The Council Race Between the Two Ben’s

Ben Easterling.  Ben Burnett.  A seat on City Council being vacated by Mike Kennedy.  Jim Gilvin produced a video endorsing Burnett.  David Belle Isle endorses Easterling.

I’m not going to tell you who to vote for, but my own business interests in Alpharetta made me do some thinking on it.

Burnett claims to want to slow down density and development.  Yin needs yang.  Perhaps Alpharetta’s City Council would be more balanced with two potentially like-minded men such as Gilvin and Burnett.

Easterling has years and years of experience with the city by serving on the Recreation and Parks Commission.  I stood before Easterling and others on that Commission when I brought the idea of a community garden to the city. He, and they, saw the value in in, asked questions, and it ultimately moved to City Council.  (I’m sure all that is viewable somewhere on video).  So, I had a good experience with Mr. Easterling.  And even if I hadn’t, his years of experience on that Commission mean something.

Mr. Burnett doesn’t have those years of experience.  Mr. Easterling hasn’t been as vocal as Mr. Burnett on slowing down density.

The interesting thing about voting is that the absence of votes is an extremely powerful thing.  Alpharetta’s City Council has been elected by absence of votes as well as votes – this is not a city that is engaged with local politics.

May the best man win and may there be more women in local politics.


Local Blogger Questioned by Appen Newspapers

Jane and Fred are getting divorced.  Their mutual friend Amber asks Jane “why?” and gets an earful.  Amber comes away thinking, “Fred is awful.  I hate Fred too.”  But Amber thinks (quite extraordinarily) that she should talk to Fred.  After talking to Fred, Amber comes away thinking, “Jane is awful!  How has he managed to live with her?”

You see, there are 2 sides to every story.

And so it goes in local politics.   Appen, a fine local newspaper publisher, took to writing about a local blogger recently, a Ms. Jensen, creator of the Johns Creek Post.  Ms. Jensen prides herself in covering issues in Johns Creek that she believes Appen does not cover.  She tells the other side of the story.  Good for her.

Ms. Jensen, a local blogger,  deserves praise for putting herself out there and offering a different viewpoint.  And we all hope she’s being accurate, just as we hope Appen is being accurate.

The city of Johns Creek, deserves praise for their openness via live video session of their Council meetings.  Unlike the city of Alpharetta, “The Technology City of the South”,  Johns Creek’s video is high quality and doesn’t frequently encounter technical problems that disable their live streaming video entirely.

But, I’ve got nothing to say for or against the city of Johns Creek, Ms. Jensen or Appen Newspapers after that.

This is what I’ve got to say:  it’s easy to offer another side to the story.  It’s easy to find those that differ, either quietly or vehemently.  Everyone has an opinion just like everyone has a nose.  What’s difficult is engaging citizens in local issues.  Does Appen do that well?  Do local bloggers do that well?  I can’t speak for Johns Creek, but an easy trip to Alpharetta City Hall will answer that question.  In terms of those who vote, and those who show up at City Hall to hear or speak on issues, Alpharetta is quite UN-engaged as a city.  How do you change this?  That’s the real issue.

When you’re not engaged with your bank account or credit card a lot of things can happen.  An erroneous figure is subtracted from your account.  Or you get 5 credit card purchases at convenience stores in Flagstaff, Arizona where you’ve never been.  When you’re not paying attention to and taking care of your house a lot can happen.  Squirrels invade the attic and chew through wires.  A slow leak in your plumbing rots the floor and one day the ceiling falls through.  When you never visit the doctor a lot can go wrong.  A cancerous cell spreads.  An easy non-invasive test would have caught it.  But you hate doctors.

All of the above involves assets:  our financial accounts, our homes, our bodies.  We work – we slave – to take care of our assets.  What about the assets all around us – our roads, neighborhoods, safety, schools, shopping, parks, environment?  For some reason people are more than willing to ignore these assets and let elected folks take care of it.  But elected folks are human.  They may be honest as the day is long yet still make mistakes.  They may not be honest at all and masquerade as working on our behalf in order to work on their own behalf.  And yet, citizens can be more than willing to ignore and trust.

How do you change that?  Because that’s what needs to happen.  That’s how we take care of this asset called “Where I Live”.  That’s how we make good lives for ourselves.  It’s called “Community”.  That’s all I ever wanted to do.  And still want to do. And it’s the bigger question.  Has Appen engaged the citizens of these small north Fulton cities and inspired them to become more involved in local issues?  Has Ms. Jensen done the same?

No.  I think we all have a long way to go.



Stock Markets Climb a Wall of Worry

Twitter is very interesting.  It is also educational.  I probably learn more from this social media platform than any other.

I follow a certain person on Twitter.  His name is Conor Sen.

Recently, the aforesaid Conor Sen, was mentioned in The Atlantic for a tweet in which he said this, “If the world is falling apart, then why does the stock market keep rising?” A good question.  There is plenty of bad news out there.  Things seem to be falling apart.  “The centre cannot hold.”  (W.B. Yeats).  And yet, the market keeps rising.  Only today, a certain person with whom I work from time to time sat down and exclaimed with some surprise, “I made $30,000 yesterday!” (on his IBM stock; he is retired).

I read The Atlantic article in which Mr. Sen was mentioned.  You can read it too.  It is entitled, “Why Does the Stock Market Keep Going Up?”  Their 3 explanations were interesting, obvious.

As for me, when I read Mr. Sen’s Twitter post, one and only one statement came to mind to answer his question, “If the world is falling apart then why does the stock market keep rising?”  My thought is not new yet it is not quoted all that often by the younger generation.  Still, it’s entirely relevant.  And here it is:  “The stock market climbs a wall of worry.”  This is a statement that apparently originated some decades ago. What does it mean?

I’ll suggest to you what this old proverb means.   It’s a bit strange and a bit ironic.

When people, i.e. the masses, the majority, the bourgeois, the iconic “you” and “me” are worried, we generally stay out of the market, or at least refrain from much activity in the market.   We’re afraid.  If anything, we invest in what is safe.  Bonds?  Sure.  Real estate? Sure.  But here’s the thing:  someone out there is not afraid.  Someone out there sees an opportunity and is not afraid to take the risk.  They dive in and they dive in big.  Who is this someone?  I’ll leave that to your imagination, although I’ll suggest who one of the someone’s might be:  corporations.  In times like these, when “markets climb a wall of worry”, one of the biggest buyers on Wall Street is none other than corporations buying back their own stock shares.  Fewer shares on the market.  Precious as gold and diamonds.

All of the above has a contrarian air to it.  But, then again, there is no successful businessman who wasn’t at least a bit contrarian.  You have to go against the grain.  You have to climb the wall of worry





Alpharetta is the Best and Only Place to Live!

Glorious Alpharetta.  It’s so changed.  And for the better.  There is more high-end housing,  more construction, more places to eat and shop, more traffic, more people.  More.

Many, if not most, attribute Mayor David Belle Isle to the glorification that is Alpharetta.  He came to the gate at the right time.  The economic climate was right and he grabbed the bull of government bureaucracy, fellow elected officials, city codes and apathetic voters by the horns, wrestled them to the ground and while he was holding it all down gave the go-ahead to the forces that be.  He may not have a reputation as a team-player but stubbornness counts for a lot in this world.  Some say Belle Isle might have had more nefarious forces behind him.  Hearsay.  And who cares!  He got it done!  He delivered a practically brand new, comfortingly same, pristine city.   And other cities want to emulate it – Franklin, Tennessee for instance. And why shouldn’t they?

Only in Alpharetta can you rest assured that everyone around you is pretty much the same as you, economically and professionally speaking.  Start-ups, Fortune 500, new, innovative, exciting – these words describe the businesses located in Alpharetta.   Being rich and successful is practically a requirement to live in Alpharetta.  Poor people made themselves poor by being stupid and lazy.  We all understand this (we just don’t say it).

Alpharetta certainly delivers on sameness when it comes to housing – the same expensive housing, that is!   No worries about “blighted” houses that sell way under the median house price in Alpharetta of $389,000!   Neighborhood covenants and city codes and your Mayor  have delivered you million dollar housing Alpharetta.  OK, well there is that one “token” neighborhood over there.  You know the one I mean.  But, no worries, they  have a plan for that.

If Alpharetta, at large, isn’t insular enough for you, it delivers on that as well.  At Avalon you can live in a city within a city.   Everything is perfect at Avalon.  The shopping, the food, the ice skating rink/lawn, the lightning speed internet, even the decor with it’s fictional “Spectre, Alabama” string lights.  Avalon is the real deal!

In Alpharetta you can eat and drink and party with everyone else who is exactly like you.  You can conspicuously drive your Tesla, wear your finest clothes and soon you will be able to flash your iPhone X .  No worries.  Belle Isle has delivered on this.

In Alpharetta things are so placid, there is not even the need to worry about local politics.  Everyone is great!  Local newspapers only fret that there is no candidate for local office worth vetting because they are all so wonderful.

Do you care about the environment?  Alpharetta’s got lots of environment.  Do you care about local history?  Alpharetta has a history too. What about arts and culture?  I’m pretty sure I saw a foreigner just the other day in Alpharetta.  And they were wearing a very colorful outfit.

All that glitters is gold.





Toro’s Opinion on I-85 Bridge Collapse Ignores the Obvious

My favorite, best-dressed businessman, Mark Toro, is getting the headlines.  Most recently, the AJC featured him in an opinion piece entitled, “Atlanta’s Light is at the End of a MARTA Tunnel”.  It is a good and thought provoking piece.  Mr. Toro remembers the I-85 bridge collapse and the consequences.   He states, “At all of our places, we see connectivity as the most important amenity.”  As well he should, for Mr. Toro and North American Properties have developed some very high end developments that require traffic, money, purchasers and connectivity.   Among these developments is Avalon in Alpharetta, as you know.  Mr. Toro is now re-developing Colony Square in Midtown.  A successful Colony Square depends upon people, traffic, purchasers and connectivity.

It’s interesting that Mr. Toro makes the I-85 bridge collapse the galvanizing moment that makes MARTA the Oh, So, Logical Choice for all of the Metro.  You see, we must slightly discount Mr. Toro’s evangelism for MARTA since he does stand to benefit so strongly from MARTA at the properties that he (North American Properties) manages.  But, his opinion and your opinion about MARTA aside, for perhaps he is right, perhaps he is wrong, the I-85 bridge collapse also suggested another thing:  that perhaps the problem of Atlanta’s homeless community is actually the bright, blinding, tragic light at the end of that I-85 bridge collapse tunnel.  It is the blinding light that is being ignored, much to our detriment.

The I-85 bridge collapse was (allegedly) caused by an individual with a drug problem who was either fraternizing with or counted among the homeless.  In any case, he was under I-85 in an area I used to drive by regularly.   As someone who worked in midtown for 5 years and who drove the route by the bridge collapse, I can testify that this area is full of the homeless, the beggars, the unsightly, the unseemly, the people the Pope suggested we give to regardless of their circumstances.  (I am not Catholic.  I simply thought it was interesting.). On any given morning I would see them.  On any given morning I would have them approach my car begging for money.  One morning, while at work at the Atlanta Botanical Garden, I was approached by a presumably homeless person who was actually quite threatening.  Was it a surprise to see him within those fences outside of the given hours?  Yes.  How far was he from the area under the Piedmont Road bridge where the homeless sleep?  Maybe 1/10th of a mile. 

Atlanta’s homeless community is comprised of the following:  drug addicts, the mentally ill and those that are down on their luck.  And don’t relativize those that are down on their luck.  If you live long enough,  and even if you don’t, you too will be down on your luck one day.   Perhaps you too will be homeless.  In any case, Atlanta has its share of the homeless; i.e. those who  have no place to call home; who have no steady job, who are out…of….luck.  These out of luck human beings.  Oh yea!  These are people too.

What will we do with the homeless?  The area near the collapsed I-85 bridge is populated, is home to the homeless.  This is the message I took from the I-85 bridge collapse.  The cost!  The astronomical cost of that bridge collapse!

Mr. Toro presumes that the bridge incident means MARTA is a must.  MARTA will solve our problems, says he.  But what we will do with the homeless who live (?) adjacent to MARTA?  I want to suggest that THIS is the take-home from the I-85 bridge collapse and NOT that a savvy businessman thinks MARTA is a given for the metro, which will, incidentally benefit his developments.