City full of Good Samaritans

To the editor:

The true measure and spirit of a community typically emerges in times of crisis. How a community responds under duress reveals its true character, and its treatment of people during times of unexpected need reflects its innermost values.

If all this is true – which I believe it is – then the response of our city staff, businesses, charitable/faith-based institutions, and ordinary citizens during the recent winter storm epitomized the generosity that characterizes Sandy Springs.

The stories coming from that week were amazing. The actions of our police officer that helped deliver a baby along I-285 received the most attention, yet similar, though less dramatic, stories were replicated across the city.

When it was obvious that possibly thousands would be stranded in bone-chilling weather, our city staff immediately opened our fire stations, City Hall Council Chambers, and the Hammond Gym as emergency shelters, and launched a quest to find cots, blankets and other items of comfort.

I contacted religious groups like Congregation Or Hadash and Holy Innocents’ Episcopal Church, who unhesitatingly opened their doors at a moment’s notice in the absence of full preparation, and welcomed strangers whose only option was exposure to a long, bitter winter night. Soon schools like the Davis Academy and Weber School pitched in to help, all demonstrating again that faith remains as much action as belief.

Through the night, fire and police personnel checked vehicles and drove stranded individuals to various shelters, where we housed at least 320 people.

That doesn’t count the grocery stores, pharmacies, restaurants and other businesses, too numerous to mention, that provided all-night refuge for people stranded by the conditions. Finally, ordinary citizens, seeing struggling motorists trudging down frozen streets and sidewalks, opened their doors, inviting total strangers into their homes for the night.

My family went to Holy Innocents’ to talk with individuals there, prepare meals, and help where we could. We saw residents from the area walking across snow and ice to deliver food, blankets, pillows and personal items for those we sheltered.

One restaurant owner told me of a Cobb couple who stopped in his place to ride out the storm. Hours later, when it was obvious they weren’t getting home, Sandy Springs patrons who lived nearby came over and simply said, “Come to our house tonight.”

A local grocery manager invited occupants of a stuck school bus into the store with the words, “Eat what you want, kids.” These scenarios played out all across Sandy Springs.

I have received more than 300 emails from people in Sandy Springs and around the metro area thanking our first responders, businesses, churches, synagogues and schools for the magnanimous hospitality and professionalism of our city staff and community residents.

Our response was far from perfect, however, and the city is evaluating steps we can take to alleviate problems next time. Nevertheless, our community used a “trial by ice” to demonstrate what I have always known: Sandy Springs is truly a city of Good Samaritans.

Rusty Paul, Mayor of Sandy Springs

City workers don’t know laws

To the editor:

Recently, I had a very unfortunate situation with one of the city arborists, which led to damage to my home.

The employee did not have a grasp of the city tree ordinance, and the person’s communications with me led to a tree causing over $6,000 worth of damage to my home. Moreover, the damage included a branch that went two feet through our roof decking, directly over my 9-year-old son’s room.

We do have a pending lawsuit with the city, so I cannot share details and the city won’t either; however, elected officials need to take a good, hard look at the employees the city hires and the contractors they use, since I feel there are some serious issues such as integrity, honesty and transparency.

I have found employees don’t have a grasp of the laws that they are enforcing and cannot communicate them to the public. Also, the public is taken for granted when phone calls are not returned and promised deadlines for follow up are ignored, created by a lack of urgency on their part. All these things are common today when it comes to municipal governments. Many elected officials ran for office on the promise that the government is for the people, and I feel that Sandy Springs is becoming like all other municipal governments. I hope you all will ensure that this trend is reversed as you journey into the next few years as our elected officials.

Nolan Feintuch

Use volunteers for next storm

Thank you for your article praising storm response [Sandy Springs Reporter, Jan, 24-Feb. 6].

As your headline indicated, our cities need improvement.

I am writing to you and Dunwoody Police Chief Billy Grogan, as this may be the fastest way to get this where it needs to go. I wonder if you could escalate this to the mayors and all decision-making parties for prompt consideration and, perhaps, even action before our next storm comes.

My daughter and son-in-law who live in Sandy Springs (I am a Dunwoody resident, for almost a quarter of the century now) have a suggestion for our cities.

They noted that many residents in our cities own trucks and can easily form a Volunteer Storm Response Unit.

All that is needed would be a snow shovel attachment for each truck, and a set of tire chains.

The Red Cross could equip each team with a First Aid kit and some basic medical supplies. Everyone has cellphones for communication.

We could easily have a good-sized Volunteer Storm Response Unit at a very low cost. No need to purchase any snow plows for our cities.

Also, our Volunteer Storm Response Unit will be responding very swiftly, from locations within our communities.

Paula Hanson-Kahn

City taxpayers are patsies

To the editor:

At the recent legislative forum, our state legislators Fran Millar and Tom Taylor revealed they favor adding a section to the Dunwoody city charter that eliminates the opportunity for a city-wide vote to fund the taking over of fire services from DeKalb County – they want the Dunwoody City Council alone to make this decision – only four votes necessary. Their feeble explanations to justify this charter change were complete rubbish.

Millar and Taylor mostly base their erroneous explanations on line items and categories on a tax bill – an irrelevant document. The only document that matters is the language in the current charter itself – our constitution – and there is no provision in the current charter that exempts fire service funding from the overall 3.04 millage rate cap that requires a city-wide vote to exceed under Section 1.03 (37).

Next time you see Millar and Taylor, ask them to show you where in the current city charter fire service funding is exempt from this 3.04 millage rate cap – they can’t because it does not exist. Millar also tried to slough it off as a difference of opinion – a statement with no basis in fact.

Let’s face it – here in Dunwoody we play insider political baseball. Here is how the game is played. Millar may want a fire house closer to his home so he appoints his neighbor to the Charter Commission. Not satisfied with two years of incompetence including the ChatComm fiasco, the mayor and Dunwoody City Council want even more power and authority – so the mayor appoints his neighbor to the Charter Commission and the Dunwoody City Council appoints someone to do their bidding.

These three individuals are enough to carry a very controversial 3–2 vote to recommend this fire service funding change to the city charter – despite almost unanimous citizen opposition at many Charter Commission meetings last year – all from citizens who simply want the opportunity to have a city-wide vote for the funding of taking over of fire services.

Dunwoody taxpayers are the patsy in this political inside baseball game better known as cronyism – we pay to play it.

Right now the citizens are down 3–2 to the politicians. However, we intend to explain these and other things at the state Legislature, and in the meantime look under the table for a clearer view of other factors that may be involved. Stay tuned. The game score may soon change.

Jim Dickson

Don’t ‘force’ Century Center into Chamblee

To the editor,

Thanks for the timely and thorough coverage of Brookhaven from Melissa Weinman and others. I am writing regarding Century Center’s application to be annexed into Brookhaven, rather than into Chamblee.

Rep. Scott Holcomb is attempting a legislative outcome over Century Center’s appeal before the court to honor Brookhaven’s City Council vote to approve annexation into Brookhaven.

Rep. Scott Holcomb (D-DeKalb) asserts “Their [Century Center’s] appeal is alive because Brookhaven hasn’t rescinded its annexation vote.” I disagree. Their appeal is alive because Chamblee refuses to let go. They [Century Center’s owners] have a right to request annexation into the contiguous city of their choice. Their choice is Brookhaven.

However, Rep. Holcomb proposed legislation forces Century Center into Chamblee. Ignoring the preference of Highwood Properties, owners of Century Center, he continues, “Chamblee has to plan for its future. From a policy standpoint, this is a horrible process. If we let the courts work this out, it could be years before we have an answer, and that’s not satisfying for anyone who’s involved.”

But what about the “satisfaction” of Century Center? Century Center approached Brookhaven for annexation. Brookhaven was obligated to act on that request, which it did. Brookhaven City Council approved annexation. Chamblee is the party that initiated that “horrible process” which most people call “due process.”

The voices of proximate neighborhood associations felt jilted. They asserted they were entitled to Century Center and its considerable tax base to sweeten the pot for their plan to annex their neighborhoods into Chamblee. They believed Century Center was “theirs” because they want it and they tagged it first.

Chamblee sued after Brookhaven approved annexation, starting the “horrible process” of letting the court of law decide.

Holcomb offers, “The purpose [of proposed legislation] is to end the litigation so that way both Chamblee and Brookhaven can move on with planning their futures.” I disagree again. The actual purpose of his legislation is to deny choice and due process to the owners of Century Center, and to deliver “satisfaction” to Chamblee and his constituents. Since Century Center does not want what Chamblee wants them to want, Rep. Holcomb’s solution is a new law.

The meddlesome voices from the newest Chamblee neighborhoods previously opposed the incorporation of Brookhaven. They prolifically campaigned against Brookhaven in meetings, blogs and letters to every editor. Yet they embraced their own right to annex into Chamblee. Congratulations on that.

Now they are back to arguing against others’ rights, which is a “horrible process” indeed. They seem to believe their desire to have Century Center trumps Century Center’s owners’ rights. “Give it back, it’s mine!” or “I had it first!” doesn’t apply here.

Century Center is not “betrothed” to Chamblee. I believe the Legislature and court will agree.

Clayton Conarro

City officials losing credibility over Pink Pony

To the editor:

Many thanks to Kathy Forbes for her “Pink Pony: City vs. will of the people?” letter in your Jan. 24-Feb. 6, issue.

I share in Kathy’s frustration, perplexity, and increasing anxiety. The Pink Pony is ultimately a legislative fluke: Born of an old “arrangement” with DeKalb County, the only club of its kind in our city, no threat to property values nor to the general peace, and a source of government revenue. Easily grandfathered into our city, it provides jobs for some 300 people (several of whom might be single working parents).

Our newly elected city government has yet to produce specific reasons for attempting to shut down the operation. Their critically important credibility as elected government officials has suffered accordingly.

I’ve been involved in local zoning issues for some 36 years, both as an individual and as a member of various activist groups. I’ve known members of our Brookhaven city government for years – you know who you are! I worked hard to help found the city of Brookhaven.

Once you lose your credibility, it won’t ultimately matter what else you can bring to the table. Give us some solid reasons for your actions, [and your refusals to act], or stop a process that could involve years of financial and emotional drain. You can do better than this!

Tom Reilly

Brookhaven government: Moral busybodies?

To the editor:

I just want to say that I agree with Kathy Forbes’ letter to the editor in the Jan. 24-Feb. 6 edition of the Brookhaven Reporter. I can’t add anything myself, but I find the following quote describes the mayor and city council perfectly:

“Of all tyrannies, a tyranny exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It may be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies.

“The robber baron’s cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end, for they do so with the approval of their own conscience.” C.S. Lewis

Rick Woodward