Dunwoody Reporter - December 2020

Page 1


DECEMBER 2020 • VOL. 11 — NO. 12

Dunwoody Reporter


Mapping Biden’s win in local communities P11

New elementary school is welcomed, but overcrowding remains a concern Holiday Events P5 ROBIN’S NEST

A thankful farewell to readers P13



CAC leader’s legacy of helping others

A site plan of the new elementary school planned to be built on Chamblee-Dunwoody Road.

The Dunwoody Reporter is mail delivered to homes on selected carrier routes in ZIP 30338 For information: delivery@reporternewspapers.net

The initiative aims to help restaurants and other businesses move their warmweather operations outdoors, a safety measure as COVID-19 spills into the winter season. As part of the grant program, the city will cover 50% of the costs for businesses to buy and install tents, space heaters and outdoor furniture, lighting and flooring. “We have been focused all summer on

While the announcement of a new elementary school in Dunwoody is being welcomed by some residents and officials, they are also questioning the move when local middle and high schools remain overpopulated. The DeKalb County Board of Education approved plans Nov. 9 to build a 950-student school on the former campus of Shallowford Elementary on Chamblee-Dunwoody Road. The construction timetable is not set, but the project is expected to be fast-tracked. Along with the opening of a larger Austin Elementary School on Roberts Drive earlier this year, the new site is expected to alleviate some overcrowding that has led the DeKalb County School

See CITY on page 16

See NEW on page 22

City to help businesses operate outdoors in pandemic winter BY MATT BRUCE


Winter is coming, and the city of Dunwoody has authorized $150,000 in federal relief to help local businesses work outdoors in cold weather under the pandemic’s social distancing restrictions. The City Council on Nov. 9 approved the allotment as matching grant funding for the “Al Fresco” program.



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County Commission seat flips; incumbents win other races BY JOHN RUCH, MATT BRUCE AND BOB PEPALIS


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Democrat Robert Patrick pulled off an upset in the DeKalb County Board of Commissioners District 1 race Nov. 3, unseating Republican incumbent Nancy Jester. “Unbelievable,” said Patrick, a former Doraville City Council member, in a phone interview. “You start something out 10 months ago and it comes to fruition. It’s a really nice feeling.” Jester, a Dunwoody resident who has held the seat since 2014, conceded well before noon Nov. 4, posting a farewell message on her campaign’s Facebook page that gave the nod to her Democratic challenger. “It has been an honor to serve DeKalb District 1 on the BOC,” Jester wrote. “I am forever thankful to have been of service to the good people of DeKalb County. For everything under Heaven, there is a season. As I transition to new opportunities, I want to assure the people of District 1 there will be a positive and professional transition with your interests in the forefront of my efforts. Thank you again and I am #forDeKalb.” The seat represents Dunwoody and parts of Brookhaven, among other areas. Incumbents won other local races. U.S. Rep. Lucy McBath, a Democrat, will keep her 6th Congressional District seat after defeating Republican challenger Karen Handel with 54.59% of the vote. The race was a rematch of 2018, when McBath ousted Handel from the seat. The district also includes parts of Brookhaven, Sandy Springs, Cobb County and north Fulton areas. In state Senate District 40, Democratic incumbent Sally Harrell defeated Republican challenger Garry Guan with 60.5% of the vote. The seat includes Dunwoody and parts of Brookhaven and Sandy Springs. Democratic state Rep. Mike Wilensky of Dunwoody’s District 79 drew 59.75% of the vote in beating Republican challenger Andrea Johnson. In the DeKalb County sheriff race, incumbent Melody Maddox, a Democrat, easily defeated Republican challenger Harold Dennis with over 83% of the vote. A ballot question proposing a reform of the DeKalb County Board of Ethics easily won approval with over 87% of the vote. The board has been inactive since the Supreme Court of Georgia in 2018 ruled that its current board member appointment method is unconstitutional. The proposal approved by voters will dissolve the board as of Dec. 31 and appoint a new one, with three members chosen by the county delegation in the state House of Representatives, three by the county delegation in the state Senate, and one by the county tax commissioner. Two alternates would be appointed by the clerk of the county Superior Court. The board is intended to independently review claims of improper conduct by public officials.

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Community | 3


Charter Commission finalizes suggested changes to elections, term limits BY MATT BRUCE The Dunwoody Charter Commission on Nov. 2 pushed forward a bevy of amendments poised to reshape the process by which City Council members are elected and how long the mayor can remain in office, among other changes. The unanimous vote sent the review board’s recommendations to the City Council to make additional tweaks before advancing the proposed charter to state officials for approval. Four of the slated amendments could then be placed on a referendum for residents to vote up or down. Among the possible ballot initiatives are the prospect of boosting the term limit for Dunwoody’s mayoral seat from two to three terms and switching to a plurality vote for City Council seats. The Nov. 2 meeting was the last in a handful the charter commission has held since August to brainstorm changes to the city’s founding document. Those changes had largely been hashed out over previous meetings, so the affair served as a rubber-stamping of their final draft. Commission chairman Robert Wittenstein opened the discussion with a thank-you to his fellow board members for their input through the monthslong process. “Our meetings have been productive,” he said. “Everybody has participated, they’ve been professional. It’s been a pleasure working with you all, and everybody brought expertise to the table” The commission was a five-member citizen’s panel appointed by Mayor Lynn Deutsch, City Council members, state Sen. Sally Harrell (D-DeKalb) and state Reps. Mike Wilensky (D-Dunwoody) and Matthew Wilson (D-Brookhaven). The commission began meeting Aug. 3 with the mission of fine-tuning the charter and recommending changes to the council. After signing off, the council will then submit its desired changes to the Georgia General Assembly, which will set up a voter referendum. Dunwoody residents will have final say to approve four of the 10 proposed charter amendments via a ballot initiative. Dunwoody incorporated as a city in 2008 and last updated its charter in April 2014. The charter is a legal document that essentially serves as the city’s articles of incorporation. It includes a set of articles and bylaws that function as the genesis of Dunwoody’s

governance, outlining everything from election procedures to the structure and authority of the council.

Proposed changes

One of the chief amendments that would require a referendum is a proposal to change the mayoral term limit from two to three consecutive terms of office. It was a recommendation for which the commission received pushback during their brief Nov. 4 discussion. “In the original charter, the reason we had two terms was, Number 1, to keep people from becoming squatters in the position and Number 2, fresh ideas and more citizens involved,” former Mayor Denis Shortal said. The commission also proposed switching from a majority vote to a plurality vote for City Council elections, meaning candidates in those races would only have to garner 45% of the vote to avoid a runoff election. Candidates for mayor and council races must currently win 50% plus one to be declared the outright victor without a runoff. The commission last month rejected the notion of moving to plurality votes for mayoral elections. But it accepted that lower threshold for council candidates. Shortal was adamantly opposed to the idea of as much as 55% of the electorate voting against a candidate declared the winner in a council race. “This is a democracy and I believe the majority should rule,” he said. “You use that reason to reduce the likelihood of a runoff. Hey, if a runoff is required, so be it. Let there be a runoff.” In other moves, the commission seeks to impose three-term limits for council seats and shift mayoral elections by two years beginning in 2025 to align them with the council races. Both of those proposals would have to be adopted by voters. Other proposals that wouldn’t need to be placed on a ballot included moving the annual budget calendar back one month, and increasing salaries for the mayor and council members, based on the Consumer Price Index. An entire subsection would be added to the charter dedicated to emergencies. It would give the mayor and council members power to adopt an emergency ordinance and declare a state of emergency, which would activate disaster response and recovery powers for city leaders.


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Helen Sher, beloved Dunwoody jeweler, dies at 93

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Helen Sher at the counter of Camelot Jewelers in 2019.


BY CAROL NIEMI Helen Sher, owner of Dunwoody’s Camelot Jewelers since its founding in 1977 and a beloved fixture of the community, died Oct. 24 in her sleep at 93. Her passing marked the end of her 20-year battle against cancer. In a phone interview, her son Mike Pearce expressed gratitude for all the messages and calls he has received and promised that as manager of Camelot, he will continue his mother’s work. “I know she’s always going to be with us and we’re going to continue what she created,” he said. “After all the support the community has given us, we can’t just walk away.” A memorial celebration was held

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Art & Entertainment | 5


Holiday Events

A float from last year’s edition of the Sparkle Sandy Springs Parade.


The annual display of decorated miniature houses returned to City Springs, 1 Galambos Way, on Thanksgiving and will remain up through New Year’s Day. A drive-thru version of the Sparkle Parade -- with stationary floats and the audience passing through in their vehicles -- is scheduled for Dec. 6, 6-8 p.m. Info: spr.gs/sparkle.


6-8:30 p.m., will showcase a variety of businesses on Peachtree between Lenox and Piedmont roads with hot chocolate, cocktails, carolers and local musicians. For tickets and more information about the events, see livablebuckhead. com/holiday. — John Ruch, Bob Pepalis and Holly R. Price


The annual lighting of a holiday tree and a menorah at Blackburn Park was scheduled to become a virtual event streamed on Dec. 2 at 6 p.m. at Facebook.com/BrookhavenGAGov. Extending the holiday celebration is a citywide yard decoration contest for residents and businesses. The contest was scheduled to be judged Dec. 7, with winners to be announced Dec. 14. Explore Brookhaven, the city’s convention and visitors bureau, will create driving maps of all entries and publicize it in surrounding towns to bring others to Brookhaven for a socially distanced viewing. To download the map, go to explorebrookhaven.com.


Livable Buckhead is holding a variety of holiday events in the Buckhead Village and Lenox Square areas under the theme “Miracle on Peachtree.” Nearly 40 Christmas trees will be on display at Charlie Loudermilk Park at Roswell and Peachtree roads Dec. 11-14. Drive-in and walk-in -- or “sleigh-in” -- movies will be shown in a parking lot at 309 Buckhead Ave. within the newly renamed Buckhead Village District shopping complex. The movies include “Elf” and “Die Hard” on Dec. 11; “Home Alone” and “A Christmas Story” on Dec. 12; and “An American Tail” and “Love Actually” on Dec. 13. Tickets range from $10 for walkers to $40 for multiple people in a vehicle, and spaces are limited. A “Hot Chocolate Crawl” Dec. 13,

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Community | 7


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As Civic Dinners booms, some question diversity, open meetings issues BY JOHN RUCH


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Civic Dinners is enjoying a boom in the meeting business that has made the Atlanta-based start-up virtually synonymous with post-protest racial dialogues in such local communities as Sandy Springs. Governments and other organizations praise it as an off-the-shelf method for quickly gathering hundreds of people to discuss tough topics and inspire new policies. But some participants question Civic Dinners’ own diversity and expertise, especially on racial issues. And its inherently private structure may run afoul of state open-meetings laws and other government transparency guarantees. Civic Dinners has been a “highly successful” engagement method, especially for millennials, at the Atlanta Regional Commission, according to Malika Reed Wilkins, director of the organization’s Center for Strategic Relations. “It was certainly an innovative way for us, the ARC, to get input on some of the key regional issues,” Wilkins said. One Civic Dinners participant, a Black woman who asked to remain anonymous, said that, especially on racial issues, the method is too “mild and conservative” and fails to challenge preconceptions of those who join. “We live in a racist society, and not everybody agrees on that point whatsoever,” the participant said. “...I think the thing that’s most appealing for governments [about Civic Dinners] is, it’s easy. And easy is not going to solve it.” Jenn Graham, Civic Dinners’ founder and CEO, says she piloted the “structured dialogue” program in 2014 at the ARC while working as a consultant. It uses a dinner-party format, with a volunteer host attempting to gather a small but diverse group, each member of which voices their answer to pre-selected topical questions. The method is rooted in dinners in private homes, but has been expanded to large conference-style meetings. In the pandemic, the business has shifted to a virtual platform that Graham says will remain available long-term. Graham did not invent the dinner-meeting concept. In the mid-1990s, “Chicago Dinners” about race and racism were held by a social-justice nonprofit in that city. The Chicago model has inspired other programs, such as the “Dinners by Design” conducted by Yale University psychologist Dietra Hawkins. Civic Dinners began its own “Inclusive Series” about bias and diversity due to the interest of corporate clients, Graham said. Those topics are helping to drive Civic Dinners’ boom into an international business. Earlier this year, the city of Sandy Springs began an ongoing racial dialogue using Civic Dinners, which drew about 250 participants and is already credited with inspiring a city “inclusion and diversity commission.” For next year, Graham said, the business has been hired to facilitate Atlanta policing meetings involving the Atlanta Police Foundation and the National Center for Civil and Human Rights. Civic Dinners is also the platform hired by a similar but separate program called Equitable Dinners that began last year in Decatur but is also expanding rapidly to national programming. Equitable Dinners is inspired by Hawkins’ model and is focused on “dismantling racism,” says Adria Kitchens, the program’s manager. An affiliate of Out of Hand Theatre, it incorporates a brief theatrical performance to jumpstart the dialogue. It was set to hold 500 dinners in Atlanta this year before the pandemic postponed the plan. In Sandy Springs and elsewhere, some participants have questioned the diversity of the dinners themselves and the reliance on amateur hosts instead of expert facilitators and note-takers, who can be hired but are not part of the basic package. In Atlanta’s activism scene, some organizers have noted that Civic Dinners is itself a White-led organization whose method may encode biases and assumptions, such as preferring “inclusion” to systemic change. The anonymous participant, who joined a Civic Dinners discussion about White privilege roughly two years ago, said she felt “uncomfortable” with answers given by White participants who appeared to view their mere attendance as a “badge of courage.” The method prohibited participants from questioning or challenging each other on such topics as diversity terminology or claims to have abandoned racist beliefs, she said. “People were just sharing, and that was it,” she said. “There was just not a learning moment.” Graham said that the diversity of her own staff is something she thinks about “all the time” and is “high on my list” to improve. “Right now, we have only two African Americans on our team out of 14,” she said, though that small team also includes three people who are Asian, one who is Latino and four who identify as LGBTQ. Continued on page 8

8 | Community

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As more governments employ Civic Dinners, an emerging issue is conflict between the dinner-party concept, with its presumption of privacy and intimacy, and laws that ensure open meetings, open records and other public accountability. Sandy Springs initially denied the Reporter access to its racial dialogue meetings, claiming the media would cause a “chilling effectâ€? on discussion. The city relented only after attorney David Hudson, a board member of the Georgia First Amendment Foundation, advised that denying access violated the state Open Meetings and Open Record acts. The city of Brookhaven also considered using Civic Dinners to host racial dialogue meetings, but instead is using the platform for a still-mysterious series of municipally funded input meetings. The city refused to let the Reporter attend the first such meeting, held by City Manager Christian Sigman in September, and also refused to record it for later viewing. “The purpose of a civic dinner is to create an intimate platform in which a small group can share their unique perspectives,â€? said city spokesperson Burke Brennan in an email. “It is supposed to be a safe atmosphere for people to express themselves openly to their neighbors and their local government.â€? In response to a formal complaint from the Reporter, Georgia Assistant Attorney General Jennifer Colangelo said it appeared that Brookhaven’s Civic Dinners meetings might be exempt from the Open Meetings Act, but also that the lack of case law about this new form of gathering made it impossible to say for sure. The Civic Dinners makes for “an uncertain question of law,â€? she said, indicating that litigation would have to resolve it. Graham said she had not thought about possible Open Meetings implications of Civic Dinners, but that the company “highly encouragesâ€? media participation. “We actually encouraged Sandy Springs to invite reporters and allow reporters to come‌,â€? she said. “I think participants especially, when they know media is showing up, they get so excited, because they’re like, ‘Hey, this is what this is all about.’â€? Equitable Dinners and the ARC said they have opened their meetings to the press as well. Graham said she did not know about Brookhaven’s meetings and that the city might be using a free version offered on the website, which would leave the company itself unaware. She said the company discourages free users from using the “Civic Dinnersâ€? term for such meetings. “We also want to be cautious about our brand name,â€? she said.

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Community | 9


City transfers property near Pernoshal park for home development BY MATT BRUCE The City Council conveyed city-owned property near the Park at Pernoshal Court to an Atlanta-based developer on Nov. 9. In doing so, officials addressed claims that the city has improperly paid property taxes on the 7.5 acres of land it handed over to John Wieland Homes, the home builder behind a master-planned redevelopment effort. According to city officials, the company has owned the property since 2018, and paid the property taxes ever since. Dunwoody partnered with John Wieland Homes and Neighborhoods in 2011 for Project Renaissance, an urban redevelopment plan poised to revitalize 35 acres of land in the city’s Georgetown area with new housing. Wieland built 68 homes on 16 acres just west of Shallowford Road as part of the agreement and has now turned its sights on a gated community with 35 homes to be built on 19 acres next door to Pernoshal Park. The subdivision, dubbed The Enclave at Dunwoody Park, is advertised as part of the John Wieland Collection and offers 4- and 5-bedroom brick homes starting at $700,000. But according to city officials, the developer couldn’t begin building those homes until the city officially deeded the property to them. The council did just that, unanimously approving a quitclaim deed that granted three contiguous parcels to John Wieland Collection. The three properties are: 5.7 acres at 4575 North Shallowford Road; 5.4 acres at 1959 Pernoshal Court; and 3.2 acres at 2030 Pernoshal Court. “It’s a little confusing because this should’ve happened five, six years ago. This cleans up the ownership record so everything is clear.” DeKalb County Property Appraiser records show the city acquired two of the parcels in 2012 and took ownership of the third in 2013. Ownership for the smallest parcel, about 3.2 acres, quickly shifted to the city’s Urban Redevelopment Agency shortly after the city purchased it in 2012. The URA is the panel that has overseen Project Renaissance. The other parcel the city purchased in 2012 is 5.4 acres of largely undevelopable land, much of which will be used as a passive conservation area. That property was deeded to a JW Collection subsidiary in December 2018, the property appraiser’s website shows. Pernoshal Park is situated on the third 5.7-acre parcel, which straddles North

Shallowford Road. The property for the public park was transferred back to the city. JW Collection plans to build the gated residential community on 7.5 acres that encompases all of the 3-acre parcel and portions of the two others, city. Economic Development Director Michael Starling said in a Nov. 10 interview. According to a Nov. 9 memo from Starling, the developer purchased the property from the URA in 2018 and the URA conveyed it to Wieland’s company via two limited warranty deeds. But the city was still the listed owner on record for all three parcels and DeKalb County has continued to tax the city for the property. According to county Tax Commission records, the city paid nearly $48,000 in property taxes for the parcels over the past three years. The most recent such payment from the city on Sept. 30 was $15,897. Starling said JW Collection actually paid the taxes for 2020, 2019 and the portion of 2018 for which the company owned the property. He said residents emailed city officials, asking if the city had been SpringsDerma-PressAd-DecIssue.pdf


mistakenly paying property taxes. During the council meeting, Mayor Lynn Deutsch addressed the emails, one of which was shared with the Reporter. In the message, a resident alleged the city was still paying the taxes dating back to 2012 and would be handing the property away to JW Collection without any compensation for the tax payments. Starling said that his team checked the tax rolls and property records and found that was not the case. “When these properties were purchased originally, the finance team determined that they were not going to be used for governmental purposes,” he explained. “So they decided at that time that they were taxable. So we were going to be paying taxes on it regardless of whether this deed had been done correctly in the past or not.” Deutsch acknowledged the assessments shown on the Tax Commission website, and agreed that the city paid property taxes up until 2018, when JW Collection took ownership. “Are we paying property taxes or is Wieland paying us back for the property 11/19/20

taxes?” Deutsch asked Starling. “Wieland has paid the property taxes and they are receiving the bills from this year as well as from now on,” Starling responded. JW Collection has already started developing on the acreage, installing residential roads, street lighting and other infrastructure. But the developer must record a final plat for the subdivision before it begins construction of the homes planned there. That couldn’t be done until the property was properly conveyed from the URA to correctly acknowledge the chain of ownership. Now the tax rolls will correctly list the developer as owner of the property, according to city officials. “Starting with the next one, the names of the bill should show up in Wieland’s name instead of ours,” said Assistant City Manager Jay Vinicki. “Historically, they’re always going to be in our [name] for those years. They paid those three years…and that’s where it stands now. This quitclaim deed reflects the previous and the initial purchase. It clears that part up so that the change is correct.”

9:35 AM












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10 | Commentary

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Metro Atlanta’s suburbs hold the future of Georgia politics in their hands Right now, I feel like we’re living in the most interesting state in the world, to adapt a line from a popular beer commercial. Not only does Georgia, with its two Senate runoff elections, hold the fate of the Senate, and hence of the balance of power in Washington, in its hands, but it’s also the only state in the Deep South to have voted for Joe Biden. What’s more, two of the very few bright spots for Democrats at the Congressional level were Lucy McBath’s retention of the local seat she flipped in 2018 and Carolyn Bordeaux’s flipping of another suburban seat. How we got here is, I think, an interesting and illuminating tale. Everyone’s easy answer is to credit Stacey Abrams with the feat of “turning Georgia blue,” as one headline inaccurately put it. She certainly had a hand in it, working to register and mobilize hundreds of thousands of voters. But as one observer recently noted, none of what Abrams accomplished would have been possible without Atlanta, whose economic dynamism attracts people from all over the country. Consider these numbers. More than half the almost 5 million votes cast in the presidential election came from counties in the Atlanta metro area. Cobb, DeKalb, Fulton and Gwinnett counties alone accounted for about 1.7 million votes, giving Joe Biden a 625,000 edge over Donald Trump. Of course, the picture gets a bit more clouded when you factor in all the other metro counties, but it’s clear enough that the Atlanta metro area makes Georgia competitive. No other major Southern city has the same effect on its state’s political complexion. Not Charlotte, not Nashville, and certainly not Birmingham or Columbia. The closest southern analogue to Atlanta’s outsized influence is the Virginia suburbs of Washington, D.C., where Joe Biden’s 500,000 vote margin (out of roughly 1.5 million votes cast) overcame Donald Trump’s slight 50,000 vote edge in the rest of the state. Since 2008, Virginia and Georgia have followed similar trajectories. Barack Obama added nearly a half-million voters to the Democratic columns in both states back then. Joe Biden duplicated that feat this year, adding 431,000 votes in Virginia and 594,000 votes in Georgia.

This comparison takes a bit of luster away from Stacey Abrams’s accomplishment. Virginia Democrats were not exactly lost without her in 2020. Also, Georgia Republicans have a much larger margin outside Atlanta than their Virginia counterparts do outside the D.C.

Joseph Knippenberg is a professor of political science at Oglethorpe University in Brookhaven.

suburbs. But they shouldn’t rest too comfortably on that cushion, not only because it didn’t produce victory at the

Republicans have to hope that they can retain their appeal to non-metro voters while distancing themselves from the Trump persona in the metro area. presidential level in 2020, but because that’s not where the state’s voting population will grow in the future. Retaining the non-Atlanta base is necessary, but not sufficient, for long-term Republican success in Georgia politics In a word, the Atlanta metropolitan area holds the future of Georgia politics

in its hands. Both parties have strong incentives to improve upon their performances ITP and OTP. For Democrats, the two keys are holding onto the affluent, White voters who moved from splitting their tickets in 2016 to voting “D” in more races in 2020, and increasing turnout among Black and Latino voters. Since Donald Trump will not always be around to help them with the former effort, they will have to find ways to differentiate their candidates from the louder progressive voices that tend to dominate the national party. We can expect to hear more of the intraparty debate that has been evident in the aftermath of the disappointing results below the presidential level. As for the other challenge, I will restrict myself here to saying that claims of voter suppression are a better mobilizing tool than they are a description of facts on the ground. There are lots of votes to be gotten from people of color, but those who aren’t already voting are going to be very difficult to get to the polls. Republicans have to hope that they can retain their appeal to non-metro voters while distancing themselves from the Trump persona in the metro area. In the January special elections, the task is straightforward, for they can argue that the only way that President Biden can be the moderate he claims to be is if there’s a Republican Senate to balance a Democratic House. After that, the test will be whether Georgia Republicans and their national counterparts can articulate a nationalist and populist message that isn’t as abrasive and offensive as that offered by the current occupant of the White House. I take it for granted that there’s no going back to the party of Mitt Romney, however much some of those who would be in the executive suites if they weren’t working from home would want it. That party doesn’t win enough votes outside the metro area to counterbalance its inevitable deficit around the Perimeter. None of us really wants to pay much attention to politics for the next two months, but we can’t avoid it. Democrats and Republicans have a lot at stake, in the short term and in the long term. For Georgians, the question is whether purple is a stop on the way to blue or a condition that we’ll, so to speak, enjoy for the foreseeable future. DUN


Community | 11



Local communities were Biden country in Nov. 3 election among local communities. Biden took 93.1% of the vote in 06Q, a precinct in the Armour and southern Lindbergh neighborhoods. Trump’s best performance -- 58.2% -- came in the Kingswood and Randall Mill neighborhoods in western Buckhead. Trump also prevailed in some precincts in North Buckhead and in neighborhoods along West Paces Ferry Road. Among those was Tuxedo Park, whose residents include Gov. Brian Kemp and U.S. Sen. Kelly Loeffler, the Republican who faces Democrat Rev. Raphael Warnock in one of Georgia’s two nationally spotlighted runoff elections for U.S. Senate seats coming Jan. 5. In a handful of local precincts, neither Biden nor Trump won a majority of the votes, including some areas in northern Dunwoody, southern and western Sandy Springs, and Buckhead’s Paces neighborhood. Biden and Trump weren’t the only presidential candidates on the ballot. Libertarian Jo Jorgensen drew small numbers of votes in local precincts. The local Libertarian hotspot? Brookhaven’s Cross Keys High precinct, where Jorgensen won about 2.5% of the vote. For an interactive version of the precinct map, showing vote totals and percentages for each candidate, see ReporterNewspapers.net.


This color-coded map shows how strongly precincts in local communities leaned toward either major-party presidential candidate. The darker the blue, the higher the vote for Democrat Joe Biden, and the dark the red, the higher the vote for Republican Donald Trump.

Access all of our communities online!

BY JOHN RUCH AND MAGGIE LEE Local communities of Brookhaven, Buckhead, Dunwoody and Sandy Springs were Biden country in the presidential election, joining other metro Atlanta suburbs in flipping Georgia blue for the first time since 1992. Democrat Joe Biden earned about 61.1% of the total votes in those four communities, while Republican incumbent Donald Trump won only about 37.5%, according to official precinct-by-precinct results mapped and analyzed by the Reporter. (At press time, a recount requested by Trump was pending, but was not expected to significantly change the results following a previous review that combined aspects of an audit and a recount. That previous review did not alter any local results.)

Dunwoody Reporter Brookhaven Reporter Buckhead Reporter

Biden handily won each of the communities as well, with the following approximate percentages: Brookhaven



Sandy Springs

Biden 64.5% Trump 34%

Biden 60.7% Trump 38.1%

Biden 59% Trump 39.6%

Biden 60.8% Trump 37.5%

As the Reporter’s map shows, Trump lost every precinct in Brookhaven and polled no higher than the 50% range in Dunwoody. (Numbers for Brookhaven are approximate because precinct lines capture some voters outside of the southern city limits.) Sandy Springs had only two precincts that leaned Trump: one in the eastern panhandle above Dunwoody and another in southern High Point around Windsor Parkway. Buckhead won the distinction of both the bluest and the reddest voting precincts DUN


12 | Commentary

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After Trump, the blue deluge hits suburban Republicans

Around Town

The way Fran Millar sees it, the big change shouldn’t surprise anyone. You could watch it coming. It showed right there in the numbers as election followed election. The much-talked-about “blue waves” that swept away Republican red ground in north DeKalb, Sandy Springs and Buckhead has been building for the past couple of elections. “The wakeup call was in 2016,” Millar said recently as he surveyed the local political landscape after the 2020 election. Support for Republicans eroded that year, he said, and continued to disappear in 2018. This year, once the big wave washed through, only Democrats were left standing. The surprise isn’t necessarily that more Democrats won local elections, but where they won them. Although Republicans still control the state Legislature, candidates with a “D” after their names

ta suburbs that once elected big-name Republicans such as former U.S. Congressman Newt Gingrich, former state Sen. Tom Price and former state Rep. Wendell Willard. And, of course, Millar himself. “The Democrats have taken the hill,” said former state Rep. Ed Lindsey, a Republican who represented a chunk of Buckhead for about a decade. “Whether Republicans can have a resurgence is yet to be seen.” Millar served in the state Legislature for 20 years. He was a state rep. for a dozen years and a state senator for eight more. He said he won 10 of 11 elections he ran. In his Senate elections, he regularly claimed more than 60% of the vote. Then, in 2016, “the Democrat who ran against me did nothing but a Facebook campaign” and still collected 44% of the vote. “I knew that wasn’t good.” Two years ago, he lost to Sen. Sally

have claimed districts once considered safe harbors for Republicans. Democrats now represent parts of the north Atlan-

Harrell. “I went from 62% [of the vote in 2016] to 45% in ’18,” he said. “That pretty well says it.”

What changed? Demographics, he said. Dunwoody’s just not the same place it was when he moved there 40 years ago. Back then, it was part of the “Republican Suburbs,” mostly White communities filled with cul-de-sacs surrounded by single-family houses lined up like guards. No more. Nowadays, he said, Atlanta is like Chicago or New York or other big cities scattered around the country where the suburbs politically have become an extension of the city and “most of the area is blue.” “What I didn’t see was the population shifting so quickly, the demographics shifting so quickly,” he said. Millar’s quick to say that by “demographics,” he doesn’t mean exclusively race. That’s part of it, but not all. Other factors he cited include the changing politics of some suburban women, including blowback against President Don-

and the groundswell of new voters organized by former gubernatorial candidate and Georgia voting rights champion Stacey Abrams. But Lindsey, a lawyer who’s 61 and who spent nearly a decade in the state House and was the Republican whip, believes local Republicans’ problem in his old Buckhead district was simply Trump. “In large part it is, quite frankly, President Trump,” he said. “It’s a matter of turning off from the president, to be candid,” he said. “He simply wasn’t well-regarded in this area. I don’t see a shift in people’s attitudes about policy so much as a shift in attitudes about leadership style.” At age 70, Millar, who runs a small marketing firm, misses doing the kind of work he did in the Legislature and working with other lawmakers. “I do miss doing legislation on things that matter,” he

ald Trump; the rise of the tech industry and the younger people who work in tech; the spread of multifamily homes;

said. “You just don’t turn it off after 20 years.” But he has no plans to try to try for elected office again. After all, it might not be as much fun as it used to be. DeKalb is very divided, he said, and local politics sometimes devolve into the kinds of divisions that now regularly split the country. “I’m old-school,” Millar said. “I can sit down and do a deal with Michael Thurmond [DeKalb’s Democratic CEO].” After the 2020 elections, Republicans appear likely to do a little soul-searching both nationally and locally. Lindsey argues the challenge facing both parties in Buckhead will be to nominate candidates who can appeal to conservative voters. “The question is now that we’ll be living in a post-Trump era, will those folks migrate back to Republican candidates who are right of center, or are they in the Democratic camp?” he said. “That’s going to be the challenge for the Democrats and that’s the challenge for Republicans.” Millar argues that for Republicans, a change needs to come. “I think you have to appeal to people with things that matter -- find issues that matter to people. I’m pro-life, but I don’t think abortion and guns are the way… Traditionally, people vote their paychecks. They didn’t this time because of the pandemic and the personal issues of the president. … You’ve got to adapt. You can’t do the same-old, same-old.”

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Commentary | 13


A resolution kept, and a seasonal farewell While negotiating this surreal season of masked Santas and mugs of eggnog

with ourselves: “Don’t eat the cake!” “But I want the

clinked 6 feet apart and


stockings stuffed with

“Go run three miles.” “But

hand sanitizer, I’m look-

it’s cold outside.”

ing ahead to 2021 and

“Time to write the col-

the resolutions that may

umn!” “Be quiet. I’m texting.”

come with it.

en years since I was taken on by the Re-

■ During a trip to Disney World, my

porter. So perhaps there’s a seven-year

8-year-old son ordered alligator, which

itch response built in here. But it’s not

blew my mind because I couldn’t get

them, it’s me. To them, to my editors, my

him to eat broccoli.

publisher, to all the staff and board of

■ Have you ever watched a movie

the Reporter, I offer my utmost respect

and then had to go to Wikipedia to fig-

and gratitude.

ure out what happened?

Simply put, resolutions are

Truly, writing this column has been a

■ I waited all day for my kids to get

Most of us probably

commitments to a goal. Here

privilege, as has been working with all

home to change the TV channel. And

figure that the trials of

I come to the real purpose for

of you. For my part, even though I didn’t

then I didn’t know whether to be disap-

2020 granted us a 10-year

focusing on this topic: writing

make it a full decade, this seems like the

pointed or relieved when they couldn’t

pass to forget resolutions

this column has been the re-

right time for me to close the laptop.

do it, either.

and indulge in whatever

alization of a goal that I have

And since I’ve got about 150 words to

■ Someone called me “precious”

held for years, one that I am

go, I’m going to leave with a few mus-

once, which I believe she meant as a

ever grateful to have had the

ings that might have once been fleshed-

compliment. I didn’t take it that way,

opportunity to meet. But as

out into fully formed columns, but for

though. “Precious” is an adjective re-

this year ends, so will this col-

now will be bones on the page:

served for cats and old people. And I’m

vices we might possess, just to even the score. But as it is typical at the end of a year or the beginning of a new one to revolt against our bad habits,

Robin’s Nest

Robin Conte lives with her husband in an empty nest in Dunwoody. To contact her or to buy her column collection, “The Best of the Nest,” see robinconte.com.

we might still find ourselves entertaining the idea of resolutions. And what are resolutions, after all, but our own personal battles? We have constant little skirmishes

umn. I’ve decided to embark on other goals. Maybe I’ll finally learn to

stand up straight. Maybe I’ll be a nicer

■ People say that your true person-

not a cat.

ality shows when you’re drunk. I dis-

And here I will deftly transition from

agree. I think it shows when you’re driv-

“old” to “auld” to “auld lang syne,” and

ing in traffic.

use that phrase to offer my farewell and

person. Maybe I’ll learn to belly dance

■ Do you ever wonder why you’ll

best wishes to all of you who have read

(and pick up with the lessons I started

spend 15 minutes rearranging the plates

and enjoyed (or not!), for the sake of sev-

20 years ago).

in the dishwasher rather than stopping

en years gone by.

It occurred to me that it has been sev-

and washing the dish?

And most of all, thank you.

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Bill Kring, CFP®, and MaryJane LeCroy, CFP®, discuss the benefits of sound advice for wealth planning in this new “strange” world with Sam Tortorici, CEO & Director, Cadence Bank, N.A., and President, Cadence Bancorporation.

fiduciary advisor who is part of a well-credentialled team that includes CPAs, attorneys, and other similarly designated professionals to collaborate on your advice. WITH THE RIGHT ADVISOR, ARE PEOPLE LIKELY TO HEAR NEW AND DIFFERENT ADVICE THAN WHAT WAS SAID BEFORE WE ENTERED THIS STRANGE WORLD? Probably not as different as one might imagine. Good disciplined financial decision-making is a long-term exercise and should not be unduly reactive. That said, we are finding that our advice has to be somewhat adaptable to these newer challenges. Our team is ready right now to meet, either inperson, or virtually, to discuss the challenges you see in your current world.

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14 | Public Safety

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City settles another police lawsuit for $400K BY HOLLY R. PRICE

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A man who was struck by a Dunwoody Police car while running away from authorities has settled a lawsuit with the city for $400,000. The city maintains the collision was accidental and that the officer was cleared by an internal investigation. The settlement is the latest in a series of lawsuits and settlements involving the police department in the last three years. Another $2 million is demanded in pending legal complaints and actions. In the 2017 case, police got a call about Yadata Osman doing doughnuts in a parking lot near Perimeter Mall about 1 a.m. Sept. 4, 2017. Dunwoody Police Officer Kevin Lopez-Lincona and Sgt. T.D. Fecht responded in separate vehicles. Fecht pulled behind Osman’s car and turned his blue lights on. Osman jumped out and ran, according to his attorney, Mark Begnaud. Fecht went after Osman on foot while Lopez-Lincona followed him in his cruiser. Lopez-Lincona bumped into Osman, who kept running. Osman was struck a second time and was pulled under the officer’s car which crushed and shattered his leg, Begnaud said. “The city’s insurance carrier made the determination to settle this case,” according to a statement from spokeswoman Jennifer Boettcher. “The city disputes the assertion by the plaintiff’s attorney that the officer chased down his client and struck him intentionally.” “There was simply no justification for this officer’s reckless decision to chase down Mr. Osman with his patrol car,” he said. It was an interesting case in that Osman was even allowed to sue in the situation, Begnaud said. In many cases, an individual isn’t allowed to sue a government body. But there are a small handful of waivers of those immunities. Under Georgia law, immunity isn’t granted when city agents are involved in automobile-related injuries, Begnaud said. Osman, now 32, was taken to Grady Memorial Hospital, where he underwent multiple surgeries. His medical bills reached $370,000. Osman pleaded guilty to charges he was driving under the influence that night, Begnaud said. Osman, a Army veteran who served in Afghanistan, has recovered, but it’s taken a lot of surgeries, Begnaud said. The same year Osman was hit, the city of Dunwoody settled a federal lawsuit against Police Officer Dale Laskowski for $52,000. The settlement marked the fourth lawsuit the city had settled against Laskowski by men who alleged he conducted traffic stops and then searched and detained them illegally. The city’s insurance paid to settle the three prior lawsuits for a total of $187,000. As part of the settlement, Laskowski denied any wrongdoing and the agreement was not an admission of liability. He later left the force. The city currently faces at least three complaints involving former Dunwoody Police Lt. Fidel Espinoza and other police department officials. The lawsuit, filed July 7 by former officer Roger Halstead, claims that Espinoza sexually harassed him and demanded sexual materials in exchange for work benefits, then arranged for a retaliatory firing and blackballing by other departments. At least three other complainants have filed notices of intent to sue. Civilian transport officer Brian Bolden claims Espinoza bullied and sexually harassed him and falsely accused him of theft; and former officer Austin Handle claims racial discrimination and fears of impending sexual harassment. Officer Bryan Castellanos alleges in a July 13 complaint letter that Espinoza sexually harassed him by sending and demanding sexual photos and videos, engaging in sexual chats with Castellano’s wife, and taking a photo of the officer while he was using a urinal. The notice says Castellanos is seeking compensation likely to exceed $500,000. Along with the other complaint filings, including one already filed lawsuit, the city is facing at least $2 million in compensation requests or demands.



| 15


Drive-Thru Parade will be December 6 from 6–8 PM. Sparkle Village, Menorah, Christmas Tree, and Holiday lights will be on display through January 1, 2021.



son F erry

Road Closures

Drive-Thru Parade Route


This area will be affected by road closures. Visit spr.gs/sparkle for more information and times








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Hammond Dr

Sandy S pri ngs Cir cl

Lake Forrest Dr

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Sand y ings Pl Spr

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Bluestone Road

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Roswell Road

Hilderbrand Dr

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16 | Community

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City to help businesses operate outdoors in pandemic winter Continued from page 1 keeping businesses open and this is another step,” Mayor Lynn Deutsch said. ”This focuses on helping employers keep people employed and their doors open.” “This is just positive, good news,” said City Councilmember Joe Seconder. “We all need some good news these days. This is just awesome and could be a differentiator by

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creating an environment where everywhere you go for dinner in Dunwoody, you’ll have a nice, warm place to sit outside.” The grant funding comes from the city’s COVID war chest. The city in August secured about $5.6 million in federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act money. According to a press release, the maximum matching grant for each business is $5,000 and applications will be reviewed by the Dunwoody Economic Development Department. Businesses can apply online at dunwoodyga.gov. “We’re getting a lot of demand from not just restaurants, but other businesses as winter is coming,” city Economic Development Director Michael Starling said. “Most of them think, obviously, that coronavirus is not going to go away. It’s just getting worse. And to continue operating, they need some help. So our idea is to have this $150,000 to be able to match investment from them.” In October, the city doled out $400,000 in grant dollars to eight nonprofit organizations as part of a program to assist residents hit the hardest by by the pandemic. The Al Fresco grant funding was one of four economic assistance programs council members approved at the Nov. 9 meeting. All four are bankrolled with CARES Act dollars. Among them were a $1 million small business assistance program, a $250,000 entrepreneurship program and $100,000 dedicated to a tourism and marketing campaign. The winterization program is just one of several efforts the city has made to assist pandemic-hit businesses in recent months. The cities of Dunwoody and Sandy Springs in September combined forces on “Let’s Do Lunch,” a marketing campaign intended to boost local restaurants struggling in the pandemic economy — especially those hit by the loss of lunchtime business as people work remotely. In August, the city permitted temporary signs for businesses in the Dunwoody Village area around Chamblee-Dunwoody and Mount Vernon roads.


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Dunwoodry Reporte

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Find Your Wings


Giving thanks in a time of crisis P16


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is The Dunwoody Reporter mail delivered to homes on selected carrier routes in ZIP 30338 For information: apers.net delivery@reporternewsp


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NOVEMBER 2020 • VOL. 12 — NO. 11 reporternewspaper

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Exploring ‘tiny parks’


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A PATH400 worker’s trail to a second chance P19

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reporternewspapers.net NOVEMBER 2020 • VOL. 14 — NO. 11

Sandy Springs Reporter

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City, MAR city’s Lindberg TA team on ctsforto Perimeter objeTime h-Armour cities to plan togeth Baseball league osal er? master plan athletic field prop




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PAGES 7-10

Lynwood Residents join county A PATH400 APS in-pe Police chief can’ Park’s rson in fighting Dresden worker officials ’s delay divid for new public t wait historic trail to es tax break a safety HQ Village local pare second recognition nts chance draws praise WORTH KNOWING



Atlanta Public Schools’ decision lay a return to to deface-to-face instruction JOHN RUCH til sometime in unCOMMENTABY January RY especially in Buckhead, is dividing parents, AND ERIN SCHILLING hotbed of back-to-the-c which has become a lassroom advocacy. The city’s decision to officially honor Disagreements in interpretatio ns of pandemic science Lynwood Park, considered the oldest hisand APS’s equity policy are pushing parents, teachers and staff torically Black neighborhood in DeKalb arate camps with into sepFacebook groups. going by “Let County, is drawing praise from its longtime A group Atlanta Parents Choose” appears to have residents -- and from one of the several cebeen influential in Superintendent Lisa Herring’s P16 lebrities born and raised in the tight-knit early decision a face-to-face to start return in late October; community. er group called “We Demand Safety anothAROUND TOWN pears to have APS” apP16 “We can’t even explain to people what P16 helped pressure her switch to the delay. The pro-return forces a nice village it was,” says George Wallace, are regrouping under the FOR THE ARTS CENTER Christie name Committee SPRUILL Jo Mayo for APS AROUND TOWNa star comedian of movies and Las Vegas trail on Oct. 17. shows off her farming-them TOWNProgress, intended to be a AROUND series Mayo was one ed “tiny park” PHIL MOSIER formal nonprofthe first in a new event, which it organization headlining shows who still owns the family smokehouse is 27 ► celebrated greenof more than 40 participants along the PATH400 multiuse . Spruill Gallery’s Will Be OK.” See story, p. in the “Big PATH, space and recycling. Laura Roxburgh Michaels at the he grew up Tiny “Everything See story and FILE home on Osborne Road where LaHiff is a Buckhead by Christopher iconic mural more photos, Parks” mother with “Find Your Wings” works that replaces the p. 30. ► The future city an eighth-grade in the 1950s and ’60s. “We had everything of rotating of Sandy Springs r at Sutton Middle and twin public safety fourth-graders headquarters at Morris Brandon Elementary. we needed,” he said, describing a self-susat 620 Morgan Falls Road. She’s with the mand Safety We DeAPS group and taining Black community. “So it may have SPECIAL welcomed the delay as a matter of health Dresden Village project as filed with the city of Brookhaven. been separate but equal. You couldn’t have “We are inconvenien equity. Part of the site plan for the ► 28. p. jump on For a large version showing the controversial street changes, see the ced. We are not dangered,” she asked for better schools at the time.” ensaid of the virtual participatadding that many learning, fees for families The city’s pledge to erect historical others in the district Jerry would increase board P20 school and President county justified against DSB out consisBuckhead’s said withBY JOHN RUCH BY JOHN RUCH privileges and the city Manual” to create s that ing in the league, signs and provide other support for Lynoptions not fare so well. opposition, a tax abatement predicathe doesn’t think letic Association ERIN SCHILLING “We’re all facing ANDmight Center Station different organizationwould Weiner said, and the fields as well wood Park, now gentrifying rapidly, came this situation together so lies at the core tent policies for manage ed on the delivery of an infrastructure toThe city and MARTA fields. The city The Buckhead we also have to BY ERIN SCHILLING sports would be able of the city Lindbergh-A are use P20 to to aim athletteaming who keep Reporter officials out for our friends, want an eye County DeKalb rmour Master P20 to athleton a master plan change that the adjacent communities is mail out of discussions about local responses to costs with the dollar of as DSB. our neighbors… that will Plan, and equal treatment delivered a bevy of new attempt to tie fees from take over maintenance for rental that we don’t we can take every people A plan to give the Dresden Village development’s to homes on public fields do not even want,” said neighborhood brutogether multiuse trails know with a view fight “We believe BYand exchange BOBpolice the protests about racism partial percentage of using the city’s PEPALIS at -- includselected of kindness use them. ic facilities in and compassion. return a higheror long-stalled developing a future ic associations carrier and and tax break in a Dec. 1 court hearing are routes Baseball reeling representatives from Ashford ThePark s that want to revenue ” Atlanta BeltLine Reporter Sandy themselves,” ments in Brookhaven Senior The a the can since nation the Springs rocked organization after in they have that the tality the City Council on ZIPs 30305, 30327 comes Reporter is segment -y of manShannon Schlottmann city than the Lindbergh/Morosgo has Dunwoody are prodding being joined by neighborhood assoMore than a third that to theArmour Oct. 20 that the of the manual Brookhaven Fields in a written stateits responsibilit Homeowners is mail delivered to, whose now DSB and a closer look. mail delivered The creation average on how of households household earning kindergartner the Dunwoody son is a that oppose the street changes neighborhoods. Floyd in Minnesothe idea of losing of George The process fields at Brook police killing and 30342 Weiner told to homes discrepancies in the ciations is just gearing on city pay so much for less than $50,000 ment. selected artificial turf homesatonMorris Brandon, is city audit found selected carrier up with an intent Committee aging the new, MARTA’s unfinished annuin ally is pays more is a So- their housing that they for APS handle money. Another are a rationale for the deal. to subin cityareinitiative that the Progress in camp. She city than 30% of its routes considered The mixed-use development would be ZIPsta in May.routes mit a plan to carrier theinformation: vision30for tranbyFor league officials delivery@re cost-burdened virtual learning Run Park. income in the City Council 30327, 30328, says sit-oriented fees proposed housing. BASEBALL on page by it, consulSee developmen isn’t as good porternewspapers.net in June or “The city of Brookhaven is pushing, tants creating The new rental 30319 an “Athas in-person t at Lindbergh and is unfair ZIP 30342 and 30350 See LYNWOOD a housing 30 has proposed on page to the students. needs assessment Consultants Phillip See RESIDENTS on page 28 See CITY on page say. The City Council Kash and Matthew For information: 22 Bedsol said presented For information: Consultants with delivery@reporternewsp a preview of the delivery@reporternewspapers.net HR&A Advisors See APS on page city’s apers.net 27 told See MORE on page 31 PRSRT STD ECRWSS US Postage PAID Monroe, GA Permit #15


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More than a third households are of city by rent, utilitiesburdened

BY BOB PEPALIS Police Chief Kenneth DeSimone forward to the looks day when local residents can easily find the city’s public safety when the Police building Department and Court relocate Municipal 620 Morgan Falls Road. Now they are located in the business complex back of a at 7840 Roswell DeSimone said Road that not a one in the parking day goes by that somelot has to ask to court or where how to get they go to file an incident report. The current headquarters has many woes, the chief says, and a new facility will help with recruiting and retaining in a challenging officers time. “And if you’re a 22- [or] 23-year-old man or young young woman straight out of college, straight out of the military or in your See POLICE on

page 30





| 17


Communities of Faith A Night of Christmas Worship Wednesday, December 23rd, 7 pm in the Sanctuary at First Baptist Church of Sandy Springs

A Christmas Worship Celebration featuring the music of Casting Crowns, Faith Hill, MercyMe, Trans-Siberian Orchestra, and many of your favorite Christmas Carols. The evening will also feature dramatic Scripture reading and a powerful Christmas message by Rev. Stephen Streett First Baptist Church of Sandy Springs & Misty Creek Community Church 650 Mt. Vernon Hwy NE | Sandy Springs For More Information Visit: www.mistycreekchurch.org | Call 770-364-7882

We continue to worship in person using COVID safety precautions on Sunday mornings at 10:30 AM. All are welcome.

December 20 - 3:00pm


Saint-Saëns Christmas Oratorio

Find out more about us at:

Candlelight Christmas Eve

Live stream on Facebook:

saintmartinlutheranchurch.org 1366 Nor th Druid Hills Road NE, Atlanta (We share space with Brookhaven United Methodist Church.)

December 24 - 5:00pm


18 | Community

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Spirit of unity, suburban impacts are lingering questions after presidential election BY JOHN RUCH Democrat Joe Biden’s presidential election victory over Republican incumbent Donald Trump is being greeted with different emotions among some local political observers — but also with common hopes of Georgia and America moving forward in a spirit of unity. It remains to be seen whether such a spirit can emerge from a contentious election that Trump refused to concede amid lengthy audits. And activists in both par-



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ties were bracing for two momentous runoff elections Jan. 5 for Georgia’s two U.S. Senate seats that could decide that chamber’s partisan control. Another outstanding question: How the presidential election and the Senate battles may trickle down

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into local politics in the Atlanta suburbs that appeared to drive Biden’s victory. “You can’t be expecting me to think with words in a moment of such intense emotion,” said Valerie Habif of Sandy Springs, a co-founder of a grassroots political group called the Jewish Democratic Women’s Salon, on Nov. 7, the day media organizations projected Biden as the winner. “…In the midst of the nightmare that we were living, could we ever have dreamed that Georgia would do this? And now what’s ahead of us is greater than what was behind us,” she said, referring to the Senate battle. J. Max Davis, a Republican who was Brookhaven’s founding mayor and whose father long served in the Georgia House of Representatives, voted for Trump. But he purchase of $25 or more

also once met Biden in person and likes him. Davis spoke on the phone from Florida, where his family went on vacation after tiring of the grueling anxiety of watch-

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ing day after day of election counts. “I know people that are upset. I’m slightly upset,” said Davis. “But when it comes down to it, we’re all Americans. We just all need to understand that withdrawing from a friend or castigating your neighbor because of their politics is really a little bit infantile.” Davis said he is reminded “the world is not coming to an end tomorrow” and that “we all have to row this boat together.”

Division and unity For activists like Habif, Biden’s victory is a triumph over the Trump’s insulting manners and approving comments of White supremacists and neo-Nazis in a time that saw an increase in reports of anti-Semitic incidents and violence. She said she wishes election numbers had a bigger margin and “had been a more resounding re-




pudiation of Trump.” But it will do. “Look at us. We have the first Black vice president, and the first female Black vice president, and the first Indian American vice president,” Habif said, referring to Biden’s running mate, Kamala Harris. “There’s a Yiddish word… kvell. It’s when you’re filled with pride, filled with joyous pride. What we’re doing is, we’re kvelling.” Davis said he understands why Trump turned off many voters as a person.

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“I voted for Trump. It doesn’t mean that I agree with everything he said or did,” said Davis. “I know he’s crass. I know he’s bombastic like the salesman that he is.” But, Davis said, Trump had many good policies and successes on the economy, China trade and remaking of international free trade agreements. On the other hand, “I think Biden has a little of that in him as well,” Davis added. “I don’t dislike Joe Biden at all. … He’s a good person. I think he wants what’s best for the country,” though his advisors and Democratic Party officials might be a different story. Davis’s perception comes from a visit he made to the Obama White House for a U.S. Conference of Mayors event while he was leader of Brookhaven. Davis said he

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ended up sitting with the then vice president — at one point even serving as Biden’s

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support when he stood on a chair to give a speech — and spent 25 minutes speaking one-on-one with him.


Community | 19


“I came away thinking, ‘This guy — I could almost vote for this guy,’” Davis said

other side of the aisle, whether you agree with it or not. … There’s always somebody

with a laugh. Among the topics was Biden’s own brief past as a Republican. “He was

who has an intelligent counterpoint… and when you don’t have that check in there,

so engaging. He’s a natural politician.”

I just think that leads to corruption and it leads to bubble thinking, and we do not need that in DeKalb County.”

Local political fallout

For Habif and her 1,500-member Democratic group, the election showed the pow-

Trump’s divisive manner, on the other hand, likely cost him votes in Atlanta’s

er to sway local voters in longtime Republic strongholds. Democrats did not flip

increasing blue northern suburbs, and that can be bad for political diversity, Da-

many seats this time — but they already did two years ago in local Congressional

vis said.

and General Assembly races and retained them this time. But in Buckhead and San-

“There are a lot of people in Brookhaven who aren’t necessarily blue, but Trump,

dy Springs’ House District 52, Republican incumbent Deborah Silcox lost by under

his personality may have turned them off… They just couldn’t conscience voting for

400 votes to Democratic challenger Shea Roberts. Habif said that race shows San-

Trump,” he said. “It was a personality referendum, in my mind, not necessarily an

dy Springs politics continue to change and that it could affect the city’s municipal

ideological referendum.”

elections in 2021.

He believes one of the casualties was Nancy Jester, a Dunwoody Republican who

“This organization was always about local change,” Habif said of her Democratic

lost her District 1 seat on the DeKalb County Board of Commissioners to Democrat

women’s group. “But at no point did we ever believe that what we did locally would

Robert Patrick. The board will be all Democrats. “That fact that Nancy Jester lost,

have a national impact. And when we look at not what happened in the country but

to me, is a tragedy. … That hurts me just about more than anything else,” said Davis,

what happened in Georgia … think about the power of one. When the vote gets that

calling her a “watchdog.”

close, it’s the power of one. And when many ones come together, that’s about the

“I wouldn’t think the Georgia Legislature would be good if it was… all one party.

power of us.

I wouldn’t want that if I could,” said Davis. “You always learn something from the

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

CAC leader leaves a legacy of helping others Carol is a marketing consultant who on thethe DunwoodyAfter 23 years as CEO ofNiemi the Community Inlives 2012, Community Action Center Sandy Springs line and writes about people whose lives inspire Assistance Center, Tamara Carrera has anbecame the Community Assistance Cenothers. Contact her at worthknowingnow@gmail.com. nounced her intention to retire. Her legacy ter (still CAC) to facilitate fundraising and will be hard to equal. more accurately reflect its CAC was founded in Sanmission. dy Springs in 1987 by 10 lo“‘Action Center’ was a cal congregations to adterm from the 1960s for social dress growing poverty in the work organizations funded community. For the next six by public money, not 501(c)3’s years, it operated out of the like us,” she said. “When I scout hut at one of the memwent to foundations for monber churches. Then in 1993 ey, they said, ‘We don’t fund along came Carrera, a bilinfederal organizations.’” gual native of Ecuador new CAC has changed in the era to Atlanta, with an MBA of COVID-19. Its main buildin nonprofit management ing is temporarily closed, and a desire to get involved. its thrift store and food panSPECIAL Her family joined Holy Intries are open only on certain Tamara Carrera. nocents’ Episcopal Church, days, and interviews are conwhere on Mission Sunday ducted by phone and email. she encountered CAC and signed up. The people served have changed, too. In “It was basically all volunteers then,” the beginning, they were mainly families she said. “Neighbors helping neighbors.” in extreme poverty with no savings. Now She soon went from volunteering once many are families that had savings but a week to joining the board of directors. By have used them up. 1997, she was CAC’s fourth CEO. “People we would have never seen be“I started part-time, for basically no fore,” she said. money,” she said of the organization that This year, for Thanksgiving and Christprovided food and clothing to 280 families mas, instead of baskets of food, which rea year with an annual budget of $24,000. quire over 100 volunteers to pack, CAC is She soon realized it wasn’t really a partgiving gift cards from grocery stores and time job but believed in the mission and stores that sell toys. told the board she would work as many Since becoming CEO, Carrera has seen a hours as necessary for the part-time salary. multitude of changes. After the 1996 Olympics, many of the “Early on, we were just trying to orgathousands of people who had come here to nize and define ourselves,” she said. “We work were left jobless but stayed. The comknew the need was there and we were a munity was growing rapidly. So was the Band-Aid, but we had no idea if we were need. Carrera became a fundraiser. having an impact because we didn’t have “That’s when we started strategic planthe resources to do follow-up.” ning,” she said. In 2005, after moving to Hightower Today CAC is the local community Trail, they began creating individual plans emergency assistance agency, every year for each family and following up. serving more than 6,500 individuals in “Now we follow families at 30, 90 and 3,000 households. It has an annual budget 180 days to see if we’re making a differof over $5 million, 18 staff members, three ence,” she said. “We know we’re essential. locations and more than 500 regular volIf we disappeared, it would be devastating unteers supported by 28 religious congreto a lot of people.” gations and numerous individual, corpoCAC is all of this and more. It’s a place rate and foundation donors. where people in need, who are often emCAC prevents homelessness and probarrassed to receive assistance, are treated motes self-sufficiency by providing needwith dignity and respect. ed food, clothing and emergency financial Anyone who has ever been involved assistance. To qualify for assistance, people with CAC, as I was when I served on the must live in one of six ZIP codes in Sandy board, knows that the astonishing success Springs, Dunwoody and part of Doraville. of the organization is the result of dediSince its founding, it has helped more than cated teamwork but ultimately due to the 20,000 households cope with financial commitment and leadership of one person hardship. -- Tamara Carrera. CAC operates out of three buildings: its Dedicated as always, she has promised headquarters at 1130 Hightower Trail, its to stay until the board finds her replacefood pantry and thrift store at 8607 Roment. swell Road and a part-time food pantry at “CAC has been my life for a long time,” 5 Dunwoody Park South in Dunwoody. A she said. “It’s what I was meant to do.” second Sandy Springs location inside 285 For more about CAC, see ourcac.org. is currently closed for renovation.


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New elementary school is welcomed, but overcrowding remains a concern A controversial redistricting plan approved in February provides relief to Dunwoody and Hightower elementary schools. About 100 students will be moved from Dunwoody to the new Austin Elementary School, and about 100 will be moved from Hightower outside the cluster to Doraville United. The redistricting plan commits the district to developing a Comprehensive Master Plan during the current school year. The master plan will look at longterm enrollment forecasts, facility assessments, capital project prioritization, budgeting and redistricting. School members chose to site the $35 million new elementary school at 4680 Chamblee-Dunwoody Road in the Georgetown area. It will serve students from both Chamblee and Dunwoody. The original Shallowford Elementary was originally constructed on the 9.4-acre Dunwoody property in 1968. A gymnasium building and covered walkway were added in 1998. The school was later repurposed as Chamblee Middle School. But by 2011, it had “deteriorated beyond economical repair,” according


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Dunwoody Reporter

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Atlant firstit trans lba’s DeKa moves UrbanerFood planFore mast st would need isahea bothd,publ ic parkt boos tax sales & community farm


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month to consider sioners is expected next plan designed to countywide transit master bus service and deimprove current rail and COMMENTAR new transit over the Y termine where to build next 30 years. commisAs part of that consideration,if they beto decide sioners will also have to vote for enough motivated lieve voters are pay for the proposed a sales tax increase to P10 include light rail, bus which , improvements rapid transit in rapid transit and arterial The proposed DeKalb. south and DeKalb north full-penny Atlanta Regional DeKalb County, the County transit worked with lomaster plan Commission and MARTA gathered public input scenario would cal municipalities and proposed transit masinclude four light over the past year on a goals: address the rapid transit routes; ter plan with three broad routes foster economfour bus rapid transit county’s mobility challenges, quality of life. end of I-285; P44 including along the top ic development and improve recently toured transit routes. These and eight arterial rapid Consultants with VHB presenta180 project miles. ’S NEST madeROBIN cover June would in expansions DeKalb cities and The dirt path conceptual transit on Buford tions on proposed and that is the Highway in Brookhaven and Dunsubject of front of the master plans to the a dispute about DYANA BAGBY Orchard at Both presentations a new sidewa Brookh woody City Councils. lk and landsca aven a 1 cent sales tax scenarios: pe strip. two spotlighted raise $3.65 billion over increase that would projects, and a half30 years and fund 16 raise $1.85 billion penny increase that would P11 15 projects. over 30 years and fund tax requires a vote. Increasing the sales tax is 8 percent. Springs, a member DeKalb’s current sales Kevin Abel of Sandy decimajor a is n Board which Going to a referendum BY DYANA BAGBY of the State Transportatio project manager, Department of Transsion, Grady Smith, VHB Check out our oversees the Georgia AND EVELYN ANDREWS council at its June 10 took those officials to told the Brookhaven at ReporterNews podcasts portation, however, Dunwoody and hearing DeKalb leadthe toll lanes projpapers.net Elected officials in meeting. He said he is task and said he supports out against the time to consider the and Ga. 400 because ership is wanting more Doraville are speaking ects planned on I-285 input from the cittoll lanes and have BY DYAN bus rapid transit to proposals and is seeking planned I-285 “top end” A BAGBY they promise to bring The Brook the estimated $5 dyanabagby@r signed a petition opposing See DEKALB on page 30haven Reporter the area. eporternewspape to begin construcen has some 31 rs.net billion project expected isMAY mail deliver residents See DUNWOODY on page 2019 ed • VOL. 13 —Emory NO. 5Univer living in by neighb tion in 2023. nearhomes on selecteto orhood sity’s propos through traffic s worried about a $1 billion cutcarrier routes d “health innova al to build and more in such roads over the next congestion tion distric on ZIP 30319 as Sherid t” 15 years on an, Briarcl approximatel North Druid 60 acres of iff and Executive Hills. For information: Park in Brookh y Emory officia delivery@rep avorternewspape ls say they ing to allevia rs.net are workte those ► concerns by con8 See TRAFFIC See our ad on page on .com page lauderhills 22 et

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We’re honored that Reporter Newspapers and Atlanta INtown have won 41 awards in the Georgia Press Association’s Better Newspaper Competition over the past three years. For 2019, the Reporter’s honors include eight first place awards in its category.

to the district. The school was deemed unsafe and uninhabitable, and was demolished in 2014. District officials say the new school will alleviate overcrowding in current elementary schools in the area. The school board approved construction and funding for the new school in February. The district will pay for the project with funds from an E-SPLOST, a 1% sales tax reapproved by voters in 2016. The site plan includes a 118,000-square-foot schoolhouse with a courtyard, flanked by a parking lot with a capacity of 116 spaces and a school bus drop-off/pick-up depot just west of the building. A playground, 1.5acre field and basketball court are slated for the outer perimeters of the property. Plans also include options for four future modular classrooms. The district already owns the undeveloped site. Noel Maloof, the district’s operations chief, said he expects construction to begin quickly and accelerate rapidly because the school is being built anew. -— Matt Bruce contributed


District to contentious redistrictings and use of trailers as temporary classrooms. “The space is certainly needed,” said Mayor Lynn Deutsch. But the middle and high school student populations could certainly use “some help as well,” she said. Parent Marissa Evans agrees. She has two students at Dunwoody Elementary and said many of her friends have left to go to private schools because of the overcrowding and other issues with the school system. “You have to look at where the greater need is,” she said about the middle and high schools. Evans said that it appeared the overcrowding at Dunwoody Elementary had been alleviated. During this school year, which has been virtual, fourth- and fifth-graders were moved to a Brookhaven facility currently being used by Kittredge Magnet School. The magnet students moved to a site on North Druid Hills Road in unincorporated DeKalb. That allowed Dun-

woody Elementary to remove all portable classrooms. Deutsch said the new Shallowford Elementary was a budgeting issue, in that it was cheaper to build another primary school than it would have been a middle or high school. The school board approved a $1.15 billion budget in July, but it ended up with less money than it expected for construction projects at the end of last year, Deutsch said. The school board is looking at all affordable options to alleviate the overcrowding, said board member Stan Jester. “The new elementary school at the Shallowford site is expected to serve the Dunwoody and Chamblee clusters, which are in dire need of elementary seats,” he said in an email. “The district will look to the CMP [Comprehensive Master Plan] for guidance in the best way to move forward to address enrollment and capacity issues at middle and high schools across the district.” Redistricting has also been used to fight the overcrowding.


Continued from page 1










An art fan maps street murals in and beyondAtlanta






The Orchar d at Brookh sisted living aven, an asfacility that caring for specializes those with in dementia, opened on recently Buford Highw ay, a large, low “pre-le yelasing” banne r still hangin over its front g entrance. Just yards from that front entran a dirt path ce is that runs along Buford way, created Highover many reporternewsp apers.net years by people walking along the busy thorou spite a lack ghfare deof sidewa lks. That is supposed dirt path to become a 10-foot Perim and a 5-foot landscape eter Businsidewa ess Springlk strip, a condit 2019 | the city put PCIDs mark ion Where brick-and-mortar retail still works on theThe ofdeveloper s 20 years property when was rezone shaping Perim the d two years eter Cente r ago to See SIDEWA LK on page 23 MAY 2019

Section Two

Sandy Springs Dunwoody






Perimeter Business: PCIDs turns 20 ►Q+A with local couple behind Atlanta’s big anime convention



P. 36



Main photo, the diverging at Ashford-Dunwoody

SPECIAL diamond looked shortly Road and interchange I-285 as after opening it Inset, the in 2012. Hammond Ga. 400 Drive interchange FILE shortly after with it opened in 2011.



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After 20 increasingly years of a population jammed boom, scraper-sprouting highways and skyit may sound mega-developments, quaint that about Perimeter people worried Mall traffic 1999. way back in But the provement Perimeter Community Districts, Imof business the self-taxing groups out of those property owners that formed concerns, sons the local boom are among the why the has happened reatraffic and to Perimeter isn’t even worse. If you Center today, get there you may go via well PCIDs pushed one of the big projects – like the ramps on Hammond the Ga. 400 Drive woody or the Ashford-DunRoad diverging change diamond at I-285 – and you’ll intertouches they’re responsible see smaller scaping and rush-hour for, like “They had traffic cops. landone, cleaning a reputation for, those cosmeticthings up, providing number some of amenities used to,” we’ve all said Ann become the CIDs Hanlon, who watched form as a longtime resident and now Dunwoody serves as director. their “At lutionary, the time, that was executive that a private pretty to pay for group was revothose amenities.” willing Back in day cover 1999, the three cities that Perimeter en, Dunwoody toCenter – Brookhavnot yet exist. and Sandy Springs As the – did its next 20 years, PCIDs looks ahead it has sion on transportation, refocused its to misproposals leaving such as park-building previous ies. Transportation to the citerything these days from trail networks helping to buildmeans evmultiuse to shaping toll lanes the future and transit That’s in of on Ga. 400 addition and I-285. PCIDs currently to some of the like sidewalks provides or basics the and crosswalks,coordinates, shuttles, traffic signal commuter rimeter timing and Connects the Pecommuter vice. advice serAn increasingly part of Perimeter residential sector Center’s is future, with CONTINUED

Is this the gun that killed Buckhead’s namesake deer?


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harmonic — and cial everything convergence an unmet an engineer’s A tribute changed “It was of soan eye-opening for Rudick. to the former recalls. ping more need to launch retirement and IMAGE in Buckhead, “This Limelight COURTESY experience,” maps covering ro Atlanta. than 500 street a website mappainted disco behind ART RUDICK On the was amazing he by Dr. stuff.” same trip, murals 14 neighborhoods outlying Binder’s duced Dax and in metFittingly, Rudick’s him to cities as Art Supplies The Loss a guy named Instagram, niece introand Sandy and such home Dunwoody, to locate Prevention. to Springs. all of Art was walking six self-guided hood full his Old Fourth and he returned The site Brookhaven the one “I’ve alwaysthe art. tour. Ward of curiosity. also and includes walking photos “It’s partially had Rudick tours of provides He wantedneighborof Atlanta’s says, “but an interest ing that because street art on his in art,” myself. Rudick, bios of 16 muralists. I’ve never street murals to take cartoon,” I grew new Instagram I once an engineer the attraction. up watchbeen an Art end of Rudick did woodworking were the by, making to post 2016 after artist who retired account, says, explaining murals? custom ca-Cola, but where a He says How could as a hobat the Necessity furniture.” The design finds most 32-year career his favorite he find ro, who ing local tion when became the of a new with Cofor Rudick, artists them? uses a artists on of his content mother hobby are Yoyo Rudick technique 61, about contour contact by followmap of Instagram. he and Ferdrawing, three yearstook shape page known the city’s realized that of invenhis He also of a collective times reach on his site, as blind and five with no street art a decent City. While wife visited ago when and artists has a who are him that didn’t exist. Club, which known there, the family in New website, previous experience a guided Twice somepart way. York So, Atlanta he does “a as the Lotus tour amazing to check a year, he says, in doing couple an online took it upon class Bushwickof street lot of interestingEaters work.” took on he drives art in the a himself of Donna He sure that every mural, and the guide to Atlanta’s neighborhood to create around workingand Howells, also admires as the artists her seventies new work site is current. part of making of Brooklyn a Cabbagetownthe work The result who put them street murals while making He’ll often SIGN UP only recently. who began is the Atlanta up. artist in at StreetArtMap.org, Rudick spot TO RECEIVE the creating Street Art the artist says his favorite rounds. murals Rudick DAILY & which Map keeps his mural is has interactive in suburban Tom and known as Jerkface, WEEKLY eyes open one by Jerry cartoon EMAILS cities, based pears on ral is the too. Ferro’s for murals WITH LOCAL characters. on the Brookhaven’s first stop School, work The on the NEWS @ and the Cross Keys apLittle Five musuch locations REPORTERNEWS website High Points notes artwork as the PAPERS.NET/SI parking in garage CONTINUED GNUP of

Proposal for Wieuca roundabout is back






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Naturalist keeps his eye on water and wildlife P12





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building The Georgia Department of Transportation is considering flyover toll lanes atop the Northridge Road overpass.



The Sandy Springs Reporter is mail delivered to homes on selected carrier routes in ZIPs 30327, 30328, 30342 and 30350 For information: delivery@reporternewspapers.net



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Affordable housing advocates who co-chaired the city’s North End Revitalization Task Force launched an initiative opposing the task force’s final report with a community meeting on Feb. 28. At that meeting, several north end residents said they feared the recommendations would lead to displacement of See TWO on page 14

scenes. For information: books for a long “I know it’s been on the delivery@reporterne wspapers.net time, but we need to mitigate it as much as we can,” said Rep. Deborah Silcox (R-Sandy Springs), who says she’s trying to arrange a large-scale meeting of state engineers, local officials and possibly the general public. “This is very upsetting.” The toll lanes, called “express lanes” or “managed lanes,” are proposed by the Geor-



The Neighborhood Planning Unit system that reviews planning, zoning and other big issues for Atlanta city government is getting a review of its own. A downtown nonprofit called the Center for Civic Innovation has begun a quiet, but

potentially influential, series of meetings and surveys that aims to have reform recommendations for the 45-year-old system on the table by March 2020.

“There are things about [the NPU system] that are amazing, and things that we need to have a lot more conversation about,” said CCI Executive Director Rohit See AFTER on page 14



The wooden stock is beige and battered with age. The metal plate above the trigger is decorated with a pair of birds. The barrel is long, heavy and octagonal. It’s an old muzzleloading firearm, for sure. It might even be the one that killed the deer that gave Buckhead its curious name in 1838. John Beach, president of the Buckhead Heritage Society, is still trying to figure that For more on out, partly by tracking John Beach, see the tales surrounding Around Town, page 20. another little-known piece of area history – an 1842 log cabin that quietly survived destruction by being moved to a Buckhead back yard. In the meantime, Beach gave the Reporter an exclusive closeSee IS on page 22

See OFFICIALS on page 22


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Two groups with opposing views on redevelopment concepts for the north end of Sandy Springs have organized to voice their opinions as city officials determine which concepts should move


As neighborhood impacts of toll lanes planned along Ga. 400 and I-285 become are clearer, city and state elected officials The Buckhead Reporter seeking ways to influence the process with is mail delivered to homes varying tactics. Some officials say they’ll on selected carrier routes fight the project, while others aim for smallin ZIPs 30305, 30327 er tweaks. Some call for community-wide meetings, while some work behind theand 30342

Two groups launch to support, oppose north end concepts

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United Methodists struggle with church’s LGBTQ decision P18

Left, John Beach, president of the Buckhead which reputedly killed the neighborhood’s Heritage Society, holds the “Buckhead Gun,” namesake deer in 1838. Right, holds what is said to be the same firearm in an undated photo. (John James Whitley Ruch/Special)

After 45 years, a nonprofit launches a review of NPU citizen input system


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