Saturday, July 08, 2000

Bedinghaus ad touts stadium projects

By Howard Wilkinson
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Hamilton County Commissioner Bob Bedinghaus will try to reshape what is seen as a political sow's ear into a silk purse with a TV campaign ad promoting new stadiums and riverfront development.

        “Sure, we have made mistakes,” Mr. Bedinghaus says in a 30-second spot that begins airing on Cincinnati TV stations Monday. “And we learned from them. Would I do it again? You bet I would.”

        Cost overruns and allegations of mismanagement of the Bengals stadium project have haunted the Republican county commissioner's bid for reelection, mainly because Mr. Bedinghaus has been the county's point man on stadium and riverfront development issues.

        His Democratic opponent, Cincinnati City Councilman Todd Portune, has tried to turn public anger over use of the stadium sales tax money against the incumbent.

        Ordinarily, TV ads in local races don't begin until after Labor Day, but the Bedinghaus campaign saw the need to “get the message out early,” said Bedinghaus campaign manager Steve Ford.

        “We want to remind people of what this is all about — the rebirth of the riverfront,” Mr. Ford said. “We'd like to rejuvenate the enthusiasm that was there when the sales tax passed.”

        New stadiums for the Bengals and Reds will anchor redevelopment of the central riverfront, which includes a new Fort Washington Way, the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center and a proposal for a neighborhood called the Banks.

        The Bengals stadium complex alone will cost $450 million and is about $45 million over budget. It is to open Aug. 19. The Reds park, to open in 2003, is estimated to cost $330 million.

        Mr. Portune — who has no plans to start his own TV ad

        campaign in the near future — called the Bedinghaus spot “a recognition that he is clearly in trouble. He is going to spend a lot of money trying to remake history.”

        Mr. Ford said the campaign is spending “tens of thousands” on the ad, which will run at least through July 16.

        Mr. Bedinghaus said he is running the ad “because I'm not trying to run away from what we've done.”

        In the ad, Mr. Bedinghaus makes the argument that the stadium projects “are not about home runs or touchdowns” but about the future vitality of the city and region.

        “We are creating a place for people to live, shop and dream,” Mr. Bedinghaus says in the ad.

        Some of the public uproar over the county's handling of stadium construction has come from Mr. Bedinghaus' fellow Republicans, who make up about 60 percent of the county's voting population.

        Friday, Rick Bryan, vice mayor of Blue Ash and president of that suburb's Republican club, said he is glad Mr. Bedinghaus is “facing the issue head on.”

        “It's a move he needs to make,” Mr. Bryan said. “It's the issue that is looming large in the minds of a lot of voters, certainly in the minds of a lot of Republicans in Blue Ash.”


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