NewsNews Features

District 3: Dustin Kirby Answers Our Questions

Dustin Kirby

Age: 34

Occupation: Lawyer

Party: None given

Address: 131 E. Broad St.

Phone: 706-540-5480



Athens-Clarke County has one of the highest poverty rates in the nation. What should the local government be doing to alleviate poverty?

The best solution to poverty is good public education, but to the extent that government can promote sustainable living-wage jobs, it should.  Opportunities for public-private partnerships to help foster entrepreneurship in Athens should be considered, but I am leery of tax breaks for attracting business. I believe they may harm Athens in the future.

My experience working at the public defender’s office made it abundantly clear how crippling the criminal justice system can be on the poor. I have proposed enacting parallel ordinances for some petty offenses such as possession of small amounts of marijuana. These violations would not be considered crimes, but would still allow the county to punish violators with fines and smaller amounts of jail time. The goal would be to keep more money within the county and reduce criminal records that keep our citizens from getting jobs. 

Downtown development has been a major issue the past few years. Is this a good trend for Athens, and if not, how can we curb it and/or encourage development other than student apartments?

I believe that, in general, downtown development is a good trend for Athens—even the reviled student apartments. Increased housing density should be celebrated. It encourages investment in infrastructure and businesses catered to residential living, such as grocery stores. These businesses create jobs and tax revenue for the county and foster an urban living environment. Increased housing density also creates opportunity for more green space throughout the county and reduces car use by residents. The ability to walk to work, restaurants and retail locations has been one of my biggest joys living downtown. We may not like every aspect of these projects, but in the long run they will benefit Athens.

Do you support expanding Athens Transit service, reducing fares and/or exploring a merger with the UGA bus system? If so, how would you pay for it?

Exploring merger options with the UGA bus system seems like the most logical solution for increased use of public transportation. As it stands, UGA students and staff already make up about half of the users of Athens Transit. My understanding is that federal funds would support a merger if transit services were under municipal control. 

Athens is often pigeonholed as “business unfriendly.” Do you support easing restrictions on businesses? If so, which ones?

I do not necessarily believe that Athens is “business unfriendly.” Obviously, not everyone gets what they want all of the time, and a city has to have certain regulations to ensure safety and responsible development. However, to the extent that excessive bureaucracy hinders businesses from starting or expanding, I think that those policies should be reviewed. The most important aspect of any regulation, in my mind, is to have clear goals and reasonable execution.

Are you in favor of the Complete Streets: Prince Avenue lane reconfiguration demonstration project? Why or why not?

I am wholeheartedly in favor of the Complete Streets demonstration project on Prince Avenue for a number of reasons. First, information is always valuable. As we move toward repavement and improvements on Prince in the near future, we should know how safety concerns would actually affect traffic and development. Second, this is an important issue for citizens using Prince Avenue everyday. These dedicated citizens have not only expressed their concerns to their government, but have come up with a detailed implementation plan to test the idea at little cost to the taxpayers. Why wouldn’t we want to know if a creative solution would work?

What other issues concern you?

A particular concern of mine is the integration of our Hispanic community. Athens has a booming Hispanic population that should be embraced. The reality is that some of these individuals are undocumented. That doesn’t mean they aren’t paying taxes and working hard to raise wonderful families. Many have American-born children who are excelling in the classroom and will grow up to be fantastic citizens. While the federal government tackles the question of immigration, we should be worried about our neighbors. I speak almost fluent Spanish and believe I could help to ensure that this community feels safe to address concerns to our local government.