From transportation issues to education, 2012 was a busy year in metro Atlanta. Voters went to the polls several times deciding between local officials, T-SPLOST, the Charter Schools Amendment and the new city of Brookhaven. Here are the Neighbors top 12 local news stories of 2012:
T-SPLOST, the 1 percent, statewide transportation special local option sales tax Georgia and local officials lobbied heavily for, was defeated soundly in July, with all but three regions of the state voting against it.
In metro Atlanta, 62.3 percent of voters in a 10-county area rejected the proposed tax, which would have paid for $8.5 billion in metro highway and mass transit projects. Read more about T-SPLOST here.
One of the most polarizing local issues statewide in 2012 was the Charter Schools Amendment that was placed on the November ballot. On the ballot voters were asked if the Constitution of Georgia should “be amended to allow state or local approval of public charter schools upon the request of local communities.” The amendment also created a state charter school commission. The issue dominated the Neighbor’s opinion pages for several months with both citizens and educators weighing in. In the end, voters passed the amendment. Click here to read more about the Charter Schools Amendment.
Atlanta Public Schools issues
Atlanta Public Schools started the year with a controversial elementary school redistricting plan and things got worse from there. Parents protested some parts of the proposal, which included moving some Buckhead elementary students from one district to another, but the final plan impacted far less students and pleased most parents. In the spring, parent groups fought over different plans to make Sutton Middle School either a sixth-grade academy and move seventh and eighth grades to the current North Atlanta campus when the new campus was built or to add on to the existing Sutton campus. In April, Superintendent Erroll Davis recommended the academy plan.
In October, North Atlanta had a series of problems, beginning with the removal of Principal Mark MyGrant and five other leaders.
Also that month, the school announced it is being investigated for improper grade changing and racial discrimination.
The latter accusation caused one teacher, Amy Durham, to resign. Davis was criticized for saying the school’s academic performance was the reason for removing school leaders, and though in December his contract was extended another 18 months, the school board has the right to terminate him with 90 days’ notice. Click here to read more about Atlanta Public Schools.
Fulton County Elections problems
The Fulton County Registration and Elections Department had a rough year. During the July 31 primary, it was slow to report election results.
The next month, then-Director Samuel Westmoreland apologized to the county commission for the county’s problems.
They included having 700 voters, including 343 from one Sandy Springs precinct, having their ballots allocated to the wrong state Senate seat election and a recount in the Fulton sheriff’s race where 15 extra votes were found but did not change the outcome.
In September, Westmoreland resigned after being arrested for DUI.
The county was criticized by the Secretary of State’s office for having voters wait hours to cast ballots and even longer to get provisional ballots during the general election in November.
Late last month the secretary’s office issued two letters of instruction, or official warnings, to the department for problems it had during the 2010 elections, and more punishments could be coming. Click here for more information.
DeKalb Schools on SACS probation
After an audit showed the DeKalb County School District with issues of in fighting among board members, being top-heavy and mismanagement of funds, the district made strides to improve their standing. However, in October AdvancEd — parent organization of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools — sent a team to visit the school system to conduct an analysis. That visit resulted in the system being placed on accredited-probation until Dec. 31, 2013. In a statement, the school district said it would work collaboratively to review the findings and begin to address the required actions. Click here to read more about DeKalb and SACS.
‘Chicken Man’ saga ends
On March 26, Roswell’s well-known “Chicken Man” blew up his own home, taking his life, to avoid being evicted.
Andrew Wordes first ran into trouble with the city in 2009 when a neighbor complained about the flock of backyard chickens at his Alpine Drive home. Problems revolving around his more than 50 chickens only continued.
A combination of bad luck, ill health, lack of sufficient income, a foreclosure action and, as some friends reported, a stubborn nature, led Wordes to face eviction. Word got out that Wordes blamed the city of Roswell for his problems and City Hall began to receive threatening phone calls.
For a short time, City Hall set up security check points to enter the building. To read more about the fallout from this story, click here.
In January, BrookhavenYes Inc. began canvassing the local neighborhoods garnering support for a possible incorporation, with the charge to have the control of city services close to home. District 80 State Rep. Mike Jacobs then took to the General Assembly, which resulted in the adoption of House Bill 636 — allowing the citizens to vote for incorporation. The city of Brookhaven passed with the July 31 referendum with 55 percent of the vote. For more about Georgia's newest city, click here.
Can you DDI?
In June, the Perimeter Community Improvement Districts, along with the Georgia Department of Transportation and Moreland Altobelli Associates Inc., constructed an innovative project never before seen or done in the state of Georgia. The Diverging Diamond Interchange, which encompasses the off and on ramps of I-285 at Ashford Dunwoody Road, originated in France and was first seen in Springfield, Mo. It consists of a design that shifts the flow of traffic to the opposite side of the road to reduce and improve traffic flow. Click here to read more about the Diverging Diamond.
A March 2 tornado packing 165 mph winds swept through northern Paulding County March 2, damaging homes, the county airport and Poole Elementary School but causing no serious injuries.
The tornado caused about $5 million in damage to a large hangar, the roof and windows at the new terminal building and destroyed 18 of the 23 planes at Paulding Northwest Atlanta Airport, according to airport manager Blake Swafford.
The twister also destroyed 14 homes and caused damage to 149 others, county officials said. It took off part of the roof and overturned some portable classrooms at Poole Elementary School near the airport. For more about the March tornado, click here.
SACS scrutinizes Bartow Schools
It’s been a year of facing tough questions and scrutiny for the Bartow County School Board. Complaints were filed with the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS), board members were accused of ethics violations and school board meetings at times grew contentious.
Board member Wanda Cagle Gray, who had been accused of not working well with other board members by Superintendent John Harper, lost her re-election bid and board member Anna Sullivan was able to rise above allegations that her appointment to the board was illegal.
On a positive note, the school system did receive $3.4 million for the Bartow County College and Career Academy which is set to open in 2013. Click here for more information on this story.
In September, it was announced that Gwinnett Tech will be opening its north Fulton campus in Alpharetta, at the intersection of Old Milton Parkway and Ga. 400.
The college’s service area was expanded to include north Fulton County in June 2010 when they began looking for a permanent site for the new campus.
Alpharetta offered a $4 million incentive if the college picked them for the location. For more on Gwinnett Tech's move, click here.
Douglasville drinks up Sunday Sales
Almost two out of three Douglasville and Douglas County voters on Nov. 6 chose to allow Sunday alcoholic beverage sales in retail stores. County voters also voted to allow restaurants outside city limits to sell alcohol on Sundays.
More than 63 percent of county voters approved both package sales and restaurant sales, with 37 percent opposing. A higher percentage of city voters, 70 percent, approved Sunday retail sales with 30 percent opposing. For more on Sunday Sales, click here.
Which local stories would be in your list of the top stories of 2012? Let us know in the comments section.