Election brings new faces
This year’s nonpartisan city elections in Atlanta and Sandy Springs brought several new faces to the city councils in both cities and the Atlanta Board of Education.
While incumbents won most of the local races, the Atlanta City Council will have one new local member with Mary Norwood, who in the November general election defeated incumbent Aaron Watson for the Post 2 at-large position. Norwood held that seat from 2002-09 before running for mayor.
Speaking of mayor, Kasim Reed was re-elected handily despite facing three candidates plus one write-in challenger, and Rusty Paul defeated Bob Brown to take incumbent Eva Galambos’ place. Galambos, the city’s first mayor, is retiring.
In December’s runoff, Andy Bauman beat John Stoj for the District 6 Sandy Springs council post after the two received the most votes in the general race. Incumbent Karen Meinzen McEnerny did not seek re-election.
School board turnover
The nine-member Atlanta school board now has six new members following the election. Some were voted out because of the recent scandals to hit Atlanta Public Schools, including the CRCT cheating one (In March former Superintendent Beverly Hall was among 35 defendants indicted in the CRCT case, and the trial is set for later this year.).
Following the local elections, there are two new faces: Cynthia Briscoe Brown and Jason Esteves. Brown defeated incumbent Seat 8 at-large member Reuben McDaniel, the board chairman, and Esteves beat Lori James for the Seat 9 at-large position vacated by Emmett Johnson, who did not seek re-election.
North Atlanta drama
North Atlanta High School had another year of controversy.
It opened a new campus in August when the 2013-14 school year started. At $147 million, including $55 million for purchasing the 56.6-acre campus’ property, it’s the most expensive public high school in the state and will accommodate up to 2,400 students. While critics railed against its price, proponents said the new campus, the largest in Atlanta Public Schools, is a positive addition to the community.
In February the Atlanta Board of Education’s Ethics Commission voted 5-1 to clear McDaniel of alleged ethics violations regarding the district’s delay in offering an employment contract to North Atlanta teacher Amy Durham.
In September, in a matter of less than a week, North Atlanta Principal Howard “Gene” Taylor resigned to take the same job at Berkmar High in Gwinnett County, decided to stay in the district after negotiating to get a promotion to its North Region executive director, had his promotion rejected by the school board and rescinded his resignation, deciding to remain at the school.
Also in September, following a probe into allegations of racism and improper grade changing at the school, an independent auditor’s investigative summary found none of the allegations were substantiated — at least not enough to break the law.
City center progress/controversy
This year the city of Sandy Springs made progress on its city center project, but it was not without controversy. Though years away from completion, the $85 million development centered around the old Target site on Johnson Ferry Road is closer to fruition following a handful of milestones in 2013.
In January the city announced the first phase of its master plan will be fully implemented by 2018.
In August the city council approved the use of eminent domain to acquire the Johnson Ferry Road property where the Sherwin-Williams store sits, and the city has threatened to take other parcels in the city center’s footprint via eminent domain if the owners do not sell.
In December the city announced it would be demolishing the old Target site this Monday, weather permitting.
Heards Ferry flap
In January Fulton County Schools announced it planned to move Heards Ferry Elementary School’s campus to a new site as part of a move to expand adjoining Riverwood High’s campus. One of the possible new Heards Ferry locations was a cluster of six homes off Riverside Drive where the district would use eminent domain to acquire the property, if necessary.
That proposal did not sit well with Sandy Springs residents and officials, who voiced their concerns at a school board open house meeting and subsequent city council meetings and via petition.
In April the district announced it was no longer considering that site for the new campus, and in September it announced it had chosen a commercial area on Powers Ferry Road for the new Heards Ferry.
Among other top stories for 2013 were:
o The Fulton County Board of Education in October approved a plan to move the district’s HQ/offices into two locations in Sandy Springs (with one in Union City), to save $22 million in capital investment and $2.2 million in operating costs each year.
o The Republican-controlled House and Senate, during its 40-day session in the winter and spring, approved most of the bills to reform the Fulton County government, led by a Democratic-majority board of commissioners.
o Following the 2012 elections, when allegations ranging from failing to mail or accept the proper absentee ballots to inadequately instructing and equipping poll workers, the Fulton County Elections and Registration Division was investigated by the State Elections Board this past year.
o In June, a month after Buckhead Atlanta’s developer, San Diego-based OliverMcMillan, announced its preconstruction was complete, OliverMcMillan and Buckhead-based Spanx Inc. announced they reached an agreement for Spanx to move its headquarters from the 3344 Peachtree building to Buckhead Atlanta and to open a flagship retail store in the mixed-use project. The long-stalled development broke ground in 2007 but stalled two years later before resuming in 2012.
o The Randolph-Lucas House, built in 1924 and located in Buckhead, was moved south to Ansley Park in November. Following a two-year fight to preserve the home, which was to be demolished, the Buckhead Heritage Society stepped in to rescue it. In May the society announced NewTown Partners closed on the purchase of the house, which the owners will live in. In November, following months of delays, the house was relocated to its new home.
o In July Dante's Down the Hatch, the iconic Buckhead restaurant owned by Dante Stephensen, closed after 43 years in business when Stephensen decided to end his fight with Fulton County over rising property taxes.