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District 2 city council candidates sound off on the issues
by LaTria Garnigan
lgarnigan@neighbornewspapers.com
September 19, 2012 10:43 AM | 1510 views | 0 0 comments | 18 18 recommendations | email to a friend | print
The Neighbor asked the District 2 candidates for Brookhaven City Council a few questions about why they decided to run for office and what their top priorities are for the newly-created municipality. Below are their answers.

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Larry Hurst, 47 and a resident of unincorporated DeKalb County since 1992 … a resident of the Drew Valley neighborhood since 1998. He is a sales manager for Halco Lubricants, a supplier to the automotive aftermarket.

Top priorities:
As a councilman, I’ll stand for:
 Limits on spending, taxes and borrowing
 Term limits on elected officials (three terms max)
 A tough code of ethics — banning gifts, favors and nepotism
 I will question anything called a “private/public partnership”
 Privatization of all services the city is not best qualified to perform
 A limit on salaries and benefits for city employees and a requirement that salaries and benefits be reported on the city’s web site.

Did initially support cityhood:
I was a reluctant yes vote for the city of Brookhaven. I concluded DeKalb County no longer delivered value in providing basic services and has become a high- tax county. DeKalb County refused to cut spending after the crash of 2008 and actually increased the property tax mills rate 30 percent in 2011 to offset property value declines. I also wanted to keep more of the $25 million Brookhaven taxpayers send to Decatur to reinvest in Brookhaven’s neighborhoods and communities. I was a reluctant yes vote because I fear the city will devolve into just another layer of government that spends, taxes and regulates too much.

Why did I decide to run:
Once we have strict limits on the city’s ability to tax, spend and regulate — we can then concentrate on the four major areas DeKalb County has neglected for so many years:
 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 crime reports. I’ll fight any attempt to make the police force a revenue generator. No “citation quotas.”
 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.
 Roads — street curbs, pot holes, street lights and sidewalks are a priority. But so are new ways of thinking. For instance, there are sometimes much better solutions to traffic control then speed bumps. Street lights should be synchronized to cut down on congestion, slow drivers down (you synchronize to the speed limit) and save fuel.
 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? Are there plans to impose similar regulations on private residences? I hope not.

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Russell Mitchell, 29 and a three year resident of Brookhaven. He is in financial management for a Fortune 500 company in the media industry.

Top priorities:
The most important part of any new city is laying a foundation that supports sustainable growth and meets the objectives of its citizens. For our new city, this means constructing a budget that allows for better services without raising taxes while allowing for smart capital investments that will positively impact our community now and in the future. Equally important is declaring fundamental values that will unify us as citizens and guide us as community leaders. These values should include transparency, customer service, fiscal responsibility, sustainable growth, public safety and public services. They must be engraved in the foundation from day one and instilled in every decision and activity, big or small.

Hesitation about being on the first city council, if elected:
I have no hesitations about being a part of the first city council. I know my experiences and passion for our community will make me a successful leader. I have a lot to offer and I can hit the ground running on day one. My prior experience working for Dunwoody gave me exposure to how local government works from the ground up. No other candidate running for office has this same insight. I am devoted to creating a successful city of Brookhaven and I know the steps to take to make this happen. My enthusiasm resonates with everyone I speak with and I am very thankful to have this opportunity.

Challenges:
The debate over cityhood was very heated and has unfortunately given way to some division within the community. It may be challenging at first to reunite neighbors and neighborhoods with opposing views on the cityhood topic. However, I’m confident that once the city begins operations, you will see citizens from both sides coming together around a common goal to make our community an even better place to live. Although challenging, I see this as an opportunity to strengthen our community unlike ever before.

Why did I decide to run:
I have dedicated the past year and a half engrained in the cityhood process. I know the city’s potential strengths and challenges and I have spent time listening to the needs of citizens. Additionally, my experience with Dunwoody provides me a unique understanding of the strengths and challenges faced by our neighboring cities and the steps they took to creating a successful city. I feel that I am the only candidate with the right qualifications, disposition and intentions to lead my district.

Did initially support cityhood:
Yes, I supported the cityhood efforts since the beginning and served as the treasurer for Citizens for North DeKalb and the secretary for Brookhaven Yes. My commitment is proven and unwavering.

Experience:
I am the only candidate that has experience working for a startup city in DeKalb County. During my tenure at Dunwoody, I served on the budget committee for two years where I worked directly with elected officials, department heads, the finance director and city manager to formulate a zero-based budget, where department heads were required to examine and justify expenditures line by line thereby minimizing waste. Additionally, I set forth many of the policies and procedures in the finance department that are still in force today. I have a unique insight into the things that did and did not work in our sister city and I intend to apply this insight in decision making for our new city. In my current position in financial management, I oversee and manage $12 million-plus budgets for a Fortune 500 company in the media industry. I support clients on an executive level, but work with staff at all levels. I’m confident that my combination of both private and public sector experience will prove to be a great asset to the new city.

Prepared for push back from DeKalb County in regards to services:
I’m fully prepared to work with DeKalb County and don’t want to promote a hostile affiliation. It is important to keep in mind that our relationship to DeKalb County is not lost, just less dependent. We must work with DeKalb County to ensure a smooth transition. I think it’s imperative that Brookhaven elected officials foster and maintain positive relationships with county counterparts. With that said, Dunwoody has already set a precedent for buying the parks from DeKalb County and I am confident that Brookhaven will follow suit.

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Editor’s note: Candidate James Eyre did not respond by press deadline.

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