Friday, April 18, 2014

Frozen (in Atlanta) - the Real Life Drama that Still Awaits Its Happy Ending

There is a lot going on in DeKalb County, GA, right now.   But, not long ago, we were nestled into our homes, some without power, a week without school for the kids and lots of cold snow and ice all around. And, regular people from all over the metro were reaching out to help one another. It was actually heartwarming to read about the offers that people were extending to complete strangers: a cup of hot cocoa, a spot on the sofa for the night, an extra set of hands to push a car up a frozen hill. When we don't have much time to think, we Atlantians react in a manner that would confirm the notion that Southern hospitality still exists in Georgia.

If you recall the ice storm of 2014, one could say we were quite literally stuck:
Photo courtesy: CNN Report
But, we've also been "stuck" figuratively for a long time, too.

Some might say we're politically stuck, morally bankrupt and totally corrupt.

The most corrupt state in the nation.  The worst school cheating scandal in America's history.  The worst state response to inclement weather and what do we do?  Rather than sticking together, making it through the rough times and helping one another, we continue to play follow the leader with the same dirty rotten scoundrels that got us to this  notorious position in the first place.

For one bright shining moment, the taxpayers and voters of DeKalb County were working together, bridging the gaps that had always kept them apart.  There was a focus on something bigger and more important than egos, or school board elections or even SPLOST funds - we were all concerned about the children.  And, even those who previously thought school issues did not pertain to them actually took notice and stepped up to support a major upheaval in our school system.

Collectively, the residents in our county decided to all head in the same direction, at the same time, and we pulled the decision makers along with us.  Soon SACS was responding, the state BOE was responding, even the school board we wanted out was working on finding real solutions and hired an excellent Interim Superintendent before they were removed by the Governor, his appointed team and affirmed by the judicial system.   We were moving in unison and for the first time in a decade, the train was headed in the right direction.  We focused on education and suddenly, we could see the horizon.

So what happened?

A few bumps along that highway toward better days and we all scattered like ants returning to our separate little holes in the ground, awaiting our next set of matching orders and keeping quiet while we watched all the other drones fall back in line.

Is there still hope?  Of course there is.  But, the hope was always there.

Is there still help?  Well, yes and no.  The help that arrived by way of an appointed school board held accountable to improved standards of conduct and results by SACS and the Governor will soon sit for an actual election.  Their tenure was short-lived, by design.  They accomplished the goal of saving accreditation, but what have they really changed that can't be undone in May? The future remains in the hands of the voters. Well, guess what? "The voters" are not a cohesive group of people who can be rallied easily by anyone. "The voters" are not a far off group of mysterious origin, either. If you are registered, in fact, you are one of "them." Do you plan to vote? Do you know who is even running and what they stand for? If not, action is required on your part right now... today! The job of reform for the better is a slow process and it is up to every resident and taxpayer to remain committed to staying the course. Do not give up. Do not sell out. And, don't make assumptions about how others will vote, either.

If you are curious, ask them. There might still be time to have an influence of their final decision, or even whether they show up to vote at all. If we don't continue the conversation about political subjects, as uncomfortable as they sometimes may be, we will never actually see real change. We will continue to pay our own money into a system that is harming nearly every person it is supposed to be helping. Don't continue allowing your money to be used that way. If you have any doubts about who to vote for in any election these days, consider the fact that big lobbyist funds have the greatest impact upon those they have had the most time to influence. So, it may be that the newly elected are the only ones in office today who still have some debt of gratitude to the voters who put them there. Everyone else can thank the big bucks that have supported their re-election campaigns ever since.

Several school board districts will have names on their ballots that sound familiar. Don't vote for someone simply because you recall hearing the name. Do your research. Read up on it. These decisions are important and your vote is your single, most effective way to have a real voice in the process. Wise up to the fact that there are factors at play in our political system that have systematically forced good intentions to fall to the wayside. "We" have the power but "we" do not have our own power structure to help guide us toward banding together, north, south, east, west. And those in power were perhaps more aware of that fact that we were.  They have experience in crowd control, persuasion, "group think" psychology and they knew that "we" had our moment of control, but "we" are not a static group of individuals who have a known goal to be collectively working toward.

We don't have "good citizen" committee meetings or "honest people" action groups.  We are just ordinary people trying to live our lives and work, work, work to  pay the ever-increasing tax demands being placed on our shoulders.  DeKalb pays the highest sales tax in the state, has nearly maxed out its property taxes and has to GIVE MONEY AWAY to other school districts because we all pay too much for schools that we don't appreciate or even fill with students.   Well, some of the schools we fill. We even over-fill them.  Others, not so much.

Get the Cell Out will bring you more about the school board candidates in the coming weeks. Voting will take place May 20. GET READY! Let's enjoy the Spring thawing out but let's vow to remember what it felt like to be "stuck" so that we don't repeat the same mistakes of the past. As nice as the people here may be, it's far more comforting to be able to rely upon yourself to improve your own situation than it is to rely on help from strangers. Get out and push your own car up the hill! Or vote for someone who will see the warning signs ahead without forcing you to get stuck in the first place!

Cell Towers Create Emergency Situations - Don't Schools Have Enough to Handle Already?

Posted: Apr 11, 2014 6:40 AM EDT

Updated: Apr 11, 2014 6:43 AM EDT
by Associated Press  / CBS Atlanta

Charlotte firefighters have rescued a cellphone tower worker dangling from the structure after a medical emergency.

Spokesman Mark Basnight says the Charlotte Fire Department was called to the scene on Thursday. Authorities said the worker had been dangling from the tower in a safety harness for about 40 minutes before crew members got to him.

Two rescue team members climbed up the side of the tower and then helped the worker get back down to the ground.

The tower worker was taken to the hospital with non-life-threatening injuries. His name has not been released, and authorities are still investigating.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

The "Shaq" Shaquille O'Neill Warns Kids in DeKalb About the Dangers of Texting While Driving

From the AJC:  Retired NBA star Shaquille O'Neal joined a program at Arabia Mountain High School this year.  It highlights the impact of dangerous driving practices and distracted driving.
Photo credit:  AJC Kent Johnson

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Why We Like Ella Smith for the School Board Seat in District 4

Unedited comments from school board candidate Ella Smith, the only one to reach out to us directly with an opinion on this very important subject in our schools and community!

Here is her website if you would like to learn more.

Nice article. 
I am so opposed to cell towers being on school property.  Thanks for your fight against the decision previously made by the school board.
Ella Smith

GTCO-ATL Response...
Hi Ella, I spoke again at the school board meeting this month, but didn't prepare well enough to get all my points across.  I'm going to try again next month and already signed up to speak.  I am not asking them to go back and redo the contracts and commitments that already took place, but we just want an acknowledgement that they have heard the many complaints of the residents who are against this practice and that they will right the wrong by at least writing a resolution against the use of cell towers for school funding.  

If they won't do that, then at the very least they could provide a clear process by which they will handle any future such requests and how they will involve the public in that process. The way things have run so far, the public and the parents have been given the cold shoulder and have to live with the constant threat that any day now construction could start and it will be up to them to stop it legally at the drop of a hat.  It appears the goal is to just get the ones who know about it to move away and then they will go ahead with their plans.  I find that to be very objectionable if not outright illegal.  Thanks for your support on this issue!! 

Friday, April 4, 2014

Let’s not be clueless about wireless

By Devra Davis

Devra Davis is the president and founder of the Environmental Health Trust. She has a doctorate in science studies and a Master of Public Health in epidemiology.

The following is an open letter to President Obama asking him to consider the full costs of wireless technology. Before this nation makes wifi in schools like it is in coffee shops, as the president recently urged, we need to consider what this could do to our children’s brains and bodies.

Dear President Obama,

Three years ago the World Health Organization declared cellphone and other wireless radiation to be a possible human carcinogen, the same category as some pesticides, lead and engine exhausts. Since then evidence has mounted that such radiation can profoundly affect human biology, altering brain metabolism, damaging animals exposed during pregnancy and reducing sperm count. Before blanketing our preschools, kindergartens and middle schools with wireless radiation we need a full life-cycle assessment of economic and health costs and benefits of wireless technology.

As you have said in other contexts, “Just because we can do something, does not mean that we should do something.”

The notion that the fast-developing brains of children benefit from digital devices flies in the face of what experts in neurodevelopment understand. Your pledge to put wireless in all schools for children from prekindergarten on does not rest on any proof that such technology is safe or that children actually learn better using such technology.

While our nation excels at many things, our wireless-based Internet connection is inferior to those of a slew of other countries, including Korea, Latvia, Romania, Bulgaria and the Czech Republic — all of which have invested in “fiber to the home” rather than wireless Internet connections. Wireless routers are costlier and less reliable and can be three to 10 times slower than wired systems that can operate at speeds of up to 1 gigabyte a second. As other technologically savvy nations appreciate, there are also important health risks posed by classrooms full of closely held wireless devices.

Growing numbers of experts in telecommunications understand that plans to phase out wired phone lines or have energy systems rely on wireless metering are frankly ill-conceived and uneconomic. A parallel interdependent network of wired fiber-optic cables is faster, safer and more secure against criminal or terrorist attacks or wide swings in weather. It is more difficult to hack into or take down a wired network than a wireless one, especially if the latter has not been properly encrypted. Bravo to Google for recently announcing its expansion of wired services in many major cities.

Studies finding wireless radiation tied to serious biological impacts have moved governments in Israel, Canada, Australia, Korea, India and Finland to advise reducing children’s exposure. Following actions in Turkey, France and other nations, the health minister of Belgium recently banned the sale of cellphones for children ages 7 and younger. What does she know that you don’t?

Ignoring these serious concerns, the mobile phone industry has treated reports of risks of cellphone radiation as inconveniences to be rapidly undermined using science as a form of public relations. When confronted with the possibility that cellphone radiation could damage the brain cells of rats way back in 1994, Motorola wrote a memo to its public relations firm noting the need to “war-game the science.” More recently, in response to the World Health Organization declaration of possible dangers of cellphone radiation, the global manufacturers forum set up a quarter-of-a-billion-dollar fund to produce defensive information, effectively attacking the credibility of the WHO and its scientists and promoting other expert reviews that counter and undermine the WHO.

We are flying blind here, as there are no studies on the safety or efficacy of microwave-based learning for young children, nor are any planned. Despite repeated advice from expert groups, the U.S. has no training or research programs underway in this field and is forced to rely on outdated science and foreign reports. One way to fund such programs would be to impose a $1 fee (split between consumers and industry) on every phone for five years to fund much-needed independent training and research to evaluate and improve the technology.

Until we have better information at hand, you should encourage the growth of fiber-optic and Ethernet cables and order the Federal Communications Commission to drop wireless expansion into schools with young children — relying instead on wired systems and keeping wireless tablets on airplane mode if they have already been purchased. Apple should develop a lightning-to-USB-to-Ethernet adapter and software driver to reduce radiation from already purchased devices.

Years ago the philosopher Immanuel Kant noted that “What man must do, he can do.” But the opposite is not true. A rigorous analysis of the full costs and benefits of wired and wireless infotech is long overdue.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

SAVANNAH: Take Back Your Power: Public Screening of Award Winning Documentary

"Take Back Your Power" investigates the "smart" meter program being implemented worldwide by most of the major utility companies. These devices are not mandatory, but they are being installed without the consent of homeowners or even local governments.

This documentary introduces the viewer to the issues surrounding:
* In home surveillance and violations
* Plans to "skyrocket" utility bills
* The truth about health issues
* Protecting YOUR rights!

It includes interview with whistleblower Edward Snowden, former CIA director James Woolsey, former senior NSA Executive Thomas Drake, former Premier of British Columbia Bill Vander Zalm, and many others.
WINNER of the Indie Fest Award of Excellence!

It will be shown at the following location:

Date: THURSDAY, APRIL 3, 2014
Time: Doors open at 4 p.m.; Movie begins at 4:30 p.m. (latecomers will be allowed to enter.)
Where: Southwest Chatham Library, 14097 Abercorn St., Savannah, GA
Guest: Josh Hart, M. Sc., founder of www.StopSmartMeter.Org
Why: To warn citizens that "smart" meter digital electric meters can start fires, emit radiation and EMF that are related to cancer. The smart meters can also be used to easily track your family's comings and goings, potentially placing you and your home in danger.

Get the Cell Out - ATL is currently working toward a public screening of this movie for residents in DeKalb County. Check back with this website for more details within the next 30 days.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Jason Carter Blasts State of Georgia on Ignoring Education

Jason Carter is running for Governor of Georgia against current Gov. Nathan Deal. The election will be held in November.

And the School Board in DeKalb County will have all members up for election in May 2012.

From Georgia School Watch (in part):

A crucial school board election in DeKalb County has drawn 22 candidates. Missing from the list of candidates who emerged Friday after the week-long qualifying period were two people Deal appointed to rescue the district.

John Coleman of north DeKalb had previously announced he would not run, leaving an open seat. Only Stan Jester, of Dunwoody, signed up to succeed him, so all that stands between Jester and a board member nameplate is the formality of the May 20 election. Jester is married to the prior occupant of that seat — Nancy Jester, who is now running for state superintendent. This was a referendum on Nancy Jester’s service as a board member. The people have spoken and they want a Jester in that seat.

The other incumbent bowing out is David Campbell of south DeKalb. Five are vying for his seat, including one incumbent. Thad Mayfield was appointed by Deal to an at-large seat that was eliminated last week by the Georgia General Assembly, and lives in Campbell’s district. One of Mayfield’s challengers is Jesse “Jay” Cunningham, the only board member removed by Deal who is seeking a return to the office.

All seven seats are open because of the recent changes wrought by Georgia lawmakers. After several tries over the past few years, they shrank the board from nine positions by cutting the two at-large seats. That means northeast DeKalb incumbent Jim McMahan must defend his seat against incumbent Karen Carter, an at-large member who lives in his district. (Additionally, GTCO-ATL is in favor of former DeKalb teacher Ella Smith, a resident who has spoken up against the cell towers and who may be able to keep the school board focus on the achievement of students rather than the politics of the area that have ignited many tempers recently between Tucker and Lakeside High School families.) McMahan is one of only three incumbents elected by voters. The two other elected incumbents also have challengers: Marshall Orson will face Don McChesney, who previously held that seat in central DeKalb but lost it to Orson two years ago. And board Chairman Melvin Johnson will defend his southeast DeKalb seat against newcomer Bridgeman Bolger.

Whoever wins the seats held by Johnson, McMahan and Orson will hold office two years; the rest of the seats are for four-year terms.

What is not clear is why is a removed board member (Cunningham) able to run again for office after being "permanently" removed, as indicated in the language of the law that was used by the Governor to remove him?

And, will voters without children show up to vote in runoff elections even when they are not highly publicized in the media? The poor turnout for these runoffs in the past have led to big upsets for some contenders who were predicted to win, but had their margins reduced by close votes in the initial non-partisan election and special interest votes win out during the runoff.

Will we ever learn? Will DeKalb voters show up and do the right thing?

Time will tell. Meanwhile, please tell others about this website and how we all got to this point. Spreading the word to encourage others to vote is probably the best defense against irresponsible government. The larger the turnout, the more difficult it is for any one group to have control over the outcome. And never sell your vote in return for any favor. Vote your conscience. It's the only way to dig ourselves out of the hole we have been dropped in.

Children should never be pawns in a game, regardless of how much money is at stake. And school grounds are not a place for corporations to seek profit. Every child deserves the best education we can afford to provide them. If we are not accomplishing that basic goal, then the entrenched leadership needs to go. Fresh perspective is sometimes needed when the old guard refuses to see things in any other light than the one they have been using for decades. Our children do not have that long to recover from the bad decisions made by others. Action is needed now!

Sunday, March 23, 2014

The Real Problem with the Lakeside Cityhood Effort

Reminder:  GTCO-ATL is bringing some relevant news about Lakeside City to our readers because we were the very first ones to publically recognize that certain members of a community calling themselves 'Lakeside' were actually moving on their own agenda which would become a threat to the Tucker community.   And, once again, we were right.  

Many blog trolls tried to discredit the people from the Save Tucker! movement during the very early stages of their engagement with the Tucker community. But, in their haste to connect the dots between Save Tucker! and Get the Cell Out Atlanta, they got ahead of themselves and made a big mistake.  They connected the cell towers and the city movement long before anyone else did.  They actually helped to point us in the right direction and even placed a T-mobile employee on the board for Tucker 2014, the for profit group that had many Tucker residents convinced would help them become a city.

Before many people knew that there were any plans for a Lakeside City, before there was even a Tucker 2014, founding members of the Tucker group asked to meet with Save Tucker!  At that meeting, they participated in a very odd and contrived conversation about cell phones and how much they loved T-mobile.  It could have been straight out of a commercial except for the fact that T-mobile's commercials are much cooler and edgier than this cheesy version of "coffee talk" about great customer service and the exciting news about the Iphone being available on a new platform.  (give us a break!)   It was clear at that point that there was a connection between Tucker and Lakeside, but we did not think the residents of Tucker would fall for it.  While some of them did, unfortunately, they also became more skeptical as time went by.  The Tucker team did not listen to much feedback and had secret partners with other areas outside of Tucker.  Their agenda may have been more about making sure Tucker failed than it was about helping it succeed.

Once the blog trolls drew the lines for us, we looked at the placement of the cell towers and it all makes sense.  The cell towers intended for our schools fit perfectly into a map revealed at the end of the legislative session as being the agreed upon map for a city of Lakeside.   So, the plan all along was likely the same  plan that had been rolled out in Brookhaven, the city most recently formed in our area.  That city has an e-911 system and cameras atop every traffic light.  The goal:  reduce overhead costs and back out of pension plan commitments with police officers and teachers.  Save yourself and leave the rest of the county to figure things out for themselves.  The zoning control was wanted so that they could place more towers around the area without the hassles of permits and protests, even though more and more research is showing evidence every day that there is a connection between cell phones and cancer.

If you have not been faced with this issue in your own neighborhood or your own school, do not blow it off as something that happens "somewhere else."  If you don't suspect it, you could very well be the next target.  Cell tower and antennae proliferation is happening all over the U.S. and it seems no one is heeding the warnings of medical professionals or even concerned about following the rules and limits put in place by the FCC.

Learn what you need to know now so that when and if this issue comes to your back yard, you will be prepared and you will know what to do.

Here's an insightful opinion from Steve Perkins, a member of the Democratic National Party in Georgia:  

In my opinion, The cityhood movement in DeKalb has never been an organic grassroots based, virtuous effort led by civically minded leaders wanting to organize for a unique municipal identity out of elements already in place. Were it that it would have been a far more inclusive movement. Boundaries would not have been drawn to exclude certain populations either for the immediate needs of passing the referendum or the logical long term interest of a definable community, let alone the fiscal viability of the maps that were drawn. 
There are logical boundaries of any community. That is why they call it "Community."  
The truth of it is if Lakeside had organic roots rather than AstroTurf, had it been defined by the magnets and barriers that typically define communities (shopping and schools and traffic patterns and a business district), I am not convinced it would have passed at all. Those elements, the things that naturally carve out a community, are why Dunwoody made sense and Brookhaven less so.
Grievance can be an element of community development as well, but grievance alone will never sustain a community and is certainly not a reason to rush into cityhood. 20 years hence, it if not ten, migration patterns would have likely meant that the LCA-defined map (and its multiple iterations) would have rendered Lakeside a complete anachronism. 
The problem with Lakeside is that it was driven by largely short term vision. and was always more about "self-determination" than than it was about community. It was problematic from the start when it tried to gobble up Tucker and stretched its borders well beyond a resolvable footprint and sought to exclude areas that were within it sphere. 
Any municipality has to be defined for the long term and not the short. Perhaps Lakeside leaders could have built that winning coalition through inclusive civic engagement of the community that shared schools and grocery stores and houses of worship, rather than political machinations and gerrymandering maps to achieve a particular outcome. 
Again "Shared grievance" alone is not enough to form a city particularly when the grievances are both transient and not solved through creating a non-nonsensical, formulaic, exclusive and inorganic. 
When we seek to define our geographic community and split election precincts and school district or say that people who shop a the same grocery stores are not part of our self-defined community such a municipal organism opens itself up to legitimate criticism. 
Lakeside has been about the grievance of the few, manufactured by a handful of people and stirred to full broth. It is not even that the grievances were wholly contrived and illegitimate, because at certain levels they were and perhaps are legitimate -- at least some of them. The problem is that the "City of Lakeside" was a reaction to a set of short term circumstances by a small subset of people rather than a dialogue between all those who share the same community. 
There was a lot of determination and a lot of "self" in the cityhood movement. Their grievances may well be completely legitimate. But this was not, as some would have you believe were the first shots fired at Lexington and Concord. It was Fort Sumter. It was a fairly transparent attempt to secede rather than build either coalition or community and was thus divisive rather than helpful. 
I think a City of Lakeside may ultimately be inevitable, but the Greater Lakeside Debate is Over. Thanks to Tucker and Thanks to Briarcliff. Lakeside will be much smaller. There are still political Shenanigans going on even with the latest map. We need to be vigilant. More so, we need to be organized. 
Ultimately this is going to come down to a referendum and that is going to mean political organizing as opposed to lobbying. I for one am all in!

Friday, March 21, 2014

DeKalb County, GA: Are We Dropping the Ball Here?

DeKalb County School Board to Hold Elections May 20, 2014

... and how "the state" is dropping the ball that was only recently placed so squarely in their court. 
Is DeKalb County and the state of Georgia
dropping the ball on education?

After nearly losing its school system accreditation, one would hope that  DeKalb County had finally charted a better course for itself.   Yes, one would hope.

Perhaps a little help from the state that was called to rescue the failing district, you ask?  Well, not this session, apparently.   The Georgia state Senate and House sessions ended yesterday, but did not pass a single bill that would do anything  positive toward preventing another governance backslide to take us and other districts right back into hot water.  They did not pass a single bill that would help parents and teachers warn the rest of the county if things start to go downhill again.  They didn't pass a single bill to address the SACS concerns or the corruption charges that the former superintendent pleaded guilty to in a plea deal.

We did nothing for kidsbut we passed a gunbill,” said Republican state Sen. Fran Millar.

Could another SACS review and yet another board removal be in our future?  Let's hope not, but hope is about all we have left.

What happened to "the state," you ask?  The helped education overall by promising a larger budget from state funds.  The largest in seven years, says Gov. Deal.  But, legislatively, they actually made it more certain that the system will remain exactly as it exists today.   Here are the ideas that came forth that we noted and what happened to them:

  • DeKalb Delegation Chairman Sen. Emanuel Jones:  There was no legislative support from Senate Republicans for a bill offered by Sen. Emanuel Jones that would have established clear ethics and appropriate sanctions for violation of those codes.  It didn't make it past crossover day.
  • Reassignment of Political Boundaries by Rep. Mike Jacobs:  A bill was offered to remove the two super-districts from the political zones, leaving some areas of the county feeling they have absolutely no representation whatsoever and creating the need for appointed members to run against each other in some districts instead of being able to continue the positive work they have accomplished together.  By design, the non-politically motivated appointees must now begin campaigning against others in the community, some former board members or spouses of former board members, and some must even become political opponents by running against each other, like it or not.  And regardless of who gets elected for the term starting in January, they will all be required to remain on the board until their terms expire at the end of the year.  This really can't be good in terms of their ability to focus on getting the job done, can it?  What do you want to be that there will be at least one disgruntled soon-to-be former board member on that board for seven months AFTER the election who will find it very difficult to agree with everything the rest of the group is doing.  
  • Sen. Fran Millar sought to incorporate more land:  And, in District 4, Central DeKalb County, morale and bitter dispute are ready and waiting for whomever gets elected.  This session saw three high schools (one former, two current) attempt to incorporate the same commercial land to allow them to become cities.  They all failed.  
A bill for a City of Lakeside got the closest to having a referendum approved, but their map went all the way up to the back side of rival Tucker High School and sought to incorporate 40% of their historical community.  Now, they must share a school district and pretend like the entire city squabble has been about things other than the desire for better schools.  And they must find a way to elect a school board member who will represent both of them equally.  Good luck with that!
Also, residents are now trying to determine how to justify our Tucker Parent Council's own President, Michele Penkava, who has more than a fair share of Lakeside allies to be completely unaware of the controversy her role as the sole Tucker representative has caused, while school issues were all but ignored.  Penkava was even found to be the finance manager for a Lakeside school board candidate who won the last election, Jim McMahan.  In a race that had two Tucker residents running for the office, the Tucker Parent Council President runs the campaign for a Lakeside candidate.  Go fig!  This is the same McMahan who later turned around and "forgot" that Tucker led the district in graduation rates for traditional schools at a meeting of the Northlake Business Alliance.   
There still remains lingering questions about why another group, Tucker 2014, who were the advocates introduced at the final information session held by Tucker business leaders turned out to be a paid FOR PROFIT consultant group. 

 Here is an article from the USA Today about this city controversy.  It all worked out okay in the end with no new cities, but it also distracted the entire county from concentrating on the school system.  Way to go, Lakeside City!

  • DeKalb Delegation House Chairman Rep. Howard Mosby offered a bill that would have created a study group to help DeKalb out of its troubles and assist the Interim CEO with his request to take a year break from cities and come back with a plan that would allow cities without harm being brought to the county as a whole.  It was not passed out of committee. 
  • Rep. Mary Margaret Oliver asked for her bill to be passed that would create a more clear process for cities to follow in the future.  It also did not make it past the critical crossover day.  
  • Sen. Tom Taylor sponsored a bill to allow cities to form new school systems, but he withdrew it amid the controversy surrounding the floundering cities and their squabbles.

Right back to square one, parents fear.  

The pitting of one area against another, one side of a neighborhood against the other, north against south, racial divisions, socioeconomic issues from the onset.... can't you see it all ahead?  Won't anyone do anything to stop it before it starts all over again??

One concern is the way the school board's election borders were not determined until the Friday before the qualification period would begin, leaving those on limited incomes with little or no time to raise funds in order to submit their names to election officials.

The most volatile and controversial topic in the county and, possibly, in the state was the Governor's removal of the school board and appointment of his own replacements through an appointed committee, with oversight by two controversial figures.  One of those figures being Brad Bryant, who was a former board member, former board chairman, former superintendent and former state superintendent.  His name may sound familiar because he also spoke recently in favor of Lakeside City, which explains why they had two people from their area placed on the appointed board.   Bryant even spoke about the fact that the Lakeside area actually has a large number of politicians already representing them.

Hours of hearing testimony was taken on the topic of new cities for DeKalb, by the House Governmental Affairs Committee without a single question about whether or not the schools might be affected.  No one mentioned that new cities will do exactly what SACS said is the problem - creating further divides in the county rather than encouraging communities to work together for the common good of the whole system.

Q:  What did the cities say about the schools?  
A:  Nothing.

Q:  What did the schools say about the cities?  
A:  Ditto.

And where was the appointed board and new Superintendent in the face of all this chaos?  Good question.  There were no comments made about how impossible of a job the school system will become when the bulk of its money is stripped away. There was seemingly little or no concern that the rest of the  unincorporated parts of the county will be forced to pay their own way and the way for the thousands of refugees brought to DeKalb each year.

Well, the climb up the ladder in the kiddie pool sure was fun.  How did you like it?  Now it's time for the ride right back down that giant slide into the great wide abyss of educational mediocrity.  After all, someone has some housing inventory they really want to turn over and they are the true constituents in our area and we all know it.

Misery and despair are so good for business, if your business is politics.  For everyone else, it's "better luck next time!"

Here are the candidates for the school board seats with our top choices (at this point) highlighted in bold.

DeKalb County Board of Education – Qualified Candidates
District 1:   Stan Jester
District 2:   Don McChesney, incumbent Marshall Orson 
District 3:   Jerrie D. Bason, incumbent Michael A. Erwin, Jarrod Jordan, Atticus LeBlanc, Willie R. Mosley, Jr
District 4:   Incumbent Karen Carter, incumbent Jim McMahan, John Oselette, Ella Smith
District 5:   Pia “Chaz Afzal” Bhatt, Jesse “Jay” Cunningham, R. Alexander Fitzhugh, incumbent Thad Mayfield, Vickie B. Turner
District 6:   Bridgeman Bolger and incumbent Melvin Johnson
District 7:  Kim Ault, Lee V. Dukes and incumbent Joyce Morley

Mobile Broadband Infrastructure Leads to Development (BILD) Act Passes House and Senate

Current Version: HB 176/AP*

Official Summary: A BILL to be entitled an Act to amend Title 36 of the Official Code of Georgia Annotated, relating to local government, so as change certain provisions applicable to counties and municipal corporations related to advanced broadband collocation; to provide for a short title; to provide for definitions; to make changes related to streamlined processing; to standardize certain procedures related to new wireless facilities; to place limitations on the time allowed for the review of new wireless facilities; to limit fees charged for review of wireless facilities; to provide for related matters; to repeal conflicting laws; and for other purposes.

Primary Author:   Don Parsons, House 44, R-Marietta

Co-authors:  (The House Clerk records only the first six bill sponsors)
 Stacey Abrams, House 89, D-Atlanta
 Richard H. Smith, House 134, R-Columbus
 Mike Dudgeon, House 25, R-Johns Creek
 Charles E. 'Chuck' Martin, House 49, R-Alpharetta
 Mark Hamilton, House 24, R-Cumming

2: LC 36 2249/a
4: LC 36 2280S/hs
6: LC 36 2330S/hs
8: LC 36 2428S/hs
9: LC 36 2428S/hcs
11: HB 176/AP*


Mar 4, 2014: Senate Passed/Adopted
Mar 4, 2014: Senate Third Read
Feb 21, 2014: Senate Read Second Time
Feb 20, 2014: Senate Committee Favorably Reported
Feb 3, 2014: Senate Read and Referred
Jan 31, 2014: House Passed/Adopted By Substitute
Jan 31, 2014: House Third Readers
Jan 29, 2014: House Postponed
Feb 28, 2013: House Withdrawn, Recommitted
Feb 21, 2013: House Committee Favorably Reported By Substitute
Feb 4, 2013: House Second Readers
Feb 1, 2013: House First Readers
Jan 31, 2013: House Hopper

- See more at:

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Cell Phone Towers Collapse in West Virginia, Killing 3

CLARKSBURG, W.VA. –  A 300-foot cellphone tower collapsed Saturday and minutes later a smaller tower fell, killing two contractors and a firefighter, authorities said.

The contractors were tethered to the larger tower when it collapsed in Clarksburg, State Police Cpl. Mark Waggamon said. A firefighter with the Nutter Fort Fire Department was killed when he was walking from his vehicle to the scene.

Two other contractors working on the larger tower were hurt and taken to a hospital. Waggamon described their injuries as serious but not life-threatening.

Waggamon said three of the workers were more than 60 feet up on the tower. One of those workers was killed along with a co-worker who was about 20 feet up when the tower toppled.

Two other workers at the site were not injured.

Waggamon said the weight of the collapsed tower put stress on guide wires to the smaller tower.

For More.... 

Or here:

Saturday, March 1, 2014

GTCO-ATL Standing Up Against Cities in Central DeKalb

Three cities are vying for prime properties in Central DeKalb, but GTCO-ATL followers have been following the money and know exactly who is behind all of the competing groups:  big business.  The efforts to launch a city started with a group calling themselves "Lakeside" after a high school in Atlanta.  By encroaching on a nearby community's borders and dividing well known neighborhoods based on political lines and school zones, they made a lot of people angry.  That led the community of Tucker to file their own city bill.  Now they are facing off against another group, Briarcliff, and making a mockery of the poorly run system for city formation, once thought to be the wave of the future when nearby Sandy Springs pulled it off after 30 years of planning.

But, GTCO-ATL is following this story for another reason - the dark money that may be funding all three groups and, you guessed it, telecomm contributions to the studies that were required by the legislature.  The donations came in rather quickly and have not been disclosed to the public.  Oddly enough, a person claiming to be a Tmobile employee was selected as Tucker's financial advisor even though the county residents have been strongly opposed to the practices of Tmobile in the process of trying to place cell phone towers next to schools.  Sandy Springs was started by a number of people, but one of them is a former ATT executive, Oliver Porter.  Porter said that overlapping borders are a problem and will need to be resolved.  He also suggested having a team that includes anyone who wants to volunteer, but these new groups are not taking that advice.

Some say they are ignoring the will of the people, which was initially to be left alone.  It will be interesting to see if that message is clear to the elected officials that the games played by the telecoms are obvious to the residents who have been affected by their "divide and conquer" system.  If they believe there is a true desire for cities, they may approve a voter referendum for this May.  If not, the city advocates will be forced to go back to their "virtual" drawing boards.

KPLC 7 News, Lake Charles, Louisiana

Friday, February 28, 2014

Bibb County Audit Finds Millions in Technology Purchases Were Made Without Approval

Telegraph staffFebruary 27, 2014
Former Bibb County School Superintendent Romain Dallemand repeatedly violated school board policy by ordering more than $26 million in technology equipment and services without required, prior approval from the board, according to a 2013 audit of the school system.
One of those purchases -- for nearly $3.8 million -- was for 15,000 virtual desktop devices. Now, more than a year after they were ordered, about 14,800 of the devices still sit unused in a Bibb County warehouse. The order was placed without competitive bids and without prior board approval, the audit said.
But that's just a sample of the scathing findings, which accountant Miller Edwards presented to board members during a Thursday committee meeting. In some cases, the system is now trying to cut its losses -- involving millions of dollars from sales tax proceeds -- by trying to resell both hardware and software that it can't or hasn't used.
Over the main months in question, Dallemand "authorized, directed and coerced staff to make transactions that were in violation" of board policies, said the audit for the fiscal year that ended June 30, 2013. The Telegraph obtained the audit through an Open Records Act request. The audit lists the cause of the violations as an "apparent reckless disregard by the former Superintendent for existing School District procurement policies established by the Board of Education."
After Edwards' presentation and board discussion, board members voted to look into options for investigating the violations and how they happened.

Attempts to reach Dallemand, who left the school system a year ago after the board bought out his contract for $350,000, plus benefits, were not successful. The Telegraph also tried to reach one of his former lieutenants, Susanne Griffin-Ziebart, for comment. Griffin-Ziebert, who served as interim superintendent after Dallemand departed, took a job in Minneapolis last year.
In general terms, the best advice for any superintendent is to abide by board policy and not exceed the spending limit, said Bill Sampson, with the Georgia School Boards Association.
"You just don't do it," he said.
Sampson said that in his experience, such violations happen rarely and can be cause for serious repercussions.
Little board approval
From July to December 2012, Dallemand authorized nine contracts or purchase orders, at least three of which did not involve competitive bidding and most of which did not receive prior board approval, according to the audit. Two of the orders were for more than $6 million, and two others were for more than $3 million.
The audit actually characterized the total value of contracts and purchase orders that didn't comply with school district policies at more than $51 million, but that figure includes such items as "match resources" associated with the Macon Promise Neighborhood initiative. The audit also found issues with the way financial commitments were made to that program.
In one case the audit cited, a purchase order was later voided, and in another case, the initial purchase order was dramatically reduced. The audit gives no indication why those orders changed.
Dallemand was not authorized to obligate the school system for any purchase order above $500,000, and any order above $500,000 also required prior board approval. In some cases, often months later, Dallemand sought and received board approval for several of his actions.
Nonetheless, the audit underscored the need for school officials to follow district policies to the letter.
"In the government sector, even the best and most promising ideas for respective communities still must follow certain protocol for authorization and approval prior to specific actions. Procurement policies and procedures are established by governments for good, fundamental reason and to provide solid internal controls to prohibit significant and material actions (financial and non-financial) from occurring without: a) the exercise of proper due diligence, and b) the approval of such due diligence. Such internal controls should be observed prior to such actions and executions and not via subsequent ratification."
All of the cited violations happened during Dallemand's administration, and policies have been put in place to prevent repeated occurrences, the audit said. Those changes include a $100,000 cap on purchases that a superintendent can authorize without prior board approval. Also, the district hired a director of procurement to oversee purchasing.
Asked about the report, interim school Superintendent Steve Smith declined comment except to say, "The audit speaks for itself."
Last spring, after the wave of purchases, school board members were grappling with millions in budget shortfalls.
A closer look
--- A nearly $7 million purchase order was issued on Oct. 11, 2012, for technology equipment. That amount was later reduced to more than $950,000. A bid was issued but was not brought to the board before making the purchase.
--- A nearly $6.6 million purchase order was issued on Oct. 11, 2012, for cabling. A bid was issued but was not brought to the board for approval. The board later approved the contract on May 16, 2013.
--- Two purchases totaling $4.2 million were issued on Oct. 11, 2012, for a wireless computer network and networking hardware. A bid was issued but not brought to the board for approval. The board later approved the contract on May 16, 2013.
--- A nearly $3.8 million purchase order was issued Dec. 18, 2012, for "Ncomputing" devices and installation. No bid was issued and no board approval was granted.
--- A $3.2 million purchase order was issued Dec. 18, 2012, for a financial software package. No bid was issued and no board approval was granted.
--- A $1 million purchase order was made Dec. 18, 2012, for program management for the entire technology project. The amount originally was $500,000 when the purchase order was first issued Oct. 11, 2012, but the purchase was later amended. Only the initial $500,000 was approved by the board. Later, it was discovered that work had been completed without purchase orders. The district negotiated a total price of $1.2 million for the work.
--- A $692,300 purchase order was issued Dec. 12, 2012, to a network systems company. The purchase was later voided, and no payment was made. No bid was issued and no board approval was granted.
Selling at a loss
In questioning the purchases, auditors called a couple of them "strange." Some of the larger purchases did not include necessary services, are unusable within the Bibb County school system and are projected to be a financial loss for the system.
Now, the district is looking to resell some of that technology, but it expects to get only about half -- or less -- of what it originally paid.
For example, Dallemand ordered the purchase and installation of 15,000 "NComputing" devices -- virtual desktops -- for almost $3.8 million, the audit said. Now, only about 100 to 200 are being used -- at Northeast High and Springdale and Alexander II elementary schools. The rest -- around 14,800 devices -- have been sitting in a warehouse for months.
If they are declared as surplus items and can be resold, they are projected to sell at only 50 to 60 percent of the original price. That could mean a loss of nearly $1.9 million.

Read more here:

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Lawmakers face election deadline for DeKalb schools

Posted: 6:09 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 25, 2014

Georgia lawmakers are approaching a deadline to restructure the DeKalb County school board, with the potential for election chaos if they fail to meet it.
Candidates for the May 20 school election are supposed to start coming forward at 9 a.m. Monday, when the qualification period starts. But, so far, it’s unclear where the political lines will be drawn for the districts in which they’re supposed to run.

“We just need to know,” said H. Maxine Daniels, elections director in DeKalb. She said lawsuits by potential candidates could result from a failure to get the lines drawn in time, and that she might have to seek an injunction herself.

The row over the school voting districts reflects the role politics plays in public education and the struggle for control over institutions that consume a big chunk of taxpayer dollars. That same frustration drove legislation that sought to overturn Georgia’s constitutional prohibition on the establishment of new school systems.

The sponsor of that bill, a Republican from Dunwoody, abandoned his effort Tuesday. Rep. Tom Taylor said he couldn’t find the super majority he needed to get it past the state House, but he said he’ll try again next year, with hopes for a ballot initiative in 2016.

“We need to do something about education in Georgia,” Taylor said, adding that public schools produce an “appalling” graduation rate given the tax dollars they consume.

Taylor’s bill was aimed at DeKalb but would have affected the whole state. It would have let Dunwoody and other new cities create their own independent school systems. The Georgia constitution banned new school districts in the 1940s, initiating a period of consolidation. Student rolls — and budgets — skyrocketed in urbanizing areas, and for a time drove impressive results.

But the DeKalb system has been in decline for a decade or more, and that has led to conflict over diminishing resources. The infighting exacerbated geographic, race and class divisions and drew the attention of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, which put the district on probation in 2012.

The crisis led to intervention by Gov. Nathan Deal, who replaced most of the school board. DeKalb Superintendent Michael Thurmond appealed for calm this week during a visit to the county legislative delegation. Thurmond, who was hired after probation was in place, helped convince SACS to lift it, and he asked that lawmakers avoid an ugly fight that could stir old enmities and bring SACS back.

“We just cannot allow this to occur,” Thurmond told the lawmakers. “I’m begging you.”

Board member Marshall Orson, pictured here
as he addressed the state board last year,
and others will stand for re-election this year.
The fight over district lines dates back three years, to a law that required the DeKalb school board to downsize from its present nine members by 2012. The Republican-led S.B. 79 left implementation to the divided and mostly Democratic local delegation. Perhaps predictably, they were unable to agree on new lines, so lawmakers extended the deadline.

Now, with three months to go before the election and all nine seats up, they’re in a corner. A small bipartisan DeKalb coalition hopes to avoid the chaos of a botched election. They've devised a work-around — a statewide bill tailored for DeKalb that simply eliminates two at-large seats and leaves the remaining seven districts intact. H.B. 979 doesn't need the support of the local delegation. It passed the House, and awaits a hearing in the Senate.

Sen. Emanuel Jones, D-Decatur, agreed to carry it through the Senate. “I don’t see any reason why it wouldn't pass,” said Jones, who was hoping for a vote by Wednesday.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

UPDATED: School Board Elections - All Seats Up for Grabs This May

UPDATE:  Even if you wanted to apply for the Board of Education in the not-so-new-yet-slightly-improved DeKalb County, you wouldn't be able to do so right now.  Why?  Because you don't know what district you live in.   Yes, we have been down this road before, so it really isn't any big surprise.  But, the last minute timing does seem oddly reminiscent of the former board.  (brrrr... just sent shivers done my spine.)  Let's hope that is where the similarities end.  

But, for now, we are awaiting someone, anyone to step up to plate and realize that we have districts drawn for 9 members and a law that says we should only have 5 or 7.  (Because somehow, less representation in this case is supposed to be "better" than the more representation with smaller districts that the same governmental folks are trying to sell us on with their city-lingo.   Ho-hum.   Are you getting as bored with their games as we are?  When will they try something new?)  So, two weeks from the final qualifying deadline and we don't even know what the district lines look like?

This was a comment made by Nancy Jester, former board member and candidate for state school superintendent, as posted on DeKalb School Watch blog (originally from a Facebook page, apparently):  

Nancy Jester – Mike, what needs to be done? What was missing from the legislation in 2012 that does not enable candidate qualifying? Also, please clarify the meaning of HB 979. It also notes the BOE election to be in the general election. Previously, non-partisan elections were held during the primary.

The previously unattended July elections were suddenly showing signs of voter turnout last year.  So much, in fact, that T-SPLOST (the transportation tax) failed and voters returned a strong "NO" against cell towers on school grounds.  So, with a outcome so undeniably based on the true voice of the people, of course the date had to change!

This year, the election will be held in May, sooner than ever with more packed onto ballots than ever before!

Cities - for Central DeKalb - possibly on a referendum or two.
City Schools - for cities or cities next to other cities - possibly on statewide ballots
School Board seats - all 7 districts presumably will be up for grabs, with the two Super Districts going away.

Here is what DeKalb School Watch has to say about it:
 ALL SEVEN BOARD SEATS WILL BE UP FOR A VOTE! The two super districts will be going away.
Give it some careful thought – please be a good citizen and offer your skills and talents and discernment to the DeKalb County schools — 100,000 young people need you!
Click here to view bios of the current board (a few are still not posted) as well as the attendance areas of the districts >>

Monday, February 17, 2014

Flaws Remain in Cell Tower Bill

Cell tower bill speeds process

Moderated by Rick Badie

From a pro/con blog on the, found here:, we thank Rep. Dr. Karla Drenner for her continued warnings about the risks associated with allowing cell towers near our homes and schools.  Here is her portion of the article:

By Representative Dr. Karla Drenner
House Bill 176,the Mobile Broadband Infrastructure Leads to Development (BILD) Act, has rapidly made its way through the Georgia House. Its swift passage concerns me, and I stand in opposition to it for three reasons.
This bill is blatantly misleading. It allows private entities to have access to public lands to profit without regard to the local communities. And it strips governments of local control.
The Mobile BILD Act claims to allow for a more streamlined permitting process for new cellphone towers and the expansion of existing ones. It calls for shorter application review times, less regulation and limitations fees.
Supporters of HB 176 suggest more bandwidth and infrastructure is needed to attract business and improve public safety. This argument is profoundly misleading.
The cellphone industry wants people to believe more cell towers are important for public safety. However, public safety officials do not rely on phone service for critical communications. In DeKalb County, it is provided by a radio tower atop Stone Mountain — not a proprietary cellular service.*
Moreover, nothing in the current version of HB 176 prevents for-profit entities from constructing cell towers on public land, including on or near school properties or land zoned residential. In 2010, I included a non-binding referendum on the primary ballot asking if schools should allow cell towers on school property. The overwhelming response was “no.”
Some of my colleagues with districts in DeKalb have also voiced concern about the possibility of towers being built on school grounds. Communities should be protected from such risks. Erecting new cellphone towers or expanding current ones on or near schools or in neighborhoods are legitimate concerns.
Lastly, HB 176 would strip local governments of their decision-making power.  Cities are already obliged to adhere to tight FCC “shot clock” regulations. Currently, cities must make a formal decision in writing to approve or deny an application for a new tower within 150 days. Local governments have 30 days to notify an applicant for a new tower if more information is needed.
This bill would further tighten the time constraints. If a county does not respond within a set time, the cellphone tower is automatically approved. Local government control would be superseded; the for-profit entity would have its way.
It is worth noting that communications companies tend to invest in communities where there is significant local regulation; the best coverage is in these areas. Conversely, the poorest coverage areas have the least amounts of regulation. Minimal regulation does nothing to foster capital investment and improve service.
The Mobile BILD Act was first introduced last year, but was defeated because of its blatant push against local authority. It remains flawed.
State Rep. Karla Drenner, a Democrat, represents District 85.

*  Wow, we learned something new today!  Thanks Dr. Drenner!

Please write to your state elected officials if you are concerned about this bill.  Thank you!

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Updated: Georgia Public Service Commission: A quick Q & A

One of our followers here at Get the Cell Out - ATL recently wrote to the Georgia Public Service Commission (GAPSC) to find out how he could file a complaint with ATT Mobility over the currently proposed bill (HB 176) that would make cell towers easier to place in residential areas without notification to the homeowners nearby.
Here is a copy of that email and the response from the GAPSC.

To: ;
Date:  2/9/2014 9:29 PM


I read recently that you have some jurisdiction over ATT in terms of complaints, but not cell tower companies.  So, would ATT Mobility be a company
you helped consumers with or not?

I am opposed to a bill this session that would make it possible for ATT to put cell towers near our homes and schools without our feedback.  Who would be the right entity to log my complaint with, other than my legislators?



To:  XXX
Date:  2/9/2014 9:29 PM

The Public Service Commission has received your message and will provide an answer or assistance as soon as possible.  


For a quicker response to complaints about your electric, gas, transportation or telephone service, please use the PSC Online Complaint Form at:

Questions or Inquiries:

For answers to many of your questions about natural gas, electric, transportation, telephone, or consumer issues, visit our website:

Email a Commissioner:

To send an email directly to a PSC Commissioner, go to:

Open Records Requests:

If you want information under Georgia’s Open Records Act, please send your request directly to Mr. Phil Smith at: 

Services Not Regulated by the PSC:

If you are writing about city-owned electric or gas service, or about water, sewer, cellular phones, Internet, cable television, MARTA or an electric membership corporation (EMC), please contact your service provider. The Public Service Commission does not regulate these services. 

Thank you for contacting the Georgia Public Service Commission. 

Georgia Public Service Commission
244 Washington Street, SW
Atlanta GA, 30334-9052
Toll-free in Georgia (outside Metro Atlanta): (800) 282-5813
Metro Atlanta: (404) 656-4501




Unfortunately, the Georgia Public Service Commission does not have jurisdiction over this. Probably the best place to start is your local government.

I hope this helps.

Let me know if I can be of any further assistance.

William Morgan
Consumer Affairs
Georgia Public Service Commission
244 Washington St., SW
Atlanta, Georgia 30334
Phone - (404) 463-4607
Fax - (404)