Red Maryland Candidate Survey: Austin Heffernan for Hagerstown City Council
Office Sought and District
City Council – Hagerstown MD
Business Owner – FAA Repair Station
Served 2 years on City Council – Appointed to fill vacancy
Social Media Accounts
Why are you running for office?
I’m running to continue working to make Hagerstown more business-friendly, and to ensure we remain financially sound and citizen / taxpayer focused, and to improve public safety.
Who do you consider your political role model, and why?
No single person…. I prefer to emulate the positive traits of persons I greatly respect, reject the negative traits that are detractors and adhere to my own convictions rather than seek to emulate a “role model”.
What is your favorite book about politics and policy, and why?
The Plot Against the President – by Lee Smith…. because it exposes the very real and active dark forces that will cripple our political system, if allowed to continue.
What will be your top priority if elected to this position?
My top priority will be to continue working to facilitate redevelopment and repurposing of unused and vacant buildings in our downtown core to revitalize our city center, bring new retail, office, dining and educational organizations into the city, increase foot traffic in our downtown core and eliminate real and perceived public safety concerns.
What is the biggest issue facing your city?
Crime, drugs, vagrancy and public safety concerns that must be dealt with more aggressively in order to remove barriers to attracting existing and potential residents into our downtown core.
What is your position on taxes and spending?
I was the lone councilperson to vote against the last tax increase because our city staff and council did NOT look carefully and critically at all existing long-term budget requirements, and identify potential items to cut that are no longer adding value or providing needed services…. I will continue to fight against any and all attempts to grow our city bureaucracy and general fund requirements by raising taxes without identifying corresponding cuts in expenses.
What is your position on a city tax cap?
Our citizens deserve assurances that we will not blind-side them with a tax increase that was pulled out of thin-air at the last minute, with no public discussion or transparency. Currently there are no controls preventing this body from repeating the travesty again. A cap would force the city staff and council to look elsewhere for funds by cutting ineffective and wasted expenditures before throwing another burden on our taxpayers.
What is your position on land use issues?
Land use codes are necessary to control growth and ensure preservation of property values, but excessive and bloated zoning regulations turn potential good development projects into a complex nightmare. Land-use codes need to be simple, straight-forward and understandable by anyone of reasonable intelligence.
What is your position on public safety?
We are in a public safety crisis. Shootings, random gunfire in even our most affluent neighborhoods, juvenile gangs and lack of respect for the law abound. I think we have overemphasized efforts to do community outreach policing and exercise tolerance, to the point that there is no longer any respect for authority or the law. I think that the problem has hit critical mass because we have not paid enough (if any) attention to the personal opinions of individuals we are allowing to become judges, who give more attention to the rights of convicted offenders (failing to implement sentencing that fits the crime and letting people off with time-served during the trial process rather than requiring meaningful sentences that will actually act as a deterrent to future illegal endeavors), and because we have prosecutors and states attorneys who are too interested in doing plea deals with offenders just to close a case, instead of prosecuting to the full extent of the law and doing the work needed to win a meaningful punishment. Public safety is in a real decline because more attention and effort is expended worrying about the rights of offenders who have deliberately chosen to harm others and violate laws, while ignoring the rights of the law abiding citizens that have been their victims.
What is your position on development?
I am pro development with respect to revitalizing and repurposing our historic downtown. I am against development of additional low-income multi-family structures that ultimately add to the problems within our city limits.