Northern Kentucky chapter unpacks politics

Michelle Slaughter, Jason Reser, Arnold Simpson, Pam Mullins, Ken Rechtin, and Sister Janet

Northern Kentucky members have expressed an interest in trying to help understand how local government works since the resistance training in January. Out of that training they hosted an Unpack Politics forum to help people better understand how different levels of government work. Be it city, county, school board, or state government, many people are unsure as to what government is responsible for what.

 With this in mind, the chapter asked several current and former elected officials to be a part of a panel to tackle this and other topics. The panel ended up consisting of former Covington City Manager and current State Representative Arnold Simpson (the first African American to hold either position in northern Kentucky), current Park Hills City Councilmember Jason Reser, former Covington Independent School Board Member and Covington City Commissioner Pamela Mullins (the first African American woman to hold either position in Covington), and former Campbell County Commissioner and current Newport City Commissioner Ken Rechtin. 

Members planned the event to be held on what otherwise would have been Election Day, November 7th, at the historically African American Catholic Church Our Savior Parish in the Eastside neighborhood of Covington. Member and leader Michelle Slaughter, who is a parishoner of the Church, moderated the event.

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The panel were asked about some of the challenges in local government. Each person had a different perspective, with Representative Simpson remarking that the increased partisanship in Frankfort making it harder for good things to pass; Councilmember Reser pointed to learning simultaneously how things are supposed to be done in cities and how they actually work; CommissionerRechtin pointed to the difficulties of reaching consensus in local government; and former Commissioner Mullins talked about the difficulty being the first to break a barrier. 

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The panel also had recommendations for how to impact change without running for office. Attendees were encouraged to apply for boards, become involved with neighborhood associations, site based decision making councils, to seek out elected officials for meetings, and to become involved in groups like Kentuckians For The Commonwealth.
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During both the moderated and open question periods the current pension crisis was discussed at length. The governor's plan for pensions has many local cities looking to again separating their pensions from the state, what the impact will mean for local public employees would be, and what solutions the panel thought were possible. While there was some discussion as to whether or not the cities could take back control of the pension process, Representative Simpson spoke about the need for more revenue. 

One attendee was especially interested in criminal justice reform, and asked what steps local government could take to help fight back against mass incarceration. 
While most pointed to changes to legal codes, some pointed to more diversion programs, and restorative justice initiatives. Ms. Mullins even mentioned the local Community and Restorative Justice  Covington initative, that is working with other restorative justice initiatives in Lexington and Louisville. While this program is being piloted in three communities in Covington, the hope is that the programs will spread across the region in needed communities.

As the event continued, topics included local restorative justice work, government responsiveness, and representation of all communities in pubic employment. This last one was acknowledged as a problem that has persisted in local government for a long time for most, but for others it was a real light bulb moment. Each person still in office pledged to do more to help ensure more diversity in local boards and employment, and acknowledged that this would help create better relations between local governments and their communities.

Attendees found the event informative, and are hopeful to host follow up events soon! Stay tuned for what the Northern Kentucky plans next!