DeKalb County

Three weeks from today, on May 24, 2016, voters across the Atlanta area will decide Democratic and Republican nominees for a wide assortment of offices – including a U.S. Senate seat, all of the U.S. House seats, posts in the state legislature and many city and county positions.

Among the most closely watched local contests will be in DeKalb County, where major issues like police-community relations, transportation and the revival of economically struggling areas have been overshadowed by the county's effort to emerge from a string of ethics scandals. 

Friendship William V. Guy Tower in Atlanta
Stephanie M. Lennox / Stephanie M. Lennox

Starting in July, developers building multi-family homes in the city of Atlanta who receive public funds will have to set aside up to 15 percent of their units for affordable housing. 

Atlanta City Council passed an ordinance for more affordable housing in the city Monday night. The resolution was introduced by Atlanta City Councilman Andre Dickens.

DeKalb County ethics officer Stacey Kalberman, speaking with Denis O'Hayer in the WABE studios on April 26, 2016
Johnny Kauffman / WABE News

DeKalb County is trying to get past a string of ethics scandals in its government.

Suspended CEO Burrell Ellis has just finished a prison sentence on a corruption conviction, which he is still appealing; Commissioner Elaine Boyer was sentenced to 14 months in federal prison on fraud charges; and a string of other ethics lapses resulted in a report from special investigator Mike Bowers that called DeKalb's government culture "rotten to the core."

DeKalb County is set to hold the first ethics board meeting Thursday since it hired a chief ethics officer.

Stacey Kalberman, who was hired earlier this year, said her priority will be on educating county employees and leaders on ethics issues.

“I think that if you educate people on what their responsibilities are, then there is much less of a chance that somebody will do something in violation of the code. And I think that will eventually change our image,” Kalberman said.

Rica Madrid poses for a photograph as she prepares to roll a joint in her home on the first day of legal possession of marijuana for recreational purposes,
Alex Brandon / AP Photo

Gov. Nathan Deal says it is not up to the state legislature to take action on a plan in Clarkston to decriminalize marijuana.

The small DeKalb County city, led by its Democratic Mayor Ted Terry, is working on reducing the penalty for possession of small amounts of marijuana there.

The move has led to legal questions over the city’s ability to go against state law, which calls for up to a year in jail and a $1,000 fine for possessing an ounce or less of marijuana.

DeKalb County prosecutors say a former metro Atlanta police officer has been sentenced on child molestation charges.

DeKalb County District Attorney's spokesman Marcus Garner said in a statement that 58-year-old Kelless Twohearts Lory was sentenced to life in prison Tuesday.

Prosecutors say Lory had worked as a police officer in Chamblee and for Atlanta's public transit authority. Officials say he molested a 9-year-old family member between 2011 and 2012.

Al Such / Public Broadcasting Atlanta

The name Brannon Hill Condominiums has a nice ring to it -- a name that might suggest pristine landscaping, a grilling area and maybe a playground for kids.

In fact, the development east of Interstate-285 in DeKalb County just off Memorial Drive has a play area, but it’s overgrown with weeds. 

Parts of Brannon Hill look like a landfill -- the final resting place for broken toilets, tattered sofas, busted TVs and soiled mattresses.

Parts look like the complex has just caught fire, but the bulldozers have yet to arrive to tear down the charred building's remains.

Molly Samuel / WABE

Supporters of the proposed city of Greenhaven in south DeKalb County are pressing on. A bill that would have allowed residents of the area to vote on incorporating stalled in the state legislature. But boosters say they’ll be back next year for their third attempt.

“We feel this second year, that we were denied the right to vote,” said Kathryn Rice, founder of Concerned Citizens for Cityhood of South DeKalb (CCCSD). “We don’t feel that was correct, or the right thing.”

Lisa Hagen / WABE

This story is part of WABE and American Graduate's Advancing Atlanta: Education series. For more stories, click here.

The ninth graders in Bobetta Bailey’s Wednesday health class are milling around the room reviewing facts they’ve learned about sexually transmitted infections.

One wall of the classroom is decorated with bright, colored diagrams of reproductive systems. The fact that Bailey’s class at Cross Keys High School is about more than just those diagrams is a little out of the ordinary.

Kohl's is closing three Atlanta area locations in June and November. One is an anchor tenant at Northlake Mall in North Dekalb County. The new owner of Northlake Mall says it hopes to better match tenants and amenities with the demographics of the area.
Mike Kalasnik (cropped) creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/legalcode / flickr.com/photos/10542402@N06/

The department store Kohl's announced it is closing stores in three Atlanta area locations this year: in Roswell, Lithonia and Dekalb County.

The Dekalb County Kohl's is an anchor tenant for the struggling Northlake Mall.

Some developers say the success of future malls is now less about anchor tenants and more about customer experience.

John Bazemore / Associated Press

DeKalb County’s Public Safety Director Cedric Alexander has been named one of three finalist for the Chicago Police Department's superintendent job.

The Chicago Police Board made the announcement Thursday.

Alexander declined an interview, but said in a statement he's “honored to be named as a finalist for the police superintendent of Chicago from a group of so many highly qualified law enforcement professionals.”

MARTA North Avenue station in Atlanta
Allison Guillory / WABE

With just three working days left this legislative session, a bill for funding MARTA expansion has resurfaced. 

The new measure, SB 369, would allow for a referendum in the city of Atlanta for voters to decide on a half-percent sales tax to help expand the public transit system.  

The rest of Fulton County could vote on another tax of up to three-quarters of a percent for transportation purposes, including for roads and bridges.

Mary Claire Kelly / WABE

Local No. 7, the only bar on Tucker's Main Street, was packed Tuesday night with regulars as well as politicians, business owners, families and even some uniformed boy scouts. The rest of the country might have been talking about the Super Tuesday elections, but the main topic of conversation at the center of this newly-formed city was the local election of one mayor and six city council members.

In the crowd, the candidates were almost indistinguishable from the voters. Tucker citizens from multiple generations greeted one another by name as they awaited the election results.

Dan Raby / WABE

People who tried to create the city of LaVista Hills in DeKalb County lost the vote in November, but some of them have a new idea: join an existing city.

Ben Shackleford wants to see the city of Chamblee annex parts of his neighborhood, which was in the LaVista Hills map.

The new AMI transmitter assembly will be applied to new water meters that are equipped to call in their own readings.
Dekalb County Department of Watershed Management

Over the past few years, DeKalb County residents have complained that their water bills were too high and sometimes inaccurate. The county is now installing new technology on its water meters to fix the problem.

Last fall, a Brookhaven homeowners’ association got a water bill for close to $800,000. Dekalb County later reissued the bill for the correct amount of nine dollars.

Courtesy of LifeLine Animal Project at DCAS

The DeKalb County Board of Commissioners has approved a contract to build a new animal shelter. The next step: choosing to use existing funds or borrowing some additional money to pay for the facility.

"I'm expecting it to come back before the board on January 26 and if approved on that day it just requires the time it takes to get to the CEO for him to endorse it," said Antwyn Brown, the chief of staff for the DeKalb County Board.

Animal advocates have spent the past decade fighting for a new shelter.  They have taken a wait-and-see attitude about this announcement.

The Federal Trade Commission says debt collectors operating out of DeKalb County may owe $4 million in damages to consumers nationwide.

"Consumers were being told they were going to go to prison, they were going to go be arrested, that they'd be embarrassed at work by a sheriff showing up to arrest them, which is absolutely not true," said attorney Robin Rock, who filed the case for the FTC.

Starting Saturday, the new silver Breeze cards will cost two dollars. MARTA has proposed a revised fare policy that may open the door to a fare increase.
Alison Guillory / WABE

Beginning Saturday, Breeze Cards coming out of MARTA machines will be silver and not blue. And at $2, they will cost double the price. Something that may also jump in price is the cost of a ride.

MARTA held the final public meeting required to update its fare policy Thursday night at the Dekalb County government building in downtown Decatur. When this new revised fare policy is adopted, MARTA's board of directors may elect to increase fares.

Police say a Tuesday morning standoff at a motel outside Atlanta has ended with the suspect stabbing himself but no one else injured.

Authorities had surrounded the motel as the man refused to leave a room, prompting concerns about the safety of several children inside the building.

According to the DeKalb County Police Department's Twitter account, the suspect was being brought to a hospital and everyone else involved is safe.

There has been no word yet on what sparked the situation.

 

 

 

Looking Forward to 2016: DeKalb County

Dec 30, 2015
Daniel Mayer / Wikimedia Commons

The WABE news staff is looking ahead to the big stories and issues of 2016.

Closer Look producer Candace Wheeler says she is following DeKalb County government. Specifically, she is keeping an eye on "the investigation that happened, and the allegations of mismanagement of funds.”

When it comes to DeKalb, newscast editor Lisa George says there are three big letters to watch: “CEO. What happens not only with interim CEO Lee May, but that very form of [county] government.”

The chief of staff and top adviser of the DeKalb CEO is resigning after news reports that he steered a county contract to a former official who later pleaded guilty to an unrelated bribery charge.

Media outlets report Edmond Richardson, who has been on paid medical leave for nearly three months, wrote in his resignation letter to CEO Lee May that he will step down Jan. 3.

Proposed property tax rates for Dekalb County residents who live in city limits and those who don't live inside a city.
DeKalb County

Residents of DeKalb County may pay lower property tax rates next year if they live in one of the county's 11 cities. 

DeKalb County spokesman Burke Brennan said it will soon be 12 cities when DeKalb County's newest city, Tucker, forms its own government.

"This is a phenomenon with cityhood that's been going on now four years," Brennan said. "In order to equalize the different tax funds and with each new city, that changes the formula, you'll see an increase one year and a decrease the second year."

Updated at 11:20 a.m.

Fire officials say about a dozen people have been injured after a crash that involved an Emory University bus, an ambulance and another vehicle in DeKalb County.

Authorities say that the wreck happened around 6 a.m. Tuesday at the intersection of Glenwood Avenue and Candler Road and that the bus crashed into a building.

DeKalb County Fire & Rescue Deputy Chief Garrett Smith says at least one injury is considered critical.

Smith says 10 people were taken to hospitals.

Mika Järvinen / flickr.com/photos/74006048@N00/

Monday on "Closer Look with Rose Scott and Jim Burress":

Dan Raby / WABE

Supporters of incorporating the city of LaVista Hills say they won't be challenging election results from earlier this month in court and are turning over evidence to the Georgia Secretary of State's office.

Attorney Christopher Chestnut, Hill's mother Carolyn Baylor Giummo, and Hill's uncle Pierre Baylor
Molly Samuel / WABE

Two weeks after a civil grand jury recommended further investigation into the death of Anthony Hill, who was killed by a DeKalb County police officer in March, his parents are suing the officer, the police department, the county and others.   

David Goldman / Associated Press

Georgia’s Secretary of State has now called the Georgia Bureau of Investigation in to help probe all of Tuesday's election results in DeKalb County.

Even before the polls closed Tuesday, there were complaints about some people not getting the proper ballots for the LaVista Hills cityhood referendum. Thursday, the Secretary of State’s Office said it was investigating that vote.

But today, Secretary of State Brian Kemp said there are more complaints, and they do not all involve the LaVista Hills vote.

The DeKalb County Commission voted in August to approve the agreement with Atlanta United FC, one that would have involved a $12 million investment by the county.
Atlanta United FC

A planned $30 million soccer training complex in DeKalb County for Atlanta’s new professional team will not happen.

That is according to the DeKalb County government, which issued a news release late Friday saying the deal had broken down in the due diligence process.

The statement quoted DeKalb Interim CEO Lee May: “…After reviewing the reports with Atlanta United FC, we decided together that the numbers going into it have changed so much that proceeding would not be a responsible decision for either party, and certainly not the DeKalb taxpayers.”

Georgia Legislative and Congressional Reapportionment Office

After winning a referendum to incorporate earlier this week, residents in Tucker now face the prospect of creating metro Atlanta’s newest city.

Officials with the cityhood movement, though, say they've got some time to figure out the finer details.  

Voters Tuesday approved the measure for Tucker to incorporate by nearly 3-to-1, or 3,937 votes to 1,389 votes. Population estimates for the planned city stand at around 30,000. 

Dan Raby / WABE

The DeKalb County community of Tucker won the right to incorporate as a city in Tuesday’s elections. But an effort to create the City of LaVista Hills on Tucker's western border failed by a narrow margin: less than 1 percent of the vote.

That could mean a recount.

"We realize that people have a right ask for it, and we don’t mind doing it,” says DeKalb County Elections Director Maxine Daniels. “We just have to have a legal basis to do it. It’s close, and so if I were involved with that, I would want a recount.”

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