Candidates On: Consolidating City and County Services

As part of CityBeat's continuing election coverage, we’ve once again sent a questionnaire to the non-incumbent Cincinnati City Council candidates to get their reactions on a broad range of issues.

Nine of the 14 non-incumbents chose to answer our questions. Others either didn’t respond or couldn’t meet the deadline.

During the next few weeks, we will print the responses from the non-incumbents to a different topic each time.

Today’s question is, “What are your thoughts on consolidating some city and county services? If you support the concept, are there specific services that should be considered for consolidation? Conversely, are there specific services that should be deemed off-the-table?”—-

Mike Allen (Independent): “I am strongly in favor of combining many city and county services. For instance, there is no reason that the county handles birth certificate records for all of the county but the city. We should look into the cost effectiveness of the Hamilton County Prosecutor's Office assuming the duties and responsibilities of the Cincinnati City Prosecutor's Office. When I was (county) prosecutor, we worked with the city and determined that there was no significant cost savings to be realized by such a move. Times and caseloads have changed and it should be looked at again.

“I am not in favor of consolidating services between the Cincinnati Police Department and the Hamilton County Sheriff's Office as has been considered in the past.”

Kevin Flynn (Charterite): “I am completely in favor of the concept and completely aware that groundwork needs to be laid to make this a reality. The problem will be in the implementation. The Government Cooperation and Efficiency Project studied and identified areas where efficiencies could be obtained by consolidation. For the most part, the recommendations were ignored or rejected because of partisan political in-fighting and turf wars. In 2010, I spent six months serving on the Hamilton County Government Reform Task Force. In this position, I observed how arcane and inefficient our county structure is. As chairman of the board of The Drake Center, I saw how the county took a larger and larger portion of the ‘Drake Levy’ to pay for operating expenses. We have seen the same thing happen this year with the indigent care levy.

“For shared services to become a reality, our city needs to become the best at providing the services we are going to continue to provide, so that the people in other jurisdictions will demand to become a part of our service network, and for those areas where others do it better, Cincinnati needs to have the will to cede control.”

Nicholas Hollan (Democrat): “I am interested in exploring consolidation opportunities as a way for all municipalities to decrease expenditures. I view the bulk purchase of salt or the contracting of snow removal as prime examples of regional cooperation.

“However, I am not supportive of merging the Cincinnati Police Department with the county. In this plan, we would essentially lay off CPD officers and hire them back at a lower wage under the Sheriff's Department. This is nothing more than an attempt to get around the FOP contract. To me, that’s tantamount to union-busting.”

Patricia McCollum (Independent): “I would consider consolidation of services. To eliminate some of the shortfall, we may need to start looking at the two local government statuses. There is Cincinnati City Council and the Hamilton County commissioners. All of Cincinnati is a part of Hamilton County. We currently pay salaries for council and commissioners. They are making decisions and ruling the same areas. If you are on council, you are politically working for the voters within the city limits. If you serve on the County Commissioners, you are making decisions for voters in the city of Cincinnati as well as the voters outside of the city limits. I think if we looked at some of those positions that overlap in duties and agree on those positions that are not covered in the overlapping positions.”

Catherine Smith Mills (Republican): “I strongly support investigating the consolidation of city and county services, starting with the development department. Here we have an excellent opportunity to allow growth and development at the hands of experts, not government. By focusing city and county development efforts out of one central development organization, projects would move more efficiently ensuring that local priorities are moving in the same direction as regional ones. It will be important for our future growth and economic solvency that City Council members and Hamilton County commissioners look at options like these.

“At this time, I do not support merging the police and Sheriff’s Department.”

Sandra Queen Noble (Independent): “Consolidate a Bill of Sale from the native people of this country first.”

Jason Riveiro (Democrat): “I am not in favor of consolidating the city and county; however, we can work together to create economies of scale and efficiencies through procurement and professional services. We must be city first in our approach because our city has many valuable assets we must protect. This conversation takes decades and should not be explored without careful consideration. Moreover, police and fire are the last entities this should address.”

Chris Seelbach (Democrat): “I support collaborative relationships and shared service agreements between our region's local governments. As a successful alternative to privatization, greater efficiencies can occur by sharing public services with the county or other small municipalities that could benefit from the strength and size of Cincinnati’s public services. Gov. Kasich’s budget has slashed hundreds of millions of dollars from Ohio communities, both large and small. Cincinnati should begin open dialogue with all our neighbors, finding greater ways for all communities to benefit. Sharing heavy equipment is one of the first areas of sharing and consolidation that I would direct the city manager to study. I do not support the merger of the Cincinnati Police Department and the Hamilton County Sheriffs Office.”

P.G. Sittenfeld (Democrat): “Shared services and collaboration across jurisdictions to find cost savings for taxpayers is critical in a time of across-the-board budget deficits. The next step is the thoughtful implementation of many of the Government Collaboration and Efficiency Project recommendations. I think starting with a smaller example of success — for instance, I would suggest combining the city and county Planning Departments — is a more viable way to show people that collaboration and consolidation between jurisdictions with very different cultures can still be a win-win.

“I am against consolidation of the Cincinnati Police Department with the Hamilton County Sheriff's Department. I think it's right and fair for taxpayers to expect certain core competencies to come out of City Hall, with 'safe and clean' being first among them. Police-community relations and the general culture of the Cincinnati Police Department are in a very good place right now, and we don't want to risk hindering that progress.

“Finally, I would add that in my job transforming schools into community learning centers as the assistant director of the Community Learning Center Institute, I commit myself every day to the concept of smart public-private partnerships that can leverage different pools of resources to deliver more cost-effective outcomes, and I know I can bring that same approach to working cooperatively and productively with other municipalities.”