Saturday, January 10, 2009

The Key To An Economic Turnaround

Amid all the talk of stimulus package, investing in infrastructure, etc. (all important if designed correctly), the most critical component of a lasting economic turnaround is incredibly simple to sum up: it's the plight of the working family.

If that middle class working family is confident, stable and financially secure, we will ultimately recover. Their spending and recovery will be the engine of any lasting rebound.

If that family remains stressed, worried about making ends meet, unsecure in their home, and in too many cases recently unemployed, the current economic doldrums will continue.

Which is why every story like the one in today's Enquirer (about the high cost of maintaining COBRA health coverage for those recently unemployed) is troublesome. (UPDATE: this story on soaring bankruptcies highlights another symptom of the problem).

In 2009, as we see stories such as this, nothing is more important than undertaking every effort we can to provide opportunities for that working family to get back on its feet, feel secure financially and in their home, spend once again, etc.

This means tapping into new opportunities such as job creation through the stimulus bill, job training for 21st century jobs, helping small businesses grow, continuing to do all we can to prevent foreclosures through counseling, and helping reduce costs on essentials (such as energy, and taxes, by the way) whenever possible so that working families have the funds to begin spending on the items they've stopped buying as of late. And many more steps.

While there's a lot to do at the federal and state level along these lines, there's also a lot we can do on the local level, at very little to no cost.

But at all levels, stabilizing the basic situation of the middle class working family will ultimately kickstart consumer spending and put the money back into the economy that will lead to a permanent rebound.

Friday, January 9, 2009

My 2008 Annual Report: Moving Forward in a Challenging Time

Today, I am distributing my 2008 Annual Report.

Like last year, the report lays out a detailed summary of our work at the County in 2008. Despite the challenges of the national economy and its impact locally, and some very difficult budget decisions at the end of the year, we made substantial progress in a number of areas. While times are tough, our commitment to fiscal responsibility and continuing to invest in economic growth should pay off down the road.

To read the full report, click here.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Representing the County at a Historic Event

Today, I was granted a huge honor. Several weeks ago, my good friend Rich Cordray called me and asked if I would be the Master of Ceremonies at his swearing in ceremony as Ohio's next Attorney General. I gladly accepted.

Shortly thereafter, someone wisely decided to make it a dual ceremony--to also include the swearing in of Ohio Treasurer Kevin Boyce.

Well, today the event took place, and it was a wonderful occasion, with the Governor, Lieutenant Governor, interim Attorney General Nancy Rogers, Chief Justice Thomas Moyer, District Court Judge Marbley, former Attorneys General Jim Petro and Betty Montgomery, and a number of other dignitaries all taking part. All spoke so eloquently.

But the most moving part, from where I stood on the podium, was the look of joy and pride beaming up from the faces of the Cordray and Boyce families, who sat in the front row--their kids, spouses, siblings, parents, and in Treasurer Boyce's case, his incredibly proud grandmother. In politics and public service, given all the hard work and sacrifice involved, moments like today are indeed an achievement of entire families. So congratulations to the Boyces and the Cordrays.

While my role was relatively small, it was a privilege to represent our corner of Ohio in today's historic ceremony. I look forward to working with both Attorney General Cordray and Treasurer Boyce in the coming years.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Cranley Leaves Big Shoes to Fill

As my long-time colleague John Cranley steps away from City Hall, I just want to echo others who praised his work over eight years at City Council.

John entered Council at a challenging time, and was a key leader in helping steer us to better days. Whether it was putting more police on the street, improving police-community relations, moving forward on important projects downtown (like Fountain Square) and at the same time making needed investments in neighborhoods across our City, balancing budgets through some tough economic times, passing the hate crimes ordinance, or his recent efforts to promote affordable health care, John accomplished a lot for this community. I was proud to work with him on most of these accomplishments--and I can tell you from personal experience, he is a whirlwind of energy and intellect, and always focused on achieving results.

Whatever roles he ultimately chooses for himself, and there will likely be many, I look forward to continuing to work with John to move our community forward.

His will be big shoes to fill at City Hall. Any thoughts on who should replace him?

From my standpoint, and I don't have a vote, Greg Harris has more than earned the right to fill those shoes as an appointee, and would bring passion, integrity and a strong policy bent to Council.

UPDATE: Congratulations to Greg Harris, who did indeed get appointed today (Monday, January 12).

Stimulating the Economy: County Invests in Infrastructure, Development

Today, we used an annual allocation of federal dollars to prioritize a package of investments and programs that will help provide a boost to the local economy.

As part of our 2009 Community Development Grant allocation, we:

1. Committed $100,000 to continue providing counseling to prevent foreclosures within the County—which over the last two years has prevented more than 800 foreclosures.

2. Committed $192,000 to spend on economic development and site redevelopment.

3. Committed more than $1,800,000 to infrastructure, residential, and commercial improvement projects in 21 communities, including:

  • Street rehabilitation and improvements: $800,000 (Addyston, Blue Ash, Cheviot, Crosby Township, Delhi, Harrison, Lincoln Heights, Lockland, Norwood)
  • Housing investments/upgrades: $320,000 (Cleves, Colerain Township, Golf Manor, Sharonville, Springdale, Wyoming)
  • Business district/commercial development and improvement: $260,000 (Loveland, Mt. Healthy, North College Hill)

With these investments, we have prioritized near-term relief from the ongoing housing crisis, as well as infrastructure and economic investments that will both improve our communities and create jobs.

My Two Cents: Seat Roland Burris

Not a lot to say here, but as contemptible (and worse) as Gov. Blagojevich's behavior has been, the law is the law.

Seat Mr. Burris, and move on.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Take the Survey: Your Ideas on Becoming a Bicycle Friendly Community

As I announced several months ago, we are working with the City to create a roadmap of how to be as bicycle friendly a community as possible.

A critical part of the process is to hear from you. If you ride a bike in any way, or have interest in doing so, or simply want to give your input, please take a couple minutes to complete the survey. This input, and your ideas and insights, will help shape the agenda we ultimately set.
UPDATE: After just one day, we have more than 330 responses! I can't tell you how helpful this input will be.

Connect To Success Off and Running

Several months ago, a program urged by myself and Commissioner Portune kicked off, and is now underway. It's called Connect To Success, and it helps identify school dropouts and connect them to education and workplace opportunities.

Over the holidays, Channel 9 aired a great story describing why Connect to Success is so important, and talking to young people about the difference it's already making for them. The story also touches on the next phase of this work, which will be expanding to more and more young people in 2009.

The money for this work all comes from the federal government (Workforce Investment Act dollars), and the Workforce Investment Board oversees the implementation of these important initiatives.

Thanks to all those who are launching this important new effort. And more to come in 2009 as we build on this good first step.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Collecting Delinquent Taxes

Channel 9 did a good story today on the amount of delinquent property taxes that are out there. At $63 million, there are clearly far too many property owners and businesses not paying as they should.

Last year, we worked with Treasurer Goering (who is responsible for tax collection) on implementing, for the first time, a tax lien sale for delinquent taxes, which brought in about $20 million. Most of that revenue came because the threat of selling the tax lien to a private collector (who charges a higher interest rate) convinced many to pay up before the sale took place. Then we sold the liens on the remaining parcels for $4 million. These revenues will ultimately be distributed among all the jurisdictions--local jurisdictions, levies, schools, and the County--that receive property tax proceeds.

This year, we will do the same thing--and our goal will be to collect even more of these delinquent taxes. The fact that we followed through on one sale already should provide a lot more motivation for people to pay the taxes they owe prior to the next lien sale.

100,000 Pounds of Trash: A Good Start To Cleaning Our County

In the middle of last year, we were excited to announce a partnership to clean up the streets and business districts of communities across Hamilton County--using inmate details from the Justice Center. Seventeen communities see a clean-up detail about every two weeks.

I received a report in December which I neglected to post due to all the budget discussions, and it's good news indeed.

In just its first quarter of operation, the detail collected 100,650 pounds of litter (!), and cleaned 343 miles of County streets. Thirty warning letters were sent to property owners whose properties were out of compliance with housing and health laws. And I have personally heard from community leaders about what a difference this work is making.

Thanks to Keep Cincinnati Beautiful for spearheading this effort. I'll post more results as we get them.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Welcome Commissioner Hartmann

Tomorrow, we welcome former Clerk of Courts Greg Hartmann as our third County Commissioner, replacing Pat DeWine.

I first met Greg before either of us was in political office, and we have gotten along very well ever since. Over the past two years (while he served as clerk), he and I worked closely together on a number of issues--from encouraging Hamilton County residents to be foster parents through our EveryDay Heroes campaign, to fighting the foreclosure crisis we've experienced the past two years.

I was also pleased to see, and agree with, Greg's campaign message of putting partisanship aside, and working together on our top priorities of economic and job growth and public safety.

We have a lot of work to do in 2009, and I greatly look forward to partnering with Commissioner Hartmann (and, of course, Commissioner Portune) to get the job done.
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