Wednesday, November 14, 2001

Forward, march

Take the battle to Bengals

        The Bengals lost the Battle of the Bands to three scrawny Hamilton County commissioners.

        Todd Portune, John Dowlin and Tom Neyer displayed some scrappy bipartisan teamwork last week to beat the Bengals at their own game of control.

        Hit them again today. Harder. Harder.

        The three commissioners showed stern resolve during last week's victory. Responding swiftly to public outcry, they voted unanimously to overrule the Bengals.

        Four local high school marching bands were allowed to perform their halftime shows on the field during a football doubleheader at Paul Brown Stadium. So what if the whole field would need re-sodding? That's the cost of doing business — the people's business.

        The commissioners need to build on their momentum. At this morning's weekly meeting, the team of Portune, Dowlin and Neyer should unite again. Ask the county's administrator, prosecutor and auditor to take a close look at every aspect of the lease the county has with the Bengals.

        Do this to make sure the lines of control are clearly drawn at Paul Brown Stadium. Do what it takes to avoid another Battle of the Bands. Act now. Public sentiment is on your side.

        The Bengals cannot be reminded too often that they are the stadium's tenant. Neither the team nor Bengals chief Mike Brown nor his family own the place.

        It belongs to us, the people of Hamilton County.

Drum major

        Much credit for winning the Battle of the Bands goes to Todd Portune. The lone Democratic commissioner would get the game ball — if the county handed out such things.

        Although his behind-the-scenes maneuverings were under-reported, the junior commissioner was instrumental in the doubleheader being played at Paul Brown Stadium.

        During the Battle of the Bands, he formed a united front with his fellow commissioners. He also had a personal stake in the battle. He's a graduate of Colerain High School — one of the doubleheader's four participants. And, he used to play trombone in Colerain's marching band.

Sweetheart lease

        The commissioner knows about the problems of trying to march and play a horn at the same time.

        He also knows about the Bengals' sweetheart lease — approved by the commissioners before he took office — and how it's “creating real problems for the citizens of Hamilton County.”

        One provision he'd like his fellow commissioners to examine is: The Break The Banks Giveaway.


        He described this clause as calling for “taxpayers to pay the Bengals a total of almost $30 million over the last 11 years of the lease, all for the privilege of playing in Paul Brown Stadium.”

        Couple that nearly $30 million with the stadium's cost overruns — “the last figure the commissioners have seen is $55.261 million” — and that adds up to real money and real problems.

        “That's why the county can't afford to move ahead with developing The Banks riverfront project,” he said. “To build the parking garages for the project's foundation would be fiscally irresponsible. That breaks The Banks.”

        That calls for the commissioners to team up again. This time the stakes will be higher. They'll still be battling the Bengals over green stuff. But it won't be grass.

        Columnist Cliff Radel can be reached at 768-8379; fax 768-8340; e-mail


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