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Expanding tax base, addressing crime are big issues for Burrs

March 05, 2012|By C.J. LOVELACE | cj.lovelace@herald-mail.com

After he lost a bid for mayor of Hagerstown in 2009, Jonathan R. Burrs wasn’t sure he was cut out for public service.

“I didn’t think I was very electable, but I had a lot of encouragement from different local citizens, people of interest in Hagerstown and enough of the right people had expressed interest in me running again,” he said.

Burrs, 41, of 950 Lanvale St., decided to run again, but this time for a seat on the Hagerstown City Council. He is one of six Republican council candidates on the April 3 primary ballot. The top five vote-getters will advance to the Nov. 6 general election.

All five seats on the city council are up for grabs.

As a former small-business owner and current business analyst for JLG Industries, Burrs said he does a lot of research into local, state and national politics, and he understands profitability.

“We don’t get a lot of public servants who do analysis, in my opinion,” he said. “Then what you have are decisions being made with incomplete or often flawed information, assumptions that don’t always turn out.”

The city needs to find ways to expand its property tax revenue base, Burrs said.

While the city council has been “diplomatic” in saying it hasn’t raised taxes, fees have increased for city services, offsetting the steady tax rate and creating a net loss for taxpayers, he said.

Burrs had a suggestion for how the city could attract attention and businesses.

“Hagerstown needs a theme,” he said.

A theme makes a city unique and makes it attractive to tourism, he said.

“We could grow our tourism business if we had something that we could build around,” Burrs said, noting that most tour buses traveling Interstate 70 and Interstate 81 don’t stop in Hagerstown other than to visit outlet malls and shopping centers.

Cities like Baltimore, Asheville, N.C., and Charleston, S.C., have implemented themes, Burrs said.

Burrs said the city could look at ways to “piggyback” its existing nickname as The Hub City.

“We could really capitalize on that type of idea,” he said.

Asked about downtown revitalization, Burrs brought up the city’s crime rate, which he said has been on the rise since 1996.

“We’ve got growing crime,” Burrs said, adding that the city needs heftier fines for perpetrators. “It’s more outsiders coming here and feeling like they can commit crimes with impunity.

“It’s already illegal to discharge a weapon within city limits,” he said. “So why not put a huge fine on top of it? $5,000, $10,000, whatever. I don’t care if they owe us money. If they owe us money and they choose to not come back, well great, we’ve chased them away.”

One thing Burrs said he’d like to see stay in Hagerstown is the Suns baseball team.

“I was talking with one of the commissioners about this very subject,” he said. “The only concern I have is how is it going to get paid for? No one’s really provided any hard numbers.”

Burrs is a 1989 graduate of Highland View Academy and a 1990 graduate of the Military Trade School before he entered the U.S. military.

He will face incumbent Forrest W. Easton, and challengers Larry Bayer, Jeffrey Coney, Chris Kelly and Don Munson in the Republican primary.

City council members serve terms of four years, earn $8,000 annually and are eligible for city health benefits.

Jonathan R. Burrs

Date of birth: Oct. 3, 1970

Address: 950 Lanvale St.

Education: Graduate of Highland View Academy, 1989; graduate of a military trade school, 1990.

Occupation: Business analyst for JLG Industries

Party affiliation: Republican

Political experience: None; lost bid for mayor in 2009.

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