Saturday, May 15, 2004

Covington race narrows soon

Field of 11 will be cut to 8 in Tuesday vote

By Patrick Crowley
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Jerry Bamberger
• 13-year incumbent
• Accountant and executive director of Mainstrasse Village Association

Neil Blunt
• Realtor
• Active with Northern Kentucky Farmer's Market proposed for Covington, the Covington Community Center and the Wallace Woods Neighborhood Association

Alex Edmondson
• Lawyer and developer
• Seeking his third term

Hensley Jemmott
• Former Covington Board of Education member
• Has been active with the Kenton County Public Library, Devou Park, Forward Quest, the Adult Learning Center and the NAACP

Bernie Moorman
• Incumbent
• 10 years on the city commission, four years as mayor and 13 years as a Kenton County Commissioner

Rob Sanders
• Lawyer and former prosecutor

Thomas Schadler
• Barbershop owner
• Ran twice (unsuccessfully) for city commission

Jerry Stricker
• Retired financial services firm executive
• Served a previous term on the commission
• Involved with Friends of Covington, the Covington Community Center and the Northern Kentucky Consensus Committee

Jimmy Williams
• Former Kenton County surveyor
• Member of the Covington Human Rights Commission• Maintenance worker for Sagamore Parking

Jeff Sewell
• Manager for The Kroger Co.

Jonathan Thurman
• Ran for Williamstown council
• Manager for Schwan's Food Manufacturing Co.
COVINGTON - Fans of Survivor will love this year's City Commission primary.

Residents will vote three of the 11 candidates out of the race Tuesday, with the remaining eight candidates staying on the General Election ballot this fall. In November, voters will elect four candidates to two-year terms on the city commission.

Here is a list of the candidates on the primary ballot along with information about their backgrounds and their platforms.

• Jerry Bamberger: During his years on the commission, the city has "beefed up" public safety by upgrading the equipment used by the police and fire departments and adding more personnel. Sixteen firefighters are being hired now, many of who will have advanced life support training, Bamberger said.

Development has also surged in recent years, particularly along the city's riverfront. Omnicare, a health care company headquartered in the Rivercenter office complex, recently announced an expansion that will include 240 jobs.

If re-elected Bamberger said he work toward developing Riverfront West - an opening of land along the city's riverfront - into a new neighborhood and building water parks in existing neighborhoods.

• Neil Blunt: He has never held or run for office.

To attract new development, Covington needs a comprehensive five-year citywide plan "that includes goals and objectives, time frames and accountability," Blunt said.

"It's all wonderful to have a plan, but if you don't go forward with it and hold people accountable ... then all the planning is for nothing," he said.

Blunt has also proposed a concept known as Home Ownership Zones, where tax breaks would be available for buyers for 10 years. The tax breaks would be transferable if the property is sold.

"You'll have a lot more homeowners and a lot more rehab in an area that can be replicated" throughout the city, he said.

• Alex Edmondson: "We need to finish what we've already started, cracking down on the slumlords," the incumbent said.

To deal with a chronic problem of abandoned and dilapidated buildings, the commission created a building code enforcement board two years ago. That panel has heard close to 2,000 cases with 98 percent of the properties being improved, Edmondson said.

Edmondson also favors assessing property owners to pave and repair sidewalks.

"Everyone complains about the look and the feel of our city," Edmondson said. "Take the old sidewalks out ... and allow the property owners, 55 percent of which don't even live in our city, to bear the responsibility."

"Covington is one of the only municipalities anywhere that does not assess property owners," he said. "That has got to change because we've got to do what is good for the common interest."

Edmondson said he would also support an increase in the salaries of the mayor and commissioners.

• Hensley Jemmott: Jemmott said a "comprehensive strategic plan for the entire city" is needed, and it must be updated regularly.

"From that, all of the other issues we are faced with can be addressed," Jemmott said, adding that good planning will foster job growth and attract new residents to the city.

The plan could address several areas, including the proposed farmers' market, downtown development and traffic flows on major north-south corridors through the city, he said.

City Hall needs to pay more attention and be "more inclusive" when it comes to the city neighborhoods, including the African-American dominated East Side.

"The East Side is a part of the city, and unless planning includes the East Side, Covington is not going to move ahead," he said.

Jemmott said he would study the hiring practices at City Hall because of concerns that the city's bureaucracy is growing too large.

• Bernie Moorman: Moorman, an incumbent, described the city's budget as "very strained" and said City Hall is spending more money than it is taking in.

"If that isn't a red flag," he said, "I don't know what is."

Poor decisions on spending have been made at City Hall, including hiring more administrators than the city needs, he said.

He also said he would not vote for or accept a pay increase.

Moorman touted the city's record on job creation and said announcements of even more jobs are coming, including an expansion of the Internal Revenue Service's Covington processing center.

But he said more citywide planning is needed.

• Rob Sanders: Sanders is making his first run for office.

"I'm running because I think we need more youth and enthusiasm, and we need four people cooperating and working together and working with the mayor to move the city forward," he said. "There's too much bickering and taking sides (at City Hall)."

Sanders said the city should focus on attracting new housing development, but also on rehabbing and redeveloping "the housing that we already have that is dilapidated and falling down."

The city commission also needs to work with and even pressure Kenton County Fiscal Court to move the county jail out of downtown Covington, he said.

"We've got to get that jail out of there," Sanders said. "That's a prime location. There is a million-dollar (Cincinnati) skyline view that is being enjoyed by prisoners."

Sanders would not support a pay raise for commissioners and would work to lower the city's payroll tax.

• Thomas Schadler: Schadler would like to see more done by the city to crack down on litter.

"There are times when I sweep dirty diapers from out in front of my shop," Schadler said.

Schadler said he is impressed with the new public pavilion built in Devou Park, but if elected, he will push for the restoration of the existing pavilion building. It could become a gathering place for senior citizens, he said.

Aggressive riverfront development is also vital to the continued growth and success of the city, Schadler said.

"But I would like to see development move up town as well," he said.

"I'd like to see some of the big businesses move downtown ... because let's face it, we don't have a lot of mom-and-pop businesses anymore."

If the city could figure out a way to lower taxes, "more businesses would move in and that creates revenue for the city.

• Jeff Sewell: Sewell is seeking office for the first time.

"I'm running because this town needs some new leadership," he said. "And not because I'm necessarily disagreeing with everything the commissioners have done. But I think in order to change the image of this town and take a step forward, we need some new leadership, a new focus, some new ideas."

If elected, Sewell said he will launch an effort to "make Covington look a little bit cleaner."

"I'm talking about litter, brush, weeds in the summertime," he said. "It's not like that all through town, but that's definitely something we need ... to improve the image of Covington."

Planning needs to be more focused when it comes to development, Sewell said.

"We have a multitude of plans, but I don't see implementation of plans," he said.

• Jerry Stricker: If elected, the former commissioner said he would donate his first year's salary of about $19,000 to Covington charities.

With his background as an accountant, he would also scrutinize the city's budget and spending. And he would push to implement a long-term, five-year budget.

"If you want to reduce payroll taxes, you have to know what effect that will have ... and how that will affect future spending," Stricker said.

He also wants to push for a reduction in the city's payroll tax.

During his earlier term on the commission Stricker helped secure funding for the Carnegie Arts Center.

• Jonathan Thurman: A relative newcomer to Covington, Thurman is running for the first time in this city.

"Regular people need someone standing up for them who will work for what they want in the city," Thurman said.

He would push for cleaning up city streets, ridding the city of abandoned buildings and adding police presence in neighborhoods.

"We need more police and more firefighters," he said.

But Thurman said he would study employment levels at City Hall to determine if the bureaucracy is bloated. And he would also donate his salary to homeless shelters.

• Jimmy Williams: "I'm the working man's candidate," he said.

He supports the plan for a downtown farmers' market and says more cooperation is needed between the businesses and the neighborhoods.

"Since the Bush tax cut, cities are having a hard time making it," Williams said.

"I'm concerned the city is spending more money on pay raises for management people than on ... residents."

Williams said he would not support a salary increase for commissions.

"This is not the time for a pay raise," he said.


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