Supreme Court Upholds BOE Removal

November 25, 2013

This morning the Georgia Supreme Court ruled that the school board removal statute is constitutional. This is the statute Governor Deal used in removing the DeKalb County Board of Education for bringing our schools to the brink of accreditation loss. One of the removed members challenged the statute in the courts.

The new members Governor Deal appointed, together with interim Superintendent Michael Thurmond, are doing a good job restoring the system’s accreditation status. For this reason, they need to remain in place. Now they will.

All of us with kids in DeKalb County schools can breathe a sigh of relief. Click here for a PDF of the full Supreme Court opinion, which is 47 pages long.

Happy Thanksgiving and Chanukah everyone!

Nov. 21 Town Hall Meeting on DeKalb Governance

November 20, 2013

Earlier this year, Governor Deal installed Commissioner Lee May as interim CEO. May wasted no time becoming the first of the five individuals who have served as CEO to call for the abolition of the position. Click here for an AJC article (subscription required) published immediately after May assumed office.

Lately, after a few months as interim CEO, May’s public statements on abolishing the CEO position have been less clear. However, he is holding public hearings throughout the county to hear from citizens on this issue. Listening to citizens is a step in the right direction.

The first of these meetings is tomorrow, Thursday, November 21, from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. at Dunwoody High School, 5035 Vermack Road. I encourage you to attend and participate.

There are two other meetings, on Monday, December 2, at 6:30 p.m. at the Porter Sanford Performing Arts Center, 3181 Rainbow Drive in Decatur, and on Tuesday, December 3, at 6:30 p.m. at Rehoboth Baptist Church, 2997 Lawrenceville Highway in Tucker, but the Dunwoody meeting is the one nearest to our community.

Out of the 159 counties in Georgia, DeKalb is the only one with a hybrid CEO-commission form of government. To say that our county’s form of government is dysfunctional would be an understatement. The CEO holds most of the cards. The commissioners hold very few. Yet the citizens expect their commissioners, each of whom represents at least 138,000 people, to get things done. In reality, it’s the CEO who can make things happen with ease.

For example, even if the county commission votes to award a contract to a vendor, the CEO can simply choose not to sign the contract. That sort of prerogative goes to the heart of the criminal charges against Burrell Ellis.

The alternative is a commission-manager form of government. The county commission would hire a professional county manager who is responsible and must be responsive to the commission as a whole. Every other Metro Atlanta county has this form of government.

The power to change DeKalb’s form of government belongs to the General Assembly. In my nine years in the House of Representatives, I’ve been a consistent advocate for scrapping the CEO form of government. There are others who agree, but we don’t comprise a majority of the members of the House and Senate from DeKalb County. That has been the impediment.

I applaud Lee May for leading this conversation. I hope his commitment to making this important change remains as strong as it was a few months ago. His leadership would give the issue a boost. I look forward to seeing you at Dunwoody High School tomorrow evening.

GA 400 Toll Ends November 22

November 10, 2013

Last year, Governor Deal announced an end to the Georgia 400 toll. I’m proud to see our Governor keep a promise to North Fulton and North DeKalb taxpayers that was made more than two decades ago.

The toll will be collected for the last time during the evening rush hour on Friday, November 22, and will end shortly after that time. There are less than two weeks remaining.

The dismantling of the toll plaza is already underway. I am pleased to share the following e-mail from Dan Moody, the member of the State Transportation Board who represents the 6th Congressional District, explaining how the removal of the toll plaza will unfold:

The State Road and Tollway Authority and the Georgia Department of Transportation announced that the first phase of a four-phase demolition project will begin on Friday, October 25, 2013, with restriping in the Peach Pass electronic toll lanes and modification/removal of redundant signage. Portable message signs will be placed in the corridor to alert motorists of the upcoming pre-construction activities for the ending of tolls on GA 400 the week before Thanksgiving, weather permitting.

Phase I of the project will include the restriping in the electronic Peach Pass lanes and the start of the removal or modification of toll-related signage from areas approaching the GA 400 Toll Plaza within the next two to three weeks. Nearly 70 signs will be removed or modified before and after toll collection ends.

In Phase II, preparation for no tolling continues with the completion of restriping and the installation of concrete barriers between the Peach Pass and cash lanes in anticipation of the eventual shifting of traffic into the electronic lanes when toll collection ends. Once tolls end and traffic is shifted in Phase III, no heavy demolition work is expected to take place during the winter holidays. Phase IV will begin in January 2014 and will include removal of plaza toll booths, the canopy as well as reinforcement and filling of the tunnel stairwells. The demolition project will be completed in the fall of 2014.


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