Time for Some Summer Outrage

Back from vacation. Finished the backyard remodeling project. Got the paper's redesign fine-tuned and launched. Cleaned off my desk. Time to clear out the cobwebs and get refocused. Let's start wit

Back from vacation. Finished the backyard remodeling project. Got the paper's redesign fine-tuned and launched. Cleaned off my desk.

Time to clear out the cobwebs and get refocused. Let's start with a laundry list of Cincinnati's summer lowlights...

· One stadium down (almost), one to go. There's a little more than two weeks left until the Bengals open the Paul Brown Stadium era, and we're still not sure what we'll see when the gates swing open Aug. 19. But it's clear that Hamilton County spinmeisters — and Commissioner Bob Bedinghaus' campaign advisors — are building up to a countywide group hug over a construction job well done.

At this pace, don't be surprised to see Bedinghaus introduce a motion to change the county's motto to "The End Justifies the Means."

Just remember one thing: "The means," in this case, was your money — hundreds of millions of dollars of it — and much of it was wasted because the stadium was designed on the fly to meet deadlines.

No matter how pretty the stadium's grass looks or how cool the luxury seat cup holders are or how big the team's lockerroom is, Paul Brown Stadium, in the end, just isn't worth what we were put through to build it. The Bengals' blackmail threat to move to Baltimore, the politicians' purposefully vague budget estimates before the sales tax vote, county officials' lack of oversight on skyrocketing construction costs — none of these bitter pills can be easily washed away with flags, balloons and cheerleaders.

Promises to do better the second time around have been offered for Great American Ballpark, the soon-to-sprout Reds stadium. But before the first shovel of dirt could be turned, trouble reared its head again with the...

· Firstar Center, the ugly stepsister of Cincinnati's twin jewels on the riverfront. Sure, the Bengals and the Reds get to go to the 21st Century Ball in multi-million dollar gowns bought by Hamilton County residents. Meanwhile, Firstar Center CEO Doug Kirchhofer sews his own clothes and dreams of the big dance.

One of the first things to go in Reds stadium construction is the pedestrian bridge between Cinergy Field and Firstar, which delivers patrons to the arena's box office windows and main entrance. Fearing a loss of business if people couldn't find their way to his front door, Kirchhofer sued the county to stop stadium construction. A judge has allowed construction to begin, saying that actual monetary damages to the arena will be sorted out later.

It's hard not to feel for Kirchhofer. He and his partners privately funded the Firstar Center's renovation several years ago, and what thanks has he gotten? The awful Reds stadium design hides the arena behind not only a giant scoreboard but also the prison-like administrative buildings fronting the ballpark.

Amazingly enough, Kirchhofer wants private investors to be treated with respect by public officials, unlike...

· Downtown's latest can't-miss savior, Nordstrom. It's unique, although Nordstroms exist or will exist in Indianapolis, Columbus, Cleveland, Pittsburgh and maybe even Mason. It's state of the art, although plenty of signs point to the decline of big-box retailing. It's a job creator, although unemployment is currently so low that enough quality service workers might be hard to find.

For some reason, local political and business leaders have agreed on a $50 million package to have Nordstrom build a new department store downtown — about half of that coming from the city of Cincinnati (i.e., you and me). Two questions come immediately to mind: If Nordstrom is such a gold-plated success story, why does it need a $50 million subsidy to open here? And if it's not such a lead-pipe cinch, why are we throwing good money after it?

The answers, of course, involve Nordstrom's place in the civic house of cards we've built in downtown Cincinnati. Instead of gearing our urban core to urban dwellers — with ample housing, public transit, good entertainment and recreation options and appropriate retail and grocery stores — we've built it for tourists and suburbanites.

We ask folks to attend meetings at a subsidized convention center, stay in subsidized hotels, shop in subsidized department stores and eat in subsidized restaurants — all of which seem to exist mainly to support each other. All these private businesses, in one way or another, ride on the backs of taxpayers, while...

· Cincinnati Public Schools continue getting the shaft. Did I really read that CPS figures it would cost $700 million to adequately repair all of its facilities? And where's the subsidy for that coming from?

Back in June, CityBeat did a cover story on Hughes Center, a CPS high school that offers five magnet programs and is 88 percent black. A teacher told us how the school's computer lab was flooded out one weekend because of a leaky roof that hasn't been repaired for years. They were pouring water out of the computers' hard drives.

Stairwells in Hughes were blocked off because walls were crumbling. The damn hallway clocks didn't work for two years. None of them.

How are children in such surroundings supposed to learn enough to pass proficiency tests — much less learn enough to get a decent job? Where's the outrage over this travesty? Where's the shame?

Indeed, where's the outrage over any of these issues? ©

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