360 Fireworks Party

Friday, August 26, 2011


by Michael Monks
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A $10,000 raise for Covington Independent Public Schools Superintendent Lynda Jackson motivated angry posts at Facebook and even led to the creation of a page there called Covington KY 411 that mostly takes aim at the district's shortcomings. The tone got angrier following Thursday night's school board meeting in which the district's portion of property taxes will now rise from $105 per $100,000 value to $111 per. The move is expected to bring in $800,000 in revenue.

Board members Krista Athey, Mike Fitzgerald and Jerry Avery voted to pass the increase. Denise Varney voted no. Glenda Huff was not present.
As of this writing, there has been no public response from the district, the superintendent or the publicly elected board members. The River City News will post their comments as soon as we hear back from them.

"The Covington School Board's decision to raise taxes, once again, is a huge blow to the viability and quality of life in Covington," City Commissioner Shawn Masters tells The River City News. Both Masters and fellow Commissioner Steve Frank expressed their opinion at Tuesday night's Commission meeting, urging the public to understand that if property taxes are raised, that the schools would be to blame.

"We are already challenged with attracting residents given the state of this economy and to have one of the highest, now higher, school tax rates in the state, well, it's just disappointing," Masters continued.

Amid the online and political attacks on the schools and Jackson, former board member and current Chairman of the Kenton County Democrats, Col Owens posted an op-ed in the Cincinnati Enquirer, highlighting several points that make Covington's situation a unique one:

Thursday, August 25, 2011


by Michael Monks
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The Covington Independent Public Schools will host a public meeting at 6PM Thursday as the district decides whether to raise its tax rate on property owners. If a move is made by the schools raising property taxes, the Covington City Commission wants the public to know that the increase did not come from City Hall.

"I think that at a time when we have to learn to live within our means" the schools should too, said Commissioner Steve Frank, Tuesday night. "If you see property taxes go up, it's not us, it's the schools." The commission voted unanimously to keep its portion of the tax rate at the same level as the previous year.

Daytime Curfew Approved
Covington City Commission also unanimously approved the daytime curfew for all minors that should be in public or private school during regular school hours. City Solicitor Frank Warnock indicated the American Civil Liberties Union is expected to "scrutinize" the curfew ordinance. Mayor Bowman asked if the ACLU would be scrutinizing the longer-standing curfew in Newport that served as the model for Covington's. That answer was not immediately known.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011


by Michael Monks
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Covington's failed attempt at redefining the once thriving central business district into an arts and technology zone is finally over. The City Commission passed a resolution Tuesday night to submit an application to the Kenton County Area Planning Commission that would change the zoning along Pike Street corridor back to the central business district.

"(The arts zoning) really made it more difficult to get the right kind of businesses," said Jackson Kinney, Covington's Community Development Director. "It was counterproductive. Arts businesses thrive in mixed use environments."
Splat! goes the Arts District

The Arts & Technology District never really gained traction and today many of the vacant buildings that were expected to be revived remain vacant, a sad display behind a sculpture of legendary Covington artist Frank Duveneck.

"Not having this arts zone will bring in the businesses that arts businesses want to be near," Kinney added.

The death knell for the arts zone may be part of the newly announced Covington Center City Action Plan, the so-called plan-of-plans, that seeks to combine nineteen previous plans that also sought to revitalize the central business district. Denver-based Progressive Urban Management Associates will oversee the new plan.

"We know you've been planned to death here," said PUMA President Brad Segal. "We want to do different things to move forward."

Tuesday, August 23, 2011


by Michael Monks
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It was a ceremonial resolution to honor City Manager Larry Klein for receiving the 2011 City Manager of the Year award from the Northern Kentucky Area Development District. "Aye", responded Commissioners Sherry Carran, Steve Casper, Steve Frank and Shawn Masters.

"I disagree," said Mayor Denny Bowman. "I vote no."

That resolution was near the bottom of the Commission's agenda for Tuesday night's meeting and followed several other 4 - 1 votes, with Bowman on the steadfastly defiant, losing end.

An ordinance defining job titles and salaries that would increase pay for some non-union employees who are taking on additional responsibilities: 4 - 1.

An order to hire a new law clerk to replace one that resigned: 4 - 1.

An appointment to the position of division supervisor (recreation & facilities) in the Department of Public Improvements: 4 - 1.

An appointment to the position of division supervisor (urban forestry and parks) in the Department of Public Improvements: 4 - 1.

"These people are great people, I like every one of them," said Bowman. But the firing of public workers and early retirements of others amid a $4 million budget deficit followed by raises and new hires did not sit well with the Mayor.

"It bothers me that we can tell our citizens to go to thirty 'road shows'" and scare them into believing that bankruptcy was imminent, the Mayor said. "Then, all of a sudden, boom, $450,000 for computers."

An ordinance to upgrade the city's computers and operating systems: 4 - 1.

"We had to do reorganzation in public improvements," said Klein, justifying the pay increases. "We have one that went from supervising two to supervising eleven. They'll keep doing their old job in addition to their new job."

WHINE & DINE: Ruby's Desperate Pouting for a Taxpayer Subsidized Restaurant

by Michael Monks
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Is Mother Nature secretly working as a Covington City Hall agent? Afterall, she is the only entity that has spoken publicly about not wanting Jeff Ruby's The Waterfront along Covington's Ohio River shoreline, when she instructed the then-high-rising waters to wash it away nearly six months ago. So why then has the bombastic restaurateur suggested to the Cincinnati Enquirer that the City of Covington has apparently come "down with amnesia", and has not made a single offer to keep the 25-year old floating restaurant?

Ruby told the Cincinnati Enquirer's Mike Rutledge: "I'm disappointed in Covington. I spent 25 years in Covington, and not Newport, and I thought Covington would respect that."

Cincinnati Enquirer: Ruby May Try To Move Waterfront To Newport

But if talk of non-egagement surprised Covington's leaders, talk of engagement has also surprised their counterparts in Newport, where Ruby now says he is interested in taking The Waterfront.
"We're always interested in new businesses in the city, but I wouldn't do anything to sabotage or to harm a neighboring city - I just wouldn't do it," Newport City Manager Tom Fromme told Rutledge, adding in the article that no one from the City of Newport has spoken to Ruby or his alleged co-conspirators at Newport-On-The-Levee.
"I believe we have extended every courtesy possible to Mr. Ruby," Covington City Commissioner Shawn Masters tells The River City News. "I certainly do not want to see Covington lose The Waterfront, but at the same time we must be prudent in investing in the overall riverfront, not just one establishment."

Covington Commissioner Steve Frank took to Facebook to write, "The question on any investment is one of payback. At $2 million, what rate of return would the city have to reap each year to justify the expense," in regards to the amount of money necessary to stablize and improve a location for The Waterfront. Frank also noted that the City collects $50,000 in rent in addition to payroll taxes.

The Cincinnati Enquirer article explains that $2 million figure was the conclusion of a federally-funded study that explored the relocation of The Waterfront to Covington Landing. The Waterfront wanted direct pedestrian access to its first floor instead of the second. Klein tells the Cincinnati Enquirer that the price was too high for the city, in the mindst of budget cuts and layoffs.

The money quote from Klein to the Enquirer:
"(Ruby) and the city have never arrived at a single concept of whether he wanted to be on the land or be in the water. They kept going back and forth. And I don't think we could accomodate his timeline, either. I think he wanted to be able to open his doors as soon as possible and you don't implement a $2.5 million plan overnight."
So is Jeff Ruby lying? He says Covington officials did not engage, when clearly that is not the case. Ruby says Newport is interested, only no one at Newport City Hall has any record of that.

The fact is, Mother Nature has spoken and so has Jeff Ruby. And only one of them appears to be speaking the truth.