Republicans battling for Kenton Co. judge-executive spar over airport board and 'lack of leadership'

04/29/2014 05:39 PM

PARK HILLS — Kenton County Judge-Executive Steve Arlinghaus says that he stands by his record of efficient government and deserves another term while Republican challenger Kris Knochelman described Arlinghaus’ record as one of a leadership void.

The two candidates sparred over governance this morning for a little more than an hour in front of about 50 people at the final debate sponsored by the Northern Kentucky Business PAC.

Knochelman said that the conduct of members of the airport board taking extravagant trips using taxpayer money should have been reason enough for them to be dismissed by the judge-executive.

Arlinghaus said that some of the board members in question were appointed by his predessessor and he has appointed reputable business people to the board during his tenure.

Kentucky State Auditor Adam Edelen is currently reviewing the spending practices of board members.

As for the future of the airport, Arlinghaus said partnerships are always welcome but Kenton County will retain firm control of the facility.

“I have no desire at this point in time nor is it my place to give up control of the airport to Cincinnati or anyone else,” Arlinghaus said.

Knochelman said the board needs more checks and balances.

“I want to make sure that there’s more accountability,” said Knochelman. “We need to evaluate the structure. We need to include our partners.”

Then Knochelman went on the offensive, citing what he called a “continuous lack of leadership” from Arlinghaus as well as accusations bullying and intimidation.

Arlinghaus countered that Knochelman was resorting to personal attacks during the campaign. Arlinghaus went on to say that because of his leadership, the county is in good fiscal shape and has a bright future.

Both complimented the work of Tri-ED — the Tri-County Economic Development Corporation — that serves Boone, Kenton and Campbell counties, for its work in recruiting employers to the region. But Knochelman said, if elected, he would like to hire an economic director to do even more in Kenton County.

“I’m going to support putting in an economic director who can actually assist the cities and the counties to work cooperatively and both meet with the chamber on a regular basis to actually get some hard hitting lists of items that we can attack,” said Knochelman.

Arlinghaus, though, warned about the dangers of the county trying to do things on their own.

“It’s real easy to sit there and say we want to have our own economic development director but then we’re going off on our own little ideas over here and we’re not trying to stay together and I think when we start doing things individually, we’re going to lose sight of the bigger picture,” said Arlinghaus.

As for the Brent Spence Bridge project, both candidates are against tolls.

“The bridge should be funded with federal tax dollars,” Knochelman said. “It’s a federal bridge, it’s a federal highway system and it should be funded by the federal government.”

Arlinghaus favors more pressure on federal and state legislators to come up with the funds to finance the project.

“The problem is if we start tolling ourselves, and paying for something like this, and letting the federal government off the hook, letting the state off the hook, what will it be next,” said Arlinghaus.


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