Disclaimer: Even though this article involved Mike Brown and the Bengals, it doesn't have much to do with football. Don't say I didn't warn you.
One of the perks of being a journalism major in college is the exposure to certain newspapers and publications that one wouldn't usually have access or the motivation to read. Today I was passed a copy of Street Vibes, a weekly newspaper circulating in Cincinnati that only costs a dollar to buy. Up until that point I had never read or even heard of Street Vibes, but the headline on the front page caught my eye. It said "Will Cuts to Cincinnati Healthcare be the Bengals' Lasting Legacy?"
I read on and here's the gist of it.
We've written fairly extensively about the unbelievably awesome deal that Bengals owner Mike Brown got for the stadium at the expense of tax payers in Hamilton County. We've also written about the county's economic troubles and that they are facing a $30 million deficit and that the stadium soaks up close to 11 percent of their annual budget.
That inspired Todd Portune, a Hamilton County Commissioner, to propose a new tax on tickets which would put the burdon of stadium upkeep and other costs on the shoulders of the team and the people who use the stadium (Bengals fans who go to games) and not on the County or people who reside within Hamilton County who do not go to Bengals games.
Portune's proposal may not make it on the November ballot, though, as its supporters have failed to get enough support to get the required 7,468 signatures by September 9, the cut-off date to get charter amendment on the ballot. So, since there isn't going to be a ticket tax and since the county's $30 million deficit isn't going anywhere, how will the county pay for Paul Brown Stadium?
One proposal is that the money could come from the county's Health and Hospitalization Levy.
Greg Hartmann, President of the Hamilton County Board of Commissioners, brought forward the plan to cut the county's Health and Hospitalization Levy to bring in $38 million a year, $8 million less than the average amount in the current five-year cycle. This means a $6.5 million reduction in funding toward University Hospital, bringing levy coffers down 45.5 percent in the last decade.
University Hospital, in case you're not from Cincinnati, is the primary care giver to many of Cincinnati's uninsured. Obviously, many oppose Hartmann's plan not just for the obvious reasoning of cutting money from health care is bad as well as for political reasons, but we're not going to talk about those on a Bengals blog.
Here's the thing, Mike Brown and the Bengals didn't personally twist Hamilton County's arm into giving them an awesome stadium deal. It was voted for and it did pass. There was no way that we could see the economic trouble that we're in now coming. Unfortunately, the taxpayers got the short end of the stick on this deal and they're left with a pretty big tab that's going to be tough to pay without cutting funding somewhere else and no matter where you cut money from, you're going to make people upset.
So, what will Mike Brown's legacy be? If the Bengals never win a Super Bowl before the team either leaves Cincinnati or cease to exist in the same way they do now, will Brown be known as the worst professional sports owner in the country (like he is now) or will he be held responsible in Cincinnati for the loss of funding to healthcare for the uninsured in Hamilton County? Could Brown allow the Bengals' negative reputation could spread to areas other than football?
I don't necessarily have a point of view on what the county should do. I know that the situation they're in isn't completely the Bengals' fault and that the money for the stadium has to come from somewhere and that I would prefer not to have to pay more for it. I would also prefer that hospitals that provide the poor and uninsured health care don't have to pay for it either.
I guess the whole point of this article was to tell you what's going on, in case you live out of the area or if you didn't know and to ask you what you think.