By JD Clockadale
It has come fast — much faster than Congress passing a budget. It has involved many late nights, numerous meetings, a great team and more importantly, an unwavering focus on us, the citizens of Brookhaven.
The city, after opening City Hall and starting operations on Monday, Dec. 17, 2012, reached its 100th day on March 26, 2013 — a historical milestone.
Fortunately, I had the opportunity, as interim deputy city manager, to serve my friends, neighbors and fellow citizens of Brookhaven for the first 83 of those days.
The yardstick known as “the first 100 days” was born from Franklin Roosevelt’s program following his 1933 inauguration. This program became known as the “Hundred Days” and since that time, presidents, CEOs, and other leaders have used the first 100 days as a benchmark to judge their success during their transition into a new leadership role.
In Brookhaven’s first “Hundred Days,” the city and residents have seen challenges. Tough decisions have been made. We have heard from virulent, sometimes misguided naysayers, and heard from and observed hardworking, dedicated, ever-vigilant supporters of the Brookhaven community. We have seen the “Yes” and “No” merge to strengthen our bond and work toward a better future.
We have also seen 100 days of tremendous achievements by the city, made possible only by truly local, responsive government.
And, yes, this article focuses on achievements since I have observed firsthand, how the city staff, mayor and city council have dedicated their efforts to facing challenges head-on and have done so with a passion to serve our best interest.
The achievements range from repairing car-damaging, road-rage creating potholes to saving a family from life-threatening living conditions to the secondary effects of energy, excitement and effort coming forth from every district of the city, in every form including neighborhood groups, charitable groups, individuals and the Chamber of Commerce. It is simply undeniable.
I don’t have space to list them all, but below are multiple notable achievements/successes that benefit us:
–Severe road damage on North Cliff Valley next to Cross Keys High School has been repaired (one of many repairs). Ignored for years by DeKalb County, the repair crew received a hearty “hallelujah” from a passing driver.
–Customer service is back in government. The City Hall front desk team returns missed calls even if a message is not left.
–One can walk into City Hall any time and almost immediately speak with someone from a multitude of departments. You may not like the answer, but that’s not always the point. It’s honesty, accessibility and transparency that helps create great service.
I would be remiss if I did not mention a touching example of how our new city impacted a family with a child struggling with cerebral palsy. The city, after responding immediately to long-ignored citizen complaints, partnered with the Latin American Association and the St. Vincent DePaul Society to relocate a family of eight to a safer apartment complex.
The family had been living for years with a rotten, unsafe kitchen floor. The floor had a 12” hole with an 8-9 foot drop. The conditions at Park Towne North, an apartment complex in almost third-world, deplorable condition, were ignored by DeKalb County Code Enforcement despite complaints dating back to 2008.
The following may pale in comparison to the story above, but the formation of Brookhaven has guaranteed that ALL of our tax dollars paid to the city of Brookhaven stay in Brookhaven. Benefit? No brainer.
Full-time employees? Four (4). Each receives a defined contribution plan, not a defined benefit pension plan. Benefit to the taxpayers? We have avoided the tax-consuming snowball rolling down an infinite hill—the defined benefit pension plan.
Our planning commission and zoning board of appeals (ZBA) consist entirely of Brookhaven residents—DeKalb’s ZBA had one Brookhaven resident. Our benefit? Decisions are transparent and made locally by those intimately familiar with Brookhaven.
As an aside, do you ever smile at the fact that you don’t have to drive to Decatur for every little thing?
The city is about more than just taxes.
The city is about increased customer service and transparency. It’s about localized control of planning, zoning, code compliance and police. It’s about your tax dollars staying local. And, perhaps most importantly, it is about the true, singular focus, by city staff, the mayor and city council, on the best interests of the citizens and businesses of Brookhaven.
Every day that passes reinforces the thought that the city of Brookhaven is right for the citizens.
JD Clockadale was a member of Citizens For North DeKalb, a member of the board of Brookhaven Yes, the District 1 representative on the Governor’s Commission for Brookhaven, and served as interim deputy city manager for the city of Brookhaven.