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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:

  1. Would I make the expenditure if it was my own money?; and 
  2. 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.

Enuff Govt Already September 12, 2012 at 01:11 AM
The county did cut when the economy collapsed by about $100M,the budget went from $600+ M to $500+M. The county cut back on non-essential items to keep essential items fully operational. I can live with a cut back in paving so long as we aren’t closing the jail, cutting back the cops and court or even closing the landfill. There will be NO one item more pressing than another for the new city. Our current police force out performed its neighbors and it does more than fill out reports. The parks are in decent shape when we compare them to most of metro Atlanta's parks but one person’s improvement is another person's waste of tax money. The street lights are already synchronized and so are the traffic lights. As a land locked city the only way to increase property values will be to mimic Buckhead and its skyscrapers and shopping centers. Brookhaven will not be any different than any other cobbled together subdivisions declaring themselves a city; just more Balkanization. If the new city were to focus on permits/planning/zoning, code enforcement, maybe partner with the county on parks and leave the big ticket (and headache items) like police and public works to the county then the new city could be an innovator and not a replicator.
JPB September 12, 2012 at 02:10 AM
Not sure where your numbers come from but the actual Dekalb budget was $1.864 BILLION in 2007 and went down to $1.582 billion in 2011. That's a 15% decrease in over 5 years while the tax digest has decrease at twice that pace. And somewhere in there, the county supposedly made adjustments for the incorporation of Dunwoody? Oh yeah, the millage rate increased from 16.07 to 21.21 over that time period. Anyone who says the county has done their job either isn't paying attention or is an outright liar.
Grieg Ericsson September 12, 2012 at 02:55 AM
JPB, Solid post. I wish these folks would listen but they are punch drunk. Thank you for facts. Here's one: If you voted yes for the city you voted to raise your taxes a minimum of 1.66 mills. You indeed will pay more for the luxury. Also 3/4 of the districts in the city voted no to Brookhaven but we still got it. It was on the fix from day one.
Eddie E. September 12, 2012 at 03:10 AM
Grieg, Let's not ever lose touch with that 3/4 proportional representation calculation.
Charade buster September 12, 2012 at 03:48 AM
Mr. Eyre is divulging his campaign platform, Grieg's is divulging his communist upbringing.
Jack of Kings September 12, 2012 at 05:39 PM
Charade buster. You must not divulge HamBurger's real name. He is running for public office and he may get madn.
Enuff Govt Already September 12, 2012 at 05:49 PM
Mr. Buster, I'm not Mr. Eyre and I've never met Mr. Eyre. I am a private citizen who chlimited my topics in the run up to the vote to comment on (others chose other topics). My screen name should state my opinion on creating more gov't simply because we are temporarily served by a bad set of elected officials. I had tried not to expand the scope of my post beyond the limited issues I have focused on. But I'll say I would not form a new state because I'm displeased with the current governor/legislature nor would I try and form a new country because I'm displeased with the president/congress. I think you would be better served by presenting your opinion rather than offering WAGs on commenter's identity. Mr. JPB, http://www.co.dekalb.ga.us/finance/fin_budget.html I was not speaking of the non-tax fund budget groups but I understand your reference.
HamBurger September 12, 2012 at 07:02 PM
Mr. Grieg, yeah, but the question is do you . . . Err, I, like yellow mustard? Special hamburger?
Grieg Ericsson September 12, 2012 at 07:17 PM
Ms. Grieg that is Mr. Hamburger, Yes, as a matter of fact I do like yellow mustard. Although, I am not a fan of the spicy type.
HamBurger September 12, 2012 at 07:29 PM
Mr. Grieg, looks like we will have to make special arrangements for Mr. don Gabacho, he prefers brown spicy mustard. As some would say, “He ain’t originally from around hear . . .” Please pass the yellow mustard!
AshfordObserver September 12, 2012 at 09:16 PM
GrIeg: " Also 3/4 of the districts in the city voted no to Brookhaven but we still got it. It was on the fix from day one." So your best bet is to come on here and LIE. very effective. Uh, nope does not count that way. You keep trying to rewrite history, but the problem is you are using a stick in beach sand near the high tide line. Won't be there for long! Simple fact is voters IN THE CITY OF BROOKHAVEN FOOTPRINT voted yes for the city. Research is great thanks to the Intraweb. Here are the #s: http://www.reporternewspapers.net/2012/08/01/precinct-votes-show-brookhaven-support-varies-from-neighborhood-to-neighborhood/ A little more for you: "City proponents carried six of the 12 precincts including two south of Peachtree Road." http://www.thecrier.net/news/article_7cf1bc7c-db7b-11e1-94f0-001a4bcf887a.html And by the way, there are 25K voters in this city, not the 40K something you pulled out of your ... (thin) air.
Grieg Ericsson September 12, 2012 at 09:38 PM
Dear A (H)O, Your lack of intelligence give me extreme gaseous displeasure.
TomMiller September 12, 2012 at 09:56 PM
Mr Ericsson and Mr (Miss?) Observer I am wading in here OK, so if 3/4 of the "districts" were against it, so what? Isn't the vote total the rule here? Or am I missing something? Let's say GE that it was the other way around - BYes folks had maybe a 5 vote lead in 3/4 of the districts, but were trounced in 1 district by say 900 votes - GE would you be then OK with many screaming that even though the vote was a big NO for the city, that b/c 3/4 of the districts said yes, the city would be established? I'm guessing you are a reasonable man/person so you would say no, or would you? Mr/s Observer were did you find that there are 25000 voters for the city footprint? I had always thought it was what some said on here and other places that it was 45,000.
Corey Self September 13, 2012 at 01:07 AM
Tom - 45,000 is almost the entire population. When you factor out the crowd not old enough to vote as well as those who are unregistered you drastically reduce your voting population. The number I have seen is just under 20,000 registered voters in the city.
Brookhaven Maven September 13, 2012 at 02:13 AM
To Tom Miller @ 5:56p -- DeKalb County Registrar of Voters is required to publish an official Statement of the Vote after every election. This document lists, by precinct, the number of registered voters and how many voted for or against a particular ballot item. For the results of the July 31st Brookhaven vote, see the official final Statement at the following link: http://web.co.dekalb.ga.us/Voter/pdf/Results_07312012.pdf I will save you some time by telling you to scroll all the way down to pages 958 and 959. According to that document, there were 23,956 registered voters living within the proposed Brookhaven footprint who were eligible to vote on this issue. Only 10,871 of them (45.4%) actually voted --- 5,942 for (54.7%) and 4,929 against (45.3%). It is really next to impossible to tell how many precincts voted for or against cityhood, because 2,138 of the 10,871 total were absentee (mail or in person) or provisional votes. The Registrar does not break that non-polling total out by precinct, so we don't know exactly how many votes for or against each precinct had. The 45,000 number you have seen is probably the estimated population of the area. According to the CVI report, the population inside the footprint is 49,188. That means less than half (48.7%) of the entire population was registered to vote, and less than a fourth of the total (22.1%) decided the fate of the whole area. That, sir, is a travesty. -- The Maven
don Gabacho September 14, 2012 at 05:09 AM
"OK, so if 3/4 of the "districts" were against it, so what? Isn't the vote total the rule here? Or am I missing something?"---TomMiller When are you not? The neighborhoods (or districts) were simply disallowed from voting on being included or not in the proposal. Did anyone ask you to vote whether you wanted your neighborhood be included or not in the proposal? No one asked me or my neighbors. 'If 3/4s of the 'districts were against it," and had been allowed to vote to be included or not in the proposal, 3/4s of the districts would have what they wanted for themselves and not what 1/4 wanted for them. Among other invalidating flaws, the proposal and referendum was simply gerrymandered.
RaviniaLawyer September 14, 2012 at 01:03 PM
I've been reading the various posts for a while. I have to say this DonG: You think the vote was gerrymandered? Even though that term has long been known for its reference to manipulation of incumbent-protected districts - some may argue that it is not illegal. But lets say it is. Don, the vote has been taken. Like a bad UGA loss, replaying it over and over will not change the outcome. So if you claim that there is an illegal process- as it appears you do a LOT on here- than the courts are open in Dekalb from 830 to 5 Monday through Friday. Otherwise you are just an anon poster on here spitting in the wind. On the vote- who care about #s? If every single person had decided to stay home except for Max Davis and the vote was 1 - for city hood and 0 -against guess what? cityhood wins. There is no state or federal constitutional requirement (as far as I know off the top of my head) that *mandates* minimum vote totals. That very basic fundamental truth has been in existence (except for perhaps an exception here or there across the USA) since the 1700s. There is a term known as 'red herring' - something intended to divert attention from the matter at hand. DonG's argument on vote totals - in fact anyones- is a red herring. 45% of the people voted in this city ref - which is quite remarkeable.

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