Happy Birthday, GA Jim!


The photo above is a screenshot of the first post I wrote on GA Jim back in December of 2008.

The other day WordPress sent me a reminder that it’s been eight years since I started this blog. That reminder prompted me to reflect on how much has changed since 2008. I am also reminded how much remains the same and how many issues that drove me to start this blog eventually drove me to run for Alpharetta City Council.

When I started this blog in December of 2008 America had just elected President Obama and much like today our country was very politically divided. The global economy was also three months into an unprecedented financial collapse worse than any economic crisis we had seen in my lifetime.

Eight years ago I was a husband, a father of two children and a residential real estate agent who was a political news junkie but had never had any desire to run for political office. I was also an active member of my community who for some inexplicable reason spent what little spare time I had following local zoning issues in an effort to keep my neighbors informed about decisions that impacted our schools, quality of life and miserable traffic.

Ten months before I started GA Jim the Alpharetta City Council had unanimously approved an enormous high density mixed use development named Windward Mill at the corner of Windward Parkway and Northpoint Parkway. The proposal included more than 1.3 milion square feet of office and retail space in addition to 400 condos in a tower up to 15 stories high.

My neighbors and I overwhelmingly opposed to such a dense urban project as part of our master planned development in Windward. And after months of petitioning city council there were so many people in attendance that most of the overflow crowd was forced to watch the meeting on closed circuit TV next door.

After hours of listening to arguments for and against that application the mayor and council voted unanimously to approve the project over our objections. The vote was 5-0 with city councilmen Doug Derito and David Belle Isle recusing themselves from the discussion because of their business ties to the applicants.

So in December of 2008 I was very frustrated with what was going on in politics and decided I needed a better platform to help keep my fellow citizens informed about issues impacting our community. GA Jim was that platform and over the years it has undergone many changes.

During my 2011 city council campaign this blog served as my campaign website. It allowed me to tell the people of Alpharetta who I was and why I was running. It also helped me to quickly respond to campaign issues that popped up as well as coverage in local newspapers and broadcast media.

Once I was elected to public office GA Jim again faced various changes and even went silent for extended periods of time as I tried to balance my desire to keep the public informed with the additional responsibilities of representing 63,000 constituents. But eight years later GA Jim is still here and I am still committed to using this platform to keep people informed and answer legitimate questions they have about the issues that affect their lives.

Thank you for taking the time to be part of that.






Let the fun begin!

Last week I qualified to run for a second term on the Alpharetta City Council and no one registered to oppose me. So barring unforeseen circumstances I have again been granted the opportunity to serve as the elected representative of the 60,000+ people who call Alpharetta home. For that I will always be grateful.

And as I continue the work begun in 2012 I am determined to do a better job of keeping the public informed during this next term. One of the best ways I can think to do that is using this blog to update and interact with the people of Alpharetta about issues affecting our city.

A few years before I considered running for office this blog was created to let people know about current events which shape the future of this place we call home. Over time it was the insight gained from writing those articles that drove me to public service. I could no longer just stand by and report as the relentless pressure to urbanize Alpharetta threatened to destroy the quality of life that makes it so special.

Back in 2008 a recession brought urbanization to a grinding halt for a while. Three enormous mixed use developments approved during the previous real estate bubble sat dormant and the people who were pushing for Alpharetta to be just another urban core with bad schools, high crime and MARTA stations were nursing badly depreciated investments.

The biggest concern for our city council at that point was how we could breathe life back into our local economy… and we did. But our success has again fueled a determined few to rejoin their quest of turning Alpharetta into a dense urban core.

In the last four years more than 1000 new apartments have been built or approved in the City of Alpharetta. And our community development department is recommending 400+ more in an urban mixed use development already approved for Milton High School district. All of this is added to the hundreds of townhouses and single family homes on tiny lots that have also been approved. This type of urban density threatens our schools and crowds our roads. We have to be more careful or Alpharetta is going to end up just like any other concrete jungle at the end of a MARTA line.

As a community we cannot build a wall around Alpharetta and refuse to change. But as a community we need to evolve in ways consistent with the vision of the people who live and vote here. That is the only way we can assure Alpharetta will remain the greatest place to do business and raise a family in the state of Georgia.

So it is time to revive GA Jim. I have to do a better job of letting all of you know about the issues shaping our city’s future so it is once again time for me to host this forum called GA Jim.

To foster a healthy discussion commenting is encouraged but understand this is not an official City of Alpharetta website. This website belongs to me and while I hope you will use it to exchange information and views this will all be conducted at my discretion. Any disrespect shown to me, other commenters, elected officials or city employees will not be tolerated. Life is too short for that kind of crap.

So let the fun begin!

The GA Jim electronic rehab program

I hope everyone had a wonderful Fourth of July holiday!

I’d like to thank the regular readers that continued to check GA Jim for updates over the last week while I spent that time offline enjoying the company of  family and friends. I love what I do on this blog but it has been refreshing to take a break. 

It’s been a kind of electronic rehab and despite the fact I never went on a three day blog binge before waking up in a stranger’s house I still think of it as my own version of the Robert Downey Jr. rejuvenation program.

GA Jim isn’t going anywhere and there are interesting times ahead as the election season soon kicks into full gear but if you typically check in here on a regular basis please understand that  posting may be light for a little while longer as I enter the halfway house portion of my therapy to prepare for the fun ahead.

Thanks for your support and I hope all of you enjoy this break as much as I intend to.

New link on Blogroll: That’s Just Peachy

A few weeks ago I was contacted by a website that consolidates news stories and blog posts that affect the state of Georgia. The website is called Thatsjustpeachy.com and it is similar to the Drudgereport but with a localized perspective.

I spend a lot of time looking for articles that directly affect my family, my community and my state and Thatsjustpeachy has proven to be an excellent tool for finding many of those articles in one place regardless of the source. As a result I am adding Thatsjustpeachy to the GA Jim blogroll for any of my interested readers.

If you’d like to keep up with what is going on in Georgia but don’t have the time to scour hundreds of websites every day I encourage you to check it out.

Back in the ALP

I apologize for the lack of posts over the last few days. I took the GA Son to Florida and was surprised to find that AT&T service in the panhandle is even more unreliable than it is here in Alpharetta.

Hope all is well and we will resume with our regularly scheduled program soon.

Of blogs and newspapers

Wednesday’s newspaper article in the Alpharetta Neighbor was great publicity for GA Jim and it also provided a great opportunity to view the symbiotic relationship between print newspapers, blogs and other forms of social media. Here is what I found out.

The Neighbor article helped set a new record for visitors on GA Jim. I don’t post new material on this blog every day so my web traffic varies a great deal and the most visitors I had ever had in any day prior to Wednesday was just under 100. On the day the article came out my readership was 103 and for the following day I had 80. Since then my traffic seems to have settled in to the previous range of about 20-30 a day so I credit the Neighbor with adding an additional 150 or so visits to my blog. That is great exposure and I assume most of those readers would never have visited GA Jim otherwise.

Now let us take a look at what the article did for the Neighbor’s web traffic. As I look at the Neighbor website this morning most of the articles of note show about 140 web hits. The article about local bloggers, though, shows a total of 681 views. That means the article about bloggers received about 550 additional views. That is nearly 4 times the average traffic for an article on their website.

For analysis purposes let’s assume that the bloggers that were profiled in the article accounted for the extra views through their blogs and other social media like Twitter, Facebook, etc. Let’s also assume that as one of the four bloggers profiled I accounted for 1/4th of the additional traffic. That’s a lot of assuming but it does seem reasonable and if so that would mean GA Jim drove about 140 views to the Neighbor website and in return it received an additional 150 views. Sounds like a win/win for everybody to me.

I know my analysis is far from scientific but it is a good illustration of how blogs like mine and print newspapers complement each other. Print newspapers provide original reporting which serves as the basis for much of my content and in return I drive traffic to their websites. Much of what I do would be impossible without the hard work of professional reporters like Joan Durbin and Rachel Kellogg at the Neighbor so I hope the exposure blogs provide will continue to pay off for their advertisers.

Thank you to the Alpharetta Neighbor

This past Wednesday the local Alpharetta Neighbor published a profile of four local bloggers and they were kind enough to include me in the article. Over the years I have had my picture in newspapers a few times and every once in a while a local paper has quoted me on an issue. But this was the first time I had ever been the subject of an article and I want to thank the Neighbor for making it a wonderful experience.

The author of the article, Joan Durbin, has been writing for the Neighbor for as long as I can remember and now I know why she has been so successful. Ms. Durbin was incredibly kind to me and the other bloggers she wrote about. I’d also like to give a shout out to the Neighbor photographer, Erin (I hope I remember that right), for not taking a picture of me in my messy office. My heartfelt thanks go out to both of these ladies for helping bring GA Jim to an audience that may never have heard of me otherwise.

When I first started this blog 2 years ago it was partially because I couldn’t find any other local blogs providing content for Alpharetta and North Fulton County so it is great to see that there are others out there doing their thing. If you haven’t read the article about the local blogs please go check them out at the Neighbor here. And if you want to know more about my fellow bloggers you can check Lee out at rootsinalpharetta.com , Bob at liveinalpharetta.com , and Jennifer at northsidefood.blogspot.com

Social Media and Squeaky Wheels

Back in November an incident with a company left me furious and would have cost me hundreds of dollars. But thanks to my use of social media the situation was finally resolved today. Despite my frustration with the situation it was fascinating to see the way social media has given consumers the ability to fight back when they have been wronged.

It started when I realized a small problem with my television picture. After contacting the manufacturer they sent out a repairman and during the service process something went wrong. The tv no longer worked. The repair company and Samsung both refused responsibility for the broken television and that left me with a $1000 paperweight.

Ten years ago I would have had very little recourse. I could have filed a small claims suit in court or complained to the Better Business Bureau but neither of those options were likely to have resolved my problem. The company was not going to accept responsibility and I would have eventually had to swallow my frustration, buy a new tv and settle for badmouthing them to people I know. Back then companies could easily dismiss disgruntled customers because the damage was limited. Even the horror stories to friends would fade from memory after a while.

Fortunately the invention of social media has provided another option. I vented my frustration on Facebook. I vented my frustration here on my blog and then I repeatedly hammered Samsung on Twitter. Instead of griping about my experience to a few acquaintances I was blasting out the facts to people all over the world.

Within about 24 hours a Samsung employee responsible for monitoring Twitter responded to my grievance and she began to rectify the situation. It took about two months to finally get the back ordered parts and fix my television but it took less then 24 hours for social media to get the attention of a giant company that would have just blown me off a few years ago.

Businesses can’t count on getting away with that anymore though. Consider this hilarious video that was posted by a guy who got screwed over by United Airlines:

Nearly 1o million people have watched the video on youtube. It was talked about on blogs and television shows all over the world and the guy became a minor celebrity. United finally took care of his claim but how much bad publicity could they have avoided if they had just done the right thing to begin with?

The growing number of social media have exponentially raised the potential cost of a bad customer service experience to businesses. Successful companies recognize this and are adapting. I look forward to a revival of customer service as they do.

GA Jim’s comment policy

Based on the traffic statistics of this website I know that there are a lot of new readers to GA Jim. I welcome all of you and hope that GA Jim will prove to be a useful forum for the discussion of issues that face our city, our state and our nation.

Because I believe open and honest debate is constructive I allow comments on GA Jim to foster discussion. But as commenters have noticed I do moderate their comments and decide on a case by case basis whether each one will be posted. Since many of you are new to this blog I want to explain my general comment criteria.

GA Jim is not a public forum, GA Jim is my forum. I welcome all of you regardless of your background, point of view or agenda and I enjoy verbal sparring so please feel free to comment. But understand that I feel no obligation to post your comment.

I suggest commmenters view this website as a kind of virtual living room that I use to host cocktail parties. If you wouldn’t say it to me or one of my guests in person you probably shouldn’t say it here. While I am a huge fan of sarcasm and don’t mind a good natured jab every once in a while I will not allow the comment section of this blog to devolve into a place where internet “trolls” hide behind false identities and attack each other.

So come on in, kick off your shoes and make your self at home here at GA Jim… but if you can’t play nice you may soon find yourself kicked out to the curb.

If you don’t read Kyle Wingfield, you should

I have mentioned the recent editorial changes at the Atlanta Journal before and the addition of Kyle Wingfield is one of the changes that has been the most encouraging.

Back in 2009 the AJC made a big deal out of their search for a conservative columnist and the fact that it was a big deal tells you the state of the paper back then. At the time I was highly skeptical of the iniative. Based on the AJC’s recent history I expected them to end up with some blue-blood, country club Republican like Peggy Noonan that professes conservatism but has no problem supporting Barack Obama as a candidate for President. At the time I was actually rooting for Will Collier to get the job. While I still think Will would have done a terrific job I was completely wrong about the columnist that eventually won the position, Kyle Wingfield.

Kyle has turned out to be an actual conservative that looks at the issues of the day through the lens of conservative principles and it is refreshing to read him in the Atlanta Journal. I may not always agree with Kyle but he does a great job of laying out his views and I don’t ever remember him taking a position that wasn’t consistent with conservative principles.

If you are conservative and are not reading Kyle Wingfield’s work on a regular basis, you should be. That is why I am adding him to the GA Jim blogroll.