Thursday, November 02, 2000

Covington mayoral race gets rougher

By Patrick Crowley
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        COVINGTON — The race for Covington mayor is careening toward completion amid a flurry of charges and countercharges between the candidates.

        Most watchers of Covington politics say the race between longtime city commissioner Butch Callery and Bernie Moorman — a former mayor, city commissioner, and Kenton County commissioner — is too close to call.

        “When you look at the critical issues of public safety, economic development, housing and recreation ... it is Callery who is better positioned,” incumbent Mayor Jim Eggemeier said.

        Mr Moorman said he is not surprised by the endorsement. Mr. Eggemeier and Mr. Callery are long-time political allies who have served together 15 years on the city commission.

        “But they are part of what's wrong with the city,” Mr. Moorman said. “It's time for a different direction, not the same old thing in Covington.”

        One of the fiercest debates is over the possible routes of the region's proposed light rail system, a transportation artery planned to run from the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport to downtown Cincinnati.

        As a member of an oversight committee advising the Ohio-Kentucky-Indiana Re gional Council of Governments (OKI), Mr. Moorman has been involved in planning routes. Mr. Callery claimed during a recent debate and in campaign materials that Mr. Moorman proposed a route that would destroy the St. Augustine Church and school in Covington's Peaselburg neighborhood.

        Mr. Moorman said his opponent is misleading the voters.

        “Butch is going over (to Peaselburg) and telling people that I want to tear down the church and the school and that he stopped me.... There was never any proposal ... to tear that down that school and church,” Mr. Moorman said.

        Jim Duane, executive director of OKI, said he sat in on meetings of the committee and he doesn't recall any mention of tearing down the church or school.

        “We had various alternatives on the table,” he said. “One ... ran near (St. Augustine) Church, but there was never any proposal to tear down the church and school.”

        Fort Mitchell City Admin istrator Bill Goetz, a member the committee, added: “To the contrary, I believe there was concern by the committee that the local schools and the church had to be preserved.”

        No decision was made on a route.

        Mr. Callery stands by his assertions, saying that the city commission was so concerned, it sent a letter to OKI stating the city preferred a route near or along 12th Street.

        “If they put the light rail through the area it would destroy the neighborhood,” Mr. Callery said. “It would have to take the front part of the church because the property is so narrow down there.”

        Mr. Callery also criticized Mr. Moorman's record as a commissioner on the Kenton Fiscal Court, saying Mr. Moorman did not support parks proposals that would have benefitted Covington.

        Mr. Eggemeier agreed, saying Mr. Moorman failed to support the county's Mills Road Sports Complex, which is near south Covington, nor did he work to get the county to turn over $150,000 to the city to develop a park on 43rd Street in Latonia.

        “Bernie plays politics with everything, including recreation opportunities for our youth,” Mr. Eggemeier said.

        Mr. Moorman responded that he did not initially support the Mills Road complex because he wanted to spread out parks dollars throughout the county.

        He also said it was the city commission, not the fiscal court, that was not aggressive about obtaining the money for the 43rd Street sports complex.

        “While I was in office the city knew the money was there but it didn't apply for it,” Mr. Moorman said.

        Reporter Cindy Schroeder contributed.


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