The Cincinnati Enquirer's Barry Horstman recently wrote an article about Tim Mara, a downtown lawyer who opposed the 1996's Issue 1, which was a half-cent sales tax increase used to fund the building of the Reds and Bengals new stadiums.
Horstman said that if anybody could now say "I told you so," it's Mara and quoted Mara, saying:
"People still approach me on the street and say, 'You were right, Tim," Mara said, chuckling. "My response is, 'I wish I had bee wrong.' It's turned out to be much worse than we thought. But I get no satisfaction, because the consequences are so dire."
In response, the Cincinnati Bengals' public relations director, Jack Brennan, wrote the latest Who Dey Perspective saying that if Mara can say "I told you so" it's not because of the Issue 1.
Brennan says that if Mara, or anyone else in the Cincinnati area, is upset with the current state of Hamilton County, the fingers shouldn't be pointed at the Bengals, Reds or the stadium tax, but they should be pointed at the county its self.
In truth, the Bengals signed essentially a standard NFL lease, and the Reds signed a standard MLB lease. And the County's current funding problems stem not from the leases, but from the County's subsequent decisions to use the stadium fund for projects that have nothing to do with the stadia -- stretching the fund far beyond the purposes that voters approved. If nothing else had happened besides those leases and the new riverfront stadiums that they built, finances would not be a problem today and the story would end there.
Brennan used some examples to prove his point. He mentioned some projects that Hamilton County has spent money from the stadium fund on. Those projects include:
- $10 million for the Ft. Washington highway project
- purchased $100 million worth of downtown privately owned riverfront property to push development
- subsidized The Banks development project
- Doubled the commitment to public schools from $5 million dollars per year to $10 million per year
Brennan does say that the decision to spend nearly $200 million on these projects was a good thing.
There are, of course, real benefits that have resulted from some of the decisions. Cincinnati Public Schools have more resources, there is excitement at the opening of housing and new restaurants at The Banks, and there is a new park about to open on the riverfront. But the point here is that the decisions to fund those public projects were not made by the voters, and they were not made by the sports teams (who benefit very little from them). They were made by Hamilton County politicians.
Brennan's criticism of Hortsman's article in The Enquirer ended when he stated that the Bengals and Reds aren't to blame for the current state of the county and if Mara is right "it is for the wrong reasons."