Starlight Children’s Foundation 5K Race

October 12, 2010

There will be a 5K race in Brookhaven this Saturday, October 16, to benefit the Starlight Children’s Foundation. There’s also a one-mile walk and a kids’ run. The race starts at 9:30 a.m. from Village Place Brookhaven at 1430 Dresden Drive. Please click here for more information, and click here for a sign-up form to participate in the race.

Brookhaven “Meet and Greet” with Mike Jacobs

October 11, 2010

Please join Mike Jacobs at a Brookhaven “meet and greet” to discuss the state and local issues that are important to you.

Here are the details of the event:

Thursday, October 14
6:00 to 7:30 p.m.

at the Brookhaven Heights home of Steve Newton
2351 Loraine Street
Atlanta, GA 30319

View Larger Map

Street Closures in Brookhaven & Chamblee

October 1, 2010

On Sunday, October 3, the Atlanta 13.1 half-marathon will close down several streets around the Brookhaven MARTA Station, Oglethorpe University, Blackburn Park, and Keswick Park. Please click here for a turn-by-turn list of the affected streets and click here for a map. For more information about the race and related events, please click here.

Hermance Stoplight Starts October 4th

October 1, 2010

The new stoplight at the corner of Hermance Drive and Peachtree Road, between Town Brookhaven and Oglethorpe University, will be activated for the first time on Monday, October 4. Please keep an eye peeled during your morning commute.

Taste of Brookhaven

September 13, 2010

The fifth annual Taste of Brookhaven event is this Saturday, September 18, from 6:00 to 10:00 p.m. at the Conant Performing Arts Center on the campus of Oglethorpe University. Please click here for more information and a list of participating restaurants.

A Win-Win for Cross Keys

July 19, 2010

On Monday, July 12, the DeKalb County Board of Education approved a facilities use agreement for Cross Keys High School that will benefit the entire Brookhaven community.

According to the AJC (click for article), under the agreement, the YMCA of Metropolitan Atlanta will completely overhaul the athletic facilities at Cross Keys High School by grading and sodding the fields, installing an irrigation system, repairing the dugouts, rubberizing the track, installing bleachers, and building a field house. The YMCA also will provide routine maintenance and hire off-duty police officers for security. They’ll pay for a portion of the school’s water bill as well.

This is all being done with private funds. No tax money is being used.

Cross Keys students and athletic programs will get “first dibs” on using the fields. The YMCA also will use the fields for their own athletic programs, much like the soccer fields on Ashford Dunwoody Road adjacent to Marist High School.

If you’ve driven by these athletic fields, you know that they are underutilized and an eyesore. That is all about the change thanks to this outstanding public-private partnership.

I commend the Board of Education for approving the contract that was necessary to allow these improvements to happen. In addition, special thanks to HillsDale resident Kim Gokce, who is heavily involved in the Cross Keys Foundation, and incoming Cross Keys High School senior Mpaza Kapembwa, who was one of my pages during this year’s legislative session. Both played an important role in securing approval from the Board of Education.

Along with DeKalb County Commissioner Jeff Rader and Chamblee City Councilman Tom Hogan, I was one of three elected officials who wrote letters to the Board of Education requesting their approval of this project. To read the letter I submitted, click here.

A Parks Bill for Everyone

July 10, 2010

You may have seen recently in the news that the City of Dunwoody obtained the parks within its boundaries from DeKalb County at minimal cost pursuant to state legislation.

The legislation that enabled this to happen was amended into a bill that I sponsored, House Bill 203 (click for more information), but not before I changed the language in ways that benefit all of us, whether or not we live in the City of Dunwoody.

The parks language in the bill does not just apply to Dunwoody. It applies to every city in DeKalb County. So, for example, if the City of Chamblee or City of Dunwoody were to annex the areas containing Murphey Candler Park or Blackburn Park, or both, that city would be able to obtain those parks from DeKalb County for the same low cost. Also, if citizens in Brookhaven ever decide that they want to form a new city, that city would get the same deal in obtaining Brookhaven Park on Peachtree Road and Ashford Park on Caldwell Drive.

This is not to say that any such incorporation or annexation is imminent. That’s a decision that will remain primarily in the hands of our neighborhoods, and also in the hands of any city governments which might become annexation partners. The bottom line is that proper maintenance of local parks is one of the reasons that local citizens choose to become part of a city.

Critics have suggested that this is stealing parks from DeKalb County and giving them to cities. I reject that notion. They’re not DeKalb County’s parks. They’re not any city’s parks. They’re public parks.

One of the provisions that I insisted on including in HB 203 is a provision that says citizens who live inside a city and those who live outside a city have to be charged the same fees, to the extent there are fees, for the use of any park that is acquired by a city pursuant to the legislation. Thus, a city can’t charge residents of unincorporated areas more for using “city” parks and recreation facilities.

Evan and I take our kids to the playground at Brook Run from time to time. We don’t live in the City of Dunwoody. After the incorporation of Dunwoody, I’ve seen firsthand how DeKalb County has allowed the park to deteriorate. It affects all of us. I am confident that the City of Dunwoody will be a much better steward of the park.

HB 203 also deals with parks bond funds. There are approximately $7.5 million dollars in general obligation bond funds (not tax funds from the county treasury) that the City of Dunwoody says were promised for improvements to Brook Run prior to the 2006 DeKalb County parks bond referendum, but DeKalb County is now holding back these funds and won’t use them for Brook Run.

HB 203 provides that, if a city can prove to the satisfaction of a Superior Court judge that county documents and the statements of county officials in the run-up to a bond referendum promised X amount of bond funds for particular projects at a particular park, and the county is holding back the funds, the city gets X dollars of the bond proceeds to use for those particular projects at that particular park.

The point is that county officials should be held to the promises they make to voters and taxpayers when seeking to win their votes in a bond referendum. This provision, too, is written to benefit other areas that may join DeKalb cities in the future.

Brookhaven Bolt on Saturday

May 13, 2010

The third annual “Brookhaven Bolt” 5K walk, run, and stroll to benefit Ashford Park Elementary is this Saturday, May 15. Please visit for more information.

The race starts at 8:00 a.m. Afterwards, from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., the Brookhaven Community Connection, a non-profit business group, will host its first Brookhaven Bazaar at Village Place Brookhaven on Dresden Drive. This day-long bric-à-brac market will be set up on the top level of Village Place Brookhaven’s parking deck and will feature antiques, art, estate items, jewelry, Persian rugs, and more.

Editor’s Note: A portion of this post was prepared by the Brookhaven Community Connection and Village Place Brookhaven.

Brookhaven Arts Festival

October 16, 2009

The Brookhaven Arts Festival is this Saturday and Sunday, October 17 and 18, on Apple Valley Road behind the Brookhaven MARTA Station. Admission is free. Evan and I enjoy strolling through this festival every year and have artwork from the event hanging in our home. Visit for more information.

Sembler + Tax Abatement = Taxpayers Lose

June 14, 2009

After spending some time crunching the numbers this weekend, this simple equation sums up the conclusion I have reached. And I’m not the only one reaching this conclusion.

The DeKalb Development Authority will meet this Thursday, June 18, at 8:00 a.m. at 150 East Ponce de Leon Avenue, Suite 400, in Downtown Decatur. The meeting time and location isn’t posted anywhere on the Internet. You have to call the county to get it.

The Sembler tax abatement proposal is on the agenda. There is no word yet as to whether a final vote on the tax abatement will occur at this meeting. At a minimum, it will be discussed.

Thank you to everyone who attended last Monday’s community meeting about the tax abatement. It is estimated that more than 250 people attended. I also want to thank State Rep. Fran Millar for serving as the on-the-spot emcee for the meeting, Commissioner Jeff Rader for his thoughtful remarks and for his efforts to draw the DeKalb County Commission’s attention to the shortcomings of the tax abatement, and Jeff Fuqua of the Sembler Company for taking the time to explain his company’s position to a skeptical public.

I believe the public is right to be skeptical. I have reviewed the KPMG analysis of the 20-year tax “benefit” that Sembler and the Development Authority are claiming the county government and the school system will receive if the 20-year tax abatement is granted. Courtesy of Jim Walls’ “Atlanta Unfiltered” blog (more on Atlanta Unfiltered below), you can review the document containing the KPMG analysis here (click for link).

The KPMG numbers indicate to me that the proposed Sembler tax abatement will REDUCE the county government’s and school system’s operating funds, if you subtract from the padded totals (1) the revenue that the county government and school system will receive whether or not the tax abatement is approved, and (2) the revenue that doesn’t defray any county or school operating costs. Please take a look at the somewhat difficult-to-read page 3 of the KPMG document, and I’ll show you what I mean.

First, the analysis counts one revenue source that doesn’t go toward operational (instructional) costs of the school system, but instead goes only toward school construction:

ESPLOST Revenue = $4,098,287

Also, the analysis counts one revenue source that doesn’t go to the county government or school system at all, but instead goes to MARTA:

MARTA Sales Tax = $40,982,873

In addition, the analysis counts two revenue sources that will go to the county government and school system whether or not the tax abatement is approved, because the buildings that would generate these revenues are at or near completion:

Property Tax on Non-Abated Buildings = $45,594,544
Property Tax on Personal Property of Renters = $5,761,440

None of the above sources should be counted as part of the tax “benefit” to county government and school system operations. The following sources, however, should be counted:

HOST Revenue = $36,024,362
Property Tax on Personal Property of Retailers = $5,817,997
Business Licenses = $3,185,756

When you add these three numbers together, the total of the actual tax “benefit” is $45,028,115. From that amount, the following three amounts must be subtracted:

Value of the Tax Abatement = ($51,699,253)
Cost of County Services = ($11,321,760)
Cost to Educate Children Living in the Project = ($10,990,000)

The result is a NET LOSS to the county government and school system of $28,982,898 over the 20-year life of the tax abatement. Even if you assume that the “cost of county services” and the “cost to educate” arise only from the non-abated portion of the project (which is not likely), and add those amounts back into the total, the result is still a net loss.

Worse yet, this doesn’t account for Commissioner Rader’s point at last Monday’s meeting that many of the “new” tax revenues claimed in the analysis are actually existing tax revenues that are being shifted to the Town Brookhaven project from elsewhere in DeKalb County.

Granting this tax abatement is bad policy. It will place upward pressure on your property taxes. That problem will be amplified the more often the Development Authority decides to give away the shop to developers whose projects are victims of the real estate market.

Don’t just take my word for it. Jim Walls, a former AJC investigative reporter who now runs his own blog, Atlanta Unfiltered, did his own math and wrote an article reaching a similar conclusion, albeit with a lower price tag. You can read Jim’s analysis here (click for link).

If you’re available this Thursday at 8:00 a.m., I encourage you to join your neighbors at the Development Authority meeting. It is crucial to show the non-elected, unaccountable Development Authority that the community is watching.


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