Sunday, February 22, 2004

Sumner: Best in field of 5 hopefuls

Republicans have fielded a rare gang of five challengers for the March 2 primary to decide who takes on Democratic Hamilton County Commissioner Todd Portune this fall.

Several of the five possess the experience and talent to make able commissioners, but former Blue Ash mayor Jim Sumner shows the most promise on the Republican ticket. He has been re-elected seven straight terms to Blue Ash council and served as mayor from 1997 to 2001. The conservative Republican vows to push for balanced growth, fiscal discipline and more jobs.

That formula worked well in Blue Ash. It has attracted more than 30,000 jobs to a city of 13,000 residents, while keeping taxes enviably low.

Sumner appeals to suburban voters, yet strongly backs Cincinnati redevelopment, including the riverfront. He wants to end divisive bickering between city and county officials. As a trustee of the Ohio Kentucky Indiana (OKI) Regional Council of Governments, he recognizes the need for regional collaboration on projects such as a new Brent Spence Bridge.

Republicans are not only running five candidates against each other in the primary, but two are General Electric Aircraft Engine employees. Chris Monzel, the former Cincinnati councilman, is a GEAE engineer, and Sumner is GEAE's manager of environmental programs. Rounding out the field is retired Hamilton County Juvenile Court Judge David Grossmann, Anderson Township Trustee Russ Jackson and financial planner Sandra Faith Hall of Kenwood. In the 2002 contest for Ohio representative in the 33rd District, Hall lost to Democrat Tyrone Yates, 33 percent to 66 percent.

Todd Portune rode into office in 2000 on voter bitterness against then-commissioner Bob Bedinghaus, who championed the Bengals stadium deal. Sumner is critical of county officials for obstructing The Banks redevelopment project between the stadiums and strongly supports the Port Authority.

"There is no moreunique development opportunity in the nation than these eight square blocks along prime riverfront space," Sumner told the Enquirer Editorial Board. "It is an opportunity for Cincinnati to capture the spotlight nationally."

He also applauds the port authority for reclaiming "brownfield" industrial sites and favors a countywide port for countywide development. He sees our biotech industry as a prime path to attract outside investment and "new economy" jobs.

The environmental specialist deplores the "ineptness" of the city-run, county-owned Metropolitan Sewer District. He thinks MSD should be consolidated under the county or privatized. "I've built treatment plants all over the world," he said. In one case, Blue Ash took matters into its own hands and brought quick relief to about 30 homeowners.

Sumner can bring a professional perspective to the commission and experience in building a progressive community. Republicans are offered a strong choice in Jim Summer.

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