Johns Creek City Council Approves CVB Request for Gateway Markers

Visitors to Johns Creek are apparently unable to recognize that this sign denotes where Johns Creek starts.

Apparently the majority on the City Council has forgotten that the Convention Visitor’s Bureau is NOT a charitable organization and their funds are dollars fleeced collected in taxes on individuals who generally have no say in the matter if they need a hotel room(none of us really have a say in the matter do we?)

City Council Treats CVB Dollars as Gift

Instead we see Council Members fawning over the “hard work” of the CVB to spend the tax dollars as if they have either earned the money themselves or that they have raised it in donations.

Adding insults to injuries were many comments made to justify shifting funds away from one project and to the Gateway Markers. Wasn’t Johns Creek supposed to “be the EXCEPTION? Instead we are working overtime to do what everyone else is doing. We are establishing and operating every aspect of government all the other cities around us have implemented. Rather than challenge ourselves and ask “Is this really necessary any longer” we continue to keep collecting the tax dollars and doling them out on projects and causes that any rational person would not claim is fundamentally boosting tourism.

Working overtime is not an understatement as this issue has been addressed for many valuable hours. Think about that. What might all the costs be so far between staff hours, emails, work session meetings, council meetings and behind the scene conversations? If time is money, we should consider how much time is allocated for these issues. Better yet we should eliminate this from being an issue in the first place. Eliminate the Hotel/Motel tax.

Johns Creek had revenues of 88.6 million dollars in 2018(source:CAFR Johns Creek).

The dollars the CVB has to spend is less than 1/3 of 1% of the annual revenues for Johns Creek and yet it has consumed so much time of the seven council members for the last 6 months.

What’s Wrong With Giving Tax Dollars to a Volunteer Group to Spend as they See Fit?

Everything of course. Taxes take money by force. As a taxpayer you have no choice. Want a hotel room in Johns Creek? You’ll pay the tax.

Ironically, we all know that tax dollars are wasted at the local, state and federal levels. Yet no one with the power to actually do something about that waste does so when they have the chance. We do now. Eliminate the Hotel/Motel tax.

I’ll be blunt. Having an “expert” decide what we are missing is Gateway Markers is a farce. It’s always puzzled me why in a City with the highly educated residents we have, we seek opinions and hire people outside of Johns Creek. Why not spend the money we collect locally and boost our own economy?

We have a manufactured “problem” that government must now fix. And rest assured, the consultant was going to find something. Somehow more than 80,000 of us live in Johns Creek and yet the issue is that some people do not know where the City Lines are located. And that is what ails us?

Who knows where Brookhaven ends and Buckhead starts at every entrance? Vinings and Smyrna? Suwanee and Duluth? Does that really drive your dining decisions? Your business decisions? Your choice of doctor?

These are “political” boundaries. They are not OUR boundaries. You cannot force people to self-identify because of your arbitrary legal boundaries.

Have you considered that during the Comprehensive Land Use Plan process, we constantly heard about the different Character Areas. Residents do not know where one ends and one begins. Yet somehow we know who we are.

Or do we? Are we mere sheep waiting for the City Government to tell us who we are and what we represent? Are you? Not me.

I’m reminded of all the drug commercials on TV. I did not even know I had a problem until I saw the commercial. Now I need to call the doctor to find out how to resolve my newfound issue. Yet before that commercial, I was perfectly content.

That’s how it works when you give “experts” lots of money to come in and tell you what you are missing. If you don’t already know, then you must not be missing it.

While the CVB has been asleep at the cash box, businesses in South Forsyth are calling themselves Johns Creek. There’s even a body shop three miles into Forsyth County calling itself a Johns Creek business(perhaps a Gateway Marker there is a good idea?)

“It’s a compliment”, Council Member Bradberry said when asked about it. And he is right.

Bradberry asked about return on investment for the three items that “CVB” wants to spend money(our tax dollars) on. They were:

  • The Wall That Heals
  • The River Corridor Greenway
  • Gateway Markers

While Bradberry did not get any answer that one could use, other Council Members saw the benefit. There was no return on investment cited other than it was something we were missing and needed.

Bradberry said “It would be great if people knew they were in Johns Creek because the streets were cleaner, the medians were beautiful and the traffic lights and intersections were such that traffic was better, and that is how you knew you were in Johns Creek- that we did it better than our neighboring cities”.

Bradberry is correct. That is leadership by example. Not leadership by Gateway Markers.

Bradberry’s desires are basic government functions. Nothing is stopping this Council from doing this today. Not money. Not time. Even Mayor Bodker seemed to acknowledge we were not doing as good as we once did.

Council Member Zaprowski believes it would be nice to have a Gateway Marker to help people find his business when giving directions. Seriously? Your patients do not use Waze for navigation? Google Maps? After all, Johns Creek is a Partner City. And we do have signs announcing Johns Creek is a partner with Waze at all of our entrances.

Zaprowski gets the award for the strangest logic of the evening. He was against Gateway Markers but voting for it and for the Greenway but was voting against it.

This City Council really needs to grow up. Wasting hours and hours on this is beyond ridiculous. For example, after six months of fiscal year 2019 we have $1,000,000 more in revenues and $1,000,000 less in expenses. That’s $2,000,000 that only one Council Member asked about. Council Member Endres asked several questions while the City Manager gave brief and less than helpful generic responses. This is the same Council that could not see fit to cut property taxes despite the overwhelming evidence presented by Council Member Endres that we were actually increasing taxes.

The same City Council that will spend dozens of hours debating BS “feel-good gotta do something” projects seem to be blind to the multi-million dollar issues.

It needs to quit treating tax dollars as charitable contributions and the CVB as a benefactor. It needs to address the real issues.

Of course that is really hard work. And it is certainly more mundane. The truth is that they will spend less time debating the millage rate this summer than they have spent on Gateway Markers.

This Council would rather dream and fantasize on pie in the sky concepts rather than follow through with the major issues that are most important to the majority of residents within Johns Creek. At the last meeting they bumped the Police Chief and Public Safety for Gateway Markers. Think about that!

“Be the Exception”-how long before we get rid of that slogan and adopt a new one:

Same as Everyone Else

A government cannot define us. An artist will not define us. Gateway Markers will not define us. We do not need outsiders to come in and tell us who we are.

Government can identify us but it will never define us. The moment we let government define us is the moment we have lost who we are. We should be defining government instead.

The sooner the majority on this Council gets that concept, the better off we will all be.

And if you are waiting for the proposal from the CVB so that you can see what we are, then you are part of the problem.

This problem is NOT going away, unfortunately. Next year will have even more dollars to allocate. And as long as they get tax dollars, we will face this issue.

End the Hotel/Motel tax. It’s a minute amount of our budget. And it’s a waste of time and resources to continue to debate these issues.

If they are worth doing, then do them out of the General Budget, and be accountable.

Do that and we can be exceptional.

The very last thing we should want to see in the fall are Gateway Markers this City Council is compelled to approve because they are now to far down the road to say no.

You should have said no in the first place.

Gateway Markers, The CVB, Volunteers and Tax Payers: What a Waste of Money

Everything that is wrong with Government can be seen in this Process

One has to look no further than the debate on Gateway Markers and the desire of some Council Members to give the “volunteers” what they want when it comes to spending taxpayer monies to understand what is wrong with government.

“They gave it great consideration and they came back with the same recommendation and added further data to it, so to me it’s supporting the people we ask to work on a volunteer basis for the city.” -Council Member Steve Broadbent

What about the actual taxpayers Council Member Broadbent? The ones that are forced to work for government? Have you considered what it takes to actually earn the monies you are suggesting being spent on “Gateway Markers”?

A total of $508,900 was collected in fiscal year 2018 by the Hotel/Motel tax. Council Members forget that this money had to be earned before it could be collected and then spent by volunteers on frivolous endeavors through the Convention Visitors Bureau(CVB).

IT IS NOT FREE MONEY

At 7% that represents revenues of 7.27 million dollars in hotel/motel sales to collect.

If you divide the $508,900 by an average hourly wage of $25 per hour, that equals 20,356 hours of labor. This is not volunteer labor, but effectively forced labor to support these endeavors such as painted pedestrian tunnels(A cultural attraction according to the CVB), gateway markers and kiosks in hotels that effectively do the same thing as Yelp and Google(only worse-you cannot carry it with you).

While the entire amount proposed to be spent on Gateway Markers is much less, the issue is the same.

Assume we spent $50,000 on Gateway Markers, that would represent 2,000 hours of labor at a minimum. Let’s weigh that against the time of “volunteers” in making these decisions.

Certainly the bar should be much higher on how this money should be spent other than “volunteers worked hard.” Certainly the money should be spent in a way that shows a real return on the investment by the taxpayers that paid it, even more so than the volunteers that offered to spend it?

If Council Member Broadbent and others feel that being a volunteer qualifies you to spend taxpayer money(and this is what we are talking about), then I would like to volunteer to decide how to spend some of the budget surpluses generated by this City each and every year.

And I would bring you a list of proposals AND return on investments that are specific and quantifiable, not pie in the sky “we should do it because some marketing people said so”.

What should concern you the tax payer is that if they are this frivolous with tax payer dollars on this issue what keeps them from being frivolous with spending on other issues?

The answer is they spend frivolously very often, rarely demanding a real return on investment for taxpayers(have you seen the lights along Kimball Bridge). Instead, it’s about optics. It’s about feeling good. It’s not about real returns.

Council Member Zaprowski wants to pursue the Gateway Markers now. He seeks it so much that he is willing to push aside a greenway along the river which would benefit all residents. Would residents benefit from Gateway Markers? Of course not. A greenway? Absolutely.

Just look at the activity in Roswell along the river or in Sandy Springs along the river. Is there any question that it attracts people and provides health benefits to boot? How can someone even question which would be best for Johns Creek in the long term?

The residents of Johns Creek have given this Council what it sought in past elections: A Parks Bond and a TSPLOST Tax. More and more money. Before you ever do this again, you need to ask yourself if you can trust them with millions if they are willing to waste thousands.

Residents have made it clear we want to get traffic moving. Yet we have spent more time on this issue and seen more passion from Broadbent and Zaprowski on Gateway Markers than we have seen on getting traffic moving. It took months and months to get the traffic signals back on the agenda. And somehow the CVB and Gateway Markers are so important, this Council seems to have to address the issues again and again until the CVB gets what they want. Is this Council here just to give the CVB what they want?

I challenge this Council to demand a real return on investment on these tax dollars. Do not simply go along to appease the CVB. If that was what was intended, then the CVB would NOT need Council approval to spend these funds.

I ask each of you the following questions:

  • How much do you expect business to be boosted by a Gateway Marker in Johns Creek?
  • How are you going to measure this return on investment?
  • Which of you has chosen to do business in a city because of a Gateway Marker?
  • Which of you does not know when you enter or leave the City of Johns Creek?

Isn’t it time we quit spending money just because we have it? And since we cannot really spend it on something worthwhile, we will just spend it just to spend it.

I’ll be blunt. The hotel motel tax should be eliminated. The CVB should be disbanded. This City Council needs to work on the REAL Issues.

We do not need outsiders to come in and define us. We do not need Gateway Markers to “reflect” who we are.

We know who we are. Unfortunately, this City Council seems hellbent on redefining who we are. Maybe it’s this City Council does not like who we are. Or maybe this Council does not know who we are. They certainly seem out of sync with the majority within Johns Creek.

More importantly, they seem unwilling to say NO to bad ideas.

If we are going to put up a Gateway Marker, I’d suggest Dollars flowing into a paper shredder and pennies coming out of the bottom.

Wasting taxpayer money is no way to run a City. And rewarding “volunteers” for bad decisions should never happen.

None of the Above (or What’s a 6th Congressional District Libertarian To Do?)

The Georgia 6th Congressional District Race will go down as the most expensive Congressional race in US History.  Not because of the impact that the winner will have.  It will take years and years for that winner, if they stay in office, to amass the type of seniority and power to really make a difference.

There are no close votes in the US Congress that are going to be decided by 1 vote either.  Instead, this is about appearances.  It’s an opportunity for both national parties (who really could care less about us here locally) to symbolically suggest that the winner of this race somehow proves or disproves the election of one Donald Trump.

Making this race even more enticing is the number in front of the district: the 6th.  Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich once held the same seat number.  But the district is far removed physically from the same turf Gingrich represented.  Nevertheless the media has worked overtime to say just how symbolic a democrat in that seat would be.

As a Libertarian, neither of these two candidates are what I seek in an elected official.  There were several of the 19 candidates that were as close to being what I sought without running myself.  But we must be honest. Before the first votes were cast, the Republican Party leadership was already shaping the minds of the electorate as to who they should support.

An open election such as this would normally be a Libertarian’s dream come true.  An opportunity to participate in an open election without the ballot restrictions.  And were it not the 6th Congressional District, and it was not immediately after Trump’s election, things could have been a lot different.

Congressman Tom Price owned the seat.  In years past there have been no serious efforts by members of either party to unseat Tom Price.  That is the power of being an incumbent.  With incumbency comes money, power, and influence.

That’s also why you saw the mad scramble, mostly from Republicans in office who resigned to run, and those who had been in offices before, and saw this opportunity as the chance of a lifetime.

Due to ballot access restrictions in Georgia during the regular election cycle, Libertarians cannot generally meet the incredibly high number of signatures needed to be on the ballot, which is something the other two parties do not even worry about.

As a Libertarian, I feel that shows clearly that something is wrong with the system.  But, as a Libertarian, I am still entitled to vote for either of the two candidates remaining.

So do I vote for John Ossoff, the Democrat, to send the Republicans a message that they need to offer us true Constitutional candidates?  And then work to get a Libertarian on the ballot in 2018?

Or do I vote for Karen Handel, and give the Republicans another candidate who may likely have the seat for as long as she may want it?

No, I do not think I will do either.  I am going to vote for None of The Above(NOTA).  NOTA is really the only option for me, other than not voting.  And I will be voting.

Definitely Ossoff or Handel is going to win on June 18th. But there is only one way for those of us out there who are unhappy with both candidates to express our displeasure in a way that can be measured.

Imagine if 20,000 or more voters, unhappy with their choice of candidates, voted NOTA.  Would both parties get the message?  What if the race is so close, that one of those two parties learns that there is a group of voters out there that are being ignored that could have changed the outcome?  Will they try to appeal to us in the future?  Will they offer us better choices as candidates in the future?

It’s up to us to make our voices heard.  And we will not be heard if we just fall in line and support the (insert your party name here) because the other party is much worse.

While we are at it, let’s work together to end the restrictive ballot access issues third parties have in Georgia.  We are only cheating ourselves by eliminating competition before it even has a chance to be heard.

Is there anything less American than denying a candidate an opportunity to run for office because of their party, except in an open election?

As a reminder, both the US Constitution and the Georgia Constitution promise equal treatment under the law.  Every elected official has taken an oath to uphold that.  Isn’t it time they do what they promised they would and treat us all equally?

On the Cusp of a Recession, Washington Fiddles

Can’t blame Trump the impending recession.  But he took the bait and credit for the “trump rally” when he should have kept a more realistic tone.  He already had won the presidency.  But the media and the left will make sure he owns it.

There are many hard decisions that must be made. Repeal Obamacare, lower taxes, reduce regulations. Curtail the EPA.  Not any one piece of legislation can cure what ails us.

The US is like a patient that has been given a prescription for every little ailment. Some politician complained and a “prescription” was written into law.  And now all the “solutions” are interacting to make the patient sick. Continue reading

The Trump Card: VETO

As Trump moves forward to become President of the United States(POTUS), you’d think that things were chaotic in DC.  Nothing could be further fro the truth.  Yes there are some that are getting their feathers ruffled(and that is a good thing).

If you want to see if Trump is actually draining the swamp in DC, watch just how many times he uses his Veto Power.  Because if Congress is not getting vetoed legislation sent back to them, then you will know that the Swamp is not being drained.

Yes, the Veto can be overridden.  But that takes compromise among those under the Capital Dome.  And we have not seen that sort of cooperation for decades.  Instead we have had the majority run over the minority not based on solid ideas and concepts, but on sheer force.

Trump can change that quickly and effectively.  Trump, hopefully, will not have favorite stooges under the Capital Dome.  Hopefully, he will spread out who he goes to to push forward valuable legislation.

Most importantly, Trump can Veto the thousands of Executive Orders put forth by Obama and Company, and do so quickly.  Trump, who feels precedent has no value whatsoever, will do more the first week by reversing the bad choices of Obama, than any other POTUS in modern history.

And that is a good thing.

Johns Creek: It’s In Your Best Interest to Stop TSPLOST

The vote Johns Creek residents will take on the TSPLOST 0.75% tax is critical to understand.

Voters are being presented with the opportunity to raise the taxes on themselves, which will effectively increase the spending and size of the Johns Creek City government by 29.7%.  That is not insignificant. Continue reading

Did You Really Think It Was Going To Be Easy?

Misplaced outrage is all around us.  I don’t even have to give you the examples, but it’s likely even you have been guilty of having misplaced outrage.

“Did you hear what So and So said? What are we going to do?”

Establishment politicians have a major advantage over un-elected challengers.  They are reelected at rates that boggle the mind when you consider how unhappy we are with their performances.  In November, the majority of you will vote to keep your Representatives and your Senators despite the fact that they have been in office as the debt of this nation has gone from $7 trillion to $20 trillion, wars around the planet we participate in are multiplying and the US economy dies a slow and steady death. Continue reading

Goodbye Ted Cruz

I could have supported Cruz in the beginning.  I am a firm believer in the US Constitution and believe 99% of or social and economic problems disappear by strictly following it.

Cruz had the opportunity to show his true character and the more I heard the more frazzled his belief seemed to me.

I am not fooled.  Trump is not the answer to what ails us.  But he is the best hope for a connecting road to the right path.  Because you have to destroy the power structure that has been in the Republican Party for all these decades that have sold us out left and right.

With a clear and consistent set of principles, the Democrats would fade off into history.  They have no principles other than calling everything hate and enabling class warfare.

So I do not expect Trump to the Promised Land.

That is up to you.  If you continue to support the Congressmen and Senators you always have, then NOTHING changes.

Vote out Ryan for starters.

Vote against the rest of those that compromised us to where we are today.  Even if they do not lose this election they need to be scared as hell that they will lose the next.  And for Representatives, that is just 2 years and six months away.

Send a clear message.  The frustration does not just rest ay 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

It’s the whole damn lot of them.

(*) Local Option Sales Taxes- How We Are Ripping Ourselves Off

Chances are, you have cast votes on more than one occasion to tax yourself via sales tax for education. traffic or other local projects.  Chances are, you, like many others, felt it was just a penny here and there, and chances are you bought into the notion that others from outside your jurisdiction would also be paying the tax, which is a win-win for all but those outside of your community.

tax dollars

And chances are, you’d be wrong. Continue reading