Are We Going To Stand By While Our City Charter is Violated?

There are a small but growing group of residents like myself who have been trying to hold our government accountable. We do not look the other way. We insist that our Charter be followed and not circumvented for the convenience of the Mayor or any other elected officials. The rules need to be followed otherwise they will be exploited by one or more individuals.

We are small in number. But we are growing. And we are not going away. What follows below is the result of residents such as myself that are not afraid to hold our government to a higher standard. A standard that should be the starting point and not the Exception.

Why Were Craig Kidd’s Records Requested In The First Place?

A Bit of Background

In the fall of 2015, I worked on campaigns for Coughlin and Endres. While I was at Wilson Road Elementary School, waving signs with Mark Endres for these candidates in font of the school, someone drove past and gave us the finger. All the other voters who we waved to were friendly and polite. Not this one.

“Who was that?” I asked.

“Craig Kidd”, Mark Endres replied. “He is a leader in the Republican Party.”

“No wonder I am not a Republican”, I responded.

Four Years Later

Four years later and Kidd is the Mayor’s assistant. And for several years there have been plenty of rumors about Mr. Kidd and what was going on locally. To summarize it briefly, candidates that could not be considered conservative in the least were being recruited by Kidd(A member of Republican Leadership in Fulton County) to seek office against candidates for City Council that were undeniably conservative, especially on fiscal matters.

Why would Republican leadership be recruiting candidates that were liberal? Rationally that makes no sense to someone like me, who is principled in their beliefs.

Johns Creek is small and rumors travel fast. Rumors that opponents of candidates Endres and Bradberry and Coughlin from years past were being coached by Bodker and Kidd were frequent. And as we know those candidates lost.

Time To Prove Or Dismiss The Rumors

In the spring of 2019, several things happened that heightened the awareness of what was going on to those residents that wanted to hold our government accountable.

The pursuit of Gateway Markers by the Convention and Visitor’s Bureau, led by Lynda Smith, contained threats that were not so veiled against Coughlin, who dared to challenge the return on investment Gateway Markers would provide. Coughlin was told that there would be candidates in the fall to run against him because he was not supporting the CVB.

Lynda Smith’s Text Message Regarding Candidates to Oppose Coughlin

Endres was also at the same time catching hell for daring to report to Council what she had heard at CVB meetings.

There were rumors that the Mayor and Kidd were working to turn Johns Creek “blue” after McBath and Kausche both won in 2018.

Many of us debated why so called “Republicans” would do that. The answer is simple. They want to maintain their hold on power as long as they can. And if they have to compromise in certain areas then they will do so as long as they can maintain their control.

The FOIA Request

Most of us call it a FOIA request(Freedom of Information Act). But for local governments it is a GORA(Georgia Open Records Act). In order to get to the truth as to whether candidates were being recruited by Kidd and Bodker to run against duly elected candidates(Chris Coughlin), the activities of Kidd would need to be reviewed.

Records Requested *For Craig Kidd I seek these public records.1. Text messages on city phone including phone number/contact from January 1, 2019 – September 30, 2019
2. Telephone log of all incoming and outgoing calls on city phone from January 1, 2019 – September 30, 2019
3. Copies of all emails to and from @FultonGOP.org,
4. Audit of website activity for city phone and city computer assigned to Craig Kidd April 1, 2019 – September 30, 2019 (what websites has he visited and for how long)

As you can see, the only materials requested were from City devices. The search was limited to the issues stated above. This was not a wild goose chase but a specific and narrow search.

Five Minutes

Within five minutes of reviewing the information I had picked up from City Hall, it became very clear that the rumors were not just rumors but facts. These are not alleged, made up, contrived or fake news. The information was pulled by City Officials who are required by State Law to do just that.

The Mayor is an elected official. His assistant is an employee of the City. Here is the text exchange they had on March 2, 2019(I have bolded the crucial messages in the thread below-the “Me” in the thread below is the Mayor’s assistant as it was his text records I requested):

[3/2/19, 10:43 AM] Mike Bodker : Did you see the news about Sharon
[3/2/19, 10:43 AM] Me: No
[3/2/19, 10:46 AM] Mike Bodker : She resigned
[3/2/19, 10:46 AM] Mike Bodker : Effective late March
[3/2/19, 10:47 AM] Me: She was getting quite frustrated with the city’s lack of development desire.
[3/2/19, 10:48 AM] Me: Do we know where she’s going?
[3/2/19, 10:51 AM] Mike Bodker : Yep as am I
[3/2/19, 10:55 AM] Me: Things will get once city hall and linear open. People need to see it.
[3/2/19, 11:03 AM] Me: I spoke with Kausche’s aide. I think she and I will have a meeting this week to discuss November. I imagine I will blow her mind.
[3/2/19, 11:50 AM] Mike Bodker : She said to Warren back to NY to be with family
[3/2/19, 11:51 AM] Mike Bodker : Talked to Angelika Friday about the same topic she keeps getting no way from folks
[3/2/19, 11:52 AM] Mike Bodker : I hope we can trust her given that Stephanie was already telling people I want dems to run
[3/2/19, 11:53 AM] Me: I presume that was a leftover from the Bradberry Horton race. For the time being we will have to ignore the raw partisan talk. It will be tough but long term it’s best.
[3/2/19, 11:53 AM] Me: If we can bring the chamber in on three November talks then Angelica will see how strong our intent is.
[3/2/19, 11:55 AM] Mike Bodker : Arts and chamber
[3/2/19, 11:56 AM] Mike Bodker : We need various Constituencies to align
[3/2/19, 11:56 AM] Me: Already on that. The arts community is looking for a candidate. I told them more than one. Sadly they put all their energy into Horton so when she passed, they were left flat footed.
[3/2/19, 11:57 AM] Me: I’m trying to get Baughman and Lynda Smith flaking. Somehow, they don’t know each other

  • Me: Craig Kidd- Mayor’s Assistant
  • Sharon: Sharon Ebert (Community Development)
  • Kausche: Agelika Kausche-Democrat who won Georgia’s District 50 Race
  • Stephanie: Council Member Stephanie Endres
  • Bradberry: Council Member John Bradberry
  • Horton: Vicki Horton, who ran for the same seat as Bradberry and lost in a runoff
  • Baughman: Maestro for JC Symphony and lead on the Legacy Center (new name for Performing Arts Center
  • Lynda Smith: Head of Johns Creek Convention & Visitor’s Bureau
  • Arts: Art Community who is pursuing a Performing Arts Center and Gateway Markers(one of the constituencies)
  • Chamber: Johns Creek Chamber of Commerce(another of the constituencies

Reviewing the results from a request under the Georgia Open Records Act I filed with the City of Johns Creek, it became obvious that resources(staff and equipment) were being used to engage in political activities that should have been done outside of the office and not using City equipment(cell phones, computers, etc).

You can read all the messages between the two using the link below:

https://ejmoosa.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/12/Messages-with-Mike-Bodker.txt

What Is The City Charter?

The Johns Creek City Charter is similar to the US Constitution. It is a framework for the rules under which our City operates and what is allowed and not allowed. Elected officials swear an oath that they will faithfully execute the City Charter of Johns Creek.

What Does The City Charter Say About This Behavior?

Section 2.15 of the City Charter Section C states the following:

No elected official, appointed officer, or employee of the city or any agency or entity to which this Charter applies shall use property owned by such governmental entity for personal benefit, convenience, or profit, except in accordance with policies promulgated by the city council or the governing body of such agency or entity.

The replacement of Council Member Chris Coughlin from the Johns Creek City Council would have  made it much easier for the Mayor to proceed with his agendas.

In the text messages using City issued cellphones and during normal business hours, we see a conversation that describes the Mayor’s frustration with the lack of development desire.

Next, we see the assistant discuss contacting the aide of Angelika Kause(D-50), our state representative. Rumors were circulating around Johns Creek that the Major and his assistant wanted to turn Johns Creek blue. These text messages confirm that there indeed was a strategy to do this.

We also see that the Mayor confirms that he has also contacted Kausche on the same topic and the answer from folks is no way.

It also makes it clear that the Mayor and the assistant were reaching out to other constituencies in an effort to field opponents for Council Member Chris Coughlin, who was going to run for re-election to the Johns Creek City Council. We also know that they were successful as Coughlin had three opponents during the race. Two of the opponents were both connected to the constituencies mentioned in the text messages above, and spent more than $100 thousand dollars in this effort.

What Needs to Happen Next?

When a resident wins election to the City Council they take an Oath to uphold three very important documents. Here are a few portions of that Oath:

I, do solemnly swear that I will faithfully execute the office of Council Member of the City of Johns Creek, and will, to the best of my ability support and defend the Constitution of the United States, the Constitution of the State of Georgia and the Charter, Ordinances and Regulations of the City of Johns Creek.

I will truthfully, honestly and faithfully discharge the duties of my office.

PORTIONS OF THE CEREMONIAL OATH OF OFFICE FOR THE CITY OF JOHNS CREEK

The second line I have included above is also critically important. To me this line means that you will do what is right, and not just what is in your own best interest.

The issue was taken up at the last City Council work session on December 9th, 2019. And it seems that this Council up to this point is delegate their responsibility to resolve this issue to the City Manager and an independent investigator.

The facts seem undeniable. City Property was used to achieve specific objectives that would benefit the Mayor for personal benefit and convenience. The Mayor directs the Assistant that he needs multiple constituencies to align. The Assistant responds that he has told them he needs more than one candidate.

We know this to be true as Council Member Chris Coughlin had candidates from the constituencies mentioned. We know that these constituencies did try to align to defeat Coughlin, although they failed.

And unless there is a policy that has been approved that states City Resources can be used for campaign purposes, recruitment of candidates, and for the personal benefit and convenience of the Mayor and his assistant, then the Charter has been clearly violated.

Residents of Johns Creek do not vote for the City Manager. While the Police Chief has the utmost respect, this is not a criminal matter. The outcomes for violating the City Charter are not necessarily criminal matters and those that violate the Charter do not necessarily go to prison.

What they did vote for are the seven bodies that serve as the Johns Creek City Council. And like it or not they have a job that they have sworn an oath to perform.

What Is Their Duty?

The City Council is required to enforce the City Charter. And they are required to enforce it for violating even one provision of the Charter. If they do not then they themselves are violating the City Charter according to Section 2.16 (a) (1) & (5) and also should be removed accordingly.

Section 2.16 of the City Charter states the following:

Sec. 2.16. – Removal of officers.

(a)The mayor, a council member, or other appointed officers provided for in this Charter shall be removed from office for any one or more of the following causes:

(1)Incompetence, misfeasance, or malfeasance in office;

(2)Conviction of a crime involving moral turpitude;

(3)Failure at any time to possess any qualifications of office as provided by this Charter or by law;

(4)Knowingly violating Section 2.15 or any other express prohibition of this Charter;

(5)Abandonment of office or neglect to perform the duties thereof; or

(6)Failure for any other cause to perform the duties of office as required by this Charter or by state law.

Can This Behavior Be Defended?

Would the Mayor argue that he does not know the Charter? He shouldn’t. Otherwise that would then confirm incompetence. Another reason to be removed from office according to the City Charter.

Could the Mayor have his assistant do whatever he desires? No. The assistant is a City employee and is also bound by the City Charter.

In Conclusion

The action of the Mayor’s assistant to knowingly pursue candidates to run against sitting Council Members, at the Mayor’s direction, in an effort to change the political makeup of the Johns Creek City Council, using City Equipment, during working hours being paid a taxpayer-funded salary and benefits, is clearly a violation of the Johns Creek City Charter.

For an individual in the Fulton County Republican machine to be recruiting democrats to run for City Council? That’s up to those that call themselves Republicans. That’s one of the reason many of us are no longer republicans. We will see if they police themselves or not.

The assistant to the Mayor reports directly and only to the Mayor. Who should have been making sure that this was not happening as a function of their daily job, rather than giving the guidance to pursue the objectives we saw stated above? Only one person: Mayor Bodker.

Where Does That Leave Us?

One or more of the Council Members need to take action and take action soon.  If you are not going to enforce the Charter, I’d encourage you to resign. We can find residents who are willing to enforce the Charter on behalf of all residents, and not just when it is convenient.

It is past time to lead by example and address what we know has been going on and put an end to such behavior.

“You will earn the respect of all if you begin by earning the respect of yourself. Don’t expect to encourage good deeds in people conscious of your own misdeeds.”

Gaius Musonius Rufus- Roman Stoic philosopher

Johns Creek City Council and Post 4

Friends,
Adam Thomas seems to find it necessary to suggest things about Chris Coughlin that simply do not hold up under scrutiny.  Even though the “tax promise” mentioned was made during a campaign that was NOT for the seat Chris currently holds, he still has not broken that tax promise.

The above states that Chris Coughlin pushed for a millage rate of 4.3. That was lower than the millage rate in the motion that was being debated. That would have been a tax cut.


How often does one see a incumbent chastised for offering an amendment to lower tax rates and then have that used against him?  This could be a first.  But it gets better.  


Chris never voted for a millage rate over 4 to be implemented in Johns Creek.  He did support an amendment to the motion to lower the rate from the roll back rate.  But if that passed, that did not mean that Chris would have then voted to set the millage rate at that level.  


His flyer is deceptive at the very least.  Council Members should offer amendments to motions to drive the conversation, even if ultimately they will not support it.  That is how you hear the debate on the principles and positions. 

 
It’s a shame he has to try and paint a picture that suggests something that is simply not true about Coughlin. 

 
So, are the statements made on Mr. Thomas’ flyer campaign flyer promises he will live up to?


Do you really think Thomas will have a budget where every expenditure will be justified?   Prior to implementation of this budget?  Has he actually watched the budget process?


Unless he redefines what audit means, the answer would be no.  

Let’s combine that with his argument that critical projects have been delayed and defunded.  We know that many of these projects have shown little to no value to Johns Creek. 

But they were “promised”  with TSPLOST.  Should not an elected official challenge wasteful spending on behalf of the residents?  Absolutely.


And to answer his question?


Yes Chris Coughlin represents me. And I will be voting for him because he has represented me, challenged bad ideas pushed by the majority, improved our traffic flow on 141, and worked on many other issues to improved our quality of life.

Freedom of Speech: It’s Not “Freedom From Speech You Dislike”

I keep asking myself why this topic keeps coming up.  Certainly it was not the “Anything But Coughlin” signs.  Coughlin is more than prepared to respond to such things.

Ask yourselves what is worse-anonymous speech or people in positions of authority who use these positions in an attempt to bully people into silence?  Here’s a hint-anonymous speech is protected in the State of Georgia(more below).

How many people have come to me and told me that the Mayor of our City has made one disparaging remark after another about me.  That’s his prerogative of course.  People who know me know better.  And when he tells people that know me these sorts of things, do you think those that know me and know my principles actually believe it? 

There is the time after the John Bradberry-Vicki Horton Runoff debate two years ago where the Mayor of our City sought me out in a crowded room to make the comment to me that follows:

“I look forward to making your life a living hell the next four years”. 

Free speech? Something else?

I’ll let you decide.  

Then candidate and now Council Member Bradberry knows not only what was said to me, but stated to me that the Mayor came to him after I left the building and asked  “Did your friend tell you what I said?”

Council Member Zaprowski, near the height of the “anonymous troll hunt”  was approached by me to talk to his friend and supporter Tom Warren about repeatedly accusing me of posting under fake Facebook names.  Did knowing a name make a difference?

He took a pass and told me to speak to him myself. 

The Johns Creek Post had a series of IP addresses with pseudonyms from some of the individuals screaming the loudest about anonymous comments.  

Here’s an idea:  Lay out an unemotional argument on the merits of what you have been challenged on and post where you choose and leave it at that.

Our residents are smart.  Very smart.  They will cut through the nonsense and the BS and they won’t need your help to figure it out.  

These are the very reasons some in our community choose to remain anonymous within our community while making comments.  Who wants to be bullied?  Who wants to be questioned about why they have a certain candidate’s sign in their yard?  Who wants to be pushed for an endorsement?

Just to make it clear, protected free speech does include the use of false identification to avoid social ostracism, to prevent discrimination and harassment and to protect privacy.

Please see ACLU VS. Miller:  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/American_Civil_Liberties_Union_v._Miller

The Georgia General Assembly passed legislation that eliminated rights to privacy when using the internet in the State of Georgia. Governor Zell Miller signed the legislation into law in April 1996. Several internet based groups that guaranteed privacy to their users sought to have the law overturned on constitutional grounds, and enlisted the support of civil liberties groups such as the ACLU.[1]

Decision

After the plaintiff could prove likelihood of success of merits, substantial threat of irreparable injury, balance of hardships, and the promotion of the public interest, the court awarded the plaintiff with a preliminary injunction. Thus the defendant was enjoined from enforcing the newly passed act and was forced to revoke it. This act was found to be unconstitutional and in violation of the Bill of Rights.[2]

Either get the Constitution changed or find another venue to address your issues over anonymous posters.  This issue has already been resolved in the State of Georgia. 

It is in the best interest of the Public overall, and your constituents, that they always have the freedom and the right to post anonymously.  

It’s time to lead by example rather than by intimidation.

There is no better place than to start with this Council today.

Why wait?

Ernest Moosa

Why Do You Hate The Electoral College? Because You Were Told a Lie

It’s the “United States of America”

Yes, you read that correctly. People read words and phrases and never think of the meanings of the words. Notice carefully my liberal friends. We were meant to be a loose collection of states.

Each state would set their parameters for functioning. And if you did not like it, you could move to a state you did like.

Simple, clear and concise.

It’s NOT the United Citizens of America

There are those among us that want the President of these United States to be elected by popular vote. But that is NOT the basis for which we formed this nation. A popularity test is no way to run a country. Why even bother with state borders if you like that concept?

The ONLY way to get the smaller of the 13 colonies to go along with forming “a more perfect Union”(notice it does not say perfect) was to insure it was NOT going to be majority rule.

All, too, will bear in mind this sacred principle, that though the will of the majority is in all cases to prevail, that will to be rightful must be reasonable; that the minority possess their equal rights, which equal law must protect, and to violate would be oppression.

Thomas Jefferson

A Constitutional Republic

That is what we are and what we must strive to be. The smallest of minorities, the individual, MUST have there rights protected. And those rights are enumerated in the US Constitution

To allow the majority to strip away those rights would be a grave mistake. You would effectively be owned by the majority.

“Being on the side of the majority is often a sign that you are wrong, or the most unlikely to be right.” 

― Mokokoma Mokhonoana

You Were Lied To In School

How many times were you told that you lived in a democracy? You do not. You live in a Constitutional Republic.

When you live in a democracy without the protections of a Constitution you are owned by the majority. Whichever side makes the most persuasive arguments wins.

Think about that.

“Think of how stupid the average person is, and realize half of them are stupider than that.”

― George Carlin

The More People Vote The Better The Outcome

Nothing could be further from the truth. The more people that vote the more average the outcome will be. Guaranteed.

Imagine a society where everyone was required to vote. We are frequently told that “Every Vote Counts”. Yes it might be counted, but it will also lead to worse outcomes and not better.

Voters are not experts on every topic. It’s likely most people cast votes for individuals based on name recognition only . Is that what you want to decide issues that will affect your life, your income, your safety, and your freedom? Name recognition?

Please do not rely on campaign signs, mailers, or newspaper articles to pick your candidate. Go or watch just a few public debates or forums. See what they say, how they say it and if they know what they are talking about.

I voted for individuals currently on the Johns Creek City Council that I was and am still appalled at their arrogance, ignorance and general lack of respect for their constituents..

And I based my vote on their campaign mailers. I’ll never vote blindly for a candidate again.

I hope you do not, either.

In Pursuit of Safety, Are There Any Limits In Johns Creek?

Safety Used To Justify Solutions

Johns Creek has used the “safety” for the pursuit of many solutions in Johns Creek in search of justifications. But should there be a litmus test when using these claims as justification in the implementation of policy changes, decisions and home inspections.

Residents have seen expensive traffic circles implemented at intersections that have functioned for decades as two or four way stops. The reason cited? Safety.

Residents replacing a hot water heater in their homes now need an inspection. Safety again.

The fourth fire station was justified as a safety issue, despite questions and observations that a Fast Response Unit might actually provide better outcomes for residents of Johns Creek.

Traffic intersections where you used to be able to turn left when there was a safe opportunity to do so now prohibit you from making a left turn unless you have a flashing yellow or green arrow. The reason cited? Safety.

Green Dot: U-Turns Allowed Red Dot: No U-Turn

We have U-Turns being eliminated at 141 and State Bridge southbound citing safety, while the other three legs of the intersection all still allow U-Turns. And a crossover just north of that intersection? U-Turns are allowed and despite the safety issue, will continue to be allowed for the benefit of the businesses.

The U-Turn crossover as you head south on 141 to make the U-Turn to head north is clearly more dangerous for drivers, especially young drivers as they leave the school in the afternoons. However, for the benefit of the businesses this is apparently a risk we can tolerate.

Somehow, at 141 and State Bridge, with a traffic light giving the drivers the right of way, the failure to yield the right of way by State Bridge Westbound drivers taking a right, is enough to get that U-Turn eliminated. Does that make sense?

I Can’t Drive 55

Now we have the lanes on 141 being narrowed from 12 feet to 11 feet AND the speed limit being lowered from 55 to 45 all in the name of safety.

This leads me to the following question:

What Can’t The City Of Johns Creek Do For Safety?

That’s not really the question to be honest. We would ask that if our duly elected officials were action the ones with oversight in making these decisions. But they are not. So here is the question we need to ask:

Are There Limits to What A Staff Member Can Do Using Safety As A Justification?

What’s process anyway? The residents here have elected a City Council to represent them. Can the City Council change this decision? If so how?

For starters, I’d demand actual data on 141 with traffic accidents to determine if we are actually implementing a solution solving a problem.

  1. How many rear end collisions on 141 were reported for the last 36 months?
  2. How many annual miles were driven on 141 for the last 36 months?
  3. What is the ratio of rear end collisions to miles driven?
  4. Is this higher or lower than the national average?
  5. Is this higher or lower than the average for surrounding areas?
  6. How many of the rear end collisions on 141 were in areas where the posted speed limit was 55 and how many were in areas where the posted speed limit was 45?
  7. How many additional minutes of travel will be added daily to commuters traveling the 141 corridor in Johns Creek by lowering the speed limit? (if just 4 miles of 55 MPH road is reduced to 45 MPH, each vehicle will have one extra minute of travel or 24% longer)

During non-rush hours, adding 1 minute of travel to 15,000 vehicles daily equals 15,000 minutes of time. That is 250 hours per day lost. That is 1250 hours per week lost. Or 65,000 hours per year.

You can read about the high cost of traffic here: https://ejmoosa.com/the-high-cost-of-traffic-dollar-and-sense/

This decision could cost more than $650,000 per year of lost time for drivers in Johns Creek if your time is worth $10 per hour. I bet your time is worth more.

If this is a $650,000 per year decision, don’t you think your City Council should have had the opportunity to weigh in knowing the actual facts and costs of the decision?

I certainly do.

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.

A New Year-A New Look To The City Council

Johns Creek has a new look to the City Council for 2018, and I consider that a very good thing.

Residents returned Stephanie Endres to the City Council for 4 more years.  Endres has been asking the right questions since well before she was elected the first time, during her numerous Public Comments made challenging what the Council was doing.  We are very fortunate to have her back and continuing to do what she does best.

Lenny Zaprowski who also was re-elected, is now the Mayor Pro Tem.  This is a welcome change.  It is critical for the residents that this position is not just someone that represents the same positions as what the Mayor represents.

I expect Zaprowski to challenge on necessary and important issues.  There are questions that must be asked of the City Staff, and sometimes the answers will not be what people want to hear, but they must be heard.  Zaprowski took a step in this direction at Monday’s Work Session when he asked how much were we going to spend and how much time was going to be saved by drivers when we widen Kimball Bridge Road.  If Zaprowski can comfortably recognize that we must challenge what the Staff says because the Staff does not know every answer(they are human), then the residents can get better solutions for our problems.

If Zaprowski realizes that he can still be nice and ask the hard questions at the same time, the results will be beneficial for residents of Johns Creek.

John Bradberry rounds out the changes to the City Council for 2018.  Bradberry worked diligently to win this seat, and now the hard work really begins.  Bradberry has been an advocate for the residents from the time he was a member of the JCCA to the formation of Preserve Johns Creek.  Bradberry attempted to bring more attention to the Billboard issues, which are still a bane on the face of Johns Creek, as well as highlight that we have a Historical African-American Cemetery that was sitting neglected.  Hopefully we can get the proper signage and care in place for that location for future generations.

There are many changes set to be pushed upon the residents of Johns Creek.  Our eyes are wide open.  The biggest tax push this year will be another 1/2 cent sales tax for MARTA/Mass Transit.

The questions need to start with ” Are buses along 141 and State Bridge Road worth $10 million a year to the residents of Johns Creek? Are residents willing to pay $10 million for something that is unproven as an congestion relief tool?”

We’ve had buses running for more than a decade supplied by GRTA.  They are empty.

Where’s the return on that investment?  If they are so underutilized, why haven’t they moved to smaller buses for this “experiment” which would be cheaper to operate?

Let’s hope that this New-Look Council can start asking these and other questions BEFORE we are forced to make a decision with the legislative gun to our heads once again.

 

 

 

While Driving in Johns Creek, Do You Stop More Than You Go?

 

Watch The Video Above.  Here’s my data so far.  I will continue to track it.  Based on the numbers as of 10/19/2017, I am due for at least 80 green lights in a row soon.  I am certainly looking forward to that.

Overall 50.00% 50.00%
Green Red
5 8 38.46%
6 4 60.00%
2 3 40.00%
2 3 40.00%
5 6 45.45%
0 1 0.00%
3 2 60.00%
3 2 60.00%
3 2 60.00%
3 2 60.00%
3 2 60.00%
3 2 60.00%
2 3 40.00%
Total 40 40
Udell suggests it Should Be: 62 18

(Redlights should make up only 22% of my Johns Creek Driving experience)

Johns Creek Residents Should NOT Vote This Fall…

Residents of Johns Creek should not vote in this upcoming election if they are not familiar with the candidates, the major issues in Johns Creek and are basing their decisions on such variables as :

  1. You are not familiar with the issues we are facing such as potential widening of our roads to overcome the ineffective traffic light system we have today
  2. You are unfamiliar with the negative impact higher density housing has on our roads, schools, and property values
  3. You are basing your decision on the endorsement of an elected official, who just wants to avoid having someone challenge them on issues before the City Council
  4. You saw more signs for the candidate that you are going to vote for so you believe that is a sign of more support for that candidate(Signs for candidates are placed on the roads by the candidates and their crews-Signs in neighborhoods actually show you who your neighbors support but you still need to educate yourself!!!)
  5. You read their mailers to your home and they seem like a nice person

Residents of Johns Creek should vote IF:

  1. They have done their own research into the candidates
  2. They have watched the debates, forums, City Council Meetings and Work Sessions and see how these candidates actually think and function
  3. They understand that Johns Creek is at a crossroads.  Do we become Buckhead or stay Johns Creek.

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