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Friday, October 17, 2014

ELECTION 2014: County Commissioner candidates weigh in on regionalism

Candidates for County Commissioner seats on Campbell County Fiscal Court met in a forum Thursday night/Pat LaFleur

Click for candidates' commentary on economic development in Campbell County and the heroin epidemic.

What is the Fiscal Court's role in working with other local governments throughout the region?

Candidates for Campbell County Commissioner, three of whom, along with the Judge Executive, make up Campbell County Fiscal Court, discussed the issue of regionalism and working with our neighboring governments in a forum Thursday night, hosted by the Independent Business Association of Northern Kentucky.
The question of working with local governments went to the candidates running from District 1, Brian Painter and Rene Heinrich.

"I think it's extremely important," said Heinrich, who currently serves on Highland Heights city council, "but I think we have to continue to think about the county... It's important not to lose our Campbell County identity."

Heinrich then went on to add that outreach to other governmental bodies is always a necessity. "It's also very important as a county commissioner to work in Frankfort," she said.

For Painter, it's a matter of commitment and diligence. "The most important thing is to show up," he said, as he recalled meetings with mayors and other elected officials all across Northern Kentucky.

Once the term "regionalism" entered the conversation, though, candidates began to tout the importance of Campbell County's interests. When asked to give her stance on regionalism and doing what's right for Campbell County, Melanie Steidel Pelle, running in District 2, said, "We always seem to be at the low end of the totem pole with what we're getting out of our regional agreements."

Her opponent in District 2, Charlie Coleman, didn't say whether it's good or bad. He says it's both. "It's good if we cut costs," he explained, "it's bad if we lose control," pointing to recent scandal with the Airport Board and heated debate over Sanitation District No. 1 (SD1), both executive bodies that serve the entire Northern Kentucky region.

"We lose control if we get involved in regionalism. We have to look at it on a case by case basis," Coleman concluded.

As for competing interests within Campbell County, Tom Lampe, running in District 3 and current Fort Thomas councilman, compared the divide to that which exists in his home city. "This issue hits close to home," he said, pointing out what many perceive to be distinction between the north and south ends of Fort Thomas.

While Lampe didn't indicate whether he holds that perception of his home town, he did tout the northern part of the Campbell County as the home to the county's "economic development machines."

Mark Ramler, Lampe's opponent in District 3, agrees that the county's northern cities generate more economic growth, but does not see that as competition for the south end.

"It's the Fiscal Court's responsibility to support the economic development in those cities," he said, "but also to preserve the rural heritage of Campbell County," which remains south of the more urban and suburban northern cities.

Voters will decide which three candidates, of whom Painter is the only incumbent, will join the Fiscal Court in working for Campbell County on November 4.

The forum was moderated by the publisher and editor-in-chief of this publication, Mark Collier.


  1. I attended the debate and was struck by several of the comments, some of which are recapped above. With due respect, Mr. Painter thinks the most important contribution to working collaboratively is showing up, and Mr. Lampe appeared ill-informed on both Fort Thomas and county issues. I was also appalled that Lampe responded to the north/south question with a comparison to the old north/mid-town/south biases in Fort Thomas which, one would hope, are yesterday's news. Mr. Coleman was knowledgeable but came close to exhibiting some of his propensity toward intimidation. All in all, Heinrich, Ramler and Steidel-Pelle proved they are smart, capable, and up to the task, all offering solutions and promise rather than more of the same.

  2. I was there too. You are obviously biased in your conclusions. Rene, Charlie and Mark all did well. Tom and Brian are going to make it close just by being Republicans. Charlie and Melanie were going at it. Wish they would have mixed it up more.

  3. I have been to every debate including the ones from the primary. It was pretty clear that Charlie, Rene and Mark were all far more prepared than their counterparts because they had been through the process already.

    Painter had a Kenton County Forum or something that caused him not to be present for the first debate. Tom decided since he didn't have a primary, i guess, that he didn't need to be there. Not sure why Melanie wasn't there, probably the same reason.