Skip to comments.Elected Libertarian brings change to county politics
Posted on 04/18/2005 11:29:00 AM PDT by freepatriot32
Libertarian Ben Brandon was recently elected to the position of county executive in Dade County, Ga., running on a platform whose primary plank was a promise to eliminate school taxes for people aged 65 and over.
He is keeping his promise -- and that's just a start.
"As I was going around last year getting signatures to get on the ballot, I would ask people what was on their minds," Brandon explains. "The older people complained that their property taxes were too high. Many of them are living on fixed incomes and can't afford the taxes -- and most of their tax is for schools."
Brandon did his research, discovered that several other counties in the state have already removed senior citizens from the property tax rolls for school purposes, and promised to help out the older people in his community.
With this and Brandon's other promises (and qualifications) in mind, the voters of Dade County elected him to office with 66 percent of the runoff vote on Nov. 23, 2004, rejecting the Republican who was seeking the position. Brandon had received 33 percent in the regular election votes, less than the Republican's 40 percent but enough to beat the Democrat, who received 26 percent support.
It was the first partisan election any minor party had won in Georgia since 1968, when George Wallace's American Party carried the state in the presidential election.
But you can be sure the people of Dade County are pleased with their decision: Many of them will likely significantly lower tax bills in coming years.
"I discovered that if you took the senior citizens completely off the property tax rolls for schools, it would only cost the school system $128,000 per year," Brandon said. "Of course, there is an income limit. Those exempted from school taxes can't have earned income of more than $10,000 annually."
Although Brandon has done his part, it's not yet a done deal.
After being elected, Brandon contacted his state representative, Martin Scott, who drafted the legislation to exempt senior citizens from this part of their property taxes. The legislation was approved by the state Senate and House in March, and is expected soon to be signed by the governor.
After that, the final decision will return to the voters in Dade County, who will vote in a local referendum on the question in September, Brandon explained -- noting that he doesn't expect much opposition to the proposal.
Some people complained it's not fair to cut taxes for only one subset of the taxpaying public while leaving other people's taxes at a higher level. The assumption is that the people whose taxes will be cut benefited from the area's public schools when they had children in school, so they should continue paying taxes now.
This assumption is wrong, Brandon opined.
"At the time they had students in school, they were paying property taxes," he said. "At some point, you need to give people a break. And if you listen to the statists, there is no good time to cut taxes.
"The problem with education, with government schools, isn't that we tax too little, but that they spend too much. They just need to sharpen their pencils a little more at budget time and get more efficient, rather than continuing to come back to the well and asking taxpayers to pay more and more, without any accountability."
Brandon is also asking other county officials to consider prohibiting students from outside Dade County to attend the county's public schools -- unless they pay tuition.
"Our estimate is that about 10 percent of the students in Dade County don't live in the county," he said. "We spend a lot to educate kids who don't even live in this state. I want to make sure we're not educating students from other areas on this county's taxpayer money."
Brandon said he is "good friends with several members of the Dade County school board," and they're in favor of taking the senior citizens off the tax rolls -- especially seeing that they'll be able to recoup the lost revenue by requiring out-of-state (and out-of-county) students to pay tuition to attend school there.
"At least if the students' parents live in Georgia, they're paying the state income tax from which we get $4,000 per student, so their tuition would be $2,000 if they want to continue attending Dade County schools," Brandon said. "For those who live outside the state, the tuition would be $6,000 per year."
Besides school funding issues, Brandon has also begun cleaning house in the county's tax appraiser office -- a process that actually began before he was elected as county executive.
"Last year I discovered that about 80 percent of the tax bills that went out were incorrect, and that about 90 percent of those that were wrong were on the high side," he said. "It appears that the chief appraiser -- who resigned after I pointed this out -- had been pushing up the value of homes year after year" rather than allowing them to depreciate.
For about two years before he was elected, Brandon wrote a weekly column called the "North Georgia Libertarian" for the Dade County Sentinel newspaper. In May 2004 he wrote a column pointing out the problems with the appraiser's office, then left for a missions trip to Africa.
"When I returned from Tanzania 10 days later, I found out that the county commission had called for an audit of that office," Brandon said. "The next week the entire office resigned, right down to the secretary."
In January, after taking office, Brandon convinced the other county officials to hire a private firm to correct all of the county's tax appraiser errors -- just one more way he is trying to save money for the taxpayers.
"I'm promising to fix the tax digest so that when you get a tax bill, you have a good reason to believe it's actually right," he said. "And then we'll keep down spending so we can keep taxes down."
When Brandon was writing his "North Georgia Libertarian" column, he focused primarily on "the stupid things politicians do," he said.
So what does he write about, under the new title "The Commissioner's Corner," since he is now a politician?
Pretty much the same thing, actually.
"I can sometimes use it as a way to outmaneuver the Democrats on the commission," Brandon said, noting that there are three Democrats, one Republican and one Libertarian (himself) on the county commission. "If I want to do something that the Democrats will likely oppose, I'll write something about it and get public support before it goes to a vote," he said. "Usually, the Republican votes with me."
All these changes proposed or already enacted, and Brandon has been in office for only about four months on a four-year term.
"Well, this year we're going to be under budget on expenses and over budget on revenue, so I'm hoping to put some money aside for an emergency fund, and then come up with some policies governing how that money is spent," Brandon said.
"Dade County has no financial policies governing spending. There are no guidelines for what constitutes emergency spending. In the past, if the commission wanted to spend money on something, they could just spend the money without considering whether it was an appropriate expenditure.
"I'm trying to change that."
The minor parties need to start small and work itself way up before it becomes a serious contendor..
Dade county resident speaking here:
Ben is catching flak from a host of "good old boys and girls" who do not want their little bits of "turf" disturbed. Some still want to do things the old way, sort of "you scratch my back, I'll scratch yours" mentality.
making special interest group exempt from certain taxes is a recept for confusion. Taxes should be as low and a broadbased as possible so they don't mess with the economy. Well run school benifit everyone - who's going to doctor these old folks - who's going to build the bridges these retires drive on, prepare the food they eat. States have seen and decided that education and training can benifit all, not just the person being trained or educationed. Old people should not be exempted.
I agree. I'm sure they were happy to receive the support of older Americans when they were younger, and they should be willing to pay their FAIR share now. We can dispute what constitutes fair, and I'm all for helping out those who are on a fixed income, but it's absolute b.s. to suggest that you get exempted from taxes once you hit 65.
Pretty hypocritical being that it's the parents of those school children who are paying for the eldsters social security.
So an oldster who has 50 grandkids pays nothing? In the name of fairness?
Only a fool, would want to withold education from those very people, the kids, who will soon be paying the old folks social security benefits, directly from their payroll checks, from whatever job the 'uneducated' can qualify for.
72 year old refuses to pay for the education needed to get the up and coming 16 year old, FUTURE Social Security payor, a decent job... then when same jerk is 75 and wants higher prescription benefits, will want to raise taxes on that 19 year old, to pay for it out of his or her paycheck.
If the old farts don't want to pay for the children's education... then the young bucks should start refusing to pay or find legit ways to avoid paying ANY social security nationwide.
The older folks retiring today are the most selfish demographic on the face of the planet. They elect folks who spend massively on social programs, then want somebody else to pay their way. These folks are NOT the WW2 generation, but the leading edge of their children... "me me me" firsters.
Good to know someone has some sense about this matter. I'm sick of everyone over 65 being catered to. Yes, those on "fixed incomes" (as if you can't be rich while living on a fixed income) should get some help, but why should I pay full price for groceries while the 65 year old millionaire down the street gets 20% off on "senior day?" Argh!
When they say all politics is local this is what they mean. Those who involve themselves in politics eventually, or right away for some, learn that there are many opportunities for personal gain in "public service". Because it has to be kept concealed from the voters they become known as a cabal of good ole boys as they must just deal among themselves, partners in crime.
However, not every politician succumbs to temptation. Occasionally a new one comes along to challenge the status quo. It has nothing to do with party, although the ingrained parties are likely to be the ones involved in the cabals, it has to do with trying to do what is right and having the guts to say so and trust the people.
A Republican or Democrat saying the same as this Libertarian may have easily reached the same result. He defeated those from each party but no one was saying what he was. His only advantage was not having to fight for the support of his party.
Bottom line is that morals and guts trumps party, most of the time.
"Only a fool, would want to withold education from those very people, the kids, who will soon be paying the old folks social security benefits...." - eccl1212
You sound like a communist and/or a public school teacher.
Here are two revolutionary thoughts: (1) let parents pay for the education of the children they've produced and (2) let old people pay for the retirement they're enjoying.
I hate their open borders stand.
Oh de horrors of it!
We should, but don't, emulate the Amish in this regard.
Why not? They aren't his kids. Let everyone pay their own way for their own kids education ... and retirement.
Good luck on that.
You are confusing money for education. Doubling the amount spent on that school district would not improve its performance. Education is a self-motivated, or parents motivated, kind of thing.
You blast the old folks for being selfish, and in many cases you are right, but you are looking at it from one perspective, that of youth. Another equally valid point of view is if the children would take care of their parents once the parents got old, as they used to do, then SS wouldn't even be necessary.
Usually, though, the old folks have provided for the young folks all their lives and when they no longer can, the young folks are demanding it from government. Take care of those old folks, I don't want to. And by the way, don't charge me for it, they have already paid for it themselves. Besides, I need another car and a new sound system but I can't pay for those and health insurance too, so either the government or my company should provide it for me.
Which is the selfish view? Both are of course, it is just a matter of perespective.
You don't see that phrase everyday.
Why doesn't he push for Charter schools? I'm not particularly thrilled with the idea of elderly exemptions....
You may be right. According to the Census, the over 65 crowd is the group with the highest net worth. Why should I pay social security to a crowd that has more money than I do?
Great idea. Problem is, he's working towards number 1 and not number 2 at the same time. Watch all those seniors get nasty the minute you start talking about taking away their Social Security.
A lot of eldsters simply don't want to depend on their kids, even though that's been the norm for thousands of years. Look who's resisting SS reform the strongest. It ain't the young.
You should have stopped right there. The problem is that seniors in this country have pretty much earned that distinction. I live in Arizona, and I see it every day. They want to live in an area with all the amenities; golf courses, casinos, theaters, recrationation centers, parks and so forth. Families move to these retirement mecas for jobs to provide these services. The minute a school is forced to issue bonds to pay for more buildings (just buildings), so the students are not stufffed into closets or 100 a class, the retireries come out in force and vote them down. Time and time again. I've watched school districts here remove areas from their districts just so they could build more schools (Peoria had to do this after 7 failed bond innitiatives). I had a rather enjoyable moment working in the HVAC business when Sun Lakes voted down a Chandler school district innitiative. Every HVAC servicer in the East Valley (east metro phoenix) removed the zip code encompassing Sun Lakes from their service listing. Anyone living in Sun Lakes had to get AC repairs from a servicer 20+ miles away, with the $100ish trip charge just to go out there.
If retireries want to contiue acting as though they're done with being a part of a community, then they should hardly act suprised when the community wants to stop supporting or working for them.
LOL. I first thought this article was from Scrappleface.
Not saying he's right or wrong, but his point was that these old folks already paid.
He's made a judgement (you can judge right or wrong) that the benefits that they are enjoying now from the education system, are the benefits that they already paid for, and thus no longer should pay anymore.
I live in NYC, based on the quality of education here, I'd go a step further and say the city owes me a refund plus penalties and interest for every dime I ever spent in taxes that went to education.
Most of the people over 65 that I know are not rich, or even make a good living, most of them are at, or near, poverty level. I tell you what, why don't you give back the money they all spent paying SS for your grandfather, for instance most of them worked about 48 years and paid in SS before they retired. Just pay it back in one lump sum, no interest and I am sure they would be glad to get rid of the SS tax immediately.
All of you jerks that seem to think being over 65 means you are loaded need to get a life. These people are not stealing money they are taking back what they paid in, or do you think they should just forget about the money they paid all those years and let you have it? Talk about a selfish attitude, young people have the biggest selfish attitude of any group in the country.
You'd be stunned (and probably won't believe this), but when I was doing my MBA, the reasoning behind senior discounts, and other things businesses did for seniors did come up.
The reasons were not what I had expected, or even the origins of it in todays practical use.
Long story short, it does play to some sterotypes, having to do with regular folks working all day and doing their shopping at a different time, and the want to get foot traffic at what could be or would be off peak times, to the hassles of having the elderly there during high peak times.
It was thought of as a way to spread out or even out the number of consumers without causing needless delay to one segment while inducing another segment with incentives to come in, at a time that would be easier to manage.
Think utilization of resources for maximum efficiency.
Ironically, I still think, the idea is stupid, and does not work, and should be junked.
Let everyone pay their own way for their own kids education
There are two schools of libertarian thought regarding borders. One is open borders. The other, which I subscribe to, would be characterized as free trade but not free immigration. If interested, I recommend the writings of Hans-Herman Hoppe, some of which can be found at LewRockwell.com.
Whatever the media's motivations, it really is the right thing to do.
Your politicians work their way up, councilman, mayor, or district attorney, governor, etc.
If you have limited resources, and you scattershot them all over the place, you'll just continue to lose, and you'll never have a network either.
By starting at the grassroots, and concentrating on a race at a time, you win, then while there (and before) you start to build up networks, eventually, you have a pool of canidates for higher office, with backgrounds, built in fundraising, a track record of results, and a GOTV network of voters and volunteers.
If you run guys at all levels, dividing up your resources regardless, you may get a moral victory, which, along with 50 cents, may just get you a cup of coffee. If you work from the grassroots and locally, you'll actually get guys into office, who can now run for higher office.
"Problem is, he's working towards number 1 and not number 2 at the same time." - Rammer
Brandon is a county executive, responsible for local matters. Isn't it a bit much to ask why he hasn't yet reformed the United States Social Security System?
And if you had worked, say 48 years, paying SS tax and someone wanted to take the SS away that you had spent all those years working for, I guess you would jump up and down with joy and just let 48 years of taxes slide down the drain and say,"well, that's the way it goes!". You young f*** can't even pay the taxes you have now without crabbing and complaining about it. You say the old people are selfish but you are the ones who don't want to pay any taxes what so ever and would gladly strand millions of old people without an income at all and be happy about it.
You lie to yourself about how rich the over 65 crowd is, when in reality 97 percent of that group barely make it month to month and many are homeless because they lost their homes due to property taxes after they retired.
What you should be doing is finding a way to eliminate property taxes all together because in effect you are renting your homes from the government, you don't own them. Try not paying your propery taxes and in a few years you won't have a home.
Quit blaming the old people for something that is the fault of the government. Get a life and grow up, cry babies, whining like liberals because someone might get a tax break.
Let's end the public school system, and all of the taxation that supports it. Private schools would provide better education at a lower cost, and would be responsive to their customers'--the parents'--requirements.
"I wonder what the LP thinks about their guy's determination to shift tax burdens from one group to another." - Constitutionalist Conservative
Here's a basic rule: those desiring a specific good or service should pay for it. Brandon's reform better approximates this rule than the previous tax arrangement did.
I think an incomplete implementation of the rule is worse than not implementing it at all. An enormous number of people under 65 years of age who are not making use of the public schools are getting their taxes raised, all for the benefit of other people who are not making use of the public schools.
With all due respect, one of the good things about getting older is there are fewer and fewer people older than me who I have to pretend to respect.
Most of the people over 65 that I know are not rich, or even make a good living most of them are at, or near, poverty level
Regarding the net worth of folks over 65 (right from the Census)
See http://www.census.gov/Press-Release/www/releases/archives/facts_for_features_special_editions/004210.html - Quote: Income and Wealth $108,885 Median net worth [PDF] in 2000 of households with householders 65 and over. In contrast, householders under the age of 35 had a median household net worth of $7,240.
Regarding poverty: quote: 10.2% Poverty rate for people 65 and over in 2003.
I guess you must know all the poor people. The Census says poverty for old people is NOT the norm. Stop paying attention to AARP propaganda and accept the facts. Old folks live very well in this country.
These people are not stealing money they are taking back what they paid in, or do you think they should just forget about the money they paid all those years and let you have it?
Social Security is a Ponzi scheme. All the money these people paid in went not to them, but to the previous generation of retirees. The money retirees are getting now is coming from the sweat of the current working generation. I die now and all that money I paid in doesnt go to my heirs nor to my estate. It is a tax, not a retirement plan
Talk about a selfish attitude, young people have the biggest selfish attitude of any group in the country.
Eldsters with high net worths who expect money from young people with lower net worths, are the ones being selfish.
I consider that the AARP influence combined with insecurity.
I don't blame oldsters for wanting to be independent. I am one myself and that is what I want. I was responding to the poster, a young person I imagine, who was blasting "selfish" old people. The issue has many angles.
Sounds like a solid citizen to me just so long as he doesn't call for legalizing all drugs. Will he be able to stifle himself from blurting it out?
I guess we'll have to wait and see. Some people are just so obsessive they have to talk about something wheather it's the topic of conversation or not.
"...sort of..." ????????
"Libertarians need to run at all levels."
Do Libertarians support open borders?
Do Libertarians support legalizing methamphetamine, in my neighborhood?
Do Libertarians support legalizing gay marriage, polygamy?
Do Libertarians support defending ourselves, pre-emptively perhaps, against 1.2 billion muslims?
I am 67 myself and not able to afford a community like Sun Lakes. My school taxes are outrageous but I haven't tried to avoid them. My complaint, and perhaps the complaint of the seniors you cite, is that the money is ill spent and not accomplishing the intent. About 50% of our taxes go to "administration" with the blacks and the Hispanics fighting over who should have the largest share of the pie. More money will only mean more corruption.
Kids can get an education if they want one. Building fancier buildings and the other stuff they want is just a sop to the labor unions and the teachers unions. Maybe that is what these seniors see.
"More Libertarians belong to the Republican Party than Harry Brownes Libertarian Party.
Many are leaving the Republican Party now that the RP is swinging left and they are changing the Libertarian movement."
After Browne's post 9/11/2001 anti-American rants, that party needs some changing.
Mostly distancing itself far, far from him. That's for sure.
I sure can't waste time supporting a party which is pro-methamphetamine, pro-gay-marriage, pro-open immigration, and criticizes America for fighting back, after 9/11/2001.
Surely far more attractive alternatives do exist. Libertarianism isn't the one for me.
but you are looking at it from one perspective, that of youth
a young person I imagine,
Redneck speak for "kind of"......
sorry for the confusion..............