Much as been accomplished in Brookhaven’s first 849 days as a city and there’s more to come, Mayor J. Max Davis told more than 100 residents on Aug. 16 during his second “State of the City” speech.
Davis highlighted the city’s added police protection, park improvements, road paving and sidewalk cons truction. He also pointed out the city’s “fun events” such as summer food truck gatherings, a city Easter egg hunt and the recent inaugural Cherry Blossom Festival.
“We are fun,” he told the crowd gathered at the Hyatt Atlanta Perimeter Hotel at Villa Cristina for the event, which was sponsored by the Brookhaven Chamber of Commerce. “We’re a fun city.”
He promised more fun would come, including a “bluesgrass” festival he said would bring Americana music, a barbecue competition and a bourbon tasting to Blackburn Park.
In response to a question from County Commission Nancy Jester of Dunwoody, Davis said the city and county governments should complement one another, with “Brookhaven taking on the things we take on well and the county taking on things they do well….”
Here is the text of his speech, provided by the city of Brookhaven:
State of the City 2015: Where we were, what we are and where we are going.
That’s how long Brookhaven has been open as an official operating city. In less than 1000 days, we have accomplished so much. I’m excited to be able to share some of those accomplishments with you tonight and give you a glimpse of what the future of Brookhaven looks like by letting you know where we were—-what we are—-and where we are going.
We are safe.
We now have our own police officers keeping our neighborhoods safe.
We have 69 police officers and a new 16,000 square foot police station on Buford Highway, which gives our officers easy access to the rest of the city. The police have also partnered with Villa Sonoma to create a mini precinct in our city’s north end. A place where citizens can meet a Brookhaven police officer to get updates on neighborhood security issues, get police reports, etc. We are also planning on having another precinct at city hall so that citizens in every part of the city can have a police precinct just around the corner from their home
When we were unincorporated DeKalb, only 2 to 3 officers were on patrol in Brookhaven at a time. Now we have 10 -12 officers and supervisors on patrol at any given time.
Since our police department started July 31, 2013, we have become involved in The North Metro Atlanta SWAT Team and initiated a K-9 program with our K-9s Grizz and Dano.
Here are some numbers the police department has generated since startup:
Incident reports taken: 8,962
Accident reports taken: 3,172
Custodial arrests: 2,052
Wanted persons located: 454
DUI cases: 286
Our police are actively involved in the community. They’ve started an Explorers program that invites young adults to come and learn about law enforcement careers in a challenging and hands-on environment. Our explorers get to go on police ride-alongs, work traffic and crowd control for city events and learn leadership skills.
The Brookhaven Police Department is also starting its first Citizens Police Academy later this month. Anyone who lives or works in Brookhaven is invited to apply for the free 10-week course that will give students an inside look at how the department operates.
And the department has been successful in obtaining grants for Bullet Proof Vests, a heroin/drug antidote; and tourniquets and holsters for all officers. And thanks to the citizens in the friends of Brookhaven our police have life-saving AED’s in the patrol cars and they have already saved at least one life because of this.
Our police have an operating and capital budget of $7.7 million this year. Can you have imagined this 2 years ago?
In November we became Georgia’s first city to sign the “Not Buying it Pledge” and join a task force to fight child sex trafficking. That means that city staff and officials and police officers have all been trained how to recognize the signs of sex trafficking.
We have a better community.
We have built our own sidewalks and made road and traffic improvements.
We’re installing intelligent traffic systems, filling in the gaps in our sidewalk network and enacting a bike, trail and pedestrian plan to make Brookhaven a walkable, pedestrian friendly community that enhances everyone’s quality of life.
Prior to incorporation, the county constructed no new sidewalks in 2011 and 2012. In 2012, the year of the incorporation referendum the county paved 4 miles of city streets. Last year alone we paved more than double that amount with 8.44 miles.
Our public works department completed construction of 1.01 miles of new sidewalks in 2014, In addition to the 8 and ½ miles of paving.
We completed improvements to the Ashford Dunwoody/Johnson Ferry intersection that has significantly improved traffic flow and reduced travel delay. The department installed the first Rapid Reflecting Beacon Pedestrian Signals in the Ashford Dunwoody and Johnson Ferry area.
Public works retimed traffic signals along N. Druid Hills and E. Roxboro Road which improved traffic flow in that area. They are still tweaking that process.
The Public Works department has a $4.7 million budget this year, and they’ll invest at least $3 million on capital projects to make your life better.
And in case you missed the big news, Google Fiber is coming, maybe as early as next year. In January Google announced that Brookhaven made the final cut for cities to get the new fiber-optic network that will deliver Internet and TV connectivity 100x faster than what we have. Areas had to be incorporated to get the service, so you would not have access to it if we were not a city.
We have great parks
We are making our parks better and more enjoyable. We have new signs that more clearly convey park rules. You’ll see new gym floors in our renovated Lynwood and Briarwood parks recreation centers. New bathrooms at the Briarwood Park playground. The pavilion at Blackburn Park has been renovated. All city playgrounds are being resurfaced, and you’ll see new benches and trashcans everywhere. The stadium at Murphey Candler will be renovated this year. There will be new steps and bridge at Briarwood park. Tennis courts will be resurfaced, trails will be added and improved, the pools will be repaired, re-surfaced and repainted and individual master plans for our parks will be completed.
DeKalb County only spent $400,000 for capital improvements and staff on our parks in 2011
In 2015 our Brookhaven’s Parks Department has a budget of $4.7 million, with at least $3 million of that going to park capital improvements.
And to help the city implement these and future improvements, I have appointed and council has approved a Parks Advisory Committee. These 9 citizens will work with our Parks and Recreation Department to help set priorities and provide a vision for our parks. After all these are your parks and who best but citizens to help form and guide that vision. Our goal is to make our park system one of the best in the Southeast, and I’m grateful that these residents volunteered to help us get there.
We are fiscally sound.
I and the Council recently allocated monies turned over from DeKalb County for our 2014 HOST funding.
HOST funds are generated from sales taxes. Eighty percent of the HOST funds are distributed as property relief in the form of tax credits to homeowners and the remaining twenty percent goes to capital projects.
We utilize this revenue to make those improvements to our parks, roads, and sidewalks. In total, we received $6.4 million from our portion of the sales tax revenue last year. We anticipate similar revenue in 2015, as well.
We’re very excited that the taxpayers of Brookhaven will see their hard-earned tax dollars go to local projects and needed infrastructure improvements that they want.
We’re careful with budgeting,— we’ve cut property taxes two years in a row, –we have four million in reserve – and yet we’re still able to allocate these funds. Thank you, Brookhaven taxpayers!
But, as we know, we have a long way to go in some areas. It takes money, time and dedication by our staff to make things happen. Unlike many cities our size that have 7 to 9 employees per 1,000 residents, we get the same job done with slightly more than 2 employees per 1,000 residents. That is part of the promise of cityhood, less bureaucracy and less bloat. We are proving it can and is being done the right way.
This is quite a feat and our police and city staff work hard each day to deliver the best in public service.
We are transparent
All our meetings are streamed live online. You can go to our website and watch live meetings as well as past archived meetings.
I’m starting up ”Walk with the Mayor” again, which gives you and me the opportunity to walk and talk in your neighborhood about issues important to you. As always “Mondays with the Mayor” are held continuously throughout the year.
Now, hundreds of citizens who have utilized these two opportunities for civic dialogue and engagement.
But Residents can really just come talk to me any time, not just Mondays (and believe me they just show up and walk in sometimes) Just come on down to city hall, get to the 3rd floor and come to my office. You won’t have to knock because my office still doesn’t have a door.
We are growing
Two major property owners asked to join Brookhaven in October and we welcomed them. In December we approved that request from Children’s Healthcare and Executive Park, extending our city across I-85. These companies will provide a gateway to that side of our city, and will add to our tax base while not costing taxpayers a dime. They will bring thousands of high paying jobs to Brookhaven and create demand for new and better housing on the Buford Highway corridor.
Although we are growing, we are working to ensure that growth is smart and done in a way that’s best for our residents and businesses. Neighborhood protection is a key feature of that growth. Because of our rapid success, we are under a barrage of proposals for new development. While Brookhaven has only approved one new apartment complex over at Oglethorpe Univ., we are constantly faced with applications for new multi- family development.
As you can see from the numerous deferrals on some of these new proposals we are working hard to protect our neighborhoods and don’t just rubber stamp new development for the sake of growth. Our job is find a balance with new development while maintaining the reasons our city is so great.-Wonderful single family neighborhoods that deserve protection along with the quality of life we hold so dear.
Now while there were and still are growing pains in community development because of the sheer volume of new single family home construction in existing neighborhoods- we need a plan. And that’s why we recently completed our Comprehensive Plan and Transportation, Parks and Buford Highway Plans. The Comprehensive Plan will give the city direction over the next 20 years, neighborhood by neighborhood.
Our Transportation and Parks plans will let residents know what to expect, while the Buford Highway Plan has the goal of revitalizing the corridor that is so full of potential. Improving Buford Highway is the key to the future success of our city.
Many people didn’t understand why this area with so much poverty, sub- standard housing, and crime was included in our city map. Let me tell you,– what happens on Buford Highway affects the Druid Hills Corridor, which affects the Peachtree Corridor which affects the Ashford Dunwoody corridor.– With our vastly improved policing, code enforcement, and Buford Highway improvement plan we have already changed the lives of the people who live there. Where once residents were afraid to call much less talk to the police, now families on Buford Highway know our officers by name. Students can now walk to school safely and out of the mud because of our pedestrian improvements. Living conditions have improved because of our vigorous apartment inspection program.
We are going to change the lives of the people who live there for the better. We are going prove- unequivocally- that incorporation was the best thing that ever happened to Buford Highway.
We are fun
Events like food trucks, Christmas tree lightings and the Easter egg hunt help us grow as a community. Our popular food truck event returns in May. We had more than 300 people show up for our very first city Easter egg hunt, and some 10,000 people came out to our inaugural cherry blossom festival last month.
In fact, our hotel-motel tax funds events like the Cherry Blossom Festival. This year alone that revenue will bring in over $1.8 million and is not part of the general fund.
These are accomplishments we should all be proud of. Improving our quality of life in Brookhaven was the overriding goal of incorporation, and we’ve made great strides in achieving just that.
And we are just getting started
In the next 1,000 days, you can expect to see…
More community building activities in our parks.
We have Bark in the Park, Touch a Truck and a “Bluesgrass” festival at Brookhaven Park coming up.
More sidewalks. We’ll keep filling in the gaps.
Safer streets. Our police officers will continue and expand on the excellent work they’re doing.
A new police precinct right here.
More trails, more parks, new sidewalks, and we’ll start connecting them. We’ll make the city walkable with our Complete Streets Program.
A new school – we’re working on establishing the Brookhaven Innovation Academy, a charter school based right here in our city.
Gateway monuments and enhancements to the MARTA wall on Peachtree.
Replacement of all park monument signs.
A convention and visitors bureau that will work to attract more guests, which in terms means more visitors and more jobs.
Children’s Healthcare will begin construction on its new headquarters, which will bring new jobs.
A change in landscape on Buford highway.
A permanent location for city hall.
And that’s not all, stay tuned and we’ll let you know. And you let us know what you’d like to see.
I would like to close with this-
Now all of these improvements and programs and policing don’t just happen. There is no magic wand
It takes the application of resources– to ideas to make our quality of life change for the better. The city staff works tirelessly to make all these ideas come to fruition. Marie, Chief, Ben, Bennett, Richard, Susan and all our wonderful city employees- thank you!
There are also nearly 100 citizens who volunteer their time to serve on the various volunteer committees like planning, ZBA, parks and rec. committee, alcohol board, Marta citizens review board, construction committee, etc . –a round of applause please. Thank you for your service.
But there are also some “part time” employees who make around $12,000.00 a year who spend countless hours reading, researching, emailing, meeting until midnight, attending events, taking calls, answering complaints, taking criticism, etc. Without these people there would be no Brookhaven police cars patrolling our streets, none of the new sidewalks, park improvements, none of the paving, all these things you have heard about tonight would not have happened had these people stayed at home and said “let somebody else do it.” It is these people who have the monumental responsibility of applying the resources to the idea that is the city of Brookhaven. I am talking about Brookhaven City Council. Please stand, and thank you!