Tuesday, October 24, 2000

Write-ins aim to change Villa Hills

By Patrick Crowley
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        VILLA HILLS — Saying city council is ineffective and beset with infighting, three Villa Hills residents have mounted write-in campaigns for the Nov. 7 council election.

        The candidates are:

        • Thom Vollmar, 53, a computer software salesman.

        • Paul Reis, 47, a printing industry technical consultant.

        • Cheryl King, 27, a homemaker.

        The three registered as write-in candidates Monday morning at the Kenton County Courthouse by filling out

        an election form and paying a $50 registration fee. They were accompanied by Julie Schuler, a candidate for council who is on the Nov. 7 ballot, who has been critical of some incumbents.

        “We've got a lot of potential in Villa Hills ... but right now our government is broken,” Mr. Vollmar said. “We have to get some new people to get the city moving and take advantage of the resources we have.”

        Without the write-in candidates, the council election in this Kenton County suburb would be non-contested with six candidates — four of them incumbents — going for the six council seats.

        But the candidates have added more spice to a city that has seen its share of controversy over the last several months.

        A council majority and Mayor Steve Clark have battled for months over decisions and procedures within the city government.

        The Kentucky Attorney General and the Kenton County Commonwealth Attorney's office are investigating the mayor for his role in a $25,025 check sent this spring to a Florence concrete company for sidewalk construction.

        Council members have said they were unaware that the check existed. Any expenditure greater than $10,000 must be put out to bid, according to state law.

        The investigation has increased tensions among the mayor, council members and their supporters in the city.

        That erupted last week when an attorney hired by residents sympathetic to Mr. Clark accused past and present members of council, as well as city employees, of spending city money over the years on trips to bars, restaurants, golf outings and hotels.

        Council members defended the spending but the incident put Villa Hills back in the news.

        “There's just too much conflict going on,” Mrs. King said. “I don't want the city to be embarrassed anymore by this stuff.”

        Residents can cast a vote for the write-ins by pushing a “write in” button on the voting machine and then writing the name of the candidate.

        Based on the results of the 1998 election, a candidate would need 1,300 to 1,400 votes to finish among the top six. But turnout could be higher this year because of the presidential election, which typically brings out more voters than an off-year election.

        Another reason more ballots could be punched: Villa Hills has been in the news so much lately because of the investigation of the mayor.

        The three admit it won't be easy winning a seat as a write-in candidate. They plan to use fliers, signs and events to generate support over the next two weeks, Mr. Reis said.

        He said council needs to be more responsive to the residents by building more sidewalks and developing athletic fields.

        But Mr. Vollmar said people in the city want a change, particularly after last week's meeting.

        “I think that is indicative of the inertia in the city,” he said. “We need to move beyond that inertia ... and I think we have a vacuum of ears out there listening for a new message.”


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- Write-ins aim to change Villa Hills