Brookhaven Candidate: Balanced Budget, Managing Expectations Most Important
District 2 city council hopeful Jim Eyre answers five questions from Patch.
1. In this day and age of intense scrutiny, and especially considering the recent, hotly contested debate and vote over Brookhaven municipalization, why are you running for city council?
Eyre: I am running for the Brookhaven City Council District 2 seat to continue my public service work in a community I love and understand intimately, to support the issues that I have heard from residents will benefit District 2 and to fight the issues that they believe will be detrimental to the community,
Having managed multi-million dollar competitive bid real estate development projects where my own money was at risk, I have an innate understanding and am a strong proponent of the competitive bid process that will be the basis for the financial security of the City of Brookhaven.
My undergraduate degree in Landscape Architecture instilled a drive to ask “how can we make it better” while my MBA in Finance from City University in London has afforded me a detailed understanding of the financial analysis necessary to fully compare the results.
Over my 30 years of work experience, I have successfully shepherded a wide variety of projects from concept – what am I to accomplish for my client; through detailed design and bid analysis - what is the most cost effective way to accommodate my client’s needs; to final execution on time and in budget – have I provided for my client’s needs at a price they can afford.
With regard to the City of Brookhaven, I will simply substitute “citizen” for “client” in this narrative of my work experience.
During my 30 years working on a wide variety of projects, I have had the opportunity to experience the workings of municipal governments large and small throughout metro Atlanta and the Southeast. I have experienced firsthand cities that are providing stellar services with minimal budgets and cities that are overtaxing their citizens with no apparent benefit; cities whose ordinances and processes work and city ordinances that are completely broken; cities that are growing and vibrant and cities that are dying; cities whose staff are truly assets to the community and cities whose staff could care less if I was served.
This firsthand experience of what works and does not work in municipal governments will be the most valuable assets I will bring to the Brookhaven City Council. My experience will allow me to provide the experienced leadership and vision that is critical to the successful start of Brookhaven.
I am running for District 2 City Council to continue my passion for community service and to further my commitment to bettering the community. I am a believer in the concept that a rising tide lifts all ships and I believe my contributions to the City of Brookhaven will do just that by, ultimately, improving the lives of my District 2 constituents.
Finally, I am at a point in both my personal and professional life that I have the time to dedicate to what I believe will be a full time position for the next 6 – 12 months while the City of Brookhaven is coming together.
2. What do you think separates your candidacy from the other contenders?
Eyre: During my years of public service in District 2, I have organized town hall meetings to inform my neighbors of critical issues that may affect their neighborhoods;
- I have coordinated and implemented neighborhood improvement initiatives;
- I have organized work days to improve our local parks;
- I have been an advocate for residents in Ashford Park and Drew Valley with local government officials when they did not know who to call about an issue that impacted them;
- I have kept residents aware of zoning issues that may affect them and have acted on their behalf at public meetings to ensure their collective voice was heard;
- I have met and negotiated with builders and developers proposing a project in the Brookhaven area to ensure it meets both the letter and the intent of local codes;
- I worked with DeKalb Police command staff to make them aware of particular crime issues/trends in the neighborhoods.
The bottom line is that, for the past 5-6 years, I have “walked the walk” with regard to doing the things that I believe a District 2 City Councilperson should do to support constituents in Ashford Park and Drew Valley. This community experience, together with my professional experience over the past 30 years learning how a city best operates, will provide me a distinct advantage in both the short and long term growth of the City of Brookhaven.
3. With a newly incorporated municipality, is one responsibility (i.e., police, zoning, etc.) more pressing than some of the others?
Eyre: While there are a number of automatic decisions to be made in the early days such as the transfer of codes from DeKalb to Brookhaven, first and foremost the Brookhaven City Council must work to approve a balanced budget that reflects the critical needs of the various departments as developed by our professional City Manager.
Unlike the budget developed by J. Max Davis and Russell Mitchell that raises the effective property tax rate in Brookhaven by 17% while cutting available police resources in half, I will ensure our first budget will include no increase from the effective DeKalb County property tax rate and a police force that is fully staffed on day one based on national standards for cities of similar populations and economics.
Our police force must include not only patrol officers but also investigative and special situations personnel with sufficient multi-language/cultural experience to respond appropriately to the varied demographics in the new City of Brookhaven. Police staffing levels must be right from the beginning so our citizens will not be at jeopardy while we later try to juggle city monies to hire additional police officers.
Equally important will be managing expectations with respect to what service levels the City of Brookhaven will be able to offer its citizens. The time for making promises is over, we must now prepare a responsible, fiscally conservative balanced budget that will be a roadmap for the future of the City of Brookhaven. We must be realistic with our revenue projections, put aside sufficient reserves to cover unanticipated expenses and commit to spend only those remaining monies that are truly available to the city.
I learned long ago from my Mother that "NO" is a full and complete sentence. If we do not have the money available in the early years for a particular service level or spending commitment, I will have absolutely no problem saying NO to that item in the budget.
4. Moving forward, what do you envision Brookhaven's relationship with DeKalb County to be?
Eyre: The citizens of Brookhaven are and will continue to be citizens of DeKalb County.
Of the 42 or so services currently provided by Dekalb County to the citizens of Brookhaven, the city is potentially taking responsibility for only five. The remaining 37 services will continue to be provided by DeKalb County to the citizens of the City of Brookhaven. We will also need to work with DeKalb to ensure the fair and equitable distribution of funds for a number of the critical revenue sources for Brookhaven and available bond funds for parks, libraries and other capital improvements.
Therefore, we must maintain a strong amiable working relationship that will include a certain amount of give and take from both sides. If we let this relationship become strained in the early years, my experience suggests that neither side wins while the deteriorating situation often leads to untold amounts of city money being thrown away litigating a solution in the courts.
I have, over the last few years, cultivated a relationship of mutual respect and cooperation with both our commissioners and key members of DeKalb senior staff. I believe those relationships will benefit the City of Brookhaven as we work together to establish service levels and funding the City of Brookhaven will receive from Dekalb County.
5. Candidates make promises when running for public office all the time. Can you make just one promise that, with absolute certainty, you will keep?
Eyre: Unlike my opponent, Russell Mitchell, who has taken the maximum allowable campaign contribution of $2,500 from Calvin Giordano & Associates, his former employer and a potential vendor for Brookhaven municipal services, I will conduct myself in a manner that will in no way jeopardize my loyalties when it is time to vote on hiring contractors or making any decision of consequence for the City of Brookhaven.
I believe accepting pay to play in any form is the most egregious mistake an elected official can make and there will be no place for it in my Brookhaven.