Monday, January 14, 2002

New council vows to focus on economy




By Steve Kemme
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        HAMILTON — The new City Council, which has one official meeting under its belt, is pledging to work as a cohesive team to lift Hamilton from its economic doldrums.

        “We're going to work very hard on economic development,” said Donald Ryan, Hamilton's new mayor. “We need jobs in this community. Several of us ran for office on the campaign promise that we're going to do whatever we can to retain and attract jobs.”

        Mr. Ryan had served one term as a councilman before winning the mayor's race in November. James Noonan, Ed Shelton and Christopher Flaig are the newly elected council members.

        Incumbents Katherine Becker, Richard Holzberger and George McNally were re-elected.

        The previous City Council was criticized for too much bickering and too little teamwork. But Mr. Noonan, the vice mayor, said there's a spirit of cooperation on the new council.

        “We're working together as seven — not as two or three or four,” he said.

        “I think the three new faces on council have uplifted everybody's spirits,” Mr. Holzberger said. “The past three councils I've been on have all wanted to do what's best for the city, but we had some personality conflicts.”

        This new council, which had its first regular meeting last Wednesday, has set three primary goals:

        • Settle its water-rate dispute with Butler County by March 31.

        • Promote economic development.

        • Run the city like a business, with close monitoring of revenues and expenses.

        Hamilton's fight over water rates with Butler County has been tied up in the courts for four years and has cost each side at least $1 million in legal fees.

        “We're going to take politics out of it, and get the county and city officials working together,” Mr. Ryan said.

        He said this issue has had a negative impact on the city's ability to recruit new businesses.

        “What business wants to move to a county seat that is fighting with the county?,” he said. “It's ridiculous.”

        Stung by the loss of 3,000 jobs in the past three years, Hamilton needs to create a strong pro-business climate, and City Council is determined to accomplish that, Mr. Ryan said.

        Hamilton officials are still glowing about President Bush's visit Tuesday to Hamilton High School to sign his education reform bill.

        The national publicity Hamilton City Schools received for its dramatic progress in the past two years will be a boost to the city's efforts to attract businesses, Mr. Ryan said.

        “I know from being in business for 30 years, the first thing a prospective business or employee asks is, "What is the school system like?'”

        City Council wants to develop good working relationships with other communities in Butler County. Mr. Ryan said other cities and villages have expressed an interest in forming a countywide organization.

        Mr. Shelton, a former Butler County commissioner, said the more regional cooperation there is, the better off everyone will be.

        “People who don't believe in regionalizing services now will believe in it in eight to 10 years because of the economics. Numbers are strength.”

       



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