This year, all six Fort Thomas City Council members, along with Mayor Mary Brown, face re-election. As part of FTM's efforts to keep you, the Fort Thomas electorate, informed and prepare you for the upcoming election season, the Q&A below is part of an ongoing FTM series spotlighting candidates in the 2014 election. Incumbents and challengers are asked a nearly identical set of questions, then a second round of follow-up questions. This week I spoke with Paul Whalen, running for Fort Thomas City Council.
Paul L. Whalen, a candidate for Fort Thomas City Council, is a licensed attorney in Kentucky, Ohio, and West Virginia, as well as in the federal court system. He currently works as a contracts attorney with the Department of Energy in Cincinnati, and also serves as an Administrative Hearing Officer for the Kentucky Departments of Education and Juvenile Justice.
Paul lives on Ridgeway Avenue in Fort Thomas.
Paul lives on Ridgeway Avenue in Fort Thomas.
FTM: What has been your personal connection to Fort Thomas specifically, and Northern Kentucky more broadly?
PW: I have lived in Fort Thomas for almost 30 years, and in NKY for about 35 years. All three of my children — Ashley Tongret (HHS 1996), Lars Whalen (HHS 2006) and Lucy Whalen (HHS 2010) — have attended Ruth Moyer Elementary and graduated from Highlands. My daughter Ashley is PR Director for the Cincinnati Opera and lives in Fort Thomas; Lucy is a Jr. at UK. Lars is a graduate of the University of Kansas and now lives in Longmont, Colorado. I have been an adult Sunday School Teacher for over 25 years, and my family and I attend Highland United Methodist Church.
I served on the Fort Thomas Board of Education from 1987 to 1998. I was on the board when the Middle School was created with the hiring of Ms. Adams and when studies began for building of the [new] Middle School Building. I served as a KY Board of Education member-at-large from 2000 to 2004. In that position, I served on the oversight committee for the KY School for the Deaf and the KY School for the Blind.
In addition to my law degree, I have two degrees in history. My interest in local history is seen in my participation in obtaining KY Historical Highway Markers for Highland United Methodist Church and Evergreen Cemetery—“Congressmen Buried in Evergreen Cemetery”. I have also been developing a website on “History of KY Governors” (http://www.historykygovenors.com).
FTM: What, in your opinion, makes Fort Thomas one of Northern Kentucky's best places to live and/or raise a family?
PW: Four things come to mind that make Fort Thomas a good place to live. First, its schools. Second, it is a safe place to live. People can take a walk or a jog at any hour of the day. Third, Fort Thomas has wonderful parks. Our parks are places which are utilized by all of our citizens. Fourth, it is in a prime location. It is situated close to downtown Cincinnati to work and other attractions.
FTM: You mentioned safety. In light of the recent swell in daytime break-in’s and burglaries, what would you do as a City Council member to ensure that reputation of safety remains in tact?
PW: As a Council we need to make sure that existing programs are better utilized.
These include the "Neighborhood Watch" programs and better educating the community about the Police Department's community-based programs. The "Neighborhood Focus Program" is a wonderful program. However, there is a need for citizens to become more aware of the program and become more familiar with their assigned police officer within the Department's 5 Zones.
I would also suggest, random foot and/or bicycle patrols by the Police Department sometime during the 8:30 to 5:00 hours during the work week would discourage the type of burglaries we have seen recently in Fort Thomas.
FTM: If elected, what will be the first issue you bring before council?
PW: Fort Thomas City Government seems to work well and provides services needed by its citizens. As a council member, it would be my job to make sure that the police, fire, recreation and public works departments continue to be supported in order to continue to provide quality services to our community. This support includes making sure the city avails itself of state and federal grants to fight the heroin epidemic which plagues NKY.
In respect to first issues to bring to council (and as that possibility is over 10 months away), I will work with the NKY Water District to re-open the walk-ways around the reservoirs in the south end of town. It does not make sense to keep those closed for so-called homeland security reasons.
Secondly, I would bring forth the idea of a partnership with the school district regarding litter that is sometimes found on the Avenue during the fall. I would suggest that students doing “Saturday Detention” pick up litter on the Avenue on Saturday mornings. I would also suggest that the city provide or work with local business to provide additional waste cans.
The city needs to look at maintenance of Route 8 (a state maintained road). As a member of the Council, I would spearhead an effort to work with our elected representatives in Frankfort to apply for transportation funds for improvements to Route 8, which should be a responsibility of the state.
FTM: What specific actions would you take as a council member to ensure the continued growth of small, locally-owned businesses in Fort Thomas?
PW: I am concerned about the continual closing and re-opening of businesses on the Avenue across from Subway. I would investigate whether there are licensing issues that need to be addressed.
The same would be for in the shopping center next to Wyler on Alexandria Pike. When there were 2 restaurants and Drug Emporium there, there seemed to be a lot of activity at that location. We need to see whether the city could attract more businesses with better access to the site.
We also need to look at Fort Thomas along the Ohio River as a site for business and/or recreation.
FTM: Are there any issues you believe City Council has, so far, failed to address adequately or at all that, as a council member, you would bring attention to?
PW: The condition of Waterworks Road and Route 8 inside the city limits; the pavements of both roads seem to be rather rough. Route 8, of course, is a responsibility of the Commonwealth of Kentucky. However, the Council should have a written “wish list” for our representatives in Frankfort. One of the goals of the list should be to obtain more transportation funds from Frankfort for roads within our city limits. “To receive, you usually have to ask.”
FTM: Of all the city-wide events Fort Thomas hosts each year, which is your favorite?
PW: I enjoy the 4th at the Fort and the Holiday Walk. The 4th because of all the food in an outside atmosphere that resembles a fair. The Holiday Walk showcases our small businesses. Our downtown is always shining with the lights of the Christmas Season. Again, it is another opportunity to see neighbors and friends.
FTM: Even though the City Council election is non-partisan, do you have a political affiliation you wish to identify?
PW: I am a democrat. However, local government is a place where party affiliations should not matter in order to focus on the issues confronting the local community.