Catherine Scott Bernard
Neighborhood/community you live in: Ashford Park
Past political experience: – Founder/Chair, Brookhaven Redevelopment Referendum Committee – successfully opposed Redevelopment Powers Law that would have increased debt, eminent domain, and overdevelopment (referendum defeated 60-40% in Nov. 2014); DeKalb County GOP, Events Chair, County Committee; Vice Chair, Brookhaven Precinct; president, membership chair, DeKalb Young Republicans; president, North DeKalb Republican Women; delegate, 2012 Republican National Convention; GAGOP 12th District Executive Committee; GAGOP 6th District Nominating Committee; volunteer, campaign against millage rate increase (2013); candidate, 1st Vice Chair of Georgia Republican Party (2013); candidate, HD80 Republican Primary (2014); candidate, HD80 Special Election (2015); active in public safety and economic development legislation; active in Brookhaven planning and zoning issues
Other experience in the community: Rotary Club of North Atlanta; Brookhaven Chamber of Commerce; Brookhaven Civilian Police Academy (class president); Fully Informed Jury Association (Georgia lead); Federalist Society
For more information: www.friendsofcatherinebernard.org
Q: Why are you running for this office?
A: To serve as the watchdog representative our educated, engaged, and prosperous district needs. We live in an amazing place, and we can preserve and expand that quality of life while promoting fiscal responsibility and protecting the rights of all Georgians. To do that, though, we have to elect a representative with the courage to stand up for taxpayers and ethics instead of party hierarchies and entrenched special interests. My special interest is making sure that Georgia law reflects the functional, limited, and positive approach to government that my fellow HD80 voters want to see, so that they can spend more time on family, work, community service, and enjoying life.
When I became a public defender after working as a civil litigator at a downtown law firm, I saw the way our justice system is producing sub-optimal outcomes (dangerous criminals go unpunished while public safety resources are allocated to revenue generating drug crimes and traffic offenses). When my husband and I bought our home in Brookhaven in 2011, I saw the way local control and community will was thwarted by state regulations and secretive quasi-public entities such as development authorities. Our laws can be better, and I can help make that happen.
Q: Why should the voters choose you?
A: I have a proven track record of ethics, experience, and effectiveness in seeking community solutions and defending taxpayers against ill-considered legal schemes. I represent the independent-minded, common sense approach to politics favored by virtually everyone in our district – we’re fiscally conservative, but take a live-and-let-live approach to the private lives of others. Other candidates are dependent on the approval/funding of a party caucus and attached special interests, but I’m free to work for our district’s best interests without worrying about currying favor for future partisan endeavors. That’s why I’ve been the target of well-funded attack campaigns; I’ve already proven to be effective and independent in defeating the Redevelopment Powers Law referendum and attempts to legalize dangerous no-knock search warrants. While I’ve studied law, political science, and legislation for almost three decades now, it’s the practice under pressure – with results that provide demonstrable value to our communities – that makes me the beset choice for HD80 voters.
Q: If elected, what’s the first thing you want to accomplish in office?
Our district wants to protect against overdevelopment and execessive debt, and an important step in doing that is eliminating the use of “executive sessions” in public meetings by local legislative bodies. If you’re using public money and time, then the public should know what’s going on! If there are projects that require secrecy, perhaps those aren’t appropriate projects for government to be involved in in the first place. Hidden subsidies for private interests – i.e., government picking winners and losers – are a major factor in stifling economic growth, especially among small and mid-size businesses. Businesses already want to be here; we don’t need to distort the market by subsidizing development.
Q: What do you see as the biggest problem facing the district you seek to represent?
A: Development/transportation, followed closely by education. Brookhaven, Sandy Springs, and Chamblee are three of the most exciting and dynamic cities in Georgia (and beyond) and are struggling with the best way to promote smart, sustainable growth while respecting property rights for residents and businesses. Traffic congestion has made some neighborhoods all but impassable at certain times, and infrastructure improvements have not always kept pace with increased usage. Zoning and planning require careful balancing of competing concerns, but residents can’t keep up with all of the expensive efforts to increase density, nor should they be expected to volunteer endless time because elected officials shy away from criticizing the work of other government workers.
Q: What do you see as the biggest problem facing the state?
Getting our government (at every level) to do what we want it to do – handle infrastructure, public safety, and education – without wasting a bunch of time and money along the way.
Elected officials and bureaucrats have been removing accountability mechanisms in the name of “efficiency.” Legislators pass laws to grant themselves amnesty from ethics violations, and seek to eliminate review procedures for government employees. Cities are formed to escape county mismanagement, but the county mismanagement persists even with an additional layer of government. The governor controls the legislative agenda (e.g., preventing medical cannabis passage for ill children), creating a problem for separation of powers, and the party caucuses in the legislature stifle efforts to rein in spending and increase transparency. The state budget is growing at a rate of over $1 billion/year, we’re spending over $500 million/year on debt service alone, and yet all we hear about are religious liberty and campus carry bills. What about the other 20,000+ pieces of legislation circulating in the 2016 session?
Q: If a “religious freedom” bill similar to the one passed this session and vetoed by Gov. Deal is offered again next year, how would you vote on it?
I would vote no on a bill like HB757, which provided for public funding for organizations engaged in religious discrimination. I support the right of conscience for all persons and organizations, even if we don’t agree with the morality of their choices, but it is never appropriate to use taxpayer money to support discrimination of any stripe.
Q: If it comes up again in the legislature next year, would you support some form of new tax to expand MARTA?
A: No. While I appreciate the value of public transit (my husband and I love living 1/3rd of a mile from the Brookhaven station), MARTA needs to focus on ridership and service rather than trying to be in the real estate business and manage multi-use developments. Georgians are being nickel-and-dimed to death on new taxes and fees, and MARTA’s funding mechanisms reflects legislative dysfunction stretching back decades. If we as a state and metro area are going to prioritize mass transit, we have to get serious about the way we use taxpayer dollars rather than always counting on a new tax.