Is this the best plan for Union Terminal?
Good government requires making choices. Sometimes those choices are difficult, sometimes they are easy. In the case of the proposed Hamilton County sales tax increase this decision isn’t difficult. The community has two well-known buildings: Music Hall and Union Terminal. The decision is how best to keep them well-maintained.
One plan on the table would get most of the necessary money from a Hamilton County sales tax increase. Is that the best plan we can come up with? Is it the most equitable for those who are footing the bill? Is it fair to ask a single mother from Northside to pay more sales tax on her kids’ school supplies to support Music Hall, a building she has never been to?
There are other ways to support this project. There are more equitable solutions. The emotion that is injected with one of the buildings falling down, while compelling, doesn’t make for good business decisions.
So the question on the table is what can we do instead? Do we need to rush into a deal for more sales taxes after the county has already enacted a stadium tax deal that still leaves a bad taste in voters’ mouths?
The first thing that needs to be done is take Music Hall out of the deal. This is a building owned by the City of Cincinnati. Music Hall has never been supported by Hamilton County. The funding of the building upgrades need to be worked out by the owners of the building and the people who use it.
The second thing that needs to be addressed is the ownership of Union Terminal. The City of Cincinnati owns the building. Hamilton County is responsible for repairs of the building, and under the terms of the current contract, they own anything they install. For example, if the County works on the plumbing in the restroom, they own any piping or new fixtures they put in, but the City retains ownership of the restroom. This arrangement needs to be clarified.
Next is funding. The City of Cincinnati should have a much greater role in the funding of this project considering they own both buildings. The proposed plan asks the city to chip in 10 million dollars. Some of the proposed repairs involve actual Cincinnati roads and infrastructure. The City should make room in its roads budget to fund this part of the project in addition to repairs of their building.
The users of the building also need to be involved. Many of the users of Union Terminal come from out of the county. Under the current proposal, these people would not pay their fair share of the cost for the upkeep of the building they are using. User fees are included in ticket prices for museums all over the country. It should be a funding source for this plan.
The last group that needs to step up to the plate is our local corporations and donors. At the Children’s Museum in Indianapolis almost every display is supported by a local business or contributor. If this building is to be supported in the future, we need to look past the taxpayers as the main source of revenue.
The four stakeholders, the City of Cincinnati, our corporations and donors, the Union Terminal users and the residents of Hamilton County need to play a part in the repairs of this building. The current plan is out of balance, giving most of the burden to the taxpayers. I ask that the Hamilton County Commissioners reject the current proposal and get everyone to the table. We need to make good choices in order to have good government. Everyone needs to take a fair share approach to getting this done. Hamilton County Taxpayers should not be asked to do it all.