December 2019 - Brookhaven Reporter

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DECEMBER 2019 • VOL. 11 — NO. 12

Olympic Park bombing investigation: Remembering dark days P8

Brookhaven Reporter

After PDK plane crash, residents question safety and who pays for damage


Historic American Legion building renovated

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Ryan Gravel

Designer of the Atlanta BeltLine

Richard Jewell

A public challenge: Reimagine I-285


er piece of property. Brookhaven Park’s approximate 20 acres is almost evenly divided between the city and county. The city owns about 12 acres at the back of the park with the address of 4518 Peachtree Road. The county owns the front 11 acres, including approximately 4 acres where the DeKalb County Services Board is

An explosion jolted John Patterson awake in his DeKalb County townhome on Oct. 30. As he and his dog Max fled the damaged building, he assumed a gas line had burst because so little was left of the real cause: a private airplane that crashed into his home shortly after takeoff from DeKalbPeachtree Airport. “I said, ‘Where’s the plane?’” Patterson recalled asking firefighters and other first responders. “They said, ‘We’re looking.’” The violent crash at 2421 Peachwood Circle near I-85 killed the pilot and a passenger. Debris smashed a huge hole in the roof of Patterson’s spare bedroom and fell through the floor into the kitchen below. Patterson and his neighbor, whose unit was badly damaged as well, were left temporarily homeless. That day, they joined the unlucky few who, despite only tiny risks, have had homes or cars hit by planes falling out of the sky as they leave or approach PDK. The accident has revived safety fears

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The townhomes on Peachwood Circle in DeKalb County that were damaged by a fatal Oct. 30 plane crash.


New library long overdue as city, county squabble BY DYANA BAGBY

A $2.2 million agreement the city thought it made with DeKalb County to purchase about 7 acres of the front portion of Brookhaven Park has yet to be finalized a year later. Now the county is saying it may need to build the city’s new library in the park because it has no money to buy anoth-

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2 | Community ■

Historic American Legion building is renovated to serve generations of vets BY JOHN RUCH

The historic Waldo M. Slaton American Legion Post 140 building in Chastain Park is freshly renovated and will serve more generations of veterans after the post set aside a controversial plan to demolish it and build a larger version. “This renovation should ensure the viability of the building for another 50 years,” said post Commander Ken DeSimone, who also serves as the Sandy Springs police chief, about the roughly 80-yearold, rustic structure at 3905 Powers Ferry Road. The post held an open house on Veterans Day to show off the $100,000 renovation, which repair rotting flooring, outdated wiring and other issues in the 1930s-era building. The work was done by Cobb County’s Gay Construction, a prominent firm with historic renovation experience whose work includes Atlanta’s Ponce City Market. Tom Gay, the company’s chairman, is a Marine Corps veteran of Vietnam and a Legionnaire at the post. “For many years this building has served as the headquarters for the activities of the post as well as for community


Above, the Waldo M. Slaton American Legion Post 140 building on Powers Ferry Road. Right, the preamble to the American Legion’s constitution hangs over the historic fireplace.

Bottom right, a Legion banner hangs inside the building.

service,” said Gay. “We believe it is important to preserve and upgrade the facility, and we performed the work at our cost.” Three years ago, the post proposed de-

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molishing the building as outdated, past its lifespan, and too small for growing ranks of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans. In its place would rise a much larger, $1 million building. That plan drew some resistance among the post’s membership and, in the outside world, from the Georgia Trust for Historic Preservation and the Buckhead Heritage Society. The post gained city zoning approval, but DeSimone said the plan is not happening due to funding. “It was all fundraising-dependent. The more money we raised, the more we could do,” he said. “We are still taking donations for kitchen refurbishment and other items that are needed.” Some of that work yet to come includes installing a sidewalk ramp and gutters, he said. Post 140 serves military veterans mostly from the Buckhead, Brookhaven and Sandy Springs areas. Its house-like building has a stone fireplace, a deck and walls of irregular wooden planks painted green outside. The post is known for community connections, including last year’s opening of a T-ball field next to the building and the renting of the facility to such groups as the Buckhead 50 Club. Legion members help run a Boy Scout camp and hold such fundraisers as a run for Buckhead’s Shepherd Center for brain and spinal injury treatment. The origins of the post’s building are not know for certain. A common assumption is the structure was built as a bunkhouse for workers in President Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal work programs. Post 140 was chartered in 1936, according to DeSimone, but no one knows exactly where, though it is believed it was not in the Powers Ferry Road building.

What is known is that the building has served as the Legion post since at least 1954. At that time, it was deeded by Fulton County on the condition it remain in Legion use; otherwise, ownership reverts to the county. Slaton, the post’s namesake, died while serving in the Army during World War I. The post’s building also features a prominent memorial to Staff Sgt. Ryan P. Means, a Brookhaven native who became a Special Forces soldier after his friend was killed in the Sept. 11 attacks; Means died of cancer in 2009 while serving. With decades of social gatherings and community events in its past, and now many more decades to come, the building and its renovation invite personal reflection to those who have made the memories. “I have been a member of Post 140 for a number of years,” said Gay, “and I am proud of the services the post provides to our veterans, our service members and our community.” For more information about the post, see BK

Community | 3



In a race that pitted an established politician against a community activist, John Ernst coasted to a second term as Brookhaven’s mayor in the Nov. 5 election, defeating challenger Jen Heath with nearly 68% of the vote. Madeleine Simmons will join the City Council representing District 3 with an easy victory over Dimitrius Owens DYANA BAGBY for the seat left open afJohn Ernst at his reelection party with his wife, Monica, and sons Jack, left, and Evan. ter Bates Mattison decided not to seek reelection. Simmons garnered more than 80% of the vote. Voters also overwhelmingly approved two referendums, one to boost the city’s homestead exemption from $20,000 to $40,000 over the next five years; and a second homestead exemption to provide residents age 65 and older and those with disabilities who make less than $15,000 a year an additional $14,000 exemption. Ernst said his victory was a “mandate” that the city is on the right path. “It’s a great victory and I thank the citizens of Brookhaven for the confidence for another four years,” Ernst said. In a Facebook post, Simmons, the District 3 City Council victor, thanked residents for their votes and support. “I am looking forward to continuing the great conversations we started during my campaign. I’ll have more in the days to come but wanted to quickly thank my family, volunteers, campaign team, and all of you – my wonderful neighbors!” she said.


The grand opening of the first mile of the city’s portion of the Peachtree Creek Greenway is set for Dec. 12 at 11 a.m. at 1801 Corporate Square. Those interested in attending are asked to RSVP to to get information on parking and shuttle information. The “model mile” of the Greenway is between North Druid Hills Road and Briarwood Road. The first phase includes a paved multiuse trail and a pedestrian bridge crossing the north fork of Peachtree Creek. A trailhead is located off North Druid Hills Road next to the Salvation Army’s regional headquarters entrance. Another trailhead is located off Briarwood Road. The entire Peachtree Creek Greenway is envisioned as a 12-mile regional multiuse trail that would eventually connect Atlanta, Brookhaven, Chamblee and unincorporated DeKalb County past Mercer University. Brookhaven’s stretch is about 3 miles long. The second phase of the Greenway, which has already received a $2.7 million Atlanta Regional Commission grant, is slated to be built from North Druid Hills Road to the Atlanta border in Buckhead; the third phase is DYANA BAGBY planned to be built from Briarwood Road to Entrance signs with the Peachtree the Chamblee border. Brookhaven has comCreek Greenway logo and trail mitted to build all three sections as part of a lights were recently installed at the North Druid Hills Road $35 million Peachtree Creek Greenway master entrance to the multiuse trail. plan approved in 2016. BK

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4 | Community ■

Amid behind-the-scenes debate, city officials to hold public meeting on possible LGBTQ protections BY DYANA BAGBY

City officials will hold a community meeting about a possible LGBTQ nondiscrimination ordinance as they also consider passing an unenforceable resolution stating their support for the LGBTQ community. The public meeting follows months of behind-the-scenes lobbying by local activists, including state Rep. Matthew Wilson and Councilmember-elect Madeleine Simmons, urging the City Council to pass a nondiscrimination ordinance to protect minority groups, including LGBTQ people. However, an apparent informal opinion from City Attorney Chris Balch to council members that the city may not have the authority to pass such an ordinance has resulted in Councilmember Linley Jones taking a cautious approach that may include passing a resolution instead of an ordinance. “I want to do what is in best interest of having protections for the LGBTQ community and I want public input on that,” Jones said. “I have reason to believe an ordinance is the best way, but that is not written in stone.” Jones said an option the city has is to pass a resolution “sending a strong mes-

sage of where we stand” on LGBTQ equality. The group working to get the city to pass the LGBTQ nondiscrimination ordinance recently asked to meet with Jones to discuss their support of an ordinance. Jones decided to open that meeting up to the community. She invited Simmons to co-host the “community conversation” on Dec. 2 from 6-7 p.m. at City Hall, 4362 Peachtree Road. The meeting, Jones said, is “with an eye toward exploring the best and most legally sound way of supporting the community” and to provide legal protections to LGBTQ people “to the extent cities can.” Jones asked Balch for a legal opinion in April about such an ordinance. She said the opinion was not finalized. Balch and the city administration declined comment about what Balch may have said to council members about his concern about the city passing an LGBTQ nondiscrimination ordinance. A city spokesperson also said Balch has not received any direction from the City Council on drafting an ordinance or a resolution. “This is a fairly new proposal, and so I think we need to thoroughly vet what we adopt, so it can withstand any legal challenges,” Jones said. “[W]e’re being very care-

ful in Brookhaven.” “The problem we have here is we have a class of people that should be protected [by state and federal law], but is not,” Jones said. “This is a civil rights issue to me … and I want what we pass to be able to withstand legal scrutiny.” Five DeKalb County cities – Chamblee, Clarkston, Decatur, Doraville and Dunwoody -- in recent months have passed nondiscrimination ordinances that ban private businesses from discriminating against minority groups, including against people based on their sexual orientation and gender identity. The growing movement is in response to state legislators’ attempts to pass a socalled “religious freedom” bill that advocates say would open the doors to businesses and other organizations being able to freely discriminate against LGBTQ people. In April, gay resident and activist Richard Rhodes asked the Brookhaven council to pass such an ordinance. He also provided council members with information about other local LGBTQ nondiscrimination ordinances. Jones asked Balch for a legal opinion following Rhodes’ request, but declined to say what Balch may have said about the ordinance before issuing a final recommendation other than to say it would not be a

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written opinion. Rhodes died in July. He was 81. Wilson, who is gay and lives in Brookhaven, said he spoke to Rhodes in the months before he died. He said Rhodes told him that in his discussions with council members that Balch told them the city did not have the authority to pass an LGBTQ nondiscrimination ordinance. Rhodes’ friends have picked up the cause to get the ordinance passed for him after his death. “[Rhodes] told me in his conversations with some council members that the city has thought about a resolution as being a starting place to look at the issue,” Wilson said. “I have spoken to the mayor and several council members over the summer and that was referenced … that the city attorney had some concerns.” Simmons said she has “heard rumblings” that Balch has said he has concerns about an LGBTQ nondiscrimination ordinance as well but has not spoken to him directly. Wilson said he has told the council that a resolution declaring support of LGBTQ people rather than an enforceable ordinance is “not good enough” because an ordinance gives the city the power of enforcement, while a resolution is simply a declaration. “We have tried to make it very clear to all council members that just passing a resolution that proclaims Brookhaven as an open and welcoming community is not good enough,” Wilson said. “Because it doesn’t provide any resolution if discrimination actually occurs.” “The group I’ve been working with over the past couple of months has been doing the research and providing the resources that show the city does indeed have the authority to pass a full ordinance,” Wilson said. “ And that is why we have seen so many neighboring cities doing so.” Wilson and Simmons have been working with Rhodes’ close friend Jon Greaves, along with Brookhaven residents Glenn Phillips, Mary Ann Hawthorne, Joyce Lanterman and Jeff Hancock. Also involved is Cathy Woolard, a lobbyist for Georgia Equality who formerly served as president of the Atlanta City Council when it passed its version of an LGBTQ nondiscrimination ordinance nearly 20 years ago. Wilson said a draft ordinance based on the months of work with Georgia Equality was submitted recently to the city for review. Glenn Phillips said he and his husband moved to Brookhaven Heights four years ago from Seattle and became active in supporting the ordinance after Rhodes’ death. They are hopeful an ordinance that provides protections to LGBTQ is passed in the city they call home. “An ordinance has teeth and provides a process for people to file a grievance,” Phillips said. “A resolution does not.” Jones said the city’s intent is to provide protections for the local LGBTQ community that the state and federal governments have failed to do so. BK



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6 | Education ■

Some parents jeer DeKalb Schools’ recommended Doraville United redistricting plan BY DYANA BAGBY

Many Brookhaven residents jeered the DeKalb County School District’s staffrecommended redistricting plan at a Nov. 19 meeting, saying it splits up neighborhoods and doesn’t adequately address overcrowding in the long term. The meeting, held at Chamblee Charter High School, was the last of three public meetings for residents to chime in on the redistricting process. Current plans are to send a final recommendation to the Board of Education in January with a final vote scheduled in February. But the school board’s recent decision to install an interim superintendent had some asking if the timeline could be met. The redistricting is underway ahead of opening the new 950-seat Doraville United Elementary School in August 2020, formerly known as Cross Keys North. The new school is expected to alleviate overcrowding at Brookhaven’s Ashford Park, Dresden and Montgomery elementary schools, and at Huntley Hills and Cary Reynolds elementary schools in Chamblee, by relocating students to the new school.

Several Brookhaven parents attending the meeting said they were largely upset because the redistricting recommendation breaks up the Sexton Woods neighborhood. Most children living there currently attend Montgomery Elementary. “They’re not accounting for what we’ve voiced through public input,” one resident said. “Can we be part of a big solution and not a small solution?” said another resident. The comments were made in one classroom during a facilitated small group discussion. The approximately 200 parents attending the meeting from all of the affected schools were divided into more than 20 classrooms to discuss the pros and cons and other comments of the staff-recommended plan that was introduced at the meeting. The staff-recommended plan includes moving 982 students to other schools and removing 36 portable classrooms or trailers. “Splitting up Sexton Woods violates all criteria” the district uses to design a redistricting plan, one resident said. The neighborhood has a website, “Save Sex-


Right, several Brookhaven residents made a list of ‘cons’ about the staff-recommended redistricting plan for Doraville United Elementary School during one of the many small-group discussions held Nov. 19 at Chamblee Charter High School. The dots indicate the most serious.

Below, more than 200 residents attending the Nov. 19 public meeting on redistricting for the Doraville United Elementary School were split up into small groups to discuss what they like and don’t like about the staff-recommended plan.

Woods.” HAVE YOU NOTICED HAVE YOU NOTICED ANAN tonDeKalb Schools staff recommends HAVE YOU NOTICED AN moving five students from MontgomABNORMAL PINK BROWN to Doraville United and another 97 ABNORMAL PINK OROR BROWN ABNORMAL PINK OR BROWN ery students from Montgomery to Huntley Hills. SPOT, PATCH, OR MOLE? SPOT, MOLE? A few parents said they worried their SPOT, PATCH, PATCH, OR OR MOLE?




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home property values would sink if their children were moved from Brookhaven schools to the new Doraville school. Property values are not part of the criteria considered by the school district when redistricting. The staff-recommended plan would move 381 students from Dresden to Doraville United and 49 students from Montclair to Dresden. The plan also would move 206 Cary Reynolds students to Doraville United; 93 Huntley Hills students to Doraville United; and 108 Hightower students to Doraville United. The staff-recommended plan also adds two Brookhaven streets into the redistricting proposal not included in the first two meetings and would move a total of 43 students from Ashford Park to John Lewis Elementary School. Lewis Elementary opened in Brookhaven last year. “We were not in previous plans … [W] e just found out about this,” said Blair Huckeba, a real estate agent who lives on Richwood Drive, a small street on the edge of the Drew Valley and Ashford Park neighborhoods. Her daughter attends kindergarten at Ashford Park and she

has two younger children she is planning to send to Ashford Park. But if her street is redistricted, she said, she could have children attending different schools. “This is the same position I have with my other neighbors,” she said. “We’re not sure why our neighborhood was singled out.” Before the small group discussions, Hans Williams, the director of planning in the operations division for DeKalb Schools, gave a presentation to more than 200 residents who packed the high school auditorium. When Williams said keeping neighborhoods intact was one of nine criteria used in the staff plan, many parents loudly booed. Louder boos and shouts followed when Williams read off comments from the second public meeting, which included parents in Sexton Woods and Ashford Park neighborhoods saying they wanted larger areas moved rather than smaller. Williams was forced to talk over the boos and shouts. Williams read a statement from Interim Superintendent Ramona Tyson that said she has not had time to review or endorse the staff-recommended plan and would be considering additional public comments before making a final recommendation. An online survey to make comments is available through Dec. 8 at BK

Commentary | 7


Carol Niemi is a marketing consultant who lives on the Dunwoody-Sandy Springs line and writes about people whose lives inspire others. Contact her at

Sandy Springs resident joins the ‘Georgia Gang’ The table on the set of the state’s lonand 2007. I was told it was nonpartisan, but gest-running TV issues show, “The Georgia I saw a lot of President Obama’s stuff being Gang,” now has a new occucirculated. I didn’t understand. pant of the middle seat: Sandy That didn’t really seem nonSprings resident Janelle partisan.” CarolKing. Niemi is a marketing consultant who lives on the DunwoodyAs anyone who hasSandy watched Nevertheless, she was imSprings line and writes about people whose lives inspire others. Contact her at the 37-year-old Sunday mornpressed by Obama and his ing talk show on FOX 5 knows, ground game. the panel consists of two com“I looked up to him and votmentators from the political ed for him the first time, even left, two from the right and a though I didn’t agree with evmoderator. erything he stood for,” she said. King, 35, joined the show “It was historical.” in August and, as the show’s But having been born in youngest panelist, offers a Connecticut and raised in youthful perspective. An North Carolina in “a totally SPECIAL Janelle King, the avowed Republican political non-political family,” she realnewest member of activist and President Trump ized she didn’t know what ei“The Georgia Gang.” supporter, she seems reasonther party stood for and decidable and thoughtful, perhaps ed to find out. because of how she became a Republican. “I researched both parties based on the It began at North Carolina A&T State values I was raised with -- school choice, perUniversity, the top-ranked historically black sonal responsibility, small government, procollege in the state. life. That’s when I said, ‘I’m a Republican.’” “When I was a junior,” she said, “I saw a She voted for Mitt Romney the next time. voter registration drive happening in 2006 So new was she to politics that she didn’t re-

alize how few minority voters nationwide agreed with her. “I didn’t think it was that big of a deal. I thought everyone had a right to decide,” she said. She moved to Atlanta jobless in 2007 to pursue her interest in politics and had a job within a month. A friend warned that her political views could make life difficult. Her response was to be more “vocal,” not less. If she as a young black woman identified with conservative values, might other minority voters feel the same way when exposed to Republican policies? “I went on a mission working with the state party as a volunteer educating our community,” she said. Thus began her career as a volunteer event organizer bringing Republican leaders into minority communities in Georgia’s smaller towns. The event she’s proudest of was in 2015 at a community center in East Point for minority small-business owners, where she brought in then-Secretary of State Brian Kemp. “He was my first bigname person,” she said, “and I got a lot of pushback for inviting him.” She is now a paid staffer of the Georgia Republican Party. She was in the capacity-filled room at the World Congress Center when Trump launched “Black Voices for Trump” on Nov. 8. Trump invited her husband, Kelvin King, to the dais to talk about growing a successful general contracting firm from his bedroom to its own 12,000-square-foot office building in just seven years. On the dais with him, King said she

was proud of her husband and grateful to Trump for helping to make it all possible. She told me her only regret was that “the room wasn’t big enough.” With such conservative credentials, how does she get along with the other two African American commentators on “The Georgia Gang,” Alexis Scott and Tharon Johnson, who are both staunch liberals? “It’s a respect factor,” she said. “I may disagree with Alexis and Tharon’s opinions, but I respect them.” She has particular respect for Scott, a longtime respected journalist who for 17 years served as editor-in-chief and publisher of the Atlanta Daily World, the nation’s first successful black-owned daily newspaper, founded in 1928 by her grandfather, W. A. Scott II. “Alexis endured a lot so that I don’t have to,” she said. “I appreciate that because of what she’s done, I can go my own way.” King has no desire to run for office. Instead, her goal is to recruit and help minority candidates who want to run as Republicans. “Demographics are shifting,” she said. “The Republican Party has to grow in diversity.” “You may not agree with who represents the party at this time, but it doesn’t change the foundational values the party stands on,” she said. “It’s a value system no matter who’s in office.”

WORTHWHILE CONVERSATIONS RE-THINKING ROTH IRAS… ROTH IRAS ARE NOT EXACTLY NEW. WHAT IS THERE TO “RE-THINK?” More to the point: Some people should re-think the use of Roth IRAs. Start by remembering two key differences between Roth IRAs and traditional IRAs. First, money contributed to a Roth has already been taxed. BUT, if you conform to the rules, everything you ever withdraw, including earnings that might be many times what was contributed, is completely tax-free. Second, unlike traditional IRAs, there is NO requirement to withdraw minimum distributions from a Roth IRA after reaching age 70-1/2. YOU SAID “SOME PEOPLE” MIGHT NEED A RE-THINK. WHO SPECIFICALLY? After 48 years of working with clients, we’ve now advised through the full cycle of IRA drawdowns for some of our longer-tenured families. Oftentimes, we encounter meaningful balances left in these IRA accounts when the estate passes to the next generation. Those clients were well enough positioned for retirement that they did not “need” all the funds in their IRA. That is the opportunity. SO, HOW DOES THAT CONNECT TO THE ROTH IRA? Phillip Hamman, CFP®, CFA, chairs our Wealth Planning Committee, a group of our professionals with multiple professional backgrounds, including attorneys and CPAs. He summarized the connection in this way: “Clients approaching or just starting retirement may forecast that IRA accounts will not be fully withdrawn during their lifetime, leaving a balance for heirs. Until seeing the numbers, it is difficult for them to imagine the potential wealth enhancement from a Roth conversion. The strategy of converting all or a portion of a

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8 | Community ■

Panel recalls FBI, AJC roles in case of Richard Jewell, Olympics bombing hero turned suspect BY JOHN RUCH


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ator John Pruitt, a former WSB-TV news anchor, read a Facebook post from Dana Jewell praising the book and saying, “I made a promise to Richard when he died, I would tell his story.” The Olympics were a watershed moment for Atlanta, stirring local pride, at-

One of the dark moments in Atlanta’s history, the 1996 Summer Olympics bombing, grew darker still when the FBI and major media wrongly fingered heroic security guard Richard Jewell as the bomber. A Nov. 12 panel discussion at the Atlanta History Center about “The Suspect,” a new book telling Jewell’s story, was a historic moment in itself, gathering significant figures from the case onstage and in the audience. Drawing a crowd of hundreds, the event was partly SPECIAL a preemptive strike Richard Jewell, right, joined by attorney L. Lin Wood at a on how Atlanta 2006 event where Jewell was honored by Gov. Sonny Perdue may be portrayed as a rescue hero of the Atlanta Olympics bombing. in Clint Eastwood’s upcoming movie about Jewell, partly a lectracting international media attention, ture on history and Jewell’s life, and partly building venues ranging from modern an emotional reflection on an investigalandmarks to white elephants, and sparktion gone astray while the real bomber esing massive downtown redevelopment caped to continue his crimes. Jewell died and gentrification. The History Center is at age 44 in 2007. the official repository of Games artifacts “The Suspect” co-authors Kent Alexanand is in the midst of remaking its Olymder, who was Atlanta’s chief federal prospics exhibit for a 2020 debut. ecutor at the time, and Kevin Salwen, the The bombing is part of that history, Wall Street Journal’s regional editor durand commemorations of Jewell’s heroic ing the Olympics, were on the panel. So role are increasing. On July 27, 1996, terwas Bert Roughton, a former Atlanta Jourrorist Eric Rudolph planted a pipe bomb nal-Constitution editor involved in the pain Centennial Olympic Park. Jewell, a seper’s decision to reveal Jewell as the FBI’s curity guard who lived on Buford Highsuspect. Roughton said it was the first way, discovered the bomb and led an eftime he had discussed the controversial fort to clear the area before it exploded. story before an audience. One person was killed and many injured, “I know that a lot of people secondbut Jewell’s effort is credited with savguess and say, ‘Oh, we would never do ing many more lives. Rudolph went on to that,’” said Roughton about publishing the bomb an Atlanta lesbian bar and abortion Jewell scoop, based on leaked information clinics in Sandy Springs and Alabama, obtained by the late reporter Kathy Scrugkilling two more people, and became a fugs. “I don’t believe that there’s a red-bloodgitive until his 2003 capture. The Georgia ed American journalist who, in that same World Congress Center recently said that set of circumstances, wouldn’t have gone a plaque honoring Jewell will be placed in ahead and published the story. …That’s the park next year, according to the Atlannot to say that what happened to Richard ta Business Chronicle. Jewell after that wasn’t awful. A new take on the bombing and its af“There was absolutely a rush to judgtermath is about to enter popular culment in the media and law enforceture: Eastwood’s movie “Richard Jewell” is ment…,” said Alexander, while also descheduled for release on Dec. 13. In a rescribing Jewell as a valid suspect. “So, rush cent AJC essay, Roughton voiced anxiety to judgment, yes. But should Richard Jewabout how the film might portray Jewell ell have been a suspect? Yes, also.” and Scruggs. Among those in the audience were Pruitt echoed that sentiment early in Watson Bryant, Jewell’s defense attorthe panel discussion, cautioning that the ney; Dana Jewell, the widow of Richard; film “will be Hollywood’s version of what Bill Rankin, an AJC reporter who co-wrote happening in our town in that horrible a crucial story casting doubt on Jewell’s time.” He said Alexander and Salwen’s guilt; and George Hamilton, who said he book gives the “truly objective” story. was Scruggs’ partner before her death in Alexander noted that he and Salwen 2001 at age 42. served as advisers on Eastwood’s project, During the discussion, panel moderthough they have yet to see it. “I would

Community | 9



From left, panelists Bert Roughton, former senior managing editor at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, and “The Suspect” co-authors Kent Alexander and Kevin Salwen, joined by moderator John Pruitt, listen to an introduction by Atlanta History Center President and CEO Sheffield Hale at the Nov. 12 panel discussion.

just encourage everybody not to prejudge the movie,” Alexander said. Salwen said the book leaves moral lessons up to the readers to conclude, because “it’s not so, necessarily, black-andwhite.” The FBI’s obsession with Jewell was one of those gray areas, Alexander and Salwen said. Jewell was one of three major suspects, Alexander said, but added that the FBI had some cause to zero in on him with their theory that he planted the bomb to look like a hero. But the FBI also delayed the use of other evidence while focusing on Jewell, Alexander said. One witness described a suspect at the bomb scene who later was

confirmed to be Rudolph. “That will haunt me forever,” Alexander said. At the AJC, Scruggs’ scoop about the investigation turned into the paper’s most notorious and controversial story. Roughton strongly defended its publication, while acknowledging some mixed feelings and certain personal qualms he had with it then and now. He also disagreed with Alexander and Salwen’s assertions that the paper may have rushed the story due to competitive pressure. “Fine, I’m happy to be a piñata,” Roughton joked at one point. But he later said, “We lose track of the fact that we’re writContinued on page 10

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10 | Community ■

Panel recalls FBI, AJC roles in case of Richard Jewell, Olympics bombing hero turned suspect Continued from page 9 ing about people,” and that his favorite part of “The Suspect” was learning more about Jewell as a person. “He had become a public character in a story that had this extremely bizarre twist and also at the same time [was] the biggest story on Earth,” Roughton said in defense of the Jewell investigation scoop. “… I still believe that we did the right thing. We had an American citizen who was being pursued by the full apparatus of the American government in some way. And this is debatable, but I would argue that we have an obligation to put some daylight on that.” But that doesn’t mean the editing and publication process was easy. Roughton was one of several AJC staffers involved before then Managing Editor John Walter made the decision to publish. “It was a very difficult discussion, I have to say,” Roughton said. “Part of what I want to personally be careful about is not becoming defensive… There are a lot of good questions around what we did at the time, and I think there are good journalistic questions about that, and those are important. And I think in the world we live in, they’re more important now than they may even have been then.” Roughton disputed Alexander and Sal-

wen’s repeated statements that Scruggs’ source was a leaker inside the FBI. Scruggs and co-reporter Ron Martz never revealed their sources, even when threatened with jail time in a subsequent libel lawsuit, and Roughton wouldn’t, either. “I won’t even acknowledge that there’s an FBI source, if there was one,” he said, though adding the source had “very deep firsthand knowledge of the FBI.” Debate over the AJC’s role comes down to whether the paper was too uncritical in reporting a mistaken suspicion. Alexander said the AJC was not aware that the FBI had other suspects as well. It was when all FBI officials stopped talking to the media that the AJC scored another scoop. Rankin, the AJC reporter, found that Jewell did not have time to both plant the bomb and to reach a pay phone used by the bomber to make a warning call. With officials not talking about the investigation, “that was the only reporting we could do,” Roughton said, and it helped to lead to Jewell’s exoneration. Jewell soon filed libel lawsuits against several major media outlets, including the AJC, CNN and NBC News. In a long and fierce case involving prominent Buckhead attorney L. Lin Wood, among others, the AJC finally emerged victorious in 2011 and was the only media outlet not to settle with Jewell or his estate.

LO CAL M EM O R IES O F A TER R O R I S T’S B O M B I NG S P R EE While security guard Richard Jewell was briefly suspected of the 1996 Atlanta Olympics bombing, the real perpetrator was right-wing terrorist Eric Rudolph. After the Olympics, Rudolph went on to bomb an LGBTQ nightclub in Atlanta and two medical clinics that performed abortions, one in Alabama and one in Sandy Springs. The Sandy Springs bombing on Jan. 16, 1997, at an office building at 275 Carpenter Drive, was the first use of his tactic of setting off a delayed second bomb in an attempt to kill first responders. He was captured in the North Carolina mountains in 2003 and is serving a life sentence in a federal “supermax” prison. Here are some memories about the Olympics and Sandy Springs bombings. If you have memories you would like to share, email and we may use them in a future story. Centennial Olympic Park bombing MITCH LEFF Then: Public relations rep for Olympics sponsors; Now: President and CEO, Leff & Associates public relations I was working for a local public relations agency, representing several major Olympic sponsors. That day was a busy one and I had fallen asleep on my couch with the TV on when I got

a call from a friend checking to see if I was OK. She thought I was working down at Centennial Olympic Park that night. Initially, Jewell was hailed as a hero for getting people away from the bomb and I was part of the team that was fielding media calls and setting up interviews with him. That lasted for a day or so. When he was named a suspect, we had to stop. Sandy Springs bombing STEVE ROSE Then: Fulton County police officer; Now: Retired Sandy Springs police captain My car was there, but I was not. I left a day earlier on vacation to Lake Tahoe. At the time, I was assigned as security for Fulton Commission Chairman Mitch Skandalakis. He told my sub to take him to the bomb site. They parked beside another car near a dumpster. They were standing in the parking lotwhen a second bomb went off in or next to the dumpster. The car next to mine took the brunt of it, but the blast was so strong my car assumed it was a collision and activated the fuel shutoff valve, disabling the car from starting. That Crown Vic never worked right again.

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City approves Emory’s $1B redevelopment of Executive Park BY DYANA BAGBY

Emory University’s plans to transform the aging Executive Park office complex into a $1 billion “health innovation district” got approval from the Brookhaven City Council Nov. 26. The redevelopment project includes building out some 3 million square feet of medical buildings, apartments, a hospital and a hotel over approximately 15 years. Mayor John Ernst praised the vote in a press release. “A lot of work has been invested into creating a vibrant and sustainable medical corridor in the southern gateway of Brookhaven which addresses the transit, infrastructure, public safety, and medical needs now and in the future,” said Ernst. “The partnership with Emory University is key to the overall success of this city and the region as a whole.” The city had requested, as part of granting the rezoning needed for the redevelopment named “Emory at Executive Park,” that Emory build pedestrian bridges over North Druid Hills Road and I-85, but the request was scrapped after months of negotiations. The city now intends to build the bridges using tax dollars collected from the redevelopment to ensure Executive Park does not become an “island surrounded by moats of concrete,” while also providing safe connectivity. The 60-acre Executive Park site is across the street from a massive new Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta medical complex under construction. Emory already operates several medical offices in Executive Park, including a joint medical and training facility with the Atlanta Hawks basketball team that opened in 2017. The City Council also voted to enter into a “community investment agreement” with Emory. The agreement includes keeping 825,000 square feet of the 3 million square feet of planned development as taxable property. Over time, university buildings can become tax-exempt, said City Manager Christian Sigman. Ensuring the apartments, hotel and office/commercial buildings stay taxable ensures a revenue stream for the city to pay for infrastructure improvements and other city services, he said. The agreement requests the hotel and apartments be finished by 2024 if financing is available to do so. For example, revenue from the future property taxes is expected to cover costs for the city to build the pedestrian bridges. The bridges are needed “otherwise [Executive Park] is an island surrounded by moats of concrete,” Sigman said after the meeting. Construction is underway for Emory’s new $30 million Musculoskeletal Institute. As part of the community investment agreement, this building will stay on the city’s tax rolls for 15 years after it BK

opens in 2021. Sigman gave the example that if DeKalb County assessed the building at $30 million, that would mean about $600,000 a year in taxes that would go to the city and its special tax district of Executive Park and CHOA, and to DeKalb County and DeKalb County Schools. Sigman said building a pedestrian bridge over North Druid Hills Road is tied to construction of the Musculoskeletal Institute. The bridge ensures safe crossing across the busy road, similar to the pedestrian bridge across Peachtree-Dunwoody Road in Sandy Springs that connects Northside Hospital to Emory Saint Joseph’s Hospital. Transportation plans for Emory at Executive Park include: ■ A traffic study to provide analysis for the 10-year and 15-year developments. ■ North Druid Hills Road and Executive Park Drive/Tullie Circle realignment with CHOA. ■ Multiple roundabouts proposed within the site to facilitate efficient traffic flow. ■ Adding approximately 1.5 miles of sidewalks and a half-mile of off-street, multiuse trail, as well as connection to the Peachtree Creek Greenway in coordination with CHOA.

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12 | Community ■

LaVista Park community seeks annexation into city BY DYANA BAGBY

The city could grow by about 300 acres and nearly 2,000 people by the end of the year if the City Council agrees to annex the LaVista Park community just south of Executive Park. The LaVista Park Civic Association submitted a request to have its community annexed into Brookhaven in October. The request was scheduled to go before the Planning Commission on Dec. 4 and then for a final vote by the City Council on Dec. 10. The association is applying for annexation using the city’s rule to get at least 60% of about 1,100 registered voters and at least 60% of more than 600 property owners sign a petition agreeing to be annexed. “Primarily we are asking to be annexed for two reasons: one, because we desire a seat at the table with the development of Children’s Health Care of Atlanta and, two, because of Emory’s planned redevelopment of Executive Park,” said Larry Hoskins, president of the civic association.


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“Emory has been really great about keeping us informed about what they are doing, but we want to preserve our right at the table as residents of the city to ensure we are listened to,” Hoskins said. “As residents of unincorporated DeKalb, the city doesn’t have to give our concerns equal weight.” LaVista Park is bordered by LaVista Road, Briarcliff Road, Chantilly Drive and Sheridan Road. The area is mostly residential with some small commercial businesses located mostly along Briarcliff Road. Hoskins said residents also wanted to be annexed into Brookhaven because DeKalb County has not provided needed services, such as paving of roads, parks maintenance and stormwater repairs. Recently, residents on Citadel Drive celebrated the 5-year anniversary of a sink hole, Hoskins said. The placed balloons on the hole and posted pictures to social media. Finally, he said, the county came out to fix it. “Our roads haven’t been paved for 20 years, we’ve had sporadic service from police not showing up,” he said. “It’s extremely frustrating trying to get the county to do the work.” LaVista Park was at one time included in a map of the proposed city of LaVista Hills but requested to be removed. That city failed. The proposed city of Vista Grove did not include LaVista Park because residents said they did not want to be part of that city. “There is a lot of opinions about DeKalb following Fulton and becoming fully municipalized,” Hoskins said. “Brookhaven is a known entity and that made [annexation] a simple decision for us.” The city recently approved a policy to place property owners annexed into the city into a “special tax district” and pay DeKalb County’s higher tax rates to cover costs for infrastructure improvements in their neighborhoods. City leaders say the new policy ensures tax dollars from existing property ownBK

Community | 13

DECEMBER 2019 ■ ers aren’t used to fix what the county failed to do. There is no cap to the amount of time a special tax district is in place. If LaVista Park is approved to be annexed into the city, it will be the first area to be placed into such a special tax district. Hoskins said he wished he knew about this policy before he and the association began petitioning people to be annexed into Brookhaven. “But we understand why they are doing it,” he said. “They want to be sure they are not sacrificing services to the existing tax base and residents to come in and clean up what the county has not addressed for years.” The city will have a year to analyze conditions of LaVista Park, such as its roads, parks, sidewalks to determine what deficiencies there are and how much it will cost to repair them. The city would then go over its estimates with LaVista Park residents, Hoskins said. The city’s policy then allows Brookhaven to borrow the money needed to make all the necessary repairs with the money paid by property owners in the special tax district going toward paying off that debt. “The good news is we get the work done, sooner than if we had to wait for the revenue to be generated on its own,” Hoskins said. “We can look at this as a negative or positive, and I’m looking at it as we are finally getting the services we’ve been paying for.” Last year, the city annexed the 217 parcels of the Enclave at Briarcliff Condominiums located on Westchester Ridge, adjacent to the CHOA development at the I-85 and North Druid Hills Road interchange.

City denies alcohol license renewals for two nightclubs

Two nightclubs face losing their alcohol licenses by the end of the year due to a “pattern of misconduct” and failure to pay excise taxes, according to the city. The city on Nov. 20 notified XS Restaurant & Lounge and Medusa, located in Northeast Plaza on Buford Highway, that their alcohol licenses were not being renewed in 2020. This marks the latest chapter in the city’s years-long battle with its nightlife as officials say they want to clear Buford Highway of higher crime rates they attribute to latenight entertainment venues. Nightclub operators have argued the city is discriminating against them by putting up costly obstacles and restrictive rules. At one time the city tried to charge certain venues on Buford Highway a $100,000 a year for an alcohol license. A federal lawsuit filed by XS Restaurant & Lounge, Medusa and another venue forced the city to back off the fee. Letters to XS Restaurant & Lounge and Medusa said the city is not renewing their alcohol licenses “based on a pattern of misconduct and repeated failure to timely file and pay excise tax returns as required…” The letter to Medusa also said the nightclub failed to cooperate with police in two incidents in the parking lot outside the club. The venues can appeal the decision by notifying the city that they want to do so. A hearing would then be held Dec. 11 at City Hall,with a ruling to be handed down before the end of the year.

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14 | Education ■

DeKalb Schools’ leadership changes as superintendent search nears finish BY JOHN RUCH AND HANNAH GRECO Change at the top of the DeKalb County School District came faster than expected in November, as the outgoing superintendent got an early boot and a temporary successor was named. Meanwhile, the county Board of Education was scheduled to start vetting resumes of permanent replacement candidates in December after a search process that drew local concerns about better community input. The board voted at a Nov. 11 meeting to immediately dismiss Superintendent R. Stephen Green before his contract expiration. A former interim superintendent, Ramona Tyson, was named to the temporary position once more. “He is a lame duck,” a board member who asked to not be named said of Green after the vote. “Green is not being as effective as he should be.” “We appreciate Dr. Green for his service to the county and wish him the best in his future endeavors,” Board Chair Dr. Michael Erwin said in a press release. “With Dr. Green’s immediate departure, we have the utmost confidence in Ms. Tyson serving as the interim superintendent,” Green announced his resignation from his position in May, citing personal reasons, but planned to stay until the end of his contract on June 30, 2020. The board approved Tyson to serve as

the interim chief through the remainder of the 2019-2020 school year, effectively immediately Tyson has been with the district for over 30 years and served as the interim superintendent in 2011. “There are some tough decisions that need to be made preferably before the next superintendent SPECIAL gets here,” the board Former Superintendent R. member said. Stephen Green. Tyson serving as interim will not affect the current search for a new superintendent as she will retire on June 30, 2020. “No matter what happens, rain, sleet or shine, she is out of here on that date,” the board member said.

The search is on

At a community input meeting for the new superintendent search Nov. 6 at Chamblee Charter High School, attendees expressed lack of trust in the district and called for a leader strong enough to reform an era of administrative turnovers, financial problems and transparency disputes. Only about 20 people attended the meeting amid concerns about spotty notice and a desire for a bigger community role in the

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hiring. “I’m just looking for someone who is there for the kids and is forward-thinking,” said Anna Cross, a Dunwoody parent of a Vanderlyn Elementary student, after the meeting. She was among several attendees who said the hiring process needs more community input. “I think it’s just a SPECIAL scam,” said Sandra Interim Superintendent Holmes, a member Ramona Tyson. of Restore DeKalb, an activist group that frequently challenges the district and the DeKalb Board of Education on financial and transparency issues. “And with the school board making the final decision, we can forget it.” BWP and Associates, an Illinois-based firm specializing in school administrator searches, is leading the hunt for new superintendent candidates, with the Board of Education making the final choice. BWP sought comments in community meetings and a survey, and also held private meetings with groups from the school, civic and business communities. In the first week of December, BWP was scheduled to submit a report to the school board featuring a “leadership profile” of the type of candidate that district stakeholders want. The board can alter that profile as well. The report will be public and the comments within it can be updated if they are incorrect, said Kevin Castner, a director with the search firm. Meanwhile, BWP is also handling the application process for superintendent candidates, which has a Dec. 14 deadline. “We already have two-dozen candidates. That’s pretty significant,” Castner said. All of the candidates’ identities are confidential at this point. Castner said BWP will vet the candi-

dates, including with “deep Googles” and “background checks, probably with a private investigator,” and compare them with the leadership profile. The firm expects to recommend four to six candidates to the school board in early January. The school board will select its final candidate, whose identity will become public, and a twoweek comment period will come before any hiring. At the meeting, several attendees questioned the hiring of an outside firm and called for more public influence on the hiring process. There was no clear reason for the low attendance, but some attendees said publicity was poor. Castner spoke broadly about wanting more student input, but the only student present was covering the meeting for the school newspaper, and some others attending after-school activities said they were unaware of it. Castner ran the meeting by himself, handwriting summaries of public comments on a piece of paper without assistance or recording devices. Laughter and groans greeted his explanation that the school board had chosen the groups that BWP met with privately for input on the search and that Tyson was involved in communicating the suggestions. Castner said that all comments will have a place in the firm’s report. “We’re not here to be Pollyanna-ish about [saying] there aren’t any problems in the system,” he said, adding that the firm will go through the comments to make sure the report is representative of community concerns.

District criticisms

Attendees said there are problems galore. The gist of public comments was that the new superintendent should be someone who can command reforms and who will be committed to the students rather than to personal gain or political careerism. Administrative turnover is a major issue in a district that has seen five super-

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Education | 15

DECEMBER 2019 ■ intendents in less than 10 years, who have left for reasons ranging from a corruption scandal to election as the county CEO. Poor planning that has triggered perpetual school overcrowding and redistricting was another concern described by attendees. As the board proposes a controversial general obligation bond, financial issues of all kinds were also a repeatedly cited source of worry, with Restore DeKalb members saying the next superintendent should be someone capable of ordering an external audit. Another sore spot, attendees said, are different conditions in north and south DeKalb, including on school safety. Cross, the Dunwoody parent, says the school board lacks foresight and flexibility in adapting its strategic plan to chang-

ing demographics. She cited the ongoing debate over the new Austin Elementary School and its redistricting. “They built a new school. It cost millions of dollars,” she said. “It’s not going to solve our overcrowding problem at all.” Restore DeKalb members said they believe nepotism in hiring is a problem. “You got people in this system so long, they think they’re the superintendent,” said Restore DeKalb’s Joel Edwards. Cross said that the district is working well at the school level, where many principals and teachers are running innovative programs. “You’ve got the passion in a lot of those people… We could be doing so much more if the financials were there,” she said.

Dunwoody resident challenges Jester for DeKalb Board of Education seat BY DYANA BAGBY

Andrew Ziffer of Dunwoody, who volunteers with several local school groups, announced Nov. 6 he is running for the District 1 seat on the DeKalb County Board of Education currently held by Stan Jester. The District 1 seat includes voters from Brookhaven, Chamblee, Doraville and Dunwoody. The election is in May. Ziffer has a daughter attending DeKalb Schools. He volunteers with the Peachtree Charter Middle School Foundation and is on the Peachtree Gateway Council on Schools. He served on the Dunwoody Elementary School Principal Advisory Council and was a

Dunwoody Elementary School PTO volunteer and chair of its technology committee. He has a background in Information Technology, real estate investment, and commercial property management. “[I am] a firm believer that a community working together solving problems is much better than working apart or against each other,” Ziffer said. “Few people in District 1 are happy with the way the DeKalb Schools are being run. The incumbent has been elected twice, running with no opposition.” Jester said he is planning to run for a third term next year. He was first elected to the school board in 2014. He has been outspoken and critical of the DeKalb Schools administration on issues ranging from spending to redistricting. He accused Ziffer of working behind the scenes with the school district. “He stands for closed doors and backroom deals,” Jester said of Ziffer. Ziffer said his campaign is about prioritizing students’ needs, operating with integrity and building bridges. “A leader must operate with integrity and be open,” Ziffer said. “I will be focused on solving problems.” Ziffer said in his announcement he wants to create a collaborative environment between the community SPECIAL and school district that results in a “partnership and not Andrew Ziffer. war with our school system.” He also said wants to raise awareness about overcrowding in schools and the importance of long-term planning, so students aren’t having to learn in trailers. “I will represent our community better by reaching my hand across the table looking for solutions and not faulting the other side of the table for the problems. I will represent our community better by listening more and talking less,” he said. Addressing deferred maintenance and facilities’ needs; ensuring that long-term enrollment planning is accurate, regular, and matches facility capacity; and improving the culture and climate of the DeKalb County School District are also on his agenda, Ziffer said. “I will represent our community better by taking action and looking forward for solutions rather than looking back to complain and I will represent our community by calling out misinformation, mismanagement, and fiscal irresponsibility,” Ziffer said. “My platform is laser-focused. I will represent our community better with messages of partnership and not war with our school system.”

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16 | Commentary

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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 Atlanta INtown Atlanta Senior Life

C O N TAC T US Founder & Publisher Steve Levene Editorial Managing Editor John Ruch INtown Editor: Collin Kelley Editor-at-Large Joe Earle Staff Writers Dyana Bagby, Hannah Greco Creative and Production Creative Director Rico Figliolini Graphic Designer Quinn Bookalam Advertising Director of Sales Development Amy Arno Sales Executives Jeff Kremer, Janet Porter, Cory Anne Charles Office Manager Deborah Davis Contributors Robin Conte, Kevin C. Madigan, Phil Mosier, Carol Niemi, Clare S. Richie, Judith Schonbak, Jaclyn Turner

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Commentary: Police cameras are always watching More than 10,000 cameras are watching Atlanta for 24 hours a day and on every day of the year, according to the Atlanta Police Foundation. The foundation says the cameras, through a video surveillance program called Operation Shield, allow police “to prevent crimes before they happen and quickly solve them when they do.” Meanwhile, surveillance cameras have become a target of protests in such places as Hong Kong. We asked Dave Wilkinson, president and CEO of the foundation, a half-dozen questions about Operation Shield and camera surveillance. Here are his answers. Q: How and where does Operation Shield gather information for police?

Q: What benefits have local police seen from use of the cameras? Do you have any statistics for arrests made through use of cameras or before and after crime reports from areas that use the cameras?

Operation Shield consists of a network of cameras and license plate readers placed across the city that feed footage into the Atlanta Police DepartThe cameras provide APD ment’s (APD) Video Integrawith a “smart policing” tool tion Center. The program that can be used during or acts as both a preventative after a crime’s occurrence. and investigative measure The program has been infor crime. APD signage and strumental in solving some a signature blue light athigh-profile cases including tached to each camera serve the tragic homicide that ocas a crime deterrent to let curred in 2018 at the Barcepotential criminals know lona Wine Bar and the firethey are being watched. bombing of an APD officer’s Dave Wilkinson, home earlier this year. Areas Should a crime occur, the president and CEO of the where cameras are installed cameras provide real time Atlanta Police Foundation have experienced a 20%information to APD for increased situational aware50% reduction in crime. ness, as well as access to past Q: Who gets information from the camfootage for investigations. eras and how is it used? Q. How many cameras are now in operaThe camera footage belongs to the owntion and monitored by Operation Shield ers of the cameras themselves. Some of in the city of Atlanta? In metro Atlanta the cameras are owned by the city of At(if you know)? lanta, while others are privately funded There are nearly 11,000 Operation Shield by businesses and philanthropic organicameras placed throughout the city of Atzations. APD has access to the cameras lanta. Additional cameras are networked for real-time information, should a crime in from the city of Sandy Springs. We occur in the cameras’ views, and limithope to eventually expand the program ed access for a period of two weeks afterto other jurisdictions in the metro area. wards for the purpose of investigations.

Following this, footage needs to be requested from the camera owner. Q: Does Operation Shield use facial recognition software? Can the software used to operate cameras for Operation Shield be converted to use facial recognition software in the future? Operation Shield does not currently use facial recognition software. The Atlanta Police Foundation’s Technology Innovation Center researches and pilots multiple smart policing tools each year, but we are not currently working with a platform that incorporates that type of software. Q: In some places, such as China, cameras reportedly have been used to invade people’s privacy or to identify people who in some way are at odds with the government. What keeps that from happening here? All Operation Shield cameras – even privately funded cameras – exist in public spaces such as streets, sidewalks, public parking lots, parks, etc. They only record where the general public has free and unfettered access. The program is designed to be a “force multiplier,” increasing police presence and public space surveillance.

Letter to the Editor

If college athletes get paid, reward teams, not just superstars

Thank you for publishing the commentary “Amateur sports are worth saving” by Alan Chadwick in the September issue of theReporter. I appreciate your paper sharing a local football head coach’s perspective on a national topic.

I agree that the “pay for play” policy by the NCAA could open up many issues and problems for many college athletes. I most agree with the quote included in the commentary from Tim Tebow, that the game will become only about each individual player, instead of the team as a whole.


A better idea, I think, is to pay a reward to the whole team, not just the individual superstar. William Jablon Seventh grade Holy Innocents’ Episcopal School




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

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Commentary | 17


Family ‘tree-dition’ brings the thrill of the last-minute Christmas tree If it’s Thanksgiving weekend and you’re reading this by the glow of your Christmas tree lights, then you won’t understand. My family is not one to eat the turkey and trim the tree in the same weekend. We like to push the envelope around here. We have our own tradition, which is that is that we wait until the Christmas aisles in the drugstore are packed up to make way for boxes of Valentine’s candy before we finally pick out the tree. The thing is, we’ve always chosen it together. We’d drive home with the tree strapped to the car, on, perhaps, a brisk December evening, and I’d turn on seasonal music, they’d move furniture, I’d pour drinks, they’d tarp the floor, I’d make food, they’d bring in the tree, my husband would pull out the ShopVac, and everyone would scatter. It was a sweet and manageable tradition when the kids were all younger, but it’s getting to be increasingly more difficult. It’s not that we venture to a tree farm in the Carolinas and chop it down ourselves. We just try to find an hour that we all agree on, and that is challenging enough. Each year, the kids are further away from home and arrive later in the month of December, and each year around the 17th, I launch a frantic campaign of texts and WhatsApps designed for us to choose a three-hour time slot during which we can convene for the annual (ahem) tree-dition. Robin Conte lives with her Last year, the appointed day was Dec. 23. We knew that the husband in an empty nest tree-nabbing window was quickly closing and we were cutin Dunwoody. To contact ting it dangerously close and that pickins would most likely be her or to buy her column slim, but we were fortified by the memory of the Tanenbaum collection, “The Best of the of 2004, a 12-foot-tall beauty which we bought at Home Depot Nest,” see on Christmas Eve for 10 bucks. But last year, you may recall, was an especially wet one near Christmas, not the ideal conditions for peddling holiday greenery, and when we finally set out at 7 p.m. to our favorite tree lot (three-quarters of a mile from our house), we were stunned to find that the lot was completely closed. There was nary a pine needle in sight. We drove to the next one down the street, and it, too, was closed. Then, mild panic set in. We called Costco. No trees. Walmart. No trees. Home Depot. Yes, there were a few left. We drove in the rain to the tarped lot, where another forlorn family was picking in the rubble. On one side of the tent was a pile of trees, flopped on their sides, sacked out like a group of diehards on the final night of a three-day music festival. We picked through the pile, searching for a suitable tree. They were all soaked and puny, supposedly a bargain at $30. We each scouted around the debris as I got the sinking feeling that I would have to create a facsimile that season using a bicycle pump and some green felt. My son eyed a possibility in the midst of the pack and picked it up with one hand, giving it a little shake while needles tinkled to the ground like they did for Charlie Brown’s tree. The tree-lot guy agreed to 10 bucks for it (basically $2.50 a foot), and we took it home and mounted it on a stool. It held approximately 1/154 the amount of ornaments we had, which meant that we decorated it in 15 minutes, and -- even better -- a few weeks later, it came down in an hour. Now I know the appeal of a tabletop tree. And now, I really do feel old.

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Robin’s Nest

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18 | Commentary ■

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An activist and grandmother writes her memoir

Sherry Frank wears a small gold necklace. The unobtrusive chain displays a single word: bubbe. It means grandmother, or, more specifically, a Jewish grandmother. “I wear it every day,” Frank said, smiling when the word draws notice. “Bubbe fits me.” Others may see the 77-year-old Sandy Springs grandmother as an energetic activist who has lived a very public JOE EARLE life. But her jewelry proudly proclaims Sherry Frank she’s also the kind of woman who likes to bake cookies for her grandkids. Still, she’s no homebody. She served 26 years as executive director of the Atlanta chapter of the American Jewish Committee. She was president of the Atlanta section of the National Council of Jewish women for two years in the 1970s, and now is again president of the group. She helped create the Atlanta Black/Jewish Coalition and worked to build bridges between religious and ethnic groups. Frank has worked to promote human rights, civil rights and women’s rights. She describes herself as “a pretty passionate feminist.” She’s been involved in Atlanta politics for decades. She helped start a successful synagogue, Congregation Or Hadash in Sandy Springs, and served as its president. She recently published a memoir called “A Passion To Serve: Memoirs of a Jewish Activist,” which was included in the 2019 book festival of the Marcus Jewish Community Center Atlanta. Frank came to politics early. She remembers that back when she was growing up in the Morningside neighborhood of Atlanta, her family had one of the first TVs on their block. It made a big impression when members of her third-grade class came over one night to watch election returns. Atlanta was different then, she remembers. She grew up in world that was segregated racially and culturally. “The only African American I knew was the housekeeper,” she said. At the same time, “it was Jewish world. My social life was Jewish,” she said recently during a chat at The Temple in Atlanta, where she had appeared as part of a panel discussion about the history of Atlanta’s Jewish community. “I was very much in a Jewish world.” But she doesn’t remember being conscious of overt anti-Semitism as a child. Atlanta seemed a welcoming place for her as she attended public schools, including Grady High. The world seems much more threatening now, she said, as anti-Semitism grows more visible. “You can’t but be fearful in this day, when you see so much hate out there,” she said. She grew interested in social service and political activism in part because of the times and in part because of her upbringing. She gave money for trees in Israel. She was a teenager when The Temple in Atlanta was bombed by white supremacists. She remembers, a decade later, the devastating news of the murder of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. She hasn’t given up on politics. Throughout her career, she’s sought ways to bring racial and ethnic groups together and she wants to keep doing so. “I’ve said 1,000 times that if this country is not safe for Jews, it’s not safe for blacks,” she said. “And if it’s not safe for blacks, it’s not safe for Jews.” She’s worked with Christians and with Muslims to allow people to get to know others they might otherwise vilify. As she’s done that, she’s wanted people to understand her Jewishness. She said Jewish leaders once worked behind the scenes. Not her. “I want people to know a Jew is in the room,” she said. “I want them to know Jews are a part of our coalition. I think that’s part of my desire to heal the world.” She’s proud of the work she’s done. That shows up in her conversation and in her memoir. She’s takes pride in trying to make the world a better place by bringing together different types of people to address common issues and improve understanding among various groups that might otherwise be opposed. “It’s given my life great purpose,” she said. “I remember after 9/11, thinking what I do really matters. … It was such a threat to the Muslim world. I thought building bridges of understanding was a great cause and I was part of the chorus.”


Community | 19


Permit sought for mixed-use project on former Hastings Nursery site

Powers Ferry Square


An illustration of an apartment building with retail on the ground floor submitted to the city as part of a land disturbance permit for the former Hastings Nursery site on Peachtree Road. The LDP is still under review.


A land disturbance permit application has been submitted to the city for a mixed-use project called Porter Square -- including apartments, a parking deck and shops -- at the former Hastings Nursery on Peachtree Road. The nursery site and the adjacent Mavis Tire (formerly Kauffman Tire), located at 3920 and 3930 Peachtree Road, were once the center of a major controversy dating back to 2014. That’s when property owner SDS Real Estate Property Holdings and JLB Realty sought to rezone the approximately 5 acres to allow for a mixed-use project including apartments and commercial use. Residents in the adjacent Historic Brookhaven protested the development over concerns of density. The rezoning requests were deferred several times by the city, and then, in 2015, the city refused to issue a land disturbance permit for the project. SDS and JLB sued the city in a case that went all the way to the state Supreme Court, where the city finally lost in late 2017. The land disturbance permit application was filed Aug. 21 by Kimley-Horn and Associates on behalf of property owner SDS. JLB is not listed in the documents on file with the city. Ackerman & Company is the broker for the property and trying to sell it for SDS. “We are in the planning process for a mixed-use project in keeping with the Brookhaven overlay ordinance. We are trying to gauge the retail interest in such a development,” said John Speros, senior vice president of brokerage with Ackerman & Company. He said the property is under contract for a mixed-use development, but declined to give further information. BK

“We still have a long way to go to get this one closed,” Speros said. As part of the permit application, Kimley-Horn also submitted a required hydrology report on behalf of Atlantabased developer Wood Partners. Early site plans filed with the application include shops fronting Peachtree Road and an open green space between the shop fronts and Peachtree Road; a 6-story apartment building with 295 units built behind the retail; and a parking deck and surface parking totaling 574 spaces, including six electric vehicle charging stations. No clear definitions of square footage were available in the documents. The property is located within the Peachtree Overlay District, which encourages higher-density development along Peachtree Road. The property is zoned Peachtree Road 1 (PR-1) as part of the overlay rewrite approved last year, which includes multiunit residential buildings. No further rezoning is required. The project does not have to meet the 10% workforce housing requirement for new multiunit residential developments. The project was started well before the workforce housing mandate was approved as part of the city’s zoning code rewrite approved last year, according to Community Development Director Patrice Ruffin. Land disturbance permits are required when a developer needs to move at least 5,000 square feet of dirt, except when doing so for a single-family residential building. It can sometimes take months to approve an LDP as city staff members ask questions about submitted materials and point out where changes need to be made. The Community Development Department issued its plan review comments on Sept. 18.

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20 | Community ■

House in Brookhaven Heights to become park named for local Vietnam War hero BY DYANA BAGBY

An 89-year-old house sitting on nearly an acre of land in Brookhaven Heights is soon to become a public park that will also serve as a Vietnam War memorial. The Brookhaven City Council voted unanimously Nov. 12 to join DeKalb County in purchasing the house at 1174 Pine Grove Ave. for $1.35 million. Brothers Robert and Steven Langford are selling the house that has been in the Langford family since it was built in 1930. DeKalb County is expected to put $400,000 toward the purchase with the city covering the remaining $950,000. The land was originally for sale for $2 million when it went on the market in June before the final negotiated price of $1.35 million was reached. Karen Cariello, president of the Brookhaven Heights Community Association, thanked the council and the county for purchasing the land. For the past several years, homeowners in the neighborhood have sought the city’s help to buy the property and transform it into a pocket park. “Our neighborhood of 430 homes and over 1,000 residents is a fabulous place to live,” Cariello said. “As great as a place it is, the one thing it has lacked is green space and as the bungalows vanished to be replaced by larger homes the lack of green space has really been felt by us all.” Numerous other Brookhaven Heights residents also thanked the council, saying the new park would become a safe place for children to play and for families to gather. Currently, children are forced to play in the streets and neighborhood parties and parades are held in paved cul-de-sacs, they said. District 3 Councilmember Bates Mattison, who represents Brookhaven Heights, said the city and DeKalb County coming together to buy the property was a lengthy process but worthy one to preserve green space. He also thanked the Langford brothers, who wanted the house to be made into a park to commemorate their uncle, Cpl. Robert “Bob” C. Langford. Bob Langford grew up in the house and attended Cross Keys High School. He then joined the Army and served as a corporal with the 327th Infantry Regiment of the 101st Airborne Division during the Vietnam War. He was killed Jan. 25, 1968, in the former Phuoc Long province when he was 19. He was awarded a Bronze Star and Purple Heart. As part of the purchase agreement, the park will be named the Corporal Robert C. “Bob” Langford Memorial Park and include “a suitable memorial identifying all Brookhaven residents whose lives were lost during the Vietnam War,” according to city documents. City officials are hoping to close on the property by March, according to officials. District 2 DeKalb County Commissioner Jeff Rader helped negotiate the deal on behalf of the county. He said in August the county had about $1 million remaining in county parks bond money from 2001 for all of District 2. Besides Brookhaven, District 2 includes the city of Decatur, much of Chamblee and part of Atlanta and areas of unincorporated DeKalb County.




A Google Earth image shows the property at 1174 Pine Grove Ave. in Brookhaven Heights. The house was built in 1930 and sits on approximately 1 acre of mostly flat land.

Mayor John Ernst said the city is exploring where it will get the money to pay for its $950,000 share of the purchase price. One option includes using money from the city’s general fund reserves, or “rainy day fund,” that currently totals about $9.7 million. Cariello said that shortly after the Pine Grove Avenue property went on the market in June, 23 neighbors pledged nearly $17,000 to show city and county officials their desire for a neighborhood park. The money could be used to purchase playground equipment. The homeowners are also forming their own Brookhaven Heights park group with the help of Park Pride, a nonprofit organization that works with communities to advocate for and improve parks.

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Public Safety | 21


Police Blotter / Brookhaven From Brookhaven Police reports dated Oct. 27 through Nov. 10. The following information was pulled from Brookhaven’s Police-2-Citizen website.

— On Oct. 28, at midnight, a forced-entry burglary at a residence was reported.

1100 block of Fairway Gardens — On

1000 block of Barone Avenue — On

Oct. 30, in the evening, items from a car were reported stolen.

Nov. 1, at night, items from a car were reported stolen.


1500 block of Johnson Ferry Road —

1200 block of Dresden Drive — On

3800 block of Peachtree Road — On

On Oct. 28, in the morning, a theft was reported.

Oct. 30, at night, items from a car were reported stolen.

Nov. 2, in the morning, a woman was arrested and accused of shoplifting.

1000 block of Brookhaven Walk — On

2200 block of North Druid Hills Road

2600 block of Buford Highway — On

Oct. 28, in the morning, a theft was reported.

— On Oct. 31, in the evening, a street robbery with a gun was reported.

Nov. 2, at noon, a man was arrested and accused of entering auto.

1200 block of Executive Park Drive —

3600 block of Clairmont Road — On

1400 block of Northeast Expressway

On Oct. 28, in the afternoon, items from a car were reported stolen.

Nov. 1, at noon, a no-forced entry burglary at a non-residence was reported.

— On Nov. 2, in the evening, items from a car were reported stolen.

2900 block of Clairmont Road — On

1700 block of Dresden Drive — On

3500 block of Buford Highway —On

Oct. 29, at noon, a theft was reported.

Nov. 1, at night, items from a car were reported stolen.

Nov. 2, at night, items from a car were

2500 block of Cove Circle — On Oct.

27, in the early morning, items from a car were reported stolen. 3700 block of Buford Highway — On

Oct. 27, at night, a no forced entry burglary at a non-residence was reported. 3200 block of Buford Highway — On

Oct. 27, at night, a shoplifting incident was reported. 1600 block of Northeast Expressway

Continued on page 22

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22 | Public Safety Continued from page 21 reported stolen. 4000 block of Peachtree Road — On

Nov. 3, in the early morning, a theft was reported. 2400 block of Briarcliff Road — On

Nov. 3, in the evening, items were reported stolen from a car. 4000 block of Peachtree Road — On

Nov. 4, in the morning, a forced-entry burglary at a non-residence was reported. 4000 block of Peachtree Road — On

Nov. 4, in the morning, a street robbery with a weapon was reported. 2800 block of Mabry Road — On Nov.

4, in the morning, a man was arrested and accused of armed robbery. 2600 block of Buford Highway — On

Nov. 5, in the evening, a man was arrested and accused of theft by conversion.

A S S AU LT 100 block of Lincoln Court Avenue-

On Oct. 27, after midnight, a battery incident was reported. 1300 block of North Cliff Valley Way

— On Oct. 27, in the morning, a man was arrested and accused of family violence. 1000 block of Wescott Lane — On Oct.

27, in the morning, a simple battery was reported. 3900 block of Parkcrest Drive — On

Oct. 28, at noon, a simple battery incident was reported. 2400 block of East Club Drive — On

Oct. 29, in the morning, an aggravated ■ stalking incident was reported.

3400 block of Buford Highway — On

accused of driving without a license.

2900 block of Clairmont Road — On

Oct. 28, in the morning, a wanted person was located.

3300 block of Clairmont Terrace — On

Oct. 29, in the morning, an aggravated assault with a weapon was reported. 1000 block of Barone Avenue — On

Nov. 1, in the morning, a man was arrested and accused of family violence. 4400 block of Chamblee-Dunwoody

Road — On Nov. 1, at night, a simple battery was reported. 1400 block of Briarwood Road — On

Nov. 2, in the early morning, a battery incident was reported. 3500 block of Buford Highway — On

Nov. 3, in the early morning, a man was arrested and accused of simple battery. 3600 block of Buford Highway — On

Nov. 3, in the early morning, a man was arrested and accused of family violence. 2900 block of Mitchell Cove — On

Nov. 4, in the afternoon, a woman was arrested and accused of family violence.

ARRESTS 3700 block of Buford Highway — On

Oct. 27, in the early morning, a man was arrested and accused of public intoxication and consumption. 2300 block of North Druid Hills Road

— On Oct. 27, at night, a woman was arrested and accused of hit and run. 3100 block of Buford Highway — On

Oct. 28, in the early morning, a man was arrested and accused of driving without a license. 3300 block of Buford Highway — On

Oct. 28, in the early morning, a man was arrested and accused of failure to appear.

2800 block of Buford Highway — On

Oct. 28, at noon, a man was arrested and accused of animal neglect. 2800 block of Buford Highway — On

Oct. 28, in the afternoon, a man was arrested and accused of driving without a license. 1500 block of Johnson Ferry Road —

Oct. 29, at night, a man was arrested and accused of driving with a suspended license. 2600 block of Buford Highway — On

Oct. 30, in the early morning, a woman was arrested and accused of failure to appear. 2800 block of Buford Highway — On

On Oct. 28, in the afternoon, a wanted person was located.

Oct. 30, in the early morning, a man was arrested and accused of driving with a suspended license.

3100 block of Buford Highway — On


Oct. 28, at night, a man was arrested and accused of driving without a license. 1900 block of North Druid Hills Road

— On Oct. 28, at night, a man was arrested and accused of public indecency. 3500 block of Buford Highway — On

Oct. 28, at night, a man was arrested and accused of driving without a license. 3300 block of Buford Highway — On

Oct. 28, at night, a man was arrested and accused of public intoxication and consumption. 3900 block of Peachtree Road — On

Oct. 29, at noon, a man was arrested and accused of disorderly conduct. 2200 block of Adler Drive — On Oct.

29, in the afternoon, a woman was arrested and accused of leaving after hitting a fixture on the highway. 3000 block of Buford Highway — On

Oct. 29, in the evening, a woman was arrested and accused of driving without a license. 2900 block of Buford Highway — On

block of Ashford-Dunwoody Road — On Oct. 30, in the evening, a man was arrested and accused of driving without a license. 1600 block of North Druid Hills Road

— On Oct. 30, in the evening, a man was arrested and accused of driving without a license. 2900 block of Buford Highway — On

Oct. 30, in the evening, a man was arrested and accused of driving without a license. 4000 block of Peachtree Road — On

Oct. 30, at night, a wanted person was located. 3000

block of Ashford-Dunwoody Road — On Oct. 30, at night, a man was arrested and accused of marijuana possession. 3900 block of Peachtree Road — On

Oct. 30, at night, a wanted person was located. 3300 block of Buford Highway — On

Oct. 30, at night, a man was arrested and accused of driving without a license.

Oct. 29, at night, a man was arrested and








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| 23


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A Night of Christmas Worship at Misty Creek

December 23 | 7:00 pm Admission is free

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24 | Art & Entertainment



! N U F





Ed Howard, Joe Sears & Jaston Williams

Saturday, Dec. 7, 10 a.m.- 8 p.m. With ice skating, food trucks, live music, “Bouncy” snowman, Coca-Cola polar bear, and a showing of “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” at dusk. Free; $10 to skate. Brook Run Park, 4770 North Peachtree Road, Dunwoody. Info:



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Sunday, Dec. 8, 11 a.m.-5 p.m. With gifts and jewelry from local artisans, Mediterranean food and pastries, premium liquor auction, used books sale, and children’s activities. Admission $5 at door. Congregation Or VeShalom, 1681 North Druid Hills Road, Brookhaven. Info: 404-633-1737.


international crafts and artist creations for purchase. Tickets: $20, $15 members, $10 children. Atlanta History Center; 130 West Paces Ferry Road, Buckhead. Info:


Through Dec. 23 Works of art and handcrafted gifts by local artists. Spruill Gallery, 4681 Ashford Dunwoody Road, Dunwoody. Featuring a winetasting event Tuesday, Dec. 10, and special Handmade Gift Bazaar on Saturday, Dec. 14. Free. The Spruill Gallery. 4681 Ashford-Dunwoody Road, Dunwoody. Info: holidayartistsmarket.



Sunday, December 8, 4-7 p.m. Grammy-nominated band The Revelers play roots music during the Atlanta Cajun Zydeco Association (ACZA) Holiday Party, with Cajun and Creole food for sale. Tickets: $20, $5 students, $14 active military. Dorothy Benson Center, 6500 Vernon Woods Drive, Sandy Springs. Info:


Through Sunday, Dec. 8 The Stage Door Players return with a holiday comedy prequel to last season’s A Nice Family Christmas. Tickets: $34 Adult, $24 Student, $16 Youth. Stage Door Players, 5339 Chamblee-Dunwoody Road, Dunwoody. Info:



Sunday, Dec. 8, 4 p.m. Sandy Springs hosts its inaugural Sparkle Sandy Springs Holiday Parade, which will serve as a prelude to the Sparkle Sandy Springs Celebration and the tree-lighting. Event begins with a snow machine and hot chocolate at 4 p.m.; parade begins at 5:30 p.m. near the Heritage water tower and continues on Mount Vernon Highway to City Springs. Sparkle Sandy Springs features a holiday village 6-foot-tall wooden houses painted in holiday themes and adorned with lights, which remains on display all season. Free. City Green, 1 Galambos Way, Sandy Springs. Info:


Friday, Dec. 13, 20 5:30-9 p.m. Santa Claus welcomes visitors to each of the three historic houses to experience Southern holiday traditions during the eras of the Civil War (Smith Family Farm), 1930s (Swan House) and pioneer days (Wood Family Cabin). Plus Holiday Market filled with local and

Through Sunday, Dec. 8 The Roswell Dance Theatre performs the holiday dance classic. The cast includes world-class artists who have danced nationally and internationally and aspiring young professionals from the performing company of the Tolbert Yilmaz School of Dance. Tickets: $25-$38. Byers Theatre, 1 Galambos Way. Sandy Springs. Info:


Dec. 13 through Dec. 22 The City Springs Theatre Company performs a show-business holiday musical, based on the classic film and featuring Irving Berlin songs. Tickets: $30-$65. Byers Theatre, 1 Galambos Way, Sandy Springs. Info:

Art & Entertainment | 25



Sunday, Dec. 8, 4 p.m. The Atlanta Concert Band and Mount Vernon Presbyterian Church will spread holiday cheer with sing-alongs, a bell-ringing, and hot cocoa. Free. Mount Vernon Presbyterian Church, 471 Mount Vernon Highway, Sandy Springs. Info:


Tuesday, Dec. 31, 8 p.m. A concert to ring in the New Year. Optional pre-show dinner at 6 p.m. for VIP ticket-holders and an optional dessert package for after the performance. Tickets: $60-$150. Byers Theatre, 1 Galambos Way, Sandy Springs. Info:


Jan. 6 through March 2 Perimeter Adult Learning Services offers eight-week session of classes in such topics as faith traditions around the world, history of American flags, first aid, Atlanta history, economics and more. Fee $50 for eight weeks; lunch can be brought or purchased for $8. Dunwoody United Methodist Church, 1548 Mount Vernon Road, Dunwoody. Info: or 770-698-0801.


Tuesday, Dec. 3, 7 p.m. The storyteller and cookbook author joins At-

lanta local Cynthia Stevens Graubart in discussing her decades of cooking. Tickets: nonmembers $10, members $5. Atlanta History Center, 130 West Paces Ferry Road, Buckhead. Info:


Sunday, Dec. 15, 4-6 p.m. Learn how to make all the Hanukkah dinner. Fee: members $20, non-members $25. MJCCA at Zaban Park, 5342 Tilly Mill Road, Dunwoody. Info:

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Wednesdays, Dec. 11 and 18, 6 p.m. Holiday-themed crafting with supplies provided. Sandy Springs Branch Library, 395 Mount Vernon Highway, Sandy Springs. Info: 404-303-6130.


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Saturday, Dec. 14, 12 p.m.-5 p.m. With outdoor art installations, tree decorating, hot cider and cocoa, and a guided walk of the decorated trees. $25 to decorate a tree as a group. Blue Heron Nature Preserve, 4055 Roswell Road, Buckhead. Info:


Wednesday, Dec. 25, 11 a.m.-3 p.m. With inflatables and push toys, crafts, community service projects, open swim in the indoor pool, basketball competitions, familyfriendly movies, music, and more. Free; food available for purchase. MJCCA at Zaban Park, 5342 Tilly Mill Road, Dunwoody. Info: H IG H


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


Thursday, Dec. 12, 7 p.m. The Buckhead Heritage Society will celebrate the holidays with a gala at one of the earliest homes built on Peachtree Battle Avenue. The event will feature a cocktail buffet, music and valet parking. Tickets: members $120, non-members $150. Info:


DEC 8 • JAN 12 Designed for little kids, big kids, and the whole family, Second Sundays are for everyone. Visit us each month and experience new interactive, innovative family activities inspired by our collections and rotating exhibitions. Generous support for Second Sundays is provided by the Lettie Pate Evans Foundation.

26 | Art & Entertainment ■

‘A Tuna Christmas’ marks the holidays, and a theater partnership BY JUDITH SCHONBAK The Georgia Ensemble Theatre’s production of “A Tuna Christmas” this month is a way to celebrate the holiday season – and a successful new partnership with Oglethorpe University’s Conant Performing Arts Center. “A Tuna Christmas” is the second production GET, the resident professional company at the Roswell Cultural Arts Center, has brought to Oglethorpe under a “binding partnership” forged in 2018. The first, in June, was a remount of GET’s 20182019 season hit “Driving Miss Daisy.” Connections between the theater company and the university, however, were already ongoing. GET produced “Million Dollar Quartet” at the Conant in 2017. A number of Oglethorpe alumni work or have worked with GET and others have acted in season productions. And the university also hosts two of GET’s summer theater camp sessions. The Conant partnership grew out of a conversation between Anita Allen-Farley, GET’s co-founder and producing artistic director, and Sharon Moskowitz, the center’s managing director. “Sharon and I had a conversation that GET was going to have to find satellite space to perform if we wanted to increase the number of our productions each year,” said Allen-Farley. Another benefit, she said, would be to expand the theater company’s audience.

oped the terms of the partnership. It is ongoing and will expand as opportunities arise, including opportunities for university students for onstage and technical experience. The Conant is heavily scheduled during the school year, so GET has claimed a timeframe for a production during the summer and during winter break each year. GET pays an amount unSPECIAL der a licensed agreement for Enoch King, left, and Jill Hames star in the Georgia each use of the theater, and Ensemble Theatre’s production of “A Tuna Christmas.” Oglethorpe takes a “very small portion” of ticket sales, Moskowitz said her role as managing said Moskowitz. director of CPAC is “to bring in partnerThe Conant production of “Driving ships and collaborations in the performing Miss Daisy” was a success for the partarts with our mission in mind to enhance nership. Large crowds of new audiences the cultural landscape of the university packed the intimate 513-seat theater to see and the community.” After seeing GET’s the iconic show. production of “A Comedy of Tenors” last “A Tuna Christmas” is one of the six proseason in Roswell, she brought the partductions in GET’s 27th season and will be nership ideas to Oglethorpe President Larperformed only at the Oglethorpe location, ry Schall. running Dec. 13-29. A roundtable of 10 officials from In the comedy, two actors take on the Oglethorpe and GET assembled in earpersonae of 22 different citizens of the litly 2018 to design the partnership, includtle town of Tuna, Texas, with quick-change ing Schall, Moskowitz and Theatre Departartistry of personalities, voices, ages, atment head Matt Huff on the university titudes and attire. It’s a study in speed, side. adaptability and comedic talent. The fastBy March 2018, the group had develest head-to-toe costume change must be

completed in 8 seconds. The plot centers on a hot competition in the annual Christmas lights competition, won 14 years in a row by town snob Vera Carp, leader of the Smut Snatchers of the New Order. On the loose is a “Christmas Phantom” vandalizing the yard display and creating contest chaos. “A Tuna Christmas” is the second in a series about the town of Tuna written by Ed Howard, Joe Sears and Jaston Williams. The GET production is directed by wellknown Atlanta playwright Topher Payne. “This play is hilarious,” said Allen-Farley. “I like to laugh, and we chose it for the holidays so people could enjoy laughing for a couple of hours. It’s a respite from the same old bad news that is out there every day. And the characters are wonderful. You will recognize a lot of them. You may not like some of them, and there are some that will melt your heart.”


Friday, Saturday and Sunday December 13 – 29, 2019 Conant Performing Arts Center Oglethorpe University 4484 Peachtree Road, Brookhaven Ticket sales through Georgia Ensemble Theatre only Ticket sales: www.get. org or call 770-641-1260

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Community | 27


BeltLine creator holds contest for reimagining I-285’s uses BY JOHN RUCH

announcement. “Inspired by the success of that proposition, Generator is asking you to pitch your ideas for transformaThe urban planning guru who tion of Atlanta’s larger loop: Interstate dreamed up the Atlanta BeltLine is stag285.” ing a contest for rethinking the car-cen“Early advocates for the Atlanta Belttric uses of I-285 and turning the entire Line were proposing a wildly ambitious Perimeter highway into “A Bigger Better idea for a loop of land they didn’t own, Loop.” to be transformed by money they didn’t Ryan Gravel launched the contest for have, in a political climate that – at the the concepts Nov. 15 at Generator, his time – was hostile to everything they were downtown nonprofit that serves as a proposing,” the announcement says. “Givbrainstorming club. He was expected to en that, Generator’s hope for this compeannounce winners and display their ideas tition is that you not burden your idea Dec. 6. He circulated the contest on social with today’s politics, budgets or other constraints. It could be anything – think big and be creative.” I-285 gets prominent discussion in Gravel’s acclaimed 2016 book “Where We Want to Live: Reclaiming Infrastructure for a New Generation of American Cities.” Gravel is a Chamblee native who says his family moved there because of the suburban development the Perimeter made possible. “I grew up 285… We drove to Perimeter Mall when there were cows across the street,” he said. The latest solid plan for the future of I-285 is the Georgia Department of Transportation is embarking on a massive and controversial plan to add toll lanes to the top end of the Perimeter. Brookhaven, SPECIAL Dunwoody, Sandy Springs The “Bigger Better Loop” design competition entry form includes a graphic showing I-285 and the Atlanta BeltLine. and other area cities are advocating that transit buses use the lanes as well. Gravel said the toll media, using a graphic showing I-285 as lanes were not an inspiration for the cona huge ring and the BeltLine as a smaller test and made it clear he’s not a fan. loop within it. “The toll lanes are fine. But to me, we In an interview, Gravel said the conshould be jumping ahead to transit and test is just for playful, casual fun and he’s being real about transit,” he said. “I just aiming for far-out concepts, while at the don’t get that. I don’t get those [toll lanes].” same time acknowledging that one never knows where brainstorming might lead. Like officials in the top end PerimeAfter all, that’s how the BeltLine came ter cities, Gravel suggest bus rapid transit about 20 years ago, an anniversary that on western I-285 in his work on the city is the occasion for the I-285 contest. This of Atlanta’s urban planning vision book. year also happens to be the 50th anniverHe said such projects as a rail line ringing sary of I-285. the Perimeter could be a transformative “I do like the idea of rethinking I-285. connection between metro Atlanta comIt could do more than just carry cars,” munities. “You could do it,” he says. “You said Gravel. “…So I like the idea of 285 bedon’t have to build anything new. You coming something that people love. And I could take the middle lanes.” don’t know what it would take to do that. Regarding GDOT’s current plan, he I definitely think that it’s possible and I said he understands the benefits of chargdon’t think that it comes, necessarily, at ing for driving and that cars will persist in the expense of cars.” American culture, but that toll lanes raise “The thesis of the Atlanta BeltLine was questions about equity, lifestyle and the that adaptation of underutilized infrafuture of transportation. “I’d rather start structure could make a new way of life in a more aspirational place and just sort possible in Atlanta,” says Gravel’s contest of go design something for everybody,” he


Gravel apparently was introduced to said. “At the end of the day, toll lanes are the idea of rethinking I-285 in 2017, when still for cars, right? I just don’t think that he made a keynote speech to the Sanordinary cars are the future.” dy Springs Conservancy, a parks advo“The magic of the BeltLine is that it is cacy group, on the night that part of I-85 absolutely a transportation project,” he burned in a notorious fire. During the said, “but it starts with [the question of] event, conservancy Executive Director what kind of life we’d like to lead.” Melody Harclerode asked about the fuGravel’s contest calls for clear, conture of I-285 and its possible alternative cise concepts that Generator can publiuses. However, in the recize and adapt. Winners cent interview, he said will get unspecific awards he doesn’t recall the ex“in a range of categories.” change. He said that won’t be taken “Y’all are so lucky to too seriously. have Melody here beHis idea is that all subcause I’ve never heard missions will be hung on that question….But I love the wall and some judges it,” Gravel said at the he’ll gather will choose wintime. “I love the idea of ners in categories that may FILE Ryan Gravel. rethinking 285.” be whimsical. He reeled off “It’s a public space,” such ideas as, “Best for People,” “Best for he continued, suggesting that some of its the Planet,” “Best Utopia” and “Best Dysmany lanes be used for something other topia.” than cars. “Instead of thinking of it as a The prize part is playful, too. What will barrier between ITP and OTP [inside and the winners get? Perhaps a driving tour of outside the Perimeter], think of it as a the Perimeter? “Honestly, it just occurred place that people come to somehow.” to me today, what will people be expectGenerator is based at 828 Ralph McGill ing? I might craft something… But it’s goBoulevard in Atlanta. For more informaing to be handmade for sure,” he said, tion about Generator, see generatorcity. adding with a laugh, “But I do like the idea org. of a personal tour of 285.”

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28 | Education ■

New library long overdue as city, county continue to battle over site Continued from page 1 located, at 2660 Osborne Road. To build the new library that was funded by a 2005 bond referendum, DeKalb County needs a piece of land. But the county does not have money to buy property in booming Brookhaven, said DeKalb County Commissioner Jeff Rader. “We need a site for that library,” Rader said. “Since the city was formed [in 2012] we’ve been trying to find out where they want it to be. “We need it to work financially, and land in Brookhaven is not inexpensive,” Rader said. “This land [at Brookhaven Park] is for the attractive price of nothing.” When the City Council approved the $2.2 million resolution to buy the front portion of Brookhaven Park, Mayor John Ernst called it a “historic” moment. The $2.2 million was coming from the $40 million parks bond referendum approved last November. The agreement was believed to be the end to a years-long battle between the city and county for the city to finally acquire all of its namesake park. But DeKalb County has $4 million approved as part of a 2005 bond referendum that must be used to build the city a new library. The city’s library at 1242 North Druid Hills Road is a tiny 6,800-square-foot, outdated building squeezed into a secluded

1-acre lot between Sylvan Circle and Apple Valley Drive. The county plans to construct a modern facility at least twice that size to serve Brookhaven residents. Councilmember Bates Mattison said the city’s $2.2 million for the Brookhaven Park property was intended to go toward the county’s library fund, bringing its total to about $6 million to acquire property and build the new library. “We were to pony up the extra $2.2 million for [the county] to get it done,” Mattison said. “But I had always assumed when negotiating for the front transfer [of Brookhaven Park] that it would not be contingent on the library location,” he said. Mattison’s suggestion is that the city and county work with MARTA to build the new library on the Brookhaven-Oglethorpe MARTA property. But a budget of about $6 million is not enough to build a contemporary library, Rader said. Brookhaven Park also provides great visibility for the library from Peachtree Road, he said. And while Brookhaven may have thought it would be able to buy the 7 acres with the parks bond money, there was never a contract saying so, he said. “I know Brookhaven committed money to [buy the property], but there’s been no contract,” Rader said. “There is no agree-

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ment between us and them. There was an expectation to obtain a site for the library, either there [in Brookhaven Park] or another site the city may provide. But we do need a site and we can’t spend a lot of money on another site.” Recently, the county’s library board wrote a letter to the city saying it wanted to build the new Brookhaven library at 4518 Peachtree Road, the back portion of Brookhaven Park owned by the city. Mattison sent a statement earlier this month to county officials on behalf of himself and the council telling them that building a library in Brookhaven Park was not viable. “We have a parks master plan with citizen input that has no library on it and the loss of greenspace is a nonstarter,” Mattison said. “The master plan needs to start yesterday, including the Peachtree Road improvements, to do what the citizens want.” Rader said the cross talk he hears from the city about what it wants to do with Brookhaven Park is confusing. “We seem to not have alignment again,” Rader said. “We don’t have a contract with the city. The configuration of property that

Top, the Brookhaven Library is located in a outdated building at 1242 North Druid Hills Road. Above, a DeKalb County map shows the division of Brookhaven Park, with the left portion owned by the city of Brookhaven and the right side currently owned by the county. The county is considering building a new city library in the park because it does not have another feasible site. PHOTO BY DYANA BAGBY; MAP SPECIAL

may or may not be transferred to the city is still unresolved. It seems like the goal posts have been moved and we are still looking for a library site.” The city has suggested building the library where the DeKalb County Services Board building is. The building has been at the site since 1978 and is a popular resource for adults with disabilities, Rader said. The county has no plans to relocate the building, he said. And because the DeKalb CSB has a long-term lease on the entire front portion of Brookhaven Park, the land is not considered park property under state law and can be sold at market value, Rader said. DeKalb tax records show the 2660 Osborne Road property’s assessed value at $3.5 million. BK

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30 | Community ■

After PDK plane crash, residents question safety and who pays for damage Continued from page 1 for some residents in the increasingly dense neighborhoods of Chamblee and Brookhaven around the county-run public airport on Clairmont Road. When a plane does hit a home, those on the ground face another form of risk and chance: Who pays for the cleanup and compensation? There is no federal requirement for private aircraft owners or operators to have liability insurance, and only 11 states – not including Georgia – mandate some form of financial guarantees in case of accidents. Total lack of insurance is rare, but insufficient insurance is a significant issue in crashes that often cause major injuries and property damage. Patterson was surprised to learn about the lack of a federal insurance mandate. “I thought, ‘I’ve been hit from behind in my car and I got compensated,’” he said. “You can get into a missile full of fuel [without insurance]?” Nearly a month after the accident, Patterson said his attorney was in talks with the pilot’s insurance company and had a hitch. The insurance company, he said, raised a question of whether the pilot was covered for the type of flying he may have been doing, primarily using instruments rather than by sight.

an affiliate of

Safety stats debate

Following the fatal crash in October, residents and officials dueled with accident statistics at a Nov. 18 meeting of the DeKalb-Peachtree Airport Advisory Board, debating just how safe it is to live near a facility that sees about 150,000 takeoffs and landings a year. PDK has a long history of accidents, including an infamous 1973 case where a jet crashed into a Buford Highway apartment building in what is now Brookhaven, killing seven people on the plane and severely injuring a resident with burning fuel. The plane crashed due to a bird


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strike, in turn blamed on a county-run landfill next to the airport, and triggered a legal battle over airport legal liability that went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, according to media reports. In the past 20 years, three residential properties have been hit by planes from PDK in DeKalb, Brookhaven/Chamblee and Lilburn. A total of 17 people have been killed in accidents in that time period, all pilots or passengers. Other planes from PDK have wrecked in residential or commercial areas or on highways. For an extensive list, see But that does not equate with significant or unusual risk to surrounding neighbors, said Edward Coleman, a professor and chair of the Robertson Safety Institute, an aviation and industry specialty organization at the Arizona campus of Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University. “Statistically speaking, there isn’t much of a risk,” said Coleman about the odds of private planes hitting homes near airports. Such crashes are few and, when fatal, typically kill people in the plane, not on the ground, he said. “Most accidents happen on or near the airport,” he said. For neighbors wanting to lessen the risk further, Coleman said, “I would look for where the flight patterns are and try to avoid living directly in the flight path,” which is where accidents are more likely to happen. PDK is one of roughly 3,000 “general aviation” airports around the country, meaning it serves civilian pilots rather than commercial or military aircraft. PDK’s services include personal, instructional, corporate, medical and charter flights. Commercial airports and airlines are under heavy federal regulation in terms of operations and training, while general aviation airports have fewer rules and are open to private pilots with widely varying levels of experience. According to National Transportation Safety Board

Above, John Patterson stands next to the hole an airplane made in his spare bedroom in an Oct. 30 crash. (John Ruch) Top left, the debris of a plane that crashed in the front yard of a house on Chamblee-Dunwoody Road in 2008, killing the pilot, in a photo from a National Transportation Safety Board report. (Special)

statistics, general aviation aircraft are responsible for the vast majority – regularly over 95% -- of all U.S. accidents and fatalities. But the absolute numbers of fatalities are relatively small and trending downward nationally. According to the NTSB’s most recent compilations, there were 217 general aviation accident fatalities in the U.S. in 2018, and 207 so far this year. The Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association estimates there are more than 500,000 general aviation pilots licensed in the U.S. and about 220,000 aircraft. At the PDK Advisory Board meeting, the statistics presented by residents and officials were incomplete and open to interpretation. Resident Todd Delaune, a frequent critic of PDK noise, complied Federal Aviation Administration reports that he said show PDK’s fatalities and “incidents” are nationally high. But incidents aren’t accidents, board members said, and Coleman later said that PDK’s fatality numbers don’t sound unusual. Airport Director Mario Evans presentBK

Community | 31

DECEMBER 2019 ■ ed incomplete fatality statistics, emphasizing that the number is low compared to the roughly 3.9 million takeoffs and landings at PDK since 1999. In a separate set of stats, Evans discussed a type of incident called “runway incursions” that are risky and sometimes damage aircraft or property, but which fall short of fullblown accidents. The term refers to an unauthorized plane, person or vehicle on a runway. Incursions can range from minor incidents to near-misses with catastrophe. Evans acknowledged that, while the national rate of runway incursions is falling, PDK’s is not. He said 2018 was a “bad year here,” with 28 runway incursions, and 7 as of mid-2019. But, he said, those incidents are dangers at the airport, not in the surrounding neighborhoods. The underlying issue is ever increasing development around PDK, which started as a semi-rural military airport. Coleman said that mirrors national trends, where airports built in once-remote areas to mitigate safety and noise concerns are now attracting development on their boundaries. That increases the actual risk of crashes, Coleman said, as well as the phenomenon of residents moving nearby and starting to perceive safety and noise issues. On the other hand, Coleman said, general aviation aircraft are becoming safer in design and maintenance. In the 1950s, the era when PDK switched to civilian use, crashes “were way more routine,” Coleman said. “I don’t think [nearby de-

velopment] is as a big a risk as it might have been” in that era.

Flying low on insurance

Low-risk is not no-risk, and some planes inevitably crash somewhere. People who suffer injuries or property damage may be stuck with bills. In a 2013 case that drew national media attention, a Florida woman was shocked to discover the pilot who crashed a plane into her house, burning it up, had no liability insurance and was not required to. Commercial airlines in the U.S. have had mandatory insurance coverage rules since the 1980s, but general aviation still does not. Many other countries mandate coverage, including Canada, Australia and the European Union’s member states. According to a 2015 U.S. Government Accountability Office report about a possible federal mandate, even the handful of states that require insurance coverage largely lack review or enforcement processes, so compliance is unknown. However, according to the report, total lack of insurance is rare. Under-insurance that fails to fully cover medical bills and damage is a more common problem, it said. Alan Armstrong, an aviation attorney based in DeKalb about 1.5 miles from PDK, is representing Patterson in seeking compensation for the Oct. 30 accident. Armstrong said he has turned down cases involving uninsured pilots, but agreed that under-insurance is a bigger issue. He

said that some beginner pilots can get only $100,000 in liability coverage, and that standard $1 million policies don’t always pay out the way that sounds. “From a liability standpoint, liability’s not an issue. An airplane crashed in a guy’s house,” Armstrong said of this type of case. “It’s a fairly simple case once you figure out insurance.” Total lack of insurance is “not common,” Armstrong said, but in such cases, he advises potential clients to give up seeking compensation. “You’re going to spend years in court. You’re not going to get anything,” he said. One reason for the lack of a federal mandate is that many airports require liability insurance for aircraft based there. PDK, for example, requires a minimum of $1 million in liability coverage, according to DeKalb County spokesperson Leslie Agee. But that does not apply to aircraft visiting the airport – the pilot in the Oct. 30 crash was from North Carolina, according to county officials – and there may be devils in the details of the policies. According to the GAO, there are two common types of $1 million policies in general aviation. One, often fulfilled by renters insurance, is $1 million per accident, but with a “sublimit” of $100,000 in compensation to any one person. The other is a so-called “smooth policy” that will pay the full $1 million to any claimant. A $100,000 sublimit often does not cover aircraft-level injuries and damage,

and attorneys may not even take the case due to the small amount of money left over, according to the report. And even $1 million can disappear quickly in crashes involving multiple people and damage to a home. Armstrong said the lack of a federal insurance mandate is largely because there has been no “national dilemma” – a major incident where under-insurance caused a problem. For those waiting out the insurance tangles at Peachwood Circle, it’s a problem enough. Lan Weber, who owns the townhomes rented by Patterson and his neighbor, declined to comment pending a resolution. But Marco Almaraz, a property maintenance worker, said he cleaned up much of the wreck and “picked up a lot of pieces of the plane.” He’s just starting the process of repairing the townhomes. Patterson and his neighbor, who did not respond to an interview request, are out of their homes for now at their own expense. Patterson said he’s renting his sister’s basement and he believes his neighbor is staying in a hotel. The Red Cross helped them out with debit cards, water and Rice Krispie treats. But nearly a month later, Patterson was wondering why the insurance issue was so complicated and where it would land. “It is kind of weird,” he said. “You need [insurance] to drive a car.”





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