Candidates in the Butler County Commission and Butler County Clerk of Courts races participated in a voting forum at the Lakota West Freshman Campus in West Chester Thursday night.
The event attracted a good crowd and featured Republican primary commission candidates including current county Commissioner Chuck Furmon, state Rep. Courtney Combs and political newcomer T.C. Rogers.
Also taking the stage in the commission race forum was Democrat Jodi Billerman and Libertarian Daryl R. Olthaus. Both, Billerman and Olthaus, will run in November against the winner of the Republican primary March 6.
During the forum, all candidates answered the same questions that included how they would lower the county’s debt, if the county airport should be sold, if the county can justify giving raises to its employees, if they agree with the county sheriff’s immigration policy, how can the county fund the Liberty Town Square retail development project, among others.
- Find out what is on the ballot March 6 on the Butler County Board of Elections page
- Information on the Butler County Commission race
All of candidates provided what their approaches would be in lowing the county debt, which forum host and West Chester Township Trustee George Lang said was at $90 million.
Rogers recently criticized Furmon, saying there is a “mountain of reckless spending” in Butler County government. During the forum, Furmon defended recent expenses.
As far as the airport was concerned, all of the candidates agreed that it was an asset. Only Olthaus was open to selling it, noting that it could be better run privately instead of by the government. Rogers thought it would be a good time to market the airport after seeing reports that the airport in Blue Ash will likely close. According to Rogers, another airport couldn’t be built within 200 miles of the airport in Butler County.
In regards to the pay freeze, Furman acknowledged that there is one currently – saying, “We are not issuing raises, that is not what we are about.” Although no single candidate appeared to be in favor of handing out raises, Billerman said that there should be a good compensation structure and would not favor a select few raises unless they deserve it.
In regards to the Liberty Town Square project, Furman called it exciting, but also said that he would have rather used TIF money for roads or to extend State Route 63. Meanwhile, Combs said that it will not just be another mall – it will be a destination. Other candidates liked the project, but were worried about the affect it could have on fellow county shopping centers like Bridgewater Falls or Voice of America.
The biggest cheer of the night didn’t come because of candidate’s answer, however, it came before the forum when Lang emphatically contested the recent report that the Tea Party was dead – “The Tea Party is not dead. You cannot kill it. It will go on into perpetuity.”
Information on the Republican primary candidates:
Chuck Furmon, a former Hamilton mayor, has served as a county commissioner since 1996. Furmon and his colleagues on commission have trimmed 350 positions from county government and reduced the general fund budget by about 17 percent, from $95 million to $79 million. He also helped orchestrate the $500 million Liberty Town Square retail development by Steiner + Associates which is being planned at Liberty Way and Interstate 75 in Liberty Township. Furmon and fellow commissioners also recently approved a memorandum of understanding, agreeing for the county to contribute 60 percent of the costs of public infrastructure costs, which will amount to about $30 million in tax increment financing proceeds.
Courtney Combs, who represents the 54th District, has to give up that seat after five terms in office. He served as a commissioner for 17 years before heading to the State Capitol in 2004 in a job switch with then-State Rep. Greg Jolivette. The move, orchestrated by the Butler County GOP, was aimed at heading off a contentious Republican primary. As a state representative, Combs introduced successful legislation that established a special authority to own parking garages and other infrastructure improvements at the Liberty Town Square development, so the county won’t be financially responsible for maintenance.
T.C. Rogers, a political newcomer, has been critical of Furmon’s performance as a commissioner, saying there is a “mountain of reckless spending” in Butler County government. He has been an elected member of the Butler County Republican Central Committee since 1988. Rogers has lived in West Chester since 1987 and has operated a construction and real estate business out of Butler County for more than 35 years.