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Clarify things

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I appreciate your coverage of the proposed alcohol code changes in Atlanta (News & Views, "Booze law overhaul," Sept. 23). It's an important issue, and I agree that your readers deserve to know about potential changes that may affect them. Since you referred to our organization in your article, I want to take this opportunity to clarify some incorrect information you may have been given about GT SMART.

In your article, you referred to GT SMART as an "anti-drinking group." While we strongly oppose underage drinking, we are not a prohibitionist group trying to create a dry Atlanta. Our goal is to change the environment that permits and sometimes encourages high-risk drinking, and the secondhand effects that have a negative impact on the quality of life on Georgia Tech's campus and the Atlanta community. Referring to us as an "anti-drinking group" portrays us in a way that runs counter to our growing reputation as an organization that works with the hospitality industry to help them train their staff to engage in responsible beverage service.

Your article also credits our organization with "opening the [City] Council's eyes to the problem" of "college kids getting loaded on brewery tours." It is not our view that breweries are necessarily places where college students drink to excess. We had one concern with one local brewery that has since committed to carding patrons more carefully.

In February of this year, GT SMART commissioned a telephone survey of 600 Atlanta residents, 50 from each of the 12 City Council districts, to gauge whether citizens view high-risk drinking and its secondary effects as a problem that needs to be addressed. In that survey, 82 percent felt that drinking was a very serious, serious or somewhat serious problem in Atlanta. In addition, 81 percent of respondents favored the policy option of training sellers and servers, and 84 percent favored training managers and owners of establishments that sell alcohol.

To address these concerns, GT SMART has developed a number of initiatives including:

- Offering an online beverage-training program to servers and sellers of alcoholic beverages in Atlanta. So far, 336 employees have either received their certificate of completion or are currently enrolled in the program.

- Creating an anonymous tip line in partnership with the Atlanta Police Department for people to report businesses they suspect are selling to minors.

- Providing electronic driver's license scanners to law enforcement to more easily identify falsified licenses. We also purchased an additional scanner to lend to any interested alcohol establishment free of charge.

-- Marsha Brinkley,

project director, GT SMART



Bad decisions again
Thanks for the update on the latest Good Time Police raid on Atlanta (News & Views, "Booze law overhaul," Sept. 23). What in the hell is happening to Atlanta? Has it really come to this? We now need to regulate smoking in bars?

Look, America used to be a land where people had the freedom to choose. If you don't like smoke in bars ... don't go to bars! Smoking is not illegal -- it's not smart, but it's not illegal. It's bad enough that this Gestapo we call a City Council voted to shut everything down at the same time as every other lame city, but now they are going to alienate the smokers to save us from deathly secondhand smoke. I doubt the damage is any worse than one of our fabled "orange" air quality days. I'm very glad that the city will allow me to destroy my liver without the risk of losing a lung ... whew!

-- Jason McCarthy, Atlanta

No increase
We were pleased to read your article titled "A new intown park?" (News & Views, Sept. 9) and appreciate your supportive outlook toward the Beltline project, especially the prospect for new parks along the 22-mile corridor such as the one at North Avenue.

As you may know, the role of the Beltline Steering Committee is to oversee the Atlanta Development Authority's assessment of potential financing strategies to fund the land and development costs of the Beltline's parks, trails and transit system. We agree with your assessment that a tax allocation district presents a powerful funding option for the Beltline, given the significant potential for economic development throughout the 2,500 acres of underutilized property that surrounds the corridor. However, it is extremely important that we clarify your comment related to how a TAD actually funds the project. This funding mechanism is not a tax increase on local residents and businesses.

A tax allocation district is a financing instrument that funds infrastructure, such as public parks and transit, in a designated area as an incentive to attract private economic development. These funds are derived entirely from the property tax revenue on the new development. Mechanically, once a TAD is created for a given geographic area, the property tax base of that district is frozen and any further growth in the tax base resulting from new development will be directed toward infrastructure projects in that area. It is extremely important that your readers not be left with the impression that the creation of a TAD would in any way lead to an increase in the existing tax rates for residential or commercial property owners, either in the Beltline area or in any other part of Atlanta.

-- Carl Patton and Barney Simms

co-chairs, Beltline Steering Committe

DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS

The lead actress in the Dad’s Garage Theatre production of Debbie Does Dallas: The Musical was misidentified in the Sept. 30 issue of Creative Loafing. The actress who portrays Debbie Benton is Kristie Krabe. The production runs through Oct. 23.

The name of Creative Loafing’s Pundit Pick for Best Rising Filmmaker was misspelled in the Best of Atlanta issue Sept. 30. The winner is David Bruckner.

Due to a production error, last week’s Best Of issue ran the wrong version of a blurb on DeKalb County CEO Vernon Jones. The version that ran contained incorrect information on Jones and his staff: Jones actually is the sole owner of a condominium that was listed on an Atlanta police report as the home address of an aide who was charged with sexual assault of a 19-year-old. Also, that aide is Lance Robertson, Jones’ deputy chief of staff. Here’s the blurb that should have run:

DeKalb CEO VERNON JONES is a charmer -- tall and handsome, with the panache to make politics look fun, and the smarts to ... well, we used to think he had smarts. We even endorsed the guy. Despite that bodyguard thing. Despite claims that he physically intimidated female political foes. Despite that he lived in a townhouse where he wasn't registered to vote. But since he clobbered a weak posse of opponents in the July Democratic primary, Vernon -- or at least those around him -- have had a meltdown. His former police chief's wife claims Jones coerced her husband into resigning in a political power play. The AJC revealed that someone in DeKalb government performed background checks of reporters and Jones' political opponents. And, in the midst of all the controversies, the CEO took a county-funded junket to the Athens Olympics. Then, just the other day, he had DeKalb officials fax a one-line statement to reporters, which simply said that one of his critics "is a liar, no more no less." How statesmanlike. And we endorsed this guy? Uggh.

www.co.dekalb.ga.us/ceo.htme

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