The last pair of November candidates we invited to appear here are Hamilton County Commissioner Phil Heimlich and Democrat David Pepper. Additional information about each of them is available at their respective campaign websites at www.philheimlich.com and www.davidpepper.com.
We thank all the candidates who participated in this forum. As one of our commenters aptly pointed out, this blog hardly has the readership of major daily newspapers. We’re pretty certain the six candidates we approached probably surmised this as well, which makes it all the more impressive that all six of them accepted our invitation, albeit Tyrone Yates was a little late. Maybe, just maybe, they agree with us that reaching every voter possible no matter how small the venue is important because every vote counts.
And speaking of voting on November 7, no more excuses! We can all vote from the comfort of our homes now, if we want. Visit the Hamilton County Board of Elections website to get an absentee ballot and other important ballot information: http://www.hamilton-co.org/BOE/.
When companies default on Enterprise Zone Agreements after they move to other locations in Hamilton County, cities like Norwood experience the loss of revenue that was contractually guaranteed. What specific actions should a county commissioner take to enforce these agreements and thereby protect Norwood taxpayers from these defaults?
Phil Heimlich: The best way to answer this question is to use a real example.
In 1991, Hamilton County began a series of tax incentive packages with Convergys (at the time Matrix Marketing) that encouraged the growth of jobs in Norwood. The most recent agreement was signed in 1996.
Convergys played a vital role in the economy of Norwood until David Pepper and the rest of city council gave Convergys huge tax incentives to move jobs to the City of Cincinnati. The result of these actions was the loss of jobs in Norwood.
I know how important these jobs were. I recognized when the Convergys jobs left that it was essential to create new jobs in Norwood.
Cincinnati Bell has created new jobs in Norwood that replace the payroll of Convergys. I have supported an agreement guaranteeing that the combined payroll of Convergys and Cincinnati Bell meets or exceeds the total payroll agreed to in the 1996 agreement, ensuring that Norwood is no longer harmed by the Convergys move that my opponent supported.
If these obligations are not met, the Tax Incentive Review Council can find that Convergys is no longer in compliance and action can be taken to protect Norwood taxpayers.
I believe that County Commissioners should work to ensure that the terms of Enterprise Zone Agreements are upheld. Commissioners can enforce Enterprise Zone Agreements by reducing the tax incentive or seeking “clawbacks” that require the company in violation to pay back taxes for violating the agreement. It is important to hold companies accountable to the agreements they sign with the County.
David Pepper: I will do all I can to end the inter-jurisdictional warfare over companies and jobs. These fights don't help anyone, and run down our tax base. Of course, each jurisdiction should enforce their own agreements to the letter of the law.
Hamilton County residents, including Norwood’s, often tire of the inconvenience of having to travel to downtown Cincinnati to conduct business with the county. Do you support or oppose moving some of the county offices to a more central location like Norwood?
Phil Heimlich: I am certainly open to any effort that will reduce costs and increase efficiency in county government. In 2005, we held an important budget hearing at Norwood City Hall to make it easier for citizens from throughout the county to attend.
As commissioner, I have taken numerous steps that make dealing with county government easier. We have updated our county website and we now issue an annual county report card. We have also streamlined our building department to make it more user-friendly.
David Pepper: We should be constantly seeking solutions that would make County Government more accessible to all residents of this county. Too often, commissioners focus on one or two pet projects like the Banks and ignore the greater concerns of our many communities like population loss, economic development and quality of life concerns. As Commissioner, I will hold meetings throughout the county in order to hear from residents in Norwood and every community. I will also support conducting business in other parts of the county as long as it is economically viable and fiscally responsible.
Why should Norwood residents vote for you?
Phil Heimlich: Norwood residents should vote for me because I get things done while my opponent points fingers. As a Cincinnati Councilmember, I added 119 police officers, founded Citizens on Patrol and enacted a property tax rollback.
As county commissioner, I’ve sent overflow prisoners to Butler County, put Sheriff Patrols in Over- The-Rhine and championed the new jail.
I also saved Drake Hospital, which was mismanaged and on the way to bankruptcy. Now, Drake Hospital is serving fifty percent more patients and the Drake tax is going away.
Four years ago, County spending was increasing at 2.5 times the rate of inflation. Since I’ve been in office, spending has stayed under inflation.
I’ve initiated reforms in County government that save the taxpayer $11.6 million annually.
Lastly, I have cut property taxes by over $100 million with no reduction in services.
The voters need to decide if they want a leader with the courage to do the right thing or if they prefer someone who would rather criticize than get things done.
David Pepper: Because County government is completely failing Norwood and other areas, and I will fight to clean it up and change the status quo. All of Hamilton County has suffered long enough with political bickering, out of control legal bills, cronyism, and pay for play policies. The results? High crime and thousands of jail releases; wasted millions; and people moving out of most parts of the County. I pledge to end these destructive practices that have plagued our great county, and held all of our jurisdictions back. We need a county government that is as good as the people it serves.