Education

ATTENTION: Do You Want Radioactive Waste Stored in Georgia?

Attention logo - red and gold color

A US Department of Energy Consent-Based Siting Public Meeting

Place: Georgia Tech Hotel and Conference Center, 800 Spring Street N.W., Atlanta, GA 30308

Time: April 11, 2016, 12:00 Noon to 6:00 PM

Why: The federal government is looking for places to dump tens of thousands of tons of radioactive waste from the nation’s commercial nuclear power plants. They are looking for volunteer communities who would consent to taking this waste.

Questions: Why would any community volunteer to take this dangerous waste? What does the Department of Energy mean by consent? Whose consent is the agency seeking? Is the waste being managed safely at power plant sites where it’s stored now?

These and many more questions should be raised at the meeting. The US Department of energy is holding a series of meetings at different locations across the country. The meeting in Atlanta is our opportunity to ask questions and give our opinions.

nuclear-waste pic

Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League
www.BREDL.org PO Box 88 Glendale Springs, North Carolina 28629 BREDL@skybest.com (336) 982-2691

If we leave the field open to the vision of those who are imposing their way upon us without challenge, we will lose everything.

Environmental Justice

It is important to include EJ specifically and consistently in all our principles, comments, correspondence, position papers and talking points during these consent-based meetings. Why? Because all the communities which have ever been selected for radioactive waste have been EJ communities: African American, Hispanic, Appalachian, Native American etc.

In the South, studies of the locations of nuclear generating plants also reveal disproportionate impacts prohibited under the Civil Rights Act. It is of particular interest to us in the Southeast because of the perennial magnet for nuclear waste known as the Savannah River Site in South Carolina. We have the right to say “NO!”

The Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, and national origin in programs receiving federal assistance. This overview provides a foundation for our approach to DOE’s so-called consent-based process:

If a recipient of federal assistance is found to have discriminated and voluntary compliance cannot be achieved, the federal agency providing the assistance should either initiate fund termination proceedings or refer the matter to the Department of Justice for appropriate legal action. Aggrieved individuals may file administrative complaints with the federal agency that provides funds to a recipient, or the individuals may file suit for appropriate relief in federal court. Title VI itself prohibits intentional discrimination.

President John F. Kennedy said in 1963: “Simple justice requires that public funds, to which all taxpayers of all races [colors, and national origins] contribute, not be spent in any fashion which encourages, entrenches, subsidizes or results in racial [color or national origin] discrimination.”

Technology Questions

The DOE should choose the best available technology for radioactive waste storage. This should be based on long term safety, not short-term cost savings as is now the case. The DOE must exceed Nuclear Regulatory Commission standards to avoid radiation leaks and potential explosions. Most of the rest of the world uses thick metal storage/transport casks (10” to 20” thick) and stores them in reinforced buildings. They are designed to be maintained. The DOE plans to use inferior thin-walled canisters.

Rather than consent-based siting, DOE efforts and public meetings should be focused on the storage, transport, funding, and states legal authority issues. It would be folly for any community to consent to the transportation and storage of high level spent nuclear fuel until all these issues are resolved.

Unhappy Taxpayer & Voter Founders 2016 Community Kudos Awards Gala Honorees

community kudos award gala

March 4, 2016

Viola Davis and Ruby Bozeman Davis
Founders of Unhappy Taxpayer & Voter
909 Rays Road
Stone Mountain, Georgia 30083

Jennifer Ffrench Parker
Crossroads Newspaper
2346 Candler Road
Decatur, Georgia 30032

Dear Mrs. Parker:

We are writing this letter to let you know that we have received your notification that we are one of the 2016 Community Kudos Awards Gala Honorees. We are very pleased and grateful to accept the award. We are honored you are recognizing us with your “Making A Difference Award”.

We are very grateful for this reward, which is an excellent morale-booster that will encourage us to continue doing our community ministry work. We are also very appreciative of those who recommended us to you and for the time and effort you have put into this yearly award process.

Yours sincerely,

Viola Davis
Co-Founder

For More Information on Tickets, Please visit: http://tinyurl.com/2016KudosGala
or call 404-284-1888

CRN honorees_w (1)

Commendation for Superintendent Dr. R. Stephen Green and the DeKalb Board of Education

dr. stephen green - superintendent of dekalb county school system

 

Open Letter to Superintendent Dr. R. Stephen Green and the DeKalb Board of Education

Commendation for Putting Children First

 

April 4, 2016

 

Thank you for the political leadership you provide for our children and community concerning the issue of the Tax Allocation District (TAD) in Doraville.  As a citizen who is concerned about maintaining a high quality education in DeKalb County, I value the role you play in shaping the policies that can lead to greater sustainability for our educational system.  With the right decisions and incentives, policies that are good for the education of children can improve the financial stability of our education system, improve our graduation rate, increase our ratings on tests, and improve our economy thus creating good jobs.   Good decisions have already returned our school system to full accreditation.

 

I want the general public to know of the strong stance Superintendent Green and members of our Board of Education took to protect the interest of our children against a few powerful elected officials in the Georgia General Assembly.  While attending a meeting at the Capitol, our leadership did not hesitate to explain in great detail the reason a majority of the board and our superintendent rejected signing on to the tax allocation district (TAD) in Doraville.

 

The taxpayers and voters of DeKalb County would have been proud to see such a display of strength and conviction to do “what is in the best interest of our children”.  We could barely contain our screams of joy.  This is the reason for writing this letter of commendation.

 

We are calling on taxpayers and voters to call Superintendent Green and members of our Board of Education and tell them, “Thank you for putting our children first”.

 

It is true that we are quick to chastise our elected officials when they do something wrong.  However, we must move equally as fast to give accolades and praise for their positive actions.  Frankly, our Superintendent and Board of Education actions go far above the call of duty.  That’s why we need to support their position concerning the TAD in Doraville.

 

We encourage our community to respect leaders who step to the front line to protect the best interest of our children and have no fear going against powerful elected officials who attempt to punish the same leadership when they “do not kneel down” to the threats that place economic development over the education of children.  Superintendent Green and our Board of Education’s bold actions deserve our respect and praise.

 

Again, thank you for putting our children first.

 

Sincerely,

 

 

Viola Davis

Co-Founder of Unhappy Taxpayer & Voter

Nine Reasons to Vote “No” Against the Opportunity School District (OSD)

 

Nine Reasons to Vote “No” against the Opportunity School District (OSD):

1. The Opportunity School District law will be an amendment to the Georgia Constitution that will affect generations to come.
2. The Opportunity School District (OSD) would be managed by a Governor-appointed Superintendent who would be given vast new powers over the use of local funding and local educational decision- making matters, yet be unaccountable to local taxpayers.
3. Removal of Local Control of Neighborhood Schools.
4. Tax equity denied and increased unequal funding of local schools.
5. Elected Representation denied and removal of constitutional rights.
6. Negative affect on local property values such as decrease property values.
7. Educational plan would be duplicated after a state with the worst schools in the nation.
8. Expand government bureaucracy with an unproven and failing plan.
9. Reinforce the “Redistribution of Wealth” and Unfunded Mandates, particularly in DeKalb County – continues the outdated QBE formula (Local Five Mill Share), out of control Austerity Cuts, and Georgia Governors placing over 70% of the Refugees in the Clarkston Cluster without proper funding.

If this amendment passes, Time for our “Blue County” to sue this “Red State” over a “Green Issue”… A “Green Issue” called Money!

 

 

RICO Probe Uncovers 3 Million Dollar Theft from Floyd County Schools

floyd county BOE

RICO Probe Uncovers 3 Million Dollar Theft from Floyd County Schools

Have you heard? A RICO probe uncovered the theft of 3 million dollars from the Floyd County School System over a decade dating back to 2005. How did this happen?

Floyd County Schools are a Georgia Charter System and a public school system for children in Pre-K to 12th grade. The system has approximately 10,000 students with 19 facilities located in Rome, Georgia.

It was reported in the Rome News Tribune that the cost of investigating the 3 million theft from Floyd County schools keeps growing, with more than 6,000 man hours already spent examining the case, as stated by Floyd County Police Chief Bill Shiflett.

“We expect numerous arrests to be made soon,” Shiflett said during the county Public Safety Committee meeting Thursday. He told the Rome News-Tribune he expects to make between 12 and 14 arrests.

The man-hours spent investigating the RICO case include two investigators working the case full-time, a police records clerk reassigned, and two part-time employees hired to assist police, Shiflett said.

Fourteen search warrants and consent searches have been executed, he said, resulting in the freezing of $41,109 in bank accounts assets — along with $243,500 in cash seized and placed in the forfeiture account. Additionally, $432,000 has been returned to Floyd County Schools vendors and others after the scheme was discovered.

More than 50 bank accounts and credit cards have been analyzed, along with 200 interviews conducted and around 30 out-of-town trips made to gather evidence, he said.

Thousands of Floyd County Schools’ invoices have been analyzed, he added.
The FBI and GBI have become involved in the investigation, which began in October 2014, Shiflett said. The GBI was called in to audit all the bids submitted by the school system for the past five years.

Derry Richardson and other defendants named in a civil filing under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act have not been charged criminally. The civil case states that Richardson and others inflated and falsified invoices paid by the school system. His property and assets were seized and are now being administered by a court-appointed receiver.
Other seizures made by police, provided by Shiflett, include:

• Two duplex apartments valued at $100,000 each.
• Richardson’s home at 241 Riverbluff Road in Summerville, valued at more than $525,000.
• Two Bobcats, all-terrain vehicles, five vehicles, appliances and skeet-shooting trailers.
• A Kubota tractor, valued at over $100,000.
• Five ExMark mowers, valued at $10,000 each.
• 60 firearms, some valued at more than $5,000 each, including automatic weapons and silencers.
• Thousands of rounds of ammunition.

Read the entire story from two articles written in Rome News Tribune at the following links:

http://www.northwestgeorgianews.com/rome/news/local/rico-probe-uncovers-string-of-alleged-abuses-as-far-back/article_0d44e32e-d6d9-11e5-b661-c78e409a2555.html

http://www.northwestgeorgianews.com/rome/news/local/floyd-police-list-firearms-vehicles-seized-in-floyd-county-schools/article_3c425ff2-d649-11e5-92f6-f77a235958e1.html

View the story on WSBTV:

Restore DeKalb request Special Prosecutor and Expansion of Public Integrity Unit

barnes sutton head shot

I, Viola Davis, with Unhappy Taxpayer & Voter and Restore DeKalb, submit a new request and report detailing and summarizing an ethics complaint (alleged criminal activity, wrongdoing and malfeasance) against Sharon Barnes Sutton and others within DeKalb County government to the new DeKalb Board of Ethics (2016). I had and continue to have the support of Restore DeKalb with Joel Edwards and a group of citizens striving to “restore” transparency, ethics and accountability in our local and state government.

We request an advisory opinion because new evidence, documentation and witnesses have come forth to prove the code of ethics and state law were violated. The additional information will prove that the actions of a select group of elected officials and top administrators undermined the law to the point that the ethics case against Commissioner Sharon Barnes Sutton would need to be forwarded to:

1. A Special Prosecutor with the District Attorney and/or Solicitor General’s office. The District Attorney Robert James has a conflict of interest with Commissioner Sharon Barnes Sutton due to his close relationship with Warren Mosby, the prior boyfriend of Barnes Sutton and James’ campaign consultant.

2. An expansion of the Public Integrity Unit to include a cross section of law enforcement such as the local police department under Dr. Cedric Alexander with the FBI/GBI as oversight agents. The Public Integrity Unit investigates allegations of wrongdoing by elected officials and appointed officials.

We presented an earlier ethics complaint against Commissioner Sharon Barnes Sutton and Judy Brownlee to the DeKalb County Board of Ethics that was well documented and showed Barnes Sutton and Brownlee violated codes within Section 22A (c) (1-7) of the DeKalb County Code of Ordinances known as the Code of Ethics. Unfortunately, Barnes Sutton filed a lawsuit against the Board of Ethics proclaiming the board was unconstitutional. She questioned the authority of the board to sit in judgment of officials’ behavior, arguing that it undermines the fundamental due process rights. Despite DeKalb voters approving the new ethics law by 92% back in November of 2015, Sharon Barnes Sutton delayed the ethics board hearings which ultimately denied the public justice.

CBS46 News

DeKalb County School District Receives Full Accreditation

dr. stephen green - superintendent of dekalb county school system

News Release
DEKALB COUNTY SCHOOL DISTRICT RECEIVES FULL ACCREDITATION

AdvancED/SACS CASI announces major recognition with final three action steps completed

The DeKalb County School District received a letter on January 28, 2016 from AdvancED notifying the District that it has satisfied the final three action steps necessary to change from Accredited Under Review to Accredited.

“I am proud of the hard work and diligent effort on the part of the teachers, staff, and the Board of Education to return the District to full accreditation,” said Sup. Dr. R. Stephen Green. “The DeKalb County School District will be relentless in sustaining the work completed and remain focused on the quality of instruction in the classroom and thereby raise the bar for teaching and learning. Our students will rise to the level of expectation that we set. We are locked in on this mission.”

“We could not have done this without the collaboration and cooperation of the Board and community working together to select Dr. Green as the leader of this District,” said Dr. Melvin Johnson, Chair of the DeKalb Board of Education. “Now, we can continue our number one focus on student achievement.”

An Institution Progress Report that addressed the completion of the final three of 14 action steps identified by AdvancED for the District was submitted in December 2015 and reviewed by an evaluation team.

According to a letter from AdvancED dated January 28, 2016: “In recognition of the progress made to date and acknowledgement of the continued work needed to sustain the Required Actions, the Georgia AdvancED Council affirmed… that the DeKalb County School District’s accreditation status will be changed from Accredited Under Review to Accredited.”

Contact: Quinn Hudson
678.676.0720
quinn_hudson@dekalbschoolsga.org

A Billion Dollar Budget and No Heat?…. Where’s the Money for Maintenance?

dekalb school logo
Picture of DeKalb County School District Logo from Website

Students in Cold Classrooms – Where’s the Money for Maintenance?

County schools broke this week and left classrooms cold, Channel 2 Action News learned.

Channel 2 Action News reported the problem on Wednesday after Stone Mountain High School students told Channel 2′s Tyisha Fernandes that they had to wear coats at school because there was no heat.

When parent Keesha Mahdee got a letter from DeKalb County schools saying that several rooms at Hambrick Elementary have been cold, she didn’t realize that her children had been in school all week without heat.

“For them to not tell me there’s been no heat, it’s like, it’s bothering,” Mahdee said.

Mahdee said the school district sent a letter to parents on Dec. 9 saying there were heating issues, but she didn’t think it would still be a problem a month later.

DeKalb County Schools Chief Operating Officer Joshua Williams offered an apology to parents. He said Hambrick Elementary in Stone Mountain has a unique problem that made six classrooms cold.

Read the entire article and view the video at: http://www.wsbtv.com/news/news/local/dekalb-county-schools-fix-heating-problems/np2GL/

The initial report:

Students upset they were sent to school with no heat
January 6, 2015

Commentary: DoraTAD – New Schools Superintendent Won’t Contribute, Whether Gambling or Philanthropy

Tom-Doolittle (1)

Tom Doolittle, Contributor. File Photo.

DeKalb County, GA, January 11, 2016 – Commentary by Tom Doolittle, Contributor – “Our core business is teaching and learning, not speculative, unpredictable real estate projects.” Dr. R. Stephen Green, Superintendent DeKalb County School System

DeKalb School Board members are probably a little uncomfortable with new DCSD Superintendent R. Stephen Green being so outspoken about Tax Allocation Districts (TADs) – http://brookhavenpost.co/dekalb-schools-superintendent-has-reservations-participating-in-doraville-tad/35801/

By preemptively providing the media with a statement rejecting the Doraville TAD, Green has deftly deflected all the pressure that TAD proponents have tried to put on him. He has also sent tremors through the economic development world by invoking the unspoken “s” word—“speculation”.

The City of Doraville’s Tax Allocation District is 289 acres and projected to deliver $293 million in additional tax revenue over the next 25 years if the city’s redevelopment plan works. DeKalb County Government (“DeKalb”) has agreed in principal to participate. The school system would pay nearly three times what the city or county pays. The proposed breakdown for a maximum of $247 million in bonds would be about $50/50/150 million in round figures. (The outsized 58% school system contribution is unique to DeKalb because the government’s tax millage is lowered by the Homestead Option Sales Tax).

Green hasn’t taken umbrage with or demurred on the “Assembly” project at the General Motors site per se. That now represents only 149 usable acres of 289 acres in the TAD. Reading between the lines, the Superintendent wouldn’t support a TAD anywhere regardless of its projects’ particulars: location, jurisdiction or plan. Speculation is speculation, real estate development is real estate development and economic development is economic development—and Green says school systems don’t belong doing any of those.

Regarding “speculation” though, TADs can carry widely different levels of financial risk—and they are uncertain for different reasons for different entities. The Atlantic Station TAD had anchor tenants signed and substantial “soft” support from a civic league renowned in influence before the City of Atlanta took it on—Doraville has none. Bond holders presumably take on “all” the financial risk, given that taxpayers are not legally on the hook for defaults—yet would a city or county really allow a default given reputational implications? What developer is involved and how solid is its financing? Plans can range from abstract to those specifically associated with end-users.

Fundamentally, Atlantic Station is a corporate plan, one which TADs are well suited. By contrast, Doraville’s TAD (of which the former General Motors property is only half) is principally a program that builds a town, not a private sector development. It is planned for “public grounds” and is a sociological experiment first and contemplates revenue production last. One third of TAD bonds would be used for one project which idyllically connects the GM site to the rest of the town—the Atlanta Journal Constitution calls it a tunnel while the developer terms it a “covered street”. The cost, estimated from $80 million to $120 million would be on the order of investments that DeKalb makes for wide usage—jails, courts, libraries, etc., not areas which would remain unutilized by most in DeKalb.

As I have stated, the Assembly project is elegant and represents the idea of fulfilling all of New Urbanist theories that “mixed-use” developments have not. It’s not a corporate center, it’s a village from which the rest of the little town of Doraville can reinvent itself. Without the school system contribution, the $100 million in bonds that Doraville and DeKalb can underwrite can be used to leverage sums from various agencies. Those agencies would be appropriate for the type of “infrastructure” needed to fulfill its New Urbanist model—congestion relief/alternate transportation, density, mixed-income and income disparity solutions.

Dr. Green is articulating a problem that stems from the same underlying problems that required gyrations for DeKalb County to get to this juncture—the Doraville TAD, as planned (or unplanned) is philanthropic by nature—“speculative” being his term. Dr. Green has simplified at least one part of the equation by deciding the TAD is not required for him to do the job he was hired to do and he has handed the decision over to his board to grapple with. Meanwhile, he has removed himself from the predictable backlash from OTHER small towns in DeKalb or school parents in remote areas which will demand the same philanthropy.

Justice Delayed is Justice Denied – Short Version

barnes sutton head shot
Justice Delayed is Justice Denied – Official statement to cancellation of Commissioner Barnes Sutton’s ethics hearing

“Justice Delayed is Justice Denied”, stated by William E. Gladstone, a British politician who served four terms as Prime Minister, and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. wrote “Justice Too Long Delayed is Justice Denied” in his letter from the Birmingham jail in 1963. As government watchdogs and community missionaries, it is our opinion that the ruling by Superior Court Judge Courtney Johnson to stay the ethics hearing scheduled for November 12, 2015 was based on inaccurate and misleading information that she received from Commissioner Sharon Barnes Sutton’s attorney, Dwight L. Thomas. We view this action to be nothing more than a delay tactic that denies the taxpayers and voters of DeKalb County justice.

We initially filed the ethics complaint against Barnes Sutton and her top aide, Judy Brownlee, on May 30, 2014 (not on or about March 27, 2015 as stated in Thomas’ motion) with the addition of the 1st amendment on June 10, 2014. We received the support of Restore DeKalb in our efforts to ensure transparency, ethics and accountability. We work with several coalitions to hold our elected officials accountable to remove this “Cloud of Corruption”. The complaint is over 17 months old.

Throughout 2014 and 2015 thus far, we have submitted many amendments and summaries to this complaint. Dwight Thomas stated in the motion that the Complainant, Viola Davis, was a “no show” without identifying the fact that a continuance for medical issues was requested within the time limit, not to mention the 1st and only continuance requested after waiting over 15+ months for the “preliminary hearing”. Thomas also stated that no evidence was presented, despite the fact that over 699 pages (total collective pages) of documentation was presented to the Board of Ethics, a majority of which was placed online with over 6,773 views (total collective views).

It is unfortunate that the most protected position in this “right to work” state of Georgia is the taxpayers’ funded position called “elected officials”. This complaint demonstrates the tactics used to demean taxpayers and voters who attempt to hold elected officials accountable and/or attempt to petition the government.

Our original complaint is online and has over 1,486 views – please view the link: http://www.scribd.com/doc/230079667/Commissioner-Sharon-Barnes-Sutton-and-Judy-Brownlee-Ethics-Complaint-and-Amendment.

To date, we have filed a total of three complaints in our attempt to hold DeKalb County elected officials and government staff accountable to include:

1. Kelvin Walton and Nina Hall complaint titled, “Restore Public Trust Ethics Complaint” was filed March 17, 2014 (15 pages and 3,049 views). Kelvin Walton resigned and Nina Hall was terminated on October 6, 2014. Both were involved in the conviction of CEO Burrell Ellis. CEO Burrell Ellis was convicted of one count of criminal attempt to commit theft by extortion and three counts of perjury on approximately July 8, 2015. View link – https://www.scribd.com/doc/212831368/Restore-Public-Trust-Ethics-Complaint
2. Elaine Boyer and Bob Lundsten complaint was filed April 3, 2014 (23 pages and 1492 views). Boyer pled guilty on September 3, 2014 to charges of mail and wire fraud. She was sentenced to 14 months in federal prison for defrauding DeKalb taxpayers and to pay $87,350 in restitution to the county. View link – https://www.scribd.com/doc/218015213/Commissioner-Elaine-Boyer-and-Bob-Lundsten-Ethics-Complaint
3. Sharon Barnes Sutton and Judy Brownlee complaint filed May 30, 2014 (33 pages and 1486 views). View link – https://www.scribd.com/doc/230079667/Commissioner-Sharon-Barnes-Sutton-and-Judy-Brownlee-Ethics-Complaint-and-Amendment

We intend to finish this process in our efforts to hold our elected officials accountable. We ask the taxpayers and voters to get more involved in our movement to root out corruption in DeKalb County. We ask everyone to review the Barnes Sutton attorney’s Motion to Stay, this press release, along with a timeline of actions we have taken in an attempt to hold Barnes Sutton and Brownlee accountable.

We are providing everyone with a timeline, dating back to the date of our original complaint which was May 30, 2014. Our intention in providing this timeline was to encourage the DeKalb Board of Ethics to take immediate steps to proceed post haste and take our requested actions so that public trust in our DeKalb County government is restored. We need no more delays and/or excuses that only favor the accused elected official, Commissioner Sharon Barnes Sutton. View the link – https://www.scribd.com/doc/289418235/Justice-Delayed-is-Justice-Denied-With-Barnes-Sutton-and-Brownlee-Timeline

View the AJC article written by Mark Niesse (11/10/2015), “Ethics case against DeKalb Commissioner Sutton put on hold” – http://www.ajc.com/news/news/local-govt-politics/ethics-case-against-dekalb-commissioner-sutton-put/npKkM/

The timeline of our submittal of information and documents is as follows:
Sharon Barnes Sutton and Judy Brownlee Timeline and Documents

https://www.scribd.com/doc/289418235/Justice-Delayed-is-Justice-Denied-With-Barnes-Sutton-and-Brownlee-Timeline