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Fleeced

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Great WSJ story on how the Cincinnati Bengals completely fleeced Hamilton County taxpayers for their stadium, creating a long-term county budget crisis that is crippling the region. My favorite part:

Given the national economic slump, the county budget would have run into trouble with or without the Bengals deal. But county officials say the cuts are deeper and longer lasting because of it. Unlike most areas of the budget, the stadium can’t be pared.

“It’s the monster that ate the public sector,” says Mark Reed, Hamilton County’s juvenile court administrator.

Like many other items in the budget, the juvenile court has seen its funding slashed—by $13.4 million from 2008 to 2010. It was forced to nix funding for programs like Youth, Inc., which worked with troubled adolescents.

Publicly funded stadiums for sports teams owned by billionaires are always a bad idea, but it seems that Cincinnati civic leaders were extra good at playing the sucker.

But hey, at least the product on the field has been consistently first-rate!

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  • howard

    i will always respect the sf giants for sucking it up and building their won stadium.

    • Fighting Words

      I wish you could tell that to the 49ers owners.

  • mark f

    I remember back about 10 years ago all the rightwing radio doofuses, the ones who hate public employee unions and welfare and state pensions and especially taxes, were pissed that Beacon Hill wasn’t doing the right thing and building the Patriots a new stadium. Good times.

  • To be fair…they were voting for the Bengals. There may have been a logic to thinking that was a good idea, but I’ll be damned if I can figure out that logic.

    • Bill Murray

      The logic is Lemar Parrish and Ken Riley were among the greatest cornerback duos ever, so a new stadium 20 years after they both retired is a great deal. And don’t forget Isaac Curtis

      • And the Ickey Shuffle!

      • Pug

        I remember Isaac Curtis.

        He’s the guy that Cal got 4 years probation for because they didn’t make a projection of his grades. A forecast.

        No cars. No under the table cash. They didn’t project what his grades would be and they got clobbered.

        But then, they were radical hippies and were awful at football anyway…so who cared?

        • Bill Murray

          man 4 years probation for a guy that played 3 years before transferring to a school that would play him.

          and he is responsible for the 5-yard contact rule.

  • Warren Terra

    I like the part where paying for the stadium is now more than 16% of the county’s budget. I hope they like those eight poorly attended home games each year, because each one is costing them 2% of the county budget.

    • When Ray Lewis pinches a bit of turf and smells it before strutting on field to ruin Carson Palmer’s day, that’s a few hundred dollars right there.

    • mark f

      Yeah, but it’s worth it in those years when they win almost half of those games.

    • Hogan

      There was a city councilman in Philadelphia who argued that publicly funding a new football stadium would be a great deal because soccer was on the verge of becoming a huge national sport, and so we’d be filling the stadium year round.

      He later went to jail, although oddly enough not for saying that.

      • Malaclypse

        Pennsylvania always did have interesting local politicians.

        • Hogan

          At one time in my life when I paid some attention to scholarly folklore/ethnology literature. There was an article about jokes that sprang up around the Dwyer suicide and the Challenger shuttle explosion, which happened within about a year of each other and were both seen on live television. The only jokes I remember are the Dwyer cocktail (“a shot and a Budd”) and the Challenger cocktail (“Seven Up with a splash of Teacher’s”).

          Academic studies about why I remember the stuff I remember would probably not yield anything that anyone wants to know.

          • Bill Murray

            That’s why I say,

            hey man, nice shot

      • David B.

        I’ve been to the Philadelphia Union games in Chester, PA, and while it’s not a panacea in terms of redevelopment, it’s at least made me more aware of the grinding poverty in Chester and my dad and I make a point to park in one of the local church lots and give them the $10 for parking. If we’re lucky and get there early, you can get some great food from people grilling.

        They also made a deal where x% of the stadium workers are actually from Chester.

  • Malaclypse

    My first thought was, why don’t they just default on the bonds?

    My second thought is, what happens when all the municipalities start defaulting on bonds?

    • Hogan

      My plan is seizing the teams themselves under eminent domain, but no one listens to me.

      • Malaclypse

        Yea, because another underperforming asset is just what the city needs…

        • Hogan

          Good point. Maybe the players can pick up trash, fill potholes and issue parking tickets in the offseason.

          • Davis X. Machina

            OK. But only if they’re stripped of their right to collective bargaining.

          • BigHank53

            And just like other municipal workers, they can live in the damn town. So can the coach and his eighty minions. And the ticket salesmen, etc. That’ll help out the tax base.

  • mpowell

    Hard for me to work up much pity here. The county did this to themselves. It’s not even that large of a population so if the citizens don’t want their representatives doing crazy stuff, they have a reasonable prospect of preventing it. I’m glad to see it being publicized, though. Maybe we will eventually turn the corner on publicly funding stadium boondoggles. Or alternatively, choose not to live in the same area as a bunch of crazy people.

  • But hey, at least the product on the field has been consistently first-rate!

    There. Fixed.

    My 1988 Super Bowl glasses are feeling very lonely. And there’s only so long Mike Brown can blame Lewis Billups for the only question each year being when the team’s arrests will reach double digits.

    • Bill Murray

      you forget Stanley Wilson at your peril

  • Scott Lemieux

    You have to admit that the case for stimulus with football stadia and their 10 games a year is particularly compelling. Now a train, that’s just a boondoggle.

    • Not just a boondoggle, but a socialist boondoggle.

      • Hogan

        Well sure. No private party being directly enriched? How is that a good use of public money?

    • Tyto

      Exactly. I didn’t hear any talk from the California High-Speed Rail Authority about a commitment to build a holographic instant-replay viewer. How can rail possibly succeed without that?

    • KadeKo

      Obligatory plug for Andrew Zimbalist, who saw all this stadium crap coming.

      And I have a scrap (no cite, sorry, maybe Phoenix New Times) mentioning Prescott Valley, AZ, (100 m N of Phoenix) and Wenatchee, WA (halfway between Seattle and Spokane), as two places where a group called Global Entertainment built arenas for minor league hockey and indoor football. These are fast becoming millstones around their own governments’ necks.

  • Adam

    Ah…. I remember those days.

    The article doesn’t mention that the 1996 deal was signed by three of three REPUBLICAN county commissioners. Oh, yes, it was an ALL-REPUBLICAN Hamilton County Board of Commissioners that signed over that money, including, as it notes Bob “sh–head” Bedinghaus.

    Somewhere in my files I have a flyer that I was handed in the 2000 race, when the first Democratic commissioner Todd Portune unseated Bedinghaus. It’s a blue flyer with black ink that reads “Vote Bedinghaus. Help keep a pro-life Hamilton County.” Because when you think of pivotal actors in reproductive health politics, you think county commissioners.

    I am shocked, shocked! that Bedinghaus now works for the Bungles.

    Oh, yeah, and did we mention that the Hamilton County Commissioners who approved these deal were “fiscally conservative” REPUBLICANS? F-ck, I’m mad and I’m done.

    • Adam

      Also, Tom Luken, mentioned in the article as an opponent of the 1996 deal, is a former Democratic Congressman.

    • David B.

      i think a major mistake was letting county commissioners play with that kind of money in the first place.

      • BigHank53

        i think a major mistake was letting county commissioners play with that kind of money in the first place.

        Fixt.

  • Jim Lynch

    Don’t be surprised if the current NFL/Labor negotiations address Cincinnati’s stadium drain on the taxpayers.

    Instead, be shocked.

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