By Rick Callihan

Entering the political season here in Dunwoody, chatter has begun on the campaign trails of incumbents and candidates making declarations of being “fiscal conservatives.”

The fiscal conservative term is not new to Dunwoody. It was uttered hundreds of times during the city’s first election three years ago. I suppose using the word “conservative” as an adjective to describe yourself is Politics 101 in Dunwoody, even if evidence points to a person being more liberal than conservative.

Is our City Council full of fiscal conservatives? The city did save up a nest egg of nearly $5 million, only to spend it on a 16 acre parcel of land. Conservative use of funds? Probably not, but the purchase is something I’m glad that the city did.

Perhaps 10 years from now that purchase will look like a move out of the Donald Trump handbook. City Council has not yet played its hand on what they think is best for this large piece of dirt, but I’d expect at least half of it to be used for a park, with the other half perhaps being sold for office and retail use, one hopes at a profit.

At this week’s City Council meeting, two different bond issues were approved to be on November’s ballot.

One bond deals with improving existing parks. Brook Run and the Dunwoody Nature Center are our top two parks, and no matter if you want to vote yourself a tax increase to improve them or not, you have to admit both are in pretty sad shape.

While smaller kids love going to the nature center (and they have a fantastic staff) the park itself does not appeal to many Dunwoody residents.

The amenities and attractiveness of Brook Run does not appeal to many of us, either. This “parks improvement” bond would allow for up to $33 million to be spent on existing parks, but future councils are not required to spend all $33 million. If this bond were to pass, City Council would be holding a checkbook with a balance of millions of dollars of our money.

Now remember that “fiscal conservative” term? How would elected officials act with that kind of money? That’s something you’ll need to think about when electing a mayor and three council members this November. Would your candidate frugally handle the funds or would they go out and spend every penny as soon as possible?

The second bond we’ll vote on is a “land acquisition” bond. This bond has nothing to do (directly) with Brook Run or any of the existing parks. Like the first bond discussed, it is also for a maximum of $33 million. And like the first bond, the passing of the “land acquisition” bond does not require future councils to spend all $33 million.

What should a city buy if its residents approve a tax increase, and what affect would newly acquire land have on our existing parks? The city would be looking for large chunks of land, probably 5-acre tracts at a minimum. As we all know, we don’t really have unused land here in Dunwoody so the city would most likely seek out properties that are either in bankruptcy or in receivership, or perhaps real estate that is under-producing for its current owner.

If the city were to purchase property that had an office building or perhaps dilapidated apartments on it, the wording of the bond allows the city to raze structures to make the property closer to usable green space than it was when purchased. By acquiring new properties to be used for perhaps a tennis complex or soccer and lacrosse fields, Brook Run could remain as a passive use park.

As City Councilman John Heneghan and former State Sen. Dan Weber said at last week’s council meeting, the city is at a crossroads. Both of these gentlemen feel Dunwoody needs to invest in the future by voting in favor of both bonds in November.

If the bonds are approved, will we have the right mayor and council in place to make important decisions in regards to land acquisitions and park amenities?

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