In her first State of the County address, Hamilton County Commission President Denise Driehaus says the county must be collaborative, creative and cost-conscious.
The county is meeting these "three C's" by holding commission meetings in the community and in the evenings, as well as by "being a partner that people want to work with," Driehaus says. She also wants the county to be more creative in the way it provides basic services while also finding new ways to save money and "prioritizing where we can make the biggest impact with the biggest bang for our buck."
The budget remains a concern for all three commissioners. While the board balanced the 2019 budget, it did so with service cuts and one-time revenue streams. "Over the next two years, the board will need to develop a strategy for bringing the county budget into structural balance," Driehaus told the gathering at Memorial Hall. "This will be no easy task."
She points out the county has lost $342 million because of funding cuts at the state level since 2010.
Driehaus says the collaboration means the county can help its 49 communities by pooling resources. She held up what she called "a menu of opportunity to help governments tap into county resources for things like public safety, environmental services, economic development and purchasing."
Road salt purchasing, for example. She suggests pooling resources and buying together to take advantage of discounts.
The county will host a Share Service Summit in the fall, she says.
The address highlighted steps the county has taken to help offenders re-enter society, senior citizens access services, and programs to help youth and families in the Job and Family Services program, along with economic development. Driehaus says new data indicates the county is "making strides" in diversity as well with "77% of new county board appointments [being] women or people of color."
She also touted the work being done by first responders and aid agencies, specifically the Hamilton County Heroin Coalition, to tackle the opioid epidemic.
"In 2017, 441 Hamilton County residents died from an overdose. In 2018, that number dropped to 347. While this trend is positive, we’ve still lost 347 of our neighbors to an overdose," she says. "This is 347 too many."
This is the first time in recent history the annual address did not occur during a meeting of the Cincinnati Rotary Club. Driehaus said she wanted to hold the event at Memorial Hall to make it available to a wider public.