The following interview originally appeared on examiner.com.
Examiner- Don Balfour has been the state senator for District 9 for over 20 years. In a previous primary, he overwhelmingly defeated two challengers. Perspectives have obviously changed as a result of last May’s primary, but in 2013, when you announced your decision to challenge Balfour, it seemed a bit arrogant.
Martin- I don’t think it was arrogant at all. I think there are a lot of voters who want an alternative and I wanted to offer myself as that alternative.
EXAMINER- By alternative, you mean someone who didn’t have a lot of legal issues?
MARTIN- No, not at all. Legal issues are one thing, properly representing the people who elect you is another. As a state senator, I think you have to be open and accessible. You have to communicate with the people in your district, and you have to listen to them because your job is to represent them and address their concerns and attempt to solve problems.
The problem with too many elected officials is arrogance— they think they are right and that the people who elected them are wrong. They think they know better than everyone else and they try to inject their opinions into every issue. That is exactly what I want to stop. I have a track record of working with others, listening to people and working to develop solutions that address the issues openly and honestly.
EXAMINER- That sounds good, but doesn’t every candidate say pretty much the same thing?
MARTIN I don’t know about that, I can only speak for myself. However, if you look back at the conflict over service delivery strategy between Gwinnett County and the cities within the county, I think you’ll see what I’m talking about. My opponent was a County Commissioner at the time and the record shows that he wasn’t listening and he was opposing a fair and equitable settlement. That dispute drove a wedge between city governments and the county government and cost taxpayers millions. And I think the County Commissioners who were in office at the time are responsible for that.
EXAMINER- That brings up an interesting question. All or part of five cities are included in District 9– Dacula, Grayson, Lawrenceville, Lilburn and Snellville. How do you see the role of a state senator with respect to the cities and the county?
MARTIN- The people who live in these cities are also residents of the county, so I think a state senator has several roles. He or she works for all of them, yet at times they may have conflicting interests. I spent 8 years as a city councilman so I know first hand the vital role that city governments play in people’s lives. The county government also plays a vital role and while city and county governments usually work independently, they also have to be able to work together. A state senator should have a friendly working relationship with both city and county officials so that if the need arises, he can help in whatever process is necessary to successfully achieve a goal or resolve a dispute.
EXAMINER- Again, that sounds like great campaign rhetoric. But when it comes to resolving disputes, aren’t you between a rock and a hard spot. How do get in the middle of a dispute like the one between Gwinnett County and the cities and not alienate one side or the other?
MARTIN- You take the time to research and understand the problem, you evaluate what each side sees as a solution. Then you work with the proposed solutions to develop one that serves the best interests of the majority of people involved. If you try to ram a proposal down someone’s throat, sure you’re going to alienate them. But if you help develop an ethical and logical solution, I don’t think you alienate anyone. Sure, some people may be upset, but I think everyone appreciates that you are part of the conversation.
EXAMINER- Can you give me an example?
MARTIN- Sure. How about the Gwinnett county trash ordinance? A lot of people are STILL unhappy about having that rammed through by a group of Commissioners who didn’t listen to the people who elected them. It was poorly thought out, it caused an expensive lawsuit, it infringes on the rights of our citizens, and the conversation was pretty much all one way– here’s the trash plan and here’s why you should like it. My opponent was a strong supporter of that plan. He didn’t listen then and I don’t I don’t think he’ll listen if he becomes a state senator.
This trash ordinance was supposedly needed because some people were not paying for trash service and dumping their garbage illegally. Garbage truck traffic was another concern because trucks from different companies were driving through the same subdivision. Those problems could have been solved by allowing individual subdivisions the option of joining a county plan or choosing one of their own. Sure, that might have created some enforcement challenges but it would have been a much less intrusive solution. It would not have trampled on property owners options, it wouldn’t have required payment in advance for trash service, it wouldn’t have includes a fee on your property tax bill and it wouldn’t have brought the risk of having a lien placed against your property if you refused to pay for substandard service. I find it strange that my opponent calls himself a conservative yet was a major supporter of a law that is a text book example of government overreach.
EXAMINER- A lot of people call themselves conservatives. You call yourself a conservative. So what does that mean? What does a conservative look like when he or she is an elected official– like a state senator?
MARTIN- A real conservative believes in less government, less interference in people’s lives and less spending. Let’s cut to the chase– that’s an expression you’re familiar with– what you’re really asking about is the difference between me and my opponent. I think our records speak for the differences between us better than anything I can say. When Mike was a county commissioner, he voted for the trash plan we already talked about, he voted for a taxpayer funded baseball stadium that cost over $30 million more than original proposal, he voted several times to table a private citizen’s application to have a cell tower built on his property and then voted to allow the cell tower to be built right next door on county property. That vote denied a privat citizen the opportunity to receive an income of about $1,000 a month. He was also part of a county commission that increased the operating budget by 49% and he voted to raise his own salary. By comparison, while I was a Lawrenceville City Council member we delivered real tax cuts, we cut spending, we made real improvements in the city and I never voted to raise my own salary. And when it came to light that some people were engaged in unethical spending practices, I didn’t ignore it. I stood up to open an investigation and put an end to it. I didn’t just talk about being a conservative, I voted that way. And that’s the way I’ll vote in the state senate.
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