Saturday, January 30, 2010

Common Sense


Kudos to Fort Thomas officials on two common sense initiatives, which ended up saving citizen tax dollars.

The City Council voted against a citizen's request to re-join the Campbell County Cable Board. I can see how public access shows can add to the community, but I applaud the decision to keep priorities aligned and the $100,000 savings in residents' pockets.

Along those same lines of improving communication for residents and saving money, the police department recently unveiled a community information service that allows officers to send alerts, advisories and notifications through e-mail or text message to anyone who signs up for the service.

"Nixle" is similar to the formerly used Citizen Observer Program, but comes at no cost to the department and is a better way to get only the information people want to them, said Lt. Ken Fecher.

Basically, after signing up at www.nixle.com and searching "Fort Thomas, KY" residents will be able to get information via police officers regarding problems with roads, an accident or can alert parents if anything is happening with local schools.

It's good to see common sense being applied - now if we could just get the city to be better in touch with a Ft. Thomas retail district.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Random Notes

Here are a few notes on some very disconnected topics:
  1. I confirmed with the Campbell County courthouse today that Mary Brown is running unopposed this year for mayor and the current incumbent council members have 1 challenger - Jeremy Cantor.  Jeremy ran last time but did not run an overly effective campaign.  Here is to hoping that he makes a better run at the current group.
  2. I received an offer from the Bluegrass Swim Club (located in Fort Wright) offering those on the very lengthy waiting list of the Fort Thomas Swim Club a discount on membership.  Of course the email did not indicate what the discount was - I will pass that along to anyone interested once I receive the update.  I would wager a guess that there will not be many takers since proximity is an issue.
  3. I also got an inquiry from someone who recently moved into the Villa Grande subdivision by Fisher Homes wondering why residents of that neighborhood (which is technically in Fort Thomas) is not in the Fort Thomas Independent Schools district but must attend instead Campbell County Schools.  Anyone out there understand why this is?
  4. The Highlands Bluebird Blog has some good updates on Bluebird football players with offers.  In addition to Collinsworth's commitment to Notre Dame, Tyler Grubbs has committed to Miami of Ohio and Bardo & Roller have military offers.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Fort Thomas 2010 Election Update



I spoke with the county today and the following candidates have registered for city council and mayor respectively:
  • Eric Haas
  • Jim Doepker
  • Roger Peterman
  • Tom Lampe
  • Jill Steller
Mary Brown is the only candidate that has registered for mayor. Does this mean Jill Kelly has had enough and is moving on or is she just waiting until the last minute to file papers?  I would be interested to see if Barbara Levine is interested in running again - she definitely enjoyed serving and was disappointed with the loss 2 years ago.  What if a sixth candidate does not file, will council be able to choose someone and who could that be?
 
This response is of course a far cry from two years ago when there was a clear desire to see some change.  Is the lack of response an indication of apathy, did the re-election last year of mostly incumbents keep newcomers from registering again?  Is there a lack of any real issues this election cycle? 

Of course the registration deadline is Saturday so there could still be a couple surprise registrations.  I would love to see a few new entrants to make things interesting again.  Of course paper ballots this year may be the only thing necessary to make this election an interesting one in Campbell County.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Ft. Thomas' Next Broadcast Star


While cruising Facebook a few weeks back and adeptly avoiding invitations for “Yo- Ville” and messages from a classmate from Econ 201 who I haven’t seen in 5 years, a group invitation actually caught my attention: “I Want Will Chambers in the Reds TV booth!”


Chambers is a Highlands graduate of 1997 and someone I’ve been keeping tabs with since college. I knew Will was climbing up the treacherous mountain of sportscasting glory, but that Facebook group, with over 800 members strong peaked my interest enough to catch up with him.


“The Reds thing was me just hoping to get attention that might induce FSN Ohio to give me an interview,” said Chambers. “Didn't work out, but my experience doesn't exactly fit their criteria for what they were looking for.”


He’s on his way. In 2009, Chambers was recognized by the Sportscasters Talent Agency of America as one of the Top 20 Collegiate Sports Broadcasters in the country. I knew Chambers had been doing play-by-play for Georgetown College football and basketball, but he’s also producing/anchoring/reporting for the NKU Sports Show.


“This journey is as rigorous as it gets, but it's in pursuit of the life that I chose. I alone said, this is what I want and I'm not stopping till I get it."


Chambers would be following a prominent line of national broadcasters from Fort Thomas, including Cris Collinsworth and Merril Hoge, but unlike Collinsworth and Hoge, Will is a homegrown “cake eater.”


“I talked with (Coach) Dale Mueller several times in the off-season,” Chambers said. “He loves the fact that two Fort Thomas (residents) are on TV, but was particularly hoping to get a true Bluebird product on the national stage, which I thought was very touching.”


Maybe it’s the fact that when I am watching John Wall slice through opposing defenses, I am secretly commentating the game in my head, or perhaps it’s because when he makes it, I’d like to say, “I knew him when…” Regardless of any of those, like Coach Mueller, I’m rooting for Chambers.


“This job and the work I put into it is what defines me,” said Chambers. “I have given my whole life to this. My family and I hope and believe the work will pay dividends very soon."

Monday, January 18, 2010

Retailers' Responsibility for a Vibrant Retail Scene



I have been critical in the past on this blog about those that I feel have not fully supported retail development in Fort Thomas.  This has included the city, property owners, and zoning.  One group that has avoided the criticism has been the business owners themselves.  An event recently emphasized the business owners' role in the lack of momentum that has been sustained by Fort Thomas business districts and they should not escape responsibility.

A few weeks ago during a Bengals football game a few buddies and I got together to watch the game and decided to order pizza.  In an attempt to support local businesses we called up Fort Thomas Pizza only to realize that they were closed and did not open until 4pmBusiness owners of course have the right to set whatever hours they like and the cost of keeping a business open during down periods can mean the difference between a profit and loss.  However, I can't believe that during football season the local pizzera would not be open for business.  To underscore the impact of not being open during this typically busy period I found a press release from Domino's Pizza related to Super Bowl Sunday that talks about football's impact on pizza sales:

  • During football games, respondents are more likely to order pizza before a game starts (65 percent) as opposed to halftime (27 percent) or between games (8 percent)
  • 68 percent of football fans make pizza their choice for a game-day meal.
  • Domino's Pizza sees higher sales when the game is close and competitive. With closer games, people are more likely to stay glued to the tube.
10 of the 17 Bengals games started at 1pm in the 2009 season.  Also, many of the games this year came down to the final play in regulation or went to overtime.  How many sales are they missing out on?

I don't intend to make this a Fort Thomas Pizza bashing session but they happen to be a recent example of the problem with businesses in Fort Thomas.   I wrote about another recent example after Donuts and Coffee opened and were not open when I went by at 10:30amHaving hours that are convenient for people to shop and having reliable hours are key to having a thriving business and this has been spotty at best.




This brings me to another point about an article I read in Fast Company this past fall about Panera Bread.  The article was primarily about the recent strong performance of the company but there were a few keys to their strategy that Fort Thomas business owners would be smart to listen to:
  1. "In many ways, we're renting space to people and the food is the price of admission," says CEO Ron Shaich
  2. "A diverse stream of customers flows around him, settling throughout the airy café: a study group (with sandwiches, salads, and soda), a bride-to-be chatting with her wedding photographer (lattes, lemon Bundt cake), two businessmen with laptops"
I have written in the past about the dearth of third places in Fort Thomas but it is not a Fort Thomas only problem which has led to Panera's phenomenal growth.  Where can you go for a neutral place to meet others for business, or catch up with that friend you met at the Y or while picking up your child from school.  Sometimes inviting someone into your home just isn't comfortable or you want to get out of the house for an hour and clear your head.  Where do you go?

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Update on Military Homes in Tower Park




The Enquirer tells us today that at Monday's council meeting there was concern about the city's ability to secure the houses from the VA - largely based on price.

A few thoughts:
  1. The concern seems to be based on no new information.  Council is concerned that they can not make a deal work based on the $3.7 million estimate given over 2 years ago.  The article mentions that the VA is in the process of providing a new market assesment which is scheduled to be delivered next month so I am not sure why they are spending energy on it now.  I really do not know why they think the assessment will not be significantly less than it was on the previous review given the additional weathering and wear / tear as well as the complete deterioration in the real estate market.
  2. If there is a legitimate concern about the $3.7 million price (which would be difficult to make a deal happen) then why are they just now springing to action?  Why have they not contacted both US senators and our representative to pressure some action from the VA?  Why have they not contacted developers about possibilities to be ready for action once the sale is readied?

Monday, January 11, 2010

Update on Historical Marker in Evergreen Cemetary

As an update to a story I mentioned a couple months ago about an effort to raise funds for a historical marker for the Evergreen Cemetery I received this press release over the weekend:

On Saturday, January 23, a group of Campbell Countians will unveil a new Kentucky Historical Highway Marker on US 27/Alexandria Pike outside the Evergreen Cemetery in Southgate. The marker commemorates the four US Congressmen, including Brent Spence, and one Confederate Congressman from Northern Kentucky who are buried in the historic cemetery.

Money for the marker was raised from friends of the late John Eidemiller and Ray Roberts, US military veterans and well-known community volunteers. The marker will be dedicated in their honor with Mrs. Sue Eidemiller and Mrs. Laura Roberts taking part in the unveiling ceremony.

The program will be emcee’d by State Representative Dennis Keene and will include remarks by committee chair and Kentucky historian Paul Whalen and former Congressman and current Kentucky Commissioner of Veterans Affairs Ken Lucas.

The public is invited to join in this important commemoration of Northern Kentucky history

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Kentucky State Politics & Fort Thomas Impacts



My last post focused on local races but I would be remiss to not at least mention the races for the state house.  Both the local state senator and local legislator are up for re-election this November.  The stakes are high in this election as well.  By way of a brief summary here are few of the issues that will impact everyone in Fort Thomas:
  1. Possibility of rolling back sales tax on goods to 5% and expanding it to services.  Would likely raise taxes overall and impact businesses in Fort Thomas that are not taxed today. This is of course one of the options that have been discussed to close the nearly $1 billion potential shortfall in the budget over the next 2 years.  Some estimates have placed the potential deficit as high as $1.5 billion.
  2. Gambling will no doubt back on the agenda as a potential means of closing the above mentioned deficits.  Of course I think this ship has sailed now that nearly all neighboring states have some form of casino gambling legalized.  Indiana has had legalized gambling for some time and are now unencumbered by restrictions on where.  Ohio just legalized and could have one of their largest casinos less than a mile from the riverfront. 
  3. School funding is always a big one and should be a critical issue for those voting from Fort Thomas.  Cuts have occurred over the past couple of years and with the funding situation in Fort Thomas how they solve this one will be critical to the future of Fort Thomas schools.  We all know how difficult it is for Fort Thomas Independent Schools with the current state funding formula and that could only be made more difficult by the budget issues and how they plan to solve it.

 As a little background you may want to get to know our current representatives and their voting records:
  1. Joe Fischer - legislator serving Fort Thomas since 1999.  Served in Fort Thomas city government for nearly a decade prior to serving in the state house.  Here is a good summary of his voting record.
  2. Katie Stine - state senator serving Fort Thomas since 1999 (served 3 years in the legislature prior to moving to the Senate) and currently serving as the President Pro Tem of the Senate and hasn't had to raise money for re-election since 2001.  Appears to have delivered a few items to the Pendleton County portion of her district through infrastructure funds but no tangible benefits to Fort Thomas.
Once the dust settles on who may be running against the incumbants after the January 23rd filing deadline we will be back to discuss further.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Snow Day Links


So I moved my normal administrative day from Wednesday to Thursday today on account of the annual predicted "White Death" as predicted by our local meteorological geniuses.

Looking out my window at 10:30 am today on North Ft. Thomas, I'm pretty sure we all would've been fine with our normal routine.

Anyway, here are a few links for those of you who decided to:

A) Stay home with the kids (even though Ft. Thomas Independent Schools were open).

B) Stay home with a cold today.

C) Stay home and tell your boss you couldn't get out of the Ft. Thomas hills today. Slackers.

- The Highlands football squad moved on in USA Today's version of March Madness in their virtual tournament.

- The Ft. Thomas Fire Dept. is in the process of replacing their ambulance with a state of the art newer version. How sweet would the older model be as a tailgating bus?

- After a recent trip to KMart last night in Newport, I'd like to formally declare I'm in prayer mode for the Newport Pavilion to land Target. Seriously KMart, you are terrible.



Target > Kmart

- Ok, now that I have that off my chest, I have been following Target (TGT) since news has come that they had been delaying their open date. I have to say, there's been nothing but good news. In the last year, the stock price has stabilized around $50 per share (currently $50.10) up from $25 per share a year ago.

- Target said that sales at stores opened at least a year rose 1.8 percent, better than the 0.2 percent decline that analysts had expected. It said that it expects its fourth-quarter earnigns to "meet or exceed" analysts expectations of $1.11 per share.

- I am a bit of a nerd when it comes to finance. You could look at a million different factors when it comes to rating a stock and trying to predict the health of a company. Two factors like I particularly look at are the amount of "insiders" buying the stock and whether or not the company has raised the dividend they pay to holders.

- Below are some companies compiled by Capital IQ, which show companies that are following those 2 criteria.

Company

Net Insider Buys
(Past 12 Months)

Net Value of Shares Bought by Insiders
(Past 12 Months, in Millions)

Date of Dividend Increase
(Past 12 Months)

Chevron (NYSE: CVX)

21

$5.85

7/29/09

Verizon (NYSE: VZ)

32

$1.33

9/3/09

Philip Morris International (NYSE: PM)

12

$0.02

9/15/09

Target (NYSE: TGT)

14

$6.68

6/11/09

EOG Resources (NYSE: EOG)

63

$9.54

2/4/09

Cardinal Health (NYSE: CAH)

17

$7.68

6/2/09

Fortune Brands (NYSE: FO)

8

$0.91

1/29/09

Data from Capital IQ, a division of Standard & Poor's.

- Is anyone going to the Freezer Bowl 2010 this Saturday at Paul Brown Stadium? I have tickets, but haven't decided if I'm crazy enough to brave the frigid temps. Perhaps instead of wishing and hoping for Target, I should be thinking and praying about someone offering to buy my tickets and get me out of this!

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Retail News of Interest to Fort Thomas

A couple of news items on the retail front:

1. The Chipotle in Highland Heights opens next week.  While the store is in Highland Heights it will still be the closest Chipotle to Fort Thomas (unless of course the once rumored store in the Newport Pavilion comes to fruition).  To celebrate its arrival, the restaurant will give away free burritos from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Jan. 14. Later that same day, from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m., Chipotle will host a pre-opening fundraiser to benefit Highlands High School’s Student Activities Fund. Attendees will pay $5 and receive a burrito and soft drink, with all proceeds from the event benefiting the fund.

2. I spoke with someone at the Newport Pavilion Kroger and they do not have plans to open the fuel center until March or April.  I am disappointed by this news given the lack of fuel options or fuel options that are not 20 cents more per gallon than the rest of the area.  This news also makes me wonder if there are more site problems with the Pavilion than have been reported and seems to also indicate that an opening for Target is not in the cards for 2010.  The longer this gets delayed the more likely that Target is to back out as well.