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Bonus Coverage of City Commission Candidates Debate

If you missed the earlier post about the Covington City Commission candidates debate, including their responses to the city's financial issues and the alleged secrecy of the Management Partners report, click here.
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BONUS COVERAGE:
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Frank takes responsibility for Scheper assuming mayor's role
Incumbent City Commissioner Steve Frank, in his opening remarks Monday evening, said, "I'm kind of responsible for Chuck showing up." He explained that he was able to convince Scheper to take the job after the retired insurance executive initially balked at the prospect of replacing Denny Bowman who had resigned as mayor. "I think we're making a big difference and a lot of that came about with the 10-point plan underthe leadership of Mayor Scheper," Frank said. "It was a year ago that I talked him into replacing Denny Bowman."
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Rains, Terry stand up for their former departments
Former City Commissioner MIldred Rains blasted the changes to Covington's code enforcement department which she used to head from 2001 - 2006. "I think (code enforcement) did a very good job and I think in a few months you're gonna see what a good job they did because things are gonna go to pot with the plans this current commission has," Rains said. "The gentleman they hired (Keith Bales, whose position was eliminated) is very qualified to do the job and as a commissioner I would not have them cut back on code enforcement like they had, because the City is gonna go to pot and the first thing they need to do is start cleaning up the city."
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Retired assistant fire chief Chip Terry, who launched a write-in campaign last month, also stood up for his former department though he said he supported refilling lost positions only when more revenue is coming to the city.  "I understand we've had some financial situations that have precluded us from growing and advancing," Terry said. "We've been ineffective because we've had leadership in departments that are not effective, they did not manage their departments correctly. The focus was wrong, not to say they were bad people. I believe we have to have strong public safety, a good fire department, a fire department accountable to the city. I think we had those. We need to make sure the manning matches the needs."
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Which candidates would be most effective at bringing people together?
The final phase of the debate included the opportunity for each candidate to ask one question that would be answered by all the other candidates. Terry wanted to know how the next commission could bring all the stakeholders together to move the city forward. "I'm not known as the most touchy-feely of candidates," said Frank. "I wasn't on the same page with some of the current commission and we weren't sure we could work well but those things never happened. We all pulled together because in a crisis there is no time for bickering."
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"I think a large part of the stakeholders are the employees of the City of Covington and we need to work toward making them feel like they are worth something and once they get their morale back up they'll reach out to the rest of the community," Rains said.
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"One of the mantras of my campaigns is that I would be responsive, respectful, and effective," said candidate Chuck Eilerman.
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"I would stress over and over again that the doors are open for employees, for different neighborhood representatives, members of the business community, to let everyone know that we are there to listen, that we are looking for good ideas to turn things around," said candidate Greg Paeth.
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"I am what I like to call a connector," said candidate Michelle Williams. "I like to bring people together. I am a person that can bring people together."
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Do the candidates anticipate an increase in crime due to changes at the police department?
Williams asked her fellow candidates if they believe there are new safety concerns for the public following recent changes to the police and fire departments. "One of the beautiful things that came out of the realignment of City Hall is that we found ways to do more with less," said Frank. "(Police Chief) Spike Jones found a way to get more people on the streets when people are actually most active and save $500,000 a year. We're getting more coverage with less money."
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"More with less, that's not true," countered Rains. "I think it's an issue and I think crime is rising. What we'v done is do away with some of the divisions, the people who go to neighborhood meetings and they can find out from each neighborhood what's going on."
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"I hope we're not facing a rise in crime. We're very fortunate with Spike Jones as our new chief," Eilerman said. "He was able to redeploy assets and is committed to boots on the streets."
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"I think it's premature to assess whether we will have an increase in crime or more trouble fighting fires," said Paeth. "The ink is very dry on these administrative changes. Nobody wants to be in a position where something terrible happens and a critic might turn around and say if we had had those police officers or firefighters, this would not have happened. I think we need to give it six months or a year to see if there is any substantive change to how how those departments respond."
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"I believe the police department has made some good changes and I spoke to a number of officers who think they are still short on the street," Terry said. "I don't think we'll see a precipitous drop in safety but browning out a fire company is a safety issue. Right now we are short on engine one, which is in the Eastside and that is definitely a cut in service and can be a problem with the delivery of service. I would work toward brining back engine one and find out how to do more with less with the inspection bureau."
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Will the next commission continue the efforts of Mayor Scheper?
Frank asked his challengers if they support Mayor Scheper and his 10-point plan. "I have every confidence in anything he may suggest," Rains said. 
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"I'm very supportive of the 10-point plan," said Eilerman. "A number of them have already been effectuated. I talked to the mayor about the need for a logical continuation of what he initiated, a Scheper plan part B or something."
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"There are a lot of people who think Chuck Scheper walks on water and I think he and the city commission, it's not just his plan, I think they've done a real nice job facing some incredibly difficult issues," Paeth said. 
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"I have full faith in the mayor and agree with the majority of the 10-point plan," Terry said. "I hope (Scheper) stays involved once he leaves office and helps us bridge the gap between the private and public sector."
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South Covington is not Taylor Mill!
Paeth asked his fellow candidates about how to bring South Covington into the Covington conversation more effectively. Chip Terry recounted a story in which he would show up to fight fires in South Covington and the residents would wonder why the Covington Fire Department had shown up because they though they lived in Taylor Mill.  "I think it would be beneficial using the (Covington Neighborhood Collaborative) and neighborhood associations to have a large function somewhere in the city so that everyone from every neighborhood group could meet once a year, or twice a year, and there's a major city effort to get the message out that you live in Covington."
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"They have different needs and concerns," said Frank of the neighborhood that is Covington's most suburban in nature. "But they're gonna out-vote all of us twice over. Elections are determined in South Covington. What do they worry about? Pride, streets, schools, but they don't go to Holmes, their kids go to Scott (High School). Almost half our population is out there."
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"South Covington does have a crime problem." Rains said. "They need more officers on patrol. Sometimes they have one and sometimes they have none."
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"We should reach out to them more effectively, we need to be in touch with them," said Eilerman, who spoke with the Mayor of Taylor Mill who told him that 40% of the visitors to that city's Pride Park are from South Covington.
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Can customer service be improved?
Eilerman stated that Police Chief Spike Jones is one of the best parts of city government and wanted to know how his fellow candidates thought Jones's positive attitude could be expanded throughout all the employees. "There's nothing you can ever do to guarantee that a city employee is going to buy into what the program is," said Paeth. "We don't have thought police here who control attitudes so it's difficult to guarantee that anyone is going to truly buy into some upbeat spin on what's going on in Covington." Paeth added that any employee blasting the city while on duty should face disciplinary repurcussions.
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"Start at the front door, hire the right people, make that issue pervasive," said Terry. "Tell the employee you are a servant to the public, make them an ambassador, put a training program together. The message has to be every day that you are an ambassador to the citizens of Covington."
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"I think the city employees are good ambassadors for us," said Williams. "When you go in the city building you want someone to be very nice to you, whether you're opening a business or just getting information."
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"If you charge people more and deliver less, you're gonna go out of business," said Frank. "The city for a long time has been very difficult to deal with whether you're a business or a citizen. We're trying to change that culture and it doesn't happen overnight."
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"Good attitudes are contagious, but I'm telling you now the morale at City Hall is terrible," Rains said. "They feel that the axe is gonna drop any day and they wonder why we would cut public safety when nobody's been cut at administration. They notice these things."