Voter Guide 2019––Brookhaven

KEY DATES

  • October 7, 2019––Voter registration deadline
  • October 15, 2019––Early voting (Absentee In-Person) begins
  • November 5, 2019––Election Day

Check your voter registration: https://www.mvp.sos.ga.gov

Early Voting locations and times: click here

WHAT’S ON THE BROOKHAVEN BALLOT?

  • Mayor (non-partisan)
    • John A. Ernst, Jr. (Incumbent) – website
      • I believe Mayor Ernst has served Brookhaven well and I plan to vote for his re-election.
  • City Council, District 1 (non-partisan)
    • Linley Jones (Incumbent) – website
      • Councilwoman Jones is unopposed
  • City Council, District 3 (non-partisan)
    • Madeleine N. Simmons – website
      • I have endorsed Madeleine and believe she will serve Brookhaven well.
  • Referendum: Shall the Act be approved which revises the Board of Ethics for DeKalb County?
    • I voted NO on the proposed changes in DeKalb Delegation, on the House floor, and will do so again at the ballot box.  I believe the changes will significantly weaken the power of the Ethics Board as explained more fully below. Read the full Act here.
    • History – In 2018, the Supreme Court of Georgia held the makeup of the Board was unconstitutional because a majority of members were appointed by non-elected entities, such as the DeKalb Bar Association, DeKalb Chamber of Commerce, Leadership DeKalb, and DeKalb universities.  The makeup process had been amended to include these non-governmental appointments after a successful countywide referendum in 2015. The lawsuit that ultimately reached the Supreme Court of Georgia was brought by then-DeKalb Commissioner Sharon Barnes Sutton after she was charged with ethics violations in 2015.  Based on the Supreme Court’s ruling, a new law is needed to correct the appointment process.
    • Major changes that would go into effect if the referendum passes:
      • Appointments to the Board:  The new law would provide that all appointments be made by elected officials in DeKalb County, to be made as follows:
        • 2 members appointed by DeKalb legislative delegation in the Georgia House of Representatives;
        • 2 members appointed by the DeKalb legislative delegation in the Georgia Senate;
        • 1 member appointed by the DeKalb CEO;
        • 1 member appointed by the DeKalb Probate Court Judge;
        • 1 member appointed by the chief judge of the DeKalb Superior Court;
        • 2 alternate members appointed by DeKalb legislative delegation in the Georgia House of Representatives; and
        • 2 alternate members appointed by the DeKalb legislative delegation in the Georgia Senate.
      • Board-member terms: The length of terms for ethics board members is reduced from three years to two — members can continue to serve two consecutive terms, meaning four years instead of six.
      • No more Ethics Officer: The Board is no longer required to hire an ethics officer to help facilitate complaints and investigations — instead an ethics administrator role was created that is more clerical in nature.
      • HR as intermediary for County employees: County employees must exhaust all remedies through DeKalb’s human resources department before filing a complaint to the ethics board.
      • Former County employees/elected officials exempted: Former county employees and former elected officials (e.g. former Commission Sharon Barnes Sutton) can no longer be the subject of an investigation.
      • CEO/Commission have approval power over Board policies/procedures: The Board must adopt policies and procedures to operate but these would be subject to review by the CEO and must be approved by a majority vote of the Commission.  After submitting the proposed policies/procedures to the CEO, the Commission would be required to vote on their approval within 30 days.
    • Why I’m Opposed:
      • The Supreme Court of Georgia presented the Legislature with one constitutional problem: to fix the appointment process for Board members.  Rather than merely address that single issue, various elected officials in the County have attempted to make significant tweaks to other areas of the current Ethics law, in a clear attempt to weaken the power of the Ethics Board.
      • Dr. Paul Root Wolpe, director of the Emory University Center for Ethics, reviewed the proposed changes and wrote a letter detailing his significant concerns, which you can find here
        • Dr. Wolpe’s coup de grace:
          • The bottom line is that this bill is clearly meant to weaken and dilute the excellent policy passed in 2015, without any convincing reasons to weaken the bill. DeKalb is slipping back to a former posture that got it in trouble in the first place. I would agree that this bill should be strongly opposed.”
    • DeKalb Citizens Advisory Council has formed to oppose the Referendum.  You can learn more about their efforts here.
  • Referendum: Shall the Act to incorporate the City of Brookhaven be amended so as to increase the current homestead exemption for senior citizens and disabled persons from $14,000.00 to $160,000.00 through five equal annual increases?
    • I plan to vote YES.
    • I authored and successfully passed through both legislative chambers HB 647 to expand the homestead exemption for Brookhaven seniors and disabled citizens.  In May, Gov. Kemp signed the bill into law, providing for a referendum on November’s ballot.  Read the full Act here.
    • To qualify for this homestead exemption, a resident of Brookhaven must be 65 years of older or present a certificate to the City from at least three licensed physicians certifying an individual as disabled.  Further, the household income for the previous year must not exceed $15,000.
    • The current homestead exemption is $14,000 for seniors and disabled persons.  The proposed amendment would expand this to $160,000 over the next five years, using the following schedule:
      • For tax year 2020: $43,200;
      • For tax year 2021: $72,400;
      • For tax year 2022: $101,600;
      • For tax year 2023: $130,800;
      • For tax year 2024 and all subsequent tax years: $160,000.
    • If passed, the changes will take effect on Jan. 1, 2020.
    • The estimated impact (read official City of Brookhaven release here):
      • For citizens who qualify for the exemption:
        • 85% will see a complete elimination of their city property taxes
        • The remaining homeowners who qualify would see an average annual reduction of $189.98 in city property taxes
      • For the City of Brookhaven:
        • Together with the general homestead exemption increase (detailed below), the fiscal impact is estimated to be $1.6 million over five years, according to city officials.
  • Referendum: Shall the Act to incorporate the City of Brookhaven be amended so as to increase the current general homestead exemption from $20,000.00 to $40,000.00 through five equal annual increases?
    • I plan to vote YES.
    • I authored and successfully passed through both legislative chambers HB 645 to expand the homestead exemption for all Brookhaven citizens.  In May, Gov. Kemp signed the bill into law, providing for a referendum on November’s ballot.  Read the full Act here.
    • To qualify for this homestead exemption, a resident of Brookhaven need only apply for it through the city.
    • The current general homestead exemption is $20,000.  The proposed amendment would expand this to $40,000 over the next five years, using the following schedule:
      • For tax year 2020: $24,000;
      • For tax year 2021: $28,000;
      • For tax year 2022: $32,000;
      • For tax year 2023: $36,000;
      • For tax year 2024 and all subsequent tax years: $40,000.
    • If passed, the changes will take effect on Jan. 1, 2020
    • The estimated impact (read the official City of Brookhaven release here):
      • Each citizen will see an average reduction in city property taxes of $52.50 per year.
      • For the City of Brookhaven:
        • Together with the homestead exemption increase for seniors and disabled persons (detailed above), the fiscal impact is estimated to be $1.6 million over five years, according to city officials.