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Karl Ernst - Candidate for County Commissioner, District 4

Posted Thursday, November 2, 2006

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Candidate for County Commissioner, District 4


Karl Ernst

711 Red Oak Dr., Siler City, NC 27344

Phone: 919-742-4164

Email address:

Age: 55

Education: High School, Junior college, USAF, FAA certified Flight Instructor w/multi-engine and instrument ratings.

Marital Status: Yes

Spouse: Barbara Louise

Children: 3 step-children, 1 step-granddaughter

Community activities: Siler City Lions Club, VFW, poll worker,

Political offices you have held: None

1. What do you consider the three most pressing issues in the county? What do you intend to do about them?

Growth - Anticipate, plan for, and, in the best way possible, manage that growth.

Schools - Resulting from extensive, rapid growth, this issue requires a multi-pronged effort involving a)the “Team”, which consists of the students, the teachers, school administrators, and the parents, b)our elected leaders, c) developers, and d)the taxpayers. All need to recognize that their contribution is critical in providing necessary resources to successfully train, educate, and graduate the students. I will task the “Team” to be creative in finding ways to make the best use of the resources they have available. As an elected leader, I will make every effort to find the best way to provide, enhance, and expand these resources. I will make it clear to developers desiring to do business in the county that they must be willing to make their fair contribution in providing needed resources. I will work to develop the trust of the taxpayers, assuring them that their hard-earned tax dollars are being spent responsibly and are fully accounted for, hopefully making necessary taxes more acceptable.

Economic Development - Our commercial and industrial tax base continues to dwindle for many reasons. Most of these are painfully obvious. Others are not. In order to identify those factors, I believe we need to review and, if necessary, revise the mission and goals of the EDC.

Our marketing strategies need to be in tune with the current business environment. For example, many folks say we don’t have the workforce necessary to support economic growth. Not quite so. We have probably the most highly skilled, knowledgeable, hard-working bunch of

commuters in the state. We need to be outspoken and aggressive in telling those looking for places to put businesses about them. I’m sure those commuters would rather not if they had a choice.

2. In your view, what are the “pros” and “cons” of the current development that is happening in Chatham County? What types of development do you feel benefit our county the most?

Pros - Employment opportunities, business opportunities, additional tax resources.

Cons - Rapid increases in demand for services which are not adequately supported by generated revenues creating severe burdens on the taxpayers, loss of prime farmland to development because the landowner is being taxed off their property, rapid changes in our cultural identity without sufficient opportunity for assimilation of and by those new to our county.

Beneficial development includes a combination of business, institutional, and residential sources. The businesses we should target for recruitment include biotech, pharmaceutical, manufacturing. We need to develop a program of support that facilitates and nurtures the growth of local small businesses. Institutional development includes attracting state and federal facilities to locate in our county providing much needed jobs. Residential development that is planned for, managed, and adequately supported will provide communities that our citizens can be proud to live in.

3. What specific types of businesses do you want to attract to Chatham? How do you think these businesses would benefit Chatham?

As noted above.

4. How do you propose Chatham County meet the increasing need for safe drinking water for a growing population? What can Chatham do to hire and retain a Utilities Director?

Unfortunately we have don’t have a lot of options. With the limits placed by the Corps of Engineers on the out-take from Jordan Lake and the continued resistance to further expansion of the Siler City reservoir, we are faced with an extreme challenge in providing water resources. It is naturally logical that eastern county sources come from Jordan. We should take the necessary steps now to secure our needed share, including present and future needs, from Jordan. Over the years we have not been very effective in doing this. If a Utilities Director will provide the direction to move these efforts along then it should be something to look at. Hiring someone would not be too difficult. Long term retention might be more difficult. As experience and proficiency increases, so does an individual’s desirability in the marketplace. Revenue-busting salary packages, as in business, are not the only way to retain employees. Maintaining a workplace in which the employees know that their efforts are necessary, appreciated, and contribute to the common good is also a positive attraction.

5. Can growth be managed? Explain.

Yes, provided we are willing to take the steps necessary to do it. Effective, practical, strategic planning, among others, is a tool that can be used in this effort. In business, as the enterprise grows and becomes more diverse, if a plan is not in place to facilitate good management and make best use of this growth, it can become a detriment to the success of that business. That applies to government also. Planning does not mean only land use, but also assessing infrastructure needs which will occur regardless of location of growth, long-term county personnel requirements, schools, roads, required revenue, and many others. Growth is here. How well we succeed in managing it will depend on the cooperative effort of all stakeholders involved.

6. What are your views on following the original land use plan developed with the input of the citizens of Chatham County? Should the County even have a land use plan?

I participated in the development phase of the plan as a strategic plan advisor. In some of the drafts I saw, it contained many flaws, most significant, at least to me, were some of the locations identified as business development areas. Several of these were inaccessible from established transportation corridors. Infrastructure was not even close to them at that time. Obviously, I think land use planning has a place in overall strategic planning. Do we need it for the entire county? Some areas of the county have innate, natural restrictions influencing uses of those areas, like the southwest portion of the county where perkable soil is hard to find. Is comprehensive planning required there? Maybe not. However, I do feel that a full review of the Plan as it now written is needed to determine effectiveness and feasibility, and that it is properly applied.

7. When is it appropriate to raise taxes?

That is a question that has been plaguing established governments since their beginnings. Needs testing and justification, and the ability of the citizens to pay those increased taxes are two key factors to be considered. If the two cannot be reconciled, then it is not appropriate.

8. What are the best ways to fund the county’s growing school construction needs?

a) Bonds. Though to many they are not very palatable, they do provide money up front which can be applied to urgent needs. However care should be taken in pursuing them as they bring with them a long term commitment in payback while raising taxes for all.

b) Taxes. Already existing in many forms, I think focusing on “user” sources is a better option rather than across-the-board increases for all taxpayers. We also need to come up with a fair and equitable method to identify those who do not own real property and are using the schools, and to establish a fee structure which will generate additional revenue from this user group for the schools. This can be income based but, to be effective, it must be applied universally. There is no such thing as a “free” education.

9. What two things would you like to see changed in Chatham County over the next four years and why? What, if anything, would your election do to bring about these changes?

Number 1. The establishing of a true “district” system of representation in the county. This is something that is long overdue. It will be a continuing goal of my candidacy and, if elected, of my service to the 4th District and to Chatham County ensuring fair and equal representation of all.

Number 2. The “fence” running north/ south over Hickory Mountain comes down. In other words, the “us vs them” mindset changes to “we, the people of Chatham County”. The challenges are great and the stakes are high. Continued divisiveness will only hinder our ability to cope with and overcome those challenges. I will represent the 4th District as a citizen of Chatham County, while bringing forward the needs and desires of my neighbors and all those I represent in my district.

10. Why should I, as a Chatham County resident vote for you?

When I was asked to stand for this office, it was quite humbling that those who did so would consider me worthy of their support. This is something I have taken very seriously. I do not bring to the table any vested interest other than that of a citizen and taxpayer willing to work for what I believe in. I realize that there will be successes and that there will shortcomings. I realize that there will be times when personal commitment and political reality do not agree. I will not promise what I know I cannot deliver. I do not have a magic wand to wave and make everything better. I will accept responsibility and be accountable for the decisions I make as your Commissioner. I will also remind all of you of your individual responsibility as a citizen to be active in your government, to participate as best you can, when and where you can. During my service in the strategic plan development process, I spoke with people in every corner of the county, from North Chatham to Bennett, from Silk Hope to Moncure, from Siler City to Goldston to Pittsboro, and was struck by the commonality of the desires of all in providing for their families and their communities the best future they could. I take comfort in knowing this and will use this knowledge to guide me in my efforts as 4th District Commissioner. Together we can achieve. Divided, we will surely fail. And, if you remember anything that I say at all, remember this- whether for me or for someone else, VOTE! It is your right and your responsibility. Be a part of the solution.

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