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Fort Mitchell Mayor's Race is Rematch from 2014

In Fort Mitchell, the 2018 race for mayor is a rematch from 2014.

Jude Hehman was elected four years ago, with 1,482 votes to Jim Hummeldorf's 1,279.

Two years later, Hummeldorf returned to city council.

Now, they face off for the city's top elected position again.

"I don't believe I'm finished yet. I believe there are still more things to be able to do," Hehman said of his decision to seek reelection.

"I feel like I did restore openness to meetings, and transparency from literally posting everything on the internet, on our website, from budgets to minutes, to anything like that for people who want to be involved. I believe we continued with a balanced budget with no property tax increase in four years. We've had some new development, we've had some development leave. That isn't because the city wasn't doing a good job. When businesses left, or they go out of business, it wasn't the fault of the city."

Hummeldorf disagrees.

He notes the departures of Von Lehman, Montgomery Inn, Sullivan University, Remke, and Sibcy Cline. "The administration raised payroll taxes, so it's not business-friendly. So, eventually, two things happen: services have to be cut or taxes have to be raised and neither is acceptable," Hummeldorf said.

Hummeldorf also disagreed with the decision to move from a volunteer fire department. "We can get out one truck and one (life) squad. We had a robust, gold-standard volunteer fire department and that has been completely decimated," he said. 

Both candidates agree that their rematch isn't personal.

Hehman said that he was surprised that Hummeldorf was challenging him again.

"I think it's two ideals. Two businessmen trying to figure out which way is a better way to drive the city," Hehman said. "Jim and I have really worked together the last two years since he came back. I appointed him to multiple committees because I believe in utilizing people and wanting people to be involved, and leading in that direction. 

"Everything that he's been putting out, a lot of it is what I've already done or started to do. He's been talking about dealing with pension funding, so I've been able to come up with a plan and detail with that."

"I was really concerned with some of the direction the city is going. I don't think the focus has been on the city," Hummeldorf said. "My theme is to put the focus back on that and not on personal successes and agendas."

The property at the former Drawbridge Inn site, where Christ Hospital hopes to construct an outpatient surgical center as part of a massive mixed-use development, is a major topic in this race.

"I spent over fifteen days down in Frankfort fighting for the tax increment finance money and fighting for that development," Hehman said. St. Elizabeth Healthcare challenged Christ's certificate of need application, a situation that is still making its way through the courts, stalling the development. "That certificate of need is truly not at a local level. But (Hummeldorf) is committed that it can be a decision at the local level, which it can't."

"I don't know what activity Jude played or didn't do to leverage everything you can down there," Hummeldorf said. "You have to work the back doors and the back rooms to get some of this stuff done, and I don't think that was done properly."

Hummeldorf criticized the condition of the Drawbridge site.

"Leverage code enforcement," he said. "It looked like a wasteland. But not because it's in the courts, it's strictly waiting."

"It is not a blighted area that is undevelopable," Hehman said. "It's prime real estate. It's prime land. It's owned by Christ Hospital and until the process has taken place and is finished, no other development or anything else can happen. So, I feel poised that if it's not approved, that we can still get a very good development. We're going to have to wait the process out."

The city has also launched a plan to improve its business district along Dixie Highway.

Hehman said that the study has green space and lighting requirements, and plans for sidewalks. "It's a perfect time to be able to discuss that," he said. He noted that the Remke site, which was vacated by the grocer earlier this year, is expected to have three new tenants soon.

"The next step with that would be to discuss with the new council what they envision for funding for that area," Hehman said.

Hummeldorf said that the vision can't come to fruition until other issues are dealt with.

"The state plans to realign Orphanage (Road) with Buttermilk (Pike) and because that that is decided, I think it's a lot of activity with very little progress," Hummeldorf said. "The city has done a lot to try to come up with creative juices to figure things out but until it gets realigned, little to nothing can be accomplished. It makes people feel good, but I don't think anything tangible will come out of it."

Both candidates have concerns about proposed residential development that could impact the student population at Beechwood Independent Schools.

"The (developments) developed within the school district have to go through greater scrutiny than ones that don't because the consequences of that are much greater and much more severe to the school system, and the school system is the engine that runs the economy and house values in Fort Mitchell. I don't think you could un-couple them," Hummeldorf said. "I'm open, but we have to work hand in hand to make sure it's the right kind of development, that it fits, and doesn't overburden the capacity of the school.

Hehman said that there are lots of new residential projects happening in the city, beyond the proposed apartment project on Grandview. There are eleven new homes going up on Floral Avenue, nine new flag lots on other streets, and new families moving in.

"My street is an example," Hehman said. "I live in the house I grew up in. When I moved in here six years ago, all my neighbors were the same, 80 or 90-year olds, and now five years later, every house has turned over except for one, and all those have brought in new kids and new families."

With Hummeldorf running for mayor and council member Beth Rose not running for re-election, there are two open seats in the city council race for seven seats. Incumbents Vicki Boerger, Michael Stoeckle, Greg Pohlgeers, Mary Burns, and Kim Nachazel are running for re-election, and challengers Renee Oka, Franklin Hicks, Scott McVey, Dan Rosing II, and Jerry Deatherage are also running.

Written by Michael Monks, editor & publisher