Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Update: County Passes Stream Protection Measure

Last month, I mentioned an exciting piece of legislation that I've worked on, as a member of the County's Stormwater Committee, for some time: creating stream corridor protection zones in order to clean up our streams and rivers.

After two public hearings, the Commission unanimously agreed today to the legislation. This echoed a unanimous, bipartisan vote of the Stormwater Committee several months back.

Going forward, we will have in place "zones" that protect headwater streams that, when polluted with runoff and other materials, ultimately lead to the pollution of our major water corridors. (The EPA explains the issue well here -- including the photo above).

By reducing runoff and pollution into these headwater streams through the new "protection zones," we are taking a major step toward cleaning up our rivers, streams and water corridors.

Thanks to all those who helped bring about this important change. It was a great consensus-building process.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Moving Forward on Transparency, Ethics: UPDATE

Today's meeting brought forward actions steps on two important principles we are bringing to County government: transparency and ethics.

1. On transparency, today we will go live on our updated approach to the Government Accountability in Spending Program (GASP), introduced last year by now-Judge Dewine, and supported unanimously by the Board in 2008. Previously, the approach only allowed citizens to examine the spending within County Administration/Commissioner departments--which does not make up the majority of the County's spending.

The new version launching today allows us to examine ALL County spending, across all departments. It also has an easy search function allowing citizens to search by category and department. We also have taken steps to ensure that there are no privacy risks in this effort at transparency (unfortunately, such a breach occurred in the roll-out of the first version), and that the program can be implemented in real-time, and at minimal cost.

UPDATE: It is now up and running. Search away by clicking here. And if you find questionable spending, etc., let us know. This is all about transparency, and empowering citizens.

UPDATE: Here's an Enquirer story on this. From the comments, it looks like a lot of people are already looking through the spending.

2. On ethics, we have finalized and will distribute a County manual on ethics and County government. This manual is a resource clarifying for all employees and citizens the laws and rules around permissible and impermissible political involvement of employees, the law against nepotism, our policy against double-dipping, and all sorts of other guidelines to ensure County ethics are first-rate.

This work is critical--to ensure county employees are always doing the right thing, to ensure that decisions by all levels of employees are always made on the merits, and not other influences, and that employees are hired and promoted based on the quality of their work for the taxpayers, and not other, unrelated issues.

Both employees, and citizens, will benefit from a full knowledge of our laws, rules and policies around different ethics issues. And County government performs at its best when these rules are adhered to 100%.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Sunday Media Review

A couple stories relevant to things we're working on at the County.

1. Story on electronic monitoring units: kind of states the obvious that an EMU is not 100% substitute for a jail cell. But the point is: it's a very cost-efficient alternative (and in many cases, perhaps the best solution), especially at a time where we are low on resources, have an overcrowded system, and voters have spoken twice, loudly, about paying higher taxes for a new jail.

2. A pretty tough column on the Queensgate Terminal project: like 80% of almost 300 citizens who took my countwide survey, the columnist thinks moving forward is a good idea. Most of the commenters agree.

3. A big story on State efforts to reform our criminal justice system: there will be a lot of debate about this. We at the County will take advantage of every dollar made available to us to reduce crime and recidivism, and alleviate jail overcrowding--particularly the low-level cases that take up space and waste money.

On to a busy work week.
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