360 Fireworks Party

Friday, May 11, 2012


by Michael Monks 
One thing is clear about the candidates seeking one of four seats on the Covington City Commission: Mayor Chuck Scheper and his 10-point plan are very popular with them. "I think Scheper is great and people are very impressed with him," said Mildred Rains. The former City Commissioner is seeking a full term at City Hall after being appointed in 2009 and losing in 2010's general election. Rains's support for the mayor and his 10-point plan, an initiative that he designed to solve Covington's financial crisis and other issues, was echoed throughout Thursday evening's candidate forum. 
"Scheper's plan is sound," said Greg Paeth while fellow first-time candidate Ed Faulkner affirmed that he also is a full supporter of the mayor. 
"I endorse what Mayor Scheper and the commission have done up to this point with the 10-point plan, I think it's a good plan," said Roger Hamilton. Fellow commission challenger Chuck Eilerman offered "tremendous credit" for "dealing with the financial crises that we faced."
"We have got this town beginning to turn around," said incumbent City Commissioner Steve Frank. "I want to get this town moving before the yahoos get their hands on it again." Neil Gilreath, a retired Covington Police Officer, was the only candidate not present of the eight vying for four seats in November. All will automatically advance beyond the primary to the general election, though their names will be May 22's ballot offering an opportunity for bragging rights and possible momentum. Mayor Scheper is not seeking election to the office to which he was appointed following Denny Bowman's September resignation.
Another plan was also unanimously, at least partially if not enthusiastically, supported by the candidates: The Covington Center City Action Plan, a newly unveiled roadmap to revitalize Downtown Covington and its surrounding neighborhoods. The forum, part of the monthly Covington After Hours, was held at the American Legion Hall in Latonia where no public speaking time was granted. Instead, each candidate, including City Commissioners Sherry Carran and Steve Casper who are running against each other for mayor, stood by a table greeting and talking with voters while passing out campaign materials. 
The River City News spoke with each commission candidate and their comments are below in alphabetical order (Watch for more on their positions in the coming days): 

His last name is a familiar one to those who remember more vibrant days for Downtown Covington. The commercial real estate agent and Harvard graduate is part of the Eilerman family that operated a small regional chain of department stores with a location on Madison Avenue. Now Chuck Eilerman hopes to be part of the city leadership that reinvigorates Downtown. "I think it has a lot of excellent ideas," Eilerman said of the Center City Action Plan. "The problem is trying to implement it (but) there are a lot of great ideas." Eilerman applauded a new flyer to be distributed by the city that he says effectively promotes and outlines an ambitious incentives program that includes rent subsidies and matching funds for rehab costs to attract new retail options Downtown. "It's the first time they've done that, we need to do more of that," he said. "I think we need to invest in development staff, development programming in the City of Covington. The City has a fundamental responsibility to have a strong economic development of its own."  
Chuck Eilerman (L) and supporter
Linda Hornsby
"People want to move back to the city," Ed Faulkner said, hoping that those people will soon choose Covington. The veteran Sun Chemical business director and Chester, Pennsylvania native has lived in Covington's Pointe Benton development near Peaselburg for eleven years and is the president of the community's homeowners association. Faulkner was recently chairman of the Covington board of adjustments and treasurer of the Linden Grove Cemetery board of overseers but resigned in order to make his first run for office. "We've got so much to offer but we have to market it. Community development has to be out knocking on doors." Faulkner emphasized that his priority is to attract businesses so that revenues are increased and to boost homeownership. "We have to have people with skin in the game, people who want to be part of the community," he said. Thursday night Faulkner received the endorsement of fellow candidate and current City Commissioner Steve Frank.
With City Commissioners Casper and Carran running against each other for mayor and Commissioner Shawn Masters not seeking reelection, the proudly outspoken and provocative Steve Frank is the only incumbent on the ballot. "We've got the wolf from the door, we've pulled ourselves out of the dive," Frank said of the City's financial situation, the most important piece of his successful 2010 campaign. Frank launched that campaign after serving on the City's audit committee. "I got so mad at (the then-city commission) for ignoring the work," he said of the motivation behind his inaugural run for office two years ago. Since being elected, Frank has been a relentless by-the-numbers commissioner consistently focused on how the city has spent and is spending money. Often that position has found Frank in heated debates online with citizens and city employees and he has apologized publicly on occasion for interactions that may have gotten too personal. One other consistency, however, is Frank's commitment to the mostly unified city commission currently in office that has nearly always voted unanimously on every issue during a yearlong period dominated by lengthy union negotiations, layoffs, and other budget cuts. "On the current commission, you have five people from different walks of life but we sit around trying to solve problems," Frank said. "We listen to each other and we learn a lot." He lives in the Ascent condo tower and is part of the family that has operated Frank's Men's Shop in Covington since the early twentieth century.
Steve Frank talks with voters
Gilreath was not present at Thursday's forum but The River City News will reach out to him and update this post as soon as possible. 
He retired from CVG airport where he was assistant chief of the fire department in charge of training and operations and since then Roger Hamilton has formed a consulting group with a Dallas-based partner with whom he coordinates aircraft rescue training "wherever (they) can do it", a job that took him as far away as South America last year. The 1971 graduate of Holmes High School has lived in Covington most of his life and currently resides in South Covington's Heathermoor subdivision. "Being retired you have a lot of time, you sit back and think there's still some productive years in me here," Hamilton said. "I was reading the 10-point plan that Mayor Scheper had put out and I thought, boy, here's a guy who has nailed it, the commission and the mayor have nailed this thing right now. I know the mayor won't be around after this term but I want to be a part of the implementation of that program when it starts to take effect. With my background, he had touched upon some things with emergency services, and I think there's a lot I can offer the city." Hamilton highlighted his desire to rid much of the city-owned properties from the financial books and called for more interaction between city employees and the citizens. "One way to do that is if you could go around to these various groups, the neighborhood associations, get these folks out and have the fire department visit these places, give CPR classes, it gives a way to have the community interact with each other and with emergency services." Hamilton's son, a political science major, is managing his father's campaign. 
Roger Hamilton (L) talks with voters
When Greg Paeth moved to Covington in 1975 he was assigned to cover the city by the Kentucky Post after arriving from a newspaper in Bloomington, Indiana for what he hoped would be a roughly three-year stint before The New York Times would hire him. Instead, Paeth settled in to the Post and the city, and with his wife rehabbed a troubled home in Old Seminary Square at the beginning of that neighborhood's storied renaissance. Until this year he served as the neighborhood association's president, a post he first assumed in 1999. The Chicago-area native cites many neighborhood improvements during his time with the association including new sidewalks, trees, and decorative wrought-iron fencing around those trees. Additionally, a decaying pedestrian bridge and troubling lounge were both demolished following an outcry from residents. Now, Paeth hopes to have an impact city-wide with a campaign that emphasizes higher standards for code enforcement. "Too many vacant, foreclosed properties are allowed to sit there for years because the owners are meeting minimal standards," he said. "We have got to raise the bar." 
Greg Paeth (R) talks with Ray Kingsbury
When City Commissioner Steve Megerle was forced to resign in 2009 following his misdemeanor conviction for a campaign violation stemming from a flyer that attacked commission opponent Shawn Masters, Masters and the rest of the commission voted to appoint Mildred Rains who had finished fifth in the previous election. Rains spent more than thirty years as a city employee where in the 1970s she became the first female director of code enforcement. She lost her seat in 2010, finishing sixth, but says she intends to work harder this time around with more door-to-door visits. She also acknowledged her support for Mayor Scheper Thursday. "He's come up with a plan that we can carry forward," she said. In campaign materials, Rains highlighted her successes as director of code enforcement over a period that she said brought in more than a hundred-thousand dollars in penalties from more than nine thousand blighted properties and the removal of fifty-three dangerous buildings from the City. She also remains an outspoken supporter of the City's public employees saying that she supports the need to maintain and increase the public workforce. While she supported a merger of emergency dispatch Rains had hoped that the county's operation would have come to Covington rather than the other way around. "Covington is a large city and they know the city," she said. "If you call 911 somehow or another these dispatchers will find out (where you are)." 
Mildred Rains
"I feel like I work so much in the community that I could benefit the neighborhood more if I were a commissioner," Michelle Williams said, speaking of her Eastside neighborhood where Covington's largest current residential development, River's Edge at Eastside Pointe, a mixed-income apartment community, is about to begin construction. Williams is chairman of the board at OASIS, Inc, an Eastside-based social services agency, and is a graduate of the Emerge Kentucky program which aims to help Democratic women get elected to office. "I knew once I went through the program, I knew I could do it, I knew I could pull it off," she said. While her platform includes issues like building up neighborhood associations and attracting more riverfront and river-based businesses ("I think we should bring back Riverboat Row considering we only have one broken down riverboat down there right now."), her most ambitious plan is one she calls "Cease Fire" that would use intermediaries from the community to squash disputes and prevent retaliation in the wake of a violent crime. Williams has presented the plan to the Housing Authority of Covington and hopes to do the same for the city commission. 
Michelle Williams

No comments:

Post a Comment