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Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Fort Thomas Election Preview - Part 1

Over the past couple months I have made a few posts on the upcoming election with a primary focus on county races. This is largely because frankly that is where the action is this election cycle. Some of the races are hotly contested, there are important issues at stake, some candidates are vulnerable, and there are some fresh faces on the scene.

I didn't intend however to ignore the races in Fort Thomas. Unlike 2008 where there was an unprecedented number of candidates running for council there is only a slight challenge to the incumbents this year. In addition to the current sitting 6 council members; Haas, Doepker, Kelly, Lampe, Peterman, and Stiller, Jeremy Cantor is challenging and will be on the ballot in November. I am disappointed that more challengers that were in the race two years ago did not decide to run again this time. I am not running largely because I have 6 month old twins at home that need a lot of attention.

With that being said I thought I would offer a preview of how the election of local officials will break down this year and offer my endorsements (for what it's worth) on council this year. You read the headline correctly this is part 1 of a two part post over 2 days as the council review has gotten quite lengthy. In this post I will focus on the mayoral election.

Unfortunately Mary Brown is again running unopposed. While I believe Mary Brown may be a good person by judging her support of various community groups I believe she fundamentally wants something different for Fort Thomas than most of its citizens want. Sure we all want a safe, clean, beautiful community that provides and excellent education but I believe she falls into a camp of people (perhaps the majority but becoming more and more the minority) that want Fort Thomas to be a closed off community of beautiful homes that provides little to no entertainment value for its citizens and can't sustain locally owned retail businesses for fear that it may attract someone that doesn't look, think, or like the same things they do. This is not the Fort Thomas that I want and I believe is not the Fort Thomas that the many people I know and live life with want.

Hopefully sometime soon a strong challenger will enter their name as competition for her position. Of course they will have to wait four more years to do so.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Festival Season Kicks Off with Merchants and Music Success

Thank you God for good weather on Merchants and Music Saturday.  It seems like the past few years has seen rain, cold temperatures, windy conditions, anything short of a natural disaster.  This year however was another story; 75 degrees and beautiful couldn't have been better for the festival.

As you can see by the picture above the attendance was great.  I can't help but think that the redesigned Midway had a hand in the improved performance.  This fact was underscored by an encounter my wife and I had with a couple of young men walking back home from our time at the festival with our three children.  As we were passing on the sidewalk they asked if we knew where the 'Fort Thomas Bar District' was.  After holding back laughter I pointed them in the direction of the Midway and the Pub but suggested they visit the festival as well since the Rusty Griswalds were playing at the time and I mentioned Edgar Winter's visit later that evening. 

They seemed genuinely excited and I don't believe they were the only out-of-towners that were at the event.  Debbie Buckley, who works for the city and is the biggest energy behind the festival, aslo mentioned the out of town guests. "All the out-of-town visitors were so complimentary of the city's friendliness and beauty!"

Debbie went on to point out that sponsorships are up and festival expenses were down but that wasn't the ultimate measure of success.  The engagement not only of the community with the turnout but also the merchant's embrace of the festival is one of the greatest attributes.  Buckley emphasized this point by mentioning that "one of the best parts was seeing the banners at the Midway businesses--and realizing they are more than involved AT the festival."  The only no show was Candy Cottage which was a bit disappointing considering they are new to town and it would have been a great way to meet the community.

Since we are talking festivals there are quite a few upcoming festivals that are family friendly and provide a great diversion on a fall weekend including the upcoming Y Health Fair.  Use the comments section to promote other upcoming fall festivals in the area.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Typical Fort Thomas Saturday Live Diary (Merchants and Music Edition)

8:23 am: Wake up. Hoping my bride is awake already and brewing coffee.

8:26 am
: Turn over. Crap. She's not up.

8:51 am: Time for Starbucks. Line is out the door. I see 11 people I know.

9:48 am: Coffee consumed before I get back. Bride's coffee waiting for her on the kitchen table. Out the door to take the dog on a walk.

9:49 am: Back in, forgot the poop bag.

10:18 am: Dodged 9 other dogs, multiple joggers and a pack of well manicured cougars on their power walk up Clover Ridge.

11:02 am: Drawing up the game plan for the Under 12 Lady Hawks soccer team (Moyer/Johnson/HMS). Hoping to keep our undefeated streak going. Hoping more that my fellow coaches have funny stories to tell me about the goings on at the Highlands game I had to miss Friday.

1:12 pm: Hoping lunch is not ready so we can head up to 915 for a Memphis.

2:30 pm: Checking Facebook, Twitter (Follow Me!),,,, setting my fantasy football lineup and of course seeing which stories on have been jacked from Fort Thomas Matters.

3:33 pm: Working on the yard. Just because it's been one of the hottest and driest summers of all time is no excuse for letting your neighbor's yard look better than yours. (I actually think Mary Brown is going to bring this to the next council meeting).

4:53 pm:
Finally time for the Merchants and Music Festival. The Rusty Griswolds are playing. They cover Don't Stop Believing by Journey and I immediately begin to shake it. My bride shoots me a "Really?" look. I stop. She turns to walk towards The Pub. I commence grooving.

5:11 pm:
Meeting our buddies at the "Welcome Edgar" sign at the Pub. Their kitchen is open all day and their new deck is open in the back. We take in some Pig Fingers and Hummus. It's time to party.

6:29 pm:
G Miles and the Hitmen on stage. My friend Craig thinks it's G Love and Special Sauce. He looks disappointed. Buys another beer.

7:07 pm:
How are the Reds doing?

8:30 pm:
After several more libations and a full set, we decide G Miles and the Hitmen is the best band on the planet.

8:34 pm:
We decide to make our rounds to local businesses to see what's new. Vito asks if I have been to the patio for a burger yet. Jane Pompilio (Jane Made It) shows me some of her newest stained glass she's designing and Frank Davidson (Concrete Concepts) asks how my steps he put in are doing.

10:00 pm: Time to devote my time and talents to the festival via Fort Thomas Provides. I can think of no better way than pouring beer from a keg. So that's what I do.

11:02 pm
: Festival is over. Ears ringing.

11:18 pm:
Trying to convince my bride that Dixie Chili is pretty much on the way to the house.

12:09 am
: Time for bed. Another great day to live in the Fort.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Hurdles For Future Speed Bumps

City workers begin cutting the street on West Southgate (9/22/10)

Before I start into this post let me say a couple things right off the bat so I don't get accused of being anti-safety, bitter, cold etc. as the anonymous comments suggested in my last speed bump article.

  • The safety of the residents and especially children trumps any other issue brought to the forefront.
  • I applaud the residents on West Southgate for exercising their citizenry rights and taking the necessary steps to getting the speed bumps put in.
  • My main point was never anti speed bump, but rather, who should pay for them. I still contend that just as residents are billed by the city when sidewalks and streets are worked on in front of their homesteads, a speed bump issued brought up by residents should require those who signed a petition to have some skin in the game financially.
Now that that is out of the way, let me go on.

Friend of the blog and Community Recorder writer, Amanda Joering Alley, posted a story yesterday about some of the changes to Neighborhood Traffic and Improvement Policy.

The highlights of the changes, approved by city council on Monday were:
  • A stealth speed detector must now capture 85% of drivers going at least 5 MPH over the limit as opposed to 3 MPH. On West Southgate where the speed limit is 20 MPH, this would have meant that 85% of drivers would need to go at least 25 instead of the 23 MPH needed to get this process started.
  • Changing the amount of time the city has to take action on a complaint from seven days to a "reasonable amount of time." To me, this gives council time to respond if there are several speeding complaints (which I will get to later).
  • If a resident tries to get speed bumps installed and doesn't get the required 67% of residents on the street to sign a petition in favor of the bumps, that resident can't try again for a year.
Couple the above changes with some anecdotal evidence I collected from talking to people on West Southgate this morning including:
  • A city worker saying that "I (Mark) wouldn't believe how many people from different streets in Fort Thomas believe they need speed bumps with the amount of petitions that are brought to the city."
  • Another city worker saying that "Five residents had come out to complain (the first morning of construction) about the speed bumps and that seemingly every person that had complained was having a speed bump put in front of their residence.
  • A resident of West Southgate who has lived on the street for close to 40 years. She said she did not like the speed bumps, but signed the petition when it was put in front of her because she wanted the safety of the kids put first. She went onto say that all four of her children were taught not to play near the street because she knew it wasn't a safe place for kids and that for whatever reason, the sidewalks seem to be the place to play now.
So what does all this mean?

Obviously, the measures amended by the city council has made it more difficult to pass the criteria needed to put in future speed reduction measures. And while I'm sure that the majority on this particular street wanted these measures passed, a vocal minority did not.

Without saying so much, I think the council is skating to where the proverbial puck is going, instead of where it is. They see that these speed bumps could get expensive if every street has an advocate who spear headed this effort like West Southgate had. There is no doubt that West Southgate had to jump through hoops to get this accomplished, and now that they have, city council has made these hoops a little more difficult to get through.

Again, it all comes back to a common sense solution:

You want speed reduction devices? Fine. I wouldn't mind having some in front of my street. Have the 67% of residents who sign the petition pay for it, just as they have to pay for it when sidewalks are being worked on on their street.

If you sign the petition, obviously you are doing so because safety trumps monetary or property value concerns, as seen through the testimonial of the West Southgate resident who has lived their for close to 40 years. The city isn't out of pocket. Residents against the speed bumps aren't out of pocket. Taxpayers who see no benefit aren't out of pocket.

Everyone wins.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Candidate Forum Update

When Tracy Davis asked me to post a reminder of the candidate forum coming up next Thursday, September 23rd I pointed out to her that there had been some criticism on this site from those working during the 8am to 10am time slot.  Tracy has agreed to take any questions you may have for the candidates via email to be included in those questions asked to the candidates.  Feel free to pass any of your questions along to

Keep in mind that there are many important county and state issues that could be decided based on who is in office after November.  The smoking issue has to be at the top of issues at the county level and a potential ban took another step forward yesterday with the Health Board's action.

For those that can attend the forum a few details as a reminder....  I already mentioned the date and time but you may also want to know that it is at the Fort Thomas Mess Hall in Tower Park.  Pat Crowley will moderate and the following candidates have been invited:

Sen. Katie Stine
Julie Smith Morrow

Judge Gayle Hoffman
Rick Woeste

Judge-executive Steve Pendery
Andrea Janovic

Commissioner Dave Otto
Pete Garrett

Brian Painter
Mike Schulkens

Jim Daley
Steve Franzen
Greg Buckler
Tom Sparks

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Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Bike Race to Benefit Campbell County YMCA

For the second consecutive year the "World Famous Mountain Bike Race" to benefit the YMCA will be held in Tower Park.  That's right - the "world famous" race - even though I am sure many even in Fort Thomas know little about it.

Nevertheless, it is a great idea and I am not sure why more people do not host mountain bike events in Tower Park.  Details of the race have all the bases covered as they have routes planned for all ages and skill levels.

Part of the Kentucky Championship and Cincinnati Off Road Alliance (CORA) series, the World Famous Mountain Bike Race will offer competitors a variety of courses based on difficulty and distance from five to 20 miles. There will be races for children (beginning with training wheels) on up.

Kids ages up to 14 race for free.  Other races range from $15 to $30.  Registration is the day of beginning at 9am.  For more information, the public can call the Campbell County YMCA at 859-781-1814 or email

By the way, what do you think of the new Y branding?  At first I was bummed they had dropped the YMCA since it no longer paid respects to its past as a men's christian organization but they really did not drop the YMCA at all, just de-emphasized the YMCA and emphasized the Y.  Nice - updated branding.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Merchants & Music - Volunteers Needed

September 25th marks the sixth anniversary of the Merchants and Music Festival.  This year's event includes the headline act of Edgar Winter of Rock 'n Roll Hoochie Koo.  In addition to Edgar Winter the local act Rusty Griswalds will be a warm up.  Overall a pretty good lineup for a smaller local festival.

Neighborhood festivals don't run themselves and require a strong base of volunteers to make it happen.  That is why the group Fort Thomas Provides is soliciting volunteers to help support the work that the Renaissance Board does to pull off this event.  You can find out more about Fort Thomas Provides by visiting their Facebook page or LinkedIn page.  Contact Shawn, Scott, or Marc for more information about how you can volunteer.

Neighborhood festivals are an important aspect of community building and have taken on bigger and bigger roles regionally as communities like Blue Ash continue to bring in bigger and bigger acts over the past few years.  This trend is helped by bands from the 70's, 80's, and even 90's (Gin Blossoms performed recently in a local fesival) look for ways to continue their revenue streams with the absence of new record sells.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Tupelo Honey CD Release Tonight

Tupelo Honey is releasing their album, In It For The Ride tonight, 8:00, at The Madison Theater in Covington. Facebook Event is here.

The cost is $7. CDs are $10. Go so you can get your chance to see the band before they open up for LeAnn Rimes next Friday at The Cintas Center.

Here are some samples from the CD. Click here.

If you can't see Tupelo Honey tonight, the newly ranked #1 Highlands Bluebirds (according to Cantrall's rankings) play Cincinnati Withrow at home.

Preview via The Cincinnati Enquirer.

Van Damme It's Friday!

Friday, September 3, 2010

Fort Thomas News - Week of August 30th

My day job has kept me busy the last couple weeks but a few random observations over the past couple weeks:

Progress at the Newport Pavilion continues to roll along with the roof of Target nearly completed.  I missed this little piece about a month ago from Scott Wertman but there were a couple nuggets worth noting in his article.  While Scott was also not able to get Target or Bear Creek to comment on the development he did get the city manager on the record indicating that Chick Fil A and Chipotle are possibly still planning stores in the development and that traffic from Target is a key to their opening.  While not nearly as exciting as a Chick Fil A or Chipotle there is a Chinese Restaurant opening soon and some progress has been noticed on the corner spot next to the Kroger Liquor store.

Last year Highlands set milestones by being ranked in the top 10 in the USA Today Super 25. We read recently that Coach Mueller's goal is to finish the season at #1 and now we get word this week that USAToday has broadcast two of their games (Ryle and Beechwood) nationally on

I haven't exactly commented on the work going on at the Northern Kentucky Water District's facility on Memorial but despite the presence of a tower crane (possibly the first and last time we will see one in Fort Thomas) I have to say the subtle changes they have made thus far is a huge improvement.  Painting the treatment facility with the Northern Kentucky Water District logo beat the old look and the corner 'pocket park' looks nice despite its complete lack of functional use.  I am interested to see how the new structure in progress will look compared to the surrounding homes.

Merril Hoge reporting on Fort Thomas Little League games on his website and to his 11,000 Twitter followers.  So if your child's team played Merril's you can find some video of the drubbing they received online.

After all the debate on speed bumps on this site over the past month or so comes a sobering reminder that Fort Thomas is a community full of children.  Disagree with Melanie Ethridge on West Southgate if you like but she along with most parents are just trying to protect their children from bad things that happen in life.  A Woodfill student was hit by a car while walking home from school two days ago. It was at the intersection at the VA. The child was a fourth grader. He was at Children's being evaluated on Thursday but was responsive.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Fort Thomas Music Group to Open For LeAnn Rimes

Highlands graduates (2000) Katie Wefer (left) and Heather Turner (below right)

It's the weekend. The summer is winding down and beads of water drip from my rocks glass, as I take a sip of my Basil Hayden and delve into a story. Doesn't matter which one. Point is that I'm an absolute sucker for recounting a good anecdote. The backyard by the grill is my stage and I love entertaining my buddies with a good one.

I tell you this because when Highlands graduates, Heather Turner and Katie Wefer, who make up half of their 4 person music group Tupelo Honey, make it big, I'm going to have great "I-Knew-Them-When" stories.

When Katie was the cool, older girl, she used to drive me to school. It's possible that right there, on those roads to Highlands to the upperclassmen parking lot where the Middle School now resides, she perfected her vocalizer - singing No Doubt, Destiney's Child or the Chili Peppers.

I can also tell you that as a 7th grader, I took Chorus for an easy A. I mostly had no idea what I was doing, but I did get an A that year. It's possible that because Heather got a B in her only year of Chorus, I had and have more musical inclination than she does now.

See, a great story teller knows that the important thing about using the word possible in a story is that while you know in your heart it may or may not be entirely accurate, the possible part still makes for a good story.

I've circled the calendar for Friday, Sept. 17, when Tupelo Honey (who captures the harmonic grace of the Indigo Girls, Dixie Chics, Patty Griffin, and Janis Joplin) is opening up for LeAnn Rimes at the Cintas Center.

Their CD (In It For the Ride) is being released at The Madison Theatre on Sept. 10 and will be available everywhere you can buy music (impending follow up article when their CD is released).

Their moment has arrived, which means I'll be looking for new blood for which to unleash these fables from our days at Highlands. But while I get to tell a Cliffs Notes version of their climb, it wasn't an easy road for the two girls.

"Tupelo Honey started as an acoustic duo, just Katie and I, when we were still in college. We are both self taught guitarists, who won a talent competition at Austin City Saloon in Lexington the first time we performed," Turner said. "We started performing at coffee houses, and bars around the Cincinnati area, and gradually got some recognition."

From an acoustic duo at Austin City Saloon to a 6 person group which includes bass, drums and a violin opening up for a Grammy award winning artist, the road has had its share of twists and turns. Twists which include breaking into the music business by working at The Poison Room hosting showcases for other musicians while working full time jobs to winning the 2007 Cincinnati Entertainment Award for best Folk Americana EP titled, Sweet. When Tupelo Honey opens up for LeAnn Rimes at The Cintas Center next month, their music will be appreciated on a large scale.

"It is a very hard life to be a musician. Late nights, not much money, and little sleep. It was worth it though. I don't regret it for a second," Turner said. "I think that passion in the beginning is what made us so successful in the end. You have to endure hard times in anything you really love to do."

This is a big deal.

For more information on Katie and Heather and their band, Tupelo Honey, including songs videos, click here.