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.

Continue reading

This Is Why We Have Trust Issues With Government

Do you happen to remember the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009?

A large portion of the funds allocated for this act were to go to infrastructure needs such as highways.  States were not supposed to cut their own budgets and use these funds in their place.

Yet somehow, we never saw those massive investments pay off in Georgia did we?  The St Louis Fed has now given us the reason why.

Why the 2009 Recovery Act Didn’t Improve the Nation’s Highways

Click on the link above to read the short but informative analysis on what happened.

Here is a summary in my own terms:

What happened was that Federal Funds replaced(or crowded out) state funds for the transportation projects.  A major condition of receiving these funds was that states, such as Georgia, would continue to spend what they were planning to spend on highway construction and the new Federal Funds would boost that spending. Continue reading

John Bradberry for Johns Creek City Council Post 3

John Bradberry at the Meet and Greet in Medlock Bridge

In the fall election for Johns Creek City Council Post 3, I am endorsing John Bradberry.

I have gotten to know John over the last 3 years working with John as a director for the Johns Creek Community Association, assisting John with Preserve Johns Creek, as well as personally.

From the first time we had a chance to work together, John and I have discussed issues within Johns Creek relentlessly.  Beginning with traffic issues, we have discussed nearly every issues that Johns Creek is facing and the opportunities that they present.

When there was an issue at Niblick Road@ Barnwell Road, for instance, and the conversations about installing a traffic circle or a traffic light, John and I drove out to the intersection to look for ourselves and see exactly what the issues were, and if there were any other solutions.

Indeed, we saw the problem immediately.  We were actually surprised that City Staff had not gone to the location and saw the same addressable issues we saw:

  • Line of site blocked by encroaching growth along the right of way from the curve southbound on Barnwell Road to Niblick
  • Shrubbery planted at the entrance to the neighborhood blocking the line of site from Niblick northbound on Barnwell Road

And, as we now all know the City finally sent crews out there and addressed these issues, and instead of spending millions for a solution, the City did what it was responsible for in the first place, and safer conditions resulted.

Macedonia Cemetery/ Fairway Package Billboard

John and I went to the location before the billboard was approved by the City.  Dismayed that the cemetery was the responsibility of the City and in such poor shape, with two homeless encampments in the woods, John raised awareness, searched for more information on the cemetery, and pushed preservation via Preserve Johns Creek.

John Bradberry, Chris Coughlin, EJ Moosa

Today, Johns Creek is maintaining the cemetery, although there is much to do to provide the sort of historical preservation this location deserves.  As a Council Member, I know Bradberry will work to preserve this and other historical locations within Johns Creek.

Finally, John and I have discussed issues with traffic at more intersections than I can recall.  John wants to get our traffic congestion under control.  He understands the negative impact of traffic lights, and that they more we install, the more issues we will have.  We have stood at intersections and watched the light sequences and seen the needless delays drivers face each and every day.  One of the worst: State Bridge Road between the High School and the Elementary School.

Bradberry looking at Lake Medlock, which has been a big issue for Medlock Bridge residents due to silt runoff

This is the type of forward thinking and efforts we need on the Johns Creek City Council.  If John Bradberry was doing all of this before he decided to run for City Council, you can certainly expect him to do it after we elect him.

John Bradberry will ask the right questions, challenge the City Staff for better solutions and will be listening and looking out for you.

That’s why I am more than happy to support Johns Bradberry for Johns Creek City Council Post 3.

EJ Moosa

 

State Bridge-Pleasant Hill:What’s The Right Solution?

We are surrounded by roads.And we know that some roads function better than others.  Residents of Johns Creek have been suffering for as long as I can recall with roads with intersections that function poorly at best.  State Bridge Road in Johns Creek is scheduled to be widened using your tax dollars to add an additional lane in each direction.  (Note that it does not say just widen to three lanes)

“State Bridge Road Widening from Medlock Bridge to Chattahoochee River”

As I look at State Bridge Road I see what I will call main intersections and I see side access points.  Main intersections are 141 and State Bridge, for instance.  Access points intersections of a lesser intensity, many times providing entrance and exit to private properties such as shopping centers and neighborhoods.

For this analysis I am going to discuss the section of State Bridge Road between 141 and the Chattachoochee and continuing as Pleasant Hill Road to Peachtree Industrial Blvd. Continue reading

Digging Into The Numbers: Forsyth County is Not the Cause of Our Congestion Problems(We Are)

Johns Creek has a constant claim that the traffic here is bad, although it is NOT the fault of our poorly timed and prioritized traffic lights.  No instead it is because of the growth in areas around us that is the cause of our issues.

So I decided to dig into the numbers looking at what the last ten years have brought us in terms of population growth among Forsyth County, Johns Creek, Roswell, Alpharetta and Milton.  What I found is amazing.

Fastest Growing in terms of % Growth: Forsyth County

While that is not a surprise the reason is rather simple:  Forsyth County actually started with a much smaller total population than Johns Creek, Roswell, Alpharetta and Milton did ten years ago.  Put simply they started with a lower headcount, which makes their percentage growth look higher.

Annualized Rate of Growth Over The Last Ten Years

  1. Forsyth County   3.67%
  2. Milton                  2.79%
  3. Alpharetta           2.20%
  4. Johns Creek      1.75%
  5. Roswell              0.66%

There are no major surprises there.  In fact you might look at the numbers for Johns Creek and say “AHA”!  But that is not all there is to this story. Continue reading