19 December 2014

Fulton County Objects to Citizen-Led Annexation Efforts in Chattahoochee Hills

(Fulton County Commissioners objected to the proposed annexation of approximately 4,920 acres [shown above] into the City of Chattahoochee Hills.)

Under Georgia law, there are three ways for citizens and private land owners to annex into an existing city -- the 100% method, the 60% method, and the resolution and referendum method.

All three methods require the people's consent in order for the annexation to move forward.

Within the last sixty days, the people made it abundantly clear they want their land in the City of Chattahoochee Hills.
"I know Chattahoochee Hills. You don't have a proper fire department. We're talking one fire station, and we're talking about two police cars."

-Fulton County Commissioner Bill Edwards
The people's first petition to join Chattahoochee Hills was filed, 30 September 2014. 9,400 acres of land were at stake under this petition. State law required 60% of landowners and 60% of registered voters to sign a petition requesting annexation by the city. Chattahoochee Hills City Planner Mike Morton, who processed the people's annexation petition, said 60% of the landowners had signed the document. But 60% of the registered voters did not. The petition was eighty voters short of 60%.

While disappointing to the citizens who organized the annexation petition drive, the news that they were eighty voters short did not deter those wanting to join the City of Chattahoochee Hills.

17 December 2014

With Few Exceptions, Number of High School Dropouts Decrease in Fulton County

A review of data compiled by the Governor's Office of Student Achievement (GOSA) contains some very good news for Fulton County high schools.

The number of students dropping out decreased between 2010 and 2013.

In 2010, 1,629 high school students quit. By 2013, that number fell to 1,163.

Most Fulton County high schools saw a decrease in their dropouts. However, Banneker High School in unincorporated south Fulton County nearly doubled their number of dropouts between 2012 and 2013.

The table below details the dropout numbers for each Fulton County high school between 2010 and 2013:

Number of
Drop Outs
(2010 - 2011)

Number of
Drop Outs
(2011 - 2012)

Number of
Drop Outs
(2012 - 2013)
Alpharetta 312925
Banneker 139100189
Cambridge N/AN/A10
Centennial 799459
Chattahoochee 202222
Creekside 1219858
Johns Creek1711Too Few
Langston Hughes1436855
Milton 161521
North Springs 1387761
Northview10Too Few
Too Few
Riverwood 624848
Roswell 664244
Tri-Cities 1068597

15 December 2014

Designer Tommy Hilfiger to be Honored in Atlanta for Supporting the African-American Experience

The Trumpet Awards, created in 1993 to celebrate and honor African-American achievers and those who support the African-American experience, announced its list of 2015 honorees Monday morning.

Among those selected to receive a Trumpet Award is fashion designer Tommy Hilfiger.

The Awards honor accomplishments in diverse fields including law, medicine, business, politics, the Arts, civil rights, sports, entrepreneurship, entertainment and other careers.

Those selected to be honored include:
  • Lou Brock – Baseball Legend
  • Arnold W. Donald – President and CEO of Carnival Corporation & PLC
  • Jamie Foxx – Academy Award-winning Actor, Musical Artist and Comedian
  • Guy Vickers – President, PVH Foundation & Senior Vice President, Global Community Relations
  • The Isley Brothers – Recording Artists and Songwriters
  • Janelle Monáe – Singer, Songwriter, Producer and Model
  • Dr. Valerie Montgomery Rice – President and Dean, Morehouse School of Medicine
  • Franklyn R. Wilson – Chairman, Sunshine Holdings, Ltd., Bahamas
The 23rd Annual Trumpet Awards black-tie ceremony will be hosted by Laila Ali, four-time Boxing World Champion, award-winning TV host, fitness & wellness expert, beauty brand ambassador, and author; and Dolvett Quince, known for his successes now into the fifth season of NBC’s “The Biggest Loser.” in addition, he is a celebrity trainer, has made many guest TV appearances, and is a best-selling author.

The Trumpet Awards show will be held at the Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre in Atlanta on Saturday, 24 January 2015, with the Red Carpet at 2:00PM and the Awards Show taping at 4:00PM.

The Television Show will air on Saturday, February 21st on TV One.

Major Legislative Change Makes Firing Bad Employees Hard in the Proposed City of South Fulton

In his 1996 State of the State address, Governor Zell Miller (D - Georgia) stood before state lawmakers and declared, "The problem is governmental paralysis, because despite its name, our present Merit System is not about merit. It offers no reward to good workers. It only provides cover for bad workers.”

Governor Miller was addressing the state law that, at the time, made it hard for Georgia government agencies to fire bad employees.

Prior to 1 July 1996, state employees, even the grossly incompetent ones, could appeal their termination to various state boards and panels; thus remaining on the job, collecting paychecks while the process slogged slowly forward.

Senate Bill 635, passed in 1996, ushered in the much needed reform proposed by Governor Miller in his State of the State.

Supported by a bipartisan coalition of legislators --including former Governors Roy Barnes (D) and Sonny Perdue (R), former Lt. Governor Mark Taylor (D), and current Lt. Governor Casey Cagle (R)-- Senate Bill 635 made it the explicit policy of the State of Georgia to "establish . . . a system of personnel administration which will attract, select, and retain the best employees based on merit, free from coercive political influences, with incentives in the form of equal opportunities for all; which will provide technically competent and loyal personnel to render impartial service to the public at all times and to render such service according to the dictates of ethics and morality; and which will eliminate unnecessary and inefficient employees."

This state policy was adopted by local governments, new and old.

The new cities of Brookhaven, Chattahoochee Hills, Dunwoody, and Sandy Springs had the state's policy codified in their charters when those municipalities were created. Both the Fulton County Board of Education and Fulton County Government as a whole enacted laws making it easier to get rid of unnecessary or inefficient employees.

When the city of South Fulton was first proposed, it featured an employment policy that mirrored the state's.

Except as otherwise provided in this Act, all employees of the city shall be subject to removal or discharge, with or without cause, at any time.

That is the exact language contained in the very first city of South Fulton bill, passed by the Georgia General Assembly, and signed into law by Governor Sonny Perdue in 2006.

This language was also included in the 2014 House Bill 704, which passed the state House but stalled out in the state Senate.

But now, the latest version of the city of South Fulton legislation --House Bill 27-- omits the language.

"Except as otherwise provided in this Act, all employees of the city shall be subject to removal or discharge, with or without cause, at any time," is no longer in the city of South Fulton bill.

The effect of the change means that the proposed municipality will go back to the days that Gov. Miller lamented; the days where good workers are offered no reward for a job well done, and bad workers are provided cover to stay on the job even though they are regularly proven to be inefficient or incompetent.

14 December 2014

Theaters Across Georgia Hosting "The Hobbit" Movie Marathon, 15 December 2014

It's a journey that started thirteen years ago with the release of The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring.

Now, the story of Bilbo Baggins, Gandalf, and Middle Earth comes to an epic conclusion with The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies.

The final film in The Hobbit saga is scheduled for release 16 December, but those uber-fans can see Battle of the Five Armies twenty-four hours early on 15 December.

Warner Bros. Pictures, in conjunction with New Line Cinema and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures (MGM), is treating über-fans to a movie marathon.

On Marathon Monday, 15 December, moviegoers in select theaters across Georgia can experience Middle Earth one last time, beginning with “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey,” followed by “The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug,” and concluding with “The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies.”

Tickets are now on sale for The Hobbit movie marathon, that starts at 1PM with The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey.

For more details or to see if a theater near you is hosting The Hobbit movie marathon, click here.

12 December 2014

Fraud at Wolf Creek Amphitheater Costing Ticket Alternative Its Contract with Fulton County

The Wolf Creek Amphitheater, located in unincorporated south Fulton County, welcomed some of the biggest names in music . . .

. . . From yesteryear.

Throughout the 2014 concert season, artists such as Monica, 112, Jagged Edge, M.C. Hammer, and Morris Day graced the Wolf Creek stage. Now these performers aren't Lana Del Rey, Maroon 5, or Paramore, but they still command an audience. Some fans of M.C. Hammer and Morris Day were so eager to see the old school pair live, they made fradulent purchases for tickets to their shows.

(Fraudulent ticket sales at the Wolf Creek Amphitheater [shown above] has Entertainment Manager Sandy L. Ward asking Fulton County to terminate its contract with ticketing firm Ticket Alternative. Image Courtesy CatMax Photography.)
A document authored by Wolf Creek Entertainment Manager Sandy L. Ward says, "an unanticipated, overwhelming number of chargebacks to Fulton County and Wolf Creek Amphitheater for fraudulent ticket purchases" took place in 2014.

Chargebacks occur after the credit or debit card holder successfully disputes a charge with their bank or credit card company, and receives a refund as a result.

Due to the fraudulent purchases and ensuing chargebacks, Ward is asking officials to terminate the contract Fulton County has with ticketing company Ticket Alternative.

Ticket Alternative is a box office and ticket sales manager based in Atlanta.

The company was selected to be the Wolf Creek ticket and box office manager by Fulton County in 2013. The contract between the county and Ticket Alternative was supposed to last three years, with an option for an additional fourth year.

"Fulton County Government selected Ticket Alternative as its official ticketing company because of their extraordinary customer service approach, diverse social media outreach programs, and their ability to be versatile in meeting the county's needs as a Government entity," Sandy L. Ward said in 2013. "Fulton County looks forward to a long and exciting working relationship with Ticket Alternative."

If Fulton County Commissioners vote to terminate the contract, 17 December, Wolf Creek's working relationship with Ticket Alternative will end immediately.

Chattahoochee Hills Schedules Public Hearing, 16 December, on Annexing 4,990 Acres of Land

Land owners desiring to be annexed into the City of Chattahoochee Hills made it clear, in October, that they would not be deterred in their bid to join the south Fulton County municipality.

After being informed by the Chattahoochee Hills Planning Commission that the petition to bring approximately 9,400 acres into the city was about eighty signatures short of meeting the state mandate, residents supporting annexing into Chattahoochee Hills peppered City Attorney Rick Lindsey, City Planner Mike Morton, and Mayor Tom Reed with questions on how the process continues [Walker (31 October 2014). Citizen-led Effort to Annex into Chattahoochee Hills Falls 80 Votes Short of State Mandate. Georgia Unfiltered. Retrieved on 12 December 2014.].

Planning Commission Chairman Alan Merrill said then he expected the annexation petition to be re-submitted to the city again in the future.

Well, the future is now.

A group of citizens have once again submitted petitions seeking to have 4,990 total acres of land brought into the corporate limits of Chattahoochee Hills, Georgia.

Two separate annexation petitions were filed; the owner of 70 acres used the 100% method, while the owners of the remaining 4,920 acres chose the 60% method.

Under Georgia law, there are three ways for citizens to join an existing city -- the 100% method, the 60% method, and the resolution and referendum method.

The 60% method requires 60% of landowners and 60% of registered voters to sign a petition requesting annexation by the city. The 100% method is just like it sounds. One land owner can petition a city to annex their property simply by sending a letter saying, "I want to be in your municipality."

16 December, the Chattahoochee Hills Planning Commission will hold a public hearing on annexing the 4,990 acres in question.

If the annexation is approved by the Planning Commission, the Chattahoochee Hills City Council will consider the petitions at its 18 December meeting.

New City of South Fulton Bill Sets Referendum for 17 March 2015

Déjà vu.

Literally translated, Déjà vu means "already seen."

In 2007, unincorporated south Fulton County debated becoming the city of South Fulton. The debate started anew in 2014. And the debate officially began again, 11 December 2014, with the pre-filing of House Bill 27 --the city of South Fulton bill-- by state Representative Roger Bruce.

House Bill 27 contains similar language to House Bill 704, which also proposed creating a city in unincorporated south Fulton County. House Bill 704 passed the Georgia House of Representatives, but died in the Georgia Senate on the last day of the 2014 legislative session.

House Bill 27 is not identical to House Bill 704, however. There are some significant changes, including:

  • Increasing the mayor's salary from $65,000 to $70,000;
  • Moving the date of the south Fulton cityhood referendum from the November General Election to the third Tuesday in March, 2015 (17 March 2015);
  • Starting the two-year transition from county services to city services before the mayor and city council are elected, instead of after the proposed city's officials take office;
  • and
  • Beginning the collection of city taxes after the mayor and city council are elected, instead of before the proposed city's officials take office.

The 17 March 2015 city of South Fulton referendum date set in House Bill 27 means the legislation must pass both houses and receive Governor Deal's signature no later than 17 February 2015; thirty days before the election.

In 2014, the South Fulton city bill was introduced on 24 January 2014. It did not pass the House until 20 February 2014.

DJ Carnage Opens School in Nicaragua, Urges Fans to Make a Difference & Give Back

In the United States, electronic dance music (or EDM as it is more popularly known) gets a bad rap.

Most folks believe EDM is a scene populated with scantily clad women, drugs, and over-paid DJs who are just pressing play on their iPods. Any veteran of the EDM scene will tell you differently.

People like Corrine the White Queen and countless others will say EDM, at its most basic form, is about uniting around music. Families have started and romances re-kindled all over some silly little melody with good beats and a catchy tune.

That is the truth about electronic dance music, and it's a story needing to be told.

Diamante Blackmon, better known as Carnage, is one of EDM's biggest DJs.

He's performed at some of the largest festivals in the world, like Tomorrowwland, Tomorrowworld, and Electronic Daisy Carnival Las Vegas.

And yes, Carnage has made a lot of money as a DJ. But his story, the story of a poor boy from Central America who came to the United States at age seven and changed his stars, does not end there.

On 11 December 2014, Carnage announced the completion of a Children’s Learning Center back in his native country -- Nicaragua.