Five Questions With Larry Hurst, District 2 Candidate
Patch interviews the candidates for Brookhaven city office.
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?
Hurst: First, full disclosure. I was a reluctant YES vote. I voted yes because DeKalb County failed to deliver value in basic services and have slowly become a high tax county. DeKalb refused to cut spending in 2008/09 when they knew tax revenues were collapsing. DeKalb refused to decrease property tax appraisals in 2008, 2009, 2010, and 2011 without going through the county’s archaic appeal process.
In 2011, DeKalb had the nerve to increase the property tax (mills rate) 30% to offset the inevitable reduction in assessed property values. Finally, I concluded the citizens of Brookhaven should be able to keep more of the $25M we send to Decatur each year, to reinvest in our neighborhoods and community.
I was a “reluctant” Yes vote because I don’t trust the city not to devolve into just another layer of government that spends too much, taxes too much, borrows too much and intrudes into the lives of its citizens. I do not want to see a city government that begins to see itself as more important than the citizens it’s supposed to serve.
I’ll push for:
- Limits on spending
- Limits on taxing
- Limits on borrowing
- Term limits on elected officials (3 terms max)
- An extremely tough code of ethics that bans gifts, favors, and nepotism
- I’ll question anything called a “public-private partnership.” A “public-private partnership” has already resulted in a major corruption scandal in the city of Dunwoody (see Project Renaissance).
- I’ll push for privatization of all services government is not best qualified to perform.
- Salaries of Brookhaven employees should be limited to no more than double the median income of the citizens of Brookhaven ($56,231). Elected officials should earn much less. Retirement benefits should be a 401K (not the defined benefit pension system that is bankrupting cities across the country). A “use it or lose it” system of vacation and sick days should be implemented.
- ALL city employees salaries and benefits packages should be posted on the city’s web site.
2. What do you think separates your candidacy from the other contenders?
Hurst: I am the sales manager for a $40M company that services the automotive aftermarket (mainly motor oil). Of the $40M in sales, me and my sales force are directly responsible for $25M in sales. That means each year I have to convince hundreds of people to pay my company $25M for our products and services (plus 10% growth) each year.
The cCity of Brookhaven’s annual budget is approximately $25M. I will NEVER forget that Brookhaven’s taxpayers are CUSTOMERS of the city, not simply sources of votes and revenue. My BBA from the University of Georgia and my business and sales background are my strengths.
3. With a newly incorporated municipality, is one responsibility (i.e., police, zoning, etc.) more pressing than some of the others?
Hurst: How we empower AND limit the power of the city of Brookhaven is our most important task. If we don’t get this right, nothing else matters. It’s like the foundation of a house. Once we have strict limits on the city’s ability to tax, spend and regulate then we can concentrate on the FOUR major areas DeKalb County has neglected for so many years:
1) Police. We need a professional force that treats its citizens like customers and works to investigate and SOLVE crimes (especially burglary), instead of simply filing out reports. I’ll fight any attempt make the police force a revenue generator. No “citation quotes.”
2) Parks. I’ll push to make Briarwood Park the facility it should be, replace/repair the bathrooms at Ashford Park and repair and maintain the athletic facilities at Skyland Park. But first, we MUST have an effective police force ready to provide the needed security for the facilities, or our investments will simply be wasted by vandalism.
3) Roads. Street curbs, pot holes, street lights and sidewalks are a priority. But so are new ways of thinking. For instance, there are much less obtrusive solutions to traffic control then speed bumps. Street lights should be synchronized (especially on Peachtree Street) to cut down on congestion, slow drivers down (you synchronize to the speed limit), and save fuel.
4) Zoning/Growth. I am a strong supporter of the Brookhaven Overlay, but does the Overlay really need 30 pages of regulations? Is there a way to satisfy the goals of the Overlay (not to become another Buckhead with 40 story skyscrapers and countless shopping centers), without putting an undue regulatory burden on private property owners? And are there plans to impose similar regulations on private residence? I hope not.
4. Moving forward, what do you envision Brookhaven's relationship with DeKalb County to be?
Hurst: I look forward to working closely with the county, but I won’t forget that the DeKalb County government fought AGAINST the city of Brookhaven.
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?
Hurst: If elected, I will ask myself two questions before I spend a dime of the taxpayer’s money:
- Would I make the expenditure if it was my own money?; and
- Is the purpose for the spending REALLY a core function of city government?
My guiding principle will always be that if anyone or anything other than government can accomplish what we are considering doing – then the city needs to reconsider doing it in the first place.
We should remember that when government ONLY does those things government should do – the resulting savings leaves more resources to invest in all the things we really want to accomplish – parks, police, effective zoning and roads.