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.



The End of the Innocence

Alpharetta has a fine police force.   Alpharetta has good parks.  This has nothing to do with the unfortunate incident last week in which a young mother walking her child at Wills Park fought off an attacker who put a knife to her throat.

The area where the woman was attacked, near the stables,  is an area I  refuse to walk alone in when visiting Wills Park.  This has been my rule for years and years.  It is an isolated area of the park.  And I am a woman.  To the best of my knowledge this type of incident has not occurred there before.  Better to be wise though.

This incident occurred not  because of a poor police force and/or presence, but probably because the statistics simply make it more likely.  There are more people in Alpharetta than ever before.

I do not subscribe to the idea suggested by someone that we should all pack pistols when walking in Wills Park.  I do subscribe to the reality that this has happened.

Dont walk in isolated areas of downtown Alpharetta.   It is the end of the innocence.

Will Alpharetta be the Pariah of the Metro?

Today, I read the most interesting blog post from Alpharetta City Councilman, Jim Gilvin.  In this blog post, Councilman Gilvin pointed out the fallacy that suburban life is somehow less desirable or maligned.  The truth is, suburban home sales are doing just fine.  I need not re-state Mr. Gilvin’s points.  If you live in Alpharetta, or Roswell, or Johns Creek, or Milton, or Cumming, you get my point.  You moved to the suburbs for a reason.

It’s so very interesting that the suburban lifestyle of Alpharetta is being sold right out from under the purview of its’ inhabitants, and by its elected officials, whether that be Recreation and Parks liaison  Jason Binder or Mayor David Belle Isle.  Evidently, the only City Council-person who votes to slow down or refuse high-density is the above mentioned Mr. Gilvin.  The sale of Alpharetta’s life and culture in favor of high-density and traffic is in opposition to everything that the majority of its inhabitants are familiar with or bought into when they moved here.

Of course, you cannot change what was set in place 30-35 years ago when big investors such as Exxon began to buy land in Alpharetta. The Windward community pre-supposed a future land-grab and development of surrounding environs.  But too much development has a certain taste of greed in it.  Development in Alpharetta has been at a cost to community.   Friendlessness, loneliness and all things superficial have resulted.  Alpharetta is extremely superficial.

I, and just a few others, believe that we can move beyond this; that there really is hope for community.

What is the other option?  I’ll tell you what it is:  “modern, industrial” retail and apartment homes; a City Hall that is less than 100 feet from apartments; traffic, hassles; transience, loneliness, crime.

If Alpharettans don’t stand up and take notice, they will be the pariahs of metropolitan Atlanta…and silly parking garages will be the subject of many a cartoon drawing.



Belle Isle Drive, and Other News

One of my sons visited Jekyll Brewery recently.  I’ve been telling him for years to go, but somehow he just got around to it and the verdict is favorable.  The fact that Jekyll is in an office park somehow only added to the curious but desirable ambiance of Jekyll.  Craft beers will come and go, but I’m hoping Jekyll has their place in Alpharetta and will be there a long time.

Speaking of beer, the local online “Alpharetta Patch” ran a piece recently about how Alpharetta is considering expanding the downtown open container district.  Well, that’s a conversation and people need to have it.  But I’m not here to talk about that conversation.  I was looking on the map that shows the proposed “open container” district lines and there it was, in very fine print…..

Belle Isle Drive

in the neighborhood that’s under construction right across from Belle Isle H…, excuse me, City Hall.  But to be fair, a reader pointed out there is another Mayor represented nearby….at “Letchas Lane.”

Seems like the Metlife/Peridot/Fuqua development has been deferred more than once, either at the behest of Council or the Developer.  Dare I say that’s a record?  I’m thinking it’s not THE record for deferrals but in any case interesting.  Let’s not forget – elections are coming up, both locally and for the Secretary of State…..I’m reminded of what hedge fund manager David Einhorn once said. “Both poker and investing are games of incomplete information. You have a certain set of facts and you are looking for situations where you have an edge, whether the edge is psychological or statistical.” 

And I will leave it at that.  Have a great week.



The Evil/NonEvil of Round-Up Use at Home and in New Development

I’ve been killing weeds lately.  Mostly, I pull weeds.  Or I mow them under.  I even put up with a few weeds.  But certain situations need a little help from glyphosate.  Now, glyphosate is sold under many labels, but the label I use around the house is RoundUpTM.

Reliable studies indicate that the active ingredient in Round-Up, glyphosate, is relatively safe for humans.  The label says this:  “Glyphosate…stops the production of an essential enzyme found in plants, not humans…”

I’m not overly worried about glyphosate.  I’m more concerned with other ingredients that can be found in weed-killers. For example, a product I used recently, RoundUp Concentrate Plus, contains diquat – known to be toxic to aquatic invertebrates and toxic to me, if used improperly.  Therefore, I follow the label.

Most weed killing products like Round-Up contain inactive ingredients that merit our consideration and caution as well.  These ingredients are not listed on the label, but are basically oils and soaps known as surfactants.  They help to spread the product on the surface of the plant and help it to stick.  Reliable studies are beginning to show that these surfactants are damaging to aquatic life and could be hurting our amphibian populations – one of our best gauges to the health of the eco-system.

Don’t believe the misconception that organic or natural products are safer or better to use.  You say you saw on Pinterest that vinegar kills weeds?  Vinegar will burn the tops of plants, so there is some truth to that.  Unfortunately, it won’t kill the root and the weed will probably grow right back.  Also, there is an environmental cost to using vinegar around amphibians – it will burn them too.

I’m going to keep using RoundUp in those certain situations, but I will always read the label and follow the label and give special consideration to any run-off that may occur.  And speaking of waterways and run-off, I’ll close with this warning:

All the new mixed-use and residential development in Alpharetta WILL be sprayed with herbicides such as Round-Up.  Much of that new development is near water in the form of creeks or lakes and green-space.  Much of that spraying will be near roadways and parking lots where rain will wash it into our creeks and waterways.  Don’t assume that the developers, owners, management companies and lawn care companies care if herbicides get into Big Creek, or a tributary creek or that pretty lake by the MetLife development.  Don’t assume they read the label.  Don’t assume they give a flip about amphibians.  Do assume they will make their new development as beautiful and weed free as they possibly can so that you are welcoming of their presence.  Beauty is everything.  Or is it?