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Running a city is harder than it looks

Effective, efficient, fiscally responsible governance is not as simple as some candidates for the upcoming city elections seem to think.

Brookhaven operates on a multi-million dollar budget and has more than 100 employees. It is effectively a relatively large “small business.” And anyone who has owned or operated a small business can tell you just how challenging it can be.

There are revenues, largely from taxes in the city’s case, and expenses. Managing both isn’t easy, especially when the decision-making comes from a Board of Aldermen made up of diverse opinions.

This year’s municipal elections will usher in a very different looking government in Brookhaven. Several aldermen seats will be filled with newcomers, and there’s always the potential for an incumbent to lose.

The challenge for voters is selecting the candidate who is most qualified, and not necessarily choosing the candidate they happen to know.

When it comes to matters of city finances, some candidates have suggested fundraising as a way to generate revenue. While fundraising is great way to generate money for a non-profit, the same can’t be said for a government. Some have also suggested that volunteer labor is a way for the city to save money. That’s not a realistic approach to cost-cutting.

Most candidates also cited “grants” as a way to bring in more funds for the city. There are myriad grants available to municipalities, but it’s not as if there are tens of millions of dollars in grants just waiting for Brookhaven to grab. President Donald Trump’s budget recommendation would do away with the Community Development Block Grant program, which has financed several large projects in the city. If lawmakers were to go along with Trump and kill the program, that’s one less grant option available to the city. Grants are not a cure-all.

Some candidates have also given illogical statements about economic development and how he/she plans to attract new businesses to town. Businesses large and small are seeking locations that can meet their revenue needs, site needs, workforce needs and are forward-thinking when it comes to infrastructure. Larger companies are also looking for tax incentives. They are not interested in simply providing job opportunities here.

Brookhaven’s voters should look to candidates with reasonable ideas for how to improve the city. They should vote for individuals who have an understanding of financial principles. They should seek out candidates who have shown, both in their personal and professional lives, that they are honest and can be trusted with decisions that affect the city’s residents and businesses.