Edelen Met With Knochelmann Last Week, Pair Stands Together for Airport Board Reform
Two Democrats and two Republicans stood side by side Tuesday afternoon calling for a restructuring of the Kenton County Airport Board.
Inside the Center for Advanced Manufacturing at the Boone County campus of Gateway Community & Technical College, Kentucky Auditor Adam Edelen stood with Cincinnati Mayor John Cranley and Boone County Judge-Executive Gary Moore, a symbolic reflection what the auditor is calling for in the just-released examination of the board, a process that took nine months to complete.
All seven voting members of the Airport Board are appointed by an executive order of the Kenton County Judge-Executive. That board cooperates with an 11-member advisory board appointed by nearby governments but its members do not have voting power. That would change under Edelen's recommendations to include one board made up of 11 members appointed by Kenton County (3), Boone County (3), Campbell County (1), Kentucky (1, by governor), Ohio (1, by governor), Cincinnati (1, by mayor), and Hamilton County, Ohio (1).
The current board triggered the auditor's investigation following reports of excessive spending on travel to conferences, on food and alcohol served at meetings, and other issues. While Edelen's report includes reform recommendations for the board's spending practices, the biggest suggestion is the change to the 70-year old structure of handing all the power of appointments to one authority. That authority is currently Kenton County Judge-Executive Steve Arlinghaus.
Arlinghaus was not next to Edelen, Moore, and Cranley.
Kris Knochelmann was.
The two-term Kenton County Commissioner defeated Arlinghaus in May's Republican primary, armed with the issues at the airport board as his most penetrative weapon.
Arlinghaus stood in the back of the room, flanked by Deputy Judge-Executive Mark Kreimborg and County Administrator Joe Shriver. They watched as Edelen heaped praise upon the next Judge-Executive.
"Kris Knochelmann is to be commended for supporting this plan," said Edelen, a Democrat, suggesting that the Republican would help foster a "new school of politics" in the region, one of collaboration and "common sense problem-solving". He cited Knochelmann's willingness "to give power away if it's good for the region".
"People are less concerned about who owns the airport and more concerned about being able to afford to fly from it," Edelen said. "The status quo is absolutely indefensible. The Northern Kentucky region is extraordinarily important as an economic powerhouse in the entire state of Kentucky. Without modernization and reform at the airport, we can't have the kind of prosperity the people in Northern Kentucky deserve and the kind that people all over Kentucky would benefit from."
The issue of the airport, its board structure, and its ownership, had been an issue between Knochelmann and Arlinghaus during their bitter campaign last spring. Arlinghaus steadfastly believed that Kenton County should retain full power and control over the region's largest asset while Knochelmann seemed more open to new possibilities.
Kris Knochelmann speaks at Tuesday's news conference/RCN
"It is well past time to change the make-up and the way the board is create," Moore said. "Since being elected, for many years I have advocated that Boone County have a greater voice in the governance of the airport. 7,000 acres all lie in Boone County. All the noise abated areas lie in Boone County. A regional authority can and will work."
Campbell County Judge-Executive Steve Pendery was not present at Tuesday's announcement but told the Cincinnati Enquirer that he needed to study the issue of a restructuring before formulating a position and warned that looking to the General Assembly for a solution could lead to "more than you bargained for". Pendery's Democratic challenger in November, Campbell County Commissioner Ken Rechtin seized upon Pendery's absence, showing that the airport could also be an issue in that county's election this fall. Rechtin called the incumbent "Status Quo Steve" and said, "He should be here".
Any proposed change to the structure of the airport board, and Edelen's is just a suggestion, would have to be taken up by the Kentucky General Assembly. Edelen said that there would be plenty of legislators willing to sponsor a bill inspired by the suggestions when the General Assembly reconvenes early next year.