Thursday, June 20, 2013

Life In The Burbs

Although I've moved further north, I struggle with saying I'm in the burbs. Even if I'm not ITP, I can see ITP from my house!

Now that I'm settled in, it's time to take a look around and see what's happening. A quick perusal of the landscape finds some old friends and some old lessons the new city people a little further to the south may want to heed.

Sandy Springs: My new home. Let's talk about the positive first. Although I only recently became a resident, I have roamed the mean streets of Hammond and Roswell for some years. As I've written before, despite it's long painful birth, Sandy Springs has shown it can handle its business on things that really matter. Like potholes. And trash. I'm pretty happy with the conditions of the streets and dealing with a private contractor for pickup was the least painful part of moving.

On a less positive note, on Tuesday, the Sandy Springs city council voted 5-1 to use the power of eminent domain to take away the property currently occupied by Makara Mediterranean Restaurant. The land will then be used to build a new government complex. It is not lost on me that many of the founders of the city are Republicans in the mold of "less government" hyperbole. And also were ones complaining quite loudly about the actions of their former landlords Fulton County. (It should be noted the one lone no vote was by Gabriel Sterling, more on that in a second).

Fortunately I got to eat at Makara recently and it is excellent. I highly recommend the lamb kabobs. Get them before they are gone.

Dunwoody: Just next door, Dunwoody is having its own struggles. I seem to remember writing something about tinker toys getting jammed up noses. Dunwoody seems intent on jamming both the silly and the serious in places they do not go.

Recently, the city's ethics committee found council member Adrian Bonser in violation of the rule against being discourteous to a constutent. You read that right. She's being smacked down for being rude. We have a state legislature which can't decide how small they can make the lobbyist trough without losing all the slop while also keeping the peasants from tossing them out and a few miles north there's a city that will publicly shame you for telling a noisy resident exactly what you think of them. And people say we don't have diversity.

Then there's the bus shelters. Some on the council want bus shelters but are offended by the advertising on them. And in a fine trying to twist the mouth to eat the cake you have, they will not only lose the revenue they receive but may end up having to pay the company that places the ads. I find billboard type fights fascinating. I seem to be able to ignore them and wonder if maybe I'm missing a key gene that causes outrage when one intrudes on my line of vision.

Dunwoody also can't seem to make up its mind about a fire department. But what it really comes down to is taxes and can they be raised with or without a vote. I wonder if this is the same first step on the path to "unresponsive government" that former Dunwoody parent Dekalb County took many many years ago.

Brookhaven: New kid on the block. They're hell bent on getting rid of the house of sin that was sinning away when they decided to draw their boundaries around it. It's an exorcism by inclusion which I'm a bit rusty on the concept but is probably not part of the canon.

It would be easy to roll in "told you so" here. After all, most of these new cities popped up because they couldn't get what they wanted from the current government entity and at least in the case of Sandy Springs and Dunwoody, the primary proponents are the same folks who constantly spew about the lack of necessity for government. But I won't and here's why.

Once the thump your chest rhetoric of city formation dies down, the reality of running a municipality sets in. And it is hard. It is easy to rain thunder on the decisions of those in power until you are in power and have to start making compromises of your own. Sandy Springs and Dunwoody have now been around long enough that the shine is off the new and streets still have to be paved. They are struggling but every government does. Hopefully, they will use these hard times to reflect on the reasons they left Dekalb and Fulton, consider that some of their criticisms should have been tempered and most importantly, not be seduced down the same paths which caused their own secessions.

Also, it is easy to forget there are real people involved here.

Sandy Springs city councilman Gabriel Sterling annoys me and he knows this. He is exactly what I think is wrong with the modern Republican party. His rants are sourced from talk radio and Breitbart and he is a living breathing example of confirmation bias. However, despite the fact that he is not my council person, twice, I've asked him for information and he responded quickly. If you ignore all the hoo hah he posts on places like Facebook, he's exactly the type of local representative you want. And his lone vote against the use of eminent domain to wipe out a small business is exactly the kind of consistency you want to see in a politician.

Dunwoody city councilman John Heneghan does not annoy me. In fact, he's one of the nicest guys I've met. I'm not really sure what he's got against ads on bus shelters, but I'm confident he feels he's trying to represent his folks as best he can. When I commented about Dunwoody's shenanigans on twitter, John almost immediately responded and through the digital air, I could sense his hurt. It was the hurt of father who watches his offspring stumble around and scrape both knees.
Growing pains are part of life whether you are a scoundrel who just bought your first house or you are newly formed city. But I have confidence Gabriel, John, the residents of Dunwoody and Sandy Springs (myself included) will figure it all out. If only because they have to. After all, that's life in the big city.

Thursday, June 06, 2013

An Opportunity For Us All

When partisan Republicans start crowing about the findings of dyed in the wool liberals, it is not only time to take notice, but also to pause and reflect.

Criticizing the current President's policy on drones was all the rage a few weeks ago. A frequent refrain Republicans used to make Democrats squirm was "are you going to be comfortable with future President's executing this power"?

Echoes of the past never die.

That same argument was used by civil libertarians when the Patriot Act was created by the Bush Administration. We'll have to wait for a Republican to start the drone killin' before we can address the slide of that slippery slope, but the precipice of the one created in the last decade, at the height of the "we must do everything can to protect ourselves hysteria" has arrived.

All the participants are performing the usual partisan reels, but instead of focusing on the smugness of those who supported much worse less than a decade ago or the sudden non-chalance of those who once deeply care about things like the Fourth Amendment (to be fair, my personal observation is there has been more of the first than the second. After all, the source here is deeply liberal Glenn Greenwald), we should instead turn to the words written by Charlie Harper three days ago.
The assumptions behind most recent political debate have been “my side is good and can handle power. Your side is evil and should not have it.” The current scandals give Republicans a solid chance to change the debate. It should no longer about who has the power of government, but should government have this much power over us at all?
But replace Republicans with Americans, because today shows government restraint is not a partisan issue.