Michael Thurmond

CEO-Elect Michael Thurmond offers “new vision” for DeKalb County

For local voters suffering from PESD – Post-Election Stress Disorder – DeKalb County CEO-elect Michael Thurmond provided just what the doctor ordered.

Flush from an election night victory, Thurmond delivered a thoughtful and inspiring speech last Thursday that hinted at his “new vision” for repairing the county long beset by racial divisiveness, bureaucratic mismanagement and political scandal.

Hopefully, soccer team can help unite fractured DeKalb County

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The Atlanta United soccer franchise plans to build its headquarters and $35 million training facility in DeKalb County. The DeKalb County Commission voted to approve the agreement with Atlanta United FC. It would involve a $12 million investment by the county. Credit Atlanta United

The Atlanta United soccer franchise plans to build its headquarters and $35 million training facility in DeKalb County. The DeKalb County Commission voted to approve the agreement with Atlanta United FC. It would involve a $12 million investment by the county.
Credit Atlanta United

The new Atlanta United soccer franchise announced Tuesday that it had chosen DeKalb County for its headquarters and $35 million training facility. The DeKalb Commission voted earlier that day to approve the agreement with Atlanta United FC, one that would involve a $12 million investment by the county.

“Finally, something good is happening in DeKalb County.”

That’s what someone told me after the 4-3 vote by the DeKalb County Commission, approving an agreement with Atlanta United to locate its headquarters near the intersection of Memorial Drive and I-285.

That joy was short-lived.

A day later, former Georgia Attorney General Mike Bowers, who had been hired by DeKalb’s CEO Lee May to investigate possible corruption in the county, proclaimed that DeKalb was “rotten to the core.”

What a juxtaposition of highs and lows for Georgia’s fourth-largest county.

In recent years, several of DeKalb’s top officials have been indicted and found guilty of various ethical and legal breeches. It is a far cry from the DeKalb that existed 20 and 30 years ago when it was run by Manuel Maloof and Liane Levetan, both respected and powerful leaders in the region.

DeKalb leaders had hoped that the county’s tides were turning by winning the highly competitive Atlanta United headquarters.

On the day of the press briefing announcing the deal, the mood was uplifting, and team owner Arthur Blank, a co-founder of Home Depot, even became nostalgic about the decision. It was June 22, 1979, when Home Depot opened its very first store across the street from where Atlanta United plans to develop a 3,500-seat stadium and three additional soccer fields.

“It has come full circle,” Blank said, reflecting over his career. You see, for Blank, his investment in Atlanta’s Major League Soccer franchise is personal and close to his heart. He attended the event with his son, Joshua, an avid soccer fan and talented player.

Perhaps Atlanta United’s decision will improve the perception of a fractured DeKalb County and spark economic development in the Memorial Drive corridor.

But that may be too much to ask.

The county continues to be divided between North and South. Even the vote on the soccer facility was split, with the white commissioners voting against it, and the black commissioners voting for it.

It is too bad that the Atlanta United soccer franchise, located in “Central” DeKalb, has not yet united the county.

But as Blank said, the decision to base the soccer team at that location, felt like a spiritual journey for him, a coming home.

Let’s hope DeKalb’s journey will fuse a divided county into a united DeKalb.



Incorporation pushes unwanted marriages on DeKalb neighborhoods

In north-central DeKalb County, my home is among thousands in the crosshairs of cityhood movements and proposed annexations. Count me among the otherwise sensible DeKalb County residents who rightly worry that a new city we’ve never heard of is going to take us over, or even worse, ignore us.

No one wants to be an unincorporated island surrounded by cities. But lots of us are in a pickle. Our zip code (30033) is Decatur, but we’re not in the city proper, and it doesn’t want us anyway.


If you parent a teen, listen to this expert on Georgia law

To celebrate turning 18, J. Tom Morgan walked into a tavern, purchased and downed a pitcher of beer and a pile of oysters. It was all legal back in 1972.

Today, an 18-year-old who did that in Georgia would face arrest, and if convicted, likely sentenced to six months probation—or 18 months if a fake ID was involved. There would be a fine, community service and drug and alcohol evaluation. The clerk who sold him the beer would likely get arrested too.

Tucker-Northlake business leaders to add walk, bike paths as part of planned renewal of an early suburb

Business leaders near Tucker and Northlake Mall in north DeKalb County have expanded their effort to strengthen their historic commercial center and make it more friendly for walking and bicycling.

As of last week, more than 67 commercial properties in the Northlake business district formally joined the existing Tucker Community Improvement District. The goal is to uplift the region in ways that are beyond the scope of local government.

“All you have to do is look at Perimeter and Cumberland to see the success of CIDs,” said Ann Rosenthal, president of the newly minted Tucker-Northlake CID.

DeKalb County school district: Credit rating stable, also wins $3 million grant from Wallace Foundation

A New York credit rating agency on Tuesday assigned a top score to the $36 million bond package the DeKalb County school district intends to sell Wednesday.

Also Tuesday, the Wallace Foundation announced DeKalb as a recipient of a $3 million grant to improve the leadership skills of its principal supervisors or regional superintendents, and to increase the number of regional superintendents in order to reduce a span-of-control that now averages 27 direct reports.

Taken together, the measures mark the continuation of the district’s slow but steady improvement from situations involving its accreditation probation and fiscal management in the 16 months since the DeKalb school board first named former state Labor Commissioner Michael Thurmond as interim superintendent.


What to do with a rabid cat

Until you’ve been chased by an animal that’s foaming at the mouth, you haven’t really experienced the terror of rabies. 

Recent reports of potentially rabid animals threatening humans have reminded me of my own encounter with a rabid cat that I trapped with a recycling bin in my DeKalb County backyard just as it leapt to attack me. While it sounds like a freak occurrence, it’s surprisingly common especially during our warmest months, and it’s dead serious.

Last Thursday, a 13-year-old boy strangled a fox that had bit him. He’s receiving precautionary anti-rabies treatment pending the outcome of tests to determine if the animal was rabid.

DeKalb County’s interim CEO outlines plan to restore pride, performance

DeKalb County interim CEO Lee May delivered a State of the County Address Thursday in which he promised a bright future while acknowledging his temporary seat in the county’s top office.

May named problems and proposed solutions. He portrayed his office and the Board of Commissioners as working together, rather than feuding. He said DeKalb’s young people will benefit from a new Office of Youth Services and a functioning school superintendent and board of education.

May took the stage around 8 p.m. and introduced his wife and mother of his two, soon to be three, children, Robin May. Quickly, the faith leader reached into the Old Testament to open his address with the biblical figure Nehamiah rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem – a task May likened to the rebuilding of DeKalb after CEO Burrell Ellis was indicted last year on felony charges of public corruption.


No quit in football team of Atlanta immigrants

Down 41-0 at halftime Friday night, the Cross Keys Indians could have easily folded. They had every reason to be discouraged: They haven’t had a winning season since 1994. They haven’t won a game since Sept. 16, 2011.

But these sons of immigrants, first generation Americans and football players, never fold. Just as their parents haven’t given up on building a good life in a sometimes inhospitable land of opportunity, so too, it seems, these teenagers keep believing they can master a game that was alien to them as children.  

“Giving up is for punks,” said senior quarterback and free safety Oluwatomi “Tomi” Adedayo, whose team of 37 players includes 16 born in Asia, Africa, and Central America. “You start to give up and they’ll see it in your eyes. So you just keep your head up and you keep fighting.”


Photo of astronaut Tracy Caldwell Dyson pictured in the cupola of the International Space Station. (Credit: NASA)

Astronaut’s visit, kids’ space dreams boost Fernbank and NASA

Midway through last week’s brutality and mayhem, 200 people got a radically different global perspective when astronaut Tracy Caldwell Dyson showed up at the Fernbank Science Center in northeast Atlanta. NASA has a mission to reach far into the universe; Fernbank’s is to spark the imaginations of children and instill a passion for science. Both are trying to preserve their missions for future generations amid an ever-present threat of budget cuts, and an Evening with an Astronaut night was their combined effort.

Dyson described peering out of the cupola of the International Space Station to the blue-marble Earth and her eyes filling with tears. But tears don’t fall in space. Hers stuck to her eyeballs. Through that film, her view of our planet and its people deepened, to greater care and hope.

State of Gwinnett : Chairman Charlotte Nash addresses past woes, bright future; promotes citizenship

Gwinnett County commission Chairman Charlotte Nash laid her cards on the table Wednesday in her “State of the County” address.

The speech presented some challenges – the economy is harsh, the county budget is lean and getting leaner. Fresh allegations of public corruption in DeKalb County are reminders of Gwinnett’s recent and continuing problems.

Nash met it all head-on in her opening remarks: “Gwinnett’s story has been filled with ups and downs and plots twists along the way. The last few chapters were painful at times, and a few characters have been removed. But overall, Gwinnett’s story is a tale of success and a testament to those who made it happen.”