It’s 2-1 against parks debt

When the Dunwoody city council voted in late October to add a $19 million purchase of two apartment complexes on 42 acres to the city’s bond referendum for parks acquisition, the plan backfired.

Intended to address calls for the kinds of purchases the city might make with $33 million to spend, the electorate reacted in many different ways, most of them negative.

The acquisition bond was defeated 67 percent to 33 percent while the parks improvement bond for $33 million was defeated 60 percent to 40 percent.

A poll taken in mid-October by InsiderAdvantage for The Crier had shown the bonds leading narrowly, but within the margin of error. 

Comments to The Crier and on various area blogs showed that a majority of voters believed that $66 million plus interest was too much debt for a city the size of Dunwoody. Others were concerned about the disruption of the hundreds of families and more than 500 school-age children in the two apartment complexes, Dunwoody Glen and Lacota. 

It is back to square one now for the city council. The apartment purchases and the purchase of the old Emory Shallowford hospital tracts were contingent on passage of the acquisition bonds. The city intended to use the apartment sites for a sports complex. At this point, though there is ample public demand for ball fields, the city doesn’t have a location for them. 

The other ballot items were much less controversial. An item called redevelopment powers passed 54 percent to 46 percent. It brings the city into line with state laws on the creation of tax allocation districts to spur development in blighted areas. 

The star of the ballot was the Sunday sale of beer, wine and distilled spirits after 12:30 p.m. Voters liked that, with 79 percent in favor and 20 percent opposed. The liquor industry poured money into advertising and on election day, hundreds of pro-alcohol signs sprouted in the city. 

Smaller liquor stores may not take the invitation to be open seven days.

“I’m not going to open on Sunday,” said Lily Lee, owner of the bottle shop in the Georgetown shopping center.

She said she doesn’t sell enough wine and beer to warrant being open. 

 


 

It is back to polls December 6

The Dunwoody city council went back to work Monday evening with one incumbent still staring at a runoff election December 6 and with uncertainty over the runoff for mayor.

Councilor Robert Wittenstein, one of the city’s founders a financial guru for the Citizens for Dunwoody in the runup to cityhood three years ago, came in second in Tuesday’s voting to Terry Nall, a neighborhood and church leader and board member of the Dunwoody Homeowners’ Association. Nall won 45 percent of the vote to Wittenstein’s 42 percent. Rick Callihan got 13 percent or 1133 votes. 

In a further blow to the incumbent, Callihan has endorsed Nall in the runoff (see Talkback to The Crier, page 3).

In a thank you to his supporters, Wittenstein noted that runoffs typically show low voter participation.

“The key to winning the runoff election is to get my supporters to the polls,” he said. “Voter turnout in a runoff is typically light so every vote is critically important.”

Nall rode the anti-parks bond sentiment to a surprising first place in the first go-round. He believes voters switched from Wittenstein because he voted to place the bond issues on the ballot.

The race to replace retiring Mayor Ken Wright was almost as tight. Bob Dallas ran first but only won 43 percent of the vote, typically a danger zone for the front-runner in a runoff. Mike Davis, a businessman, captured second place with 39 percent. He too won the support of many anti-bond voters. 

The former president of the Dunwoody Homeowners’ Association, Gordon Jackson, got into the race late, the last day of qualifying. He garnered 18 percent of the vote. Jackson has endorsed Davis in an ad in this week’s Crier.

In the final council race, Lynn Deutsch, a long time public school activist, defeated Kerry de Vallette by 55 percent to 45 percent.  While de Vallette, a Republican in the non-partisan races, tried to make it a partisan race, Deutsch was aided at the 11th hour by an endorsement by Councilor John Heneghan, whose blog is widely read and circulated. She also won the endorsements of several women long active in the public schools. 

Deutsch will replace Councilor Danny Ross, who is retiring. 

Runoffs are tricky for candidates to gauge. The candidates will have to campaign over Thanksgiving week when many voters are out of town or disengaged. Nall and Davis will have to try to entice anti-parks bond voters to the polls, while all will have to identify voters whose records indicate they vote in every election.

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