11-24-17 Sandy Springs Reporter

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NOV. 24 - DEC. 14, 2017 • VOL. 11— NO. 24


Sandy Springs Reporter



► I-285 transit meeting is latest cross-city planning effort PAGE 4 ► Cross Keys students join immigrant book project PAGE 7

Mount Vernon widening debate focuses on transit

A peek inside Mercedes-Benz USA’s new headquarters

BY JOHN RUCH johnruch@reporternewspapers.net


Mercedes-Benz USA’s new headquarters is rising in Sandy Springs. Officials from the luxury automaker recently led a media tour of the building, which is designed to encourage collaboration among its 1,000 employees. For story and more photos, see p. 22.►

EXCEPTIONAL EDUCATOR Teaching English with an artsy eye Page 6

OUT & ABOUT There’s something about sipping coffee and eating a cinnamon roll that brings back so many memories. It’s the little things! 22-YEAR-OLD WOMAN

How important are family traditions in your holiday celebrations? See COMMENTARY, Page 8

Get into the Holidays 14 Ways to Celebrate the Season

Page 16

Controversy over a potential widening of Sandy Springs’ Mount Vernon Highway for alternative transportation shifted topics, from now ruled-out house-takings to transit types, at a Nov. 14 city meeting. Around 150 people attended the meeting, held at Mount Vernon Presbyterian Church, to hear about the project, which at minimum will add a multiuse path and at maximum, two additional on-street lanes for alternative transportation. Officials from the church’s school and the Sandy Springs Branch Library were among the attendees. The still-conceptual idea triggered enormous neighborhood controversy in recent weeks as city officials repeatedly said they could not rule out the eminent-domain taking of houses for a future project. Mayor Rusty Paul definitively ruled out such housetakings at the Nov. 14 meeting, while declining to explain why he could not do so just See MOUNT on page 14

Runoff Election is Dec. 5 For full coverage of the Fulton County Commission chair and state Senate District 6 races, see pages 12-13.

2 | Community

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Democrats join two local House races BY JOHN RUCH AND DYANA BAGBY

candidacy drew praise from a founder of PaveItBlue, a progressive women’s group Democratic candidates have anthat formed this year in Cobb County and nounced runs for two local state House Roswell. Part of his motivation for runseats next year in the party’s quest to ning, he said, is hearing from friends “who turn Perimeter areas blue at the ballot. feel that every race deserves competition.” Josh McLaurin will seek to replace reHe added, “I’m not especially rabid tiring Republican state Rep. Wendell Wilabout trying to get Republicans out of oflard in the panhandle’s House District 51, fice.” McLaurin said he has never met the and Matthew Wilson is challenging inrepresentative he is seeking to follow in cumbent Republican Rep. Meagan Hanthe District 51 office. “My understanding son in House District 80, a Brookhavis he has served honorably as chair of the en-centered district that includes Sandy Judiciary Committee,” he said of Willard. Springs’ High Point area. McLaurin was in the news in 2014 for a successful legal battle expanding the District 51 right to film court proceedings, as the AtIn the District 51 race, McLaurin lanta Journal-Constitution and others rejoins another previously anported. Earlier this year, he nounced candidate, Republiwas living in Roswell, but he can Alex Kaufman. recently moved into a Sandy McLaurin, a Sandy Springs Springs apartment complex. attorney, earlier this year anHe said he did not run nounced a run for Congress, for Congress because Ossoff but did not follow through. emerged as a leading candiThat race ended up being date. “I needed to get out of the epic battle between Karhis way,” McLaurin said. en Handel and Jon Ossoff that Kaufman announced his drew national media attention. run almost a year-and-a-half “This year, a lot of peoago, shortly after Willard — ple are engaged in politics in a Sandy Springs Republican a way they haven’t been beSPECIAL — gave unusually long nofore,” said McLaurin, whose Josh McLaurin. tice that he would not run

for re-election in 2018. A Roswell resident, he is a business lawyer who works at Kaufman & Forman in Sandy Springs and was born and raised in the city. Sandy Springs City Councilmember Gabriel Sterling previously announced a run for the seat as well, but later decided to pursue the Fulton County chair seat in an unsuccessful campaign. Sterling said he will not rejoin the state House race. Kaufman attended Sterling’s Election Night party Nov. 7 in Sandy Springs and said he has been speaking with Willard as preparation for the campaign. House District 51 includes Sandy Springs’ panhandle area and parts of Johns Creek and Roswell.

District 80

In District 80, Wilson enters the race as a first-time candidate, but with a background in volunteering in recent races where the district has switched back and forth between Republicans and Democrats. Wilson, who lives in Brookhaven, is a personal injury attorney at the Akin & Take law firm. He said he’s running because he believes “it’s the right time and I’m the right person. I want to be the progressive champion our moderate district deserves.” Hanson, a Brookhaven resident, said she is standing by her record. She is a

Matthew Wilson.


member of the House Transportation Committee and the committee that oversees MARTA. She also co-sponsored the DeKalb County special local option sales tax, featuring a referendum to freeze property taxes, that was overwhelmingly approved by DeKalb voters Nov. 7. “I am proud of my record, and I look forward to continuing to work hard for House District 80,” she said. Wilson graduated from the University of Georgia and taught sixth-graders at a lowincome school in Texas as part of the Teach for America program before moving back to Georgia and getting his law degree at UGA. Wilson said he volunteered for former state Rep. Taylor Bennett in 2015 when he defeated former Brookhaven mayor J. Max Davis in a special election for the House District 80 seat. He volunteered again for Bennett last year when Hanson pulled out a slim victory. Wilson said he tried to recruit Bennett and two other friends to run for HD 80, but the timing was not right for them. “Then Taylor and some friends approached me and said, ‘You should be the one to run.’ I thought about it for several weeks ... and talked to people who knew me and knew the district,” he said. Wilson, who is openly gay, said he is still listening to residents in the district before he plans to unveil a platform at the beginning of 2018. What he is hearing, however, is that residents are disturbed with the tone of legislators at the General Assembly who he said are not doing the work people want, specifically on education and economic policies. People want to see someone represent their concerns “rather than push divisive issues.” House District 80 is considered by some to be a swing district. Mike Jacobs was elected to the seat in 2004 as a Democrat, narrowly defeating J. Max Davis, but switched to the Republican Party in 2007 and was easily re-elected in 2008 and 2010. Bennett won the seat in a special election after Jacobs left to take a judgeship, and Hanson ousted him in the following 2016 election. “There’s no denying the district was drawn to be a Republican district,” Wilson acknowledged. But he said Hillary Clinton won the district by 12 points and Hanson only narrowly defeated Bennett by fewer than 250 votes. “Even though there are more Republicans than Independents or Democrats in the district, those Republicans will vote for the best candidate regardless of party affiliation,” Wilson said. SS

NOV. 24 - DEC. 14, 2017

Community | 3


Legislators need to help end Fulton tax problems, officials say BY EVELYN ANDREWS

idents should pay their tax bills, which were sent Nov. 9, as soon as they receive them, to alleviate cash flow problems exFulton County residents’ property perienced by some jurisdictions, includtaxes will remain high next year and ing Atlanta Public Schools and the Fulton providing relief rests mostly on the County School District. shoulders of local state legislators, lo“We need those funds. We have bills to cal officials said at a Nov. 9 pay,” Meister said. Buckhead Council of NeighThe tax digest, which docborhoods meeting. uments the county’s properFulton County Commisty values, was recently rejectsioner Lee Morris, who reped by the state Department of resents Buckhead and parts Revenue, causing bills to be of Sandy Springs, and Nandelayed and school districts cy Meister, who represents to receive tax revenue months Buckhead on the Atlanta Publater than anticipated. lic Schools board, both believe The rejection prevents the state needs to step in to help Fulton from collecting propprovide tax relief, they said at erty taxes, but a judge apSPECIAL the meeting. Legislators could Lee Morris, proved a Temporary CollecFulton County extend exemptions or make tion Order, which allows the Commissioner. them more uniform, as well as county to collect taxes. allow a third party to perform the assessAlthough bills were sent Nov. 9, they ment process, Morris said. will be dated Nov. 15, in compliance with Fulton County property assessments the judge’s order, Morris said. In Atlanta, have been a source of controversy since taxes are due 45 days after bills go out. In bills went out over the summer and many the rest of the county, the deadline is 60 residents were shocked by large increasdays, pushing the due date into 2018. es in their property assessments. The bills will be based on the 2017 digest “It’s certainly been a disaster and a fisent to the Department of Revenue, which asco,” Morris said. used numbers from the 2016 digest for resiThey both also emphasized that resdential properties. Although the digest was evelyn@reporternewspapers.net

rejected by the department, the bills will that also means commissioners do not not be altered and the amount residents have enough power to solve most probowe will not change, Morris said. lems with the process, Morris said. Commissioners voted to freeze propThe board is comprised of residents erty assessments at 2016 levels to relieve the board appoints, and Morris doesn’t residents from high increases, but the asfault them for the problems. sessments will still increase in 2018. “They did the best they could,” he said. “Arguably, what we did was One option, which would kick the can down the road for likely take General Assemanother year,” he said. bly action, would be allowing To prepare for next year the assessment process to be when residents will again see completely outsourced to a similar increases, commisthird party company, which sioners are looking at ways is the way Cobb County does to reform the assessment proits assessments, Morris said. cess, Morris said. They are Morris would also like the also preparing to send notice General Assembly to make of probable increases to resihomestead exemptions more SPECIAL dents in advance of 2018 bills uniform across cities and Nancy Meister, being sent so they are not school districts in the counAtlanta Board of shocked by the increases like ty. The income levels and ages Education District 4. they were in 2017, he said. needed to qualify for exempProperty assessments increased drations differ for different jurisdictions, matically in 2017 because assessors were leading to mistakes and confusion, Mornot increasing the assessments in line ris said. with increases in property values for sevState legislators could also create a floateral years, Morris said. ing homestead exemption, which would alThe Board of Assessors is in control of low homestead exemptions to rise at the the assessment process and, by law, comsame rate with property values, Morris said. missioners do not have input on the proTaxes effectively would not rise for residents cess. The state intended to prevent politiwith a homestead exemption even if their cians from meddling in the process, but assessed property value rose, he said.



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4 | Community

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I-285 transit meeting is latest cross-city planning effort BY JOHN RUCH johnruch@reporternewspapers.net

A new multi-city group may form to advocate for mass transit on the top-end Perimeter following an informal Nov. 8 gathering convened by Brookhaven Mayor John Ernst. And that’s just the latest regional idea to spin out of a new four-city nonprofit called the Peachtree Gateway Partnership, which is also looking at a possible self-taxing business district in the area of Buford Highway and Peachtree Industrial Boulevard.


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meet regularly” and bring in other organizations, such as the Georgia Department of Transportation and the self-taxing community improvement districts in Perimeter Center and Cobb County’s Cumberland area. Clarkson called the meeting a “great discussion” and added that “it’s always been a dream of mine to connect some form of transit, at minimum, from Doraville [MARTA] Station to Perimeter Center.” Chamblee is currently studying a possible transit circulator system for its central area, likely involving autonomous vehicles, said Clarkson. Noting a recent news item about the ride-rental company Uber’s study of flying drone taxis, Clarkson said that it is important for cities to keep up with the rapid changes in transit and transportation technology. “The Jetsons are here,” he said. “It’s no longer science fiction. It’s science fact.” Ernst said there was no presentation at the meeting, “just chatting.” While transit has long been a big topic around the Perimeter, and traffic and transportation is everyone’s top issue, these multi-city leaders had never been in the same room before, Ernst said.

Brookhaven Mayor John Ernst.


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The I-285 transit meeting, held at the Villa Christina event space in Brookhaven’s Perimeter Summit area included mayors and other city officials “from Smyrna to Tucker,” said Ernst. “It was about seeing if we had a common goal to look at transit and mobility around the region,” said Ernst. “Nothing was proposed. Nothing was foreclosed.” The multi-city gathering had no name, but the group “may be formalized” and meet again, Ernst said. Sandy Springs Mayor Rusty Paul, a strong proponent of mass transit connections in the Perimeter area, was among the attendees. “I thought it was very productive and sets in motion what could be a multicounty leadership group to focus on east/west mobility and multimodal connectivity across the Perimeter’s northern arc from Cumberland to Doraville,” Paul said in an email afterward. Paul had mentioned the gathering at the previous night’s Sandy Springs City Council meeting, where he said, “The journey of a thousand miles has to start with a step,” and praised Brookhaven for starting a conversation. Chamblee Mayor Eric Clarkson, another participant, said that “everybody in the group agreed that we need to

Chamblee Mayor Eric Clarkson.

Various forms of mass transit and alternative transportation along and around I-285 have been proposed over the years, including multiuse trails, trains and even monorails — which Paul himself recently discussed again. This year’s opening of SunTrust Park in Cobb County raised the issue again, and there is a growing sense of urgency as the state plans to widen and add ramps to the I-285/Ga. 400 interchange take more right of way. “I think it’s a concern and an opportunity,” Clarkson said of the right of way concerns. Asked whether representatives from cities in Cobb County, which has de-

NOV. 24 - DEC. 14, 2017

Community | 5

www.ReporterNewspapers.net use trail plans among the four cities so their systems will properly connect. Clarkson said the partnership also has a committee studying a possible new community improvement district, or CID, in the area between Buford Highway and Peachtree Industrial Boulevard, possibly extending farther west to Dunwoody’s Georgetown area.


Sandy Springs Mayor Rusty Paul.

clined MARTA service in the past, offered any different perspectives on transit, Ernst said, “Everyone’s looking for different solutions.” Officials from that area did not respond to comment requests. Doraville Interim City Manager Regina Williams-Gates attended, according to city spokesperson Robert Kelley. He said the message from Mayor Donna Pittman is that “Doraville remains supportive of any transit options put on the table.” Tucker sent City Councilmember and Mayor Pro Tem Michelle Penkava. “From our perspective, it was a good opportunity for representatives from these cities to get together and discuss a mutual challenge,” said city spokesperson Matt Holmes. While the I-285 transit meeting was unprecedented, it spun out of discussions by another regional group, the Peachtree Gateway Partnership, according to Clarkson. A public-private group, the partnership includes the cities of Brookhaven, Dunwoody, Chamblee and Doraville, along such major businesses as Georgia Power, Epps Aviation, the Jim Ellis automotive dealership and the development firm Integral Group. Incorporated last year as a nonprofit with assistance from the Atlanta Regional Commission, the partnership is modeled on similar efforts in Gwinnett County and around Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport. It’s intended to promote regional planning and economic development among the cities. The partnership’s first effort is oriented toward alternative transportation. It involves coordinating multi-



CIDs are districts where businesses tax themselves to fund various improvements to streets, landscape or public safety. The CID concept is being studied with matching funds from Mercer University, Clarkson said. The partnership recently launched a website at PeachtreeGatewayPartnership.com.

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6 | Education

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Christine McAleer, St. Martin’s Episcopal School Christine McAleer, who has been teaching English at St. Martin’s Episcopal School for five years, traveled to Washington, D.C., the past two summers for Smithsonian American Art Museum programs, and next year will take her seventh-grade students to the museum. “Only about half of the teachers who applied were selected, so I was honored,” McAleer said of the two summer programs. Through what she learned at the programs, McAleer has integrated art into her English classes and uses programs developed by the Harvard Graduate School of Education, she said. She also serves as the cosponsor of the school’s literary and arts magazine, Mosaic.


Why did you decide to become a teacher?


I wanted to be a teacher when I was a little girl, but at college, I decided to learn as much as possible about literature and writing. Then, when my children were young, I worked part-time at the school they



attended, and the desire to teach returned. I enrolled at Mercer University and never looked back.

Q: What keeps you going year after year? A: No matter what happens outside of the classroom, family problems or the inevitable burnout we all feel at work occasionally, when the bell rings, and I close that classroom door … and turn towards those kids and think about the exciting and important and meaningful work we are about to do together, energy and happiness replace the stress, worry and fatigue. I also love to learn new ways to teach and new topics to cover.


What are you most proud of in your career?


Christine McAleer.

I’m proud to teach at St. Martin’s. I’m proud of integrating art and inquiry into my curriculum,

and I’m really proud that our seventhgrade students will visit Washington, D.C., this May and tour the Smithsonian American Art Museum!

Q: What did you learn from the Smithsonian programs?


We worked with the museum’s fabulous education department and spent time daily in the galleries, practicing the routines with the artwork. I designed a very successful lesson to help the students learn and apply literary terms like plot, metaphor, setting, narrative, personification, etc., to the painting “Achelous and Hercules” by Thomas Hart Benton. The students are always really engaged, and the discussion is amazingly deep and sophisticated. Both of the institutes have helped me bring a new dimension to my teaching. The students LOVE looking at, talking about and analyzing artworks.

Q: Do you use any special programs? A: My principal, Tony Shaffer, intro-

duced me to the “Making Thinking Visible” routines created by educators at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. At the Smithsonian American Art Museum’s summer institutes, we practiced these routines and learned some additional visual thinking strategies and global thinking strategies. Basically, these routines encourage a culture of critical, creative, empathetic, and collaborative thinking in the classroom through easily implemented questioning routines that range from asking the students, “What makes you say that?” to requiring them to play “Tug-ofWar” to encourage them to explore arguments for both sides of a dilemma. I also use lots of artwork in my lessons. My students learn to “read” art and to connect it to literature, history, and their own lives.

Q: What are the biggest challenges you face as a teacher?

A: The lure of social media and its sim-

plification of language and thought. Making reading and writing and literature relevant to my students in an increasingly inarticulate world, and teaching empathy and acceptance in our polarized society.

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What is your favorite part of teaching at St. Martin’s?


Working with my middle school colleagues. We are a close community of dedicated, innovative, excellent teachers. The administration fosters this innovation and enthusiasm through our fabulous and generous professional development program. Of course, I can’t forget our wonderful students and their supportive families!

Education | 7

NOV. 24 - DEC. 14, 2017 ■ www.ReporterNewspapers.net

Cross Keys students join immigrant experience book project BY EVELYN ANDREWS evelyn@reporternewspapers.net

A nonprofit visited Brookhaven’s Cross Keys High School Nov. 10 to record the stories of students who immigrated to the U.S. and highlight the diversity of the community. The nonprofit, Green Card Voices, filmed students describing their experience moving to the U.S. and will later publish their stories in a book titled, “Green Card Youth Voices: Immigration Stories from an Atlanta High School.” It is scheduled to be released in April 2018. Tea Rozman Clark, the nonprofit’s executive director, said the goal of the project is to amplify the voice of immigrant students. “We want to create a system where people are empowered to tell their true story,” she said. “Once you know someone’s story, it’s harder to hate them or fear them.” Faysal Ando, a Cross Keys sophomore, who emigrated from Ethiopia 10 years ago, said he was nervous about speaking on camera and being photographed, but felt it was worth it. When people think of immigrants, they mostly think of immigrants from Mexico, but there are many people from other countries here, he said. “It’s a good way to teach people about the diversity here,” he said. “It’s for a good cause and I’m excited.” Clark interviewed Cross Keys students from more than 15 countries, including Bangladesh, Vietnam, Guatemala and Ethiopia. The three previous books have featured students from St. Paul, EVELYN ANDREWS Minneapolis and Fargo, The Green Card Voices team preps Cross Keys High Minnesota. The first two School student Saifa for her interview on Nov. 10. chapters of each book can be previewed online for free. The books cost $20 and the students featured in the books are compensated, Clark said. To view the already completed books, visit greencardvoices. com. The students’ video testimonies will also be posted on that site. Project organizers were contacted by a social work professor at Kennesaw State University, Darlene Rodriguez-Schaefer, who felt that Cross Keys would be a “natural fit” to film the stories given how many immigrant students attend the school, she said. The students are able to share their thoughts on common beliefs about immigrants to thousands of people, Rodriguez-Schaefer said. For the first time since beginning the project, Clark let a student respond in Spanish during her interview. The 15-year-old student had emigrated from Mexico a few months prior, bringing along her 4-month-old baby. This student cannot be identified because she is still in the process of receiving legal permission to reside in U.S. Her appearance in the book is contingent on her receiving legal status. Clark asked the last names of the other students not be used, but Ando provided permission to use his last name. Ando said he was excited to come to the U.S. — “a better country with better education” — and made friends quickly when he arrived. “Soccer has remained a constant in my life and I made a lot of friends through it,” he said. He said he plans to go to college and send money back to his family still in Ethiopia. “It’s really hard there right now. There’s a lot of political turmoil,” Ando said. “I got lucky coming here so I really want to help them. It’s a lot of pressure,” he said. Mario, who came to the U.S. from Mexico, said he is grateful he was able to come to the U.S. He said living in Mexico is dangerous and he probably would have dropped out of school if he still lived there. “I would probably be part of a drug cartel. With the current situation, it is dangerous to be there,” he said. Aleman said he hopes to major in computer science and design video games. Saifa, who moved from Bangladesh 10 years ago, said when she found out her family was coming to the U.S., she was scared and didn’t want to move. “I wasn’t able to say goodbye to my family and friends,” she said. “We were crying almost all the time. We missed everything. Everything was so unfamiliar.” Since then, she has made friends through clubs and started a dance club. If her family stayed in Bangladesh, Saifa said she thinks she would likely be dead. “It’s dangerous to go outside, especially for ladies and girls. There is killing every day,” she said.

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8 | Community

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Survey: How important are family traditions in your holiday celebrations? When it comes to holiday celebrations, local residents like theirs seasoned with traditional family events. In a cellphone survey of 200 residents in Atlanta, Brookhaven, Dunwoody and Sandy Springs conducted via 1Q.com, respondents chose celebrations based on or including family traditions by 3-to-1 over ones in which family traditions played little or no role. “The best way is to be with family and friends,” one 60-yearold Atlanta man wrote. “Laughing, sharing food and enjoying one another.” Food played a big part in holiday traditions described by many respondents. “Food! It’s all about food!” a 27-year-old Atlanta woman said. And what food! There’ll be turkey, of course. Lots of turkey. It’ll come roasted, deep-fried or smoked and with belt-bust-

ing stacks of side dishes: “I love all the fixings – turkey, ham, roast oyster dressing, giblet dressing, cranberry sauce, candied yams, cornbread, corn on the cob, potato salad, collard greens, sweet potato pie, pumpkin pie, cheesecake, red velvet cake, carrot cake and lots and lots of different beverages,” one 45-year-old Atlanta woman wrote. But turkey won’t be the only dish adorning holiday tables this as a family tradition. There’ll also be king crab, steaks, latkes, pozole, paella, prime rib, cookies, Chinese takeout, Waffle House breakfasts, lasagna, gumbo and home-made cinnamon rolls. “There’s something about sipping coffee and eating a cinnamon roll that brings back so many memories. It’s the little things!” a 22-year-old Atlanta woman commented. Others have created traditions linked to other culinary delights. “We always have a Hanukkah party each year and it is

catered by the Varsity,” a 63-year-old Sandy Springs woman said. “A family tradition and still going strong!” Some celebrants will return to mom’s house, or a relative’s house, or go to “different events at different houses.” Others seek exotic holiday locations: New York City, Orlando, the country. “We gather in the woods,” a 20-year-old Brookhaven woman said of her family’s traditional retreat from technology and electric devices. Still others plan to celebrate in ways that blend new and old. Some want to eat turkey, watch football and nap. Others will read Christmas stories, including the story of Christmas; or sing carols; or play family board or card games; or listen to ghost stories; or devote time to “putting up an aluminum Festivus pole, like on ‘Seinfeld’ ”; or drive around to admire holiday lights; or, as one respondent put it, to perform “drunk ka-


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NOV. 24 - DEC. 14, 2017

Community | 9


raoke.” “We always cook together and then watch a holiday-themed movie,” a 36-year-old Dunwoody woman wrote. “We kick our winter holiday off the weekend after Thanksgiving and we make it look like it’s snowing inside the house.” Several respondents had made movies part of their holiday traditions. Their families’ favorites ranged from “It’s a Wonderful Life” to “Die Hard” to “something picked 100 percent by the youngest member of our family.” One family, it appears, created a Christmas Day tradition of watching “Pulp Fiction” together. Respondents also cited more serious traditions highlighting the religious nature of the holidays. Some said they will attend midnight church services. “I usually don’t celebrate any holiday,” a 40-year-old Atlanta man wrote. “I cook for myself and just call my family. Other than that, I would volunteer to feed the homeless/hungry.” But most respondents said the holidays are family time. “It does not matter where we are,” a 41-year-old DeKalb County man commented, “as long as we are together.”






We have traditions, but mix in our own practices.

Family traditions play only a small role in celebrations.




Our celebration is based mostly on old family traditions.

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“My family tradition is to eat spaghetti the night before Thanksgiving and to also go out to eat the night after.” – 28-year-old Sandy Springs woman “Usually for the holidays we do different Latin dishes or another country’s dish for the main meals because our workplaces will usually do a traditional Thanksgiving and Christmas lunch.” – 30-year-old Sandy Springs woman

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10 | Commentary

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Commentary / GOP tax reform would help local families The House GOP’s Tax Cuts and Jobs Act is the first meaningful overhaul of the U.S. tax code in three decades. Today, the average American spends 17 hours completing their taxes, and our economy loses $400 billion in annual productivity as a result. Even worse, coming out of the worst recession many of us have seen in our lives, our economy continues to limp along with anemic growth and stagnant wages. But for economic growth in the 21st century, we need a tax code designed for the 21st century. The status U.S. Rep. quo is not good enough. Karen Handel The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act is a bold, transformative approach to tax reform that simplifies the code and reduces the tax burden on working Americans and middle-income families. The bill cleared the House Nov. 16 by a vote of 227-205, and I was proud to play a part in passing this historic legislation. H.R. 1 cuts federal income tax rates, eliminates loopholes and encourages investment in America’s economy. It replaces deductions and credits with broad tax reduction, eliminating a system that

has played favorites and distorted economic decision making for decades. Our plan is about Americans, especially low- and middle-income families, being able to keep more of their own, hard-earned money. We’re lowering federal income tax rates across the board — consolidating the existing seven tax brackets into four — while nearly doubling the standard deduction for individuals and married couples. According to Census data, the average family of four in the 6th Congressional District makes $132,066 per year. Under this bill, using the increased standard deduction, that family will take home an additional $4,658 per year. The bill also increases the Child Tax Credit from $1,000 to $1,600 per child and raises the credit’s annual income threshold from $110,000 to $230,000. Over 40,000 people in the 6th District already claim this credit, and even more will be able to under the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. And the fact that this is a credit — rather than a deduction — means the money goes in your pocket whether you itemize or not. At the same time, the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act eliminates the Alternative Minimum Tax. The AMT currently impacts 26,877 filers in the 6th — almost twice the national average. Finally, our bill encourages economic growth and job creation by lowering

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small businesses’ taxes to their lowest rates since World War II. Unfortunately, those who cling to the status quo are already hard at work employing the same old scare tactics and false innuendos. Don’t fall for it. The Washington Post’s recent fact check gave Senate Democrats “four Pinocchios” for saying our plan raises taxes on Americans — its strongest possible rating. The Post wrote that anyone spreading the claim “should delete their tweets and make clear they were in error.” In the coming weeks, there will be conversations about changes to make our proposal better. One such change has already been made, restoring the adoption tax credit for families opening their homes to children from around the world. Again, some will focus on the fact that our plan eliminates most deductions in the current tax code. But, by broadly cutting rates and doubling the standard deduction, we ensure that the overwhelming majority of 6th District residents see their taxes cut — with or without individual credits and deductions. In fact, the nonpartisan Joint Committee on Taxation recently confirmed that the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act would cut taxes for Americans at every income level. Over the years, Washington has created special-interest loophole after special-interest loophole, creating a system that benefits those whose lawyers and accountants can best navigate and exploit the tax code. The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act will remove those loopholes, adding fairness to the system and making the tax code so simple that nine out of 10 Americans will be able to file their return on a form the size of a postcard. The plan isn’t perfect. Few things are. Still, the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act is a critical step forward for families, small businesses, and for our hopes of modernizing America’s economy for the 21st century. As the House and Senate continue working on a compromise bill that can be signed into law by the President, I will remain focused on simplifying the tax code and lowering taxes on a vast majority of Americans. Our economy depends on it. Karen Handel represents Georgia’s 6th Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives. The district includes parts of Brookhaven, Dunwoody and Sandy Springs. She serves on the House Judiciary Committee and the House Committee on Education and the Workforce.

© 2017 with all rights reserved Publisher reserves the right to refuse editorial or advertising for any reason. Publisher assumes no responsibility for information contained in advertising. Any opinions expressed in print or online do not necessarily represent the views of Reporter Newspapers or Springs Publishing, LLC.


The Reporter will publish one issue next month, on December 15. In addition to regular news coverage and features, the issue will contain a special section commemorating the city of Brookhaven’s fifth anniversary. SS

NOV. 24 - DEC. 14, 2017

Commentary | 11


‘Friendsgiving’? Thanks, but no thanks. I was at the salon a few weeks ago for my seasonal haircut, engaging in mindless chit-chat with the cute young gal who was washing my hair, when she asked me about my plans for the Thanksgiving weekend. “Well, we have a pre-Thanksgiving chili night with neighbors on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving,” I began. She, being under 30 and thus recognizing all things “trending,” perked up and said, “Oh! You’re having a Friendsgiving!” “No,” I frowned, admitting to my own un-trendingRobin Conte is a writer ness. “It’s pre-Thanksgiving Chili Night with Neighbors.” and mother of four who I won’t have my fun chili night cheapened by a trendy cliché. lives in Dunwoody. She Friendsgiving, for those of you who are as un-trending can be contacted at as I am, is marketed as Thanksgiving, only better. A snarrobinjm@earthlink.net. kier definition is that it’s a Thanksgiving meal ostensibly shared with people you really WANT to eat with instead of with the people you really DON’T want to eat with … or something like that. It can happen anytime during the month of November: the Wednesday before or the Friday after, the weekend after, or really any day at all except on Thanksgiving … no, it can even happen on Thanksgiving. Friendsgiving has its own invitations, Pinterest pages, Wiki page and page on Merriam-Webster.com. It has its own set of rules on Buzzfeed and The Kitchn, created by people who write for Buzzfeed and The Kitchn. (Here I digress just long enough to wholeheartedly endorse a rule listed on both sites which states that if you are assigned to bring a dish, bring it completely prepared — do not bring its components and assemble it in the host’s kitchen. Thank you, social network site writers, for validating my personal pet peeve.) Southern Living has even gotten into the game, devoting a post to Friendsgiving recipes that look suspiciously like Thanksgiving recipes. So maybe our pre-Thanksgiving Chili Night with Neighbors doesn’t qualify as Friendsgiving anyway, because we don’t do the traditional turkey and sides. Either way, I like our plan much better. I have enough trouble cooking one turkey a year; I don’t want to do two in one month. Besides that, it will be July, and I will still manage to discover a Tupperware container of leftover turkey or SPECIAL sweet potato casserole in the back of Robin prepares a dish of Thanks Con Carne. the freezer — I don’t need more of the same from an identical dinner. Like a Disney sidekick, a bowl of chili provides a welcome relief to the barrage of leftovers on the one end and the barrage of preparations on the other. Back to our pre-Thanksgiving Chili Night with Neighbors, whose names I will now reveal as Lisa and Andy. We take turns hosting and supplying the chili; Lisa makes Cincinnati-style, and I make halftime-style. We also supply kids, parents, and occasional surprise guests, and we always have a great evening, unmarred by the fact that we are practically trending — but not quite. The only other snag in our Pre-Thanksgiving Chili Night with Neighbors is the clunky title. I admit that “Friendsgiving” is a whole lot catchier. So what shall we call it? “Chili Night” is too generic. “No Thanks-giving” is too harsh. Thanks Con Carne? Three Alarm Neighbors? Friends Five Ways? Let me know, and I’ll start my own trend.

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Methodist Dunwoody United Gil Yates, about to begin at for his classmate Coast Indians was making a beeline A class on Pacific strode into the room, Church when a man OK.” approached. “Shuffling’sbuddy, who would not front row, center. said, as the man his “No running!” Yates is a year older than all in good fun. Yates The teasing was share his age: 91. with Perimeter Adults did but spring this name, classes reveal his 175 students taking The men are among most of whom (PALS). By Kathy for senior adults, Services education & Learning continuing the start.Dean year of providing been members from PALS is in its 25th need for of Dunwoody, have Wethe hear takes care of it all and his wife, Dot, and this kind of are 60-plus. Yates rings especially the time: less is more. The to help other people, phrase true for older “People our age want made lifelong friends.” adults who are empty nests and Yates said. “We have facing are4 ready to Continued on page fellowship,” Dot of their enjoy the lives. Intown and north metro second half many comforta Atlanta offer ble options for them. “Baby boomers have spent much working and of their lives building said Dawn Anderson their wealth for retiremen t,” , Realtor, Dorsey “As retiremen Alston Realtors. t becomes more of a reality, they plan their transition begin to to downsize. Ease and affordability of life, proximity are certainly the goals of most downsizing common boomers.” The trend of continues to grow, 55+ active adult commun ities Anderson said. well qualified “Baby boomers buyers and know are looking for.” exactly what they are Kim Isaacs, aged Avalon in Alpharet 58, said that her townhom e in ta gives her everything they and her husband want. “We had home in Johns lived in our previous Creek for 19 years. left for college, When our last we child and really didn’t decided that we wanted a change need a large house of us,” she said. for just the two



Continued on


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12 | Community

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Fulton chair candidates differ on leadership, tax issue BY JOHN RUCH johnruch@reporternewspapers.net

As Robb Pitts and Keisha Waites head toward a Dec. 5 runoff election for Fulton County Commission chair, they are staking out differences on leadership styles and the property tax assessment issue. They also show different appetites for the endorsement of former candidate Gabriel Sterling, a Sandy Springs City Councilmember who topped the vote in north Fulton and most of Buckhead, but was eliminated in the Nov. 7 election. Pitts says he has the most experience, while Waites pitches herself as a more collaborative, regional leader. “I think that what differentiates me from [Waites] is my experience … my background and experience are far, far, far superior to hers,” Pitts said, noting he has served as a Fulton commissioner, Atlanta City Council president and City Councilmember chairing its finance and development committees. “So I’ve done it. I’ve been there.” Pitts added that on “image and style … there is no comparison.” That’s important, he said, because “the chairman is the face of the county.” “I see myself as a major consensusbuilder and bridge-builder,” said Waites, adding that she views the chair position as a regional leader in modern metro Atlanta.

Waites said that residents everywhere in Fulton “have the same desires” – fixing an “archaic, antiquated tax system,” ensuring clean air and water, and expanding MARTA. Pitts said his experience includes “a demonstrated track record of working with elected officials up north,” such as legislation to help Sandy Springs buy parkland at a nominal rate when the city incorporated. One of those current north Fulton officials is Sterling, who said he is “undecided” on whether he will endorse one of his former competitors and “undetermined” on whether he will discuss it with either of them. Waites said she has requested Sterling’s endorsement. She said Sterling’s message was “more conservative than mine, but we are like-minded individuals” on such ideas as leading by consensus and using innovative practices. Pitts said he has not spoken to Sterling, but claimed to have gained support of many of Sterling’s backers. During the campaign, Sterling hammered Pitts with a TV ad showing him waving a handful of taxpayer money and filed an official complaint accusing Pitts of misreporting campaign spending. Property tax assessments went from controversy to crisis this year. The situation began with surprise sharply increased

assessments for many homeowners. County assessors said that merely reflected the booming real estate market’s realities, while officials widely acknowledged that increases should have happened gradually over recent years. In June, the county commission, under former Chairman John Eaves, froze assessments at 2016 levels as a stopgap measure, but the state Department of Revenue later rejected the freeze, sending school system budgets into chaos. A court order allowed tax collections to continue while a long-term solution is found. Pitts opposed the assessment freeze, while Waites expressed uncertainty about the tactic. “I don’t know what I would have done, looking back,” Waites said when asked about the assessment freezing tactic. But she expressed concern that some areas saw sharp increases while others did not, raising “equity” issues and concerns of “back-door … tax increases” when appraisals of houses go up due to expensive infill housing nearby. Going forward, Waites said, she wants to “completely revise the dispute and appeal process.” She noted she has some personal knowledge of the process as an owner of rental properties. Tax bills and liens on those properties became an issue after an Atlanta Journal-Constitution story that Waites calls “slanted” and “mean-

spirited.” She said the taxes were never left unpaid, but rather are on a repayment SPECIAL plan, and Robb Pitts. that most of the liens were placed when other family members owned the property. Pitts said that some of the appraisSPECIAL als were Keisha Waites. probably wrong, but that nothing unusual was happening. “I was convinced that [assessment freeze] was not going to be acceptable to the state and I turned out to be correct,” he added, saying property owners now likely face another adjustment in the first quarter of next year. Pitts said he believes the county needs more appraisers and “better technology” and should consider outsourcing the services.

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Community | 13


District 6’s blue flip is a numbers game, expert says BY JOHN RUCH johnruch@reporternewspapers.net

While the Dec. 5 runoff election for the state Senate District 6 seat has yet to be held, one result is already certain: the district will flip to Democratic control for the first time in five years. In a surprise ending, the eight-way race ended up with Democrats Jen Jordan and Jaha Howard as the top two vote-getters. The red-to-blue flip drew surprise and concern from some local and state Republican leaders. But Hunter Hill, the last person to hold the seat, and Joseph Knippenberg, an Oglethorpe University political science professor, say the result was mostly about Republicans cannibalizing the vote. “Too many Republican candidates cost the party a seat,” said Knippenberg, noting that the Democratic candidates combined won under 50 percent of the votes. “It isn’t evidence of an even more resurgent Democratic resistance to Trumpism in affluent suburbs. It’s just an unusual result produced by unusual circumstances which tells us exactly nothing about how the race will turn out next time.” That next time comes in less than a year, as the special election only fills Hill’s unexpired term after he resigned to run for governor. Knippenberg said that, while Republicans hold the advantage in the number of voters, they should not take a regular-election win for granted in the district next year. “I’m not about to predict that Republicans should just assume that they’ll win the seat back in 2018,” he said. “A lot will depend on the energy generated by the races at the top of the ballot, and the quality of the candidates and organizations in the district.” “I don’t like the result,” Hill, a Smyrna Republican, said of the Nov. 7 special election, which shed five Republican contenders. “I wanted to make sure my constituents were well-represented, and now I don’t think they will be.” On the other hand, Hill said, he resigned the seat to focus on his gubernatorial run and ensure his constituents could elect a replacement rather than

Hunter Hill.

Joseph Knippenberg.

have one appointed, and that’s what they’re doing. “The district is a very evenly split district,” Hill said when asked about the local political significance of the flip. He noted that five candidates split the Republican vote and the Democrats combined got under 50 percent, so “it becomes a math problem.” He indicated he was surprised that a Republican did not come out on top. District 6 includes southern Cobb County, a large swath of northern Buckhead, and sections of southern and central areas of Sandy Springs. The district has long been a partisan battleground. For many years, it was a Cobb-centered seat held for four terms by Democrat Doug Stoner. In a highly contentious 2011 redistricting, the Republican-led legislature redrew the district to include the Buckhead and Sandy Springs areas. Republicans said that just reflected population changes. Democrats argued it was a move to flip the district Republican and ensure a supermajority that could override vetoes and push state constitutional amendments. The seat indeed flipped Republican with Hill’s election in 2012. But it was not solidly Republican. Last year, Hill barely defeated Howard, 52 to 48 percent, in one of the electoral close calls that drew the attention of local GOP leaders. Precinct-based results in this year’s special election showed Republican candidates winning most votes in Buckhead’s single-family suburban areas. But Jordan won a plurality in central Buckhead and many of the Sandy Springs precincts.

The result cleared surprised many in the GOP. Several local Republican officials early on Election Night predicted a runoff between two Republicans – though each had different guesses about which two Republicans it would be. Afterward, state Sen. Josh McKoon (R-Columbus), a candidate for Georgia secretary of state, proposed that special elections be required to have a party primary. Knippenberg said the result showed how a special election “rewards campaigns with the best organizations and the most intense supporters.” He noted the low turnout — about 24,000 people voted, while Hill alone drew 42,000 votes in his win last year — and that the GOP’s total share of the vote, 50.7 percent, was similar to Hill’s winning share in 2016. “The most intense and active GOP vot-

Jaha Howard.

ers barely outnumber the most intense and active Democratic voters [in the district],” Knippenberg said. “A primary here would have helped the Republicans, as would have a strong local organization that could have discouraged one or two or three of the GOP contenders.”

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Runoff election is Dec. 5 Runoff elections will be held Tuesday, Dec. 5 in two local races. All Sandy Springs voters can weigh in on the Fulton County Commission chair race, where Robb Pitts and Keisha Waites are competing. Voters in state Senate District 6, which includes part of southern and central Sandy Springs, can choose between Jaha Howard and Jen Jordan. For information about your polling place and elected officials, see the Fulton County website at fultonelections.com.

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14 | Community

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Mount Vernon widening debate focuses on transit Continued from page 1 weeks ago or why he can now, and that situation remains mysterious. “Look me in the eyes. We’re not taking houses,” Paul told at least three residents while taking them by the shoulders. With that issue apparently off the table, residents still had questions about the amount of right of way that might be needed and about the possible types of alternative transportation in the corridor, which is the section of Mount Vernon between the Sandy Springs MARTA Station and Roswell Road. Alternative concepts include adding up to two on-street lanes exclusively for modes other than single-occupancy motor vehicles, such as bicycles, ride-share cars, shuttle buses or streetcars. Sticker-voting on display panels by attendees showed a strong preference to keep Mount Vernon car-centric and strong opposition to mass transit. City-hired consultants said in a presentation that they heard similar results from a Sept. 18 “focus group” meeting and a mailed survey that drew 705 responses. They said that while a majority of respondents still want to drive in the corridor, 20 to 25 percent expressed interest in a shuttle service, which could significantly reduce traffic. At the Nov. 14 meeting, residents had concerns about whether any such alternative transportation was intended to serve them or outsiders, and smaller land-taking for right of way remained an issue. The meeting’s format also drew criticism, with many attendees calling it “insulting” or “disappointing” for lacking a question-and-answer period during a main gathering, which meant that complaints and the mayor’s responses could not be heard by all attendees. Paul insisted that the meeting was more informative and efficient by holding a presentation and by providing officials at various displays to answer questions. He also stood to the side of a room and spoke directly with about a dozen residents in lengthy conversations, as did City Councilmember Chris Burnett. Also in attendance was City Councilmember-elect Jody Reichel, who said she was still learning about the project and that she believes the “city does a good job listening.” “We don’t want to give you a final plan and say, ‘Take it or leave it,’” Paul told one attendee, repeatedly assuring residents

that their input will count. Meeting materials are available online at sandyspringsga.gov/mountvernon. Consultants expect to return with draft recommendations in February and finalize a design for City Council consideration in April.

Transportation options

The Mount Vernon concept is a combination of two items on a transportation special local option sales tax project list approved by


Above, Residents sticker-vote on favored and disfavored alternative transit options for Mount Vernon Highway at a Nov. 14 meeting at Mount Vernon Presbyterian Church.

Left, Resident Eric Jacobson complains loudly to Mayor Rusty Paul about the meeting’s format and concerns of lack of input. The mayor offered to have coffee with him and discuss it further.

voters last year. One is a multiuse trail on Mount Vernon, and the other is a study of creating a Perimeter Center trail network that can double as alternative mass transit routes if funding becomes available. Eastwest transit in the corridor is also mentioned in the recent “Next Ten” city planning vision document that was developed with community input. By law, those TSPLOST projects must be completed within the next six years, so “we have to do it,” Paul said. But, he explained, there is plenty of room for input on what “it” will be and its effects on surrounding property. While the TSPLOST and Next Ten got general community support, a question from Mount Vernon residents is whether alternative transportation is intended to serve them or outside commuters. Consultants at the meeting mentioned Perimeter Center employees wanting to lunch on Roswell Road, for example. Paul said he was concerned their presentation gave a “misimpression” and that he believes the goal is to “add options so people living here can go to City Springs,” the new civic center set to open at Mount Vernon and Roswell Road next year. An advantage of adding one or two “multi-modal” lanes to the street is reserv-

ing space for possible future transit, Paul said. He said the city cannot afford mass transit systems at the moment, but technology is rapidly changing, such as the innovation of autonomous buses. Brian Eufinger, a resident who helped to organize a recent homeowners association about the concept, has raised concerns that such lanes would end up being used by single-occupancy cars in the meantime, and perhaps permanently. City spokesperson Sharon Kraun and Steve Tiedemann, the city’s TSPLOST program manager, say that the lanes would be reserved for alternative transportation modes only and could be used by conventional bicycles or shuttles.

Property-taking concerns

Adding multi-modal lanes would require taking some amount of right of way from yards along the corridor. Early, crude conceptual drawings dating back to January showed possible house-takings. Those drawings became the focus of neighborhood concern in recent weeks, when surveyors began appearing unannounced in local yards and the consultants showed up asking about transit while saying they could not address right of way issues. City officials repeatedly said they thought house-taking was unlikely, but could not be ruled out in this early stage.

Local HOAs held an Oct. 24 meeting where Burnett repeated that stance to an angry crowd. Yet just two days later, Tiedemann said planners already knew they didn’t need to take houses, and that message was confirmed at the Nov. 14 meeting, which included a new map of maximum potential right of way. It remains unclear why the city’s message changed so abruptly, but there are indications it is a combination of politics and a communications disconnect between the city’s political leaders and its planning staff and outside consultants. Asked why the city didn’t just rule out house-taking to begin with and when leaders were aware of the new map, Paul paused for several seconds and declined to answer. “I just don’t think I’m going to [answer],” Paul said, adding only that earlier information had been presented by someone in a “misleading” way. Kraun said the possibility of house-taking was effectively dead on arrival when councilmembers greeted it coolly earlier this year. “That was off the table, you could say, in January,” she said, adding half-jokingly that likewise, the possibility is politically dead now “because the mayor said so.” But on the technical side, she said, city officials hedged in their recent statements because the consultants were still working. She said the City Council still has not been briefed on the project’s current status and that the new right of way map was delivered by consulting firm KCI to the city only on Nov. 10. SS

NOV. 24 - DEC. 14, 2017

Community | 15


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‘Sparkle Sandy Springs’ event to be city’s new holiday tradition Dr. Anita Pandey

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“Sparkle Sandy Springs,” a monthlong December display of lit and decorated miniature houses, will debut Dec. 3 and is intended to kick off a new city holiday tradition. The 7-foot-tall houses will be on display at Heritage Sandy Springs, with decorations created by local nonprofits and businesses, and also by the Atlanta street artist known as sQuishiepuss. The display is a collaboration with Sandy Springs Hospitality & Tourism. “We love the tradition of gingerbread houses for the holidays, but wanted a display that we could light up and exhibit outdoors,” said Jennifer Cruce, the executive director of Hospitality & Tourism. “By creating small (4-by-7-foot) wooden houses, we’ve provided a canvas for some artistic expression from some of our schools and local businesses and we can have them on display for almost a month. We hope to be able to do this year after year.” Carol Thompson, the executive director of Heritage Sandy Springs, said her organization is excited to offer a holiday event at its historic site, which includes the city’s namesake spring. “We have always loved the idea of lighting up Heritage Green during the holidays, and this event gives our much-loved park the opportunity to shine,” Thompson said. SQuishiepuss – real name Ray Geier – has his cartoon-style art in several local businesses, including the videogame bar Battle & Brew, which made him known to city officials. Geier said the concept of his mini house is “Sandy Springs gets a puppy for Christmas,” and the design features his trademark pink French bulldog. “I’m very much into doing community projects, so of course this project really appealed to me,” said Geier. He added that he has made 2017 his year to give back to others, “so I love being asked to do these kind of projects where I can bring some happiness to the community.” Sparkle Sandy Springs will debut Sunday, Dec. 3, 5-8 p.m. at Heritage’s Entertainment Lawn, 6110 Blue Stone Road. The opening event will feature a fire pit, food trucks and music from the Riverwood International Charter School Band, the Ridgeview Charter Chamber Orchestra, and the School of Rock Atlanta House Band. The houses and surrounding lawn area will have decorative lighting and remain open for public viewing through Dec. 31. The opening and the ongoing display are free. The miniature houses are currently off-site as they are decorated. People and organizations decorating the houses include: Abernathy Arts Center, Community Assistance Center, Holy Innocents’ Episcopal School, Mount Vernon Presbyterian School, North Springs Charter High School, Painting with a Twist, Riverwood International Charter School, sQuishiepuss and Trader Joe’s. For more information, see visitsandysprings.org.

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16 | Out & About

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The City of Brookhaven hosts its annual Christmas tree lighting and Hanukkah display at Blackburn Park in an event featuring music, free crafts and refreshments, a hot chocolate sale hosted by local Girl Scouts, and pictures with Santa. Toys for Tots donations accepted. Free. 3493 Ashford-Dunwoody Road, Brookhaven. Info: 404-637-0508.

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Dunwoody’s Stage Door Players present a hometown celebration of the season written by award-winning Atlanta playwright Phillip DePoy and based on the writings of Atlanta Journal-Constitution columnist Celestine Sibley. Adults $33; seniors $30; students $22; ages 12 and under $15. 5339 Chamblee-Dunwoody Road, Dunwoody. Tickets: 770-396-1726. Info: stagedoorplayers.net.


Saturday, Dec. 2, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

More than 40 vendors of handmade and eco-friendly gifts for the holiday season will sell their wares at this Chattahoochee Nature Center event. A Holiday Market Cafe will offer sandwiches, salads and soups. Many vendors can only take cash or check and there is no ATM on site. No pets. Limited parking. Free admission day at the nature center. 9135 Willeo Road, Roswell. Info: chattnaturecenter.org or 770-992-2055 x238.

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Saturday, Dec. 2 and Sunday, Dec. 3, 12:30 to 5 p.m.

Covenant Presbyterian Church presents a market featuring handcrafted gifts, jewelry, home decor, Christmas decorations, fashion accessories, fair trade food products, baskets and more from around the world. Proceeds support the efforts of Ten Thousand Villages and the LaGonave Haiti Partnership. Free. Covenant Presbyterian Church Fellowship Hall, 2461 Peachtree Road, Buckhead. Free parking is available on the top deck of the Peachtree Battle Shopping Center, immediately south of the church. Info: covpresatlanta.org.




Saturday, Dec. 2, 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. and Sunday, Dec. 3, 5:30 to 7:30 p.m.

This fifth annual event features a display of more than 200 nativity sets and crèches from around the world, artwork dedicated to the life of Jesus Christ, a children’s craft workshop, live nativity, and a music festival featuring jazz ensembles, children’s choirs and a Christmas carol sing-along. Free. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 6449 Glenridge Drive, Sandy Springs. Info: atlantanativitycelebration.org.


Saturday, Dec. 2, 8 to 11 p.m. Free beginner’s dance lesson 7 p.m.

The Atlanta Cajun Zydeco Association hosts the Carolina Gator Gumbo band for a concert and dance at the Dorothy Benson Center. Cajun/Creole food for sale. 6500 Vernon Woods Drive, Sandy Springs. $18; $14 active military; $5 students. Info: aczadance.org or 877-338-2420.

SWEDISH CHRISTMAS MARKET Sunday, Dec. 3, 11 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.

The Swedish Women’s Educational Association International showcases the culture and holiday traditions of Sweden at this event featuring Lucia processions, children’s activities and live entertainment. Swedish items for sale include baked goods, chocolates, traditional and modern handicrafts and used books. Swedish foods and drinks available. $2 adults, free for ages under 18 and for anyone wearing a Scandinavian national costume. Dorothy Benson Center, 6500 Vernon Woods Drive, Sandy Springs. Info: atlanta.swea.org/julmarknaden.

“MORE THAN A BABY” Sunday, Dec. 3, 4 p.m.

Dunwoody United Methodist church hosts its annual family Christmas extravaganza featuring children’s choirs, youth bells and choir, and tone chimes choir. Live nativity, food truck dinner and cocoa at the church Christmas tree lot. 1548 Mount Vernon Road, Dunwoody. Info: 770-394-0675.


Sunday, Dec. 3, 5 to 8 p.m., continuing daily through Dec. 31

A holiday display of miniature houses decorated by local organizations and artists and illuminated at night. The Dec. 3 opening event will feature a fire pit, food trucks and music from the Riverwood International Charter School Band, the Ridgeview Charter Chamber Orchestra, and the School of Rock Atlanta House Band.

NOV. 24 - DEC. 14, 2017


Free. Heritage Sandy Springs, Entertainment Lawn, 6110 Blue Stone Road, Sandy Springs. Info: visitsandysprings.org.


Friday, Dec. 8, 8 p.m., and Saturday, Dec. 9, 2 p.m. and 8 p.m.

The 37th annual Atlanta Gay Men’s Chorus holiday concert features arrangements made famous by Barbra Streisand as well as “You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch” and Franz Biebl’s “Ave Maria.” The Handbell Choir of Morningside Presbyterian Church will join the chorus, as will a guest string quintet. $15$50. A free ice cream social follows the concert. The Cathedral of St. Philip, 2744 Peachtree Road NW, Buckhead. Info: voicesofnote.org or 404-320-1030.


Sunday, Dec. 10, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Or VeShalom Synagogue is celebrating its 103rd anniversary and hosting its 42nd Annual Hanukkah Bazaar. Guests can sample authentic Sephardic/Mediterranean cuisine and handmade delicacies and pastries. Art, jewelry, crafts and used books will be for sale, and children can explore an art and game room. $3. 1681 North Druid Hills Road, Brookhaven. Info: email bazaar@orveshalom.org or visit orveshalom.org.


Sunday, Dec. 10, 3 to 7 p.m.

The Chattahoochee Nature Center brings on the holidays with live reindeer, performances, crafts, reindeer games, a campfire, food trucks, and the launch of the Enchanted Woodland Trail featuring Fairy Houses and Gnome Homes. Included with admission. $10 adults; $7 seniors (65+) and students (ages 13-18); $6 children (ages 3-12); free for children under age 3. 9135 Willeo Road, Roswell. Info: chattnaturecenter.org or 770-992-2055.


The Dunwoody United Methodist Church Chancel Choir and chamber group Musica Gloria present a concert featuring Vivaldi’s “Gloria” and other orchestral works. Free. Dunwoody United Methodist Church sanctuary, 1548 Mount Vernon Road, Dunwoody. Info: DunwoodyUMC.org.


Sunday, Dec. 10, 5 to 8 p.m. Doors open at 4 p.m.

Out & About | 17

er beverages available for purchase. $20 Heritage Sandy Springs members; $25 non-members. Heritage Hall, 6110 Blue Stone Road, Sandy Springs. Info and tickets: heritagesandysprings.org.


Thursday, Dec. 7 to Saturday, Dec. 9, 7 p.m.

The Galloway School Arts Department presents a festival of music, theater and dance in three acts featuring more than 120 Upper Learning students in theatre, theatre tech, dance, chorus, band, orchestra, and visual art. The student-produced piece explores the students’ own concepts of home, drawing inspiration from personal accounts of teachers, parents, schoolmates and friends. All ages. Free, reservations required. Chaddick Center for the Arts, Galloway School, 215 West Wieuca Road NW, Buckhead. Tickets: gallowayschool.org.


Learn about some of the adaptations that allow local wildlife to survive Georgia winters and how you can make your yard a winter haven. Ages 6 and up. Children under 16 must be accompanied by an adult. $5 individual; $10 family. Lost Corner Preserve, 7300 Brandon Mill Road, Sandy Springs. Info: 770-206-2035. Registration: registration.sandyspringsga.gov.


Mark Staufer, former head of production at Universal Studios Networks and a Hollywood screenwriter and script doctor, will give tips on how to tell your story so it can be heard. Reservations required. Free. Buckhead Library, 269 Buckhead Ave. NE, Buckhead. Info: 404-814-3500.


Tuesday, Dec. 5, 6:30 to 7:30 p.m.

George Weinstein, former president of the Atlanta Writers Club, discusses his book “Aftermath,” about a fictional woman who gets tangled in the secrets of a small Georgia town when she returns there as the inheritor of her murdered father’s valuable estate. Free. Garden Room at the Williams-Payne House, 6075 Sandy Springs Circle, Sandy Springs. Info: Melissa Swindell, mswindell@heritagesandysprings.org or 404-851-9111 ext. 2.

Renowned jazz trumpeters Cecil Welch and Joe Gransden join forces with guest vocalist Robin Latimore for Heritage Sandy Springs’ Heritage Winter Classics. Complimentary appetizers and SUBMIT YOUR EVENT LISTING WITH US AT desserts; beer, calendar@ReporterNewspapers.net wine and oth-

Healthy Holidays!! 5 TIPS FOR OLDER ADULTS TO STAY ACTIVE AND ENGAGED DURING THE HOLIDAYS • Physical activity: Taking a walk after a hearty holiday meal is a good idea for those of any age, but it is particularly beneficial to seniors. • Healthy diet: Lean meats, such as turkey breast, serve as a healthy alternative to red meat. Other “super foods” for older adults that are beneficial in holiday meals are blueberries, flax seed, carrots, eggs, nuts and salmon. • Sharp minds: Designing holiday festivities around skill-based games such as Scrabble, checkers, backgammon or Wii, not only makes the event fun for party-goers, but it can also help seniors enhance cognitive function. • Social ties: While group activities in family homes or senior centers can be the focus of holiday celebrations, aging adults can also benefit from receiving daily calls or emails to help them feel connected to those they care about. • Calmness and Purpose: For some older adults, participating in a religious service helps them maintain a calm center and focus on their life purpose; others may prefer practices such as yoga or meditation.

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Local state judge makes Trump’s Supreme Court short list BY JOHN RUCH johnruch@reporternewspapers.net

Ultimately, it’s your experience that matters. To be sure, we’re proud of our 29 years of experience in senior living. But, to us, what really matters is your experience at our communities. We do everything with that idea clearly in mind. So, go ahead, enjoy yourself with great social opportunities and amenities. Savor fine dining every day. And feel assured that assisted living services are always available if needed. We invite you to experience The Piedmont for yourself at a complimentary lunch and tour. Please call 404.381.1743 to schedule.

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A judge who sits on the state’s highest court and hails from Sandy Springs has made President Trump’s short list of potential U.S. Supreme Court nominees. Georgia Supreme Court Justice Britt Grant, speaking at a Sandy Springs Bar Association lunch days before Trump’s announcement, declined to comment on rumors that she was being considered for a federal judgeship. “I hope my future [is] continuing to serve on this court for a really long time,” she said when asked more generally about her future in government service. Grant also described her conservative judicial philosophy and how it was shaped by the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks, which were committed while she worked in the White House. “I remember from those days understanding our government was JOHN RUCH under threat,” as was the U.S. ConstiGeorgia Supreme Court Justice Britt Grant speaks tution, she said at the Nov. 9 lunch to the Sandy Springs Bar Association Nov. 9. held at Heritage Sandy Springs. At the time of the lunch, Grant had been named in media reports as on Trump’s threeperson list of candidates to replace retiring federal Judge Frank Hull on the Atlanta-based U.S. 11th Circuit Court of Appeals, and that is the rumor she declined to comment on. On Nov. 17, the White House announced that Grant was among those added to Trump’s public, 25-person list of potential candidates to fill any vacancy on the U.S. Supreme Court. The White House describes the list as an attempt to “Make the Judiciary Great Again,” and Trump previously used the list to nominate the newest Supreme Court justice, Neil Gorsuch. Grant’s legal background includes clerking for a federal judge; serving in Georgia’s Attorney General’s office under Sam Olens and Chris Carr, including as solicitor general, or top trial attorney; and working in private practice. She also worked for current Gov. Nathan Deal when he was a congressman and served in President George W. Bush’s White House in domestic policy jobs. Deal appointed Grant to fill a Georgia Supreme Court vacancy last year. She took office on Jan. 1 and, along with the rest of the justices, must stand for election next year. At the Bar Association lunch, Grant spoke about her local ties. She said she is a descendant of the Burdett family, whose “milk house,” dating to around 1860 and preserved on the Heritage Sandy Springs site, is the city’s oldest unaltered structure. Grant was born at Buckhead’s Piedmont Hospital and attended The Westminster Schools before heading to Stanford Law School in California, which she jokingly described as a “foreign trip” from the conservative Georgia perspective. While working for Olens, she said, she had a “strong desire to sing the praises of Sandy Springs” as he talked so much about his home of Cobb County. Grant described her judicial philosophy as “separation of powers” and change by “democratic process rather than by judicial fiat.” “Our job is to respect what the text of the law is,” as well as jury decisions, she said. A big factor in her perspective, she said, is her service in all three branches of government at both the federal and local levels, “when you’ve been in the shoes of the person who had to make that decision.” Another big influence: the “unnatural disaster” of Sept. 11. “It affected me very deeply based on what I saw and heard that day,” said Grant, who was working in the White House’s West Wing at the time, while her husband Justin — also a Sandy Springs native — worked at the CIA. Grant recalled that even within the White House, information was scant and no one believed it was a deliberate attack until TV news showed the second plane hit the World Trade Center. “I remember being in the hall and [hearing] everyone scream,” Grant said. “I even remember hearing [then U.S. Secretary of State] Condoleezza Rice saying, ‘Now we know it’s terrorism.’ ” She recalled CNN reporting that the West Wing had been evacuated, when in fact she and other staff members huddled in a basement room, holding hands and praying. Finally, she said, a Secret Service agent did evacuate them, saying, “You need to run. Ladies, take off your shoes.” Grant said the attacks reinforced her idea that the U.S. Constitution is something to defend. She said they also were followed by a time different from today’s “polarized politics.” “Such a comparatively short time ago, we all knew and believed we’re all in this together,” she said.

NOV. 24 - DEC. 14, 2017

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A peek inside Mercedes-Benz USA’s new headquarters BY JOHN RUCH johnruch@reporternewspapers.net

Lots of glass, plenty of daylight and wide-open spaces were on display during a sneak preview of the new Mercedes-Benz USA headquarters in Sandy Springs on Nov. 13. “The idea of the building is cooperation and working together,” and it’s built to encourage that, said MBUSA president and CEO Dietmar Exler during the media tour. Scheduled to open in March 2018, the 200,000-square-foot new headquarters for the luxury carmaker’s North American division is still under construction. MBUSA currently has a temporary headquarters in Dunwoody after a 2015 relocation from New Jersey, and a little more than 1,000 employees will move into the new building through May 2018, Exler said. The building is rising at the corner of Abernathy and Barfield roads, with its frontage on Barfield soon to be officially renamed “Mercedes-Benz Drive” in a compromise reached after a dispute with a neighboring Mormon temple. Its 12-acre site was formerly a wooded part of the Glenridge estate, most of which is now being developed by Ashton Woods, including the Aria housing subdivision across Abernathy and a mixed-use project in the early preparation stages adjacent to MBUSA. While the new facility is MBUSA’s corporate headquarters, its on-site employees will be more specifically focused on sales, marketing and customer service, not designing or manufacturing cars. “So there [are] no secret labs,” Exler said. On the outside, the headquarters is a relatively modest glass-walled box. Inside, it features a huge atrium and open-plan office spaces with floor-to-ceiling windows, with managers located among the employees in glass-walled rooms. The design follows a millennials-driven trend in corporate headquarters for collaborative workspaces that emphasize socializing over hierarchy.

The open, three-story atrium is intended for informal “town hall” employee meetings.

“The more relaxed kind of opportunities to get together … we find the better it is, because we want to foster communication,” said Exler. Architect Stephen Swicegood of the firm Gensler said his firm is working on similar office interiors for other major corporations, including a renovation of the Coca-Cola Company’s downtown Atlanta headquarters and the new NCR headquarters in Midtown Swicegood said that at MBUSA, a design theme was to “always think about spaces as having more than one use.” So that atrium will double as both a cafeteria eating space and as an area to stage informal

MBUSA president and CEO Dietmar Exler discusses the building’s atrium while architect Stephen Swicegood looks on.

“town hall” meetings of all employees. Another example is a coffee bar where employees can naturally socialize, but also plug their laptops into monitors to do some work, or sit in booths for more private conversations. In Exler’s favorite saying, the building is “about ‘we’ space and not so much about ‘me’ space.” However, everyone needs “me” space sometimes, and the building will have those as well, he said. They include small “huddle rooms” for private conversations and closed offices for human resources and legal departments. A downside of huge collaborative spaces is echoes and noise. To tackle those problems, the designers are adding partial drop ceilings and piping in a broadcast of white noise, Exler said. “Branding was really important” in the design as well, Swicegood said. In the most obvious sense, that will include huge black-and-silver metal logos going up on the exterior. More subtly, he said, designers set out to “think about it like a Mercedes car.” The result, he said, was “not a crazy, zooming, curvy building,” but rather the simple lines, company color scheme on the trim, and windshield-like glass that is darker on the outside but transparent from the inside. Quality of life is another goal of the design. “No person sitting in this building will be more than 30 feet from daylight,” Swicegood said of all that glass. Amenities will range from a fitness center and a day care indoors to an outdoor walking trail around the building


shaded by 784 trees. The fitness center was a popular feature at the old New Jersey headquarters, Exler said, though he indicated an unwillingness to repeat former CEO Steve Cannon’s practice of leading 6 a.m. spin classes for executives. Exler said the day care – which includes a sizeable outdoor playground – was a necessary feature. That’s partly because “the average age of our employees came drastically down,” by 10 to 15 years, with the move from New Jersey. That’s because the company long had little staff turnover, but is now hiring new employees, either for new positions or to replace those who were laid off or did not move with the company. Exler said age diversity was an unintended “fringe benefit” of the move. The new building will have some displays for visitors. A glass-walled corner of the parking garage will exhibit new cars. The lobby area will have what Exler called “exciting art exhibits,” with works he declined to describe beyond saying some would be made “out of spare parts of cars.” A private grand opening event will include a display of a Benz Patent-Motorwagen, a pioneering tricyclestyle automobile first sold in 1886 by Karl Benz, one of Mercedes-Benz’s namesakes. These days, Mercedes-Benz SUVs are a hot trend, and “that won’t change,” Exler says. An Austria native who now lives in Brookhaven, Exler has his own driving tastes that are better suited to the Southern weather. “I’m still driving a controvertible yearround,” he said. “Georgia is really nice.”


NOV. 24 - DEC. 14, 2017

Public Safety | 23


Police Blotter / Sandy Springs Capt. Steve Rose provided the following information, which represents some of the reports filed with Sandy Springs police from Nov. 4 to Nov. 14.

B U R G L A RY 5600 block of Roswell Road — On Nov.

4, the resident left her apartment at 6 p.m. and returned just after midnight. She told cops that her unlocked back door was open when she and her husband returned. Jewelry and cash were missing. 2200 block of Monterey Parkway —

On Nov. 4, the complainant said he was checking on a neighbor’s apartment while he was out of town. He told the officers someone took a 48-inch Vizio TV. The entry point appears to have been a sliding glass door. 2000 block of Wheaton Way — On

Nov. 4, someone forced entry to the sales trailer of the John Wieland community. A laptop and TV went missing. 5600 block of Roswell Road — On Nov.

4, the two resident victims said someone came into the apartment by way of a window. Missing is a vaporizer and EJuice. Also missing is a DC backpack and Bluetooth speaker. 6100 block of Roswell Road — On Nov.

6, someone broke into the bottom floor of the parking deck (under construction) and into an equipment and office area. Three storage trailers were entered and several construction items were taken, including copper, electrical devices and other items. 200 block of Mount Vernon Highway

that she and her boyfriend were walking from the apartment parking lot to the apartment when a man snatched the phone that she was using as she talked. He ran to a maroon Toyota Camry and fled. 7855

Roswell Road — On Nov. 11, an adult store reported a robbery just after 11 p.m.

Northwood Drive — On Nov. 13, a man

reported that around 5 a.m., while walking on Northwood Drive, three men jumped him from behind some shrubbery. They pulled a gun and took his wallet, phone, and $100 cash.

THEFT 1100 Hammond Drive— On Nov. 4, an

80-year-old man reported that he was at a bagel restaurant around 2:30 p.m. He noticed his wallet was not in his gym shorts. The staff informed him that no wallet had been turned in. He drove to a home improvement store, where he had been previously, but did not locate it. He returned to the restaurant and was told that someone turned the wallet in. $460 in cash was missing. An employee said he saw a man go into the men’s room, then return and turn in the wallet.

185 Cliftwood Drive CS-6 (old Zoning: A-L)


Rezoning to reflect existing conditions.

Public Hearings:

Planning Commission December 21, 2017 at 6:00 p.m.

Sandy Springs City Hall Morgan Falls Office Park 7840 Roswell Road, Building 500 Sandy Springs, Georgia 30350 770-730-5600




City of Sandy Springs


An Ordinance to Amend Article XII, Definitions, Division 12.2., Defined Terms, of the Sandy Springs Development Code

Public Hearings:

Planning Commission December 21, 2017 at 6:00 p.m. Mayor and City Council January 16, 2018 at 6:00 p.m.


Sandy Springs City Hall Morgan Falls Office Park 7840 Roswell Road, Building 500 Sandy Springs, Georgia 30350 Phone; 770-730-5600

Tr a n s f o r m y o u r s p a c e t o f i t Y O U

4, a construction trailer was burglarized overnight. Missing are tools and a TV. his wallet, driver’s license, and other items from his locker at the gym. He believes someone watched him set the lock code and then came in and took the items. By the time he canceled his cards, two of them had been used, one at the nearby GameStop store and another at a Foot Locker. Total hit on the wallet was just over $500. 6000 block of Riverside Drive — On

Nov. 6, a resident reported that several items were stolen from the residence over a period of time beginning Oct. 25. 300 block of Carpenter Drive — On

Nov. 6, a 73-year-old man reported his 2001 Chrysler Town and Country car was Nov. 11, an 18-year-old woman reported stolen sometime during the READ MORE OF THE POLICE BLOTTER ONLINE AT daytime hours of 8:30 a.m. and 5:43 p.m. 1050 block of Hammond Drive — On



Property Location: Present Zoning:


A 58-year-old man said someone stole


Fulton-Allen Road Associates, LLC (Contact: Jack Misiura)


5600 block of Roswell Road — On Nov.

13, Someone used a rock to smash the glass window on the storefront of a shoe repair business. A cash register and $140 contained inside were taken. The nextdoor business said his camera picked up movement, but no image, of a person walking nearby at 4 a.m.




5500 block of Roswell Road — On Nov.

6600 block of Roswell Road — On Nov.

Petition Number:

Mayor and City Council January 16, 2018 at 6:00 p.m.

— On Nov. 7, a construction manager reported that several tools were stolen from the construction area. 7, the resident said she returned home and found a bedroom window damaged. Missing from the apartment is a Galaxy cellphone, Samsung Tablet, electric guitar, coins, and a Michael Kors wallet.








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Opening Event celebration at Heritage Sandy Springs December 3 • 5-8PM

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