Friday, April 10, 2009

The Challenges of Regionalism: A Case Study

Also in today's online Enquirer is an item detailing our efforts to regionalize our SORTA Board. It is a somewhat perplexing and disappointing story, I've got to say. But I'll chalk it up as a case study in the challenges of regionalism.

You see, we voluntarily offered to expand the Southwest Ohio Regional Transit Agency (SORTA) to include our three neighboring counties. We did this simply because we think a more regional governance structure will ultimately create a more regional transportation system, which most people and businesses believe we should strive for. And because more generally, regionalism just makes sense.

So, asking for nothing in return, Hamilton County and Cincinnati added a new seat on the SORTA Board for each of our neighboring Ohio Counties: Clermont, Warren and Butler. And then we reached out to those counties, encouraging them to recommend, suggest and encourage citizens from their community to volunteer to be on the board.

We received several very impressive applications, and ultimately appointed three highly qualified people to the three seats--bringing a nice mix of both public and private sector experience and perspective to the work of this important entity. Collectively, the new appointees should greatly enhance the SORTA board, and will soon begin their work.

Given all this, it was puzzling to see the reaction of some Warren County commissioners to this in the paper today. Nonetheless, I'm a big believer in the change, pleased about the more regional direction in which we are moving, and look forward to working with all three counties as we move forward.


(Just for the record, given the suggestion that Warren County was not given a chance to be heard on the appointment, below is a copy of what was sent to the commissioners, as I proactively sought their input in making that appointment.)

March 2, 2009

Dear Commissioners and Administrators:

I write to you to ask for your help in recruiting three members, one from each of Butler, Warren and Clermont counties, to serve on the recently restructured Southwest Ohio Regional Transit Authority (SORTA) Board.

As you know, Hamilton County and the City of Cincinnati recently retooled the SORTA Board to make our public fixed route bus system more regional in governance and service. And Hamilton County agreed to use three seats to represent the three surrounding Ohio counties. We recently publicly advertised those board seats for citizens from each county to apply to join the SORTA board.

As the elected representatives of those counties, you know your citizens and your counties’ priorities best. If you know of someone who is interested, knowledgeable of transportation issues, and would dutifully represent your county on our board, please direct them to submit an online application and any references they may wish to list. Interested residents can find the application at (top left of the page) or for more information, call 946-4410. Please ask them to submit those applications by the end of this week.

Thank you for your time and consideration.


David Pepper
Hamilton County Board of Commissioners

In addition to other broad communications, four days later I specifically wrote Warren County officials again:

I really enjoyed our joint meeting earlier this week, and appreciate your leadership in putting it together.

I wanted to be sure to communicate to you directly about the upcoming appointment to our SORTA Board we are making. As you no doubt have seen, we will be making an appointment of someone to occupy the “Warren County seat” that will be part of our new, more regional board.

Please encourage any citizens, officials or others you feel would represent Warren County well, and are knowledgeable of transportation issues, to apply to be part of the board. They can send in an application by going to the following website:

If you have any questions, give me a call at 946-4410.

Thanks, and see you soon.


Sharing Services: A Case Study

We talk all the time about the need to share and consolidate services in order to save taxpayer dollars and deliver better service, and we recently implemented this philosophy in the critical area of tourism.

As the Enquirer outlined online today, we will soon be consolidating from two convention and visitors bureaus, to one. The merger frees up hundreds of thousands of dollars per year, and also allows us to have a unified strategy for marketing all of our county's assets, hotels and tourism attractions. In the long run, it should also bring more exposure to our Northern County hotels, because of the much broader reach and scope of the main Convention and Visitors Bureau's marketing efforts.

Taxpayers want to see us do more with less, and want to see us reduce redundancy and consolidate services where possible. In this important area, we've taken a step in the right direction along those lines.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

An Uplifting Morning: Honoring Some "Stars"

Yesterday, at the beginning of our County Commission meeting, we recognized a number of up and coming African Americal professionals in our community for being Leaders of the Future. It's called the "Reaching for the Stars" program, and we now honor them every year.

I've got to say, it was an unbelievably impressive group of people who are dedicating their education, their passion and their talent to improve our community in so many different ways. I'm so glad they all are choosing our County and region as the place to call home.

As Commissioner Portune and I both said yesterday, with talent like this in our community, our future indeed looks bright.
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