‘Art’ contract up for a vote

Posted by Dan Whisenhunt October 6, 2014
Decatur City Hall

Decatur City Hall

This story has been updated. 

Decatur City Commissioners will take another look at awarding a $25,000 contract for facilitating a conversation about compassion and diversity.

Commissioners meet tonight and will consider awarding the contract to The Art of Community. The commission tabled it during its Sept. 2 meeting after commissioners Scott Drake and Fred Boykin raised some questions about it. Art of Community is a local company, but wasn’t selected through a request for proposal or bid process. Under city purchasing rules, it would be considered a professional service and not subject to the bidding rules.

The proposal before commissioners at tonight’s meeting provides a precise list of deliverables for Phase 1 of the project, something that was lacking at the Sept. 2 meeting.

Under the terms of the contract, Art of Community would be expected to:

• Establish a steering committee to act as a core leadership team.

–  Convene team to establish shared outcomes and design of large scale
community conversations process

• Create, organize and prepare the intentional dialogue process.

– Develop detailed project work plan

– Develop outreach and recruitment plans and begin identifying specific stakeholders and developing connections.

– Develop logistics plan including calendar and securing meeting facilities.

– Begin recruiting community facilitators.

– Develop communications and technology plan.

• Organize information and background materials.

– Research and collect relevant data.

– Gather subjective observations.

– Begin development of discussion guide.

• Develop Phase II draft budget and pursue outside source funding.

At the last meeting, commissioners learned that the total cost of the project could rise to $100,000, with the inclusion of grants, donations and in-kind services.

Allegations of racial profiling by city police officers drove the idea of a community-wide discussion. The $25,000 was initially put into the budget as a “placeholder” that would pay for whatever solution the city staff ultimately came up with.

The racial profiling allegations also led to the creation of the Decatur Community Coalition, a civic group working with the city to address those concerns. Don Denard, a former Decatur School Board member who claims he was profiled by police, has been the chief spokesman for the group. Denard said that the city didn’t run the idea of hiring The Art of Community by him or the Coalition before presenting it to City Commissioners.

Also, every regular meeting agenda includes a section for requests and petitions. Decaturish has learned that a representative of the property owners around Rio Circle and surrounding areas intends to make a presentation to commissioners at tonight’s meeting. While those property owners are in Avondale’s annexation plan, they have started a petition to join Decatur.

Proponents of the proposed city of Briarcliff have also approached Rio Circle residents about joining the new city instead of joining Decatur or Avondale. Representatives from that cityhood movement met with some of the Rio Circle representatives at the recent Avondale Estates work session on annexation.

Allen Venet, President of the city of Briarcliff Initiative, said he did not attend the meeting in Avondle, but said secretary Herman Lorenz attended it.

“Since I was not there I don’t know what may have been discussed, but Briarcliff is not trying to get them to join us,” Venet said. “Rather, we are sharing information with them and listening to their thoughts.”

DeKalb Farmers Market owner Robert Blazer recently announced he has no interest in joining Avondale or Decatur. He’d rather stay in unincorporated DeKalb, but if he has to chose he wants to be part of a larger city, like the proposed city of Briarcliff.

About Dan Whisenhunt

Dan Whisenhunt is editor and publisher of Decaturish.com. https://www.linkedin.com/in/danwhisenhunt

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  • Rabbit47

    I believe you may be misrepresenting what Robert Blazer said. It was my understanding that he expressed the desire to belong to the largest political entity available, which currently is DeKalb County. However, if a new city or cities are formed, I believe he said, that he would prefer to be in the largest of whatever those were and he viewed Briarcliff as being that. That is different that stating that he wants to be in Briarcliff. I think he said his first choice was to remain where he is, in unincorporated DeKalb.

    • Thanks for the comment. I’m not misrepresenting what was said. I have a recording of our interview from Sept. 24 where he said he’d want to join the biggest city possible, which he believes is Briarcliff. The specific exchange.

      Blazer had just told me about the Rio Circle petition.

      “They want to go to Decatur. They’ve got a petition that they’ve signed.”

      Me: Have you signed it?

      Robert Blazer, “No, I didn’t sign it because I want to basically stay in DeKalb County, but the way things are going if they’re going to literally divide the whole place up, then I’d like to be a part of the biggest one that I could be a part of, because I’d like to have the market’s revenue go to the biggest area.”

      Me: Which would be?

      Robert Blazer: “Maybe Briarcliff. I don’t know if they’re actually going to be able to pull it off. I would think that maybe that one would be better. …. If Briarcliff would take in the residences, because these other people don’t want residences, if Briarcliff would be willing to take in the residences, then I’d feel better about being part of something that had a lot of residences involved, instead of just being taken over by a group of people that just want the revenue from the commercial.”

      I’ve been told he is meeting with representatives from Briarcliff. Also, there’s this WABE story quoting Briarcliff officials who met with Blazer. http://wabe.org/post/your-dekalb-farmers-market-owner-not-keen-cityhood

      Blazer believes Briarcliff would be the largest of the communities he could join. I’d imagine this applies to a combined Lakeside-Briarcliff map.

      I think every party in this situation believes that staying in unincorporated DeKalb isn’t an option. To your point, I’ll add some clarifying language to the last sentence, but that’s the exchange that took place.

      • Rabbit47

        I believe the first paragraph of your quote from him makes my point. He only would choose Briarcliff if he has to make a change. And even then, he goes on with lots of qualifications and “ifs”. That is not the same as saying he wants to join in what may be a City of Briarcliff.

        What he clearly states is, “I want to basically stay in DeKalb County,”

        • Right. But he also said, if he had to choose, he’d choose a larger city, which he believes would be Briarcliff. I don’t think that’s a misrepresentation of things. Almost no one who is engaged in the current process believes staying in DeKalb is a viable option. That’s the underlying reason for presenting this information the way I’ve presented it.

          If I didn’t make that clear enough, I apologize. But based on what I know, Blazer is only interested in joining a larger city if he has to, and it would be Briarcliff or some approximation of it. That’s accurate and everyone I’ve talked to has confirmed that’s his position. Part of the problem is the final maps haven’t settled and we don’t know if the legislative delegation will have two maps or three to consider, or if they’ll just draw their own. Blazer has been following all this, based on our conversation. He likely knows that Briarcliff has also discussed merging its efforts with Lakeside.

          Everyone is hedging because it’s all still in motion. I think the basics are: there’s going to be a new city in north DeKalb and it’s in competition with existing cities for available commercial property. Most if not all of DeKalb will be incorporated by the end of next year, unless the legislature decides to put the brakes on the process or if Jason Carter wins the governor’s race. The opinion expressed by State Rep. Karla Drenner the other night was that Carter would veto any cityhood bills pertaining to DeKalb. I’m not sure how that will play out in reality, but we can safely assume that he would be more amenable to vetoing a Republican plan to incorporate a new city than the incumbent, Gov. Deal.

          I appreciate you making me show my work on this, so to speak. Specificity is always helpful, but my story is accurate, based on my understanding of the situation.

          • Rabbit47


            I have (nor had) no quibble with your geo-political presentation. I merely pointed out that without the now present phrase, “if he had to choose,” Blazer’s position was (a bit) mis-represented.

          • Fair enough. Happy to clarify

  • gzhampton

    It does not take much to create a city.

    Medlock Park could have its own City if it wanted too.
    Druid Hills could have its own City if it wanted too.

    are distinct from counties, in that they are formed by charter and able
    to control their own laws and borders. The proposed area must have a
    total residential population of at least 200 persons and an average
    residential population of at least 200 persons per square mile.

    Cities can qualify by having at least 3 of the following:
    -Public safety or law enforcement
    -Storm water collection or disposal
    -Fire protection and fire safety
    -Electric or gas utility services
    -Road and street construction or maintenance
    -Code enforcement (building, housing, plumbing, electrical, and other)
    -Solid waste management
    -Planning and zoning
    -Water supply or distribution or both
    -Recreational facilities
    -water treatment
    -Public safety or law enforcement

    County is a division of the State and its administrative authority stems from the state legislature.
    The County has to provide the following services for City and County people:
    -State Court
    -Health Services
    -Probate Court
    -Public Assistance and Family Services
    -Superior Court
    -Emergency/disaster management
    -Magistrate Court
    -Property tax appraisal
    -Juvenile Court
    -Tax appeals/board of equalization
    -Coroner or medical examiner
    -Tax commissioner
    -Superior Court Clerk
    -Elections and registration
    -Vital Records

    The County can provide other optional services. For instance the following:

    -County law library
    -Cooperative Extension Service
    -Cable TV/cable franchising
    -Law enforcement: county police
    -Animal control
    -Law enforcement: dive team
    -Road and street lighting
    -Law enforcement: investigations
    -Law enforcement: drug task forces
    -911 Services
    -Fire protection
    -Public transportation
    -Senior services
    -Planning & zoning
    -Water supply
    -Water quality
    -Building inspections
    -Sewage collection and treatment
    -Economic development
    -Solid waste collection and treatment
    -Public housing
    -Erosion and sedimentation control
    -Ambulance/paramedic services
    -Stormwater management
    -Street & bridge maintenance and construction
    -Public hospitals / support for hospitals
    -Parks & Recreation

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