Friday, November 21, 2003

Supporters rally behind county plan for future

Heimlich remains against Compass

By Cindi Andrews
The Cincinnati Enquirer

HARTWELL - An outpouring of support has arisen in the wake of Commissioner Phil Heimlich's proposal to abandon the two-year effort to plot the county's future.

Community Compass is the county's best hope to stem its loss of jobs and residents, elected and civic leaders told county commissioners at a public hearing Wednesday. More than 100 people came to show their support after Heimlich announced his opposition last week.

"This vision is going to be the linchpin for a better future," said Hal Franke, chairman of the Hamilton County Regional Planning Commission. "We must continue to recognize and build upon our similarities."

Community Compass is a process initiated by the Planning Commission to help residents, businesses and civic groups figure out what they want their county to be. More than 3,000 people participated in a series of meetings and surveys to set goals for health, housing and other countywide issues. Smaller groups are crafting strategies to work toward those goals.

Commissioners will soon vote on whether to commit the county to use Community Compass as a guide in its decision-making. Their resolution would also encourage the county's cities, villages and townships to do the same.

Heimlich remained opposed after Wednesday's public hearing at the Drake Center in Hartwell.

"(Residents) elected me to reduce the size of government, cut taxes and get spending under control," he said. "With all due respect, I do not see those principles anywhere in this plan."

Heimlich sent local officials a letter last week urging them to help fight Community Compass. He said the plan would usurp their authority to set public policy for their communities. Only Colerain and Sycamore township officials indicated they shared Heimlich's concern.

About 30 of the county's 49 political jurisdictions are members of the Planning Partnership, the group that's steering Community Compass. If anything, the fear is not that Compass will do too much but that it will do too little.

"One concern I do have is some of these initiatives are so broad and so general that I'm not sure they can be implemented," Symmes Township Trustee Kathy Wagner said.

The county is likely to adopt Compass because Heimlich's counterparts - John Dowlin and Todd Portune - have long supported Compass and appear unlikely to change their minds now.

"Through this process, the people of Hamilton County have spoken," Portune said.


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