Tuesday, June 25, 2002

RADEL: Bengals bungle

Sweetheart deals from GOP cost us

        Here we go again. Another Bengals seat license snafu. Another chance to stick it to the taxpayers. Another reason to end Hamilton County's one-party rule.

        The friendly bean counters at the Internal Revenue Service claim the Cincinnati Bengals owe at least $14 million in taxes, penalties and interest.

        That claim is based on the $26 million collected from the sale of seat licenses for the privilege of seeing the Bengals play their home games in Paul Brown Stadium, the gift that keeps on giving taxpayers more bills to foot.

        The Bengals and the county dispute the IRS claim. The $26 million, they argue, should not be counted as the team's income. They say the county collected the money and the funds went to build the stadium, site of this week's crusade by the Rev. Billy Graham.

        Maybe divine intervention — or a change in voting habits — will deliver us from this mess.


Surrender or sue

        Two commissioners, Republicans Tom Neyer Jr. and John Dowlin, plan to meet today. In one of their frequent behind-closed-doors, keep-the-people-out, executive sessions, they will ponder the county's course of action.

        The third commissioner, Democrat Todd Portune, can't attend. He went to Disney World for a family vacation that's been on the books since April.

        The commissioners' basic options are: Give in or go to court. Legal fees will be split. Half covered by the Bengals. Half by us, the taxpayers.

        If the football team and the county fail to make their claim, the Bengals will pay the taxman — but the team will be reimbursed by us.

        Hamilton County's taxpayers will ultimately pick up the $14 million tab because of a provision in the Bengals' lease.

        That sweetheart of all sweetheart deals was approved in June 2000 by all three Hamilton County commissioners. At the time, all three commissioners were Republicans — Tom Neyer Jr., John Dowlin and Bob “Have I got a deal for you” Bedinghaus, who later lost a re-election bid to Mr. Portune.

        The $14 million would be added to the $415 million taxpayers have already spent on Paul Brown Stadium. The Bengals' contribution to the project would be reduced to $30 million.

        Another $14 million here. Another $14 million there. Pretty soon, the financial burden this stadium is placing on taxpayers is going to add up to some real money.

        Pretty soon the people are going to say enough is enough. Maybe Hamilton County voters will say that on Election Day.

        One of the three Hamilton County commissioner seats is up for grabs in November. Tom Neyer isn't running for re-election. Dr. Jean Siebenaler, a Democrat, is running against Republican Phil Heimlich. If the doctor beats the doctor's son, the Democrats will have a majority on the county commission for the first time since shortly after the formation of the solar system.


Vote early, often

        Now, I have nothing against the Republican Party. Some of my best friends are card-carrying members of the GOP. I've even voted for a Republican once. Or twice.

        But I won't make that mistake this November.

        No offense to Phil Heimlich. He works so hard at being fiscally responsible his penny pinching makes Lincoln beardless.

        But this one-party rule of Hamilton County must come to an end. It's cost-prohibitive. We can't afford another lease signed by members of a political party that has been in power for so long it forgets county commissioners are elected to serve the people, not special interests intent on spending the people's money.

       Columnist Cliff Radel can be reached at 768-8379; e-mail cradel@enquirer.com.


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