Sunday, August 29, 2010

Kentucky Furlough Days and How It Affects You

UPDATE on 8/29

Received the following information from Taunya Nolan Jack:


Just received an email last evening regarding the Friday, September 3, 2010 furlough. The Director of Vehicle Regulation with DOT, Bill Heise, advised that they have rescinded its prior decision for 100% shutdown.

The computer services will now be available on Friday, September 3, 2010, along with 50% of DOT personnel. What that means for the citizens of Campbell County? Campbell County Driver’s Licensing Departments in both Newport and Alexandria will be OPEN on Friday, September 3rd



Our world is changing. A key example of our ever evolving environment has been detailed on Fort Thomas Matters pretty frequently over the last year.

  • "Real" journalists (i.e. newspapers) are becoming a thing of the past. Take the coverage of the Midway district's struggle to get the city to allow them to run their businesses effectively. 10 years ago, if you were lucky enough to get a reporter to cover the meetings, talk to business owners and then report it - you're looking at a 3-5 day turnaround. Old news by our standards today.
  • Fast forward to a microwave, caffeinated society that we find ourselves in now and news is fluid - 24 hours a day. It's fast. Things change and industries have to adapt. This is why this form of media works and will continue to work.
I've talked about this need for adaptation and my love of the book which talks about this concept, Who Moved My Cheese, in a post last April. I'm sure that you have found that the way you're doing business is profoundly different from how you were conducting it even two years ago. Whether you are a teacher, business owner or physician if you don't feel change, you're not paying attention.

When I ran into Taunya Nolan Jack, Campbell County Circuit Court Clerk, a few days ago, she asked me to help notify Ft. Thomas residents about the furlough days put in place by Governor Beshear that will affect her courts including the Campbell County Drivers' License Department, (see bottom of post for that information).

More than anything it got me thinking about how our state government is having to adapt to help offset deficits. I have to say, I am conflicted about these furlough holidays.

Jack shares this sentiment. "Until after the first furlough I am not quite sure how the furloughs will effect the courts and drivers’ license. I am hoping that the citizens will understand that the state is in a financial crises and all branches of government are effected."
I can see how on the surface, a furlough would help to reduce costs, but things like having to pay 24-hour institution workers overtime would certainly eat that savings up pretty quickly. (Enquirer article to that effect).

A quick Google search on furlough programs brings up an article from the USA Today. All you have to do is read the bold bullet points of the article to catch the drift.
  • Better than layoffs
  • Sinking morale
  • Gaining momentum
The article was dated March 6, 2009 and dealt with mainly private industry. I know furloughs are generally not considered to be a good thing, but if the Government is following suit with the private sector which HAS to consider cash flow and deficits unlike it big brother counterpart, this has got to be a good thing at some level.

---- Notice -----

Campbell County Driver's License Dept. will be closed:

Friday, Sept. 2 2010 (and reopen Tuesday, Sept. 7)

Friday, Nov. 12 2010

Friday, May 27 2011

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Ft Thomas Business Assoication Hosts Candidate Forum

Mark your calendars for September 23rd from 8am to 10am for a chance to ask your questions directly to 11 of the 14 candidates for county offices and only a few short weeks prior to the election.  The county elections this year promises fireworks with issues such as a possible smoking ban, possible changes to the makeup of the Commission.

The forum will be held at the Mess Hall in Tower Park and feature candidates from the following races:
  • 24th District Senate
  • Campbell County Family Court
  • Campbell County Judge Executive
  • Campbell County Commissioner
  • Campbell County Attorney
  • Campbell County Jailer
Pat Crowley will moderate the event so come out and see my racquetball partner Steve Frantzen along with the other candidates.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Highlands Football is Back

The picture above can mean only one thing - the official end of summer and the ushering in of marching bands, backyard bon fires, a crisp chill in the air, and most importantly a Fort Thomas Friday night tradition.

After a 45 to 14 drubbing of Dupont Manual tonight I thought a Highlands football post was in order.  Most of the local media is focused on the Bluebirds quest for a repeat of the repeat of the repeat of the state title.    Below is a run down on all the recent press from the Enquirer, Post, Recorder and other local media over the past couple weeks:
 I thought I would take a different approach and focus on few other interesting things about this team from a recent chat Dale Mueller held on Cincinnati.com.
  • Other than an October 15th game against Cov Cath, Highlands will play the first four games at home and the rest is on the road.
  • Mueller believes the pending move from 5A to 4A next season actually could allow Highlands to have tougher competition.  He cited playing Holmes and Cov Cath regularly and from across the state; Lexington Catholic, Bell County, Boyle County, and Johnson Central
  • Despite the strong junior and senior players, the depth of the freshman and sophomore classes has everyone excited
  • Speaking about the role Fort Thomas youth football plays in the Highland tradition he says, "We have two youth camps in the summer -- one for students in the second, third and fourth grade, and another for students in fifth through eighth grade"
  • Believed a pre-season USA Today ranking is possible and that the goal is to finish the year #1 nationally (Bluebirds were not ranked in pre-season poll)
  • Believes Pat Towles will be recruited by Florida and Notre Dame

Monday, August 16, 2010

The Smoking Issue in Fort Thomas

Mark's simple post on the Pub and some upcoming improvements turned into a referendum on smoking.  Who knew that the comments section of his post from yesterday would be lit up with those interested in going non-smoking at Fort Thomas dining establishments.

It is no secret that most in Fort Thomas would love to be able to eat a good burger at the 915 without smelling like a chimney or enjoying Danny Krebs fare without losing a lung to second-hand smoke.  Fort Thomas is a healthy community with a very active citizenry who loves to walk, run, bike, and generally have a good time outdoors.  So why is it that you can only enjoy a cheap fast dinner in Fort Thomas at Subway without inheriting a smoking habit.  Granted you can enjoy a dinner at Vito's in clean air but that is an experience and not something you can take the kids to on a regular basis.

It is good to see the Arnzens realizing a good business opportunity when they see an under served market.  It is not secret that part of the success of sidewalk dining has been the ability to eat in a smoke free environment.  The Pub's plans to designate a smoke free area is the hope of keeping those outdoor dining customers through the winter when the weather doesn't accommodate those diners.

With the smoking issue as a backdrop there was a show tonight on KET entitled "Kentucky Tonight" that was an open forum on the possible smoking ban in Northern Kentucky.  The show included some decision makers in Northern Kentucky that included Kenton County Commissioner Kris Knochelmann, Boone County Commissioner Cathy Flaig, and Betsy Berns Janes, advocacy director for the American Lung Association of Kentucky. 

During the airing of the show Knochelman made comments that indicated that a vote on the smoking ban would occur within 60 to 90 days.  That combined with widely reported news that enough votes are secured in both Kenton and Campbell County make me think that a non-smoking area in the Pub could be a moot point within a matter of weeks.  While I may have been spared lung issues I am now afraid that my waistline will be expanding with nothing standing between me and my Memphis Burger from the 915.

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Saturday, August 14, 2010

Pig Fingers, Fish Tacos and Hummus, oh my!


As I sidled up to the bar with my bride, beginning to partake in some happy hour libations on the new patio at the Olde Fort Pub, former Pergola owner and current food foreperson, Danny Krebs, began spinning the tale of how his son Jake brought back the menu's most curious dish from his backpacking trip through Africa.

Or was it Europe?

You'll have to excuse my lack of recall on the actual story because it was so unbelievable, I had to give my wife a tap on her foot to see if she was as dumbfounded as I.

Pig Fingers, which made it's debut this past week -and promptly sold out this weekend - is just one of the menus new items The Pub is trying. There's also 2 new salads, as well as old Pergola standbys fish tacos and hummus to go along with the pizzas, burgers and wings.

"We are rolling out new menu items as we grow. New equipment and renovations to the Pub need a bit of time to put together." said Krebs. "Once you get people to try (the pig fingers) they love them."

The Midway district has dominated Fort Thomas news this past week. By simply scrolling down this page or picking up The Enquirer can attest.
While there were some victories that came from the city council meeting in the noise/public right of way ordinances, there are still plenty of obstacles for these business owners to overcome.

It's good to see that The Pub is evolving despite the city's efforts.

Other changes that I think will be a positive include:

1) An outdoor beer garden in the back patio. They are hoping to get it up and running in time for the Bengals regular season and (hopefully) Reds playoff run.

2) Converting the back room to a family friendly (non-smoking) dining room.

3) Live music on the back outside patio.

"The Arnzen's have been great to work with," said Krebs. "There will be more to come in the Fall. We have a lot to look forward to."

As far as the origin of Pig Fingers goes, I'll leave that bit of story telling honor to the fabler of food, the bard of the beer garden, the chronicler of the canteen, Danny Krebs.



Thursday, August 12, 2010

Ordinance Counter Point - Don Martin's Possible Point of View

In an attempt to represent the entire issue surrounding the new ordinance and the various perspectives beyond my own I will try and represent the other point of view with the following points:
  • The original ordinance regulating the placement of tables and chairs in the public right-of-way was adopted in February 2004 and amended in 2007.  This ordinance included some of the points I found offensive in my post from yesterday.
  • When Mr. Arnzen attended the council meeting last week on August 2, city council scheduled a special council meeting to move the issue forward and assist the businesses rather than wait until the next scheduled council meeting to consider the issue.
  • Council should consider all sides of an issue. In this case, the well-being of the general public should at least be discussed, including pedestrians who may use the sidewalk.
  • By discussing the issue council demonstrated they were considering not just the interests of the businesses, but also the well-being of the general public.
  • The end result of this process is that businesses will soon be able to allow outdoor dining on the public sidewalk until 11:00 p.m. Sunday through Thursday, and midnight on Friday and Saturday; and, there is no longer a requirement that food be served with alcohol purchases.
The points above could represent Mr Martin's point of view if he would allow me to publish his comments directly.  However he would not like me to post his emails directly as he does not "blog or post any comments on any website as they tend to perpetuate the negative and inaccurate comments".  However, I am pretty sure that this would be representative of his position.

In addition I am attaching links to the orginal ordinance, the current noise ordinance, and the revised ordinance that was voted on last night.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Noise Ordinance Madness - Council Clamps Down Further

Just when you thought the madness of a 10 o'clock curfew for local businesses had reached its peak I experienced a very bizarre council meeting this afternoon.  While council gave local businesses an extra hour Sunday through Thursday and two extra hours to midnight on Friday and Saturday they placed many additional restrictions on local businesses.

The committee meeting began with a draft ordinance entitled "Ordinance Regulating the Placement of Tables, Chairs, and Outdoor Furnishings for the Purpose of Outdoor Dining on the Public Sidewalks and Repealing Ordinance 0-02-2007".

Among the restrictions included in the original draft presented by Don Martin, the City Manager, were:
  • The cost to lease a spot for a table is $10 / year
  • To get a permit business owners must submit a site plan showing the location of the tables
  • No outdoor dining permitted between Nov 16th to March 14th
  • Umbrellas used with the tables can not contain any logos or advertisements
  • Doors can not be propped open
  • Possibly the most egregious of the restrictions was the proposal to prevent smoking on the sidewalk
  • No cooking is permitted outdoors
  • No heaters can be provided
Council ultimately brought Don back to some sense of sanity on the smoking point and a few of the other points but it was not before a very obvious split among council was apparent.  There were two clear camps among council with Eric Haas and Tom Lampe arguing in defense of local businesses.  The two comments from Lisa Kelly appeared to support the business argument but Eric and Tom led the charge.  In support of Don's half-baked ideas was Mayor Mary Brown, Jill Steller, and Jim Doepker.  Roger Peterman was absent.  The contrast between the two camps was stark and frankly made Mary Brown, Don Martin, Jim Doepker, and Jill Steller look completely out of touch with our community.

I honestly have to say I was stunned when I read the first draft.  It is probably the most outrageous attempt to restrict business activity I have ever seen and no real clear reason was presented for the ordinance.  Not a single noise complaint has been filed against Midway businesses for the outdoor seating since it opened on July 4th.  Don Martin indicated multiple times that this wasn't about noise - yet when confronted about the attempt to prevent owners from keeping their doors propped open Don indicated it would prevent the noise from becoming an issue.  Frankly Don's entire logic was very contradictory. 

An officer (whom I assumed was Chief Daly) was asked to provide some input and he indicated that he had not cited anyone for a noise ordinance in the 13 years he has worked for the city.  Despite that ringing endorsement the witch hunt continued.

At one point there was an argument about whether or not a grace period should be extended for 15 minutes beyond the 11 o'clock or 12 o'clock cutoff and despite nearly unanimous support for a grace period Mary Brown cutoff debate and determined that a grace period would not be provided.  I was surprised how everyone rolled over on that point.

Speaking of Mayor Mary Brown - I have to say it appeared she had an axe to grind against the Pub and Don happened to be her hatchet man.  I wasn't the only one who noticed the attitude and afterward I spoke with another audience member who mentioned the same thing and indicated that was evident at the last meeting as well.

Despite comments that indicated a respect for personal property rights I am amazed how out of bounds the original draft ordinance was including restricting smoking on the 'leased' public property and limiting owner's ability to keep their doors open.  At one point the Pub's owner asked Don Martin how he could enforce these ordinances?  For instance would the business owner be cited if someone used one of his chairs after hours to sit and wait on a cab and whether this person could smoke a cigarette or have a drink of a soda?  Would the person have to walk next door to one of the public benches paid for by the city and wait there instead?  The city manager scoffed at the illustration but that is the bizarro restrictions that Midway Pub owners now find themselves in.

Council ultimately voted on and approved a revised ordinance that will be reviewed in November.  Despite my shock at the content of the draft and what had transpired during the meeting I am mostly disappointed that our city spent $2 million to start the Midway district on a visionary path only to divert it into a ditch with restrictions and bad feelings between the city and business owners.  Why would anyone in their right mind open a new restaurant here with that attitude?

Important City Council Meeting tonight

Tonight, 6:15 at the city building.


Please go to show your support to the Midway District. We need to support our Ft. Thomas businesses.

Monday, August 9, 2010

"Learning Pods" at Moyer Elementary


No, this isn't the new mobile home park in Fort Thomas - only the newest in classroom technology in Fort Thomas.  The trailers (or, uh, 'learning cottages') have been parked behind Moyer since the end of the school year.

While trailers have been a fixture at Woodfill for the past few years they appear to have migrated to Moyer.  Technically they are not the same trailers.  Since the classroom space is going to be needed on a more longer-term basis they decided to buy these instead of the rented trailers for Woodfill.  The third grade class, one of the largest in Moyer history, are the likely winners of this classroom bonanza.

Despite the fact that these trailers have been located there for about 8 weeks they are not ready for classes less than two weeks before school begins.  The impact could be unprepared teachers and possibly even some space until the 'cottages' are completed.  There does not appear to be any plans for bathrooms in the 'cottages' which could make for interesting trips to the bathroom in January.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Fort Thomas News - Week of August 9th

There are a few items of note for Fort Thomas that may not require their own posts but should be mentioned so here we go....

1. Hearing on Noise Ordinance on Wednesday - I know I mentioned this last week but Council has determined to hear the ordinance in Committee on 6:15 on Wednesday the 11th and then will receive a hearing in the full Council at 7.  Show up this week and show your support for the Midway businesses.


2. The most commented post of this week goes to Mark for stirring the pot on the speed bump issue.  I actually disagree with Mark on this one, but I also can't find agreement in my own home as I would support speed bumps on Lumley but my wife would not.  This despite having a 2 year old (going on 3) boy and fearing for his life every time he walks out the front door.  Fortunately we have a fenced back yard and we cage our little guy to keep him wandering into traffic which consistently reaches speeds over 35 mph.

Living on Lumley, we can offer a cautionary tale of what happens when you ask for speed bumps.  Several years ago we too petitioned for speed bumps and we got a half baked solution that staggered bumps that reached only half way across the street from one end of Lumley to the other.  This did not deter speeders at all as they just saw the bumps as a minor inconvenience in their quest to get to the next after school activity.

3. There are a lot of good county level politics going on right now including a ballot initiative in Campbell County which would change how commissioners are elected and possibly changing the balance of power from Northern Campbell County to southern and rural Campbell County.  Without a doubt the initiative is politically motivated based on the recent history between Pendery / Otto and Lloyd Rogers / Tim Nolan but it will be interesting to watch one way or the other.

Also, in related county political news the smoking ban took a blow this week as the Boone County commission has indicated they do not have enough votes to pass the measure.  It is also clear from Steve Pendery's comments that nothing will be passed in the near future without support among the three big NKY counties:
If and when there's a draft that's successfully created we will pursue it when it's ripe and the Fiscal Courts of at least a couple of counties will be able to participate - Pendery

4. There was also news of a new energy manager to support the Fort Thomas school district along with Campbell County, Silver Grove, Dayton, Bellevue, Southgate, and Pendleton County.  I appreciate that Northern Kentucky found an opportunity to take advantage of grants but this feels like a little overkill to me.  I think updating 80 year old schools takes you about 90% of the way there and is a full time employee really needed to get the extra 10%?

5. A big congratulations to the Candy Cottage and its owners.  The Candy Cottage held its grand opening on Saturday and the owners were relatively pleased with the turnout and results.  My neice came away with a bag of tootsie rolls and York peppermints for less than $5 - a good deal in my book.  They were open until 8pm on Saturday and Sunday and it is good to see someone open past 6 in the evening.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Two Free Tickets to Taste of the Season

I mentioned in a previous post about the Highlands Drama Boosters' Standing Room Only group's fundraising event - Taste of the Season.  The event is next Saturday - August 14th - at The Inn at Oneonta. 

I am giving away 2 free tickets to the event for a Twitter account follower that can provide me with the most number of retweets with the following message:

"Check out the best local blog - http://www.fortthomasmatters.com/ and get RSS feed.  Plz RT!"

You can find my Twitter profile at https://twitter.com/murriner and by following my account you will get the latest breaking news on Fort Thomas.  You will know as soon as a new post is published on this blog and get some other random thoughts about Fort Thomas along the way.  I will let you know via twitter if you won or not and we can arrange the ticket hand-off.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Fort Thomas Woman Releases Album & Performs at Joseph Beth


Meet Mittie Root, a child's superhero with a voice that could put anyone into a trance.  Or maybe Mittie is just a disguise for a Fort Thomas resident on Vernon Lane pursuing her dream by doing what she loves - singing.  (The story behind the name can be found here)  Mittie loves loves music and has turned this love into a children's album that she will be performing at Joseph Beth on Friday.

According to Mittie's website she describes herself as the following:

Although officially now in my 30s, I still consider myself a child at heart. There have been many a family event that I find myself at the “kids table” coloring or crafting or making my famous origami piano complete with bench and sheet music.

Whatever the case, my heart is with the children. I love their creative minds and the silly things that they say and the innocent and freeing way in which they say their prayers. So, this album is for the little ones and the superheroes who have raised them. I hope that this simply sweet record transforms your home, hearts and minivans into something a little extra special.

Mittie's sound is a mix of Jewel and Alison Krauss and comes together on her album "Til the Cows Come Home" to provide a must purchase album if you have kids.  Heck, you don't need children in your home to enjoy these sounds.  Check out her website to hear some of her sounds (including a song named after her street - 'Vernon Lane') or purchase her album and if you are impressed take your kids or grandkids to Joseph Beth on Friday to hear her live.  You can register for her performance for free on Facebook by choosing the event here.


Wednesday, August 4, 2010

West Southgate Getting Speed Bumps, Who's Gonna Pay?

The City Council is moving forward with the installation of four speed bumps on West Southgate Avenue, after some residents on the street complained of constant speeding.

The council, after several months of speed surveys conducted by a city engineer, approved the measure, which then needed approval of 2/3 of the residents on the street to begin construction.

Resident Melanie Etheridge, who had been working with the council for several months to find a solution for the speeding, spearheaded the signature gathering. She got about 80% of the street to sign off on the petition. "I figured since I was well above the 67 percent, I could stop there," Etheridge said.

An appeal was filed by one resident who did not want the speed bumps installed, but was dismissed by the council because it was filed for personal reasons.

While I applaud the residents of West Southgate for looking out for the best interests of their families, I have to wonder if the council is simply oiling the squeaky wheel here.

A drive down West Southgate is different from most streets in Fort Thomas. The speed limit there is 20 MPH and 15 MPH from Memorial Parkway to the first stop sign. There is also a kid size yellow mannequin on the side of the road fully equipped with a red hat and flag, which reminds anyone who hasn't figured it out, that the neighbors on that street do not want you to speed.

It would be one thing if these residents had some skin in the game financially when they signed the petition to pony up for their cause, but this project is going to be done by city staff using money from the city's general fund.

Look, I'm all for safety of the kids on the street. But I wonder how many streets the council would approve speed bumps for if each had a few squeaky wheels on their streets.

I lived on a dead end street growing up. Obviously, our neighbors have little issues there with speeding. When I moved back and rented for a few months, I lived on Lumley and even though it was partially a dead end street, there were plenty of speeders. Currently, I live on one the most trafficked roads in the city. The main reason why I tell you this is that a similar thread can be applied to every street, from a low traffic cul de sac, to the corner of Highland Ave. and Fort Thomas Ave.

People speed.

I can think of at least three solutions that wouldn't cost a thing.

1) No parking on the streets.
2) Enforce police radar more frequently.
3) Don't let your kids play in the front yard.

I'm not sure how much these speed bumps will cost. They may be very inexpensive for all I know. I just know that it seems like common sense could fix this issue. Not more tax dollars.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Possible Restaurants Coming to Old Warners Building


I have personally met with a couple of investors interested in the old Warners and Pergola restaurant building on Fort Thomas Avenue.  Interest appears to be high but price as always could be a sticking point.  Those that I have spoken with are very interested in the location and based on the sales at the previous restaurants feel they can make a good return on the location.

Despite the perception that Fort Thomas residents do not support Fort Thomas businesses statistics that these investors are using not only refute that perception but completely turn it on its head.  For example:
  1. There are 200 Subways in the Cincinnati MSA and our Fort Thomas Subway which is across the street from the old Warner's building is ranked 9th out of 200.  This despite little to no catering business which generally accounts for a large percentage of a Subway's sales.
  2. Starbucks in Newport (I know - technically not Fort Thomas but we have claimed it as our own) is another example of retail success driven by our under-served Fort Thomas retail market.  Out of 55+ Starbucks in the Cincinnati area it too is a top performer.
  3. Kroger's store at the Newport Pavilion has been very successful.  Despite having another store less than a mile away in Bellevue and an inoperable fuel center the store has been one of the better performing stores in the area.
  4. Target's construction despite the fact that there is a broken sewer line and the developer is in bankruptcy.  This speaks volumes to Target's belief in the area and the attractiveness of the demographics of the surrounding area.
Back to the old Warner's building.  There is at least three different restaurant concepts that are considering the move.  Right now the list price on the building is in excess of $600,000 but if a sale were to happen it would have to be more in the $550,000 range.  This of course was one of the primary sticking points in the lease between Warner and Pergola that led the Krebs to walk away from a rather large investment. 

Keep your fingers crossed because there is a good chance Fort Thomas may have another dining option soon.