Thursday, February 19, 2009

State of the County

I had the privilege of being invited to attend Commissioner David Pepper’s first annual state of the county address. The Cincinnati Rotary Club hosted the event in the Hall of Mirrors (actually we were one floor above the Hall).

The event was well attended by elected by local elected officials, Rotarians as well as invited guests. After several perfunctory remarks by Rotary officers, Commissioner was introduced.

The commissioner (one of three in Hamilton County) spoke about his three points to revitalizing the economic situation of working, middle class families. His first point is revitalizing the economy.

Hamilton County is committed to helping families avoid foreclosure. Commissioner Pepper rightly points out that by avoiding situations that lead to families losing their homes, the demand for county services is reduced. Families and the county both win.

It takes jobs to keep families in the homes, not just measures to avoid foreclosures. The Commissioner talk about plan to create jobs with companies that currently exist as well as create incentives to attract new businesses to Cincinnati. The commissioner’s plan includes insuring a highly skilled workforce is in place to work for those new employers. Commissioner Pepper also spoke of the need to maintain a vital workforce by offering retraining to displaced workers.

By addressing families and creating jobs, the commissioner’s plan is on very solid ground. His second is focus is on public safety to further attract new prosperity to Cincinnati.

The Commissioner believes prisons should be first and foremost to keep the worst offenders off of the street. Hamilton County jails have a large populations of state felons that are either awaiting sentencing or that have not been transferred to state facilities. In short, the county ends up paying for state felons (and I assume the state does not reimburse the county for these inmates).

The county jails also houses a number of veterans and inmates with mental illness. The commissioner believes finding alternatives for these groups would be far more effective and cost-effective. The Enquirer already covered the veterans court; Commissioner Pepper wants a similar court for inmates with mental health problems.

Finally the commissioner proposed improved county infrastructure by emphasizing shared services. The commissioner said there is a strong desire amongst the 48 jurisdictions in Hamilton County to share services such as tax collection and code enforcement. Even more promising, several municipalities are exploring regional fire departments (something I’ve advocated both here as well as on Commissoner’s Peppers blog).

His final point was to emphasize and increase the professionalism and ethical standards of all county employees. I applaud the Commissioner for recognizing the need to have a workforce that is respects itself as well as being respected.

I like how Commissioner Pepper laid out his plans and followed with emails to the attendees. I look forward to see the changes he will help bring to Hamilton County.

The commissioner’s speech can be found here 

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