Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Lost cat: Woodridge and Iris [Nov 24]

Belu (short for Beluga White, as he big and white) has snuck out without permission or ID.  He has a nick on his ear, and is totally an indoor cat without wilderness experience. His owners are very worried he will be fairly clueless out there on his own. Belu is very friendly, will rub against legs but does not like being picked up.

He is sorely missed by his family and his humans are searching the area. If you are near the Woodridge/Iris intersection or nearby streets, please check your shed and crawl space if those were open on Monday the 24th or after. If you see Belu, please call his family at 404-414-1934.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Post-annexation survey update

from the MANA Board

With the holiday and legislative seasons approaching, your MANA Board continues to work to better understand how annexation proposals may impact the County and our neighborhood, and to protect our neighborhood's interests.

BIG PICTURE

A five-member legislative committee has been appointed to finalize maps for DeKalb County city proposals. We approached DeKalb Commissioner Rader to share our survey results and he has suggested that given the larger County-level context, remaining unincorporated is not likely to be a long-term option. This is particularly true if nearby annexation proposals succeed in the 2015 legislative session and elections. At this time, our Medlock neighborhood is not included in any maps to be annexed to a city. Parts of the neighborhood are included in City of Decatur's annexation map, which is worrisome for several reasons.

PROCESS

Remaining unincorporated is the default option.

1) We are continuing to explore our neighborhood annexation options. Please remember that this is a multi-step process. First, we must petition to be "in the map" of a particular proposal. Next, the proposal needs to be approved by the legislature. Then, Medlock neighborhood residents (and others in the annexation map) who are registered to vote would have the chance to vote in favor or against the annexation. As you may recall, this is the rationale we followed last year with the Briarcliff proposal: we joined their map so that, if the proposal was approved by the legislature, all Medlock voters would have the opportunity to voice their wishes at the polls. We do not know what will happen early next year, as far as city proposals being advanced as bills. Several or no city proposals may emerge; some or all proposals may be voted down during the referendum process. We would only vote on a referendum if we are included in that particular map.

2) We have contacted Atlanta Commissioner Alex Wan and our state Representatives Rahn Mayo and Elena Parent with our questions about the process and deadlines for requesting annexation. Their responses on timing were a little contradictory, but we've agreed that early to mid-January is a reasonable date for our neighborhood to commit to a particular proposal. We would show commitment to a proposal through a petition, which we probably would conduct online, with door-to-door follow-up as needed. Petitions cannot be anonymous and petitioners must state their names and addresses. The petition(s) will be addressed to the DeKalb County delegation.

POSSIBLE OUTCOMES

New city to the north: Last summer, we were included in the newly created City of Briarcliff map and supported their feasibility study. That proposal has now merged with the Lakeside proposal to create a new city being called LaVista Hills. Last winter, MANA was disappointed to find that the Briarcliff proposal we had supported was redrawn to abandon important commercial property on North Decatur Road to Decatur. We staunchly believe that our neighborhood and much of this commercial property (particularly Zone B in City of Decatur's annexation plan) are inextricably linked and should remain in the same jurisdiction. We ultimately decided not to request inclusion in the joint Briarcliff/Lakeside map without also including that commercial property, but the option of being annexed into a future city to the north remains open to us, as was stated in the LaVista Hills press release.

Decatur: Because many residents continue to voice an interest in being annexed to Decatur, we have arranged another meeting with the City of Decatur the week after Thanksgiving.  Both Mary Margaret Oliver and Elena Parent have indicated that they will at least try to attend; Rahn Mayo is unavailable for that meeting. Decatur was very clear in their lack of interest in annexing the Medlock neighborhood when we met last September 25 and the MANA Board does not believe that we will receive a different answer.

Atlanta: We are in the process of organizing another information session about the option of annexing to Atlanta. Atlanta Councilman Alex Wan gave us a preview last September and those meeting notes are available here.  We will share meeting details as soon as they are available.

SUMMARY

Annexing to Decatur received the most support in our survey but we have no reason to believe that this is a viable possibility. The next highest level of support went towards remaining unincorporated, long and short-term; if it is true that we will be joining a city in the not-so-distant future, remaining unincorporated is not a viable position long-term. Annexation to a city, if we are contiguous, remains an option as long as we are still unincorporated AND that city is open to the annexation.

Following the meeting with City of Decatur, we will again need to come together to weigh the options that are realistically open to us and decide next steps. A number of MANA residents have stepped forward to help the MANA Board in the coming months. This annexation working group includes individuals representing all viewpoints listed in our survey who, along with your MANA Board, are tasked with collecting, summarizing and sharing information that will help us make informed decisions in the coming months.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Alternative Gift Market @ North Decatur Presbyterian Church [Dec 6]


Alternative Gift Market at North Decatur Presbyterian Church
Saturday, December 6, 10:00 am – 3:00 pm
Press Release, Updated 11/20/14
Contact:  Becky Evans, beckyevans@mindspring.com, 404 378-5288

North Decatur Presbyterian Church invites Medlock  neighborhood  to our annual Alternative Gift Market, Saturday, Dec. 6, 10 am to 3 pm. Children’s Craft Corner provided to engage your children while you shop.

Shop for fair trade*, environmentally sustainable and reasonably priced holiday gifts, including many new items this year. Gifts for sale include olive oil and beautiful carvings from Palestine; hats, scarves, clothing and gifts from Latin America; delicious soup and cookie mixes made in the U.S. supporting people in transition; rugs and other gifts from local refugee and affordable housing initiatives; beautiful beaded jewelry from Rwanda; Haitian goods; fair trade coffee, tea, cocoa and chocolate; and beautiful handmade cards from around the world. NDPC is at 611 Medlock Road at the intersection of Medlock, N. Decatur Rd. and Scott Blvd. Credit Cards, Checks and Cash payment accepted.   Make a difference in the world, one gift at a time!

*What is Fair Trade? (text credit: Fair Trade Federation) 
Fair Trade is an economic partnership based on dialogue, transparency, and respect. Fair trade is not about charity. It is a holistic approach to trade and development that aims to alter the ways in which commerce is conducted, so that trade can empower the poorest of the poor. Fair Trade Organizations seek to create sustainable and positive change in developing and developed countries.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Annexation Round-Up: Medlock's Schools

Awesome neighbor Brad create this map* and we added some labels for clarity. The map combines the recently unveiled
LaVista Hills (a mash-up of the Briarcliff and Lakeside proposals), the proposed annexation of Druid Hills into Atlanta (which includes Fernbank and Briar Vista Elementary School attendance zones, Druid Hills High School and Emory University), and maps of Decatur and Avondale (with proposed annexations included).
The popular kid in the middle, wearing green, is our Medlock neighborhood.

This post looks like more of the same: annexation blah blah blah! But it's actually about something extremely critical to our neighborhood: our schools (literally) and our attendance zones.

Our high school: "Together in Atlanta" is a group that formed in response to the DeKalb County School System's refusal to consider the proposed Druid Hills Charter Cluster. The cluster would have given more local control to parents and administrators of Druid Hills High School and all its feeder schools. Following a frustrating waiting period (the first submission was rejected; the second proposal was never put on the agenda by the DeKalb County School District board), the charter proposal was withdrawn by the organizers.  A subset of the planning group decided to split the cluster along neighborhoods served by Fernbank Elementary and Briar Vista Elementary and proposes to move these schools, as well as Druid Hills High School, into the Atlanta Public Schools (APS) system via annexation. An oft-repeated 1918 legal precedent claims that if a school's whole attendance zone is shifted to a new city, the city can have the buildings for free. That could allow APS to acquire the new Fernbank school and Briar Vista campuses; a Druid Hills High School take-over seems less clear, as only ~31% of Druid Hills High's attendance comes from the area currently included in the "Together in Atlanta" annexation plan. WABE reports that the group's annexation map has support from Atlanta mayor Kaseem Reed, and that DeKalb County Interim CEO Lee May has complained that DeKalb County was not consulted. To be fair, it seems that nobody consults the County when annexation plans are drawn, at least not publicly (cf., every other new annexation and city proposed last year). It is refreshing to hear a County officer publicly protest, as one would expect would happen every time that the Count's coffers, and ability to provide the services required by law, are threatened.

Not surprisingly, many are disappointed and even angry that Druid Hills interests at the driving seat are proposing this "grab and run"the Druid Hills Charter Cluster concept drew heavily on the benefits of promoting interaction and collaboration among the communities within in the Druid Hills High attendance zone.

Our elementary schools: Meanwhile, the new Briarcliff/Lakeside city proposal (aka "LaVista Hills") has drawn its boundary to include Laurel Ridge Elementary, which currently serves elementary school-aged Medlock children. Laurel Ridge, too,  is part of the Druid Hills High School feeder pattern. LaVista Hills does not include the Medlock neighborhood.

Medlock children also have the option of attending the International Community School (ICS), a K-6 DeKalb County School District charter that currently occupies the grounds of Medlock Elementary (which closed in May 2011 due to redistricting). ICS is unique: 50% of its students are refugees and the rest come from all over the County via lottery. Should our neighborhood's status change and should we no longer be part of the DeKalb School System, ICS's lease would be in jeopardy. Any annexations that impact the County's school system budget of course also impact the school's operations.

Decatur would immediately syphon millions of dollars out of the
DeKalb County Schools District, and that number will only grow as
our area's business corridor continues to develop. Click to enlarge.
Source: Medlock annexation survey, Nov. 2014
Denial of service: The Medlock neighborhood survey favored joining the City of Decatur, even though Decatur had already stated their lack of interest in our neighborhood during a meeting with the MANA board. Decatur has repeatedly stated its school system is operating at capacity and the school-age population will continue to grow. Decatur proposes to address this issue through an unreasonable annexation plan that would sequester extensive commercial revenue out of DeKalb County's tax digest (added bonus: these monies would also help modulate future property tax increases for Decatur residents, at the expense of the rest of the county). Click on the image to the left to see how much Decatur's plan would impact DeKalb County schools.

Obviously children will go to school somewhere once the dust settles, but this situation is quite disturbing to Medlock neighborhood residents who have been part of the Druid Hills High School family for decades and who are currently loving the learning environment at Laurel Ridge Elementary. To have external interests heedlessly tear apart our school attendance patterns (and funding) is not only harmful, it is outright bizarre. We trust that legislators will appreciate how irregular a situation this is, and acknowledge its impact on our neighborhood and all our residents, whether they have school-age children or not. 

What's next?: Mark Niesse at the AJC reported that Amy Carter (Chairwoman of the House Governmental Affairs Committee) has named the 5-person committee that will draw boundaries for the proposed new cities. The threat of this outcome was in place since summer, when Briarcliff, Lakeside and Tucker organizers were instructed to produce non-overlappling maps by November 15; they missed the deadline. Going forward, the AJC notes that map-making will be in the hands of
Rep. Buzz Brockway, R-Lawrenceville, buzz.brockway@house.ga.gov
Rep. Barry Fleming, R-Harlem, barry.fleming@house.ga.gov
Rep. Mark Hamilton, R-Cumming, mark.hamilton@house.ga.gov
Rep. Howard Mosby, D-Atlanta, howard.mosby@house.ga.gov
and Rep. Mary Margaret Oliver, D-Decatur, mmo@mmolaw.com
Their mission, which they have chosen to accept: "to produce a map decided by a majority vote. That map would then be considered during the regular legislative session, which begins in January."

If you would like to reach out to these representatives to say "please look out for our great neighborhood and DeKalb County as a whole", or whatever outcome you prefer, their addresses are included above. The school attendance issue is separate from the annexation issues that these legislators are trying to address, but it is also obvious that the committee's decisions will impact school attendance and will no doubt be informed by that issue.
___________
* Map Sources:
http://lavistahills.nationbuilder.com/
http://druidhills.org/2014/10/15/cityhood-annexation-options-and-their-effects-on-taxes-and-schools/ http://www.decaturga.com/Modules/ShowDocument.aspx?documentid=5445

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Sandhill cranes over Medlock

The fall migration is on, and the sandhill cranes were seen flying by this morning, chatting up a storm. Their flight path goes straight over us and our neighbor Kathryn just reported that 800+ just flew over the Chattahoochee Nature Center.

To learn more about sandhill cranes, click here.

For a video to familiarize yourself with their calls (and you will hear them before you see them, for sure!), go here. In our area, they will be flying very high up and it won't be as loud. But given the altitude, size and grouping of the birds, and the calls, you will know it ain't geese!

Monday, November 17, 2014

Annexation Round-Up: cartographically anticlimactic

via http://lavistahills.nationbuilder.com/

+ Today, the group that resulted from the merging of the Briarcliff and Lakeside proposals issued a statement and new map via their Facebook page (and their new website).  Dubbed LaVista Hills, the map still overlaps City of Tucker's proposed map (over the Northlake Mall area and nearby business) which means the November 15 deadline remains unmet. But, according to the statement, "In the coming weeks the combined group will continue work towards readying LaVista Hills for the 2015 legislative session." If successful, the proposal would create DeKalb's largest city, with 72,000 residents.

The statement closes with this inclusive note: "The proponents of the City of LaVista Hills greatly appreciate the support that Briarcliff and Lakeside received from residents of areas that are not included in our combined map, and are committed to LaVista Hills agreeing to any future annexation requests from those areas."

Medlock and Clairmont Heights are not included in the map. Our sister neighborhood Laurel Ridge and its elementary school (to which Medlock Park children are districted) is now within the LaVista Hills map.

Meanwhile (thanks to Dawn for the announcement!) the Laurel Ridge Shamrock Civic Association (LRSCA) has scheduled two meetings to discuss options that are still open to all of us:

1. Atlanta Annexation: LRSCA has invited Atlanta Councilman Alex Wan and APS School Board Member Matt Westmoreland to come and talk to our community about Atlanta annexation. The information session will be on Wednesday Nov. 19 at 7 pm at University Heights Methodist Church.
[NB: Atlanta annexation of a larger area is being looked at as a way to keep the Druid Hills school cluster together.]

2. Blueprint for DeKalb. Members of this citizen driven movement to improve DeKalb will be coming to Druid Hills Middle School to come and discuss their research and recommendations. Please come out on Thursday Nov. 20 at 7pm at Druid Hills Middle School Library to learn more about this citizen driven group.

+ The Laurel Ridge Shamrock Civic Association reached out to Emory University for additional information on Emory's stand on Atlanta annexation discussions. Mr. Charlie Harmon (VP of Government and Community Affairs) stated by email that "Emory continues to monitor the efforts by engaged citizens on all aspects of the cityhood process. We support complete and timely transparency of all efforts. And we are sensitive to our neighbors and their wishes.”  LRSCA followed up by phone and noted that:
"Mr. Harman also said that the statement that was made at the Laurel Ridge Elementary Town Hall about Emory was inaccurate. He stated that Emory is not driving any talks for annexation, and that this was being pushed by Druid Hills. He was asked if Emory would go to Atlanta if Druid Hills decided that was the course that they wanted to take and that yes, but they would need to keep ALL aspects of their campus in one municipality." For full text, see LCSCA site, Nov. 9, 2014, under heading "Statement from Emory University about Cityhood/Annexation With Update From Emory"
. . .

By now, it is probably obvious that maps change and will continue to change so stay alert and involved. So long as uncertainty remains the constant, it behooves us to oppose City of Decatur's efforts to annex significant swaths of commercial property along North Decatur Road and beyond (e.g., Medline LCI area). 

Heartburn talk @ DeKalb Medical [Nov 18]

So timely!
November 18 (Tuesday), 6:30-7:30 p.m., DeKalb Medical -North Decatur, Ground Floor Theatre 

Do you wonder if you will be taking antacids and pills the rest of your life to treat your heartburn? Hear from our expert panelists on what causes heartburn, how to prevent heartburn with lifestyle changes, remedies for chronic heartburn and more. The panel includes Dr. Shirley Harris,  Dr. Scott Steinberg, dietician Leslie Trantor and Nurse Navigator Pam Briggs. The panel will focus on how you can keep chronic heartburn from disrupting your life and enjoyment of the holidays. Call 404-501-WELL to register. Parking is validated and participants receive a gift. 

Space is limited so please register by calling 404-501-WELL.