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Hinesville mayoral runoff

POSTED: December 11, 2007 7:19 a.m.

Voting Nov. 6 resulted in a runoff for Hinesville mayor. Voters are asked to go back to the polls Dec. 4 to decide between Bob Pirkle and Jim Thomas.

Before the general election the Courier asked all candidates to respond to a long list of questions about issues facing teh city. Here are Pirkle and Thomas' responses"

Name: Robert F. (Bob) Pirkle
Age: 53
City: Hinesville
Current Employment: Sole Practitioner Lawyer for 23 years, Judge for 8 years
Current Office/Office Seeking: Mayor


1. How would you work to ensure taxpayers' money was used wisely?
I will make sure that the City Manager and all the department heads perform their duties in a cost effective manner.  I will work to ensure that the city is getting value for its tax dollar.

2. How would you balance economic growth, quality of life and environmental issues?
I have touched on my dream to make Hinesville "Georgia's Patriot City".
We have been lucky in Liberty County to have clean industry on the whole.  We need to focus on continuing to attract clean industry while keeping in mind that old-line manufacturing is the greatest value added and therefore highest wage employer.  The Target facility is an example of the type of clean employer who will pay good wages.
Quality of life has to do with traffic, community facilities, green space, good paying jobs and controlling urban sprawl.  I would propose that each development set aside one acre of green space as an impact fee for each 100 units.  This would give us green space in the communities and recreation possibilities within walking distance of each citizen.  We have had a tree protection ordnance longer that the City of Savannah.  The recent changes and modifications to the tree  protection ordinance are having a significant impact on the quality of life.  I will pursue proposals already on the table for large parks in the city.

3. How would you represent people of all income levels - homeless to elite?
In order to represent the citizens of Hinesville regardless of income levels you have to meet them, determine their needs and interest and go to work for them.  During this campaign I have made it a point to meet as many citizens as possible by going door to door where I can and calling those that I have missed as well as attending various meetings and churches and groups.  In my profession and as a Judge I help people of all facets of life.  The most important way to represent all people is to know and understand their needs.  I have gained that insight through this campaign and my service to the community.

4. How would you work to ensure affordable housing?
Taxes have a significant impact on the cost of housing.  I have pledged to get value for our tax dollars and to reduce our tax burden.  We have a public housing authority, which I will continue to support.

5. How would you work to ensure your community has clean, affordable water?
We draw our water from wells so clean water is not a great issue but the amount of water is and will continue to be an issue.  We will work with the various agencies to ensure that we have an  adequate allocation of water to supply our needs.

6. How much time would you have to devote to an elected office?
I will be a full time Mayor.  My office is just across the street from the city hall and I will be available 24/7 to work for the city. The city is operated on a city manager model.  That is the day-to-day operation of the city is in the hands of the city manager and department heads.

7. How would constituents contact you?
Call my home or my office.   Come by my office or my house.  I have always been readily available to my clients and would be available to the citizens of Hinesville.

8. What do you feel are the top issues affecting your city/district?
I have discussed this in great detail at the forums, in the newspaper and other items.  The three areas for "The Pirkle Plan" are as follows:
1. A More "user friendly" government
2. Demanding a reduction in taxes
3. Providing our 12-18 year old other opportunities. Fighting gangs before they get our kids.

9. What makes you the best candidate for the office?
First, my experience in making a payroll and running a successful business.  I understand the concerns of the citizens of this city as a life long citizen.   Further, I have been the president of the YMCA during its largest ever facility expansion.  As President of the chamber of commerce I emphasized the need for post high school education in Hinesville.  We now have Savannah Tech, Brewton Parker College and the expanded facility at Fort Stewart.  I have also been the President of the Jaycee, President of the local Boosters club and the District Chairman of the Boy Scouts.
I love Hinesville and want to provide my service to insure a great future for my children.  I want them to have good jobs, good education and good opportunities so they will not feel the need to leave to succeed and so my grandchildren will be close to Laura and me.


12. In the last year, there has been rising concern about Hinesville's growing gang problem. What would be your approach to slowing the influence of gangs in the community?
I have a 3 step plan for handling the gang problem in Hinesville.  It has been widely reported in the Coastal Courier and at the forums and in one on one discussion with citizens. 
It involves the following:
1. Obtaining assistance from federal agencies (FBI, AT&T, etc.)
2. Putting the Gang Leader and First Line Lieutenants in Jail.
3. Intramural programs for the 12-18 year olds. (Church, athletics, tutoring program)

13. Troop deployments have had a major affect on many sectors of the community, especially the local economy. How would you work to lessen Hinesville's dependence on the military?
I have discussed this problem with local Banks and propose a reducing of the debt load for small businesses while troops are deployed and encouraging the small business to pay more on debt while troops are here.
Further, I will encourage local spending through advertising and our chamber.  This will help during deployments and help SPLOSH Tax money stay here.
Finally, another of the ways to lessen the impact of one third of your population going to war is to diversify the economy.  WE have an industrial authority, which we support, with our tax dollars whose function is to attract employers.  I would support their efforts.  We are wallowing in history.  The ultimate clean industry.   We do not exploit that resource.  We have colonial, revolutionary war, civil war, and civil rights era sites that have not been developed.  This is like leaving money on the table.   The largest employer in Chatham County is the tourist industry.  We need to develop that industry.

14. What is your position on the city's stormwater utility fee?
It is a tax by another name, but a tax never the less.  I oppose tax increases whatever they may be called.  We have over 50 miles of drainage ditches.  These have to be maintained.  In the past we have had flooding when they were not properly maintained.  The cost has to be paid.  This fee is an effort to allocate the cost on a per unit basis. If there is a way to avoid flooding cost free I will entertain such a proposal. If we cannot avoid it I will demand a corrosponding tax relief for our citizens.

15. The city's growing population is putting a strain on a number services, especially in the area of healthcare. What do you think needs to be done to improve and/or expand local healthcare services?
We have a hospital authority whose mission is to address these issues.  As mayor we can best improve and expand healthcare services by creating a quality of life in this community and promote the city as a good place to live and raise one's children in order to attract the personal that provide health care services.

16. Are you for or against Sunday alcohol sales? Why?
I will allow the voters to decide this issue.  Issues such as this should be left to the citizens to decide.

17. Are you for or against changing the city council meeting time to a time that is more convenient for your constituents?
For the 12 years I was the Solicitor General court was held at night.  Presently, as Judge, my court accommodates the public and concludes court in the evening.  Obviously, I have no problem with evening meetings.

18. What are your views on the plan to redevelop Hinesville's downtown district?

I will review the prior administrations plan.  The local governments have millions of dollars invested in the utilities in the downtown district.  To allow a donut effect to occur (that is business moves out to the perimeter) is to abandon that investment.  That is not good business.   To promote a pedestrian friendly high density area would encourage local dollars to stay in the community and avoid traffic congestion and cost associated with the need accommodate the move by business to the perimeter of the city.

19. What is your vision for the city in the next four years?
My vision is for Hinesville to be "GEORGIA'S PATRIOT CITY".  A positive atmosphere with an emphasis on being friendly, being cooperative and helpful.  I see a "user friendly' government being proactive in dealing with our growth pains.  I see a common sense approach to decide zoning issues and decisions on ordinances.  Further, I see our 12-18 year old using other opportunities and not joining gangs because they are succeeding in school, athletics and being involved in local churches.

Name: James (Jim) Thomas Jr.
Age: 67
City: Hinesville
Current Employment: Business Owner (Retired Military)
Current Office/Office Seeking: Mayor of Hinesville
Number of Terms, if applicable: 2


1. How would you work to ensure taxpayers' money was used wisely?

In concert with the city council, I will work diligently to ensure that the city receives full value for the taxpayer's money. I will scrutinize city expenditures to insure that taxpayer's money is spent wisely and for necessary equipment and infrastructure. Additionally, I will continuously monitor city contracts to ensure that we receive the best value for the funds we expend.

2. How would you balance economic growth, quality of life and environmental issues?

I will promote smart growth in our business community by actively recruiting new businesses that reflect the needs of our city. In addition, we will fully support our existing businesses and provide an environment that will serve as an incubator for new small businesses. Through recruiting the right type of businesses and insuring that new and existing businesses comply with local, state and federal environmental laws, the city will enjoy a quality of life that will be the envy of coastal Georgia.

3. How would you represent people of all income levels - homeless to elite?
All citizens of the city deserve representation through their elected officials without regard to income level. I will be open and accessible to all citizens through telephone, e-mail and face to face meetings. I will hold town meetings on a regular basis to assess the needs of the citizens and will meet with citizens groups by request.

4. How would you work to ensure affordable housing?
I will explore and utilize any and all housing programs available through federal, state, and county agencies to assist our city in providing homes that are affordable. I will meet with local housing developers to emphasize the need for homes for all income levels. Through smart growth, we will develop communities that have mixed housing types that are affordable at every income level.

5. How would you work to ensure your community has clean, affordable water?
I will ensure that the city complies with the State of Georgia's Environmental Protection Division rules and regulations regarding water conservation. I will ensure that we continuously monitor our water usage and develop creative ways to conserve water through the current "purple pipe" (reusable) system and any new technology that becomes available.

6. How much time would you have to devote to an elected office?
I am retired from two full careers and have the time and energy to spend as much time as needed by the demands of the city and its future growth.

7. How would constituents contact you?
Citizens will be able to contact me through e-mail, web site, telephone and face to face meetings.

8. What do you feel are the top issues affecting your city/district?
The top issues that affect the city in my opinion are; Constant growth,  Fair and impartial community policing, Expansion of ties to Fort Stewart, Attracting new businesses to the city and Improving our quality of life.

9. What makes you the best candidate for the office?

Experience: Current chairman of Liberty Consolidated Planning Commission (2 + years), Former Chairman of the Hinesville Planning & Commission (18 years); Retired military officer, Retired civil servant); Member of the Liberty County Hospital Authority;  Member of the Hinesville Metropolitan Planning Organization; Liaison from Fort Stewart to Liberty County and Hinesville;
Education: BS Management; graduate Studies in business and Public Administration; Diploma in Public Housing.

12. In the last year, there has been rising concern about Hinesville's growing gang problem. What would be your approach to slowing the influence of gangs in the community?
My approach to slowing the influence of gangs will be to engage the entire community in the process. I would seek the help of parents, churches and other social service agencies to help involve teens in positive pursuits instead of gangs. I would also recruit businesses that provide entertainment venues for teens such as arcades, skateboard parks and the existing county sports programs. For those gang members that are involved in criminal acts, I will support strong  effective law enforcement by city law enforcement and other agencies.


13. Troop deployments have had a major affect on many sectors of the community, especially the local economy. How would you work to lessen Hinesville's dependence on the military?
The military at Fort Stewart is the "Prime" economic engine for Hinesville and to replace its approximately $1.4 billion annual economic impact will not be easy. However, through the use of "smart growth" I would recruit businesses and industries that are not easily susceptible to troop deployments and seek help from the U.S. Government to ease the pressure on small businesses when deployments occur..

14. What is your position on the city's stormwater utility fee?

There are significant storm water infrastructure needs in the city that must be addressed. I would use the current storm water utility fee to fully address those needs and then rescind the user fee.

15. The city's growing population is putting a strain on a number services, especially in the area of healthcare. What do you think needs to be done to improve and/or expand local healthcare services?
I am the Chairman of the Liberty County Hospital Authority's "vision committee" We are currently studying ways to provide better and more efficient health care to the city of Hinesville and Liberty County. When this study is completed in two to three months, we will have a set of definitive plans to address the healthcare needs of the citizens of Hinesville and Liberty County. These plans will address healthcare in the short, mid, and long term. Additionally, the Diversity Clinic is currently providing valuable healthcare to an underserved portion of the public. In the long term (two to four years) , there is a Veteran's Administration (VA) clinic planned for the city.

16. Are you for or against Sunday alcohol sales? Why?
I fully support the impending resolution to authorize alcohol sales on Sunday in the city of Hinesville. Our city is a vibrant growing city with a sophisticated diverse population that is accustomed to living in places that allow Sunday alcohol sales. The citizens of Hinesville deserve the opportunity to decide for themselves, if they want alcohol sales on Sunday.  Additionally, if alcohol sales on Sunday are authorized, the city will attract a wider variety of dining choices.

17. Are you for or against changing the city council meeting time to a time that is more convenient for your constituents?
I support moving the city council meeting times to a time where more constituents can attend and participate in city government.

18. What are your views on the plan to redevelop Hinesville's downtown district?
I have participated in meetings on the redevelopment of Hinesville's downtown area and I fully support the plan. I believe that we should develop our downtown area to attract business and social venues so that the city has a defined "town center" that reflects our historic past and bright future.

19. What is your vision for the city in the next four years?
In four years Hinesville should be in the process of sustained "smart growth", including additional space in the Liberty County Hospital, significant expansion of residential housing in the 15th street area, a fully functional Region III Airport with general aviation and some small commercial planes, more retail growth within the city, definitive plans for a civic center and a shopping center.
 

 

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