By Erica Solvig
The Cincinnati Enquirer
LEBANON - Balanced economic development is vital to the county's growth, the four Republicans vying for Warren County commissioner say. But how to approach it is a matter of debate.
The candidates, as well as the two county prosecutor candidates, explained their platforms during their first public forum this week. Noncontested Republicans running for other county offices also attended the forum, sponsored by Warren County Area Progress Council and several chambers of commerce.
The GOP candidates hoping to take the seat Commissioner Larry Crisenbery is vacating said they thought the county's economic development plans and programs could be improved, either by active recruiting or more promotion of what the county has to offer.
"It isn't spending money. It's an investment," Mason Councilman John McCurley said about funding a long-term economic development plan. "For every dollar you spend, hopefully you receive many more dollars back in the future."
He, as well as businessman David Young of Deerfield Township and educator John Lazares of Maineville, brought up the idea of creating a high-tech or biotech business corridor, which they argue would raise the tax base and bring more jobs.
"We have a lot of young, bright people that attend public schools in this county," said Lazares, superintendent of the Warren County Educational Service Center. "Right now, when they leave to go off to college, they have nothing to come back to."
Farmer Tom Spellmire of Lebanon said he wants to intertwine economic development with preserving the county's "rural character." He argued many Warren County residents came because they were drawn to the open space, and many landowners would keep it that way if the county gave them some incentive not to sell to developers.
Bottom line, the four candidates say, is that the county commissioners need more planning and must give a clear direction to the county's economic development staff and to the townships and municipalities that have home rule.
"Right now, it is so uncoordinated," Young said. "There is no method to the madness from an economic development standpoint."
Warren County Prosecutor Rachel Hutzel and her challenger, David Fornshell of Lebanon, also answered questions during Wednesday night's forum.
Hutzel argued domestic violence was the most important issue facing the prosecutor's office. She said she's created a family violence unit and boosted education. Fornshell pointed to the rise in juvenile cases, and said he wants to educate children at earlier ages to prevent such crimes.
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