Sunday, March 26, 2017

This is What I've Concluded About You From My Ten-Year Experiment

Some parts of society have become the biggest reality show. Seriously. Much of today's pop culture and I use the word culture loosely; is nothing more than a bunch of mostly bored and boring people being safe, thinking safe and living or should I say imagining a more robust life (like that of a reality show star). These people use social media to 're-imagine' themselves as bottle-popping party heads, surrounded by the 'coolest' people (who are usually homogenized, like milk).

I've recently concluded a ten year experiment. My experiment, while far from being scientific, has been mostly anecdotal. I decided that I wouldn't allow the people to know that they were my subjects as the interactions had to be as real as possible.

My unscientific conclusions:

1. People need to feel safe from true trendsetters. What's funny about this is people are intrinsically trendy, but this trendiness only goes as far as what everybody else is approving of. Many men are still afraid to be themselves because they have to hide their insecurities in a mixture of testosterone and the 'my d**k is bigger than yours-isms.' Many people are also not hardwired to understand a true trendsetter because the true trendsetter is usually someone that they'll consider weird or eccentric.  These people are so allergic to true change agents that they can sometimes get visibly upset when communicating with or even seeing them.

2. Original thinkers are becoming rarer. I've not come across more than 5 truly innovative thinking persons during my ten year study. The intelligence of the people studied ranged from below average to above average and smart(some of the above average and smart ones are the ones that tended to override their below the surface fears and jealousies when they encountered someone who may be MENSA smart by trying to correct the way they speak, write or how they operate as a whole. These types are fun.

3. People are not as good as they think they are. People fashion themselves as decent on one end and as mini Jesuses on the other end of the spectrum. They don't realize that most highly intelligent and intuitive (notice I wrote intuitive) people are ahead of these faux goodie two shoes by many steps. Smart intuitive people only entertain these types just for that, entertainment...and maybe some future benefit.

4. People need to feel that they are different from groups that look different.  Most people are not truly racist, but most are culturally separatists. There's nothing wrong with this. The only problem is when one think that being in a group that looks like______________, are better than the ones which look like__________. Most people that are compared based on social and class structures, tended to be more alike than those sorted by ethnic brands. While there are people in every ethnic group that would love to see a "race war" , unfortunately (for them), this probably won't ever happen because of all the 'gray' social, philosophical and sexual ties (underground and overt) of  many ethnic groups. We love each other more than we want to admit!

5. Most people are not with who they want to be with. I've heard more complaining and screaming about bad guys and a few bad women and it makes me wonder: wtf you were doing when you selected this one? Why is the divorce rate so high and at the same time there are so many wedding planners and infrastructure that's setup for getting married? Why get married if you're a natural cheater? The relationship summary from my ten year study is that many people are unhappy, depressed, have holes and need someone to fill their holes, so they find that soul that is best at hole filling, not necessarily the one that will actually stick with them, or be considerate or even keep a damn job.

There are a few other types that I won't discuss at this time, but may cover in a future post or posts and if you're terribly disappointed because you wanted more words in this post ("you should've touched more on this topic"), I say be patient, I may formalize it in a mini book, part of a big book or I may just leave it as is. But stand by to agree with or hate me. 

Replacing South DeKalb Mall With a New Mixed-Use Development

Photo credit: La Citta Vita

Bringing Atlantic Station to the eastside

New York City-based Thor Equities is an international real estate development and investment company that owns the 800,000 square foot The Gallery at South DeKalb. 

From Thor Equities' page describing The Gallery at South DeKalb: 

The Gallery at South DeKalb is located in the southeastern section of Atlanta, known as Decatur, Georgia. Situated minutes away from I-285, and directly off I-20 on Candler Road, the Gallery has tremendous exposure and visibility from the street. The daily traffic count of cars passing the Property is estimated to be about 136,000.

The Gallery at South DeKalb tailors itself to a close-knit community of African-American consumers with more than 600,000 potential customers in the primary and secondary market area. This trade area has the nation’s second-most affluent African-American base with an average household income at more than $60,000 for more than 257,000 people within a five-mile radius. There is also a deep relationship between the Gallery and their local religious partners. In their trade area, the 10 largest churches have more than 125,000 members, which support the Gallery at South DeKalb in many ways.

Just imagine for a moment that The Gallery at South Dekalb disappeared. When you drive up Candler Road, you don't see the 46 year-old mall, but you see something different. You see shops lining the street level at Candler Road, where you were able to look down into the valley that once held The Gallery at South DeKalb. When driving down into the valley, you see what looks like a small city center. You find buildings of differing heights and designs with retail names that are not within 20 miles of this location, but names that residents in the area seek out, drive to and shop at...20 plus miles away.

In your mind, you've seen this type of development, with names such as Atlantic Station, Glenwood Park, and Avalon. Residents of the actual city of Decatur and Atlanta come out to this location, to shop at stores that they used to have to travel much further to shop at. 

This is something that could happen. With I-20 being one of the busiest freeways in the south, south DeKalb residents shouldn't sleep on The Gallery at South DeKalb, or should I say, the potential of The Gallery at South DeKalb. There will be the usual, "this won't fly in south DeKalb, because of the income issues" crowd. It's all about providing a desirable destination. There's a solid middle class in the south DeKalb market area. 

Photo credit: Brett VA
The issue is not that most residents don't want to or can't support the retail, they like most consumers want the whole shopping experience to be something that they feel great about shopping at. Atlantic Station does a great job in this area. It's offerings are nothing out of the ordinary, it has a Publix, movie theater, mall-type retail, a huge confusing parking garage and enough events happening year-round. Atlantic Station is basic mall-type stores in a nice wrapping. They've also upgraded Atlantic Station once in the past nine years since it's opening. Retail center upgrades are important.  This is why in other parts of the metro with similar economic demographics, retail centers and stores are upgraded, renovated and refashioned often. The retail stores and shopping center owners know that doing a upgrade every 20 years won't fly with the consumers in those areas. Why should it fly in south DeKalb? 

Imagine having a Christmas tree lighting at the new South DeKalb. Imagine a weekend flea market. Imagine an amphitheater with events almost year-round. This is doable and we should explore this further. We should ask Thor Equities, "what are your plans for this property?" A repurposing of The Gallery of South Dekalb would be an amazing asset. 

If you're into planning and development, I came across a Livable Centers Initiative study commissioned by Dekalb County for the Panthersville/ Flat Shoals Parkway/ Candler Road area back in 2007. This is a great start, but the conversation needs to keep going. 

Photos are only depictions of ideas and do not represent actual future developments.

Raising the Black Bar

Tough love convo sorely needed in 2017

I want to discuss a serious subject and hope that I don't start a flame war, but hope to shake out a little complacency from us .It's time that we have frank conversation that was needed 30 years ago. 

Please keep in mind that these words are not speaking about members of other ethnic groups that truly hate black people for no obvious reason other than skin color. Also there are many white people that don't have any issues with black people on any level (even the points made below-they just don't care) just as there are many black people who'll get this and will agree with the points made below.

In case you're wondering if this is all about what other people do or don't like and is yet another 'acclimate ourselves again to what other people are comfortable with'; no, this is not about that. This is about aligning the strata of the black population that needs to get their lives together. I'm talking about aligning this group of black folk to your everyday, 'go to work, business owning, care about your child's welfare, want to do good in school' black people.

Below is a list (I'll call it the 'Get your Home in Order' list)of items that black people should address within (again, only the ones truly needing to do this).

The list is derived from many years of observations and talking to mostly black people and others from a few other ethnic groups and is not a scientific survey by any means. The listed items are in no order of importance. Here goes:

1. Teach our children to be respectful and be aware of behavior that can be misconstrued as aggressive. This was a tough one, because in many instances (if not most, black boys are labeled as aggressive when in fact they're not aggressive at all. It's weird how whites and blacks have lived, worked and played close to each other for a long time, but we are still thousands of miles away when it comes to actually knowing each other. We are fed news stories that inaccurately reflects TRUE cultural group reality and in turn some of us act out based on this 'media feeding' or think in those biased terms.

2. Put more energy into our children's education. This is a no brainer. The world is cruel enough place without a college degree, but it's downright hell without a high school diploma. It's also time to destroy that several decades old demon that whispers into some of our kids ears that being smart or excelling in school is NOT cool. Realize that the school is NOT the only teacher for your children. We should integrate learning into our everyday family environment. This would create a 'love to learn for the sake of it' mental environment in the child.

3. Cut the grass, keep up the neighborhoods. Be proud of your home. When you're proud, it's hard to let the lawn grow up to the roof of your home. This is also about being considerate to your neighbors. There are many that do an awesome job of keeping the homestead looking nice.

4. Stop being so sensitive about everything. Racism is alive and well. Gender based inequality is alive and well. Criminal-ism is definitely alive and well. The reality is the non-black person that dared to speak out about something that he or she doesn't like is most likely expressing what others (including many blacks) don't like.

It's a tough love assessment that is expressed by someone who you think shouldn't say it, but has the balls to say it when the people that look the most like you won't say it. I suspect that many non-blacks that don't truly hate us don't want to live or heavily socialize around us simply because they, like most other ethnic groups; feel the most comfortable when around others that are culturally similar and who look similar.

5. Get a job. While this is not only a black problem as there are many others that don't want to work. This gets a mention because, again, I am speaking from my experience with us black people. When we don't like to work, we are broke, and are a burden to many productive people such as family and friends. This is unnecessary reliance when we are physically able to work. This only creates a below mediocre standard of being. It shouldn't be about only wanting to survive, we should want to rise economically as high as we can. Destroy the 'get over' mentality.

6. Men, respect our women. Stop calling them b**s, h*s and any other name that is derogatory. I find it amazing that white rockers don't diss their women the way some rap and r & b artists do black women. Some people will say that it's because you're dealing with young men. Yeah right. I'm sure young white men musicians 'feel some kind of way' or say derogatory things about their women, they just don't do it as a default in their music and definitely not so publicly.

Black people will get angry when white men say derogatory things about black women in the public realm; but this is made more possible because it's allowed in the black community on a wholesale level. Also stop supporting music (no matter how good it sounds) that objectify and disrespects women. It has to start somewhere.

We have to evolve beyond the bubblegum r & b and rap that has metastasized on black radio. It's funny how we're doing music that's 'composed' on machines without a full array of instruments, but more white people are creating soul music, all with a full array of instruments. What happened here?

7. Stop embracing the thug life. All black men are not thugs. Not all white men are serial killers. I find too many of our young dudes embracing thuggish behavior (especially suburban kids from good backgrounds). If I was an alien that tuned into the average black radio station, I would think that the artists are addressing humans that only love hyper aggressive behavior towards each other, are violent for the sake of violence towards each other and only makes a living selling drugs.

Every ethnic group sell drugs (white men AND women probably do it more than others), but black people must have a wake up call: in the United States of America, the criminal justice system will look for you (black man) first. It's designed by people that want you out of their social and economic hairs. Is it a conspiracy, maybe, but I'm not one to go into that because if you truly don't sell drugs or do anything illegal for that matter; you don't go into the criminal justice beast. It's really simple. The victim slant of this doesn't hold much merit.

I'm sure someone will say that this doesn't address more issues or that this can be said about any other ethnic group. I'm not addressing other ethnic groups. I'm black and I've dealt mostly with black and white people. This is our time to work out things. Some may say I'm throwing shade or call me a 'traitor' for daring to speak out what we as an ethnic group need to be mindful of and what we need to do to gain more respect on the world stage.  

Why It's Time For South DeKalb County to Get More Diverse Restaurants and Retail

Photo credit: Le Petit Marche

Despite higher median income and traffic counts than other Atlanta suburban areas, trendy fast casual restaurants shun south DeKalb

On a recent evening, my wife and I contemplated on what we were having for dinner. Anything was okay if it didn’t involve firing up the stove, so we settled on Willy’s Mexicana Grill. My thoughts on biting into a tasty veggie quesadilla went from happy to stressful in a half of a second: it was 9:40 pm, and I knew that Willy’s would close in 20 minutes!

Thoughts of “can I make it in time” ran through my head. If we were living in Midtown, Buckhead, or near Emory, I wouldn’t be stressed about time, but we live off of Wesley Chapel Road in south DeKalb and the closest Willy’s is about 20 minutes away near Little Five Points.  While I won’t say how fast I drove in order to make it to Willy’s before closing time, I made it. It was a reminder that the area I chose to live in, doesn’t have much of a choice in restaurants beyond fast food outlets.

Some will say, “what about the Stonecrest Mall area? There are several fast casual and good sit-down restaurants in that area”. Although Stonecrest is not far, it’s also not close enough to make a 5 or 6-minute trip to get food. Whole Foods, Trader Joe's, Starbucks, Chipotle, Taco Mac, Zoe's Kitchen, are a few of the national retailers found in other parts of metro Atlanta-sometimes with several outlets in close proximity. But they are nowhere to be seen in south DeKalb.

If you were to ask the restaurant company business or franchise development departments about the chances of locating an outlet in south DeKalb, they may say that the demographics in much of south DeKalb doesn’t ‘fit their business model'. According to Entrepreneur article, “How to Find the Best Location”, determining where to locate a restaurant can be as simple or complex. “There are, for instance, sophisticated location analysis tools available that include traffic pattern information, demographic and lifestyle data, and competitive analyses.”

Within demographic data is median income. Comparing population and median household income data between 5 south DeKalb ZIP codes and selected metro Atlanta suburbs, you'll find a few interesting things. Hiram, population 3,705, has a Starbucks, Japanese restaurant, Moe's Southwest Grill and a Cold Stone Creamery, all in an area with median household income of $46,793. In addition to Hiram, the cities listed below, have a plethora of fast casual and other trendy restaurants.

Their populations are all less than the population of the south DeKalb ZIP codes and all of their median household incomes, except Roswell and Sandy Springs, are LESS than the median household income in south DeKalb. I chose Roswell and Sandy Springs for a reason. They are considered relatively wealthy, have high quality of life metrics and overall are considered highly desirable places to live.

The median household income in Sandy Springs was a little more, about $5.32 an hour more than the median household income in south DeKalb. 

South DeKalb (Zip codes 30034, 30035, 30088, 30058, 30038)
Pop. 173,484
Pop. 60,014
Median household income(MHI): $48,203
MHI: $41,693
Sandy Springs
Pop. 94,089
Pop. 101,908
MHI: $72,317
MHI: $59,196
Pop. 23,004
Pop. 30,212
MHI: $45,077
MHI: $42,395

Pop. 3,705

MHI: $46,793

South DeKalb compares favorably on median household income with the others. So it must be another metric that these restaurants are using to determine where they'll open up. Traffic counts!

Traffic counts are conducted by the state of Georgia for traffic signal, intersection improvements and other updates to help with improving traffic flow. South DeKalb must be facing a dearth of restaurant diversity because our traffic counts don’t warrant opening up right? Wrong!

Wesley Chapel's most recent traffic count is 51,900 (the count was taken in front of JJ's Fish and Chicken and probably 48,000 of them are in JJ's drive thru!). Anyone who drives on Wesley Chapel is hardly surprised by this number, but to put it in proper perspective, let's look around the metro area and see how busy the other roads are. The number listed next to the roadway name is the largest traffic count anywhere on that road.

Ashford-Dunwoody Rd
Roswell Rd
Peachtree St/Rd
Cobb Pkwy
Highway 138 (Stockbridge)
Camp Creek Pkwy
Thornton Rd (Douglasville)
Pleasant Hill Rd (Duluth)
Jimmy Carter
Holcomb Bridge Rd
Buford Dr (near the Mall of Ga)

Driving on Ashford-Dunwoody Road is frustrating, the traffic is a little less than that of Wesley Chapel Road, but there are high-rise office buildings, hotels, tons of restaurants and a big mall in that area. Driving on Wesley Chapel, you'll pass a McDonalds, a Waffle House, KFC, Captain D’s, another McDonalds. No big malls, no restaurant variety, no high-rise office buildings and hotels.

Comparing populations, median household incomes and traffic counts around metro Atlanta, we see that south DeKalb compares favorably with other areas, but we don't have what the other areas have. 

There is no reason why the households in this area makes more than Marietta, Lawrenceville, Hiram and McDonough, but doesn't have the restaurant choices those areas have. There are no clear reasons why I should have to drive to Little Five Points to get a Willy's quesadilla when the median income, population and traffic counts show that south DeKalb could support this and other similar restaurants and stores.


Written by Ari Meier

Copyright 2016 © Ari Meier

Stop Wasting Time On A Man That Won't Marry You

Okay, many online and print publications, have opinions or 'facts' about this topic. Millions of love starved women then click on the links hoping to find some groundbreaking information about the 'man will marry me signs'; only to come away with paragraphs of theory (fluff) about this age old dilemma.

I'm going to simplify this for the ones that need or want to know and will probably either piss off or gain some male fans with exposing this little known 'secret'. 
Are you ready to find out the truth? Do I need to add more paragraphs to make you feel it was worth your taking the time to click this link?

He Will Discuss his Intentions
While this is a no-brainer, women must know that it's in our nature to want to chase after, capture and hold onto what we treasure or love. A man with a clear intention of marrying you will not have to be coaxed or pleaded with or 'I hope he wants to marry me one day-ed'. He'll discuss it because he can't stand the chance of another dude coming in chasing and capturing you. 

No Excuses 
If you've been in a serious relationship with your guy after 3 years and he's still making excuses about why you can't get married soon; just know that you probably won't get married to him. It doesn't cost a lot to get married, but can cost a fortune to have a big wedding. Know the differences. It may cost much upfront money to buy a house, but doesn't take much to move a new husband or wife into a present home or apartment (providing that all of your belongings will fit). Careers don't die because of suddenly getting married and schooling shouldn't be affected. Of course if you're marrying a time thieving, envy monster; then the career and education part will matter. 

Stop Drinking the Kool-Aid
If your man is saying "I'm going to marry you" every year and you have been together for 3, 4, 7 years; do yourself a favor and stop getting drunk off of the Kool-Aid and have a serious discussion with him and if this is fruitless; plan your exit strategy.

Photo courtesy of OMGGhana

Saturday, March 25, 2017

How Television Can Affect Your Brain and Motivation

I like millions of Americans grew up watching TV. Although my heaviest TV watching were during my earlier years-watching cartoons (loved Loony Tunes), Sesame Street, Electric Company and the evening sitcoms; as I got older, I enjoyed watching The Cosby Show, Martin, A Different World, Seinfeld, The Simpsons.

By this time, I was more a casual watcher than a "I gotta get home by___pm to watch this" watcher. As I became more creatively productive, I watched less TV, even to the point of not owning a TV during a few stretches. I stumbled on the book "The Four Arguments for the Elimination of Television" by Jerry Mander about 20 years ago and in it were many of the words that eloquently spoke what I'd been slowly feeling about television: that there's more to this so-called idiot box than we could imagine, something even sinister.

My stance on TV is that you don't have to throw it out, but you should at least understand it. You should read about its history, it's intended use.

Excepts from the article:

"Survey participants commonly reflect that television has somehow absorbed or sucked out their energy, leaving them depleted. They say they have more difficulty concentrating after viewing than before. In contrast, they rarely indicate such difficulty after reading."

"Mander strongly disagrees with the idea that TV is merely a window through which any perception, any argument, or reality may pass. Instead, he claims TV is inherently biased by its technology. For a variety of technical reasons, including TV’s need for sharp contrast to maintain interest, Mander explains that authoritarian-based programming is more technically interesting to viewers than democracy-based programming. War and violence may be unpleasant in real life; however, peace and cooperation make for “boring television.” And charismatic authority figures are more “interesting” on TV than are ordinary citizens debating issues."

"In a truly democratic society, one is gaining knowledge directly through one’s own experience with the world, not through the filter of an authority or what Mander calls a mediated experience. TV-dominated people ultimately accept others’ mediated version of the world rather than discovering their own version based on their own experiences.

"Robert Keeshan, who played Captain Kangaroo in the long-running children’s program, was critical of television—including so-called “good television”— in a manner rarely heard from those who work in it:When you are spending time in front of the television, you are not doing other things. The young child of three or four years is in the stage of the greatest emotional development that human beings undergo. And we only develop when we experience things, real-life things: a conversation with Mother, touching Father, going places, doing things, relating to others. This kind of experience is critical to a young child, and when the child spends thirty-five hours per week in front of the TV set, it is impossible to have the full range of real-life experience that a young child must have. Even if we had an overabundance of good television programs, it wouldn't solve the problem."

"Television is a “dream come true” for an authoritarian society. Those with the most money own most of what people see. Fear-based TV programming makes people more afraid and distrustful of one another, which is good for an authoritarian society depending on a “divide and conquer” strategy. Television isolates people so they are not joining together to govern themselves. Viewing television puts one in a brain state that makes it difficult to think critically, and it quiets and subdues a population. And spending one’s free time isolated and watching TV interferes with the connection to one’s own humanity, and thus makes it easier to accept an authority’s version of society and life."

Read full article at AlterNET

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Stonecrest Will Become the Next Dunwoody

Photo credit: High Street

After living in various parts of midtown Atlanta and Buckhead for about a decade, I moved back to south DeKalb in the summer of 2013. I’ve loved the area since buying my first home in the early 90’s and knew if I had to move to a suburban, more family-friendly area, I wanted it to be south DeKalb.

Because I believe in knowing my area, I started reading the Champion and Crossroads Newspapers to see what was happening in the community. I found an article about a group trying to form a city of Stonecrest. Another later article informed me of an effort to form another city, dubbed ‘City of South DeKalb’. This got me even more interested as I live within the latter’s footprint. I eventually joined the effort to create the ‘City of South DeKalb’, later rechristened ‘Greenhaven’.

This past election year, I celebrated that voters decided overwhelmingly to create Stonecrest. I found the idea of Stonecrest compelling, viable and representative of something that I’ve known for a while: many of the people in this area are smart, well-cultured and will make things happen if given an opportunity.

I see Stonecrest and Dunwoody as being very similar. Sure, Dunwoody has the tall office buildings and hotels, many shopping areas and lots of upscale housing, but it hasn’t always been this way. Forty years ago, Dunwoody was an unincorporated part of DeKalb County with a newly-built regional mall (Perimeter Mall), and a scattering of low-rise office parks. The business leaders of the area marketed it as an alternative to downtown and midtown for business.

Stonecrest must borrow from this playbook. There are many that may look at this idea as preposterous. After all, what and why would companies want to locate 20 miles outside downtown Atlanta? I’m sure when the developers of Perimeter Mall and Perimeter Center office park pitched their proposals, they were probably met with the same questions. Much of the Perimeter Center area pre-development was farmland and forest and not close to the center of Atlanta’s business communities.

Imagine the people who grew up in Dunwoody back in the 40’s and 50’s and how they remember the changes in the area. Many of them probably couldn’t imagine that pristine farmland eventually becoming one of metro Atlanta’s largest commercial centers. Imagine a high-tech company looking to locate in metro Atlanta and deciding on Stonecrest because of its proximity to the airport and downtown, low crime rate, highly skilled workforce, a diversity of housing choices and a bet that a MARTA rail line will come out that way in the near future. Now imagine them building a 6-story regional office in Stonecrest. A few years afterwards, more companies want to move to the area. It’s like a snowball effect. Just as what made the Perimeter Center area popular, companies and people like to be in a ‘hot’ area. Then more housing comes, more choices in entertainment, which in turn, attracts more businesses. This is the simplified version of what happens. 

All it takes is a serious marketing/ branding of the area, improving/ maintaining the quality of life and Stonecrest will thrive. Stonecrest is no different than any other upstart area: no one really knows the true the potential. If the recent announcement of a big sports complex is a harbinger of what’s in store for a city that is not officially open for business, just imagine what might happen when the city’s open for business.

I must say one thing about the mayor’s office (yes, I’m injecting some politics in this). I think Jason Lary is highly qualified to be the mayor of the city he helped envision and found. I’ve met him a few times at the Greenhaven town hall meetings and found him to be a highly intelligent person who I consider as less of a politician, and more of someone who is genuinely concerned about the community and who wants to make a big difference. If I could vote in the Stonecrest election, I would vote for Jason.

I see good things happening with Stonecrest. I see it becoming the next Dunwoody. I see MARTA rail going to the area, I see high-rise office and housing being built there. I see telling my grandchildren about how I remember when it was just a mall, some restaurants and retail scattered around the mall back in the day. They’ll then look at me in disbelief.

Friday, January 6, 2017

What Really Defines School Quality?

Photo credit: Justine Warrington

And it's not about the percentage of kids on free or reduced lunch.

School quality has been a big topic for decades and there seems to be no quick and easy answers. We all usually agree that school quality metrics involve test scores, graduation rates and parental involvement. School districts can also be affected negatively by non-educationally related issues such as school board in-fighting and administrative and organizational negligence. This could threaten the school district's accreditation, which can cause potential residents of an area to not consider the area. DeKalb County School District nearly lost its accreditation because of something not related to its quality of education. This is an example of adults not putting the children and what they are tasked with first. 

Both of my parents were educators (teachers and counselors) and dinner time was often peppered with talk about the board this, mr. so and so this. I enjoyed listening to this "teacher gossip" especially when it would touch on principals and teachers I knew. When faced with going to high school, I thought  I would attend the high school that the majority of my middle school friends were attending. My mom wasn't going for that, so I found all kinds of reasons why I didn't want to go to the school I was zoned to attend. Finally I pulled the bad school card. I would never forget what my mom said in response to this. 

"There's nothing wrong with that school, they have a lot of good teachers and low test scores don't mean that the kids don't know anything." Years later, when I had children of my own, I remembered my mom's declaration when fussing and haggling over where to move. My older kids attended private school until they were at the middle school age and eventually both graduated from Stephenson High. I have a daughter currently at Towers, who attended Bethune before that, she's maintained great grades at both schools.

I used before moving a couple of years ago. I found its user interface simple, but looking deeper into the metrics going into the 1-10 rating system, I found the percentage of free or reduced lunches, racial composition and standardized test scores were parameters used in the ratings. I'm not sure if whether a child getting free or reduced lunch has any bearing on the quality of the school in educating said child.

When doing research on the accuracy of, I found comments from parents around the country coming to the conclusion that ratings may not accuratley reflect the actual quality of the school. Several years ago on a popular real estate site, a parent detailed his search for a good public school and was dismayed after seeing the chosen school rated as a 3. He visited the school and was impressed enough to enroll his kids anyway and both he and the kids absolutely love the school.

What makes a good school is parents making the schools accountable and schools making the parents accountable for the child getting the most out of their learning experience. Of course, the child must be accountable by listening and doing all of their necessary tests and school work. In the better performing schools, principals, teachers and parents maintain constant communication with each other when there are negative changes in the student's grades. 

I've never been an educator but I know it's not an easy occupation, but If you are an educator that is not emotionally vested with teaching, get into another line of work. Students need their teacher, principal and all support educational staff to be at 100 percent. I've heard a teacher mumble under her breath about not liking working in this county. My mom  used to say that there were many dedicated teachers and then there were the ones who liked the idea of not working during the summer months and getting paid more than actually teaching.

If you are a parent who is not involved at all in your child's education beyond getting him or her ready for school or dropping them off at the bus stop, please understand that you may be setting your child up for possible failure. Sure there are many children that are doing great in school in the absence of much parental involvement, but if your child is not doing good in school and if you're not as involved, understand that it's not all of the school's fault.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

When Upscale Neighborhood Crime Rates are Higher Than Least Desirable Neighborhoods

Midtown Atlanta's Piedmont Park

Coalescing in southern DeKalb County is a movement that is a) trying to form a city (Greenhaven) to help improve the quality of life of its inhabitants and b) bringing together critical-thinking community members to address the issues and debunk the myths that often gather around diverse areas – in this case the issue of safety.

Crime is a hot topic. With a multitude of publications ranking the ‘safest neighborhoods’, many understandably make it a priority to peruse these lists and guides with the hopes of not only avoiding a high crime area when researching an area before purchasing a home, but to insure that the chosen neighborhood has a low likelihood of changing. Looks can be deceiving.

The issue is that people rarely get hard data to support this assessment. These labels bring huge economic costs: disinvestment, high unemployment in the community, low economic development potential, and lower home appreciation rates. Some of these communities have median incomes that are similar or close to that of other communities, but the high crime label supersedes any positive information about the community. You can go to much of the U.S. and find this dynamic repeated. A part of metro Atlanta is presented as a case study on this phenomenon and hard data is used to prove that looks are deceiving.

Using DeKalb County Georgia, and in particular, a proposed section that the think tank team refers to as Greenhaven is a case study of perception vs. reality when it comes to crime. The author took zip codes within the proposed Greenhaven and compared them to contiguous and nearby areas that are considered affluent, desirable and high in property value. This comparison was about assessing whether the following quote from a recent article in the major newspaper was reflective of the area.

In south DeKalb County, where the 20-year-old Campbell lived his entire life, violent deaths of young men are so common that a shorthand term has evolved for the nighttime vigil that follows so many shootings. It is, simply, a candlelight”, declared the recent AJC article, “Life, death and gangs in south DeKalb.”

I hope these young men rest in peace and that their families and other survivors find healing and peace.

The AJC story highlights several young men that were killed since this past summer, and includes a map of where the young men lived and died. One problem: although ‘south DeKalb’ is in the story’s title, based on the story’s map, most of the killings occurred outside of south DeKalb- far outside, as in the Tucker/ Smoke Rise area. Most will agree that a killing is never good no matter where it happens, but in this case, the title of the article doesn’t accurately portray where the majority of these killings occurred.

The news reporting status quo goes something like this: “There was a killing in DeKalb”, “A young woman was murdered in ___________”. You are free to insert “DeKalb”, “DeKalb County” or “south DeKalb” onto the blank line. The AJC article and local news stations make it seem as if DeKalb County, specifically south DeKalb, is rife with crime.

South DeKalb has its share of problems, with crime being one of them. The point of this is not to trivialize those who have experienced crime of any type in south DeKalb. This is about correcting when there are errors. According to recent data from, a part of the network, the risk of being a crime victim is higher in parts of the Atlanta metro area that you would least expect. For instance, in many Buckhead and midtown zip codes, your chances of being a victim of a crime are much higher than in south DeKalb.
What is crime risk and how is it measured?

From the site:
Total Crime Risk - A score that represents the combined risks of rape, murder, assault, robbery, burglary, larceny and vehicle theft compared to the national average of 100. A score of 200 indicates twice the national average total crime risk, while 50 indicates half the national risk. The different types of crime are given equal weight in this score, so murder, for example, does not count more than vehicle theft. Scores are based on demographic and geographic analyses of crime over seven years.

Personal Crime Risk - Index score (100=National Average) that represents the combined risks of rape, murder, assault and robbery.

Property Crime Risk - Index score (100=National Average) that represents the combined risks of burglary, larceny and motor vehicle theft.

I’ve gathered and looked at crime data from 19 zip codes, ranging from midtown, most of Buckhead/ Lenox Square, Sandy Springs, Dunwoody, Brookhaven, Tucker, Atlanta Lavista Road/ North Druid Hills Rd areas, city of Decatur, Virginia-Highlands/ Morningside, Little 5 Points/ Inman Park, Candler Park, much of south DeKalb excluding Ellenwood and Lithonia. Five of the 19 zip codes are in south DeKalb (lying wholly in the proposed city of Greenhaven). The Atlanta, Tucker and city of Decatur zip codes were chosen because they are areas that are stereotypically thought of as great areas and are highly sought out to live in and are entertainment and/ or dining destinations.

Some highlights:
The five zip codes in south DeKalb County (specifically the proposed city of Greenhaven: 30083, 30088, 30034, 30032, and 30035) have an average crime score of 186 for all crimes, the average personal crime score is 151 and the average property crime score is 197. The national crime score average is 100 in all types of crime.

If you are living, working or playing in some of the other zip codes, your chances of being a crime victim increases significantly.

Out of the 19 studied zip codes, you have the highest chance of being an overall crime victim in:
  • Zip code 30306 (Virginia-Highland/ Morningside areas). The overall crime score for this zip code is 641. This is more than three times that of the south DeKalb zip codes.
  • Zip code 30326 (Buckhead/ Lenox Square) has the highest score for personal crimes with 737. This is nearly a five times greater chance of being a victim of murder, rape, assault and robbery than you would in south DeKalb.
  • The Virginia-Highland/ Morningside area (30306) has the highest score in property crime with 671. This is more than three times the chances of being a victim of a car theft, home burglary and larceny than in south DeKalb.
  • Stone Mountain zip code 30088 had the second lowest crime score in all categories after zip code 30329 (Lavista Road/ North Druid Hills Road area).
So if south DeKalb is NOT a hot bed of crime, why does the area have this reputation? It may be more about human nature than some great conspiracy. Many will repeat “truths” without experiencing first-hand that which they purport to know about. If your opinion on south DeKalb is formed mainly by the news media, then you will think that its gang and crime ridden.

South DeKalb suffers more from disinvestment than crime. It’s an area that experienced amazing growth during the 70’s and 80’s and as the ethnic demographics changed (without a drastic change in median income) the area’s reputation became increasingly colored by perception rather than reality. Even neighboring Gwinnett County, which has seen an increase in gang-related crimes, gets better treatment in the media.

The AJC story highlighted very real deaths and associations with gangs by these young men, but to include within the article statements such as: “In south DeKalb County, where the 20-year-old Campbell lived his entire life, violent deaths of young men are so common that a shorthand term has evolved for the nighttime vigil that follows so many shootings. It is, simply, a candlelight.” This is inflammatory writing where the writer chose to go with the status quo of throwing around the words “crime”, “murder”, and “gangs” to stick to an area that doesn't deserve it.

Click here to see the full crime comparison database.

Sources: Compare cities
Crimemapping. DeKalb County crimes

Copyright 2016 © Ari Meier