Thursday, November 7, 2002

Read the results

'No' nothings lacking trust in tax hikes


Stadiums: Yes.

Schools: No.

Light rail: Forgetaboutit.

The voters of Hamilton County have spoken.

And they sound penny-wise and pound-foolish.

In 1996, they voted overwhelmingly to build two stadiums on Cincinnati's riverfront.

On Election Day 2002, they voted overwhelmingly against light rail. The vast majority of school levies, while not landslide losers, also went down to defeat.

Hamilton County voters were not alone this year in rejecting schools' outstretched hands. Across Southwest Ohio's four-county landscape - Hamilton, Butler, Warren and Clermont - schools lost by nearly a 2-1 ratio.

Looks like votes against schools fled with the people who escaped Hamilton County for the booming hinterlands.

There you go, Johnny and Joanie. Read those results - if there's any money left to teach reading - and stick them in your book bags.

What's important

What a pathetic legacy we are leaving future generations. The "no" votes for education and mass transportation (Butler County's transit tax also failed) give our kids this message:

Getting a good education, reducing pollution and controlling urban sprawl aren't important. But stadiums are.

Election Day's results spoke volumes. Schools and mass transit aren't getting my money, voters barked. My tax dollars are earmarked for stadiums where millionaire owners can field teams stocked with mini-millionaires.

The stadium tax of 1996 got my vote. But that did not come with orders instructing Hamilton County's commissioners to give away the store by signing a sweetheart deal with the hapless Cincinnati Bengals.

This year, my votes went to light rail and the schools.

To me, all three issues are important to Hamilton County's future. But, when I went to the ballot box, I spoke with only one voice.

The schools took a beating at the polls for three reasons: the curse of Paul Brown Stadium; tight money; little trust.

The curse gives the Bengals losing seasons and the schools losing levies. The debacle surrounding the stadium's $451 million price tag left a bad taste in taxpayers' mouths and burned a hole in their wallets. Casting a "no" vote tells officials: No one's going to waste any more of my money.

When the stadium tax passed, the economy was doing well. Now, it's going down the dumper. Disposable income is scarce. Voters can't afford to approve every school levy.

Trust goes to the heart of every school levy, especially those put forth by Cincinnati Public Schools. Voters wonder: What did you do with the money from the last levy? Why did you let the old schools fall apart? How can I trust you not to do this again with the new schools you want to build?

Down the road

Six years after the stadium tax passed, voters regret approving what now falls under the heading: Boondoggle, colossal.

They're singing the old 20-20 hindsight song: "If we had seen this coming, we never would have gone down this road."

In years to come, I hope I don't hear variations on that theme.

So, I'll be listening when school dropout rates soar, test scores plummet and potential employers give us the cold shoulder.

My ears will be open when Greater Cincinnati becomes as spread out and polluted as Los Angeles and when Tristate traffic becomes as congested as Mexico City at rush hour.

For now, I'm afraid I'll be hearing those sad songs someday soon.

Because, the voters have spoken.

Call Cliff Radel at 768-8379; or e-mail:

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