Dear Decaturish – LaVista Hills needs to listen

Posted by Dan Whisenhunt January 23, 2015
Photo obtained via the Laurel Ridge Neighbors Facebook page.

Photo obtained via the Laurel Ridge Neighbors Facebook page.

We accept letters to the editor. All letters must be signed and are typically 400 to 800 words in length. We reserve the right to edit letters for length and content. To send your letter to the editor, email it to editor@decaturish.com.

Transparency.  Honesty.  Citizen input. Three major promises made by the new cityhood and annexation movements in DeKalb County, and three reasons that my neighborhood – Laurel Ridge Shamrock – has been given for us to support being in the City of LaVista Hills.

Yes, there is valid motivation behind these movements, and unincorporated DeKalb County cannot and should not maintain the status quo.  Yet the current process – filled with dibs over residential, commercial, and school property, unanswered questions, and countless unknown consequences to the majority of those citizens who will have no vote – is anything but transparent, honest, or listening to citizen input.

Take the City of LaVista Hills.  Its website lists no contact information, no information about the people working on the city, no committee information and no minutes of any committees or public input meetings.  Also, no representative of LaVista Hills or either of its predecessors asked Laurel Ridge Shamrock if our neighborhood wanted to be in any of the proposed new cities before including us in all of their maps.

When our elected officials told us our voices would be heard through a neighborhood civic association survey, our newly enacted civic association (“LRSCA”) conducted surveys.  The results expressed our neighborhood’s preference to remain out of any map, LRSCA provided those results to LaVista Hills on Dec. 1, 2014, and on several subsequent occasions LRSCA and individual neighbors requested that we be removed from the map.

Last week, after being bombarded by LRSCA and several neighbors, LaVista Hills co-chair Allen Venet finally admitted that he had not even reviewed the LRSCA survey results; however, if we want out of the map we would need to contact those same elected officials who told us that we need to send our survey results to LaVista Hills to be removed from the map.  At the same time Mr. Venet wanted to “be clear” that the City of LaVista Hills would have absolutely no effect on our schools.

So why don’t we just vote “no” to LaVista Hills?  Ironically, in this instance we do not want a vote because if we lose, we lose big.  Together in Atlanta (“TIA”)’s proposed annexation plan, if realized, would leave our elementary and the other remaining schools in the Druid Hills feeder cluster without a high school.  If we remain out of any map we at least would have options – whether those options come to fruition or not – to stay with our school cluster.

No other neighborhood in the proposed City of LaVista Hills faces this type of quandary, and many may want to be in the new city.  For Laurel Ridge Shamrock, however, if we remain in the map, and if both LaVista Hills and TIA’s plans succeed, we would irreversibly be split from the remainder of our school cluster and high school.  And no one knows how the cost of massive redistricting and loss of so much revenue would affect where our children would subsequently attend high school, or even our property values.

So forgive us, Mr. Venet, for we do not think it is “clear” that being in the City of LaVista Hills will have no effect on our schools – at least not right now.

Thus, we continue to ask, why force us to be drawn into a new city we don’t want to be in?  Why not listen to our surveys, take us out of the map until we know how all of the other cityhood and annexation movements will affect us, and allow us to join later if we so choose?  Is not listening to us what we can expect from this new city?

If this is the type of honesty, transparency, and attention to citizen input that we can look forward to in the new City of LaVista Hills, I’d rather not add another layer of that type of government to the one I already have.

–          Staci Melton

About Dan Whisenhunt

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

View all posts by Dan Whisenhunt

  • Susan In NoMansLand

    Hear! Hear!

    • RAJ

      After a trip to the gym this morning I found only 15 signs in opposition to a vote on city-hood after covering the entire neighborhood of 800 homes!

      • guest

        If you want to talk signs, there are virtually no LaVista Hills Yes! signs!

  • dtsuzyb

    AMEN!! Well said…. LRSCA needs to be heard!

    • RAJ

      LRSCA could well use a portion of the annual 6M surplus, 4.5M Host and 1M County Storm Water Fee that would come with the Proposed City of LaVista Hills, our streets have not been paved in decades and in response to a storm water problem on Wilson Wood Dr I got the reply…..about 21/2 years!

      • justin

        6 million surplus? Were did you get those numbers? NO study has been done on the city of Lavista hills map. Not only that but they won’t even commit to having one done. With all the changes and commercial taken out how do we even know this thing is viable anymore. How can anyone vote on this thing with out knowing the FACTS?

        • RAJ

          Study has been done by CPA for revenue estimates using CVI published methods and current LaVista Hills map….this is not rocket science. I am Mary Kay”s map guy and have been doing these maps since 2008. All data is certified by the DeKalb County GIS Department, appraisal figures are accurate to midnight before the Saturday of the date printed on the map and presentable in a court of law.

          • justin

            Well knowing your Mary Kays map guy and that Mary Kays CPA says its viable is all I needed to hear. Of course we should trust what Mary Kay says. Just like when she said the original Lakeside group was not advocating for a city. Lets pretend though Mary Kay has this information you that map guy says is true. Why is she is not putting that info out there? I would think she would be screaming this and posting it anywhere and everywhere.

          • RAJ

            I don’t speak for LVH, however at a presentation at the Capitol yesterday morning ICEO Lee May presented County figures showing that LVH would generate more in revenue than the cost of the services proposed to be provided by the city, thus even the County is willing to concede viability. Why not post? Because as was pointed out to me yesterday the ONLY thing that will fly is the Gold Seal of a CVI study which LVH will have completed well ahead of a referendum. I can’t print a lot of real good stuff if a post so call me at 404-633-4954 or 404-520-4043.

        • Russell Carleton

          There are the old Lakeside and COBI studies which predicted a 7-digit surplus. The LVH folks pointed out that while land has been lost (some to Brookhaven, some to Tucker) from those maps, there has been other land added that is at least of comparable value. I’d love to see an actual feasibility study on the precise map to be sure, but the maps aren’t very different, and my guess is that a new study will show a similar surplus.

  • Susan In NoMansLand

    Lavista Hills won’t want to let go of Laurel Ridge/Shamrock, because then they would lose their claim to Shamrock Plaza & North DeKalb Mall, which they need in order to be a viable city, now that they have lost a good chunk of Northlake.

    • RAJ

      Not to to worry…..to the uninformed on the outside looking in, LaVista Hills has a projected 6M surplus plus 4.5 M in Host revenue under the CVI revenue model.

  • RAJ

    Please note that that the “Survey” stated that only 155 residents out of a neighborhood of 800 said they wanted to remain unincorporated, this misrepresents the neighborhood in the MOST serious way possible!

    • m2p

      Actually, RAJ, it does not. You can see the results breakdown at http://laurelridgeshamrock.weebly.com/community-survey.html. All 800 homes were sent a survey, and 27% that responded to the survey (71%) said they wanted to remain unincorporated, and 83% said they wanted a moratorium. 64% felt strongly that the school cluster should remain united.

      • RAJ

        Sorry STILL only 155 out of 800 in the neighborhood said they wanted to remain unincorporated. Numbers don’t lie!

        • Russell Carleton

          RAJ, you could say similarly that only 60-something out of 800 were interested in cityhood. That’s how polling works.

          • RAJ

            You made my point Russell; and the same is true for all the other neighborhood surveys, however in this case the civic association and it’s board members are using the survey to try to extract the neighborhood from the LaVista Hills map that has the endorsement of the House Government Affairs Committee. The other Civic Association in the neighborhood(we have two)is only asking for a vote on city-hood, a reasonable request.

          • Teacher Reader

            There are not two civic associations in the Laurel Ridge Shamrock Civic Association Community. The only people saying such are those that are upset that the community did not want to be in the city of Lavista Hills. These same people went to represent the Laurel Ridge Shamrock
            Community to Lakeside saying that the community wanted in on a map, giving no say to the community. There have been no public meetings, vote for officers, or bylaws for a Laurel Ridge Civic Association. Someone with more aliases than a Russian spy did register the name Laurel Ridge Civic Association with the state in December. Is this the kind of representation we can expect from Lavista Hills, as these
            supporters represent them?

          • Justin

            At least someone did a survey asking you if you wanted to be in this thing. (not that Lavista Hills cares) One of the main Lakeside people lives down the street from me and not only did he not survey us on our thoughts on cityhood but never held a meeting or anything. We just got thrown in without anyone asking if we even wanted in. Go read the article the AJC did this weekend on all the problems with these already created new cities and you will learn these new governments are just as bad as Dekalb county. Do we really want two bad governments to pay taxes to or should we put all this energy and effort into fixing the one we already have?

          • RAJ

            Well….Laurel Ridge Civic Association is incorporated just like LRSCA, and I think their survey results are that around 80% want to vote on city-hood a question not ask by LRSCA! Don’t recall LaVista Hills being involved but a yes or no vote seems OK to me.

          • m2ap

            Actually, this “Laurel Ridge Civic Association” was incorporated in December, after a few neighbors in the minority decided they didn’t like LRSCA’s survey results. There are no articles of incorporation, bylaws, or any other transparency, membership, or otherwise that would make it a legitimate civic association. Moreover, the “survey” conducted by this fake civic association went to only a handful of homes with one subjective question, versus LRSCA’s survey that went to all 800 homes with several objective questions. Yet you question the validity of LRSCA’s survey. As this article indicates, a vote in this situation where the neighborhood will lose its high school should be a concern for all neighbors and their property values if the City of LaVista Hills goes through with LRS in its map.

          • RAJ

            Sorry….wrong again! Members of the families of Laurel Ridge Civic Association(without charter,incorporation or bylaws) have been taking care of the entrances to the neighborhood for decades. 300 surveys were passed out is my understanding. I think both surveys ask important questions from which we can draw limited conclusions based upon the small sample returned. I think you ignore the fact that if LRSCA stays unincorporated AND Atlanta annexes Druid Hills High You STILL lose, so why not stay in the LaVista Hills map and look for a better school option at a later date. Dawn has a “split the baby” map that I passed out to key legislators in the DeKalb and Atlanta Delegation while at the Capitol today. It’s not out for distribution yet but it could solve our problems!!

          • YouGoneLearn2Day

            Wow RAJ aren’t you the know it all. You know what’s best for everyone, or so you think.
            This is what you can be sure of: the decision makers seem to want to break the rules/laws for you guys. That is a can of worms that they would be wise not to open because we all will expect for them to do the same for us.

            You and your family, kids, neighbors, friends aren’t any more special than anyone else. Most people want the best for theirs just as you do.

            To those that feel (KNOW) bs when you smell it, put on your boots. It’s gonna get thick. But here’s how you handle that: Don’t give them your money. Shop outside of their boundaries, they understand money. We don’t want you and your kids but please continue to spend your money and support our city. Really. You all conducted studies (I guess) using figures that included monies generated from people you now seek to exclude. What happens when the revenue suddenly takes a drastic hit? See Brookhaven, Sandy Springs, etc…lol

            That’s what you need to add to your neighborhood assoc meetings. They want the revenue, don’t help them out. As a matter of fact we should immediately stop shopping in their area, show them your spending power and what it will do to them when you withhold it; they’ll understand that.

          • RAJ

            I’m 74 years old ,living on Social Security beside the RR tracks, and know nothing!

          • Cheryl

            Whoa, YouGoneLearn, do you really believe that? How’d that Black Friday boycott work out? Not so well, did it? Boycotts are BS. You shop where you can get what you want at the price you want to pay and the distance you’re willing to go. Plain and simple.

          • Susan In NoMansLand

            Because the “split the baby” worked so well for Tucker & Lakeside during the last legislative session. How about those of us who want to keep the baby WHOLE? I’m pretty sure the point of the “split the baby” metaphor is that it is a BAD IDEA.

            The fact remains that the LVH southern map borders were a combination of the COBI & Lakeside maps, but not all of the COBI folks were on board with Lakeside, and many of those former COBI folks want no part of LVH. But LVH has refused to discuss the southern map borders with the people who have asked to be left out. If LVH is so sure that incorporation is best for LRSCA, then why won’t they sit down with the LRSCA folks to try to convince them why they should be included in the map?

            Too, the bulk of LVH is zoned for Lakeside High, so they don’t understand how big of an issue keeping DeKalb WHOLE is to those of us in the Druid Hills High School attendance zone. Meanwhile, 8th grade parents all over the county are trying to get their kids signed up for STT at Fernbank Science Center next year, and many don’t even realize that Fernbank may well be gone. Big picture, people!

            The Greater Valley Brook Civic Association is meeting next week. Regardless of what annexations or new cities go through, we, like Medlock Park, will remain unincorporated because none of the cities/proposed cities wanted to include us on their map. Join us! Help us figure out how to keep our high school!

          • RAJ

            1/2 Baby is better than no baby. Just stay in the LVH map and work for a better day. LVH can’t take the blame for or solve all of our school problems.

          • Marjorie Snook

            I think you miss the entire point of the splitting the baby metaphor. A half a baby is NOT better than no baby, since the half baby is dead.

            Solomon comes up with the splitting the baby compromise to discern which woman truly loves the baby. When he says both women can have half, one woman is satisfied, thinking that half the baby is better than none, but the other woman would rather NOT have the baby than have it killed.

            Solomon sees that the woman who would rather give up the baby than see it harmed is the true mother.

            In this case, it seems like Lavista Hills is willing to do serious damage to neighborhoods and communities in order to get their way. So….are they the ones that really care about our community?

          • RAJ

            I guess my point is now that we know that the map will NOT change(see below) this is a MOOT question. We do get to vote if the bill passes. The question now is will a bill pass and which one for North Central DeKalb. Stay tuned. Also see CAN Yahoo.

          • DHH

            Just to clarify, there is no real baby here right?

          • Marjorie Snook

            No. In case anyone is confused: I am not in fact accusing LaVista Hills of killing babies.

          • DHH

            That’s good. In that case I am inclined to rule for summary judgement for Laurel Ridge. As they clearly do not want to slice even metaphorical babies and as they do not wish to join Hasta La Vista, then they may opt out at this time. Next!

          • RAJ

            So now lets talk about bread(as in loaves)I guess. I used to have an Economics professor who, when we ran into a difficult problem in Grad school(Circa 1964)would say….half a loaf is better than no bread. LRSCA with only 155 people in a neighborhood of 800 saying they want out of the map have not bothered to look at the 1/2 loaf. The LVH map is set in STONE and is the only LVH map to be voted on this year. If another map should appear that could be the 1/2 loaf!

          • Russell Carleton

            Your comment rests on the assumption that everyone who didn’t turn in a survey form wants cityhood. You can perhaps see the logical flaw in there.

            There are two questions at play and I believe you are willfully confusing them. One is whether LRS wants to be on the LVH map in the first place. The best evidence that we have right now is that the majority say no. (If you have other evidence, please present it.) This is a reasonable request as well. LRS could be drawn off the map, and if this whole exercise really is about having a voice how one is governed, it seems hypocritical to complain about how Dekalb County government doesn’t listen and to turn around and ignore the wishes of a neighborhood.

            If that means going back to the House GAC, then fine. This is the first test of the leadership of LVH. If you want to show that you are more adept at listening to the voices of the people you seek to govern than is Dekalb County, then here’s your chance. If not, you are simply the same thing that you preach against in Dekalb County, it’s just that you live closer.

            The second question is whether the entire area, once mapped out, wants to incorporate. It seems that the second civic organization is pushing for a vote on this question before the first one is settled.

    • DataDriven

      The survey had a response rate of 27%. In local elections, a voter turnout of 30% or less is typical. Decisions are made by those who show up. Election results would not be considered a “misrepresentation” if only 27% of voters turned out.

      • RAJ

        We don’t know if the SAME 27% that responded to the recent poll would be the SAME 27% that shows up for a vote on city-hood in November of this year. Things can and will change between now and then!

        • Russell Carleton

          It’s a pretty good guess that it would be.

          RAJ, you are starting from the assumption that LRS ought to be in the LVH map and then dismissing any evidence to the contrary. What limited evidence that there is (and it isn’t perfect evidence, but it’s what’s available) says that they don’t want to be in. Given the options that seem to be there, I disagree with that choice, but that’s data for you. If you have solid evidence to the contrary, feel free to present it!

          • RAJ

            Once again I do not represent LVH,just have been drawing these city-hood maps since 2008 and have talked to many of the people in the area over the last seven years. This is an easy one, first I did not draw this particular map,next, the map was defined and published by the HGAC no “ought to be in the map or dismissing any evidence”…it should be clear that in city-hood map drawing that many factors come into play, much to complex to discuss much less understand in a simple post. The map may have some changes but for now we can assume this the map we will be voting on in November.

          • Russell Carleton

            Does no one in LVH own an eraser? Approach the HGAC, mention the survey, do a quick re-draw, and send that map out to the electorate. I appreciate that it’s a little more complex than that but certainly not impossible. The point of democracy isn’t that the government only listens to the people’s wishes when it is convenient for them.

          • RAJ

            Sorry Russell, about the time you get toilet trained you may understand a little more about democracy! Just got back from the Capitol and, no eraser, the map will NOT be changed. This comes from the powers that be…NO eraser!

          • Russell Carleton

            I understand quite well that democracy isn’t that ideal. Your response smacks of “Whether or not Laurel Ridge wants this, it’s not changing because… well, we can’t be bothered to change it.” That is, sadly, often what substitutes for “responsive government.”

            Your response tells me something important about the people who make up LaVista Hills leadership. They have a chance here to show that their talk about a more responsive, more local government — one that puts the needs of citizens above the wants of politicians — is more than just political flattery. Their actions will tell whether they truly believe that. I am certainly watching to see what they do next.

          • RAJ

            Sorry Russell,please keep in mind that I’m NOT part of the

            Sorry Russell, and I’m NOT part of the LVH leadership, just the map guy, and it was HGAC that slammed the map on the table and said NO changes….not sure if LVH likes this either. It’s not just about Laurel Ridge, lots of other neighborhoods are in the same position, and everyone understands. I have a ton more news that I can’t put on a post but anyone can call me any time, an offer that never seems to get accepted much to their disadvantage. Old internet adage….never put in an e-mail what you wouldn’t want to see on a billboard!!

          • Russell Carleton

            If LVH can honestly say that they tried and the HGAC was the one that wasn’t listening, then in fairness, the HGAC should bear the blame for that. Has LVH tried?

  • RAJ

    Staci…I am a founding member ,$100 donor, and supporter of LRSCA but I am also a member of the other incorporated civic association in our neighborhood, neither represents the majority of the 800 residents. Unknown to me Dawn Forman set up LRSCA as an anti-cityhood, anti-charter school civic association with a few of her friends. I have a personal opinion about city-hood like most but I don’t think a civic association should take a position on issues based on a very small sample of a large diverse neighborhood. I think you can see it has proven to be unwise! I have been involved in the city-hood movement in North Central DeKalb since it’s inception in Aug of 2008. I don’t claim to be an expert, and I am certainly not a writer or pundit, but guess I SHOULD post more often. If you need answers to the questions posed above please call me at 404-633-4954 or 404-520-4043 as I am a member of LaVista Hills but cannot speak for the organization.

    • Teacher Reader

      Laurel Ridge Shamrock Civic Association (LRSCA) has been transparent with everything that they have done. LRSCA was not organized for anything other than keeping the community informed and having a voice in civic areas that effect the community. LRSCA has not pushed any point of view. It has worked to get the community educated on all aspects of the cityhood issue, conducted surveys that were completed with transparency and the highest ethics and has worked to make sure that the survey results are known by legislators and elected officials making decisions on the cityhood and annexation issues. Presenting the survey results is not taking a stand, it’s making sure that the community’s voice is heard. LRSCA would have done the same if the results were for cityhood or Atlanta Annexation. Sadly, what those for cityhood have accused LRSCA of doing, is exactly what they have done to our community without the community’s knowledge or consent. Everything LRSCA has done is on their web site. Nothing is hidden.

      • threeperros

        I have been to many meetings now and the atmosphere is not pro-city and last night’s was a great example. it covered three neighborhoods where COBI was born and also had many original Lakeside people. I would have expected more LVH support and it was almost non-existent.

        • RAJ

          I was at the CAN meeting and in spite of a disclaimer at the beginning of the meeting that I did not represent LVH(only the map coordinator with DeKalb GIS)I was buried under criticism for lack of transparency on the part of LVH…..I think everyone is just confused at this point.

  • Russell Carleton

    Fascinating… am I correct that to get LRS off the map (and anyone else who wants off the roller coaster), LVH would basically have to pull the bill from consideration and try again next year?

    • RAJ

      WE are on this one for the ride…….that’s why I had to clean my shorts out on the way out of the Capitol yesterday afternoon!

      • Russell Carleton

        As to the bigger question, if there was a neighborhood (any neighborhood) that wanted off the ride, am I correct that it would basically take LVH pulling the bill for that to happen?

        • RAJ

          DB and I checked with BB about two hours ago and NO neighborhood is off this ride! Legislative staff are deleting all e-mails forthwith and LVH is only required to produce Lakeside Study, Briarcliff Study, two independently compiled CPA clone CVI studies, and GT “Critical Impact Model” study. My graduate level transcript with 3.5 GPA with a major in Strategic Economic Analysis from a well known and highly regarded Florida University should carry the day! A full CVI study will follow.

          • Russell Carleton

            CVI before or after the vote?

          • RAJ

            As a FORMER mapping coordinator for LVH(More later)I can now speak somewhat more freely. What vote? At the CAN meeting Wed night SH said that the CVI would be ready in about four months, well before the Nov election. CVI viability is not in question for us insiders as I so deftly pointed out at Wed night’s CAN meeting, but I do now understand that the CVI is the coin of the realm of city-hood for the general public(poor fools)…..considering that 2/3 of the adults(?) in our area have Masters or PhD’s or multiples thereof I think this is an accurate reflection of the condition of the DeKalb School System. The general public(bless them)should know that the CVI study is only good on day one of city-hood, a poor document on which to make such an important vote as city-hood in Nov. DB, a brilliant city planner, and I(less brilliant) are thinking about expanding the GT “Critical Impact Model” to include a five year projection of LVH performance. More later…..anybody read this stuff!!

          • Russell Carleton

            At this point, I assume that the CVI study will come back with a surplus. LVH pointed out that the old Lakeside map and the new LVH one aren’t massively different and the net changes in property are generally positive in dollar value. I’m a clinical statistician by trade, not an economist, but I can add. I see it more as a matter of good governance that they would cover their bases properly. I’m happy to hear it will be before anyone votes. +1 for the “yes” column.

            I’d be interested to see 5 year projections as well. If the methodology is good and the projections are rosy then that’s more good evidence.

          • RAJ

            YES!…Good stuff from you Russ. CVI should come back with that $6M surplus,which I guess, everyone understands a portion would go to reserves and the rest to roads, parks, infrastructure and social programs. $4.5M in Host is also available for infrastructure(you would not believe what this includes) improvements and $1 Storm water funds…..very important when we start moving dirt to reconstruct some of the junk built around here during the ’70’s. Bad news(I guess) I was fired from my LVH Map Coordinator position this morning by May Kay so I am back on Social Security, down to 10 cases of ’09, ’10 Bordeaux wine in the Cellar and need new pushrod tube seals for my Porsche….oh well(:

          • Teacher Reader

            You are assuming that the legislators don’t change the maps and remove
            the areas that have surveyed and don’t want to be included. What
            happens to viability of Lavista Hills withou those areas and the
            commercial property around them? What happens to Lavista Hills if North
            Lake Mall goes away?

          • RAJ

            TR…Read above, TT and BB say the LVH map WILL NOT be changed….bill has to get out of the HGAC and don’t think anyone on the floor will want to go up against Amy and Darlene from South Georgia ……..I am the most cordial Southern Gentleman around those two ladies!

          • RAJ

            I can’t believe i’m replying to my own reply but I got up at 3AM worked 1/2 day got a hair cut, ate breakfast at Golden Corral and it’s almost time for my morning nap. But first… big picture….the district map(s) will be out soon(mine and others) for LVH…5-6 districts…mine will have NPU type political divisions for candidate selection and fine tuning district borders. Some potential Council District candidates and mayor candidates have already been identified. Candidates are nonpartisan. We have a “Candidate Campus” with three meeting rooms and all necessary equipment. Keep in mind that I do not represent LVH. More later.

Receive the Daily Email DIgest

* = required field