OPINION: Our complaints help


I hear a lot of complaints about DeKalb County. People complain about potholes and roads that need repaving. They complain about corruption in the government. They say the county needs to do a better job attracting jobs. Others say the police don’t respond to calls in a timely fashion. Some believe the county needs to be cleaner.

Sometimes we need to put things in perspective. Recently I spent several days in the greater St. Louis area–my daughter is on a robotics team that competed in the world championships there.

Whenever my family travels to another city, we enjoy seeing how the natives live; we don’t just stick to the touristy areas. In St. Louis this was easily accomplished since our hotel was 14 miles from the Edward Jones Dome at America’s Center where the robotics competition was held.

We traveled through several cities in the St. Louis region, some with populations less than 1,000. I later learned that St. Louis County has 90 municipalities and the city of St. Louis is not in the county; it is an independent city, completely separate from the county. Although we are dealing with a frenzy of incorporation efforts, DeKalb probably will never have 90 cities–15 to 20 maybe, but not 90.

In St. Louis–the county and the city–the roads are terrible. In areas, cars bounce along pothole-ridden roads. Our worst roads are pleasant compared to many of the roads there.

The most significant different between St. Louis County and DeKalb County that I noticed was the urban blight. Sure, most of DeKalb County was officially labeled a slum by our Board of Commissioners in a urban redevelopment plan. But my trip to St. Louis opened my eyes to real slums. I can’t count the abandoned business, industrial and residential buildings I saw. In one village, nearly the whole Main Street area was abandoned. In another city, an abandoned apartment building with missing windows had signs of homeless people staying there.

And we went to Ferguson. It’s just a small, unassuming town where all Hell broke loose in August 2014 after a Ferguson Police officer fatally shot an unarmed Black man. Rioting and vandalism ensued and nine months later, the signs of chaos are still there. A makeshift memorial to Michael Brown, the man killed by the officer, remains outside his apartment complex. A partially burned Advance Auto Parts store remains abandoned and surrounded by a temporary chain link fence. A nearby TitleMax store was burned to the ground and has relocated.

Another boarded-up, burned store bears this graffiti epitaph: “Real people destroyed what is not theirs to destroy, causing real people to lose business and jobs.”

In DeKalb there have been a couple of police-involved shootings scrutinized by the public. But residents protested peacefully and legally, not with rocks, matches and guns.

Yes, we complain in DeKalb County, not because things are as bad as they are in St. Louis and some other communities around the nation, but because things are not as we want them to be.

We have higher standards and bigger dreams than some communities, and our proactive complaints and healthy dissatisfaction help us to continue to improve our lot in life.

Complaints and all, I was glad to be back in DeKalb County after my St. Louis visit.


One thought on “OPINION: Our complaints help

  • May 20, 2015 at 9:40 am

    This is a great article and puts proper perspective on where we stand. I work in Sandy Springs, close to Perimeter Mall and I’m amazed at the amount of trash strewn in parking lots and on the sidewalks. Sure Sandy Springs have pretty landscaped medians and more updated shopping areas in many areas, but in some parts of Roswell road and around Dunwoody Place, there’s much more blight, outdated apartments and shopping centers than many would speak about. I believe DeKalb County (southern and some parts of central Dekalb) gets a bad rap because of people who live outside the county, they don’t intimately know most if any areas of the county, they’re afraid of urbanized areas in general (majority black areas) and when some see commercial areas (Candler Rd, Memorial Drive, Covington Highway), they always assume the worst, rather than look at stats. Many people don’t realize that the median income in a 5 mile radius of South DeKalb mall is $65,000. This means that the owners of South Dekalb mall are missing out on an opportunity to position the mall to capture these dollars. That’s for another story.


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