Saturday, March 21, 2009

A Key to Our 21st Century Economy: Freight Infrastructure

One of the most important big-picture challenges, and opportunities, for our regional economy is the need to improve our freight transportation infrastructure. It's not talked about as much as other issues, but it definitely should be. Here's why.

In this 21st century global economy, few things will be more important for any region than access to the global stream of freight commerce. Low-cost, reliable and rapid access will ensure companies will locate and expand here over the long run--which also assures a growing number of jobs. On the other hand, poor access and poor infrastructure will be the fastest way to become an economic ghost town.

Hamilton County, and the region--located on the Ohio, with major rail infrastructure in our midst, and about a day's drive to half of the nation's population and manufacturing capacity--is well positioned to be a major center of access and transportation in the global economy.

And if we make the right investments, we can also help the environment--because rail and river freight transportation options not only cost less, but are far better for the environment than road/trucks. Making the right investments can literally take trucks off the road.

But if we are truly going to compete, there's definitely a lot of work to do to go from where we are now to where we need to be.

In 2009 and beyond, you'll hear the County and region talk a lot about the need to upgrade our freight infrastrucure, including a lot of emphasis on rail, river and intermodal freight. OKI, our regional transportation planning organizations, has put together a nice video explaining this issue very comprehensively. For those interested, it's worth watching.

More to come.

My Talented Sister

This week, there was a great article on my sister, who lives in Boone, North Carolina, and among other talents, is a singer/songwriter and a student of Appalachian music and culture.
Susie's a great example of someone pursuing her passion, and we're all proud of her great work.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Meals on Wheels for a Day

I took a short timeout today to get a better sense of one of the many services we provide for our seniors in Hamilton County -- Meals on Wheels. I did this as part of "March for Meals" week, to draw attention to this critical service, and the broader issue of senior hunger. I and a number of other elected officials agreed to take part in some meal deliveries.

Today, I joined a driver, Steve Martin, a retired plumber, on his regular route, and we visited four seniors under the program. In addition to delivering meals, we had a pleasant chat with each client. It's clear that as much as the meal itself, the face-to-face checking in is also a critical part of the service.

I want to thank Steve, and Wesley Community Services, funded by the Council on Aging of Southwestern Ohio, for allowing me to join their route today.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Investing Millions in Roads, Jobs

Today, we were excited to approve the County's 2009 Municipal Road Fund Program, which effectively leads to more than $100 million in investment throughout Hamilton County in cities, villages and townships. The County’s investment of $2,049,662.00 is leveraged 50 times over by construction in the targeted areas.

This investment serves as our own local stimulus package and economic primer: it focuses directly on infrastructure, puts people to work on projects across the county, and creates safer, better roads.

As always, the County Engineer has leveraged a County investment with far more outside dollars invested to make all these projects happen.

The Municipal Road Fund Projects includes eleven projects in ten municipalities: Cincinnati; Addyston, Deer Park; Golf Manor; Harrison; Lockland; Madeira; Newtown; Norwood; and Springdale. For the street names, please see attached Resolution.

All Municipalities in Hamilton County are eligible to apply for this fund with the Hamilton County Engineer.

Sheer Greed

At a time where many companies and most governments, like our's, are asking for voluntary furloughs and having to impose even worse decisions, this AIG bonus issue is truly an outrage. There are many questions, and few good answers.

No doubt, we must have far better government oversight and accountability. But the most galling part to me is the sheer, shameful greed of individuals who would insist on and then accept such outrageous bonuses for their clearly calamitous work in 2008. Makes it clear just how out of touch, out of control, and money hungry, parts of our financial world have become.

Outrageous, and scary.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Unsung Heroes: Those Who Help Our Seniors

Tonight, at the annual Senior Services Dinner, I had the great honor of helping congratulate and thank some of our communities' greatest, but most unsung, heroes.

They are the caregivers and organizations that support the many citizens of our community who are aging, and who need some extra assistance to maintain the independent living situation they desire.

First, I honored a senior citizen herself who has, since retiring as a nurse, volunteered tirelessly to care for, screen, counsel and support other seniors--along with recruiting other nurses to do the same.

Then I presented the Outstanding Caregiver Award to a widower who lovingly cared for his wife in every way until the day she passed away, followed by another Outstanding Caregiver who, as a home health aide, has touched so many lives through her passionate, sensitive and respectful approach.

I then recognized Amelia Middle School students for putting together a Seniors Fair for seniors in their community, which featured dancing, singing, informational booths, and food.

And then I recognized Clermont County Communications Director Cathy Lehr and her team, for rallying support behind Clermont County's "adopt a senior" program.

Thanks and congratulations to all the award winners. It was a wonderful evening.

I've mentioned it before on this blog, but one of the most important things this County and its taxpayers do is provide support for the Elderly Services Levy, administered by the Council on Aging. The programs these funds pay for not only make the difference in keeping citizens living independently, as they overwhelmingly prefer, but it often keeps couples and families together as well. (Incidentally, the cost of these services is far less than the cost of nursing home care). No wonder almost 70% of voters supported the levy in 2007.

For more information on these services, go here.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Project Disarm: Going "Federal" on the Most Violent Offenders

Today we received an update on a proactive law enforcement strategy that we initiated when I first got to the Commission in 2007. It's called Project Disarm, and it drops the "hammer" on the worst of the worst violent offenders in our County by seeking federal prosecution for federal gun and other charges.

The underlying purpose is to aggressively seek "federal time" for those criminals who, among other crimes, are felons in possession of a weapon (weapons "under disability"), which is a federal crime requiring long sentences. This has a triple benefit: maximum time for the most dangerous criminals and gang members in our community; transferral to the federal system for those sentences (ie. out of our overcrowded and costly county and state systems); and maximum deterrence of committing these crimes in the first place.

I was a big proponent of this approach when I was at the City, and committed to supporting it as much as possible once I got to the County. So in 2007, we added dollars to fund its expansion in the County.

Well, today's report showed marked progress:

  • The prosecutor's office, with an additional prosecutor and an additional investigator, has taken the project countywide, and has now worked with police departments and prosecuted criminals from Elmwood Place, to Springfield Township, and a number of others.
  • The number of cases has more than doubled since we started funding the expanded approach--from 12 in 2005, 25 in 2006, 30 in 2007 (transition to the expanded approach), and 51 in 2008.
  • The average sentence of those criminals who are placed under the "Project Disarm" strategy is 87 months! Far longer than what they would have seen in the state system
  • The "hammer" of Project Disarm has provided other benefits, including: close cooperation with the highly successful CIRV initiative of the City of Cincinnati, the dismantling of several violent street gangs, and the development of significant evidence that has helped solve over 30 homicides, as well as other firearms and narcotics cases (ie. knowing a long sentence is likely, those who face such charges under Project Disarm have given up far more information than they otherwise would have).

In short, this has been a great success, which explains why we have kept funding Project Disarm despite our tough budgets.

Thanks to all, particularly those in the Prosecutor's Office and the United States Attorney's Office, who have helped make it a success.

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