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Free Press 5-24-12

Free Press 5-24-12

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Serving East Atlanta, Avondale Estates, Brookhaven, Chamblee, Clarkston, Decatur, Doraville, Dunwoody, Lithonia, Pine Lake, Tucker and Stone Mountain.
Children’s author and Decatur Michelle Nelson-Schmidt sits surrounded by little, green “Whatif” monsters. Her new book
Jonathan James and the Whatif Monster 
will be released June 1. Photo provided
Author turns 
 into a story for everyone
 by Daniel Beauregarddaniel@dekalbchamp.com
hildren’s author and Decatur trans- plant
Michelle Nelson-Schmidt
said her husband often refers to her as “a butterfly that flits around notworrying about anything.”“My husband is a computer software engi-neer and he’s always worrying about the worstcase scenario, ‘What if this happens? What if that happens?’ So, I painted him a picture of thislittle green monster to bring to work with him,” Nelson-Schmidt said.She told her husband that anytime he wor-ried, he should tell his little ‘Whatif’ monster to be quiet. That was several years ago and now Nelson-Schmidt is bringing the little monster tothe pages of a children’s book.
 Jonathan James and the Whatif Monster 
will be released June 1, and Nelson-Schmidt said itis the book she was always meant to write. Shesaid every person has a little voice inside his or her head that asks the question, “What if I fail?”The beginning of the book depicts a smallchild climbing a tree, with the little Whatif monster on his shoulder whispering into his ear,“What if you fall?” Rather than continue climb-ing, the boy gets down. Throughout the rest of the book, Nelson-Schmidt said he is plagued bythe monster until realizing he has to make peacewith it and asks, “What if the best scenario hap- pens?” Nelson-Schmidt has been traveling aroundthe country talking to children about her new book and encouraging them to follow their dreams. So far, she has given 56 presentations atdifferent elementary schools.“I tell them about being 4 years old, whichis when I figured out I wanted to be an artist,” Nelson-Schmidt said. “Then about how in highschool I was really good at math and scienceand my parents encouraged me to study sciencein college.” Nelson-Schmidt said after several years incollege she wanted to go to art school, whichher parents didn’t support. She said she fol-lowed her dreams to become an artist and tellseach group of children to follow their heart ineverything they do, even if they’re afraid or theWhatif monster gets in the way.“In every presentation I ask the kids to doa pinky promise with me, and to promise methey will follow their dreams, and when theydo, to call me someday. I’ve probably got about12,000 pinky promises out there,” Nelson-Schmidt said.After attending art school, Nelson-Schmidtspent 10 years working as a graphic designer for Georgia Perimeter College. During this time she began painting pet portraits as a creative outletin 2002 and selling her work at local festivals.After seven years painting animal portraits, Nelson-Schmidt began working on picture books,
 Dogs, Dogs!
Cats, Cats!
Since pub-lication in September 2011, both books madechildren’s book publisher 
Kane Miller
’s Top 25 best-sellers list, selling more than 3,500 of eachtitle in just three months.“I thought, ‘There is still a lesson to belearned from the Whatif monster. Why don’t Ilet him come to life and teach that lesson him-self,’” she said.Although
 Jonathan James and the Whatif  Monster 
is geared toward children, Nelson-Schmidt said it deals with topics everyone canrelate to: fear and anxiety.“A lot of people say they want to start buy-ing it for graduates. At the very end of the book the Whatif monster realizes that everythingdoesn’t always turn out bad,” Nelson-Schmidtsaid.
Page 2A The Champion Free Press, Friday, May 25, 2012
Commission candidats psnt platfoms
 by Andrew Cauthenandrew@dekalbchamp.comEconomic developmentand the region’s upcomingtransportation referendumkept popping up as DeKalbcandidates faced off duringa recent political forum.The forum, sponsored bythe South DeKalb BusinessAssociation, gave candi-dates from various races inDeKalb County a chance to present their platforms be-fore the July 31 primary andreferendum.Among the candidatesat the forum were some of those vying for Board of Commissioners’ District 5seat currently held by Com-missioner 
Lee May.Kenneth Samuel
, pas-tor 
of Victory for the WorldChurch, and
Andre White
, publisher of 
The Sentinel 
newspaper, are trying to un-seat May, who has held the position for six years.May said, “The issuesthat are the most pressingfor me are economic de-
velopment and ghting for 
the [fastest-growing] andlargest district in DeKalbCounty. It represents wherethe new development for DeKalb County is occur-ring.”May said he has been
“ghting for the I-20 rail
 project and making sure that“we are not left behind.”“These are some of the
things I have been ghting
for,” May said. “I hope and pray that my leadership has been one that you’ve been proud of. I’m not saying Imade all of the right deci-sions…but I made decisionsthat I believed were rightfor District 5 and DeKalbCounty.”Samuel, who has pas-tored Victory for the World
Church for the past 25
years, said he is runningfor the commission seat because of the “continuedgrid lock and polarization”on the Board of Commis-sioners.“When I look at what ishappening in Washington, Isee our federal governmentstymied even from passinga budget. When I see thesame kind of thing hap- pening on the local level, itmakes me very disturbed.“We’ve got to buildcoalitions,” Samuel said.“We’ve got to get past poli-ticking. I’m in the race to build more collaborativehelp.”White, publisher of 
for 23 years, said
he wants to “restore faith in
government to the fth dis
-trict and for the people.”“It’s time to put an endto the cronyism, the apathyand childishness that’s rep-resented in many of the de-cisions that we’ve watchedhappen,” White said.“As a father and as a businessperson, I under-stand many of the issuesthat many of the people inthe community are facedwith, and think it’s time werestore faith of governmentwith the people.”Responding to a ques-tion about the district’stop issues, Samuel said heunderstands the opinions of opponents of the referen-dum who want heavy railto Stonecrest Mall, but thetransportation Referendumis “very much a regional is-sue.”“We have to understand
that trafc in DeKalb…is
not just a DeKalb problem.It’s a regional problem.We have persons passingthrough our county cloggingup our streets, decreasingour quality of life with theamount of time we spend in
“We cannot renege onour responsibility to takeleadership in this endeavor,”Samuel said. “It would belike paying into a life insur-
ance policy 20 years and
then deciding you’re notgoing to keep it because the premium goes up.”To White, economic de-velopment and crime are thetop issues in District 5 andmost communities.“They are kind of ahand-and-glove situation,”White said.“When we look at un-desirable type businessesin the community that helpto bring about a certainamount of crime, we look at how economics are im- pacted by that.”Community leaders needto “do what we can to work within the community toencourage a more watchful-ness in the community,”White said. “We have tohave a better rapport withthe police department and public safety.”To stimulate jobs growth,White said better leadershipis needed to determine theneeds of the community and point residents to trainingand various opportunities.“We have to be more proactive,” White said.May said, “You wouldthink that transportation ismy No. 1 priority because,yes, I’ve been very critical
about the I-20 rail.
“But public safety actu-ally is my No. 1 priority because I don’t care howmuch economic develop-ment and job creation youhave, if we live in an unsafecommunity, it’s for naught,”May said.May said the county has
200 police positions that arenot lled—“90 of which…
[the county government]uses for salary savings,which means you can’t hirefor those positions.”
“We can ll all of those
 positions, make sure we get
these ofcers on the streets
as well as provide for more
code enforcement ofcers,”
May said.In the race for Board of Commissioners’ Super Dis-trict 6, May’s chief of staff 
Edmond Richardson
ischallenging incumbent
Ka-thie Gannon.
On the transportation ref-erendum, Gannon said shewill vote “yes.”“It started as a ‘no,’”Gannon said. “I was an-noyed like everyone else[because] we’ve been pay-ing our penny for a verylong time.”Gannon said one reasonshe changed her mind is because “it’s a phenomenalfeat that 51 percent of themoney…will be going totransit.”“Another reason is be-cause the list that we dohave is a well thought-outlist,” Gannon said. “DeKalbCounty will put in a certain
amount of money—about a billion—but will get more
money back.”Gannon said this is notthe time for the county tostop supporting MARTA.“Without this additionalfunding, MARTA will notsurvive,” Gannon said.Richardson said he couldnot support the regionaltransportation tax.“You are as strong asyour weakest link,” Rich-ardson said. “If we allowsouth, central and eastDeKalb to be left behind,we risk becoming East St.Louis.
“We have paid for 30
years a penny and nowyou’re asking us to payanother penny. Asking usto subsidize all of theseother regions is asking toomuch.”
Richardson said that 70
 percent of the transportationtax funds would be spentnorth of the city of Decatur.“That is unfair,” Rich-ardson said. “As a commis-sioner, you have to repre-sent all your communities,not just core areas.”
Commissioner Lee May and commissioner candidates Andre White and Ken Samuel face off during a political forum sponsored by the South DeKalb BusinessAssociation. The upcoming transportation tax referendum was a major topic of discussion during the forum. Photos by Andrew Cauthen
Page 3A The Champion Free Press, Friday, May 25, 2012
Tucke company awad$7.7 million countywateshed contact
Supeintendent poposeschanges to combat deficit
Evening includes:
Cocktail hour beginning at 4:30Gourmet buffet dinner at 6:00Concert starts at 7:30
For reservations, call 555-1234.
An Evening Of Great MusicAn Evening Of Great Music
Join us for a stirringrendition of Beethoven’sglorious Ninth Symphonyon Saturday, Nov. 8!
 Proudly presents a FreeCommunity Concert 
 June 19, 8PM
First Baptist Church of Decatur 
“Nella Rigell is a brilliant harpist from Atlanta,” Cherniavskysays. “This evocative concerto written by Laura Zaerr for the Celtic harp suitsher well because she performs it with such stirring expression andimagination.”
 Everyone is welcome to attend 
Under the direction of DeKalbSymphony Orchestra’s Music Direc-tor & Conductor Fyodor Cherniavsky,the concert will feature harpist 
Nella Rigell
 performing Laura Zaerr’s
Celtic Concert.
this symphonic celebration!
Work from HomeBusiness Opportunity
 by Daniel Beauregarddaniel@dekalbchamp.comSuperintendent
and DeKalb CountySchool District staff have proposed severalmeasures to close a projected $73 mil-lion budget gap.In addition todeclining property
values, the decit is
due to an increasein health care costsand in expendituresfor fuel and utili-
ties, district nanceofcials said.School ofcials
have proposed increasing thestudent-to-teacher ratio bythree students, which would
save approximately $21 mil
-lion. According to the dis-trict’s website, the current
maximum class sizes are 22
students for kindergarten;
25 students for grades one -
three; 35 students for gradesfour - eight; and 37 students
for grades nine - 12.
The district has also pro- posed to increase the millage
rate by two mils—a step ithasn’t taken since 2003— 
which would garner approxi-
mately $32 million in revenue
for the district.Other factors contribut-
ing to the decit have been inareas where xed cost expen
-ditures were not accountedfor in the district’s budget, or 
were signicantly under bud
-geted. The district completed
a central ofce reorganizationMay 21, which will result in
the elimination of 73 posi-tions includingadministrators,secretaries andother staff, savingapproximately $5million. This is
the rst audit and
reorganization of DeKalb Schools’
Central Ofcein more than 10years. Ofcials
also recommend-ed the reduction
of central ofce budgets and
overtime expenditures to savean additional $15 million.With the district’s pro- posed recommendations, the
tentative scal year budgetwill be $760 million and it
does not change the number 
of work days for 10-, 11- and12-month employees. Last
year, the tentative budget re-
stored furlough days for 10-,11- and 12-month employees
 but later reinstated the days
when district ofcials found
out the decline in propertytax values in DeKalb Countywas greater than it had beenestimated.
David Schutten
, presi-dent of the Organization of DeKalb Educators, said if the student-to-teacher ratio isincreased, class sizes need to be increased across the board,including at magnet schools.“There are programs that
have been spared—class sizes
have remained low in the
magnet programs—if they’re
going to increase sizes theyhave to stop subsidizing theother programs,” Schuttensaid. “Employees have shoul-dered most of the burden withthe budget issues for the pastcouple years.”At a recent Budget, Fi-nance and Facilities meetingSchutten said Atkinson madea list of possible cuts, whichincluded suggestions from board members such as elimi-nating middle school sports programs and the Fernbank Science Center program.“There’s really no goodoption at this point,” Schut-ten said. “They’re projected
to have a decit in the reserve
fund at the end of this schoolyear.”The district will hold a
 public budget hearing May 30
at 6 p.m. at the district’s Ad-ministrative and Instructional
Complex at 1701 Mountain
Industrial Boulevard in StoneMountain.
 by Andrew Cauthenandrew@dekalbchamp.comA Tucker company haslanded a $7.7 million con-tract for a part of DeKalbCounty’s watershed capitalimprovement project.Desmear Systems Inc.of Tucker, was awarded thecontract to prepare the site
at Snapnger Advanced
Wastewater Treatment Fa-cility on Flakes Mill Roadin Ellenwood for later construction. The contract,awarded by the Board of 
Commissioners on May 22,
runs from June 1 to January
The company will be re-sponsible for clearing, grub- bing, rock and soil excava-tion, and construction of aretaining wall.The bid of Desmear Systems, the only DeKalbCounty company that sub-mitted a bid, was nearly $4million lower than the high-est bid of $11.3 million.“This is a cap,” said
, the county’sdeputy chief operating of-
cer over infrastructure
departments, when askedwhether the company would be able to exceed the con-tracted amount. “They knewgoing into this what all thespecs and requirements are.“Because it’s the type of work that a lot of people can
do—clearing, grading, blast
ing, hauling—all I can as
-sume is that they sharpenedtheir pencils; they wantedthe work bad enough thatthey were going to shave
some prots to get there.”
The $7.7 million price
tag will be paid using 2011
capital improvement project bond funds.“Really, this is the small-est part of the contract for the expansion of the plant,”Commissioner 
Lee May
said. “The next phase iswhat is going to be the big, big phase.”It will cost the county ap-
 proximately $250 million to
rebuild, upgrade and expand
the Snapnger facility in
the “single largest projectwe will undertake,” said
Joe Basista
, director of thecounty’s watershed manage-ment department, in March.The actual construction phase is expected to be bidout in the second or third
quarter of 2012.The Snapnger rebuild
is part of a $1.345 billioncapital improvement projectthe county is undertakingover the next several yearsto upgrade its aging water and sewer system.This year, the county will
 begin approximately $400
million worth of capitalimprovement projects.
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