Tuesday, October 26, 2004
Newport's key issue: taking land
Eminent domain the most discussed topic
By Mike Rutledge
Enquirer staff writer
NEWPORT - Eight candidates for four Newport City Commission seats agree recent economic development has been good for the city. But the challengers are critical of eminent domain, tax incentives and secrecy they say the city has used in forwarding its aims.
"I would not use eminent domain to take homes from people and give to private developers," said challenger John C. Hayden, 23, a Northern Kentucky University law student. It's one thing to use eminent domain for schools and highways, but to use it "to build a shopping center is ridiculous," he said.
The city's use of eminent domain in its Cote Brilliante neighborhood to acquire houses and make way for a retail project immediately west of Interstate 471 has sent tremors across Northern Kentucky into city council races elsewhere.
"It looks to me like the city is going into the real estate business, rather than running the city," said commission challenger Johnny "TV" Peluso, 80, a former mayor running for the commission who bristles not only at the city's Cote Brilliante land acquisition, but also at the city's sale of its waterworks against voters' advice in a prior election.
Johnny Peluso was convicted in the mid-1980s of perjury and conspiracy, but his voting- and office-holding rights were restored in 1999 by then-Gov. Paul Patton.
The Cote Brilliante situation also prompted Washington Avenue resident Sam Gassert, 28, to decide he would run for mayor - after he unsuccessfully tried to encourage others to challenge Mayor Tom Guidugli. Guidugli faced no re-election opposition for a four-year term in 2000.
"It started out with eminent domain," said Gassert, who receives Social Security disability because of a severely degenerated hip. "I'm totally against it. A man's home is his castle."
"I'm running because I believe in an open, transparent government," said Jeff Ballard, 45, a management official for the Internal Revenue Service in Cincinnati. "I believe there's been a disconnect there, and I want to establish an honest dialogue with the people, businesses and the administration."
"I'm for the people of Newport," said Rick Buechel, 51, a store manager for Kentucky Motors Service. "If they have a problem, I want to be the guy they can call."
"They put this sex zone in the West End without any public hearings," Hayden said, voicing another concern expressed by several challengers.
The incumbents promise to keep working on economic development, while working to improve neighborhoods, housing stock and recreation opportunities.
Guidugli, 53, is proud of progress the city has made during the past decade and wants to continue those successes during his final allowed term.
"One of the things I think the community needs to think about is the pride that has come to Newport," he said. "People are proud to live in Newport."
Commissioner Jerry Peluso, 45, a produce manager for the Remke Market on Carothers Road who also owns Peluso's Market on Monmouth Street, agrees with Guidugli.
"When I go door-to-door, people like what's going on," he said. "They understand there's some hungry candidates out there, but they like what's happened over the last 10 to 15 years."
Commissioner Beth Fennell, 52, a state-certified real estate appraiser, said she plans to continue listening to residents' concerns: "They're happy about the Levee, but gosh, they'd like their neighbor to cut the grass," she said. Preservation of neighborhoods also is important, she said.
"I prefer to dwell on the positive, which is what got us to where we are right now, which is pretty daggone good," said incumbent Commissioner Jan Knepshield, 63, a retired teacher.
Commissioner Robbie Hall, 49, a former longtime Newport police officer, was unavailable to comment in recent days.
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