing to Denver, Sierra Hull, Early James and The Latest. Free. City Springs, 1 Galambos Way, Sandy Springs. Info: citysprings.com.


Saturday, Oct. 27, 8:30 a.m. The Melanoma Research Foundation holds a 5K run/walk to raise funds for research, education and advocacy for melanoma. The Atlantic Station event includes free skin checks by presenting sponsor Dermatology Associates of Georgia, LLC and breakfast pastries courtesy of Da Vinci’s Donuts and Proof Bakeshop. Site opens at 7:15 a.m. $45-$55 runners, $40-$55 walkers, $15 youth, free for ages 5 and

OCTOBER 12 - 25, 2018

Art & Entertainment | 19


under. 1371 Market St. N.W., Atlanta. Info: dermga.com/milesformelanoma.


Sunday, Oct. 28, 3-5 p.m. Eve Hoffman discusses her new book “Memory & Complicity” at the Mount Vernon Presbyterian Church Chapel, hosted by Friends of the Sandy Springs Library. A sixth-generation Georgian, Hoffman grew up on a dairy farm by the Chattahoochee River. Free. 471 Mount Vernon Highway, Sandy Springs. Reservations required: eventbrite.com/e/fossl-author-talk-featuring-eve-hoffman-tickets-50411536262.


Sunday, Oct. 28, 7:30 p.m. The Jewish Grandparents Network presents: “Grandma, Grandpa, Tell Me a Story: The Special Role of Grandparents as Storytellers in Jewish Family Life” at The Temple. Marshall

Duke and Ron Wolfson, two master storytellers, will discuss how stories frame our lives and strengthen our families and the essential role that grandparents play in sharing these stories. A dessert reception and book signing will follow the presentation. Co-sponsored by The Temple and the Breman Heritage Museum. Free. 1589 Peachtree St. N.W., Atlanta. Info: jewishgrandparentsnetwork.org.


Sunday, Oct. 21, 4 p.m. The Atlanta Concert Band presents “Bernstein at 100,” a musical celebration of composer and conductor Leonard Bernstein, at the Sandy Springs Performing Arts Center. Free; donations accepted. 1 Galambos Way, Sandy Springs. Info: atlantaconcertband.org.


Sunday, Oct. 21, 4 p.m. The Choral Guild of Atlanta performs the works of composer Dan Forrest as artist Clara Blalock simultaneously paints her interpreta-

OCTOBER 27, 2018

Atlanta Concert Band tion of the music. The painting will be sold at silent auction following the concert. $15; $12 seniors; $5 students. Northside Drive Baptist Church, 3100 Northside Drive, Buckhead. Info: 404-223-6362 or cgatl.org.


Sunday, Oct. 21, 4 p.m. A concert highlighting vocal music features songs by composers including Samuel Barber, Leonard Bernstein, George Gershwin and C.G. Walden. Free. Dunwoody United Methodist Chapel, 1548 Mount Vernon Road, Dunwoody. Info: Brentley Cauthen at 770-542-1661 or brentley.cauthen@dunwoodyumc.org.


Sunday, Oct. 28, 4-5 p.m. Harpist John Alan Wickey performs in the Skylight Gallery Concert Series at the Oglethorpe University Museum of Art. Wickey has performed with the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, Los Angeles Philharmonic and the New World Symphony and with soloists ranging from Mel Tormé to Cab Calloway. $5. Lowry Hall, Third Floor, 4484 Peachtree Road N.E., Brookhaven. Info: museum.oglethorpe.edu.

Fans of Bluegrass, Roots, Americana and Folk music will enjoy a full Saturday of music on the Green as the City of Sandy Springs presents its first annual Harvest Music Fest.

FREE • STARTS AT 3:00PM Performance by Early James & The Latest • Sailing To Denver • Sierra Hull • City Strings Picking Party with: The Gibson Brothers, Rob Ickes & Trey Hensley For more information visit citysprings.com

20 | Education

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Open House Saturday, Dec. 1 10 a.m.- 1 p.m.

Paula Boston, E. Rivers Elementary


Paula Boston, left, a media specialist at E. Rivers Elementary, holds books made during a bookmaking activity taught by Greg Christie, right, the owner of a children’s bookstore.

Paula Boston, media specialist at E. Rivers Elementary, a public Buckhead school, is working to make the library the star of the school, transforming it from a quiet space to a place of collaborative information. Boston, who was nominated as “Exceptional Educator” by school Principal John Waller, has also partnered with a group to bring in trained therapy dogs for students to practice reading aloud. The activity is hoped to make any student a more confident reader, Boston said. Trained therapy dogs are used because they have been screened for behavior and temperament. She’s implemented “makerspace” activities, which include a variety of craft activities from web coding to cardboard activities. Boston has been at E. Rivers for five years. She has been a media specialist for eight years, following a 13-year career as a classroom teacher.



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ilee Kelley from Reading P.A.W.S. One of her volunteers, Sis O’Hearn used to work at E. Rivers as a speech teacher. She really wanted to do the Reading P.A.W.S. program at E. Rivers. I was so happy to say yes! We are hoping Reading P.A.W.S. will help our readers become more fluent in their reading abilities. We have collected reading achievement data before the program and will collect data at the end of the program. We are hoping the program will yield reading progress and fluency. Research says that reading to a dog is less intimidating than reading to a human.

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Q: How do you think libraries/media centers in schools have changed in recent years? A: Media centers are not the quiet libraries of the past. They are vibrant places where chil-

dren can explore, build, design and imagine new things. They are collaborative places to share ideas and learn from one another. I am currently working to change the furniture in the media center to encourage collaboration. Libraries are a place for exploration through books, technology and hands-on manipulatives. I compete with the morning “Power Up” class in the gym, where lots of exciting games are played before the 8 a.m. morning bell.

Q: What keeps you going year after year? A: I love trying new things. A few years ago I worked to set up the media center with mak-

erspace activities; last year I added the Lion’s Tale Book Clubs for Kids; and this year I am tackling bookmaking with students. Changing things up keeps things new and exciting for everyone! I also love finding books that children are excited about reading.

Q: Why did you decide to work in a media center? A: I had gone back to school for a master’s in educational leadership, but I realized I still wanted to teach children. I found out that being a media specialist was a combination of administrative work and teaching children in the media center. It was the best of both worlds.

Q: What are you most proud of in your career? A: I love helping students learn how to choose a book that is just right for them. I love help-

ing students become readers. I love helping students find books they will love to read! I love having books in the media center that kids want to read.

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Classifieds | 21


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22 | Community

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A process to draw an attendance zone for the new John Robert Lewis Elementary School began Oct. 2 with a community meeting. Named for the congressman and civil rights leader, the school is currently operating in a temporary location on North Druid Hills Road and will open in a new building on Skyland Drive in August 2019. Lewis Elementary currently has over 500 open seats, vacancies that the school district hopes to use to curb overcrowding at nearby schools. About 200 residents attended the Oct. 2 meeting, held at Cross Keys High School. Hans Williams, the director of planning in the operations division of the DeKalb County School District, said that overcrowding has been at nearby Woodward, Dresden and Montclair Elementary Schools. Each school is currently between 100 percent and 122 percent capacity. The meeting was the beginning of what is expected to be a nearly year-long process running into fall 2019. Other public schools, such as Cross Keys North Elementary School and Cross Keys Middle School, are scheduled for redistricting between 2019 and 2021. The Lewis Elementary redistricting involves three rounds of public meetings and recommendations from the superintendent and district staff. Then a final plan will be sent to the Board of Education. The meeting ended with the collected public attendees joining together for small group discussions centered on a range of topics pertinent to aspects of the eventual redistricting plan. These discussions were recorded by facilitators in order to gather firsthand feedback from community members. Topics covered in these discussions included what neighborhood areas community members would like to keep together, traffic concerns, and residential development trends that may impact future school enrollment. Round two of the public meeting series will be at Cross Keys High School on Oct. 24, and will focus on presenting alternate plans for the redistricting. For more information, see dekalbschoolsga.org/redistricting.

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Community | 23


Parks bond heads to Nov. 6 ballot with support, skepticism Continued from page 1 liams and J.D. Clockadale, president of the Brookhaven Police Foundation. Williams said the group has so far raised approximately $20,000 from individual donors. Money is being used for yard signs that can be seen popping up along major roads and at busy intersections. The money is also being used to maintain a website and to pay for direct mailers that are now being sent out to residents, she said. “It’s a bold undertaking,” Williams said of the parks bond. “This is an unprecedented opportunity to make this kind of investment in Brookhaven.” But Jim Dupree, a former Parks and Recreation Coalition of Brookhaven board member opposing the parks bond, said the city’s message that no parks funding will happen unless the parks bond is approved “feels almost like extortion.” “It may fail,” he said of the bond, “so why is the city essentially holding the citizens hostage? There are other sources of revenue that can be used for parks.” The Nov. 6 election is the city’s first stab at a bond referendum in its nearly six-year history. It comes on the heels of the city receiving Triple-A bond ratings from Standard & Poor’s and Moody’s Investor Services. “I see that as a stamp of approval that the city finances are strong,” Williams said. The city is not funding any of the probond campaign, according to a spokesperson. The City Council in July approved spending $40 million for a parks bond and approved a resolution to issue up to $42 million in general obligation bonds. If approved, the bond would cover costs for six of the city’s 11 parks master plans. Debt would be paid off over 30 years. While there is no known organized effort speaking out against the parks bond, an undercurrent of opposition is making at least a few waves. City Manager Christian Sigman recently chimed in on a debate over the bond on the social networking website Nextdoor when questions were raised about how the bond would be audited if approved. Sigman explained in the post that the city waived using an outside auditor because the city would use its own Audit Committee as well as the city’s independent internal auditor; doing so would save the city about $300,000 over the life of the bond, he said. “The audit waiver language [in the resolution] is merely to allow the city to use existing auditing capabilities versus contracting with a separate firm,” Sigman stated. “This is a very common approach to address the state legislation requiring an audit.” Dupree was on that Nextdoor thread with about 20 other people. He said SigBK

man’s comment did not convince him the city was spending money wisely. But city officials have been saying for months that the money that can be used for capital projects in parks is limited. The homestead option sales tax that brought in about $2.5 million a year in revenue and was used to fund parks projects in the past was eliminated this year when DeKalb County voters approved the special local option sales tax. SPLOST funding is expected to bring in $47 million to the city over the next six years, but the bulk of the money can only be spent on transportation projects and public safety. None of the SPLOST money can be used on parks capital projects. The city has completed several small parks projects this year. The new $3 million Skyland Park officially opened last month. Park construction was fully paid for with money the DeKalb County School District paid the city as part of a land swap deal for the new 900-seat John R. Lewis Elementary School now under construction adjacent to the park. A new 1.9-acre open space field at Murphey Candler Park was recently completed for nearly $592,000; and earlier this year the city wrapped up a $1.2 million renovation project at the 3.6-acre Georgian Hills Park. But for Clockadale, the city making small parks improvements here and there means his small children will not be able to enjoy the city’s parks as they grow up. Instead, at the pace the city is going now, it could take decades to complete the parks master plans residents worked on for many months shortly after the city incorporated, he said. With a parks bond, that time could be cut to as few as five years. “This is the right time to do it,” Clockadale said. The city’s 2014 Parks and Recreation Comprehensive Plan states a general obligation bond backed by dedicated millage would be the most feasible alternative to completing the redevelopment and construction of new facilities at the city’s parks. “We knew from the beginning when the city was founded that most parks funding would not be coming from our operating funds,” Williams said. “And that to really make significant improvements we would need a bond referendum.” The parks bond would raise the city millage rate by half a mill, or an average of $98.34 a year to the average tax bill of a home assessed at nearly $466,000. But a current DeKalb County parks bond is slated to roll off property taxes in 2021 and that money coupled with new savings from the equalized homestead option sales tax, approved as part of the SPLOST, should offset the parks bond tax increase for most property owners, accord-

Where would the money go? ing to city officials. Dupree said he and others are concerned there is no actual project list laying out what projects will begin first if the parks bond is approved and how long each will take. “There is no accountability for the money,” he said. “I think there is a large part of the community … that maybe doesn’t trust the City Council to follow through on this and instead will siphon off some of the proceeds for other uses.” Mayor John Ernst denied the city would do so. He said that if the bond were approved, the city would hire a professional project management company with $1.25 million of the parks bond to oversee all projects included in the bond. That company would then assist in determining the order of projects to be tackled. Three projects Ernst predicted would immediately be bid out if the bond were approved include pool renovations at Briarwood Park and new fences and new entrances to Brookhaven and Blackburn parks. “Whatever is the most efficient, quickest and cheapest we will do first,” Ernst said. “It is up to the voters to decide.”

Ashford Park — $1.94 million Including a splash pad, granite seat walls and furnishings. Blackburn Park — $1.3 million Includes marquee fencing, solar canopy, parking lot renovations. Briarwood Park — $7 million Renovations to the community center and pool, a northeast trail bridge, a park-wide multiuse trail and tennis court lighting. Brookhaven Park — $6 million Peachtree Road access and beautification, dog park programming. Lynwood Park — $11 million Lap pool, open space field, landscaping. Murphey Candler Park — $8 million Boardwalk, new community building, trail renovations. Systemwide parks funding — $3.5 million Project management: $1.25 million; Murphey Candler Park dredging $1 million; invasive plant removal $1 million; park security (such as lighting, fencing, cameras) $220,000. Issuance cost — $595,026

24 |

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