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Ken Rechtin's Another Voice: An Open Letter to NKY's Elected Officials. All 394 of Them.

Last week’s survey responses regarding the column about straight-ticket voting (STV) were almost unanimously in favor of eliminating the option of voting a straight party ticket. Almost immediately after the column was posted in The River City News, I received an email from Trey Grayson, whom I quoted in the column. Trey said about STV, “I still think we should get rid of it.” 
 
Although there were differences within the parties on ridding Kentucky of STVs (more Republicans favored keeping the option of STV), all parties overwhelmingly wanted the option gone.
 
So the question to our NKY legislative caucus and our business community is, “How about, in this session, reviving the bill which was presented by Damron and Upchurch in 2006?” Let’s join the other thirty nine states and eliminate “lazy” voting.
 
Now, onto an open letter to our elected officials which is this week’s Another Voice...
 
Dear 394 NKY Elected Officials, 
 
I know that you will be surprised to learn that NKY wants MORE of some things in government. 
 
People want more recreation facilities, more green space, more recycling, and more mergers and consolidations!
 
Hey elected officials, get ready to find other fun activities for your evenings, there are many things that people want less of. 
 
The number one choice that people want fewer of, is you, ELECTED OFFICIALS! (I know this hurts; I was once one of you.) 
 
They also want fewer: Independent School Districts, Fire Departments and Districts, City and County Managers, Cities and Police Departments. In fact, they want less of everything that we already have too much of! Kind of obvious, right?
 
Fifteen school superintendents in only three counties is 12 too many. 
 
Hey, elected school board members, think what you might be able to do for our students if you were not paying for 12 additional superintendents and their staffs. What programs could be provided? How about gifted programs in all of our schools? Maybe music programs in each school? Possibly electronic technology for each student? 
 
Hey, Judge-Executive Knochelmann, since, as you say, there are 19 cities in Kenton County, what could possibly be done with the additional savings if there were fewer cities, fewer city coordinators and fewer city managers? Does the public really care who coordinates and manages the city and county services? Additional money could mean NKY, and your county in particular, could have more recreation facilities, green space, and recycling. Or, maybe some of their hard-earned tax dollars could go back into their pockets?
 
I do not want to exclude Judges-Executive Pendery (Campbell) or Moore (Boone) from an opportunity to slim down as well. The number of fire chiefs is directly proportional to the number of Fire Districts in your counties. And you, as the Judge-Executive, can control that number. The public really doesn’t care who manages the fire protection and emergency services provided in your counties as long as the service is provided on time. Think of what additional services could be provided. Hey, maybe money could be returned to the taxpayer?
 
So, who should fix this? Survey responders call out three groups who should be responsible to measure efficient and effective government: Each city’s elected officials, the Northern Kentucky Area Development District (NKADD) and the three Judges-Executive, Moore, Knochelmann, and Pendery working together.
 
Our NKY government systems are too fragmented, too many, too inefficient, and too complicated. The electorate would like to see some change towards more efficiency. And you elected officials are ultimately the responsible party to initiate the change. But, just how do you begin this seemingly impossible task?
 
I believe it begins by collecting good data. By getting data on all the services provided within the three counties, comparing the results, then letting the comparative data drive your community decisions, you will make great strides to efficient delivery of service. Many of you think that this may make you look bad, but, if you believe that the city or county you are overseeing is the most efficient it can be, why should you fear the comparison to other cities or counties? 
 
Let’s call this project: Data Informs Decisions, or DID for short.
 
This project’s goal is to collect, compile, and compare financial data from all Northern Kentucky jurisdictions in order to stimulate a discussion of where we are and where we hope to go. Using this financial picture of local governments you can begin to see and implement solutions that will improve the bottom line for all jurisdictions and deliver improved city/county services. 
 
It's great to have a government that's by the people and for the people, but we also need a government that's understandable to the people. Like it or not, your 
residents and local businesses have been complaining about the complexity of the tax collection system and the complexity and redundancy of your services. 
 
For years you have looked at your individual budgets and each one of you has worked hard to efficiently deliver the services that your citizens require of their government. You have done just that and nothing more. However, you have data and information that is limited to your government. Now is the time to take the next step forward. 
 
You must begin to work together, as local leaders, to compare your financial data to other cities and counties in NKY. In order to make sound fiscal decisions you must have and use comparative data. You have the data, but unfortunately it is not in a format that is accessible or comparable. 
 
A comparison of financial data will drive the decision as to the best (most efficient) government.
 
This would be a giant leap forward for NKY.
 
Thanks for listening,
 
Ken Rechtin
 
PS: A prior Survey Says yielded some interesting results about the many institutions serving NKY. (To the leadership and the appointed boards who direct these entities: “Please do not shoot the messenger.”)
 
A significant number of the readers of Another Voice do not know the responsibilities, the funding, and the governance of:
 
  • OKI (Ohio, Kentucky and Indiana Regional Council of Governments
  • NKADD (Northern Kentucky Area Development District) and the Kentucky Career Center
  • The Northern Kentucky Visitors and Convention Bureau and the Convention Center 
  • Northern Kentucky Tri County Economic Development and the e-Zone, Southbank Partners and the Catalytic Fund. 
 
More to come on what these bodies actually do in NKY in future columns. 
 
So, riddle me this: With so much government, what should be reviewed first? Let me know in this week’s survey: Click Here
 
For more of Ken Rechtin's Another Voice, click here.
 
The views and opinions expressed here in “Another Voice” do not reflect the views or opinions of The River City News, its owners, writers, or editors. These are solely the ideas of Ken Rechtin. If you wish to make comment to Another Voice, Ken can be reached via email at [email protected] or you may leave a comment here. All rights to use of Another Voice in any fashion are retained by Ken Rechtin. Please contact him for any use of his columns.