Here are the responses to the Flashpoint Candidate Questionnaire from Madison County Commission, District 5 candidate Mo Brooks:
1. What is your position on the proposed Sales Tax increase?
Mo Brooks has consistently voted “no” to sales tax increases. Mo Brooks will continue to vote “no” to sales tax increases.
Proponents of higher taxes could not have chosen a worst tax to promote. Aside from the regressive nature of sales taxes, a new twist is the effect of the City of Madison and City of Huntsville annexing huge chunks of land in Limestone County. Madison and Huntsville school systems will use the Madison County sales tax to build schools in Limestone County for people who don’t have to pay the Madison County sales tax. If the Madison or Huntsville school systems need more money to build schools in Limestone County, they should pass city-wide taxes that make Limestone County school users pay their fair share of education costs. It is absurd to demand that Madison County residents pay higher sales taxes to subsidize education costs for those who don’t have to pay the tax.
Further, sales tax proponents mislead the public by arguing school systems lack sufficient funds to build schools. How so? Because local schools are already enjoying record high tax receipts. Hence, the issue is not insufficient money, the issue how the money is spent. Rather than spending record high tax receipts on new schools, maintenance of old schools, equipment and supplies, more teachers to lower teacher-pupil ratios, and other things parents want and children need, government-run schools spent the money on pay raises for themselves. For example, in the last three years, school workers have received 20%+ in pay raises. While pay raises for school workers are a good thing, no one in the private sector has enjoyed such huge, across-the-board raises. Based on past history, if the sales tax passes, the education power structure will again spend the extra money on pay raises for themselves, and not for what they promise (new schools, more teachers, and the like for students).
2. What is your position on raising Property Taxes for schools outside the City limits of Huntsville or Madison?
Mo Brooks opposes raising any taxes, period. Government has to live on a budget just as families do. Every tax increase undermines the ability of our private sector to compete in a worldwide economy. And the private sector is the goose that lays the golden egg. If we overtax (and kill) it, then we have nothing.
Having said that I oppose all tax increases, a rural-only property tax increase is not as bad as a county-wide sales tax increase.
But the County Commission has no vote on raising property taxes in rural Madison County. The County Commission cannot vote to require a property tax referendum. The legislature has restricted the issue of rural Madison County property tax increases to (a) itself and (b) local school boards.
The most the Madison County Commission can do is try to influence the date on which a property tax vote takes place. Mo Brooks opposes the extra cost of special property tax referendums and will vote to put property tax referendums on the ballot only when an election is already scheduled to take place.
3. Describe your approach to Economic Development? Does the County need more Industrial Parks / Sites; would you support development of a TVA Megasite in the County?
Mo Brooks’ approach to economic development is to help create a good work and living environment that will naturally attract industry and commerce. Mo Brooks does not believe in using tax dollars to subsidize politically powerful companies over their competitors. The “TVA Megasite” issue has not been thoroughly vetted. Factors such as costs, location, and the like are unknown. This is in part because, at this time, there are no specific TVA Megasites proposed for Madison County.
4. What is your position on ‘Metro Government’?
Mo Brooks is for metro government. Having said that, “metro” used to mean “county-wide” (See Nashville and Davidson County, TN). Metro government is a dead issue in Madison County because there is no viable definition of “metro” now that Huntsville and Madison have annexed into Limestone County (unless Huntsville and Madison deannex all Limestone County property to promote metro government). Notwithstanding that the metro government concept has been killed by annexations into Limestone County, Mo Brooks favors consolidation of services whenever possible.
5. Which roads and bridges in the County are most in need of improvement; which roads in your District need improvement?
Memorial Parkway overpasses, Southern By-Pass construction, and four-laning of Ashburn Drive through Blevins Gap are our greatest road needs.
6. Describe your approach to public safety. Does the Sheriff’s Department have adequate resources? Does the Fire Marshall have adequate resources? Do the Volunteer Fire Departments have adequate resources; should the County establish a ‘regular’ Fire Department? Does the EMA have adequate resources?
The Madison County Commission has no control over law enforcement in Madison County. The most the Commission can do is increase funding for the sheriff’s department. The Commission has steadily done that, making the Madison County Sheriff’s Department one of the highest funded sheriff’s departments in Alabama.
No law enforcement agency in Alabama has “adequate resources” (where the term “adequate” means sufficient to stop all crime). Having said that, the Madison County Sheriff’s Department is one of the highest funded sheriff’s departments in Alabama.
Does the Fire Marshall have adequate resources? Probably not, but, given the Madison County Commission’s funding limitations and a plethora of demands by other, worthwhile public services for those funds, Mo Brooks believes the Fire Marshall is as adequately funded as prioritization of available resources permits.
Do the Volunteer Fire Departments have adequate resources; should the County establish a ‘regular’ Fire Department? Inasmuch as 99% of Commission District 5 is in the City of Huntsville, and inasmuch as very, very little of District 5 is protected by volunteer fire departments, it has been Mo Brooks’ policy to (in large part) defer volunteer fire department funding issues to rural commissioners (Dale Strong, Roger Jones, and Jerry Craig). Hence, Mo Brooks defers to rural commissioners whether the benefit of a full-time, fully-paid, fire department outweighs the costs of higher taxes or fees on rural residents to pay for full-time fire protection.
Does the EMA have adequate resources? Probably not, but, given the Madison County Commission’s funding limitations and a plethora of demands by other, worthwhile public services for those funds, Mo Brooks believes the EMA is as adequately funded as prioritization of available resources permits.
7. How would you improve County Mental Health services?
This issue is akin to all others. It comes down to funding resources. The Madison County Commission will help as available funding and priorities dictate.
8. Does the County need more Parks/Greenways and if so, where?
Yes. Everywhere it can be done (in neighborhoods, along mountain slopes, and along creeks and rivers). District 5 has helped build the Bailey Cove Greenway, the new greenway and park behind the Target shopping center on Carl T. Jones Blvd., and the Aldridge Creek Greenway extension to the Tennessee River. District 5 also helped acquire realty for hiking trails on Green Mountain (at the Blevins Gap starting point).
9. What do you propose for protecting the Flint River?
Two things can be done to help protect the Flint River. First, Madison County needs a sewage system that will help minimize pollution of ground water supplies and storm runoff into the Flint River. Second, Madison County needs the power to restrict or prevent siphoning of water from the Flint River during low water flow periods.
10. What is the biggest problem facing your district?
Plus a softball: Are there any questions you wish we had asked? Go ahead and answer it.
Mo Brooks’ question is, “Why should you be reelected to the Madison County Commission?”
In no particular order, Mo Brooks submits he should be reelected based on:
1. Experience. Mo Brooks has served in the following public capacities (all of which help build a skill-set that better enable Mo Brooks to serve District 5):
1978-1980: Tuscaloosa County Assistant District Attorney
1982-1991: Alabama House of Representatives. Elected: 1982, 1983, 1986, 1990.
Alabama House Republican Caucus Chairman.
Elected three times by fellow Republican legislators
1991-1993: Madison County District Attorney
1996-2008: Madison County Commissioner. Elected: 1996, 2000, 2004.
2. Education. Mo Brooks attended Whitesburg, Weatherly, Mt. Gap and Grissom (all-city baseball, honor society, active member of two-time state championship debate team). Mo Brooks graduated from Duke University in three years (with “distinction” in economics, Duke’s highest honors, and a second major in political science) and from the University of Alabama School of Law. Mo Brooks’ education experience helps him better represent District 5′s citizens.
3. Family. Mo Brooks has long-term roots in District 5. Mo Brooks is the son of Jack (retired Redstone Arsenal electrical engineer) and Betty Brooks (retired Lee High School economics and government teacher). Sister Suzetta Hardwick Jones is a retired Huntsville Crimestoppers’ police officer. Brother Dr. W. Timothy Brooks is a Huntsville dentist. Mo and Martha Brooks met at Duke University, married in 1976 and have four children: Rachel (elementary school teacher, wife of Walter Olsen and now a mom), Jay (Auburn senior, mechanical engineering major), Chelsie (BYU junior, elementary education major), and Thomas (Auburn freshman, aerospace engineering major). Martha, a University of Alabama accounting major, retired as a C.P.A. in the 1980s to become a full-time mom. Martha recently obtained her math & education majors from U.A.H. (she was math student of the year in 2005) and teaches at Whitesburg Middle School, where she is Whitesburg’s math team coach.
4. Efficient Leadership for District 5. Mo Brooks maximizes resources for District 5 by declining a “free” County car and using no tax dollars to pay for Mo Brooks’ secretary, cell phone, or office equipment (other than one telephone landline). No other Madison County Commission office is as efficient!
5. Effective Leadership For District 5. District 5′s budget was a paltry $35,000 in 1996 (after salary and office expenses). Mo Brooks’ hard work with his fellow commissioners paid off: District 5′s disposable budget for constituent services is $740,000 in 2008 (a 21-fold increase). This increase in District 5 funding was achieved without raising any tax rates!
6. Good Stewardship for District 5. Mo Brooks’ goal has been to increase District 5′s budget enough to affect road congestion. While we’re not there yet, Mo Brooks has been able to focus on capital projects that improve District 5′s overall quality of life and property values. Projects funded by District 5, in whole or in part (via joint agreements with the City of Huntsville), include:
- Bailey Cove Greenway
- Second, north-bound turn lane at Airport Road and the Parkway
- 4 Mile Post to Carl T. Jones Park & Greenway (under construction)
- Grissom Tennis Courts (lighted & for public use)
- Green Mountain hiking trails acreage acquisition
- Ditto Landing Rowing Facility
- 30+ acres on Chaney-Thompson acquisition preserved for future recreational use
- Aldridge Creek Greenway Extension to Ditto Landing & Tennessee River
- $80,000+ for thousands of new books for District 5 library branches
- Capital improvements to all sports parks in District 5 (Mayfair, Fern Bell, McGucken & Hampton Cove)
- School Improvements. District 5′s 12 public schools provide our children with a top-notch education. District 5 has done its part to help. With Mo Brooks as Commissioner, District 5 has spent $1.5+ million on public schools. Principals and PTA presidents establish each school’s priority list. School Improvements include:
- Auditorium lighting & sound systems
- Athletic & P.E. equipment (weights, etc.)
- 100s of computers, scanners, copiers, printers, projectors, & other technology
- Science labs, microscopes, tables, skeletons, etc.
- School grounds equipment (mowers, pressure washers, marquees, and the like)
- Elementary school playground equipment
- 1,000s of classroom Alabama Reading Initiative books
- 1,000s of school library books