Sunday, January 28, 2001

Voting doesn't end campaign

Activist criticizes commissioner

By Patrick Crowley
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        COVINGTON — The City Hall elections were decided in November, but a political operative has continued campaigning against one city commissioner, J.T. Spence.

        Covington resident Pat Lance, 29, who has been involved in Kentucky politics for the last several years, is waging an unprecedented public information campaign against Mr. Spence, which includes passing out fliers about the commissioner's voting record and City Hall activities.

        “I'm trying to help him be a better commissioner,” Mr. Lance said during an interview last week. “In a nutshell, I'm trying to get him to realize he can't get away with doing one thing and saying another.”

        But Mr. Spence said Mr. Lance is using inaccurate and distorted information because he wants to run for commissioner in two years, a political decision Mr. Lance claims he has yet to make.

        “I've never seen anything like it in the 10 years I've been involved in the city of Covington,” Mr. Spence said.

        “Obviously he is trying to discredit me ... but I think this is Mr. Lance's ignorance of the issues,” he said. “He's twisting issues and taking them out of context in order to support a personal attack.”

        With lime-green fliers in hand, Mr. Lance has walked door to door in three of the city's neighborhoods over the past several weeks, leaving information about how Mr. Spence has voted on several issues such as development projects and historic restoration.

        He has visited South Covington, Monte Casino and Wallace Woods, the neighborhood where Mr. Spence lives.

        Passing out campaign fliers door to door is common during election season. But using fliers against a local government official just weeks after an election and nearly two years before the next campaign is unheard of, several local politicians said.

        “I've never seen anything like it before,” said Covington Mayor Butch Callery, who was elected mayor in November after 19 years as a city commissioner.

        Mr. Callery does have a connection to Mr. Lance. Mr. Lance was Mr. Callery's campaign manager in the city's mayoral election, which Mr. Callery won by beating former Mayor Bernie Moorman.

        But Mr. Callery said he has nothing to do with Mr. Lance's campaign against Mr. Spence.

        “Pat's really upset over some issues, and he wanted to do something about it,” Mr. Callery said. “When he gets focused on something, he just moves forward with it.”

        Mr. Spence said he does not mind and even welcomes scrutiny of his record. But he has problems with Mr. Lance because his flier is full of lies, Mr. Spence said.

Flier's claims
        • In the flier, portions of which were also published as a letter to the editor in newspapers, Mr. Lance accuses Mr. Spence of hypocrisy for attacking a city-funded street improvement project during last year's commission campaign when he actually voted for the project.

        But Mr. Spence said, while he did oppose a portion of that project - $120,000 for paving bricks at a riverfront hotel development - he ultimately voted in May 1999 for a larger $400,000 street improvement project that included the bricks.

        • Mr. Lance claims Mr. Spence, a long-time advocate of historic preservation who was a city planner before being elected commissioner in 1998, voted to demolish an old building near the Covington branch of the Kenton County library.

        Mr. Spence said he did oppose the building's demolition. But once a commission majority decided to tear the building down “I moved on to the next issue, which was accepting a contractor that came before the city to do the work.”

        • Mr. Lance said Mr. Spence has railed often, including during his two winning commission campaigns, about how much money commissioners are paid, which is $18,000 a year.

        “But he still takes the money after telling people how bad it is that commissioners are paid so much,” Mr. Lance said.

        Mr. Spence said while he has talked in the past about salaries, his main concern has been the commissioners' inclusion in the state pension system.

        “What I have said is that I would consider removing the commission from the state retirement system,” Mr. Spence said. “It's a question really about whether public officials should be making retirement money.”

        Mr. Lance said he would “apologize profusely” for any inaccurate information in his fliers or letters, but for the most part he stands by his information.

        “Mr. Spence has flip-flopped and not told the whole story, and that's what I'm trying to show,” he said.

        Mr. Spence said Mr. Lance, who ran unsuccessfully for the commission in 1998, is clearly running a political campaign that Covington residents will judge on its merits.

"Individual attack'
        “My belief is that the people of Covington will see this as an individual attack,” Mr. Spence said.

        “If Mr. Lance wants to be a politician, he needs to just declare that and run,” he said.

        Mr. Lance said he has no plans to discontinue the campaign.

        “I'm getting ready to go back out tonight,” Mr. Lance said Friday afternoon. “It's something I enjoy and something that needs to be done.”


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