Dennis Janson: Why the debate over funding Music Hall, Union Terminal repairs? Do it.

CINCINNATI -- As the lines are drawn over whether or not to fund refurbishment of Union Terminal and Music Hall, I find it hard to believe there is any debate at all.

Both Cincinnati icons must be preserved.

The cost, north of $300 million is staggering but it is hard to fathom Cincinnati heading into the future without a grasp on its past symbolized by these two venerable buildings.

Proponents of the plan to repair Music Hall and Union Terminal have asked Hamilton County commissioners to place a quarter-cent sales tax on the November ballot. Such an increase would raise Hamilton County's total sales tax from 6.75 cents on the dollar to 7 cents on the dollar. If the commissioners agree, and if voters approve the measure, the tax increase would fund about $225 million of the cost of the overall project.

Public hearings on the proposal is set for 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, June 23 at the Sharonville Convention Center, 11355 Chester Road, and 11 a.m. July 28 at the Hamilton County Administration Building in Cincinnati. Commissioners have until Aug. 6 to send the measure along for placement on the November ballot.

It is tempting to draw some equivalency between these expenditures and others I’ve considered over the years as being less worthy. We’ve not batted an eye as skywalks, traffic alert systems, a stadium, a subterranean riverfront parking complex that no one knows exists let alone uses, sop up tax dollars, then largely disappear. 

We seemingly build things just to have something to tear down. And not over the span of generations but a few measly decades. In the early 1970’s I watched Sander Hall being built adjacent to practice fields at the University of Cincinnati only to see it declared obsolete and imploded only 20 years later.

Riverfront Stadium, completed in 1970, demolished 25 years later.

A mere 41 years after it opened, the Brent Spence Bridge will eventually join our subway.

That is not to say that just because we’ve frittered away millions in the past, we should do so again.  Far from it.

Good money chasing bad is just as egregious now as then. But why for instance, was the makeover of Washington Park at a cost of $49 million, so appealing? Dare I say because it serves as Music Hall’s front yard?  The park becomes a very pricey lawn if the Hall falls.

I’ve loved Music Hall since my first Elder High School Prom at the Topper Club. Subsequent Nutcracker and CSO performances;  Michael McDonald and Blue Man Group concerts; and May Fest events solidify it in my mind as something setting us apart. 

Union Terminal’s appeal has even deeper roots in our collective genetics. It was the starting point of the great adventure or great sorrow inflicted on our greatest generation. The last vestige of home many glimpsed heading off to war. The first assuring them they’d survived.

And it’s unmistakable profile isn’t confined to our awareness.

It is the clearly discernable model for the Hall of Justice, earth home for D.C. Comics heroes Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman among others.

There are reasons real and animated for its and Music Hall’s iconic status.

But for reasons that elude me, there are those who presume to know the minds of Hamilton County voters. So much so that they don’t think it necessary to include the issue on the November ballot. They should absolutely think again.

Even as concrete is poured for a downtown bike path and the streetcar continues to unfurl, it is high time that Hamilton County Commissioners Greg Hartmann, Todd Portune and Chris Monzel and Cincinnati Mayor John Cranley band together as superheroes for our community, giving voice to the citizens of Cincinnati and Hamilton county in the future of their icons.

And that's my 2 cents.

 

Dennis Janson's "My 2 cents" column is published every Monday and Wednesday on WCPO.com. His video commentary airs every Friday at 6 p.m.

 

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