Sunday, July 08, 2001

Neyer's choice was clear




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        Homer Simpson has a word for what Tom Neyer Jr. went through the past five years as a Hamilton County Commissioner. The word is D'oh!

        It means, according to the new online Oxford English Dictionary, “expressing frustration at the realization that things have turned out badly or not as planned.”

        Mr. Neyer — who announced this week he will not run for re-election in 2002 — has probably spit out the D'oh! more than a few times during his tenure.

        One Homer moment came about a year and a half ago when Hamilton County taxpayers learned they were picking up the tab for about $45 million in cost overruns at Paul Brown Stadium for a grand total of $451 million on a project the county had guaranteed would be no more than $287 million.

        Mr. Neyer, in response to the cost overrun news, offered the opinion that “now is not the time to start pointing fingers.”

        Voters felt otherwise. That fall, they un-elected Mr. Neyer's colleague, Bob Bedinghaus, architect of the Bengals' deal, and replaced him with Democrat Todd Portune, the first time a Democrat had been elected Hamilton County commissioner since Lyndon Johnson was president.

        Life has not been easy since Mr. Neyer became county commissioner. He got off to a rocky start in 1996 when he was appointed to fill the vacancy left when Guy Guckenberger became a municipal court judge. Many in the party grumbled a woman should have been appointed.

        The stadium business was a nightmare. Then he caught flak from within his own party last fall when he failed to get $600,000 in county funds for an arts group he was involved in.

        The buzz in GOP circles was the party's anti-tax, anti-spending wing was going to try to mount a challenge to Mr. Neyer in next year's primary, possibly with term-limited Cincinnati Councilman Phil Heimlich as the insurgent candidate.

        So little wonder Mr. Neyer does not want to run again. He doesn't need the paycheck; he can do quite well for himself in his family's real-estate development business.

        And he can see what happened to his friend, Mr. Bedinghaus.

        He could roll the dice and hope voters have gotten over the case of the goo they developed over Paul Brown Stadium, but that's a pretty big gamble.

        The big loser in Mr. Neyer's decision not to run for re-election might be Hamilton County Auditor Dusty Rhodes, a Democrat. Mr. Rhodes — who is about as conservative as a Democrat can get — had been licking his chops over the prospect of running against Mr. Neyer on a wide variety of tax and spending issues.

        He might do it anyway, but it might be more difficult if the opposition is a Republican like Mr. Heimlich, who can match Mr. Rhodes coin-for-coin in the nickel-squeezing department.

        The Democrats will have to field somebody, given the election for county commissioner will give them their first opportunity to win an actual majority on the three-member county commission in the memory of any living Cincinnatian.

        Too bad for them, though, that Mr. Neyer has slapped his forehead and said D'oh! for the last time.

        Email hwilkinson@enquirer.com. Past columns at Enquirer.com/columns/wilkinson

       



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