Friday, April 4, 1997
Readers offer alternatives
to ticket tax

The Cincinnati Enquirer

When it comes to tossing out opinions on new taxes, Cincinnati readers have arms of steel.

Making my pitch recently for instituting the proposed ticket-tax increase - the one designed to fix our schools - I asked for better ideas and got plenty.

The ticket tax is the city's latest attempt, in the wake of the stadium-tax deal, to pay $100 million over 20 years to fix Cincinnati Public Schools' run-down classrooms. The promise of that money helped pass the stadium sales tax.

The schools need the money now. The roof leaks at Hughes. It won't fix itself.

The clocks don't work at Aiken.

''I'll wager the clocks don't function anywhere in the system,'' said a Cincinnati teacher who asked me not to use her name. ''It's difficult to teach children to tell time when the clocks don't work.''

The teacher and other readers realize the city's contribution would put a healthy dent in the schools' estimated $600 million repair bill.

But they don't want the ticket tax.

Taxing suggestions

Instead of raising the admissions tax on tickets and making visiting entertainers and athletes pay Cincinnati's income tax, they suggest:

''Put casinos back on the ballot. With all the money Indiana is making on them, Cincinnati residents would think twice before rejecting riverfront casinos again.'' - Bob Wehrle, Kenwood.

''Privatize (the city of) Cincinnati's parking garages.'' - Ray Owens, Walnut Hills.

''Add 50 cents a day to every car in the downtown parking lots.'' - C.J. Muller, Springdale.

''Make rich guys like Carl Lindner pay a million bucks every year.'' - Albert Wilkes, downtown.

''Get the big corporations to buy a school like CG&E bought the naming rights for Cinergy Field.'' - Bernard Hagedorn, Peach Grove.

''Advertising in our schoolhouses ... is the way to finance the all-important renovations to run-down facilities. Let the school buses be painted, as many city buses are ... with a Frisch's 'Big Boy' mascot. Pretty soon ... sagging ceilings (will) regain their composure and new floors (will) shine like teacher's pets.'' - Rick Harsham, Westwood.

''Tax take-out food at restaurants.'' - Hank Wordeman, Kenwood.

''Get rid of monopolies like public education. Go to a 100 percent voucher system.'' - Paul Wallpe, East Walnut Hills.

''Force the school system to take the money it spent on salary increases and on new furniture and carpeting at its administration building and put it into the schools.'' - D.R. Clarke, New Richmond.

John Turner, a student at Miami University's Hamilton campus, proposed repairing schools and upgrading them for the 21st century.

''Raise the state income tax by 1 percent on personal income and 3 percent on business income,'' he said. ''That would generate enough money to do some serious statewide repairs and get more serious technologies into the schools. It's not just buildings that need repairs. We're technologically behind the times, too.''

Prison labor

J.B. Kroger of Mount Healthy floated an idea for free material and labor. ''Have companies donate the material for a tax break. Use prisoners for the labor. Don't use murderers, just ones in for white-collar crime. It would get them out of jail and improve the community for free.''

Elaine Eckstein teaches dance at the School for Creative and Performing Arts. She knows ''how desperate the schools are for money.''

But she was ''absolutely appalled'' at my pro ticket-tax stance and ''even more appalled about taxing artists' salaries.''

''The average performer in a nonunion show makes $400 to $500 a week, max. That tax would take a big hunk out of their salaries.''

She thinks the money should come from ''ridiculous tax rebates the city gives to multimillion-dollar companies.''

Freda Love lives in Evanston and is a product of Cincinnati Public Schools. She sees ''buildings falling apart, teachers who can't teach and tax money going who knows where. I can't tell you how glad I am I don't have to go to school any more.''

I can't tell you how sorry I am kids still go to school in these shabby buildings.

Cliff Radel's column appears in The Enquirer Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Tips and comments most welcome. Call 768-8379 or fax 768-8340.