Monday, June 16, 1997
An admission:
I really hate the politicking


BY CLIFF RADEL
The Cincinnati Enquirer

New ticket taxes make strange bedfellows.

Imagine Mike Brown's surprise when he pulled back the covers and found his old nemesis, Tim Mara, curled up in his jammies.

And I did a double take when Mayor Roxanne Qualls and two councilmen who want her corner office - Phil Heimlich and Dwight Tillery - linked arms in support of the ticket tax.

That's the strange power of money. It can make people change partners quicker than a slick-tongued square dance caller.

Tim and Mike were bitter enemies during the protracted stadium tax war of 1995-96.

From the get-go, Tim was adamantly opposed to a sales tax to pay for two new stadiums. He gathered enough signatures to put the tax on the ballot.

Tim maintained all along that he wanted the people to decide whether Mike should have a new football stadium built at taxpayers' expense.

The people decided. The stadium tax passed. Tim lost. Mike won. Now the old enemies are united in their opposition to the ticket-tax increase city council passed last week.

If you stop and think about it, their joining forces makes perfect sense.

Tim Mara never met a tax he didn't dislike. Mike Brown never shies away from throwing a flag on any play that has even a remote chance of taking money from the tight-fisted hooves of the Bengals' piggy bank.

Here again, it's all about money. Who pays. Who receives.

Swing your partners

Council's decision to raise the tax passed, 7-2.

The seven tax-and-spenders include the seldom-seen coalition of the mayor, Roxanne Qualls, and the two mayor wannabes, Phil Heimlich and Dwight Tillery.

They were backed by four loose cannons of varying firepower: Charles Winburn, Tyrone Yates, Bobbie Sterne and Minette Cooper. Todd Portune and Jeanette Cissell voted against the tax increase. The city is boosting the tax on tickets for concerts and games to pay for school repairs. Starting Jan. 1, the tax goes from 3 percent to 5 percent. In terms of dollars and cents, the tax on a $20 ticket goes from 57 cents to one buck.

That's a whopping increase of 43 cents.

Promise kept

The ticket-tax increase, in my mind, is about city council's making good on its 2-year-old promise to give Cincinnati Public Schools $5 million a year over 20 years to fix its dilapidated buildings. Personally, I don't care which council members join hands to keep the promise. I just care that they do.

And raising the ticket tax seems a reasonable way to pay the schools' repair bill. I realize that opinion is not universally shared. Two years ago, Tim Mara argued the stadium tax would ruin the local economy. Retirees would go poor. Stores would close en masse from lost sales.

He's making the same argument about the new tax. But this time it's over ticket buyers.

I didn't buy that logic last time. And I don't buy it now. If people want to see a big game or a hot concert, they'll spring for a ticket. No matter what the price.

In the end, this political do-si-do makes for an interesting scene. But it's just a dance.

The important thing, from where I sit, is that council is about to make good on its pledge to fix Cincinnati's run-down schools. This tax may not be the best way to get the job done. But until someone comes up with a better solution, I'll pay the tax.

And know it's money well-spent.

Cliff Radel's column appears in The Enquirer Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Call 768-8379 or fax at 768-8340.

RADEL ARCHIVE