Wednesday night, I attended the public hearing before the Hamilton County Commissioners regarding the proposed sales tax increase for the Union Terminal repairs and Music Hall renovation. The hearing was held at the Sharonville Convention Center. My testimony, which is below, turned out to be the least interesting part of the evening.
I got there early because I wanted to speak to support the Citizens Oversight Board’s presentation of their alternative plan to the sales tax increase. I knew it was first come, first serve. After I got signed in, I waited. The people started to trickle in two by two. As I was getting a piece of gum out of my bag, I offered a piece to the two gentlemen standing near me. I was told later one of them was Otto Budig Jr., a huge patron of the arts here in Cincinnati.
And then the buses came… Two bus loads of supporters came into the convention center. A lot of them were older folks, but they were all very committed because they had to stay until the hearing was over and it was looking like it was going to be a long night. All of the supporters were wearing yellow pro tax stickers as they got off the bus.
As each person entered the room, they were given a yellow item. I was curious about what it was, so I got in line and she handed me… a yellow towel. It was like the ‘Terrible Towel’ that the fans have at a Pittsburgh Steelers game. The supporters spun them around during the hearing. It was a bit nuts. All that money to spend on towels and PR….
The room was packed. There were over 500 people in the room, easy. I was the first to speak. It was a bit intimidating to go before a crowd that I knew wouldn’t agree with me, but it was the right thing to do.
I have struggled with this tax issue for a few weeks. As our criticism has gotten stronger, the name calling has started; hater of the arts, park killer, ignorant… I am a huge supporter of the arts. Music is a huge part of my life, so its hard to be called names like a hater. But there are some things that you stand for and for me its responsibility in government. This plan is not the best plan for repairing Union Terminal. It can be done better.
I give full credit to the Commissioners. They were all very attentive to the speakers as they made their case. The stayed almost three hours to make sure everyone was heard. It was a long night, but you could tell they wanted to make sure they had a full understanding of the issue.
Ten of our people testified, scattered among about 60 of their people. The Citizens Oversight Committee (my side) was very prepared, with handouts showing the Fair Share Plan and a large board with the graphic on it.
It really was no surprise that most of the people that testified for the tax increase had a vested interest in the money. They were people that worked for the Children’s Museum or were on the construction team that worked on the repairs. One person brought their six-year-old daughter and had her read how much she loves to go to the Museum Center. That was a bit far….
All and all, I think the night had impact. Our side presented, what we thought would be a plan that would be Fair to all the stakeholders. We spoke for the tax payer. Below is my testimony before the Commissioners.
Is this the best funding plan?
Union Terminal Sales Tax Testimony before the Hamilton County Commissioners
I am proud to say that I am from Cincinnati and the imagery that comes with that; Union Terminal, Music Hall.
I am also proud to say that I have been a tax cut and government activist for the past five years
The issue before you Commissioners , is increasing the taxes on all Hamilton County residents for what could be the next 10 years.
My question? Why do we not expect all stakeholders of the buildings to pay their FAIRSHARE for repairs.
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 upgrades need to be worked out by the owners of the building and the people who use it
Next is funding. The City of Cincinnati should have a much greater role in the funding of this project. The proposed plan asks the city to chip in 10 million dollars. Some of the proposed repairs involve actual Cincinnati roads and infrastructure. Cincinnati should pay their FAIR SHARE.
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. Users should pay their FAIR SHARE.
The last group that needs to step up to the plate are our local corporations and donors. At the Children’s Museum in Indianapolis almost every display is supported by a local business or contributor. The philanthropic of Cincinnati and our local corporations should step up to the plate pay their FAIR SHARE for repairs.
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 Hamilton County taxpayers. I ask that you, Commissioners, reject the current proposal. Hamilton County Taxpayers should not be asked to do it all, all involved need to pay their FAIR SHARE.