Name in the News is a weekly spotlight on someone in the North Druid Hills-Briarcliff community making (or working to make) an impact. This week, we highlight Patrick Shore, creator of North Druid Kills Road, a new website dedicated to the dangers of driving on a particular stretch of North Druid Hills' busiest thoroughfare.
Name: Patrick Shore
Community: North Druid Valley
Occupation: Strategic Communications Manager
Hobbies: grilling, charcuterie, entrepreneurship
Favorite thing about living in the North Druid Hills-Briarcliff area: The convenience of living so close to great Indian food, downtown Decatur, great employers and schools and the easy access to the freeways.
1) Why did you start the blog North Druid Kills Road and what impact do you hope it will have?
I started the website soon after wave after wave of e-mails from our neighborhood association e-mail list started flying about the fatal crash on May 12. When I saw the photos one of our neighbors took shortly after ambulances arrived, I was determined that was the last straw. Something had to be done, and now was the time. I hope the impact from the website is to tell the story of what it is like to live in this area and be faced with uncertainty every time we turn in or pull out of the two streets that feed into this neighborhood. I want it to be a pillar in our fight for change. I would also hope its impact is to get the elected officials who say they are for our safety and security to keep their word.
We have been trying to gain attention to the dangers of living near and driving North Druid Hills Road for a number of years. Several neighbors have spoken with DeKalb County officials in person and have always gotten promises and little in the way of follow-through. It's always been a numbers game for the county to justify doing anything for the sake of safety. No solution to our efforts have been offered. We've been put off for too long. But now we have county commissioners on record promising action and plenty of media coverage to remind them of that promise.
2) Have you been involved with advocacy groups before?
Yes, I have been involved in advocating for the American Cancer Society in tobacco control efforts, improving indoor smoking ordinances and promoting cancer screening guidelines. I do find it strange that fighting for the enforcement of existing law (speeding, no smoking) is considered advocacy. If we had better enforcement, the work of advocating would be far easier.
3) The Internet seems to be playing a big role in a lot of community-based advocacy groups. (Good Growth DeKalb, for instance.) How has a web presence helped North Druid Kills Road, and would a group like this even be possible without it?
The website garnered us media coverage from thre large Atlanta news organizations in less than 10 days – primetime coverage on the 6 o'clock and late evening broadcasts. CBS 79, 11Alive and WSB-TV. I have no doubt the raw nature of the website's name, NorthDruidKills.com, led to that attention. But it is the truth. North Druid Hills Road, as it weaves through residential areas, is deadly and will continue to be a killer until we have a solution to the speeding and the dangerous curves. Prior to the website, we used e-mail between neighbors to collect stories and photos and forwarded those on to our county commissioners. The website allows us to tell the story in a more succinct and powerful way and show the impact of the danger instead of just describing it with words. We have since begun to branch out with social media and are building presences on Facebook and Twitter. Photos and stories have flooded in from up and down North Druid Hills, and the response from other neighborhood associations and local online media has been overwhelmingly positive.
4) Did that media attention surprise you, and did you learn anything from it, good or bad?
We were extremely happy that we were able to garner so much attention so quickly. Three TV stations and the [Atlanta Journal-Constitution]? Yes, please. Honestly, our biggest and first break was the coverage the story got from non-mainstream media – the Medlock Area Neighborhood Association first and then North Druid Hills-Briarcliff Patch and Decatur Metro really sparked the interest by the more mainstream media, who most likely heard about it from these others local, grassroots websites.
I've found the most important thing is to maintain control of the message and not let a media outlet turn it into something easier to digest for a two-minute news story. Our fight is for a solution, not a stoplight, which is what some media have boiled it down to. And we continue to work toward maintaining that narrative and not let it change into something else. That's been the biggest challenge and biggest learning moment so far.
5) How would you improve the North Druid Hills-Briarcliff area?
We should also seek solutions from the experts whether it is the transportation division of DeKalb County Public Works or GDOT for our dangerous road conditions or the school board and PTAs when deciding the best plan for educating our children. Or local business leaders when it comes to making decisions on economic development or investment. It is important for those experts to then confer with the public in order to have accountability. That's what we are trying to do with our efforts. We don't know the best solution. We are looking to the experts to develop those. But we will be there to hold them accountable if those solutions fail or there is no solution offered.
Personally, I think the area is ripe for smart redevelopment: North DeKalb Mall, Toco Hill, Shamrock Plaza, Oak Grove and the strip centers in the area are ready for new businesses to fill their empty spaces. Along with that will come an increase in traffic which must be dealt with intelligently so that those who live in this area can be safe and can be an active part of redevelopment – not scared to venture out because the roads are dangerous.