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Ken Rechtin's Another Voice: NKY's Fractious Governments Hold Us Back

Many of you readers feel that there is need to revisit regionalism in NKY. 

I couldn’t agree more!

But, why should I say anything when you, the readers, say it better than I would. There were many “spot on” responses to the following question that I posed to you two weeks ago.

What can we do better as a region rather than as individual cities or counties? And why? Dealing specifically with emergency services, here are some of your responses: 

“Combine the fire districts in Campbell County. Too many departments with too much equipment.”

“Combining some police & fire services is a start, I pay more to the fire department than I do to the county for my tax bill. That is ridiculous. Let the people decide which government agencies/counties/cities etc. to combine, but still work on combining services such as garbage collection, vehicle maintenance, etc. If politicians were not mostly interested in keeping their jobs, we would have more efficient government by combining services.”

“We can merge some services for a cost savings such as Fire and emergency. It has long been known by firefighters in Kenton County that better coverage could be provided if they were unified. Otherwise Regionalism is the Trojan horse for Metro government such as Louisville and Lexington. In other words, Regionalism is only a good thing if it is cost effective.”

Yes, I agree with all these answers. 

Let’s view Campbell County Fire Districts and Departments as an example. There are ten Fire Departments or Districts in Campbell County. By my estimation, this is at least seven too many. It is about time that this be addressed. Since Judge/Executive Steve Pendery is responsible for three appointments to each of five of the governing boards, it’s about time that he step up and take a leadership position and fix this inefficiency. It is within his power to begin the process. (A similar request can be made to Judges/Executive Kris Knochelmann of Kenton County and Gary Moore of Boone County.)

Dealing with the regionalism issue on more of a global aspect, one responded in the following fashion:

“Establish a regional internal audit function to provide taxpayer oversight of government and regional functions such as SD1, KCWD, and city municipalities. Shared costs would be able to provide better funding and better qualified candidates than individual cities. With all of the fraudulent activities around NKY, a regional internal function would provide a valuable oversight tool for the taxpayers and could possibly identify enough revenue enhancements and costs savings to pay for itself. There would be no need to call the state auditor’s office with a regional internal audit function staffed with the right people.”

Again, I could not agree more with the above answer! Another person responded by reiterating the Vision 2015 steps.

“These are the Vision 2015 steps. I think they are just as useful now. I don't work for Vision (or whatever) nor did I help with the Plan. • Establish the Northern Kentucky Effective Governance Commission - maximizing the effective delivery of government services through research and analysis. • Develop a fair, equitable and flexible revenue system for local governments - removing competition for limited resources. • Establish planning in all Northern Kentucky counties, united by a regional council of planning and zoning professionals. • Transform the application, licensure and tax collection system to foster Northern Kentucky business retention, attraction and development. • Eliminate outdated constitutional offices and convert certain partisan elections to non-partisan.”

Vision 2015 had it correct! These were the steps to be completed by 2015. While much of the other work of Vision 2015 has been successful, in this area of Effective Governance, Vision 2015 was an abysmal failure! 

I hope that the visionaries of the next iteration of vision for NKY realize that the governance of NKY is inefficient. And, I hope those visionaries restate the above plan as a 
primary component of NKY’s Vision. 

Our fractious, inefficient governance is the underlying cause of many of NKY’s problems. It makes our region uncompetitive economically when seeking new businesses. Have you ever tried navigating our numerous taxing structures across NKY? This fractious governance makes us politically uncompetitive when we approach Frankfort with our fragmented voices. 

The Northern Kentucky Chamber of Commerce is credited with pushing NKY forward into addressing our regional sanitation issues, our regional water issues and our public transit issues. What group will step forward now that the Chamber has withdrawn from the public space and debate?

Lack of political will has been listed by many as the number one reason that we have not progressed as a regional powerhouse. Just a few years ago, there was a time in NKY that politicians would risk their political future for the betterment of NKY as a region. Who will step up and lead our NKY region? 

As I see it, NKY needs strong political leadership and a civic minded group to move the region forward. Any suggestions?

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.