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Mayoral candidates address staff layoffs

February 22, 2009|By DAN DEARTH

With the City of Hagerstown's primary election approaching, The Herald-Mail asked each of the four candidates for mayor to respond to four questions.

The candidates' answers to the third question are below. Their answers to the final question will be published March 2. Responses to the previous questions were printed Feb. 9 and 16.

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This week's question: Would you support furloughing or laying off municipal employees to save the city money?

What ran Sunday: Candidates for City Council responded to this week's question.

The Feb. 16 question was: How would you try to bring jobs to the City of Hagerstown?

Next week's question: Do you believe the current administration has neglected other parts of the city by focusing too heavily on developing the first block of South Potomac Street?

HAGERSTOWN -- Jonathan R. Burrs and Ann Holtzman will challenge incumbent Mayor Robert E. Bruchey II during the City of Hagerstown's Republican primary on March 10.

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Kaye Robucci, deputy director of the Washington County Board of Elections, said the highest vote-getter will advance to the May 19 general election to face David S. Gysberts, who is running as the lone Democrat.

Bruchey also served as mayor from 1997 to 2001, but lost a re-election bid to William M. Breichner.

He was appointed in 2006 to finish the remainder of the term of former Mayor Richard F. Trump, who resigned from office less than a year after being elected in May 2005.

Burrs and Holtzman are political newcomers.

Gysberts unsuccessfully applied in 2006 to replace former Hagerstown City Councilman Kristin Aleshire after Aleshire resigned from the council to serve as a Washington County Commissioner.

To fill the void that Aleshire left, the City Council appointed Martin E. Brubaker, who is one of 14 candidates running in the council race this year.

The winning mayoral candidate will take office June 1, said Donna Spickler, Hagerstown's city clerk.

The mayor earns $28,000 per year.

Editor's note: The following is the third of four questions that candidates for mayor of Hagerstown were asked to answer, followed by their responses.

Candidates were asked to keep their responses to 150 words or less. Responses were edited for length and to fix typos or errors. Otherwise, they appear as they were received from the candidates.

Q: Would you support furloughing or laying off municipal employees to save the city money?



Republicans

Robert E. Bruchey II, 50

Republican, Incumbent

905 Woodland Way

As mayor, my responsibilities are to the citizens of Hagerstown and the employees that provide the needed services to those citizens. I am working hard to avoid furloughs and layoffs at the City of Hagerstown.

While many municipalities are facing serious budget shortfalls, we have maintained a lean budget by not filling the positions of retirees to save money. Having done this, we are avoiding the need to cut current employees.

Furloughs and layoffs would end up hurting important services like police, fire and rescue, and public utilities. Surely if the economic conditions we are facing across the nation create a critical revenue crisis for the city, we will have to make tough decisions at that time. Certainly every remedy would be considered.

Jonathan R. Burrs, 38

Republican

950 Lanvale St.

I do not support furloughing or the laying off of municipal employees simply to save the city money.

Before I would support this action, I would revisit some of the poor fiscal decisions made by the current mayor and city council, such as the "feel-good" property tax decrease that ultimately benefited no one.

It is my belief that both Bruce Zimmerman, the city administrator, and Al Martin, the finance director, have done a great job with managing city finances and therefore, I would engage both of them directly for advice and solutions in dealing directly with potential budget issues, as well as future economic growth plans.

Ann Holtzman, 65

Republican

1076 Lindsay Lane

No, as mayor I would not support furloughs or layoffs of city workers. This would only compound our problems of job loss and cuts to crucial programs and services to our community. It doesn't send a good signal to spend money on new projects such as marketing firms or consultants, then turn around and ask our employees to pay for it out of their own pockets.

I would rather delay filling vacancies to nonessential positions where public safety is not jeopardized. I would meet with department heads and call for a review of services to find hidden efficiencies.

Some of our citizens have lost 50 percent or more of their family income. Trimming even 1 or 2 percent of our city's expenses could make up the difference and would be better than laying off employees.

Democrat

David S. Gysberts, 31

Democrat

795 Hamilton Blvd.

I can't imagine anything more painful in this time of economic downturn than losing one's job. I would not support laying off city employees unless the city was in a budgetary crisis, and we are not at this point. Otherwise we are only contributing to unemployment and not helping our local economy.

As mayor, I will support a city government that efficiently provides services to taxpayers. That is why I will propose a performance evaluation of our current city staff and a review of how City Hall is now structured. If anything, we can make cuts through attrition.

We pay good people good money to do good work on behalf of citizens, and we ought to ensure that all city employees are aligned with a shared vision and a single agenda. I don't believe it's the job of elected officials to micromanage City Hall or to ask favors for friends.

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