Stadium deal done
with city on sidelines

BY HOWARD WILKINSON
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Some observations from a rather interesting week in Cincinnati politics:

For the professional politician, the worst possible thing that can happen is to become irrelevant.

Since the debate over new stadiums for the Reds and Bengals erupted as the dominant issue in this town a few years ago, the nine members of Cincinnati City Council have been getting a taste of what it's like to be a ghost.

Unlike 30 years ago, when the city played a leading role in getting a stadium built on the riverfront, this show has been a Hamilton County commissioners' production, and will be from start to finish. There was no clearer indication of that than on Thursday, when the Bengals and the county pitched a tent at the corner of Plum Street and Produce Way, smack dab on the city's waterfront, for a ceremony to announce the signing of a lease for a $270 million showcase football stadium for the Bengals.

All three county commissioners - Bob Bedinghaus, Tom Neyer Jr., John Dowlin - made speeches celebrating the birth of Paul Brown Stadium, as did former Cincinnati Mayor Eugene Ruehlmann, who was instrumental in the building of Riverfront Stadium.

All of this took place at 3 p.m. Thursday afternoon, right in the middle of Cincinnati City Council's weekly meeting, which had been pushed back a day because of the holiday.

So no city elected officials were on hand for the inauguration of one of the biggest construction projects in the city's history. Mr. Bedinghaus, architect of the stadium deal, knew full well the council would be otherwise occupied at 3 p.m. Thursday; and he didn't seem to care if the mayor and council were there or not.

After all, his concern is the future of downtown Hamilton County.

Photo $2,500, lunch $10,000

We have a friend who went to extraordinary lengths recently to have her picture taken with Cincinnati's Bootsy Collins, the legendary funk artist.

Our most prized possession is a photo shaking hands with Roy Rogers, King of the Cowboys.

But, in 15 days, some local Republicans will gather at the home of Cintas chairman Richard T. Farmer for a dinner and the chance to have their pictures taken with Ohio Secretary of State Bob Taft, who wants to be the next governor of Ohio.

The price tag for this brush with greatness? How about $2,500 a pop.

The Farmer lunch, complete with "photo opportunity," is part of a two-day, fund-raising marathon in Mr. Taft's home town; aimed at raising about $500,000 for his 1998 gubernatorial bid. It will be followed the next morning by a $1,000 per-ticket breakfast at a downtown hotel. Of course, for a measly $1,000, you will be fed - but you can forget about a picture of you and your good buddy Bob sitting on the fireplace mantle.

Bootsy and Roy, by the way, pose for free.

But if $2,500 buys you a picture of yourself with the great-grandson of a president, imagine what you could get for $10,000.

That's the price tag for a Democratic National Committee (DNC) fund-raising lunch June 14 in Covington, featuring Vice President Al Gore. The DNC is looking for 40 couples willing to shell out 10 grand for the chance to break bread with the man who hopes to be the next Democratic presidential nominee.

At $10,000 a pop, a mere photo is not sufficient. At those prices, Mr. Gore should come to your house and dance the Macarena.

Howard Wilkinson's politics column appears Sundays.