Denise Driehaus starts her new job as Hamilton County Commissioner today. Even though she won't take the ceremonial oath of office until Thursday, the former state representative has been sworn in.
In November, she defeated incumbent Republican Dennis Deters to give Democrats control of the board for the first time in six years.
Before adjourning for the year in December, Hamilton County commissioners passed a continuing budget for the first quarter of 2017 to give Driehaus a say in the spending plan. She says making a strategic investment in the county's economic development plan is important, as is minority inclusion.
"I've… talked with both (Commissioners) Chris Monzel and Todd Portune about some of these priorities. So it doesn't have to be a partisan budget. Chris and I have known each other for years, as have Todd and I. And so I'm hoping that in a collaborative spirit we can all talk amongst ourselves."
Driehaus says she also plans to sit down with the county administrator to discuss the budget to see what spending is fluid and what is fixed.
Economic development is at the top of her list of goals for 2017. Driehaus says she wants to make sure all 49 cities, townships, and villages in Hamilton County are included.
"We intend to create a menu with the county administrator to say 'hey, if you would like to consolidate or become more efficient or have some economic development coaching, we can help you. We can partner with you to make that happen.'"
Driehaus says she wants to have meetings with community leaders once or twice a year, like Cincinnati does with the annual Neighborhood Summit.
She says she hopes to continue some of the efforts of her predecessor, Dennis Deters. Driehaus says the Hamilton County Heroin Task Force is doing important and good work.
"We need to expand the knowledge base from outside to what we're doing. And that I think that will bring resources to the quick response teams, to the recovery pod that's in the jail, to the treatment beds that we need in this community, to the detox. There's so much to it, but we need more help."
Driehaus is hoping state legislators will provide more funding to deal with heroin addiction in the next budget, and expects Hamilton County to apply for some of whatever is approved.
On the Metropolitan Sewer District:
"I have always said I think the city and the county need to come together and come up with a resolution to the MSD issue. My posture on this has not changed. It's always been one of collaborating, bringing the city and the county together to the benefit of the ratepayers to figure something out sooner than later."
On Job and Family Services:
"We have some issues with child protective services that concern me. We have not so many case workers for what is an increased volume of kids going into the system, primarily because of the drug epidemic that we face. It may be more resources, but it also may be incentivizing behaviors that we want to see happen."
"I am a big fan of a robust public transportation system. It's a multi-modal approach for two reasons. One is to get people to jobs, in recognition that all the job centers aren't in the middle of Downtown Cincinnati anymore. And I don't see our transportation system having reacted to that. The other piece though is to keep young people here. Because young people don't really want to have cars or use them all the time. And so in order for that to happen, we need to have a way for them to get to and fro in the county."