A nonprofit publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Brent Cooper: As region, we made big strides in voting turnout, now let’s engage in policy, infuence

Northern Kentucky is a critical part of the state of Kentucky. The nine-county Northern Kentucky region represents nearly 500,000 people, a little more than 10 percent of the state of Kentucky’s population. We represent 20 percent of the state’s tourism. We have the largest airport in Kentucky and we are one of the fastest-growing areas in the state.

We are helping lead the way in Health Care, Advanced Manufacturing, Logistics and Distribution, Technology, Finance, and Construction. All of which are reflected in tax contributions to the state coffers. 

So why is it that we are often overlooked and short-changed?  Because we haven’t been engaging in the political process.

It is way past time for that to change.

We need our influence in Frankfort to become equal to our impact on Kentucky’s economy.
With that thought in mind, our Northern Kentucky Chamber of Commerce set out a goal of increasing voter turnout in the region and increasing the number of Northern Kentuckians contributing on boards and committees in Frankfort.

We need to accomplish both goals if our voice is to be heard.

Clearly, Northern Kentucky’s collective get out the vote efforts worked. We now know that when we promote the importance of voting, people will turn out in larger numbers.
Take Campbell County for example. In November 2015, only 20 percent of the county voted in the gubernatorial election, compared with 30 percent turnout statewide. This year, 41 percent of Campbell Countians voted, compared with 42 percent statewide. The entire state recognized the importance of Northern Kentucky voters, as did many national news agencies.

Now, there is little doubt that the nature of the candidates and the heated race, as well as the efforts of the various political parties and interest groups, made a difference in increased voter turnout.

That said, at the NKY Chamber, we led a “Vote for NKY” campaign that didn’t focus on a particular party or interest, but instead focused on the value of voting for our region.
We encouraged businesses from around the region to send out voting reminders and to share the non-partisan voter’s guide that we created with employees and on social media.
We publicized the “Vote for NKY” effort through a social media campaign, (perhaps you saw it?) and worked with print, digital, TV and radio outlets to promote the importance of voting.

At the end of the day, voter turnout in the Northern Kentucky region increased by more than 13 points. By election standards, this was a staggering accomplishment. And while we were encouraged by the double-digit increases, we also recognize that we can, and must, do better in the future.

But voting is just the first step.

If we want to increase our influence in Frankfort, it is also critical that we “step up” when it comes to serving in Frankfort.

As the Kentucky General Assembly prepares for the upcoming session, Northern Kentucky needs to play an active role in advancing the policy agenda.

In order for that to happen, Northern Kentucky citizens need to be part of the governing process. As a region, we must strive to be engaged at all levels of government, including the 380 Boards and Commissions the Governor appoints.

Do you know someone who would be interested in applying for a position?  We need Northern Kentuckians to help move our economy forward.

It is time that Northern Kentucky’s voice is heard. That can only happen if we engage in the process and encourage our citizens to not only vote, but to raise their hands and say, “I’ll serve.”

Brent Cooper is president ad CEO of the NKY Chamber of Commerce.

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One Comment

  1. Terresa Maile says:

    Love the get out and vote initiative for increasing our counts and influence down south. Need to keep increasing even more. The only thing the chamber needs to do is stay as non-partisan as possible in the get out and vote side of things, BUT be smart and keep to your roots on the policies & candidates being endorsed and pushed. With the deeply divided political spectrum it’s essentially come down to capitalism versus socialism and soon to be communism (I guarantee in 5-10 years communism will be the main push not socialism anymore). The chamber shouldn’t be afraid to champion capitalistic policy and candidates for the businesses they represent. The chamber of commerce is supposed to be a for-business organization. The non-profits that almost run the chamber now should not influence the policy endorsements of the chamber. My experience with both chamber staff and very active members has disappointed me to learn that they are very against pro business candidates (hence policy) both vocally and on social media, on both the national and local level. (Literally multiple, fairly higher up, staff members bad mounting Trump and Bevin repeatedly, and selectively endorsing speakers and events that voice the same, to be blunt about it). I hope to no longer see vague and non-active pushes for pro business policies and candidates to appease virtue signaling staff and members. There is so much potential in this region that has so much momentum built up to keep going for decades, that we can’t sacrifice that for the sake of staff and members being offended or upset by extremely effective pro-business politicians.
    The old days of both parties wanting to champion the economy and only disagreeing on social issues is long gone. Again, it’s now capitalism versus communism and our local organizations should recognize that and need to clearly and openly pick a side.

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