Marty? Hello? Are you there? I hope you're not sick. I haven't heard from you in a while, and I'd hate to lose my most dependable and consistent critic.
When I say dependable, I mean that you almost always weigh in with an opinion about something I've written. When I say consistent, I mean that you always disagree. And most disagreeably. I think the nicest thing you've ever said was the first time I complained about the cost of the Bengals' stadium: ''It wasn't as dumb as your usual dumb stuff.''
High praise, indeed.
Subbing for Marty
Until I hear from Marty again, I suppose I will have to be satisfied with west side caller Jerry Hurley, who is very concerned about my health. First of all, he thinks my heart is bleeding, and he also worries about what ''chemo has done to your mind.''
Comparing tax money spent on schools and sports, he says, is ridiculous. (COLUMN, Aug. 14) Sports stadiums are an investment in our future. It's not our gay bars and our coffee shops and antique shops that bring huge corporations to this area. It's the forward-mindedness of our civic leaders.''
Hamilton County Commission President Bob Bedinghaus, point-man in negotiations with Mike Brown, says modestly that ''we're just the poor suckers who have to make it happen.''
He wants you to know that ''the cost has not gone up. We changed the scope of the project months ago.'' It's that scope, I said, that people are complaining about. For instance, what about adding a $10.5 million practice field?
''The practice field,'' he says, ''was an inducement to the Bengals organization to go further west, allowing more development possibilities.''
Most readers want him to know that they think building Mr. Brown a free place to conduct his business should be inducement enough. Mr. Bedinghaus would discover warm support for a negotiating position more along the lines of, ''We're calling your bluff. We're mad as hell, and we're not going to give you any more.''
Except for Mr. Hurley and a Northern Kentucky reader who would add restrooms to the parking lot so fans will not be tempted to relieve themselves on his automobile tires, the hundred or so people who called and wrote don't like the way this stadium project is ballooning.
''This is criminal,'' writes Sally Costello of Harrison. ''I want my money back.'' A single woman who has ''not been above working two jobs,'' she says she often has been her own two-paycheck family.
''We need more people who have the guts to make decisions that benefit the majority of us as a society,'' writes Dave Disher of Anderson Township. Leonard Luehrman, also of Anderson, points out that ''Cleveland now has two stadiums and bankrupt schools.''
Based on response I received after an earlier column about school tax levies, nobody wants to hand a blank check to educators either.
''The infighting for turf is rough, mean,'' writes Dave Pannkuk of Terrace Park. ''Politicians are asking for more money and setting standards which they disguise as accountability. Parents and taxpayers are angry because they sense legislators and educators lack focus.''
Patricia Bish of West Chester teaches her son at home, ''in addition to a full-time job I cannot afford to give up. Educating our children is important. However, more money is not always the answer.''
To all of you out there who wrote to congratulate me for ''ripping'' Bob Bedinghaus, let me apologize for not being more precise. I truly meant to be an equal-opportunity ripper. I cannot think of a single elected or appointed official who seems ready to fight to the political death to protect our money.
And, of course, there's more to come. ''Now, we're going to start getting the bad news about the Reds,'' a Clifton woman says. An Oakley woman says that Mike Brown gets everything he wants but they won't even listen to Marge.
So, based on many thoughtful, intelligent, frustrated and angry responses from the people who pay your salaries and are footing the bill for your projects, I have some advice for you politicians.
Stop treating our children like beggars. And stop treating taxpayers like children.
Laura Pulfer's column appears in The Enquirer on Sundays, Tuesdays and Thursdays. Call 768-8393 or fax at 768-8340. She can be heard Monday mornings on WVXU radio (91.7 FM), and as a regular commentator on National Public Radio's Morning Edition.