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Buckhead group discusses traffic, education
by Nicole Dow
July 11, 2014 02:05 PM | 2249 views | 0 0 comments | 9 9 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Plans to remove traffic lanes on Peachtree Road are a concern for some Buckhead neighbors, resident Nina Schwartz, representing Atlanta Neighborhood Planning Unit A, said Thursday at the Buckhead Council of Neighborhood’s monthly meeting at Peachtree Presbyterian Church.

Plans for the road project, led by the Buckhead Community Improvement District, include reducing travel lanes from six to four along a stretch of road from Maple Drive to Sheridan Drive to make room for bike lanes and turn lanes.

Schwartz said the Peachtree artery is already at high capacity with an average of 45,000 daily vehicles traveling the road. Removing lanes will push traffic to clog surrounding streets and start congesting residential neighborhoods, she said.

“When the 45,000 people who drive on Peachtree Road start to want to divert, they’re going to come through our neighborhoods and that affects the property values,” Schwartz said.

She also said neighbors are concerned adding bike lanes on the busy street will be dangerous.

“It’s scary to put a 17-pound bicycle up against a 1,400-pound car,” Schwartz said. “There are a lot of curb cuts between West Paces Ferry Road and the Amtrak station. … When you’ve got people who are turning right all the time, they might not instinctively know to look over their right shoulder to make sure that they’re not going to hit a cyclist.”

Post 2 at-large Atlanta City Councilwoman Mary Norwood, a Buckhead resident, agreed the plans ought to be adjusted.

“I understand needing to reconfigure Peachtree for turn lanes, but the idea of bicycle lanes and the road diet I am opposed to,” she said.

Education was also a hot topic of discussion at Thursday’s meeting. Guest speaker Bob Stockwell, who manages the blog “Financial Deconstruction,” led a conversation about the state of Atlanta Public Schools. He said the district’s budget process is broken.

“The budget process in Atlanta Public Schools is not designed to create a financial roadmap to get to some endpoint, and typically for education systems that endpoint is improving educational outcomes for students,” Stockwell said. “The current budget process is not designed to do that. The current budget process is designed to give the administration what they want.”

However, he said he hopes the district’s new superintendent, Meria Carstarphen, will make positive change.

“My sense is that instead of getting some major announcement saying here are the 12 items that we’re going to change in the budget, what we’re going to see is incremental change that will just begin showing up soon,” Stockwell said.

New Seat 8 at-large board of education member Cynthia Briscoe Brown also expressed faith in Carstarphen.

“Meria is the right person in the right place at the right time,” she said. “Over a very short period of time, I think you will begin to see positive change [and] forward movement on so many of these issues that have come around for so long.”

Since six new school board members took office in January, not only has the board hired a new superintendent but they passed the budget two months ahead of time and have accomplished “little things” like implementing online video streaming of board meetings to increase transparency and accessibility, Brown said.

“I think that if we start doing the little things right, it makes focusing on the big things a lot easier, and for too long at APS we haven’t done the little things right,” said new Seat 9 at-large board member Jason Esteves.

One of the “big things” the board will be focusing on is the recently released equity audit report, which examined the inequities within the district, he said.

“We had Georgia State come in and study that, and they came out with 1,400 pages of data in a report,” Esteves said. “What that report said was that we are in a very inequitable system. … The audit commission is looking at that right now, but the board and the superintendent are going to take a deep, hard dive into that audit and come out with resolutions, recommendations and solutions to close a lot of those inequities.”

What’s next?: Atlanta Public Schools Superintendent Meria Carstarphen will be the guest speaker at next month’s Buckhead Council of Neighborhoods meeting Aug. 14 at 6:45 p.m. at Peachtree Presbyterian Church, Room 2209, 3434 Roswell Road, Buckhead.

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