Sunday, December 10, 2000

Taxpayers want the truth about Olympics

        When I was a little kid — maybe 5 or 6 — I fell hard. I was running, chasing my brother, even though I knew from bitter experience I was unlikely to catch him.

        My mom came at me with a big bottle of clear liquid and a hunk of cotton. I had done most of the skidding on one knee, which was bloody and dirty. “This will kill all the germs,” Mom said.

        “Will it hurt?”

        She avoided my eyes. “This will help you heal,” she said.

        “Will it hurt?”

        Still, she didn't look at me. Taking firm hold of my leg, she flooded the wound with disinfectant. I gave a whoop and hopped around the backyard, yipping so loudly that my brother says I scared all the neighbors and shattered Mrs. Morlock's glass eye.

        But he is a born liar.

Just a little sting
               My mother never lied, not even about the disinfectant. She just avoided the truth. Not after I grew up, of course. Then she figured I was old enough to understand that sometimes things that are good for us come with a sting.

        Besides, I had the lesson of experience.

        The taxpayers of this community have been yipping about the cost of the Paul Brown Stadium, which is $455.8 million. So far. Officials are still counting. When Hamilton County voters approved the sales tax in 1996, we were told the price tag for both the football stadium and baseball park would be $544 million.

A rainy day
               Tim Mara, who started whooping even before the vote was taken, has earned the right to notice that officials “were off by just one stadium.”

        Will it hurt?

        I think we know the answer to that.

        And now comes Nick Vehr, who dreams of bringing the Olympics here in 2012. When he first began sharing his dream with us, he said it wouldn't hurt. Not a bit.

        The private sector was going to bear the pain. Three days after promising no public money would be used, local Olympic organizers asked for $2.6 million. From the public. Oh, and by the way, the public will be asked to guarantee against a loss.

        “We're talking about essentially socking away money into a rainy day fund to satisfy the requirement of the USOC,” Mr. Vehr explained. “It is our belief it will never be needed.” And I'll bet Montreal never planned to lose $1 billion on the summer games of 1976.

        The cost may be as high as $3 billion. Money we were going to spend anyway, Mr. Vehr says. “We are going to expand the convention center and we are going to develop light rail.”


        U.S. Rep. Steve Chabot has said he won't support light rail here, and even the most devoted acolytes of the convention trade admit they haven't figured out a way to come up with the $350 million or so it would take to expand the existing center.

        The deadline for application for the games in 2012 is Friday. Nick Vehr believes — sincerely in my opinion — that the Olympics would be an extraordinary boon to this community. He has said this project not only will be key to our growth as a region, but that we are uniquely situated to “welcome the world with a smile.”

        He is chasing a dream that experience would tell us he has little chance of catching. And a lot of very influential people hope he will not fall. But, if he does, we need to know. Will it hurt? Treat us like adults. Just tell us.

        E-mail Laura at or call (513) 768-8393.


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