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Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Judge Exec, County Commissioner candidates: What are the top 3 issues facing Campbell County?

The Campbell County Fiscal Court, located in Newport, is made up of three commissioners and a Judge Executive. Each seat is up for election in November.

Campbell County Fiscal Court, made up of three county commissioners and the county Judge Executive, is the legislative body for the county. FTM asked all the candidates for their top three issues facing Campbell County today. The common threads? Fiscal responsibility/transparency, economic development, and the current heroin epidemic, among others. Find each candidate's full response below.

Currently, the following candidates are running for seats on the Fiscal Court:

*indicates incumbent

Judge Executive

- Steve Pendery (R)* (bio)
- Ken Rechtin (D) (bio)

District 1 Commissioner

- Rene Heinrich (D) (bio)
- Brian Painter (R)* (bio)

District 2 Commissioner

- Charlie "Coach" Coleman (R) (bio)
- Melanie Steidel Pelle (D) (bio)

District 3 Commissioner

- Tom Lampe (R) (bio)
- Mark Ramler (D) (bio)

FTM: What, in your opinion are the top three issues facing Campbell County?

Pendery (Judge Executive): The three most important challenges we face are jobs, heroin, and the efficient operation of our government. The top priority for local government always should be economic development and jobs, because business activity creates the wealth that pays for everything else, including the quality of life. In Northern Kentucky, we have an emergency situation with the heroin epidemic, and the devastation of families and lives that comes with it. Meanwhile, the core competency of local government ideally is providing excellent services while keeping spending down. Our success will largely be judged by how well we deal with these three priorities.

On my watch, we have done quite well. Virtually all the positive job growth in the state of Kentucky the past 15 years has come in just 10 counties (out of 120). Campbell, Kenton and Boone are all on that list of top performers. Together our three counties have created more jobs than any other area of Kentucky. We have the lowest unemployment rates. In Campbell, we have seen a string of investments and job announcements made possible by the County’s economic climate and infrastructure improvements. In the coming months we will see much more.

A comprehensive Northern Kentucky strategy to combat the heroin epidemic has been created. We had the vision, and we have a plan. Campbell County has led the area in heroin arrests and is taking the lead with a substance abuse program to be installed in our jail. Through it all, we are thrifty. Campbell County spends less per resident than any other full service government in Northern Kentucky. We provide high quality services. Read full bio.

Rechtin (Judge Executive): There will always be financial obstacles to meeting all the needs of the numerous interests in Campbell County. While many of these needs continue unmet, our county jail has morphed into a “state prison run by the county,” consuming vast resources. Our golf course for the past 16 years has suffered significant losses. And there is a growing public investment into our bus system. The current policy of increasing the burden on the taxpayer to satisfy these needs is inadequate. These financial issues cannot be resolved by “staying the course.”

Campbell Countians have lost confidence in the management of regional assets and their governing boards. Two very public examples are the airport board and the board of our sanitation system, SD1. While a path of isolation from other Northern Kentucky counties and cities is not the answer, cooperation at the expense of Campbell County is not the right path.

Job, business and property growth have been stagnant for far too long. Campbell County residents are tired of “being a show horse,” finishing third to Kenton and Boone in nearly all comparisons. A status quo approach to economic vitality is not a vision for our future.

I bring a lifetime of commitment and service to Campbell County. And, as your full-time Judge Executive, I pledge that our challenges and obstacles will receive my full-time attention. Read full bio.

Heinrich (Commissioner, District 1): Lack of smart business development. Taxes are kept low and services are kept high when an area flourishes with development. Housing prices rise. More money goes to local schools.  TIFF districts and other development tools need to be utilized so Campbell County can compete with the rest of Northern Kentucky to draw in businesses that attract jobs, pay taxes into our communities, and offer services for a growing number of families. Smart development means utilizing our existing business districts without infringing on our natural landscape, neighborhoods and communities. Smart development also means taxes, like the 9-1-1 tax, are spread equitably among the community, and not on the backs of only few.

Lack of Creative Problem Solving. Brilliant ideas come from people willing to think outside the box.  Sometimes, that means not having the popular answer or not being embarrassed to express a lofty idea. Always that means listening to everyone’s input to come to the best conclusion even if it wasn’t yours. We need to start being proactive instead of reactive. Campbell County needs people willing to work smarter, work faster, and work harder to catch up with Boone and Kenton Counties who are enjoying a burst of growth we have not yet seen.  

Lack of Regional Representation. We all know that we pay in a lot of money to the state in taxes.  Only a few recognize how much actually comes back from the state to Campbell County. We need to step it up a notch to work with Frankfort leadership to get our tax money back into our communities. Read full bio.

Painter (Commissioner, District 1): We have set the tax rate on property below compensating rate in 2014 and 2015 fiscal years. These are the only two times this has been done since 1978. This has been without reduction in County services. We have saved you money directly, on your tax bill. Our spending per capita is still the lowest in the region.

Holding the line on taxes does not just happen. It takes work. Most of this credit goes to the County employees. When we as leaders asked for a more efficient government, they delivered, by searching out ways to eliminate waste and operating more efficiently with the new technology. This savings has happened across the board in all departments and I am not keeping quiet about our success!

I will give one example, a case study, of how we save you thousands of dollars: In 2012 I looked into the fact that the County was still using fly ash to mix with salt to winter treat our roadways.  Several of our road specialists had taken specialized training and we came to the conclusion we could save money by going to straight salt on the roads.  Working as a team with the County professional management staff, we tested and tried the method.  Not only did we save overtime cost because we could carry more salt at a lower metering rate, we also avoided building another storage building.  I estimate that this switch saved the taxpayers over $100,000 in less than three years. Read full bio.

Coleman (Commissioner, District 2): First Challenge - Economic Development along the AA Highway.  To accomplish this it is essential to have sanitary sewers.  Because of the EPA mandates 50% of the SD 1 budget goes to retire debt.  Even with recent double digit rate increases no funds are set aside for growth.

Second Challenge - East/West Corridor.  In order to facilitate AA development the County needs access to reach I-75 and I-71.  For business and housing growth we need an easier and safer route to the Airport and to many of the jobs in Boone County.

Third Challenge - Heroin.  The State Legislature has lessened the penalties for drug trafficking.  At the same time made it more difficult for doctors to prescribe painkillers.  I have met with the medical professionals, law enforcement, judicial branch, families and abusers.  No one has a solution.  The County needs a Comprehensive Plan with all parties involved to insure ownership in a solution. Read full bio.

Steidel Pelle (Commissioner, District 2): Lack of Fiscal Responsibility and Transparency. Republican members of the Campbell Fiscal Court gave away $150,000 in economic development funds to Kenton County for development of a walking path.

Lack of Representation. The commissioners on the Campbell Fiscal Court currently do not have a say on the county’s representatives on regional boards. I support giving Campbell County a voting representative on CVG Airport Board as recommended by Auditor Edelen. In respect to SD1, all members of the Fiscal Court should vote on appointments to its board. Additionally, SD1’s annual budget should be reviewed and approved by all members of the Fiscal Court.  Presently, only the Judge/Executive has a say in SD1’s annual budget and rates.

The Heroin Epidemic. I have lost someone near and dear to my heart and I’m on a MISSION. What we are doing is not working. Addiction is a disease; until we treat it as a disease we will not resolve this problem. All members of the Fiscal Court have a duty to lead as the body that represents the entire county. The Fiscal Court should lead with partnering with local governmental units in the county seeking federal, state and private grants to work to eradicate this problem. Read full bio.

Lampe (Commissioner, District 3): 1. Addressing public safety, including the heroin epidemic. The most important role of government is to make sure that our communities are safe. This starts with strong and effective police departments and fire departments and districts. Unfortunately, no community is immune to crime and we must continue to make fighting crime and improved public safety as the number one priority throughout Campbell County. As a county commissioner, I will work hard to find treatment solutions for those who are addicted to this drug, but with the right treatment, can be saved from chemical dependency. I will also fight for stronger laws and penalties and strict enforcement of these laws against those who traffic this drug and all other illegal drugs in our communities.

2. Jobs/economy. We need to make sure to make sure that Campbell County is a well-educated and business-friendly community that attracts businesses and jobs. After all, good schools and strong employment, supporting the families who live here, is the lifeblood of our county. The county needs to work closely with local school districts and parochial schools and with NKU to promote educational excellence and economic development opportunities so that these talented students can help our county continue further grow and prosper. We also need to make sure that we make it easy to do business in Campbell County, such having the appropriate infrastructure in place and promoting an environment of limited government and business-friendly practices that will attract, rather than repel, new businesses to our area and encourages existing businesses to expand.

3. Elect experience. I believe that I am the most experienced and qualified candidate running for Commissioner on the Campbell County Fiscal Court. I have served six terms as a council member on the Fort Thomas City Council, including serving as chairman of the Public Safety and Parks and Recreation Committees and on the Finance and Public Works Committees. My opponent has no prior experience serving as an elected official or working in local government. Read full bio.

Ramler (Commissioner, District 3): The first major challenge that Campbell County faces is a lack of creative thinking and problem solving by elected officials. The County struggles to attract development, new residents, and businesses. We need to think differently to fix existing problems such as the heroin epidemic and stagnating property values, while creating opportunities and making smart investments to help our County grow. 

We must be more strategic about development in our County. We cannot continue to invest millions in infrastructure to support small-scale development that we cannot afford to maintain later. We need to be supportive of cities and invest in smart growth strategies. Our aging cities and building stock are ripe for redevelopment and new infill construction; we need to invest more actively in these areas. Utilizing the infrastructure we have already built will increase property values in our existing neighborhoods, expand our tax base, attract new residents and businesses, and pave a more sustainable road for the future.

Campbell County is failing to attract young professionals, entrepreneurs, and business leaders.  It is imperative to invest in our communities to make them appealing to those that contribute to a healthy local economy.  Smart investments now will garner greater returns later through the addition of businesses, residents, and an expanded tax base.  We need this expanded base to support local services, law enforcement, and countywide programs while maintaining low tax rates. Read full bio.

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