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Harris focuses on spending as he launches council bid
Tuesday, April 29, 2014
By BEN R. WILLIAMS - Bulletin Staff Writer
Martinsville must find a way to live within its means, according to Martinsville City Council candidate Ural Harris.
Harris, 67, formally kicked off his city council campaign Monday with a speech at the city municipal building.
“I’m running for this because I’m very unhappy with the way the city’s been going and some of the actions of city council,” Harris said. “One of the things I’m unhappy with is that the city keeps spending more money than it’s bringing in. It’s losing business and customers all the time.”
Harris, who speaks regularly at city council meetings, said he believes that the council has continued to pass budgets that are “broken and unsustainable.”
Additionally, he said, the council has made choices he believes were damaging to the city, particularly the choice to buy electricity wholesale through American Municipal Power (AMP).
“They keep defending the AMP decision,” Harris said of city council members. “They laid a lot of the blame for the ... increase in electric rates on January’s high power rates, and also the cost of transmission charges.”
Although there is some truth to those claims, Harris said, he believes the situation is more complex.
Harris said he plans to contact several Virginia political leaders, including Sen. Mark Warner, U.S. Rep. Morgan Griffith and Attorney General Mark Herring, and ask them to investigate AMP.
Harris said that he’s “on the fence” regarding whether Martinsville should go through the process of reversion, which would change it from an independent city into a town within Henry County.
“If we can’t find a way to live within our means,” Harris said, “we may have to (revert). I don’t know that it’s the worst thing in the world. I know a lot of citizens are against it. I think that’s going to be up to the citizens which way they want to go.”
Harris said one of the reasons he decided to run for city council is to address what he sees as a lack of transparency within the council.
“At times,” he said, “I have sensed that council didn’t want me to ask questions, and were unhappy with questions I asked and some of the ways I asked them. I’ll admit, I’m not polished, and probably not politically correct, but I try to ask (questions).”
Harris said that between now and November, he plans to speak to area business leaders ask what changes they would like to see within the city.
He also stressed that if elected, he would strive to keep taxes low.
“I just don’t think the citizens can keep taking these tax increases and hits,” he said. “We have to find some means to trim the budget some way.”
The council seats now held by Kim Adkins and Gene Teague will be up for grabs in November. Currently, Adkins is the mayor and Teague is the vice mayor. Those positions are elected from among council members every two years.
Teague has said he plans to seek re-election although he has not submitted his paperwork yet. He has about 16 years of experience on the council. Voters have elected him several times, and he has twice been appointed to fill seats that other council members vacated.
Adkins, who is in her first four-year term on the council, has said she will not seek re-election. She instead is seeking the Democratic nomination to run for the 20th District state Senate seat in 2015.
Harris, a retired furniture worker, served in the Air Force from 1966 to 1970, when he received an honorable discharge. He is a member of American Legion Post 42, Disabled American Veterans Post 52, the Collinsville Fraternal Order of Eagles and the Bassett Loyal Order of Moose.
He holds two-year degrees in accounting and business management from Patrick Henry Community College.
To contact Harris, call 224-0679, or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.