Thursday, March 30, 2023

2021 Election: Louis Harmati, running for a spot on Leland Town Council

Louis Harmati is running for a seat on Leland Town Council. (Courtesy Louis Harmati)

LELAND –– Louis Harmati is running for a seat on Leland Town Council. Harmati previously ran unsuccessful bids for town council in 2019 and for Rep. Deb Butler’s House District 18 seat in 2017.

Port City Daily has sent a questionnaire to every candidate running in municipal elections, which are nonpartisan, and has dropped its paywall on the profiles to help voters make informed decisions ahead of the 2021 election year. (Though, your support of local, independent journalism is appreciated through a monthly subscription. Also, consider signing up for Port City Daily’s free newsletter, Wilmington Wire, to get the headlines delivered to your inbox every morning.)

As a reminder, the early voting period begins Oct. 14, with the registration deadline on Oct. 8. Voters may partake in same-day registration throughout the two-week early voting period, which ends Oct. 30 (check if your registration is active at your current address).

Election Day is Nov. 2.

Harmati’s stances on local issues are discussed below. Port City Daily has included all responses in full, and only edited responses for grammatical and spelling errors.

READ MORE: Catch up on all political coverage

Louis Harmati – Unafilliated

  • Education:
    BBA in Accounting and Business Administration
    MA in Public Administration and Management
    Real Estate Broker License
    Insurance Broker License
    Insurance Adjuster License
    Armor Officer Course and Parts of Infantry Officer Course
    Management of Defense Acquisition Contracts
  • Job Title: Constitution Seminar Speaker
    My Motto is “Lead by Example and Serve with Character and Integrity”
  • Experience:
    My most important experience is my knowledge of the U.S. Constitution, and how to apply it to public policy issues. I worked 10 years for the federal government, and 20 years for the North Carolina National Guard and the U.S. Army. For the federal government, I was a contract auditor, a finance and accounting officer, and an administrator. As USAR Center Commander, I was responsible for coordinating between different organizations, training and development, and have knowledge of emergency operations. My experience in insurance and real estate will assist me with risk management, planning, and zoning issues. I was an instructor of public administration and management for a small college training municipal and state employees. I owned and operated a small grocery store, therefore I am sensitive to the needs of our business community. And I sponsor a citizens planning committee, and civic corps for young people interested in government.
  • Family: Married with children and grandchildren (live in Leland)

Port City Daily (PCD): What town services would you like to see introduced, expanded, or revised?
Louis Harmati (LH): When you are talking about expanding services, then you have to look at what you want to cut, or how you want to pay for it, unless you are getting federal, or state monies to provide the service. Most people do not want to see their taxes go up, especially with our current inflationary period. I believe we have to provide those services which are required by the North Carolina Constitution. These services are public safety issues, such as police, fire, EMS, trash, roads, water.

I believe trash is becoming a bigger issue because our landfills are getting full. We have to build a new landfill, or ship some of our trash out to other counties. And it’s getting harder to find landfills that will accept our trash. We had a good recycle program, but the GFL raised their cost, and Leland canceled their contract with them. Recycling cost are going up very fast, and it’s going to be a challenge to provide that service. Recycling our trash is a good idea, because it reduces the trash going into our landfills, and helps the environment.

The new curbside recycling program started in July 2021. GFL will pickup recyclables twice a month for a fee. There is also a Brunswick County free recycling drop off location in Leland.

PCD: What’s one decision town council recently got right? What’s one decision they got wrong?
LH: First, all decisions need to be made from the principle of limited government and what is the proper function of local government. Main function of any government is always public safety, especially at the local level. And it has to be based on constitutional principles that protect life, liberty, and property rights.

One thing that the Leland Town Council got right was to get out of the water business and turn it over to H2GO to provide water for the Brunswick Forest Community. The thing they got wrong was the way they handled the debate on the new Cape Fear Bridge proposal in 2019. I think they thought that providing a public forum on the Cape Fear Bridge proposal was a good idea. But NCDOT presented too many alternative routes at these meetings, and people opposed it, thinking that it would go through their community. But I understand that the public forums had to be scheduled to inform people on NCDOT’s decision making process.

PCD: How can Leland foster smart growth and development? What specifically should be improved or is already successful in your opinion?
LH: I was at the Leland Town Hall meeting sometime in 2012. During that meeting the Wilmington Planning Department presented information on smart growth. I later met with the lady presenting the smart growth proposal, but she did not know too much about it. After further investigation I found out that smart growth was a UN initiative that was adopted by the U.S. Federal government. The federal government gave Wilmington a million dollar grant to share the smart growth idea with towns in the Cape Fear region. Many of the smart growth ideas have been adopted by Leland, by the North Carolina Real Estate Commission, and by over 600 U.S.Cities. The only problem with smart growth is that it can limit property rights, and the right to use and enjoy it.

PCD: When did you first move to Leland? Do you think there’s a division between so-called “old Leland” and “new Leland” and if so, how would you appeal to both factions?
LH: I have lived in the Cape Fear region for 36 years and over 50 years in North Carolina. We moved to Leland in 2001. I think there is an economic and political division between old and new Leland. But the way you appeal to both sides is by following Constitutional principles that protect the rights of all citizens. These Constitutional concepts are: that all men are created equal, establishing justice for all, promoting the general welfare, and providing for the public safety of all citizens.

PCD: The utility merger with H2GO arrived after a long and contentious battle. Are you in favor of the merger? Are you concerned about any of the dissent surrounding it, notably by developers, Brunswick County, and a local legislator?
LH: Yes, I think it was a good idea for H2GO to provide water services for all of Leland residents because their business is providing water. And the more people that are sharing the cost of the water service, the cheaper the rate for everyone. And H2GO is not going away, therefore that is the best choice.

Since the deal is done, then what can the developers, the county, or legislators say? And H2GO has a charter to provide water services. 

The battle was about clean water because the county at first was not going to build a reverse osmosis plant. And the people in Brunswick Forest and Compass Pointe wanted clean water. Water is the source of life, therefore it’s important to have a clean water source that does not endanger the health of our citizens.

The town staff and H2GO has to watch the developers that they do not take shortcuts on road, sewer and water construction. And the staff should make sure that developers follow state guidelines on all infrastructure projects. Because once the roads, and sewer/water lines are accepted, then it’s on the town and H2GO to repair, replace and maintain it.

PCD: Are you in favor of the town’s use of financial incentives through the use of taxpayer dollars to offset a developer’s expense to fund on-site infrastructure improvement? 
LH: No/Yes

I favor using economic development incentives by using system development fees to reimburse the developer for their infrastructure installations. System development fees are imposed on new customers or on the development to offset capital asset construction.

Another way to fund infrastructure cost is by a Special Assessment District. The town becomes the middleman by issuing revenue bonds to fund road construction. The bond is paid back by individual assessment on future property owners.

I am open to looking at all possible ways to fund infrastructure projects that best protects the town, the development, and the residents who will be living there. 

PCD: Finally, what does Leland need? How will you help the town get or achieve it?
LH: We need to get a handle on the rapid growth we are experiencing and on improving our infrastructure. The main part of the infrastructure is our roads, and building a new bridge across the Cape Fear River. I would like to help jumpstart the reopening and completing the $11. 5 million study on possible routes for the new bridge. We need to get New Hanover and Brunswick counties to petition the NCDOT, and our state representatives to finalize the study on possible bridge locations and to spend the last $315,000. Once the study is finished, then discussion can be held on which routes would be the best and most cost-effective. This is not going to be a simple process because there are many players involved and many competing interests.

Getting the new bridge on the drawing boards, and buying up the right-of-ways should happen after the study is finalized. Because if it’s done years later, the land cost will go up and there will be a bigger disruption to communities impacted by the road leading to the bridge.

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